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 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 Baume, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr N. A. Brown, Dr Everingham, Mr Falconer, Mr Holding, Mr Humphreys, Mr James, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Lloyd, Mr Lynch, Mr Leo McLeay, Mr Les McMahon, Sir William McMahon, Mr Ruddock, Mr Street, Mr Uren, Mr West and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, being employees of The Australian Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industries, respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore pray that the Parliament recognise the rights of Australian workers in these industries and that tariff experiments of the kind proposed by the IAC in 1977 and 1979 be rejected.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Bourchier, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Fitzpatrick, Mr Hurford, Mr Jacobi, Mr Kerin, Dr Klugman, Mr Leo McLeay, Mr Martin, Mr Uren, Mr Wallis and Mr West.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Employees and Self-Employed Contributions to approved Superannuation Fund.
Your petitioners humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry, Sir William McMahon, Mr Moore and Mr Shack.
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 1970 to over 10 percent 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 petititioners 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 Cadman and Mr Lynch.
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 d uty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
Commonwealth Land in Mort Bay
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are totally opposed to the siting of a Defence Base in Mort Bay Balmain and call upon the Government to give all land in Mort Bay controlled by the Commonwealth to the people of New South Wales for use as regional open space as an extension to the Sydney Harbour National Park.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Right Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
We the undersigned sportsmen and women and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully pray that the Australian Government ensure the participation of a full Australian contingent in the XXII Olympic Games to be held in Moscow, USSR, from 19 July to 3 August 1980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Holding and Mr James.
– I give notice that, on General Business Thursday No. 16,I shall move:
That this House- ( 1 ) notes with concern the inadequacy of existing insurance and /or compensation arrangements in the event of a natural disaster; (2) notes the resolution of the House of Representatives on 6 May 1976 that a natural disaster scheme should be introduced as soon as practicable and; ( 3 ) resolves that a joint parliamentary committee be established to re-examine the whole question of natural disaster funding and that the terms of reference of the committee should be-
to make recommendations on the establishment of a natural disaster fund and methods of revenue collection to provide the Commonwealth with funds to guarantee grants in the event of a natural disaster;
b) to specify what constitutes an actual natural disaster, so that the history of doubt and uncertainty surrounding the admissibility of insurance claims in the event of a disaster can be eliminated;
to define what benefits should be payable to victims of a natural disaster; and
to recommend the composition and nature of an administrative authority to operate a natural disaster scheme and to examine practical administration of the scheme.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
The House notes the suffering of the people of Cyprus since 1974 and calls upon the Government to support all possible initiatives in world forums, particularly within the Commonwealth context, to promote a just and lasting peace in Cyprus.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that by a letter dated 5 December 1979 Sir Reginald Ansett wrote to him to advise him of facts which Sir Reginald said indicated that Mr Rupert Murdoch and /or the News group of companies were purchasing shares in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, in breach of the various offence provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act relating to thelimitation of ownership of television stations? Is it a fact that Sir Reginald called upon the Minister to act to bring a halt to the illegal acts being undertaken by Mr Murdoch and/or the News group in the attempt to take over control of ATI? Is it also a fact that there was no ministerial reply to Sir Reginald ‘s letter? Will the Minister table the letter to him from Sir Reginald?
– I will have a look at the record and give the honourable member an answer as soon as possible.
– You do not recall it at all?
– I recall getting a letter. I will have a look at the record and let the honourable member know as soon as possible.
– I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the veto by the United States on 30 April of the United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at establishing a Palestinian nation and calling for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories, including Jerusalem. I ask the Minister. Is it a fact that this Government supported the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement of September 1978? Did this agreement result largely from the initiatives of the United States, and was it opposed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and most Arab nations? Is it a fact that this recent Security Council resolution, vetoed by the United States, goes far beyond the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement of 1978 with regard to both territorial concessions from Israel towards the establishment of a self-governing territory and the time-table set for a determination of the final status of the West Bank and Gaza? Are reports stating that this resolution was . introduced to the Security Council under pressure from the PLO correct? Is it a fact that the PLO charter refuses to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and contravenes Security Council resolutions 242 and 338? Do these resolutions form the basis of Australia’s support for a negotiated settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the basis of the Camp David accords? Finally, can the Minister advise the House as to what Australia’s position will be when the resolution vetoed by the United States on 30 April comes before the General Assembly of the United Nations, as has been promised by the PLO’s observer to the United Nations?
– The honourable member for Perth has posed a very detailed series of questions. I will seek to give him as much information as possible, yet as succinctly as possible, on a very intricate issue. The Australian Government supports the Camp David accords and the Camp David framework agreed by Egypt and Israel in September 1978 and the subsequent signing of a peace treaty between the two countries in March 1979 as a first step towards achieving a just and comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. The Camp David agreement is not supported by most Arab states and is not supported by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Of course, the Government understands the fears and concerns expressed by opponents of the agreement and appreciates that a comprehensive solution of the Middle East region’s problems depends on factors not yet settled or dealt with in the current negotiations.
The draft Security Council resolution on Palestinian rights, which was vetoed by the United States on 30 April, refers to Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since 1967. The Camp David agreement presents a framework for the resolution of the Palestinian problem and the negotiations relating to the West Bank and Gaza. It does not foreshadow any particular outcome to the negotiations, nor does it deal, even indirectly, with the occupied Golan Heights. As to the time-table for agreement on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza, the Camp David framework provides for negotiations on transitional arrangements, amounting to what is termed full autonomy for the inhabitants, and for these arrangements, when agreed, to remain in force for a period not exceeding five years, by which time the final status of the territories is to be determined. The draft Council resolution calls for the implementation ‘as soon as possible’ of its provisions. In regard to the other elements of the honourable member’s question, it is understood that the PLO was a key participant in the drafting of the resolution that was put to the Security Council. The Palestinian National Covenant, as alluded to, indirectly at least, by the honourable member- the so-called PLO charter- makes clear the PLO’s denial of Israel ‘s right to exist. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which form the basis of Australia’s Middle East policy, specifically refer to Israel ‘s right to exist within secure and recognised boundaries.
There have been reports that there will be moves to bring the issue of Palestinian rights to a special session of the General Assembly. I have been advised that no definite timing has yet been announced. Should a special session be convened Australia’s position on any draft resolution obviously would have to be determined in the light of the draft text. Of course, it would not be likely that the vetoed Security Council resolution would be put forward as it stood. The Government’s position clearly would be determined by its basic Middle East policy which, as I have said, rests firmly on resolutions 242 and 338. 1 have made it clear on numerous occasions in this chamber that of particular relevance to the Government would be its belief that Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognised boundaries has to be accepted. The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to a homeland alongside Israel and the corresponding responsibility that they live peacefully with all their neighbours also must be recognised.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer him to an article in the latest Australian Bulletin of Labour which claims that procedures used by the Statistician for the national accounts understate manufacturers’ profits by up to 40 per cent. If the official figures are corrected, the article claims:
Is he aware also that the net profit return on shareholders’ funds in the last two years is the highest since 1 963-64? I ask further What efforts will the Treasurer take to correct the national accounts to give a true indication of profit levels in Australia since these accounts form such a significant input to development of a government wages policy?
-I inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I will examine the article in the Bulletin of Labour to which he has referred. Previously I have not done so but, as he has raised the matter, I will do so. I inform him also that I would be delighted if the profitability of Australian manufacturing industry was higher than I understand it to have been to date. Unlike the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I am not shocked by high profits by Australian business. It contributes to the general economic wellbeing of Australia and to future job opportunities for Australians.
Mr 0’ Keefe proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Industrial Relations-
-Order! The question is out of order.
-I direct my question to you, Mr Speaker. I refer to the practice adopted in this House by Mr Edward Theodore in 1930 and Mr Eddie Ward in 1948 and, more recently, in the House of Commons by Mr John Stonehouse and Mr Jeremy Thorpe, under which all these parliamentarians absented themselves from the Parliament until grave charges laid against them were resolved. Should a member of this House continue to take his place in the chamber after a prima facie case has been found against him and after he has been committed to stand trial before a criminal court on indictment for serious charges which, if proven, would disqualify him as a member under section 44 (ii.) of the Constitution? Where a member must answer to a jury before he can answer to the people, should he not absent himself in accordance with the best parliamentary traditions?
-I am not aware that the statements which prefaced the question asked by the honourable gentleman are correct. My very clear impression is that a question of that kind is likely to be prejudicial to any person. I would have ruled the question out of order on the grounds of possible prejudice but I felt it better to allow the honourable member to proceed so that I could answer the question. An honourable member who is elected to this House muston all circumstances, be free to pursue his duties according to the constitutional responsibility put on him, until and unless under the Constitution his right to be here is removed. There is no reason whatsoever why an elected member of this House cannot continue in the fullness of his duties and responsibilities unless and until the Constitution takes that right away.
-Has the Prime Minister seen the statement by the Vice-President of the United States of America that the Soviet Union is building major strategic facilities in Afghanistan? Does the Government have any information which confirms or denies that report?
-The Government has information that would confirm the substance of the Vice-President’s remarks. The Soviet Union is building a major strategic airfield in south-west Afghanistan that will very significantly increase the reach of the Soviet Union in relation to Iran, the Gulf states, the oil producing states and southwards. It will obviously enable the Soviet Union to extend the influence of its military power. The airfield, as I am advised, will be capable of taking a wide variety of Soviet military aircraft. I am also advised that there is no way at all in which the construction of this strategic airfield could be related to the military activities inside Afghanistan. It would seem to confirm that in moving into Afghanistan the Soviet Union had motives other than the suppression of a people.
Mr Barry Jones having addressed a question to the Prime Minister-
– I understand that the honourable gentleman is searching for an answer as to the actions of the Prime Minister, and in that sense his question is in order. But the question is not in order when it presupposes answers and provides facts which, in terms of any examination, reflect upon a member of the judiciary. The honourable gentleman is entitled to ask the Prime Minister about his actions but not to phrase his question in such a way as to constitute a reflection upon a member of the judiciary. If the honourable gentleman chooses to rephrase his question it may be in order, but that which I have heard so far is out of order.
Mr Barry Jones continuing to address a question to the Prime Minister-
-Order! For the benefit of the House I rule out of order the question asked by the honourable member for Lalor. I give him the opportunity to rephrase his question. As it is out of order I will follow my practice and call from the other side of the House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that Qantas Airways Ltd has two Boeing 747 aircraft available for sale to the Eastern Airlines company in the United States? Has that sale fallen through? Are these aircraft in excess of the requirements of Qantas to service its international routes? Is it also a fact that these aircraft can haul domestic passengers at a far more competitive price than the other aircraft used by the domestic airlines in Australia? Would it, therefore, be good timing to allow Qantas to use these aircraft to fly domestic routes within Australia to put a bit of real competition into civil aviation in this country?
– It is true that there are aircraft surplus to the requirements of Qantas at the moment because of a failure on the part of Eastern Airlines to take delivery of aircraft which Qantas had negotiated to sell to that airline. However, other arrangements are being made, as I understand it. The honourable gentleman also asked whether it is now a good time for the Government to allow Boeing 747s which are surplus to the requirements of Qantas to operate on domestic routes, thus providing real competition. To do this, of course, would fly right in the face of Australia’s twoairline policy. The Government has committed itself to a twoairline policy. One of the great advantages of the twoairline policy is that we have scheduled services on all the domestic routes in Australia at a frequency that does satisfy consumer demand. If we were to allow Qantas to overfly or to operate on the domestic routes in Australia, quite clearly we would have some disruption to the existing two airline policy.
– And cheaper fares.
– We may, and we may not on some routes. But it is a question of Government policy. The policy of the Government has been announced. It has been reaffirmed on other occasions. The Government will be adhering to that policy.
Mr Keating proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister-
-Order! The question is out of order.
– On what basis, Mr Speaker?
– The honourable gentleman is entitled to ask me for my reason. I will give him the reason. I had already warned him that he should cease giving information and should ask his question. He continued giving information. He then used pejorative language in the question. I rule it out of order.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. At the time when you said I should desist from giving information I did desist. I then asked the question of the Prime Minister: ‘Is the Prime Minister aware that OPEC meets again in June?’
– I heard the question. It is out of order.
– I further asked whether the Prime Minister believed that the Government; and he is, after all, the head of the Government -
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Transport, concerns Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. Is the Minister doing all he can to ensure the maximum possible use by international airlines of Tullamarine Airport? Has his attention been directed to a letter on this subject by the Victorian Premier to members of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce?
– My attention has been drawn to the letter from the Premier of Victoria to members of parliament and other public figures in the community. I commend the Premier for the initiative that he has taken. There is a need for a better balance between the use of Sydney and Melbourne airports by the travelling public.
To that end I support the Premier in urging Melbourne travellers to use direct flights to and from Melbourne whenever possible. My Department wrote to all international airlines last year suggesting that they should better balance the use of their facilities at both Sydney and Melbourne airports. This would provide, undoubtedly, a better service for Melbourne people and reduce congestion problems at both Tullamarine Airport and Sydney International Airport.
Generally the airlines have responded well to this by adapting their 1980 flight schedules to provide improvements. I have no doubt that there will be further improvements during 1981. The carriers of some 14 countries already operate direct services between Tullamarine Airport and overseas ports. I understand that there are something like 38 departures a week from Tullamarine at present. There is clear evidence to indicate that Tullamarine is becoming a more important gateway and that the airlines generally are co-operating to try to provide a better spread of passengers between the two major international airports in Australia, those being Sydney and Melbourne. The Government fully supports the initiative of the Premier of Victoria in trying to encourage a further spread of the passenger use of the airports at Sydney and Melbourne.
-My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister conferred with the Chief Justice of Australia in the Prime Minister’s Parliament House office on Monday, 5 May? Did the Prime Minister, at this meeting or on any other occasion, ask the Chief Justice to explain whether he had received a pecuniary interest from Mundroola Pty Ltd through the company’s ownership of the Chief Justice’s personal residence? Did the Prime Minister discuss with the Chief Justice the question of whether he had or had not made any declaration of financial interest in companies in cases which had come before him for judicial adjudication? Finally, did the Prime Minister ask the Chief Justice whether the principal shareholder of Mundroola Pty Ltd for many years was a prominent business associate of the Chief Justice and not a member of the Barwick family?
-I often see the Chief Justice regarding a wide range of matters. The honourable gentleman may well be aware of the fact that the High Court of Australia is shortly to be opened. That will be a notable event. Honourable members will have noted that
Her Majesty the Queen is visiting Australia for the opening. It will be an historic occasion. The building is truly magnificent. It is an excellent piece of Australian workmanship. It is a building of which Australia can be very proud for centuries to come. This is as good a time as any to say that there are some things that a nation needs to do as well as it is humanly possible to do them. The construction of the High Court is one of them. Quite plainly, in relation to the opening of the High Court and the functions of it, there has been an additional number of occasions when I have had a need to speak with the Chief Justice or he with me.
Going beyond that, if the honourable gentleman wants to learn about matters implied in his question, I suggest that he look at the report of the debates in this Parliament, at the remarks of my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs, at my own remarks and at the Chief Justice’s letter. Therein he will learn all that is necessary in relation to these matters. One thing is becoming quite plain with members of the Australian Labor Party pursuing these kinds of tactics and that is that they are only digging their own graves. They know it; they understand it; and they can have it to themselves.
– I ask the Minister for Industrial Relations whether there has been a request to employees of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd to resign and seek employment elsewhere. If the Mary Kathleen mine closes, will this seriously affect the export income of the nation, seriously increase unemployment and affect the economy of Mt Isa? Will the Minister inform the House of the situation?
– I am aware that the senior Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Cliff Dolan, who is also General Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, was reported in the Press of 22 April as saying that the Electrical Trades Union had issued a directive to its members working in the uranium industry to withdraw their labour or face expulsion from the union. According to the Press report, ETU members employed at Mary Kathleen uranium mine and at the uranium mines under construction in the Northern Territory were given 2 1 days’ notice from 18 April to comply with that directive.
I am not aware whether the ETU has taken any steps to enforce this ultimatum. It would certainly be a most serious step to take and one which may well infringe both the common law and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In any event, this action is certainly in conflict with what I understand to be the personal view of the President of the ACTU, who is well known to have argued strongly at the ACTU Congress in September last for recognition of the reality of the existing uranium mines at Mary Kathleen, Ranger and Narbarlek in the Northern Territory.
I see no prospect of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd shutting down its operations. However, it would be a serious matter if the actions of the union were to affect the company even to a slight degree because it is a significant company in the Mt Isa region. It employs some 300 people and during 1979 earned export income of approximately $60m.
– I refer the Prime Minister to the announcement today by Saudi Arabia to lift its oil price by $2 a barrel backdated to April. The Prime Minister will also be aware of the $2 a barrel increase announced by Saudi Arabia in February and backdated to 1 January. Will these two increases, if passed on, lift petrol prices by 3c a litre or 14c a gallon or an extra $2.20 a tank and raise an additional $550m of government revenue? Finally, will the Government be passing on these increases?
– I compliment the honourable gentleman on his question. The Government has taken the view broadly that too frequent changes to the price of petrol are not helpful and that, broadly consistent with past practice, the price in Australia ought to be adjusted twice a year. It is likely there will be further increases in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries price of oil as we get to June or July. The Government will then take that matter into account and obviously decisions would then have to be made. There will be complete maintenance of world parity pricing, but that does not mean that we have to adjust every time the Saudi Arabian light price adjusts because we do not believe that there should be price changes too often in the Australian market. We will be looking at the matter then when we see what happens through the winter adjustments of the OPEC countries.
I ought to point out to the honourable gentleman, and to others who might be interested, that in spite of the substantial increases in the price of Australian petrol, because of our own degree of self-sufficiency, because we have used about the lowest world price- that of Saudi Arabian light crude- as the bench-mark for world parity pricing, because we have not been forced into spot market operations as have many other countries to maintain essential fuel supplies, the price of petrol in Australia is very much less than it is in most other countries.
The price of super grade petrol in France is 73c a litre, in the Federal Republic of Germany it is 59c to 60c a litre, in Italy 72c a litre, in Japan 62c a litre, in the Netherlands 66c a litre, in New Zealand 46c a litre and in the United Kingdom 67c a litre. It is worth noting that even in the United Kingdom, where there is substantial oil production, the price of petrol is very high. In the United States of America where there is also substantial production I am advised that the present price is 32c a litre, substantially the same as the price in Australia.
Therefore, with the exception of Canada, the price of Australian petrol is amongst the lowest of the prices in the advanced industrial countries. I know that the honourable gentlemen of the Australian Labor Party do not like to understand this. Apart from promoting the exploration and development of our oil reserves, our policies are resulting in Australian consumers getting petrol at a price which is lower than that of most other developed countries. The honourable gentleman asked his question against the background of the Labor Party ‘s assertion that a Labor government would get more tax out of the oil companies than the present oil levy achieves for this Government. It is nonsense to suggest that the Australian Labor Party would provide petrol cheaper to the Australian motorist.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether the Government’s decision on road funding will ensure that Western Australia will receive adequate road funds for local authorities, for national highways and particularly for the development of roads to service the developing mineral areas.
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is yes. The road funding program for 1980-81 will indeed ensure an adequate flow of funds to Western Australia and to the other States for local road purposes. There will be an 11.1 per cent increase in the funds available for local government roads in all States. There will be an 11.1 per cent increase in the funds allocated during 1980-81 for urban and rural arterial roads. What is more important is that in respect of national highways and developmental roads, for which the Commonwealth has total funding responsibility, and to which the honourable member for Canning has referred, funding will be increased by .18.4 per cent to enable the public generally to have a better national highway system and a better developmental road structure, in the developing areas of Western Australia and Queensland especially, as well as in some of the areas in which the developmental roads system leaves much to be desired.
The Commonwealth Government is determined to press on with the job of providing a better national highways and roads system generally. Of course, it will be expecting the State governments at least to maintain their present levels of contribution to the arterial roads sector. Where they are assisting local government with road funding allocations, we would hope that that contribution would be maintained. In spite of the present very difficult economic circumstances and the need to contain public expenditure, the Commonwealth Government has recognised the importance of road funding by giving it a very high priority. I am certain that local government authorities and the States generally will welcome that decision.
-In view of the fact that the Prime Minister intends today to meet the Council of Regional Industries, does he intend to release the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission into textiles, clothing manufacturing and footwear before or after reaching a final decision on the report? Will he assure this House that there will be no hurried and secret decisions? Will he also ensure that this House has adequate opportunity to debate the report before the Parliament is locked into any final decisions affecting the industry?
-The honourable gentleman should know that it is not the normal practice to release final Industries Assistance Commission reports until such time as they have been subject to thorough assessment by the Government and the Government has made an announcement. The final reports, consistent with that practice, will be tabled publicly when the Government has made its decision. The reports are now before the Government. They are very comprehensive indeed, covering well in excess of 1,000 pages, if the appendices are included. There are many volumes. I give the honourable gentleman an assurance that they will be subject to very thorough analysis. There will be no precipitate decision making by the Government in respect of these reports. Having said that, I am sure that the honourable gentleman would agree that the sooner the Government takes a decision on these matters the better. The other matters he has raised, of course, will be taken into account.
-The Minister for Transport will recall long-standing and persistent representations by Tasmanian members of this House in support of the establishment of a direct HobartChristchurch air link. What is the current situation? Has the Government now received definite proposals for the commencement of the said service? When is it likely that we will see the Hobart-Christchurch air link actually operating?
– The Government is determined to establish the Hobart-Christchurch air link. I hope that it will be operating before the end of this year. The Government has submitted a proposition to Qantas Airways Ltd, to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and to Trans-Australia Airlines and it is waiting for a response from them. I hope to have further discussions with the airlines concerned in the next week. Australia, of course, needs to discuss the final proposition with the New Zealand Government. We cannot take unilateral action in regard to international air travel. There is a need for this matter to be discussed with the New Zealand Government. As soon as discussions have been completed with the two domestic airlines and with Qantas I hope to proceed to discuss the issue with the New Zealand Government. I would like the honourable member for Denison to assure Tasmanians that we are moving as quickly as we can to ensure that we have that air link established before the end of this year.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact, as has recently been publicly alleged in a national weekly, that the Prime Minister’s office asked the Australian Archives to make an urgent search through all the Prime Minister’s personal papers for references to the use of herbicides in Vietnam? Is it also a fact, as alleged, that some 20 members of staff were engaged in this exercise for some hours? Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to answer the question that he refused to answer in this House on 3 1 March 1 980, namely, whether as Minister for the Army from January 1966 to February 1968 and Minister for Defence from November 1969 until March 1977 he was fully briefed as to the nature and extent of Operation Ranchhand and the involvement of Australian troops with that operation within their own defence perimeter? More importantly, was he as Minister for Defence, or were Australian armed Services in the field, informed by the United States of its decision in October 1969 to discontinue the use of defoliants in populated areas of Vietnam due to the physical and biological damage done to human beings flowing from the use of agent orange and other defoliants?
-Throughout the period in which I have been a Minister excess papers from my private office have been passed to the Archives for holding and safe-keeping Because that had applied over quite a long period and involved a large number of papers, and because I had been Minister for the Army and Minister for Defence, I wanted to make sure that if there were any papers amongst those archives that would be desirable or necessary for Defence to have in its research of the records it would have copies of them. So my office asked Archives to make a search of the papers. I have no idea how long it took or how many people were involved, but I would not be surprised if it was quite a substantial task because there are a considerable number of papers. As I understand it, the copies of any papers that Archives sent to my office were sent to Defence so that Defence could judge their relevance. I did not examine the papers in any detail. I said: ‘Pass them over to Defence because they are the people handling this matter’. That was the reason for the search of the papers in Archives and it was an entirely proper one.
– Does the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs support the right of women to work if that is their choice or to stay at home with their families if that is their choice? Has the Minister seen recent reports suggesting that women’s employment has been disproportionately affected by structural and technological change? Is there any substance in these reports?
– It is a firm policy of the Government parties that women should have the right of choice either to take on employment or to take on the equally onerous duties in the home of looking after a family. I am aware of the reports to which the honourable gentleman referred suggesting that women have suffered because of the impact of technological change. I would like to correct those reports for the information of the House and, I am sure, for the information of the women of Australia. The facts do not bear out the suggestions in those reports. Females are strongly represented in three major occupational categories- professional and technical occupations, clerical occupations and sales occupations. In each of these groups the position of women over the last 12 months has improved relative to males. I regret to inform members of this all-male chamber that they have suffered in that regard. Furthermore, over the whole of the year female employment has grown quite remarkably. I think honourable members would be interested in the figures. Over all occupational groups, female employment in the 12 months to March 1980 grew by 114,700 or 5.3 per cent. Male employment grew by only 66,900 or 1.7 per cent. In other words, the female work force has improved its relative position in the work force.
– Is that part time or full time?
– I was just going to inform honourable members of the full time situation. The overall improvement that I have referred to included an increase in the number of females employed full time of 74,000 out of the total of 114,000-odd. So the great bulk of the employment of females has been in full time employment. When one takes into account the fact that the employed labour force in Australia over the last 12 months has grown by 181,000, one can see the full benefit of the economic policies of this Government. We know, of course, that employment was destroyed in the days of the Whitlam Government. Under the policies of this Government employment has been created. Over the last 12 months, as I have pointed out, the female work force has benefited much more than the male work force. I think the facts speak for themselves. So, far from technological change having an adverse impact on female employment, female employment has grown substantially with the overall economic growth in this country.
-I understand that the honourable member for Hughes intends to lodge a request for detailed information relating to the parliamentary departments.
– That is the case. The question relates to the operation of the Joint House Department.
-If the honourable gentleman would hand in his question to the Clerk, if it is in order it will appear in Hansard and in due course I will provide an answer.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Australian Bicentennial Authority Bill 1 980. Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Amendment Bill 1980.
Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1980. Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980.
Maralinga Nuclear Test- Social Security Benefits- Vietnam: Use of Herbicides- Cheese Imports into Australia -Government Oil Policy: Classification of Australian Oil Discoveries- House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs- Olympic Games- Transfer of Antarctic Division of the Department of Science and the Environment: Tasmania
That grievances be noted.
– It is now a generation since the British nuclear tests were held at sites in South Australia. It is now some six weeks since accumulating evidence has been raised about the serious health questions arising from those tests; that is, the problem of the human fallout of the Maralinga tests.
I want first of all to say a little about the governmental response to that problem, which I think can be put into two phases. Firstly, there was what might be called the stage of blandness, when the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) responded that an inquiry would be unlikely unless there was evidence to demonstrate a problem. As soon as the evidence began to accumulate, we had a second stage in the response of this Government, which I might call the buckpassing stage. When I mistakenly suggested the other day that the Minister might be prepared to make a statement on this matter, he reacted in a way which indicated that he was not prepared to accept responsibility. When journalists put questions to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs about the matter, they were referred to the Department of Defence. When other journalists went to the Department of Health about the matter, they were referred to the Department of National Development and Energy. From the Department of National Development and Energy they received a statement from a spokesman for Senator Carrick, who said that this problem was really everybody’s baby. Let me quote him:
It is not clear whose responsibility it is. There are a lot of portfolios involved including National Development, Health and Defence.
In this second stage we have had a gaggle of buck-passing Ministers. The result is that six weeks after these important issues were brought to public notice, and they have been widely debated in the Press, this Parliament is still unaware of which Minister is responsible for coordinating the response of the Government to this problem. Secondly, despite the widespread public debate, there has not been one single substantive response from the Government on the issue. The latest information we have this week is that there has been a meeting of the departments, a report is being prepared, and some unnamed Minister- we are not yet told which Minister- will some day make a statement to this House.
Given the lack of dynamism in the Government, I think it is the responsibility of the Opposition to suggest some of the approaches and some of the issues that need to be considered in this matter. If possible, we would like to make some suggestions about what this report should examine and what are the major issues for inquiry.
The first issue to be raised is the adequacy of the safety standards that prevailed at those test sites in the 1 960s. At that time certain safety precautions were laid down.
In the light of modern evidence the first necessity is to examine what we have learned in the last generation about safety precautions in this field. We should look at the safety conditions of Maralinga from the perspective of the 1980s and ask ourselves: ‘Were the safety conditions adequate?’ For instance, would the decontamination procedures which were used there be regarded as adequate by 1980 standards? Would provision and nature of the protective clothing provided for workers on the sites be regarded as satisfactory by the standards of the 1980s after a generation of learning about some of the environmental health hazards of radioactivity? There is a problem connected with the siting of residential areas in relation to the detonation points in that area. Finally, were the handling, treatment and location of debris from the tests satisfactory? The standards that prevailed are the first issue.
Secondly, even if we find that the standards were satisfactory were the safety precautions properly enforced and observed? There is now a mass of anecdotal evidence which raises queries that need to be assessed. I am not saying that we can accept that anecdotal evidence but certainly it needs to be looked at. For instance, there are allegations about the non-provision of protective clothing in circumstances where protective clothing clearly was necessary. There is evidence of cavalier treatment of protective clothing provisions. There are stories of careless handling of radioactive debris. At times there was obviously inadequate surveillance of the detonation sites. There seems to be an argument that on occasions there was inadequate quarantine for contaminated aircraft. When these Ministers and their departments manage to get together, their second task will be to assess how far the safety provisions were observed.
Thirdly- this is the core of the inquiry- there is a need for a serious approach, through an epidemiological study of the 2,000 Australians who worked at Maralinga during the test period, to look at the incidence and pattern of disease and the medical histories of that group of 2,000 Australians. I am told that the security provisions at Maralinga and Emu Field were such that it is easy to identify the individuals who were there. Certainly there will be problems of tracing them but we start with a very clearly denned group at risk. It does not seem to be beyond our resources to trace through those groups. We need to measure this against a controlled group, against a normal population sample. In some ways this is difficult after the time that has elapsed, but again it is not an insurmountable problem. Moreover, we have considerable monitoring material in the field of radioactive induced illnesses. Professor Knelman pointed out in Adelaide this week that in the United States evidence was ‘piling in’ to the effect that those people associated with A-bomb tests were showing a higher than normal incidence of cancer. That is evidence that can be related to our own inquiry.
Similarly, as I pointed out in this Parliament, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been intensively surveyed over a considerable period. The medical director of the New South Wales State Cancer Council, Dr Gordon Sarfaty, pointed out that these medical investigations, following the blast at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, provide standards and guidelines that would be relevant to any inquiry here. As a result of those surveys there is evidence about the chief forms of cancer induced by over-exposure to radiation. There is evidence also about the timing and pattern of development of such cancers.
The fourth and final issue is the impact of the tests on the Aboriginals in the area. Certainly this is the most difficult issue to assess. It may be also the most tragic consequence of these tests. Evidence is already before us to the effect that the warning signs and surveillance provisions were inadequate to keep nomadic Aboriginals out of unsafe areas. This Parliament has been presented previously with allegations, which are now fairly convincing and widely confirmed, that Aborigines were discovered in danger areas following nuclear blasts and were subjected, when found, to prolonged decontamination procedures. But what about those who were not found?
This week further medical evidence has been brought forward. There have been consistent allegations of a black mist following the explosions which affected the Pitjantjatjara settlements at Ernabella, Mimili, Kenmore Park and Indulkana. Again, a doctor from Alice Springs has suggested that there has been a rise in the incidence of cancer amongst the Aborigines in this area. It is a complicated issue. I should like to quote Dr Cutter. I am not saying that the problem is an easy one to solve, but certainly he has drawn attention very clearly to it. He said:
This whole thing is so much more widespread than we first thought.
But the obstacle at the moment is that it happened 30 years ago and, while people vividly recollect what happened, they don’t know when and it is unlikely that we will be able to find the appropriate death records and other information.
Medical records such as post mortems in this area do not exist
But the reports I have been given are consistent and indicate the need for an exhaustive and immediate inquiry.
We on the Opposition side again echo the doctor’s words in regard to the need for an immediate and urgent inquiry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My grievance today is about an invalid in my electorate who has been denied an invalid pension by the Department of Social Security. My grievance is not related just to this particular constituent but also relates to others in my electorate and, indeed, throughout Western Australia and possibly Australia who are in similar circumstances and who, I believe, are the victims of a narrow and improper interpretation of the Social Services Act and are being denied their proper entitlement to an invalid pension. Many invalids, in my view, are at present being given a raw deal.
I refer in particular to a 52 year old man of Polish origin, who was educated in refugee camps and who has a wife and two dependent children. He has a work history of 23 consecutive years with one firm as a welder. In 1976 a genuine back injury, with sciatica, required surgical intervention which did not relieve his symptoms. I have spoken with this man. He finds it difficult to stand or walk. He is constantly off balance and cannot sit down for more than a few minutes without experiencing severe pain. He was certified as being eligible for an invalid pension by an orthopaedic surgeon on 16 March 1978. Pursuant to a finding of the Workers Compensation Board which was handed down on 19 July 1979, it was found as fact by competent medical opinion that he was totally and permanently incapacitated for the purposes of obtaining employment. For this reason a lump sum payment of workers’ compensation was granted pursuant to the provisions of the Workers Compensation Act. Again, on 2 April 1980, my constituent was certified as being eligible for an invalid pension by the Director of Medical Services in the Department of Social Security in Western Australia. But despite all this evidence, this man’s application for an invalid pension was rejected. He was assessed by the Department of Health as having a medical impairment of 50 per cent.
I could refer to similar cases in my electorate. I believe that a very serious matter of principle is involved here if we are concerned with obtaining an equitable system of assistance for disadvantaged individuals. The problem revolves around the current application of the definition of handicap which is required if one is to qualify for an invalid pension. I ask: Is the pension to be given to those individuals with major medical problems or is there a wider entitlement? There is no doubt that the individual with a major illness is entitled to his pension on medical grounds. That is quite simple. But the question of the disadvantaged rather than the disabled is far more complex. In making decisions regarding the requirements for qualification, the use of the word impairment’ has been introduced to estimate the degree of medical handicap. I have referred to the strict medical assessment of my constituent. But an individual would have to be very seriously ill to reach the 85 per cent level which is required for qualification. The current application would appear to indicate that impairment is being measured by the Department of Health to estimate an individual’s incapacity. I submit that this is not an adequate assessment for entitlement to an invalid pension. I refer to Division 3 of Part III of the Social Services Act which is entitled: ‘Qualifications for Individual Pensions ‘. Section 23 of that Act, under this Division, states:
For the purposes of this Division, . . . a person shall be deemed to be permanently incapacitated for work if the degree of his permanent incapacity for work is not less than eighty-five per cent.
I emphasise that this section and succeeding section of the Act refer not simply to incapacity or impairment, but to incapacity to work. If impairment is regarded as the equivalent to incapacity, then surely incapacity for work should be related to a broader equivalent, which perhaps could be termed disability. In using the word ‘disability ‘, I maintain as evidenced in the example of my constituent that it is necessary to consider the characteristics making up the total profile of the individual concerned. Such matters as his education, his ethnic background, his work background, his trade qualifications, his language capabilities, his intelligence, his occupational aptitude and so forth are all important and relevant factors. These factors, plus the medical assessment of his impairment, should make up the total assessment of a person’s disability or incapacity for work.
These additional factors and perhaps others must be taken into account if we are to translate medical impairment to a concept of disability. After all, it may be possible to say to a well educated person- perhaps a Rhodes scholar who has degrees in English literature, and perhaps in economics and accountancy and who has work experience of a tertiary or a clerical nature- that a 30 per cent or 50 per cent medical impairment related to, say, a back injury should not see him being assessed as incapacitated for work. But if a builder’s labourer, with little command of English, no formal education, no experience of clerical work and no trade skills, happens to have a 30 per cent or 50 per cent medical impairment relating to, say, his back, surely that is a quite different matter. He could be assessed, when looking at all his characteristics, as being incapacitated for work under the terms of the Act. In other words, he would be assessed as disabled and entitled to an invalid pension.
I want to know from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) just what are the present directions for assessment of entitlement to an invalid pension. Is the entitlement based on impairment or disability? As far as I am concerned, if liberalism means the freedom and dignity of man- as I believe it does- at present freedom, equity and dignity are not being granted to many disabled members of the community. The case I have cited is only an example, but it is a very serious one. It indicates to me the injustice of a narrow medical appreciation of an individual’s status in the community. I think consideration should be given to changing the present instructions to enable medical practitioners to assess disability or incapacity for work as stated in the Act, rather than just impairment. It is not for me to suggest the mechanism by which such an assessment should be made. I simply say that the present administration of the Act, as I have witnessed it from personal experience and contact with some of my constituents, is inadequate and unfair.
In Western Australia, as I understand the situation, the current instructions for the pensions officer, who is the delegate of the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security, are for him to accept the decision of the delegate of the Director-General of the Department of Health, thereby excluding the professional opinion of the medical practitioners in the Department of Social Security. It appears from the documentation that I have read regarding my constituent that the two Departments use these two different methods of assessing entitlement to an invalid pension. One uses the strict interpretation of medical impairment, while the other seeks to assess disability. I believe that it is the assessment of disability which is more equitable. It is more in accordance with the requirements of Division 3 of Part III of the Social Services Act, but it is that method of assessment which is being ignored.
I call on the Minister to examine this problem urgently. It is causing great distress to many severely disadvantaged people in the community. I think it is totally contrary to the whole spirit behind the concept of the invalid pension. I am not saying that the legal opinion referred to by the Director-General of the Department of Social Security earlier this year, which was the subject of his circular to State Directors of the Department of Social Security, is wrong. I do not think that an application for an invalid pension should be decided on the state of the labour market or on the possibility of the applicant returning to his normal occupation. But that is not relevant to the argument I am putting.
Briefly, there is another area to be considered outside the area of invalid pensions. A whole host of people with various degrees of permanent impairment at present is being severely compromised. These people are being denied opportunities to do even part-time work because they are sickness benefit recipients. Certainly sickness benefit payments should be maintained for those who are temporarily ill and invalid pension payments should be maintained in the cases of those who are permanently and seriously incapacitated for work. I have referred to them already. In my view there is also a need to consider the possibility of providing more realistic income maintenance for those with a lesser degree of permanent medical impairment who could be regarded as fit to do part time work and who should not be subjected to the unrealistic income arrangements under sickness and unemployment benefits.
As 1981 is designated as the International Year of the Disabled, perhaps the Government should consider the introduction of a disability pension to be paid in the same way as payments are made to veterans’ benefits recipients at various levels of disability. I think the need for a middle tier of benefit should be considered for those in the community who are suffering a lesser degree of medical impairment and who possess other personal disadvantages precluding their return to full time employment. This would free them from the income restraints against part time employment placed on those in receipt of the sickness benefit which is paid to those who are temporarily indisposed. I raise this matter because I think it applies across the broad spectrum of the disadvantaged community within Australia. I believe that it raises important questions of principle which the Minister should address herself to immediately.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to raise, for the attention of the House, the continuing demand of Vietnam veterans that the Government appoint a judicial inquiry to examine, the evidence, the scientific material and all the documents that they have put together to justify their claims in terms of the plight of themselves and their families as a result of exposure to agent orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam. This matter has been canvassed in the House on a number of occasions. We have been told by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) simply that he has called for an inquiry, which is essentially a private inquiry, in which evidence can be adduced over a period, which will determine the rights or wrongs of the claims of Vietnam veterans. To date the Vietnam Veterans Action Association has not been told who is to conduct the inquiry. It does not know and has not been told how this inquiry will be conducted. It has not been told nor has it been informed of how it is possible for it to produce that great range of medical evidence which now exists and which is documented which would support the claims of its members.
The Government in this House continues to prevaricate as to the extent to which Australian troops were, in fact, involved in Operation Ranchhand. The Minister for Defence (Mr
Killen) called upon Vietnam veterans who had any information in respect of this matter to bring it forward. I now desire to table, and have incorporated in Hansard, an affidavit prepared by Craig Maxwell Steel of Dorrisvale Crescent, Tiwi, in the Northern Territory.
-Does the honourable member seek leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard?
– I do, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The document read as follows-
I, CRAIG MAXWELL STEEL of 10 Dorisvale Crescent, Tiwi in the Northern Territory of Australia MAKE OATH AND SAY as follows:
As 2794623 Lieutenant Craig Maxwell Steel (Royal Australian Army Medical. Corps) I served in South Vietnam from March, 1971 to March, 1972 as Task Force Hygiene Officer, 1st Australian Task Force.
During that period I was the Officer responsible for conducting the defoliant spraying program in and around the Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat.
I had in my possession at that time written guidelines on the methods of application for the chemical defoliants Agent Orange, Agent Blue and Hyvar. These guidelines referred specifically to those application methods suitable for use by Australian troops, using Australian equipment, in and around the Nui Dat Base.
These guidelines carried the explicit warning in bold print that the misuse of these chemicals may result in sterility and/or congenital abnormalities in humans.
This is the First Page of the Affidavit of CRAIG MAXWELL STEEL sworn the1stdayofMay, 1980.
A Commissioner for taking Affidavits in the
Northern Territory of Australia
Troops whose duty it was to spray defoliants were made very much aware of this warning.
Troops engaged in defoliant spraying were required to submit themselves for a medical examination on completion of the spraying program.
These examinations were carried out by Medical Officers serving with 8 Field Ambulance and/or 1st Australian Field Hospital.
My purpose in having these examinations was to have endorsed on a member’s Army Medical Documents the fact that he had been in close contact with chemical defoliants.
Only the chemical defoliants Agent Blue and Hyvar were used during my term in Vietnam.
I returned the spraying guidelines and other technical papers to Australia sometime between October, 1971 and February, 1972.
1 . The above information was made available to:-
Sir William Keys- National President of the R.S.L., verbally during December, 1979 and confirmed in writing 9th January, 1980. Annexed hereto and marked with the letter “A”is a copy of Sir William Keys’ acknowledgement of receipt of this information.
Mr John Dux- Journalist with “The Australian” newspaper, verbally in early March, 1980 and confirmed in writing 1 3th March, 1980.
Mr Frank Alcorta-Secretary V.V.A.A. (N.T.) verbally 22nd April, 1980.
Mr Matt Peacock- Journalist with the A.B.C. (N.T.) verbally 29th April,1980 and confirmed in a television interview recorded 30th April, 1 980.
This is the Second Page of the Affidavit of CRAIG MAXWELL STEEL sworn the1stdayofMay, 1980.
A Commissioner for taking Affidavits in the Northern Territory of Australia
I know the facts deposed to herein of my own knowledge.
DATED this1stdayofMay, 1980.
SWORN by the abovenamed deponent CRAIG MAXWELL STEEL at Darwin on the 1st day of May, 1980.
A Commissioner for taking Affidavits in the Northern Territory of Australia
THE RETURNED SERVICES LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA
Her Majesty the Queen
Sir William Keys, O.B.E., M.C.
Major-General C. H. Finlay, C.B., C.B.E.
Address all Mail:
P.O. Box 303,
Canberra City, A.C.T. 260 1
Telegrams and Cables: “Helles”, Canberra
In Reply Please Quote “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance” 22 January 1980
Dear Mr Steel,
My thanks for your letter and photograph dated 9 January 1980.I will study these in some depth and then include details from them in our further submission to the Government on this matter.
I am most grateful for your initiative in contacting us and for your helpful information.
With kindest regards,
G. W. KEYS
Mr. Craig Steel, 10 Dorisvale Crescent,
TIWI. N.T. 5792
This is the annexe marked with the letter “A” referred to in the Affidavit of CRAIG MAXWELL STEEL sworn the 1stdayofMay, 1980.
A Commissioner for taking Affidavits in the Northern Territory of Australia
– I also desire to table and have incorporated in Hansard an affidavit by Leslie Robert Nunn, of Main Road, Toukley.
-The honourable member is again seeking leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard?
– I am, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The document read as follows-
Leslie Robert Nunn 2 Main Road
STATUTORY DECLARATION BY EX 216435 Sgt. L R Nunn.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I do solemnly declare dispersal of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals in South Vietnam during 1968-69 and 1970-71.
During 1968-69 and 1970-71 I was employed as a Class I Health Inspector in South Vietnam with 12th Field Regiment RAA, 8th Field Ambulance, 2RAR, 7RAR and I ALSG in Phouc Tuy Province.
My duties included the dispersal of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals to control vectors of disease and were to prevent disease in the units in which I worked including supervision of safety precautions of chemicals handlers.
The chemicals I observed being used that were considered toxic to handlers were:
DDT- Emulsifiable concentrate; Wetable powder 75 per cent; Residual Type (mixed with Pyrethrin).
Chlordane- Emulsifiable concentrate.
Dieldrin- Emulsifiable concentrate.
Malathion- Emulsifiable concentrate.
Diazinon- Emulsifiable concentrate dusting powder.
f ) Pyrethrins- prepared for use.
a ) Hyvar- powder crystals.
b ) Regione- emulsifiable concentrate.
Tordon- emulsifiable concentrate.
Repellents used were Di Butyl Pthylate and Dimethylphylate.
Anti malarial drugs used were Paludrin daily and Dapsone when faced with risk of Falciparium malaria. The final clearance of the soldier at the end of his tour involved Chloroquin, Primaquin.
Water supplies required very high concentrations of chlorine to achieve sterilisation and the variation in chlorine demand often resulted in free residual readings of over 3mg/ 1 or PPM.
Food was generally supplied through the system and the only food consumed from local sources was on leave in the town or locally purchased by catering officers for functions. These often included sea foods.
American planes were noted overhead dispersing chemicals and it was thought they were using ultra-low volume dispersal of Malathion. We were not informed they were using herbicides.
Contracts in Vung Tau involved cold fogging or misting of DDT by locals employed by Pacific Architects and Engineers. This often resulted in DDT being misted over people and environments. Some helicopter spraying of the camp was carried out with Diazinon to control flies.
The Task Force at Nui Dat was fogged using Thermal fogging equipment with Pyrethrins and residuals mixed to control mosquitoes. This was done twice a day when required and units used swing fog equipment on a small scale. Residuals were used to spray areas around the camps regularly. The soldier in field often went days without a shower and if he spilt chemicals on himself he could not shower or wash and change until the time came for that in forward areas so his lot was not understood.
The toxic effects of Herbicides were not understood and the facts now established of the effects of these chemicals known to be toxic are greatly different to our understanding at the time of use.
This declaration is made by me in the honest belief that it is true and correct. So help me God.
9 May 1980
-Both of those documents are important. Mr Steel was a lieutenant serving in South Vietnam from March 1971 to March 1972 as a task force hygiene officer in the 1st Australian Task Force. Time will not permit me to go into every aspect of his affidavit but what he does say is that he was involved in the use of agent blue and Hyvar. He also was the recipient of instructions which involved the use of agent orange, agent blue and Hyvar. He said that these guidelines carried the explicit warning in bold print that the misuse of those chemicals could result in sterility or congenital abnormalities in humans. The affidavit of Leslie Robert Nunn indicates and is supportive of that. He lists the range of hydrocarbons, organic phosphates and herbicides that he was involved with. Accompanying that is a record of the flying hours which were involved. For the Minister for Defence to suggest, as he has suggested in this House, that the use of those defoliants by the Australian Task Force in Vietnam was a bit like spraying a few herbicides at the bottom of the garden is grossly misleading. Clearly ‘the defoliation programme’ was a major involvement of the Australian Task Force. Not only were our servicemen exposed to agent orange and to other defoliants which were being sprayed on a continuous basis by the Americans but also they were involved in the use of and exposed to the side effects of chemicals and herbicides of a very lethal nature indeed.
The facts as they now stand- which all honourable members, on the basis of the evidence, can now accept- is that Australian troops stationed in Vietnam were exposed over a considerable period to agents orange, blue and white which were used by the Americans. Australian troops were involved in defoliant spraying. We now have sworn affidavits which indicate clearly that agent blue and Hyvar and a range of other chlorinated hydrocarbons, organic phosphates and herbicides were also used. Documents which have been tabled by the Minister support the truth of these allegations. There are allegations, as yet unsupported, by officers who served in Vietnam and who continue to wish to remain anonymous that agent orange was also involved.
I also desire to table a section of the report of the Insecticides Working Party of the Defence Medical Services Committee. This report includes the directions for the use of insecticides. What is interesting in this document is a very specific reference to the dangers involved in the storage and the handling of the insecticides, the requirements for spraying and the need for medical supervision. Clause 5 of those requirements points out that medical supervision is required to ensure that pregnant women and nursing mothers do not use the spray. One may well ask: How is it that the Government of Australia and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs can say in this House that the only known side effect of exposure to these defoliants is a skin condition known as chloracne when, in the detailed requirements issued to servicemen in the field, it is made perfectly clear that there are risks of congenital abnormalities? Why, if the only known medical concern is chloracne, does the document state that medical advice requires that pregnant women and nursing mothers do not use the spray? The answer is as clear as it is obvious. There is now available to the Government and to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs a whole body of scientific evidence and material which supports in detail the claims that are being made by the Vietnam veterans. The assertion of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs that we do not need to have a judicial inquiry because, in a sense, every repatriation tribunal fulfils that function, is not an accurate statement.
Let me give an instance of what occurred at a repatriation tribunal less than a fortnight ago in respect of an ex-serviceman by the name of Gibson. He had been knocked back by the tribunal on two occasions on a specific claim for an anxiety condition. Having been knocked back on two occasions he made his third appeal. But on this occasion his appeal was based specifically on his exposure to chemicals in Vietnam. He appeared before the tribunal in Sydney. With him were representatives of the Vietnam Veterans Action Association. That Association’s scientific adviser had flown from Melbourne to put all the evidence clearly before the tribunal so that there could be a specific finding in respect of that scientific evidence. As a matter of courtesy the chairman of the tribunal was informed of the way the case would be put and the type of evidence which would be led.
Ten minutes before the case was due to commence the chairman of the tribunal called in the representatives of this serviceman to say that, in the space of 20 minutes, the original evidence had been reconsidered. They were told that the original evidence upon which this ex-serviceman had been knocked back on two occasions was reconsidered and his claim was to be granted. They were told that it would not be necessary to produce any of this scientific evidence because that ex-serviceman would now receive a pension on the basis of war related disabilities. Does anybody believe that that took place without some kind of telephone call to Canberra? This exserviceman and his scientific advisers were present for the purpose of putting this evidence before a tribunal so that it could be properly assessed and cross-examined and there would at least be a record upon which a precedent could be established for other ex-servicemen in such a situation and, all of a sudden, they were informed: ‘There is no need to call this evidence. The claim will be admitted’. Is it any wonder that ex-servicemen who have served this country honourably and well feel increasing disillusionment and contempt for the way in which they and their families are being treated by this Government? They are continuing to insist, as they are entitled to do, upon a full judicial inquiry. A man who is accused of holding up a bank will go before a court and have the evidence impartially weighed. That is all these exservicemen are asking for. They are saying: ‘We are prepared to put our evidence, scientific and factual, before a judicial inquiry and have it cross-examined, weighed and assessed. Is there anything basically wrong with that? I urge this House to grant that wish. What is happening at the moment is that certain people in high places, in the bureaucracy and in the Government, are fearful of any judicial inquiry because a few reputations would be injured. These men are being denied their just claims.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before calling the honourable member for Murray I would point out to the House that during the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports reference was made to the tabling and incorporation of a document in Hansard. In actual fact the honourable member, in common with other honourable members, is not free to table a document without leave. I mention this so that no confusion arises. A tabled document is not available for perusal, although the House may be of that opinion, but certain documents have been incorporated in Hansard.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. If honourable members on either side of the House wish to examine these documents, I have copies which are freely available.
-The honourable member also intimated that he was seeking the incorporation in Hansard of a third document but he did not formalise his request. If it is his desire to have that incorporated at this belated stage, I will ascertain whether it meets with the approbation of the House.
– The third document is entitled Administrative and Technical Instruction No. 47- Handling and Control of Users of Organophosphorus Insecticides’. I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
DMS-A ADMINISTRATIVE AND TECHNICAL INSTRUCTION No. 47
HANDLING AND CONTROL OF USERS OF ORGANOPHOSPHORUS INSECTICIDES
Of all pesticide categories, the group most commonly associated with toxic effects in man has been that which encompasses the organophosphorus compounds. Materials of this general type were originally developed as chemical warfare agents. Their mechanism of action, probably in both insects and vertebrates is based upon their inactivation of acetylcholinestrase.
Requirements for storage and preparation
Listed below are requirements of action to be taken when storing and handling insecticides:
Containers are to be clearly labelled with the name of the chemical, its concentration, and its toxicity.
If mixing is required, then separate measuring equipment is to be used for organophosphides.
No eating, drinking or smoking until the task and the clean up has been completed.
The member must thoroughly wash the body with soap and water on completion of the task.
All protective clothing used to be kept separate when cleaned. It is not to be taken home. This includes headdress.
Ensure that all lids are screwed securely on containers.
Containers after use are to be filled with alkaline solution before disposal. They are not to be reused.
Organophosphorous insecticides should be stored securely.
When mixing is required only a qualified person should handle the insecticide.
Requirements for spraying
When a spray programme is envisaged ensure:
That all spraying is carried out in the morning or evening.
That all occupants and residents are warned that spraying is to commence.
That no spraying is done on windy days.
Requirements for personal protection
The following requirements exist for personal protection when using organophosphorous compounds:
Only qualified personnel are to mix and spray organophosphorous compounds.
The sprayer must cover all areas of skin with heavy duty clothing.
Goggles and vapour neutralizing masks are to be worn.
Impervious gloves and boots to be worn.
Ensure the head is covered with washable cap.
Medical supervision is required to ensure that:
Members under 18 are not involved in the spraying of organophosphorous compounds.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers do not use the spray.
Members of the spray teams are not heavy drinkers of alcohol.
Annual medical examinations of spray personnel are carried out.
Blood cholinesterase are determined on all workers before spraying and then a check every 2-3 days while the programme continues. If a drop of more than 25 per cent occurs the member should stop using the chemical until the original level is attained.
-My grievance today concerns cheese imports from New Zealand and the European Economic Community. I am pleased that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) is at the table. I am sure he is listening. The increase in cheese imports into Australia has been very rapid. For example, in the case of New Zealand, it has risen from 1,220 tonnes a little over three years ago to close to 5,000 tonnes at present. That is about 5 per cent of the market. Cheese imports from the EEC are even higher. In total, about 10 per cent of the domestic cheese consumption is imported.
The obvious question to ask about that is: Why the concern if it is only 10 per cent? The dairy industry itself acknowledges that that is not a significant percentage. The industry is not against the importation of cheese, particularly of varieties that are not available here. But one should remember that Australia is not deficient in cheese production. Australia is one of the major cheese exporters in the world. The industry has stated that these cheese imports are acceptable provided that they are coming into Australia fairly that is, they are not the beneficiaries of subsidies or some unfair trading arrangement that Australian agricultural products, including cheese, will be allowed equal access to the markets of the exporting countries, and that they are not attempting to destroy the pricing structure in this country. Later I will detail why that is not occurring in the case of imports from the EEC and New Zealand. Firstly, I turn to European cheese. Since the conclusion of the Multilateral Trade Negotiations and the direct negotiations with the EEC on cheese, cheese from the EEC is allowed into Australia duty free if there is no export subsidy. That is a restitution. That relates to most of the varieties that are not available here. There is no import duty or restriction on that type.
Secondly, Australia is accepting the Industries Assistance Commission recommended level of duty which is applicable to other EEC cheese that has been coming in at that level. That sounds fine. The concern of the dairy industry is this: What happens if the EEC exports to Australia tonnages greater than those agreed to in areas where there is considerable subsidy? The EEC was caught dumping cheese in Australia several years ago. The present level of duty on cheese coming into Australia from the EEC is quite small compared with the level of subsidy that the EEC is prepared to use to buy its way into the market. There is also concern that we have no guarantee from the EEC on its fair trading practices in other countries. Negotiations are still in progress between the Australian and New Zealand governments following the failure of the dairy industries to agree on an informal restraint arrangement, as they are required to do under the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement following the Industries Assistance Commission report of last year. I quote the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in a recent speech when he opened the Victorian Farmers and Graziers Association conference in Melbourne. He stated:
The LAC concluded that New Zealand was the principal source of import competition and that there existed the potential to disrupt Australia’s dairy marketing arrangements.
There has been a 300 per cent increase in New Zealand cheese imports into Australia in the last three years. The main problem facing the Australian cheese industry is the uncertainty as to the industry’s future following this rapid increase in imports from New Zealand and the still unresolved situation of additional highly subsidised EEC cheese imports into Australia. The Australian dairy industry has faced massive restructuring. The number of dairy farmers in Australia today is 44 per cent less than it was 10 years ago. The industry faced a similar halving in the 1 960s. No other Australian industry, primary or secondary, has been forced to face such massive restructuring. Restructuring and reductions in the industry are occurring all the time.
The industry has and is responding to government demands to restructure and to produce efficiently the products that the world wants. For example, in my electorate at present approximately $40m is being invested in the most efficient cheese production equipment in the world. An even greater investment is occurring at farm level. Having gone through hell caused directly by the EEC and its dairy industry through Britain’s accession to the EEC, and its continued over-production and subsidised exports and caused indirectly by New Zealand because Australia’s dairy farmers stood aside to allow New Zealand’s dairy farmers to have continued access to the EEC, the dairy industries of New Zealand and Britain are now saying to the dairy industry of Australia: ‘You can go through hell again’. As far as I am concerned, the dairy industry should not be required to go through any more unnatural restructuring on behalf of the dairy industries of those two countries.
I made a point earlier about the types of competition between countries. Where there is equal competition in relation to cheese between Australia, the EEC and New Zealand- Japan is the best example of this- Australia can hold its own. Australia is the largest seller of cheese to Japan. We produce cheese efficiently by world standards. We produce well ahead of the other countries on average in relation to quality standards. With regard to unfair competition, I point out that the New Zealand dairy industry had a case of dumping proven against it in the recent past. New Zealand had been dumping edam and gouda cheese in Australia. In other words, it was making a deliberate attempt by price cutting to buy market shares in Australia. There are greater subsidies for the dairy industry in New Zealand than there are for it in Australia but, to be fair, the dairy industries of both countries receive the lowest subsidies in the world. For example, there is a $30m city milk subsidy in New Zealand and there is a $7m subsidy for butter for domestic consumption. Livestock incentive schemes, special rural credit arrangements and export incentive arrangements, are available to the dairy industry in New Zealand, all of which are far more generous than anything available to the Australian dairy industry. Australian agriculture is not given equal access to New Zealand. New Zealand has a delightful procedure of import licensing. Although New Zealand claims that we have open access to its dairy market that country has import licensing that acts against Australian margarine.
I also represent the major canned fruit production area in Australia. The price of canned fruit to the Australian consumer is half what it is to the New Zealand consumer and the average wage in New Zealand is only two-thirds of that in Australia. We cannot sell one can of fruit to New Zealand because of import licensing. One could go through a whole range of agricultural industries such as wine and wheat where access is barred. My information from the Department of Trade and Resources concerning trade in agricultural products between the two countries where import licensing is used by both countries, is that New Zealand exports to us $398m worth of agricultural products while we export to New Zealand agricultural products worth $3. 9m. In total trade where import licensing is used, New Zealand exports to us goods worth $7,592m while we are allowed to export to New Zealand only $627m worth of goods. The overall trade balance between the two countries is about one and a half to one in favour of Australia. Our economy is four to five times larger than that of New Zealand. Our major export to New Zealand is the re-export of special petroleum products. What I am saying is that New Zealand is employing a double standard in its argument on a fair go for trade with Australia.
Recently, I went with the Government members’ rural committee to New Zealand where we had good discussions with New Zealand government representatives as well as the farmers’ federation representatives. They have also been here. I say to the Minister for Primary Industry that I am greatly concerned by the tactics being adopted at present by New Zealand industry and its representatives. Under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, both the Australia and New Zealand dairy industries were given the opportunity to reach an informal arrangement but they could not. I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Government for saying ‘Right. It has to be a formal agreement to provide this certainty for the future’. The New Zealand dairy industry is saying: ‘The two industries can satisfactorily resolve the matter on an informal basis’. I do not trust the New Zealand Government or any of the industries when it comes to informal arrangements. Time after time with horticultural products when the pressure has been on New Zealand through overproduction, it has reneged on informal arrangements. I suggest very strongly that the Minister hurry up and resolve this issue and hold firm on formal market share arrangements with New Zealand and with this other problem of the European Economic Community so that there can be certainty for the Australian dairy industry in the future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Today I wish to speak on one of the greatest rip-offs of the Australian people by the Fraser Government. I will speak of its oil policies but in particular the question of the classification of Australian oil discoveries. No clearer illustration exists of the inadequacy of the Fraser Government’s crude oil pricing and taxing policy or of its administration of oil policy in the interests of the oil companies rather than the national interest than its decision to class the Fortescue oil field as a new field.
The stark, central fact is that this decision was made on the basis of data, advice and pressure by the beneficiaries Esso Australia Ltd and Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. The decision to call Fortescue new rather than old oil will net these two companies some $ 1,000m extra per annum in 1985; that is, if oil prices overseas increase as they have on average over the past five years under this Government, Fortescue oil will net Esso-BHP about $ 1,000m more in 1985 than it would have as old oil. If oil prices increase as fast as they have over the past two years this amount will be about $2,600m in that year. The decision on Fortescue is a massive handout to private oil companies from the public by the Fraser Government. It is hard to reconcile this generosity with the Fraser Government’s persecution of welfare beneficiaries, its attacks on the unemployed, its failure to maintain spending on Aboriginal welfare, and the meanness of its near illusory tax cuts this year.
When the Whitlam Government introduced the distinction between new and old oil in September 1975- a distinction based on the date of discovery- it was designed largely to encourage exploration in areas where little exploration had hitherto been performed, where it was suspected that substantial reserves of oil might be found and where it was obvious that production would be expensive. In particular, this was the case on the North West Shelf and the Exmouth Plateauboth located offshore in deep water- and especially in the case of the Exmouth Plateau, unexplored. By contrast, the Gippsland Basin was at that time a proven oil and gas producing area. Exploration had been successfully conducted for nearly 10 years and oil had been in production for over five years. By 1975 its development was not regarded as particularly testing technically, nor was it particularly expensive. Moreover, while the price received by producers for oil already in production was around $2.30 per barrel, the price for new oil based on the posted Saudi Arabian light price would have been about $ 1 1 a barrel. The price of Saudi light crude oil is now $US28 a barrel.
The Fraser Government’s oil policy gives producers of new oil a price based on that set by Saudi Arabia and based simply on the date of its discovery by drilling regardless of the cost of its production and with no system for ensuring a fair return to the owners of the resource, the Australian people. In the case of Fortescue this generous policy applies to oil found in a known oil producing basin. In fact, it applies to a field overlapping the Halibut field, discovered in 1967 and the Cobia field which was discovered in 1972.
The claim that Fortescue is a new field and eligible under the Fraser Government’s policy for full import parity with no levy must be backed up with evidence that it is a naturally occurring discrete accumulation of oil; that is, separate from other previously discovered pools of oil and that it had not been encountered in any wells drilled before 17 September 1975. That might sound like a simple decision, but it is not. The difficulties are compounded where the scientific data used is provided only by the beneficiariesEsso and BHP- and where these companies have conducted a campaign to pressure a government always willing to accede to the wishes of the oil companies. From September 1978 when Esso drilled the West Halibut No. 1 well it claimed that this well had found a new field- Fortescue. Independent and highly eminent advice has been given to the Opposition which shows that the new classification accepted by the Government cannot be backed. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard geological evidence to that effect.
The document read as follows-
THE SO-CALLED FORTES-CUE FIELD
A.C.M. Laing. M.Sc, A.O.S.M., M.Aus.IMM, MAIME.
The definition of new oil is quoted by (Thornton et al 1980) in a letter received from the Commonwealth Department of Minerals and Energy as:
It being discovered on or after September 1975.
It being a naturally occurring discrete accumulation.
It was discovered as a result of drilling a well which after drilling is classified as either a shallower pool discovery or a new pool ( pay) discovery.
The evidence given by Thornton et al ( 1980) to support the Fortes-cue ‘field’ as being a new discovery entitled to the new price for newly discovered oil can be summarised as follows:
West Halibut No.I drilled in 1978 is regarded as the discovery well.
Oil was encountered in reservoir beds younger than those in the Halibut and Cobia wells.
The oil encountered is different in chemical composition from the oil in the Cobia or Halibut wells.
d ) The water levels in the Fortes-cue ‘field ‘ are substantially different from those in the Halibut and Cobia wells.
The pressures in the Halibut and Cobia fields are substantially different from those in the Fortes-cue ‘ field ‘.
The matter of whether the Fortes-cue ‘field’ is a separate accumulation was also considered by Smith ( 1979) for the Bureau of Mineral Resources and who concluded: that the oil encountered in the West Halibut No. 1 well and confirmed by the subsequent wells Fortes-cue Nos 2, 3 and 4 is in a reservoir separated by an impervious barrier from the previously discovered oil reservoirs of Halibut and Cobia fields and therefore is a “naturally occurring discrete accumulation” and that West Halibut No.I well is classified as a “Newpool discovery” ‘.
His evidence for this came from the following conclusions:
Oil water contacts were 23 metres lower in Fortes-cue area than original Halibut contact of 2,396 metres, though there is a difficulty in assessing the oil water contact precisely in each well.
Pressure measurements in Fortes-cue area wells do not indicate for certain that Fortes-cue oil is separate from Halibut oil.
There are only subtle chemical differences between oils in Fortes-cue wells and Halibut Cobia wells.
The strati-graphic correlations between the Fortes-cue and the Halibut Cobia wells are not straight forward but the Esso interpretation is considered reasonable and consistent with the concept of a physical barrier between the Fortes-cue and Halibut-Cobia areas.
The writer after examining all available evidence concludes that:
The Fortes-cue ‘field’ is not a separate field but pan of the Halibut Cobia Field.
The standard accepted definition of an oilfield is Lahee ( 1961 ) who states (p. 4-2) ‘In this chapter we use the terms “pool “ and “reservoir” as synonymous and as referring to a single interconnected porous rock medium which contains oil or gas in its interstices. A “field” may be one reservoir or it may include two or more separate reservoirs, all of which are related to the same strati-graphic environment. ‘
H. Lahee was chairman or member of the Committee on Statistics of Exploratory Drilling of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists from 1935-1956. Their standard method of classification of fields and pools has gained world wide acceptance.
Under this classification it is clear that Fortes-cue is part of the Halibut Field lying within the Halibut closed seismic structure.
It could be regarded as it is by Smith ( 1979) as a ‘new pool discovery’ but the evidence given by Smith for this is very weak.
Dealing with this evidence in more detail:
oil water contacts. These are difficult to place accurately as it depends on electric log interpretation. It is very likely that the fluid in the reservoir rock pore spaces will go gradually from say 1 5 per cent water 80 per cent oil to 85 per cent water 1 5 per cent oil. Where do you put the cut off point particularly when there are shale beds reported at the critical levels (see Smith 1979 p. 2). Furthermore there is a change in oil water contact within the Halibut Oilfield (see Griffith and Hodgson 1971 fig. 6).
pressure measurements. As Smith ( 1979) points out pressure differences of 20-30 psi do not indicate for certain whether the Fortes-cue oil is connected with the Halibut Oil. Furthermore the later paper Thornton et al (1980) refers (p. 138) to the current Fortes-cue ‘field’ pressure being 90 psi below original basin pressure prior to any production and is similar to a pressure drawdown of 100 psi at Cobia 2 and 150 psi at Halibut.
The figures given confirm that 20-30 psi is not particularly significant compared to the variations of 50 psi in drawdown due to differential permeabilities in the Halibut field.
Thornton et al ( 1980) go on to state p. 138: ‘The fact that the pressure at Fortes-cue has been drawn down by about 90 psi shows that Fortes-cue, Cobia and Halibut Fields must be in hydraulic communication with each other’, i.e. they are not separate pools even.
Smith (1979) discounts the chemical evidence of difference in the oils stating quite rightly in my opinion that they are only subtle and in my opinion could occur in a single reservoir of varying permeabilities.
strati-graphic correlation. I have spent a lifetime working on subsurface geology and correlation between wells. I do not believe the electric logs, the palynology or the litholomies (which are stated to be variable) are good enough to permit the bed by bed correlation underneath the major unconformity necessary to prove with certainty that the Fortes-cue oil is in a different bed.
My conclusions are:
Griffiths, B. R. and Hodgson, E. A. (1971) ‘Offshore Gippsland Basin Fields ‘ The Apea Journal 1 97 1 Vol. II p. 1 .
Lahee, F. H. (1961) ‘Probability of Success in Exploration’ Ch. 4 in Moody ‘Petroleum Exploration Handbook’. McGraw Hill 1961.
Smith, E. R. (1979) ‘Summary Report on Classification of Oil in Fortescue area’. BMR Professional opinion. PEB./80.001.
Thornton, R. C. W., Burns, B. J., Khurana, A. K., Rigg, A. J. (1980) ‘The Fortescue Field-New Oil in the Gippsland Basin ‘. The Apea Journal 1 980 vol. 20 pt. 1 .
– The Bureau of Mineral Resources formally advised the Minister on the Fortescue situation. However, the primary evidence used by the Bureau of Mineral Resources- oil-water contact levels- the major supporting evidence which was well pressure data and other evidence supporting Esso’s claims such as stratigraphic and seismic data were all supplied by Esso. The only evidence not supplied exclusively by Esso was some chemical analyses of the oils. In this case Esso’s data were in conflict with that provided by an independent source, the BMR. The Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) in a letter to my friend, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who has done most of the research for this speech, said:
Apart from some chemical analyses, the basic data used by BMR in its analysis and interpretation of the Fortescue situation was collected and collated by ESSO-BHP.
On the basis of information available to the BMR it advised the Government that Fortescue was a new pool discovery and that it should be classed as new oil. The problem is not with the officers of this Department; their competence and integrity are not in question. What is in question is the policy of a government which forces its advisers to rely almost exclusively on oil companies for their information. Whatever uncertainty remains over the status of Fortescue, it will not be resolved while the Fraser Government depends on Esso for its advice. The present situation suited the Government which has claimed that such discoveries were the result of its oil pricing policy- clearly a false claim. It suited the oil companies too. Even in late 1978 with no levy on new oil they stood to receive almost four times as much per barrel produced if Fortescue were classed as new oil compared with their return if it were old oil, with no questions asked as to the cost of production and with no prospect of a resources tax to recover any profits above reasonable levels.
In November 1979, the present Minister for Productivity (Mr Newman), in one of his last acts as Minister for National Development, announced that Fortescue would be classed as new oil. In doing so he gave Esso and BHP a bonanza. Let us get an idea of the bonanza involved. Based on this decision, at present day oil prices Esso-BHP stand to receive $24.77 a barrel for 280 million barrels of Fortescue oil or a return of nearly $7 billion. The Commonwealth will receive only normal company tax on this gift to the companies which is around $3 billion. The companies will be left with around $4 billion or nearly $12 a barrel profit. Had Fortescue been classed as old oil Esso-BHP would have received about $2 billion at the current oil price before tax, the Government would have collected $5 billion in levy revenue and after tax the companies would have received $1.3 billion or nearly $3 profit a barrel. The Government would have received $5.6 billion.
In other words, even at current oil prices, Fortescue ‘s product, as new oil is worth three times as much to the two companies as old oil. But these figures grossly understate the actual consequences of the decision. By 1983, when Fortescue oil comes into production, oil prices under this Government will probably be twice their present level. By 1985, newly discovered oil would yield around $36 a barrel profit, whilst old oil would yield about $ 1 1 a barrel. The crucial fact is that the difference represents a massive loss to the Australian community.
The Opposition has frequently criticised the Fraser Government’s pricing policy for Australian oil. The prices set are tied, at least in principle, to prices set by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. They generate profits for oil companies operating in Australia that are out of all proportion to costs. They impose unnecessary costs on Australian motorists, industry, farmers and other consumers. They are highly inflationary. The Government’s oil levy system is arbitrary, inefficient and unfair. However, the case of Fortescue, which I have outlined, shows that, when faced with a choice between the national interest and the interests of the oil companies, under Mr Fraser the Australian community always loses. And because the Fraser Government refuses to impose a resources tax on the oil industry, the massive unearned profits that will flow to Esso and BHP in particular will mean that the Australian community will forego much needed social development.
The $ 1,000m that the Fortescue decision will lose the Government could be used, for example, to reintroduce the universal health insurance scheme and wipe out in one year the entire backlog of Aboriginal housing needs. The question is not, where is the money to come from, but who is the money going to? Under the Fraser Government, profits from oil will go to the private oil companies. What Labor proposes is a fairer sharing of these profits, with a resources tax on oil earnings, an improved role and support for the Bureau of Mineral Resources to allow it to act as an independent source of information on the oil industry, and a national oil company, as is the case in almost all other industrialised countries, to participate in the development of Australia’s oil. Without such changes, we will continue to see the sell-out of Australia’s resources to foreign private interests.
Unlike the Fraser Government, a Labor government will establish a pricing and taxing system for oil which will serve Australian interests. A Labor Government will not allow oil policy to be dictated by foreign oil companies, as has clearly been the case with the Fortescue decision. Where appropriate, a resource tax will apply to both new and old oil. The ability of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to evaluate oil industry claims will be improved. The Australian Hydrocarbon Corporation, staffed by petroleum experts, by taking part in the exploration and development of our own resources on a commercial basis, will be able to prevent ignorance and negligence which leave the industry to interests that are in conflict with those of the Australian nation.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not sure what significance honourable members should put on the speech that has just been read to us by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin), except that it was quite fascinating to listen to it, he having acknowledged that another honourable member had done most of the research. The last time that I heard an admission of that sort was when the former Labor Prime Minister indicated that Jim Spigelman ‘s book was based on research that he, Gough Whitlam, had himself done. I take the opportunity that is afforded by the grievance debate to deal with a matter that is essentially nonparty political.
-Yes, just in this place. I wish to develop some thoughts that arise from the last report tabled by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, which related to Aboriginal health. Honourable members will be aware that the report was tabled on 20 March 1979. To date it has not been responded to by the Government. That is a matter of some regret on my part and I daresay on the part of my colleagues on the Committee.
– What have you done about it?
-More to the point-this may be helpful to the honourable member for Melbourne who has been interjecting- I can say, in a non-party political way, that to date no responses to the report have been made by the State governments. That includes, of course, governments of both Liberal and National Country Party persuasion, as well as those of New South Wales and Tasmania, which are of Labor persuasion.
I asked the Parliamentary Library to draw up a brief statement concerning the responses to the Standing Committee’s report in annual reports of State health departments or other health bodies. I believe that honourable members would wish to know what the response to this report has been to date. The Standing Committee ‘s report was significant and of a great deal of importance to Aboriginals. It indicated that some fundamental changes were needed in the approach of those people who were working in the health delivery area. Many of its recommendations were very relevant to State governments and health bodies, as they are relevant to the Commonwealth Government. For this reason it is important to know what thought those State bodies are giving to the Standing Committee’s recommendations.
I refer first to the annual reports for 1979 and note that the reports of both Victoria and Queensland deal briefly with the activities of Aboriginal health workers but in no way cover in detail the comments on Aboriginal health dealt with in the Standing Committee’s report. I am advised that in Tasmania a report has been tabled, but not yet printed. However, it does not mention the work of the Standing Committee. I am also advised that the 1978-79 annual report of the New South Wales Health Commission has not yet been tabled. A copy was received this morning from the New South Wales Government Printer by the Bills and Papers Office of the New South Wales Parliament but I am informed that it too does not mention the Standing Committee’s report on Aboriginal health. I regard these omissions as significant. I mention them because I intend to comment critically on the one report I have seen in which a State health body has endeavoured to come to grips with the commendations of the Standing Committee. I refer to the report of the Northern Territory Department of Health but do not want my critical remarks to be taken out of context, I believe it to be constructive that that Department has tried to come to grips with the Standing Committee’s recommendations and has given them thought. Whilst I might be critical of the Department’s statements, I would note that it is the only Department in Australia which to date has tried to come to grips with the issues. For that it deserves commendation, not condemnation. Certainly it is not being condemned by me in the comments that I am about to make.
I refer to the report which was prepared by the Secretary for Health for the Northern Territory, Dr C. H. Gurd and presented to the honourable Ian Tuxworth, MLA, Minister for Health, Northern Territory, for the year 1978-79 and in particular to the chapter dealing with health inquiries, especially paragraphs 8.2 onwards, in which Aboriginal health and the recommendations of the Standing Committee are dealt with. In Part A, ‘Prevalence of Disease Suffered by Aboriginals’- the matter that our report covered- the Northern Territory Department of Health fully supported the Standing Committee’s appeal for regular and reliable State and Commonwealth Aboriginal health data. That was a pleasing comment.
In Part B, which dealt with ‘Environment Social and Cultural Factors’ the report had this to say:
The Department of Health has been stressing for some years that environmental health factors- particularly water, sanitation and shelter- were among the most important limiting factors to Aboriginal health improvement in the Northern Territory now that an effective curative health service network had been established.
For this reason the Department applauds the Committee ‘s strong call for improved environmental conditions for Aboriginal people in rural areas . . .
The Department also shares the Committee’s views on the importance of land rights to the social health of Aboriginal people in the rural areas and of the need for Government to respond appropriately to the outstation movement.
Those were worthy and supportive comments of the Standing Committee’s report on Aboriginal health. The Northern Territory report went on to consider matters relating to cultural differences of Aboriginals and, later, the delivery of health care programs. Regrettably, in those respects the Department does not show the same judgment. In fact, it is somewhat critical of views adopted by the Standing Committee. It had this to say in one part:
The Department does however accept the Committee’s view that considerably more effort needs to be made in hospitals to meet the cultural, social and linguistic needs of Aboriginal inpatients.
In relation to the delivery of other health care programs, again commenting on the Standing
Committee’s recommendations, the report stated:
The Committee stressed the overall significance of the Government’s self-determination policy and the need for State health services to be accommodating.
However the Department believes too often this policy has enabled inaction on the part of responsible Governments and authorities. Rural Aboriginal communities need urgent community development help to enable them to benefit from the Government’s self-determination commitment.
The Department further stated:
It is difficult to see the value of these suggestions when the real and generally agreed health need is to improve the health skills of Aboriginal people and the circumstances in which they live and work.
It seems to me that the Department, as shown in those comments in particular, has totally misconstrued the report of the Standing Committee. It has in effect, I think, made it clear that it has not read or appreciated the import of chapter 1 1 of the Committee ‘s report which dealt with Aboriginal self-determination in health care. I encourage honourable members to take the opportunity of reading chapter 1 1 of the Committee’s report, because there is contained the whole rationale behind the Committee ‘s report and its rebuttal of the criticism that has been offered by the Northern Territory Department of Health. What we were about was the getting of greater involvement of Aboriginal people in Aboriginal health care delivery programs.
Our Committee did not believe that there could be any real improvement in Aboriginal health until Aboriginals were involved in and had confidence in the programs that were delivering health care to them. We would have to ask ourselves, I think, how relevant health care programs for us would be if the people we were dealing with were new and inexperienced and did not make an effort to understand the differences between us and them. In the international health area, a simple reference to any of the reports of the World Health Organisation would, I think, convince anybody of the need for changing our approaches to health care delivery programs. The Committee’s position, as outlined in the chapter I dealt with, accords with the contemporary movements in health care in developing countries and among minority groups in developed countries. Our report went on to state:
A great deal of literature is now available on the potentials and pitfalls of various organisational arrangements and philosophies in health care delivery. Two themes recur in recent literature. One is that communities should, to the greatest extent possible, be responsible for their own health care. The second is that health care should be integrated with the planning and growth of related community services and projects.
These matters are important and deserve the consideration of all honourable members.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) has, of course, highlighted one of the problems that faces this Parliament- when a duly appointed committee has examined a matter thoroughly and tabled its report, that report is filed in limbo somewhere. I say this to him: Do not give up. I will re-read the chapter. I, as one who for 24 years has kept up running fire on the general subject of Aboriginal advancement, advise him that some of it has brought results and some of it has helped to change people’s attitudes. But we have to keep it up. I must admit that I have reached such a stage of indignation that I find it difficult to read reports on Aboriginal affairs. It is incredible that so long after the referendum was passed and so long after most of these areas were tackled on the ground by the Government elected in 1972, there are still deficiences for which no possible justification can exist.
Today I wish to express disdain for and indignation, almost rising to contempt, at the attitude of this Government and members of it to the Australian Olympic Federation and Australian athletes in attempting to achieve a boycott of the Olympic Games. I think it is the most miserable and unworthy standover campaign that I have experienced in Australian politics. I mind not their having an attitude about the matter but their exercise of authority to attempt to subvert the spirit of free Australians. The Olympic spirit has nothing to do with the things that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his colleagues are attempting to achieve. The Olympic principle has to do with all humanity coming together as free people with a single objective at one place and at one time. It has nothing to do with the fact that Moscow is in Russia. If mistakes have occurred, it may well be that the Games ought not to be held in such cities. But that would mean that such places as Mexico would have to be skipped and that a great proportion of the world would be excluded. Where can such a free exercise be held in the heart of a free country? Unfortunately there are so few of them.
The Olympic Games do not belong to the Russians or to Moscow. They are an international exercise which is to be conducted there, and they belong to the whole world. That situation is the same as when people who hold totally different politial views from those of the Americans rendezvous at the United Nations in New York. By doing so they are not giving their approval to the American system. That is the piece of ground on which the exercise in conducted. I express my strong disdain for the way in which this campaign has been conducted.
There are other factors. On a number of occasions I have listened to colleagues opposite talking about the 1936 Berlin Games and attributing the cause of the Second World War to those Games. I have heard that from people to whom I had given some credit for having some historical sense and some reasonable intelligence in these matters. I can remember the 1936 Olympic Games quite distinctly. There are many disadvantages of having been born in 1914 but there are many advantages- one has seen it all before. I recall the 1936 exercise. I saw it on film, in the newspapers and in reports. I saw the magnificent German array of what was to be military might, and I took heed and warning. I guess that millions round the world did also. If countless people go to Russia and visit the Games they will find, as most of us have, that there are many estimable characteristics in Russian society but being free is not one of them. It is a dour society in which human beings are not free. They might be secure but they are not free. Anybody who goes there and who is intelligent enough can learn that.
Another point about this exercise is the utter hypocrisy and contradiction of the Government’s position. I am sure that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, could not possibly agree with it. Let us just consider a government which will sell products- wool, et cetera- to the Russians but which wants other people to sacrifice their just aspirations. Apart from that, there is the contradiction of it all. We cannot get close enough to the Indonesians who committed an equal, or more terrible if anything, act of aggression in Timor. Yet we have forgiven and forgotten. But I cannot and will not. I express my utter contempt for people who hold those kinds of views. The point I make concerns the unworthy standover tactics of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) and the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock). It is fair enough to express a point of view here. It is fair enough to say that the Government feels this way, whatever the Government’s feelings are worth in any matter. But to say that those Ministers are speaking for Australia and that anybody who goes against it is acting in a treacherous and treasonable way is utter rot. They do not speak for me.
-Who said that?
– People like the honourable member. They do not speak for me. They do not speak for 60 per cent of the people of Australia. .
-Who said that?
-The honourable member for wherever it is -
-La Trobe; that is right. La Trobe was a free spirit. There is no doubt that when we discuss such matters, the honourable member might not say it, the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), who is at the table, would not say it and the Prime Minister, a thorough gentleman, Melbourne Grammar and Oxford-trained, would not say it. But when the Prime Minister pulls the strings puppets all round Australia, in the Press and everywhere else, get on to these people. Do not forget it. There are people who have a guilt feeling because the Government has chosen to do this. I think it is an unworthy and miserable exercise of prestige, power and authority to descend upon the meeting in Melbourne and to stand over these people.
– Utter fiction.
-Listen to the honourable member for La Trobe, a free spirit- until the Prime Minister says something. Then he cowers in the corner like every other member of his party. There is not a free spirit on that side. They are a stack of puppets. Every Minister is the creature and creation of the Prime Minister, and he knows it. Let him answer back and he will end up like the Minister for Finance, who is at the table, who retired with some dignity but who came back crawling. This is an unworthy exercise in the use of prestige and the power of office. Do not tell me that a great deal of power and authority does not descend upon a person as soon as he assumes the mantle of a Minister in this place. I have seen it, I have felt it and I have noted it. I was amazed when people of great authority came to my office and stood there not exactly in awe but with much greater respect than one anticipated the power of one’s office would command. People spoken to by a Prime Minister, a Deputy Prime Minister, a Minister for Foreign Affairs or any other Minister who may or may not have the power of legislation behind him feel that they should comply, whether or not they agree. They do so because they live in a country such as ours which is accustomed to order, good behaviour and courtesy. It is a plain standover exercise. If one cannot persuade by the justice of one’s case one has no right to exercise one’s power in this way.
Apart from that, there are very distinct limits to the extent that a government should impose its will over the rights of a citizen. There are many things for which I have stood in this place and for which I have no regard whatsoever. Speaking to the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), I remember the campaign to get drinking rights for the Aboriginal people. I do not drink. I wish other people did not drink. But we cannot have a free society if we have one law for one person and another law for another. I was one of those who campaigned to have the restrictions on drinking in Australia abolished. I took this decision against all my personal feelings because in a free society there are limits to what governments and others should impose upon people. I regard the freedom of travel as an essential part of a free society.
What astonishes me about my colleagues opposite is the way in which they talk about big government. One is a big government if one tries to tackle a multinational corporation. One is exercising the power of big government and one ought not to do it. But if one uses all of one’s power and punch on people who cannot answer back- officials of the Australian Olympic Federation and the athletes themselves- apparently that is justifiable. I do not see it as such. As I see it, the duty of the Australian Olympic Federation is to stand up and be counted. The Federation should stand up for a free society and a free people. It must not allow itself to be stood over.
The price of liberty is not just eternal vigiliance; it is a willingness to stand against authority when it is exercised incorrectly. I know that that is a difficult thing to do as I have done it on many occasions. Even to stand in this Parliament against what appears to be current opinion is often a matter of great heart searchings and great doubts. I hope that the young Australians will go to Moscow and run for the free world. If they do not, who else will? Even if no one else from outside the Berlin Wall and all the rest of it goes to the Olympics, I hope that Australians will be there running defiantly, winning well or losing gracefully because the world needs free people. It does not need people to cower down before authority and it does not need governments that stand over its citizens.
-Once again the House is indebted to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) for a bright and invigorating speech. For my part the contribution proves that the honourable member for
Wills still has a lot to offer this Parliament. It is a very great pity that he will be leaving us at the end of the year, no matter how illustrious his successor might be.
At a time when bad things seem to be happening all around the world each and every day and at a time when newspaper headlines scream doom, disaster, tragedy and pessimism, I want to speak today in optimistic terms about the future of Australia. In particular, I want to talk about the good news and the good things that are happening to my home State of Tasmania. I believe that sometimes we are too pessimistic, we are too maudlin and we are too dull. I believe that when there is good news to spread it should be spread in a spirit of optimism and enthusiasm.
– That is the spirit.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Kalgoorlie interjects, that is the spirit of those honourable members in this Parliament who have the honour to represent the smallest but the most beautiful State of Australia, namely, Tasmania.
To set the scene, I go back to 1977 when I had been in this place but two years. I recall with some considerable pride the very firm commitment made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science and the Environment would be transferred from four sites in Melbourne to a magnificent new site at Kingston which, for the benefit of honourable members who do not know, is to the southern end of the electorate of Denison, which I have the honour to represent. We all know as a matter of history how, following a very lengthy and complex nearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, that project finally got the go-ahead. Without beating about the bush, the Government gave a direction that the work was to proceed as a matter of the very greatest priority. As a result, the Antarctic Division’s headquarters, a magnificent complex of international standing, will be completed and ready for handing oyer four months ahead of schedule. Indeed, in barely two weeks- on 27 May- the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) will officially open the first section, which will be the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. The complex was inspected last weekend by me, the Premier and a number of others, including the very distinguished international delegates who are attending the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources which is currently being held in Canberra. The comments which came from those extremely eminent international delegates from all parts of the world were glowing and approving not merely of the buildings and the site but also the beauty of Tasmania, the peace and tranquility of Hobart and, in particular, my home town of Kingston.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is the very strong role of Australia that emerged in 1977 in the deliberations with respect to the international law of the sea. I would like to place on record the gratitude that I believe this country owes to one of our most distinguished ambassadors, one of our most distinguished diplomats and a man of very great eminence. I speak of Ambassador Keith Brennan, who put in literally years and years of work leading Australian delegations to the International Law of the Sea Convention. I think many of us who have followed the work of Ambassador Keith Brennan believe that his work in this area represents the pinnacle of his very highly distinguished diplomatic and professional career.
Why do I bring these two matters together? I do so because it is now not only a matter of fact but also a matter of positive assertion as to the future development of Tasmania that Australia’s only maritime State is, as a result of the initiatives of this Federal Government, going to achieve pre-eminence and prominence not merely in Australia but also internationally. Following the decision to transfer the Antarctic Division’s headquarters to Kingston we have heard within the last few weeks of the decision to establish the National Marine Science Centre in Hobart. This is a $25m project involving as it will the transfer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Division of Fisheries and Oceanography from Cronulla in New South Wales to the electorate of Denison and the building of a $9m international standard research vessel for the CSIRO. Immediately following that announcement came, most fortuitously, the decision of the Prime Minister and the Government to propose formally that Hobart should be the host city, and Australia should be the host nation for the International Antarctic Commission. This decision has been described- I am sure that the Premier of Tasmania, if he were here, would confirm this- as most significant and historic. I believe that the co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Goverment in proposing Hobart as the host city for the international headquarters of the International Antarctic Commission represents a milestone in the history of federalism in this country.
What then does this lead to? A number of the delegates who are attending the international Antarctic conference in Canberra at present are also intimately involved in the work over many years on the international law of the sea. One of the most essential ingredients on the proper management of the oceans of the world, one of the most essential ingredients in ensuring that the international law of the sea is properly and fairly applied, is the establishment of the International Law of the Sea Tribunal. I must confess that my interest in this subject goes back to 1977, but it was as a result of discussions over several recent months, culminating in Hobart this weekend, that the proposal emerged that the International Antarctic Commission should be located at Hobart. A decision still has to be taken but the best advice we have is that Hobart has an excellent chance of being chosen, that Australia has an excellent chance of being the host nation. Why not then move logically to the next step which would be for Australia formally to offer itself as the host nation for the International Law of the Sea Tribunal and for Hobart to be the host city.
I say on a completely apolitical basis that that proposal would have the very strong support of the State Government. It is a matter of record that in April 1978 the Premier of Tasmania wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and put forward the proposal. I think it is an undisputed matter of record that I raised the matter within the Government parties in the latter part of 1977 and also wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in early 1978. On this issue I am delighted to say that there have been, as far as I can ascertain, no political elements at all intervening. There has been a genuine Commonwealth-State co-operation, an effort which, in my view, typifies the very best things that should come from a federal system. For example, only last weekend the official visit to Hobart of the Antarctic conference international delegates was jointly funded and hosted by Commonwealth and State governments.
In the time remaining to me, I wish to propose as forcibly as I can that Hobart is the appropriate place to site the International Law of the Sea Tribunal. Currently, the only two countries offering themselves as host nations are Portugal and Yugoslavia. It has been reported, by those who are close to the subject, that for a number of reasons Portugal would not be likely to receive the support of Eastern bloc countries; it would not get the numbers. With respect to Yugoslavia, it is being said that following the death of President Tito and with the international tensions in that area, it may well be that Yugoslavia would not be acceptable. This is an ideal opportunity for Hobart and for Australia to come forward and offer the site, coming as it would from a middle ranking and responsible nation which is held, I believe, in wide respect right around the world.
I hope that the Government will put this forward formally. I believe that if the Australian Government formally proposes that Hobart should be the site for the International Law of the Sea Tribunal, we would see that happen. There are big things in store for Tasmania, and the genesis of them all was the commitment of the Federal Government and the Prime Minister to do the right thing- to transfer the Antarctic base, to establish a national marine science centre, and to prove to the world that Hobart and Tasmania have the ability, the quality, and the capacity to be recognised internationally as an ideal site for international deliberations of the highest order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-by leave- I move:
I should say that the resolution appointing this Committee was first moved by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in the Senate on 17 August 1978. Paragraph 12 of the resolution contains the provision that the Committee report to Parliament by 3 1 December 1979. On 1 1 September 1979 I moved a motion in this House to extend to 31 May 1980 the time in which the Committee was expected to report. On that occasion I said:
The Committee believes that it could report by the middle of the Autumn sittings 1980 and will direct its efforts to presenting its report to both Houses shortly after Easter next year and certainly by the end of the Autumn sittings’.
In seeking a further extension of time for the Committee to make its report, I am conscious that it has already been necessary for the Committee to seek one extension. I assure the House that it is not due to the want of interest or application on the part of Committee members that this request is being made. The Committee has undertaken a heavy program of meetings since Christmas and considerable progress has been made. Our deliberations are very close to finality. The Committee has under consideration a draft report, and we expect to conclude our deliberations in the next few weeks. However, on reflection, the task appeared so formidable that it seemed a more sensible course to seek some additional time from the Parliament. For instance, it would not have been possible for our report to have been printed for distribution until some weeks after tabling, even if we had succeeded in meeting the present deadlines we had set ourselves. This would have been inconvenient, I believe, to honourable members and to those members of the public interested in the outcome of our inquiry. There was also the possibility that a document finalised in haste would be deficient in certain respects. The extra time will ensure the possibility of thorough editorial work on the document. For those reasons I commend this motion to honourable members.
– I support what the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) has said. The Opposition has members on the Committee, which has been functioning very well indeed. It will be a voluminous report, and I make the point that the recommendations will be short, sharp, succinct, and to the point, although the background to it has required a fair amount of investigation by members. It is important that members of the House have an opportunity to read the background information on the recommendations. It is a matter of great interest to the Australian nation because it affects every family and the concept of support or otherwise for the family, depending on the difficulties that arise. In fairness to the honourable member for Dundas, I should say that he has done a great job in this area. I give him top marks. I think that the House will be very appreciative of the work the Committee has done. I hope that when the recommendations are brought forward they will be dealt with efficiently and speedily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I present the report of the Committee on grants to voluntary conservation organisations, incorporating a dissenting report, together with the minutes and transcript of evidence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-The report which has just been tabled is the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in this the 3 1st Parliament. The report deals with the program of Commonwealth grants to voluntary conservation organisations initiated in 1973-74 as a result of recommendations of the Hope Committee of. Inquiry into the National Estate, and presently under review by the Department of Science and the Environment. The inquiry came about largely as a result of a request by the Minister for Science and the Environment for the Committee’s participation in the review by way of comments on the objectives and scope of the program and its administration. The Committee wrote to those organisations which received funds under this program in the last financial year, and to a number of industry organisations, to individuals, and to several conservation groups which do not receive funds, seeking their views on all aspects of the scheme as well as on their conservation objectives and beliefs.
The Committee supports in principle Commonwealth Government grants to voluntary conservation organisations. These organisations contribute to reasoned public debate, to public education, and to an increasing public awareness of environmental issues, and play an important role through their input to government inquiries. The Committee notes that in real terms the level of support provided by the Commonwealth has dropped considerably since the scheme’s inception in 1973-74. We have recommended that in view of its often expressed appreciation of the work of voluntary conservation organisations the Government review its priorities and consider increasing the funding to these organisations. The Committee has made . recommendations concerning the criteria of eligibility for grants, matching requirements, and the establishment of separate funds for technical assistance, specific research and one-off projects. In referring to the matching requirements I am of the firm belief that organisations that are in receipt of grants from the Commonwealth ought to be required to raise some of the funds themselves. I say this because I believe it is only through the involvement of a great number of people- naturally that will be required if they are to raise their section of the matching grant- that we will see a good broad cross-section of view coming from voluntary conservation organisations.
I take this opportunity to thank the Government for allowing the Committee to participate in its review of the scheme. I am aware that the
Government had the review underway. On behalf of the Committee I thank the Government for waiting until this report had been brought down. Finally, I wish to place on record the Committee’s thanks to Miss Virginia Greville of the secretariat who was assigned the task of supporting the Committee in this inquiry. This was Miss Greville ‘s first inquiry since recently joining the staff of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I commend the report to the House.
-by leave-As a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation I welcome and support this report ‘Grants to Voluntary Conservation Organisations’. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the recommendations of that Committee.
The recommendations read as follows-
The Committee recommends that:
1 ) The Commonwealth Government review its priorities and examine the possibility of increasing the funding to voluntary conservation organisations to a level sufficient to ensure their continued effectiveness; (paragraph 36)
(a) Commonwealth funds be provided to voluntary conservation organisations (other than Environment Centres) with a $2: $1 matching requirement up to the amount allocated to each group; and (b) Commonwealth funds be provided to the Environment Centre in each State capital and in large regional centres with no requirement to match the allocated amount; (paragraph 41)
3 ) the eligibility criteria for funding under the program of grants to voluntary conservation organisations be amended to delete ‘nature conservation’ and replace it with ‘protection and enhancement of the environment’ (as defined in the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1 974; (paragraph 43)
the Minister for Science and the Environment allocate grants to voluntary conservation organisations on the basis of advice received from the Australian Heritage Commission, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the principal conservation organisation in each State, as well as from organisations under his administrative control; (paragraph 44)
a fund be established, with monies not necessarily allocated each year, to assist voluntary conservation organisations with specific one-off projects; (paragraph 45)
a Technical Assistance Program be introduced to provide assistance to voluntary organisations, and that allocations be determined on a case by case basis; (paragraph 46)
the Commonwealth Government establish a research fund from which monies can be allocated by the Minister for
Science and the Environment to sponsor research projects by professional consultants and researchers on the basis of advice received from voluntary conservation organisations; (paragraph 49).
– It is important to recall just how valuable the work of many of these organisations has been over the years. Many of them have been bad-mouthed throughout the country by certain groups. They have been attacked as being fanatical and extremist organisations. If we look back over the records we will see how they have managed to save some of Australia’s great assets; areas like The Rocks in Sydney, Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef. Let us hope that this good work is continued. Other work has been done by kangaroo and conservation groups. One could go on and on, but I do not wish to detail them all. At the time these groups have been attacked as being extremists but we all look back now and wish that there had been more of these groups in earlier days. The history of the conservation movement probably goes back almost to the beginning of Australia’s settlement. But it has only come into its own in the last 15 to 20 years. It is possible that the visit of Ralph Nader in 1972 had a lot to do with consumer and conservation groups becoming more active. He showed how in America it was important not just to wait for governments or some national organisation to get the evidence together, but to get small groups of people gathering information and commissioning people to do scientific work, even if they were local people with skills. He showed how they could present an alternative case for conservation.
The problem that they face is simply that most of these groups are local community bodies; people with very limited funds, or very small wage and salary earners. Very often they have to take on as their adversary a very wealthy organisation, be it a mining company, a development company or the Government. In order to redress the imbalance that occurs between the vast amount of funds available to governments and large multinational or national companies, in 1973 the Labor Government felt it was essential that some small contribution be made to these bodies so that they could marshall their resources and perhaps bring in some professional expertise and some professional scientific advice.
– The companies have plenty.
-Of course that is right. When it comes to the funds that are available to these large companies sometimes they are talking in telephone numbers. It has never been part of the policy that these bodies should be provided with literally millions of dollars. In fact the contributions were very modest. I think around $3,000 or $4,000 a year was the total amount of money provided to these bodies. When it was spread out over a large number of organisations- as it was- it just gave them a little bit of administrative funding which was required and some assistance which enabled them to carry on and do a reasonably effective job. I am disappointed that over the years these funds have been allowed to drop both in actual money and in real terms. The inflation factor has not been built into these funds.
I would like to make the point- it has been made by the Committee in its report- that there should not be funding of one-issue bodies but that funds should be made available more on a regional basis. For instance, a body is set up for a particular project. It is funded and either achieves its objective or fails to achieve its objective. It goes on almost in perpetuity and is not able to be stopped. The Opposition believes that there should be funding on a regional basis and grants made for one project. When that project has been completed then it should cease to operate. Mr Deputy Speaker, are we continuing this debate after the suspension of the sitting for lunch or is it the wish of the House that it end before that?
– It is not the business of the Chair to answer.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I thought that you might be able to give me some clue.
-Had I been able to answer, I gladly would have done so.
– I do not want to prevent anyone from having an opportunity to say a few words. I understand that there are a couple of honourable members who wish to speak to this report. This is an important issue. I have asked for the recommendations of the Committee to be incorporated but there are some important ones that I would like to go over. The first recommendation is:
The Government review its priorities and examine the possibility of increasing the funding to voluntary organisations to a level sufficient to ensure their continued effectiveness;
The second recommendation is:
I will not read all the other recommendations. I would like to make this final point before the sitting is suspended for lunch. I am disturbed by the fact that a number of organisations- amongst them big commercial organisations- very strongly resented the fact that the Government was funding grants of this nature. It seems to me that these people must be terribly fearful of the power of the small active community group if they are prepared to try to crush such a small nut-which is really $300,000 or $400,000 spread out across Australia- with the resources available to them. They want to crush this small voice; that is all it is at the moment and that is all it ever has been. They want to ensure that these groups are starved of funds so that they will be less effective. Those people who urge this line from the Government are, in fact, pushing the barrow of the multinationals. They are refusing to recognise that the community has the right to be heard and a right to some small assistance in this matter. When the Labor Party was in government sometimes it found this embarrassing because those people receiving funds were in fact turning around and criticising the Labor Government. That is not very pleasant. The important thing is that in relation to conservation on the one hand the Government has the very wealthy companies and, on the other, it has the point of view of a section of the community. It is then up to the Government to make its judgment on the evidence presented in both cases.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-by leave-Prior to the suspension of the sitting, the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on grants to voluntary conservation organisations was tabled. My dissenting report was also tabled. Pursuant to clause 17 of the Committee’s resolution of appointment, I add my dissent to the Committee’s report. In doing so, I wish to say a few words.
It is my opinion that not enough notice was taken of the views of those outside the conservation movement. In fact, nearly 25 per cent of all submissions received were opposed in’ general or in particular to the government funding of voluntary conservation organisations. However, I am not against government funding per se. I believe that voluntary organisations have played a valuable role in the past and will continue to play a very valuable role in the future in drawing to the community’s notice the various problems in relation to the environment. However, in the present budgetary constrictions I do not think that the present level of funding should be increased. I believe that the present level is acceptable. I disagree, therefore, with the Committee’s recommendation that funding be increased and that the matching requirement, presently $1 for $1, should be relaxed to $2 for every $1, as proposed by the conservation organisations.
I believe that any organisation which is truly representative of the views of a wide section of the population should have no difficulty in attracting the necessary financial support. Any relaxation of the matching requirements would enable minority groups which are not truly representative to proliferate their ideas. I also disagree with the Committee’s recommendations for the setting up of several extra funds for conservation purposes, such as a fund to assist conservation organisations with one-off projects, a technical assistance program and a general research fund. It is my opinion that the establishment of such funds would set a precedent for the spending of extra money and would encourage otherwise unnecessary projects. Any research projects or other programs that could be proved to have legitimate and worthwhile purposes should be considered case by case on their merits and funded with special Cabinet approval on request by the Minister for Science and the Environment. If the case is otherwise, I can see a proliferation of one-off projects of dubious merit.
I think it is important that the list of organisations receiving grants from the Government should be reviewed every year before refunding. If each organisation had to prove its viability and relevance each year rather than be automatically reallocated a grant, there would be a continual process of review and policy reassessment within the conservation movement, which would improve its relevance to modern issues. If the review of applications for funding were conducted at sub-government level by a body such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, this would make for greater efficiency in the allocation of funds. Such a body could also be responsible for the distribution of the government grants or could at least make recommendations for the distribution of such grants. In this way organisations competing for funding would have to convince their sister conservation organisations of the importance of their pet projects. In this way also priorities for funding would be established, which should result in a larger cross-section of the conservation groups supporting the projects to be funded. This in turn would attract a greater community support.
I wish to raise one other point, not in dissension from the Committee’s report but rather as a concern which is felt by the Committee generally. I refer to the manner in which some organisations presented their submissions to the Committee ‘s public hearings. One of the organisations to which I refer is the Australian Conservation Foundation. It made a written submission to the Committee and then appeared before the Committee with a great deal of new material which was not included in the original written submission. Therefore the Committee was not able to assess the evidence beforehand and was unable adequately to examine the Conservation Foundation on that evidence. This sort of presentation tactic can serve only to lessen the credibility of the organisation concerned. It was generally felt within the Committee that influential bodies such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, with its experience in the correct manner in which to approach public hearings, should act in a more responsible way.
-by leave-I thank the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) for the opportunity that was given to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation to comment on this question of funding for voluntary organisations. I think it was an appropriate thing for the Minister to do. The Committee took the question seriously and the report that is before the Parliament is a quite useful summary of some of the issues that relate to the funding of voluntary conservation organisations. I wish to make just one or two points, drawing attention mainly to recommendation 3 of the Committee, which states:
The eligibility criteria for funding under the program of grants to voluntary conservation organisations be amended to delete ‘nature conservation ‘ and replace it with ‘protection and enhancement of the environment’ as defined in the Environmental Protection (Impact Proposals) Act 1 974;
That legislation, which was introduced by the Labor Government, was designed in such a way to define the environment in the broadest possible sense. I think that that reflects the thinking within the conservation movement, which sees conservation as not simply a matter which concerns the so-called green issues but as a matter which relates to the whole question of the management of resources within the national context. I think that in this country we have to recognise that we face major environmental and conservation problems which affect every area of government policy. The Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation and people who are concerned about the environment are aware of the enormous pressure that has been exerted, particularly by bodies such as the Australian Mining Industry Council and the representative associations of organisations related to mining and mineral processing, for example, to ensure that their voice and their voice alone is heard in this country in relation to the great developmental projects with which they are concerned.
I believe that it is a matter of considerable concern that organisations which perhaps have a different view from the Mining Industry Council struggle to get together the necessary submissions and to do the research that will enable them to put a coherent point of view in a national debate. In this country we are talking about massive projects. For example, an investment of $4,000m is being planned to expand the aluminium industry to make Australia one of the major aluminium producers in the world. Within that context it is extremely important for various community groups which have an interest in the implications of those decisions to have the resources and the funding to be able to put their view across to the community. In that industry, organisations such as Alcoa of Australia Ltd are able to spend perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in preparing submissions and undertaking public relations work concerning their attitude to the environment and the way that their projects may affect the environment. However, conservation groups are dealing with incomes and budgets of mere hundreds of dollars. They are just not able to manage the resources that enable them to compete.
I think one ought to pay tribute to the Australian Conservation Foundation, which has had its grant reduced by this Government from $150,000 to $100,000, and to organisations such as Friends of the Earth, which has links on an international basis and which is not receiving one cent from this Government. The Friends of the Earth organisation devotes itself to carrying out a great deal of research on environmental matters. It is made up of young people who represent in many respects the future of this country- young people who are forward thinking, who are prepared to do hundreds of thousands of hours of work and not receive a cent of government funds. Indeed, at the maximum level of funding they receive no more than $10,000. Yet hundreds of people are involved in that organisation and are contributing their time. I believe that they are denning new attitudes to some of the major issues that face this country, particularly in relation to energy conservation.
A great deal has been said about energy conservation in this country; very little has been done. One of the reasons for that is that serious conceptual difficulties are involved. Over a very long period we have been used to seeing ourselves as being in a high energy using society, a society which is built on the maximum use of the energy resources available. We are reaching a point of crisis in that respect. We have to rethink fundamental values and fundamental attitudes. I believe that the contribution of voluntary conservation organisations right across Australia in the past few years has been in dealing with some of those value questions, not from the point of view of trying to save every precious tree, plant or bird, but from the point of view of trying to challenge the Australian nation to think about the future of our resources, not in terms of the next five years, but in terms of the next 50 or 100 years. I believe that the funding that has been made available by the Federal Governmentfunding that has declined massively in real terms over the last five years- is essentially quite trivial in terms of the need to mobilise the Australian community to think about environmental and conservation questions in a much more serious way.
I think this report makes a series of sensible recommendations. I think it is recognised that funding that will be provided by the Commonwealth will be seed money which will enable the mobilisation of the resources of various organisations rather than the funding of those organisations in a thorough-going way. One of the surprising things about this Government is the way that it has, in the name of creating initiative, destroyed the initiative of the small groups of people right across this country that have been prepared in the past to try to do something about a problem simply of their own volition and not because they have anything to gain. Friends of the Earth is one such organisation. But in the various visits that we have made to centres around Australia as a committee, we have met representatives of many organisations. The Wilderness Society in Tasmania is an organisation which, I believe, is doing a magnificent job not only in relation to the south-west of Tasmania but also in terms of redefining what society is going to have to be about in a condition of energy scarcity. It is raising fundamental questions about the future of this country. It has received some resources to assist it to do that. I believe that more resources are required to mobilise and to liberate people who are prepared to do research and effective work in the conservation area.
– Your time is up.
– I think I am remaining close to the time suggested. I conclude by saying that I think this report does reflect the feeling of the
Minister that consultation was needed. We received a number of submissions. Limited but, I think, very valuable consultations were held. I hope this report does receive sympathetic consideration from the Minister, who I see is in the House. I also hope that we will see not only the funding of voluntary organisations maintained but also that we will see an expansion of funding for those organisations, given the scale of the need that exists in this country in relation to environmental and conservation issues.
-by leave-On 12 April 1978, I introduced a Bill into this House seeking to set up an Australian Defence Force Academy. The introduction of that Bill followed sustained debate in the country, in defence and academic circles and in political circles. It deserves to be said, in the interests of historical accuracy, that there was at that time very considerable support for the proposal. Moreover, the support was bipartisan in character. Since the introduction of that Bill the debate has continued. The Government has taken proper heed of the nature of that debate. It has identified a number of conspicuous misconceptions regarding a defence academy.
I wish to inform the House that the Government has confirmed its intention to establish a Defence Force Academy but, in doing so, has made some important changes to the proposal as envisaged in the Bill I introduced into the House. Later I will seek to expand on those changes. Early in April this year I tabled in the House comprehensive material setting out the arguments in favour of the project which the Government has found compelling. I do not give a further recitation of those arguments.
Two cardinal principles have influenced Government thinking concerning the establishment of the Academy. It is clear to ready demonstration that the same two principles influenced the Public Works Committee which considered the proposal. The Defence Force must have a greater proportion of tertiary-educated officers than at present. That requirement is inescapable and is not contested. The second principle which the Government and its Service advisers hold strongly is that that tertiary education should be carried out within a military environment. Again that principle is not contested. The military profession is different from other professions because it demands from its officers a total commitment of service to their country; a commitment which involves loyalty, responsibility, discipline and dedication beyond that normally required of the society to which they belong.
It must not be forgotten that the Academy will be educating and training officers to head the fighting Services which form the Defence Force in any future conflict. Because of this, the training and education of the Service officer is, in its totality, different from that required by the civilian to take his place in one of the other professions. I find it an exquisite absurdity that any person would seek to compare, say, the legal profession, the medical profession or the engineering profession with the military profession. There seems to be some difficulty residing in some people in the country understanding that simple, nevertheless vital, distinction.
It deserves to be emphasised that a military environment exists at every military academy throughout the world. Of course, a balance needs to be struck between traditional military practices and traditional academic practices. But there is no reason why a military institution cannot be in harmony with academic freedom. Nor is there any reason why an academic institution cannot operate with a student population that is under military discipline.
The outstanding example of the practicability of uniting a military academy with academic freedom and with high academic standards can be seen in the co-operation between the Royal Military College at Duntroon and the University of New South Wales over the last 15 years. Those who graduate from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, reflect great credit upon those responsible for academic instruction and those who instil and cultivate the necessary military qualities. There has been confusion as to the real costs of the proposed Academy. I am sorry that the members of the Fourth Estate are engaging in a rest period at the moment and are, to that extent, placed at a disadvantage in having some of the facts relating to the costs placed before them.
In 1977 the Government approved a limitofcost estimate of $49m for the construction of the Academy. That estimate was based on the standards applicable to university facilities for the academic buildings, and on military scales and standards for military facilities. The basic estimate has held good in real terms. The only reason the currently estimated construction cost is $63m in February 1980 prices, is the movement of prices over the past three years. The operating cost of the Academy is fixed by what would be allocated to a university with similar functions, and by approved military standards.
It is estimated that the Academy will cost $33m each year in current prices, compared with $39m each year if the existing single service colleges were to continue their present roles for the number of cadets required. Clearly this cost increment, and particularly its cumulative effect, would be unacceptably extravagant. The cost of retaining the present arrangements cannot validly be compared with the cost of the Academy because only at the Academy can cadets receive full degree courses within an effective military environment. The Academy has been given a place and a priority in the long term program of defence expenditure, in competition with a long list of demands for other activities and projects. This provision recognises the importance to the long term interest of the nation of the best possible foundation for the careers of service officers.
Some critics appear to see the Academy as a first step towards the integration of the Services. This is a conspicuous piece of nonsense. In fact, a fundamental requirement of a tri-service academy is that its military functions must fully recognise the unique character of each service. At the same time, because of the basic similarity of the educational requirements of the Services, one academy can provide cadets with full degree courses which reflect particular military interests where this is relevant.
I have said that the Government had in mind some important changes to the proposal as envisaged in the Bill which I introduced in 1978. Let me state those changes. The Government has accepted that the establishment of an autonomous university would be innovative. The Government has closely considered the arguments against such a proposal. The Government has concluded that the requisite university education within a military environment cannot be achieved only by the creation of an autonomous university. The Government as a consequence, convinced by that argument, has abandoned the proposal to establish an autonomous university. I therefore asked the University of New South Wales whether it would agree to explore the feasibility of alternative arrangements which would also ensure the academic integrity of the Academy. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Professor Myers, replied on 12 May this year. In his letter he stated:
Today the University Council received and considered the advice of the Professorial Board on the matters you raised with us. The Board had resolved in favour of the University assisting in the process of establishing the Academy. Council resolved as follows:
That Council, noting the Government’s intention to establish a defence academy, approve in principle the establishment of an arrangement whereby the University would ensure the academic integrity of the proposed new institution, perhaps by the means of its establishment as a college of the University’.
I emphasise the words ‘as a college of the University’. Professor Myers’ letter continues:
During the discussion in the University it emerged that there is general acceptance of the belief that the experiment with the Royal Military College and the Faculty of Military Studies has been very successful. The experience we have gained during the last dozen years has convinced me and the great majority of my academic colleagues that it is indeed possible to work co-operatively and fruitfully with both civilian and military officers of the defence system to develop a first-class education programme for the preparation of Defence Force officers. I am confident that the goodwill and understanding that has been built up during this process and the experience we have gained will stand us in good stead as we proceed to the next important stage. My senior colleagues and I stand ready to continue discussion with you and your officers.
I am most grateful to Professor Myers and his colleagues for this further demonstration of the University’s willingness to enter into this most important function, subject of course to negotiations which will be necessary between the University and my Department before final arrangements can be concluded.
Recent studies have supported our original intention to construct the Academy on a site adjacent to the Royal Military College, Duntroon. This means that the College, rich in military history and tradition, will remain to be the centre of Army officer development. Similarly the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay and the Royal Australian Air Force establishment at Point Cook will continue to be used for general officer training which does not involve university studies.
The difficulties we face under the current single-service officer-education arrangements can no longer be tolerated. At stake are provisions for the very long term to ensure the production of well-equipped officers to lead the nation’s armed services. Delay must compromise that objective. I therefore have asked my colleague, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), to seek the approval of the House for the construction of the Academy so that detailed planning can proceed immediately. Consequent upon the Government’s decision to seek to establish a defence academy in a form of association with the University of New South Wales the Government will, at an appropriate time, withdraw the Bill I introduced in April 1 978. 1 present the following paper:
Defence Force Academy- Ministerial Statement, 1 5 May 1980.
Motion (by Mr Groom) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-This matter comes before the House after possibly the strangest sequence of events relating to an important project that this Parliament has been privy to since the Parliament rejected a proposal about a permanent Parliament House on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in Melbourne in 1923. This project is one of a number of projects about which the Government has decided to reject detailed considerations and findings of parliamentary committees. The Opposition does not consider it appropriate to proceed in the manner in which the Government is proceeding, nor does it consider it appropriate to proceed with the establishment of a tripartite academy at this dme.
The history of this project goes back some 12 to 15 years. It has been before Cabinet and governments on numerous occasions. On the first occasion the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) put the project before Cabinet and it was rejected because of its lack of a financial base, the unsound financial case and the answers which were given on the project at that time. I understand that the honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) was the person responsible for exposing the financial weaknesses of the case put forward on this project by the Department of Defence. The matter went before Cabinet again during the period of the Labor Government and it was approved in principle. It was approved in principle for one very good reason: None of the places in our university structure could be guaranteed to be available in the long term for the training of officers. It was necessary for the Government to take some form of action in order to guarantee that the university places which were needed for the tertiary education of officers who were vital to our Defence Force would be available. At present, not only are ample places available in universities, but also all evidence would suggest that those places will be available for many years to come. In fact, faculties in engineering and science have extraordinarily low acceptance standards in some of our universities purely because of the lack of students to fill the,available places. The present circumstances are different from those which existed in 1974, but the circumstances which existed in 1970 when it was rejected by Cabinet have not altered at all.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) said in his statement that he was correcting queries on the funding of the project which have been raised by, he said, the Fourth Estate, but I would suggest also by Government members and a number of other persons and organisations. The facts are that the Joint Committee on Public Works, in its report, indicated that it did not receive satisfactory answers to queries on the funding proposals or the claims with respect to the funding of this particular organisation. The need for isolated education of Army cadets is not something with which I am very happy. I believe that in this day and age it is essential that members of the defence forces have as great an appreciation of general community thoughts and standards as possible. I do not think that the mix of officers or the ultimate co-operation of officers in an action situation has any relevance to training at a university level. Those things are more likely to be important at a far later stage in the officers’ service careers and at a far later stage in the exercise of their responsibilities as leaders of our military forces.
The Government is proposing to commit on its own initiative $70m to this project. I have no doubt that in fact the cost of that project will escalate as the established fact principle becomes part of the norm and the Government is able to proceed without the worry of objection and questioning from its own back bench. This proposal comes to the Parliament supposedly after full discussion and agreement in the Government party rooms. I know of many forms of agreement and many forms of discussion. One of the forms of discussion and agreement that I do not accept as part of the normal democratic process is a five minute speech at five to one by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) with the majority of the members of the Government parties who were present not knowing what was said, then the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) closing the meeting without the opportunity for debate or questions and then announcing that general agreement for the proposal existed. That is how the Government decided this matter. Let us not make any mistake about that. There was a five minute speech by the Minister, then no questions, no debate and no expression of opinion whatsoever from members of the Government parties. There had been debate previously but there was no debate on this particular proposal.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is misrepresenting the whole of the Government ranks. We discussed this matter for ages. He knows that for good reason we are not allowed to say what occurred in the party rooms. He is trying to misrepresent all the Government members in the House. The matter was subject to very full discussion.
-There is no point of order. The honourable member for St George will resume his seat.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, if the honourable member for St George is prepared to say to the House that the members of the Government parties voted on this matter and that a majority agreed to it then I will accept his word. My understanding is that Government members were not even allowed to discuss this proposal.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member well knows that the Labor Party has a caucus system; we do not. We do not have a caucus system like the Labor Party, with votes.
-There is no point of order. If the honourable member for St George persists in taking specious points of order I will have to deal with him.
– What is proposed in this statement and what is proposed in a later matter is that the proposal as it was submitted to the Public Works Committee- it does not include the Casey University Bill which was introduced to establish the academic basis of operation- is to be adopted by this House today over the objections of the parliamentary Public Works Committee without any proper consideration of the valid objections of this House, and, I believe, without any real consideration of the objection that exists in this House to what has been one of the Prime Minister’s pet playthings over a long period. It is a matter which may be desirable for the defence forces but it involves a set of financial priorities which I think are outside our current defence needs and which certainly should be considered in the light of the amounts of money which will be expended and results which will be required. It involves the requirements the Defence Force has for funds for other purposes. Priorities do become important in this sort of exercise. The ego of the Prime Minister or the existence of a status college may or may not be important to the Government parties. They may be important to this Parliament; I do not know. But defence funds should be spent where there is the greatest and most urgent need and should be spent on providing us with the best response available immediate to defence needs. This is not the method by which those funds ought to be expended. We have a figure before us of $70m but that does not include the furniture. The real figure will be considerably in excess of that, and the Minister knows it. The questioning which has taken place on this matter has been, to say the least, superficial. The funding proposals and answers given to questions at the parliamentary Public Works Committee- if the Minister has read the evidence he will agree with me- have been extremely superficial.
At this stage of the debate I think this House ought to indicate quite clearly- we will give Government members the opportunity to express the opinion they were denied the opportunity to express in the party room- where it stands on this question and whether it believes that the most urgent need regarding defence in Australia is to have a tri-service academy to carry out functions which could be adequately carried out within the existing arrangements for the training of officers. I move:
– Give us a copy for the Master Builders Association.
-The remarks of the honourable member for Canberra are illuminating and should not go unnoticed. His justification for the construction in Canberra of a tri-service academy is that the Master Builders Association will support his future campaign committee because it will provide work for it. If that is the standard of defence debate in this Parliament -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Corio has just reflected on me, suggesting that there was ….. ulterior motive in why I would support this particular academy. He suggested it had something to do with contributions to my election campaign. My only concern is in relation to the unemployed people of Canberra and trade unionists.
-Order! If, on the basis of the interpretation of the honourable member for Canberra, the honourable member for Corio reflected on the honourable member, I invite the honourable member for Corio to withdraw.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw the interpretation. ‘Support’ does not only mean financial support. The facts are that too much of the debate in this area on this matter has concerned whether it is of temporary benefit to Canberra on an employment basis. Anything that will improve employment I will support. But
I do not believe that irresponsible or indiscriminate use of funds- certainly not defence fundsshould be committed purely on the basis that it will be good for employment. The only criterion has to be whether this is the most urgent priority for expenditure of something in excess of $ 100m of Defence Force funds. The Minister obviously believes that it is. Certainly, since 1970, the Prime Minister has believed that it is the only important thing in defence. I do not. I invite the House to vote on the amendment I have moved.
-(Mr MiIIar) - Is the amendment seconded?
-I second the amendment and support the comments made by the honourable member for Corio.
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
-The question is: That the question be now put’. There is an amendment before the House that has been formally seconded. The question based on the amendment has not yet been put to the House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Will you allow the seconder of the amendment to second it so that the amendment can be put before the House?
-The motion for putting the question is disallowed. I call the honourable member for Burke.
– At last, justice reigns supreme. I second the motion.
-The original question was that the House take note of the paper. To that motion the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting certain words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Burke did not second the amendment. He purported to second the motion.
-There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Burke seconded the amendment. The question is ‘That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question’. I call the honourable member for Wakefield.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on both sides of the House there is a concern -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be put.
– I do not accept that as a proper decision. I consider it outrageous. I hope that the Minister records that fact.
-Order! The honourable member for Wakefield is obliged to resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Scholes amendment) stand pan of the question.
A division having been called and the bells having been rung.
-The original question was that the House take note of the paper. To this the honourable member for Corio has moved as an amendment that all the words after that’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words.
– I take a point of order. As all honourable members were not present when the amendment was moved, may I ask that the actual words be read to the House?
-In the circumstances, the Chair is inclined to do so. To the original question, that the House take note of the paper, the honourable member for Corio has moved:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House agrees with the findings of the Parliamentary Public Works Committee with regard to the lack of need for the immediate establishment of a tri-service.academy.
The question is ‘That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question’.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament, namely:
The construction of the proposed Defence Force Academy in the Australian Capital Territory.
As has been explained by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), the Government has given careful consideration to the views of the Public Works Committee but has concluded that the project should proceed. Having moved this motion, it is not my intention to elaborate further on the matters raised by my colleague in the statement he has just made to the House.
However, I want to clarify the question of the cost of the proposed work. The estimated cost of the proposal when referred to the Committee was $52.8m at February 1978 prices. The present estimate, indexed to current prices, is $63m at February 1980 prices. I should make it clear that this increase is due solely to cost movements and that there has been no change in scope or revision of the estimate other than to accommodate indexation. If the House agrees, detailed planning can proceed on this project.
-I, as Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee, oppose the motion which has just been moved by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom). After 12 months’ investigation by that Committee a report was presented to this Parliament in 1979. That report did not agree with the proposition that was put to the Committee by the Department of Defence on behalf of the Government. The Committee gave 13 reasons why such a proposition should not go ahead. Those reasons have now been debated by the Government for about a year. The main complaints or reasons given by the Public Works Committee a year ago still hold good. The Minister for Housing and Construction, who is at the table, relied on a comment which was made by his colleague prior to his addressing the chamber. He did not give the Parliament the benefit of hearing the reasons why the work should proceed, except that the Government had so decided.
It seems to me, after 12 months’ inquiry by a committee and after presentation of a rather comprehensive report, containing some 1,200 pages of evidence, had been presented to the Parliament giving reasons why the project should not proceed, that there is some responsibility on a Minister who takes his job in a responsible way to give an explanation to this chamber. He has asked us to vote on a substantive motion and he ought to have given an explanation as to why the Government has changed its mind about proceeding with the project. It could be said that he and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) were talking about two different things. The Minister for Defence was not talking about buildings; he was talking about a concept. But the Minister for Housing and Construction is talking about buildings, which are the envelopes which will shelter those who use the Academy from the elements. Therefore, the two are integral and the Minister should give an explanation as to why this project which was to perform another function is to be constructed, now that his colleague has told us that that function will change.
There has been a good deal of sleight of hand on the part of the Government with regard to this matter. I think it is well known throughout Australia that this project is the baby of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He railroaded it through the party room and into this Parliament and he will railroad it through the Parliament today to satisfy his own ego and for no good reason. There is no practical or good reason why such a building ought to exist. There cannot be. Had there been a good reason, the Minister would have told us what it was.
I listened to the Department of Defence giving its very poor evidence to the Committee. It was so poor that a person such as me, a very simple sort of person, had to say that if the evidence of the Department of Defence were to be taken as fact, we could strain cauliflowers through it because it had so many holes in it. That is the truth. It was deplorable evidence from a department which should have come forward with a watertight case. It treated the Committee with the same contempt that the Minister for Housing and Construction, who is at the table, is treating this Parliament. His colleague the Minister for Defence has treated it with contempt by simply saying that the project will go ahead because the Government has so decided- end of story. That is just not good enough in a public forum such as the Australian Parliament. The Committee put forward a host of good reasons, all printed, why the project should not proceed.
The opening gambit of the Department of Defence in its evidence to the Committee was: ‘A decision having been taken, we will proceed with how to do it’. That is not good enough either. If the Department of Defence is to be so officious or so impudent as to accuse the Public Works Committee of moving outside its charter I suggest that the Government, if it believes that, should do the right thing and change the Public Works Committee Act. But it should not charge a group of responsible people such as the Public Works Committee with having done certain things, one of them being determining need. The Act states quite clearly that it is the responsibility of the Committee to determine need. The Government should not leave the Committee with an Act which charges it with that responsibility. I bring the Act to the attention of the Minister for Housing and Construction. He ought to know it because it is one of the Acts he administers. Section 17 (3) of the Act states:
In considering and reporting on a public work, the Committee shall have regard to-
the stated purpose of the work and its suitability for that purpose;
the necessity for, or the advisability of, carrying out the work;
That is the need for it. The Act continues:
It must be clear to the Minister that that means that the Public Works Committee must determine whether there is a need for a project. The members of the Committee, in their collective judgment, decided unanimously that the need did not exist. Yet the Department of Defence was impudent in being critical of the Committee and charging it with going outside its responsibility because it inquired into the need. The criticism must be of the Department of Defence because in its evidence it did not establish the need. The Committee had to pursue that question all the time. It had to ask witnesses to come before it. Such witnesses were the Chief of Staff and the Secretary to the Department, people of that high status. Their evidence was to the effect: ‘But the decision has been made’.
In case there are people listening who still believe that a democratic process goes on in this Parliament- precious few would think that after five years of this lot- I would like to go into the way in which the matter works. Orginally a proposition is put to the Government after it has been roughly costed by the Department of Housing and Construction and after the Department of Finance or the Treasury has determined that it can be funded in a particular year. The Cabinet then decides whether there is a prima facie case of need and whether it will fit into its building program. If all those things are decided- not by detailed investigation by Cabinet but on the submission of public servants who are not questioned by the Cabinet as a group- the matter is then referred, throught this Parliament, to a committee of this Parliament to investigate the need and the other things I have mentioned and to report back to this Parliament. That was done. After a 12-month inquiry, 1,200 pages of transcript and God knows how many witnesses the report was written and presented to this Parliament. Of course, it has never been debated. That is the usual practice; I do not quarrel with that.
– Evidence under oath.
-Evidence given under oath in public was printed for the rest of the community to read if they were not there to hear it. People asked questions that ordinary persons in the street have in their minds and are entitled to ask but cannot do so. We, their elected representatives, are the only ones who are able to do that. We do it for them and we do it very well, too. Everybody knows how modest I am, so that indicates how well we do it.
After the Committee reports back the matter goes to Cabinet. If the Committee reports favourably, there is no problem. The appropriate Minister then comes into the Parliament and moves the appropriate motion and the Parliament agrees to it. At that time funds are appropriated and work is authorised to proceed. I want to make it clear that the whole issue is about Parliament and not about the executive government. Parliament was ignored on this occasion. Parliament has been insulted. The representatives of the Defence Department have been impudent enough to believe that only they know how to do things. I shall not go any further because I am likely to be hit with a suit for libel if I talk about the Defence Department’s ability to do things. But the real facts of the matter are that the reference has gone through that process. It has now come back to the Parliament for debate. It has done so only after the Liberal Party Caucus determined that this would happen. That is why this matter has not been debated before now. It has not come before us prior to this because the Prime Minister was not assured of the support of his back benchers. It was not until he refused debate on this matter and rammed it through the Caucus room yesterday that the Minister came in and said to this Parliament: ‘It has to be built because the Government says it has to be built’.
I am not quarrelling with the sum of money involved, although it is a large sum. My colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has made it abundantly clear that this money could better spent on the defence forces. I am sure that the Minister for Defence visits defence establishments on occasions. I would just like to point out that there are some men and women of the armed Services of Australia who are eating, sleeping and performing ablutions in buildings which were constructed in 1941 out of timber and corrugated iron and which are not lined. The Government has not replaced those buildings. It is not doing much about replacing them. But the Government wants to spend this sum of money on building an institution for which it cannot even establish a need. Nobody can establish a need for it. Evidence was given to the Public
Works Committee that, even at the Chiefs of Staff level, debates were prevented on the need for this establishement. Their chairman said: But we do not have to debate whether we are going to have it or not. That decision is taken. We have to debate how we are going to make it work’. Goodness, gracious me. Surely this matter should have come under investigation before it was even referred to the Public Works Committee. There should have been a full scale inquiry as to how to enable officers of the Australian defence forces to obtain degrees. No such inquiry has ever been held. We had a bald statement from the Defence Department that one officer in every six now has a degree. It wants one officer in every three to have a degree. We asked why. Defence said: ‘We do not know but one in three has to be better than one in six’. That is great reasoning, is it not? Questioning of the witnesses on that brought forward no greater reason than that.
I am not quibbling about whether money should be spent on getting the best possible officers for Australia’s defence forces. I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not want it to be said that I am opposed to the proper training of officers for the Australian defence forces. I want to make that quite clear. What I am saying is that the proposal the Government is putting forward is not the best way of doing it. The Government cannot tell me that it is the best way of doing it. I have sat in on an inquiry and I have formed the opinion that that is not the best way of doing it. The Government has not had an inquiry which says that this is the best way of doing it. It is relying on its uninformed opinion or perhaps the opinion of those who are prejudiced in this area. I have had the privilege of questioning people from a wide section of the community, such as serving military personnel, retired military personnel, and academics. People from all other walks of life came forward to give their evidence. These people were subjected to questioning by nine members of the Committee.
It would seem to me that the truth must lie somewhere in the transcript of evidence of this inquiry. I invite the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Housing and Construction to read the report presented by the Public Works Committee. Obviously neither of them has read it. I invite them also to take the time to wade through the transcript of evidence and not just to ask their departments to pull out bits that suit their argument. I ask them to read the lot and then to make their own informed judgment. If they were not being stood over by the Prime Minister, if this were not the Prime Minister’s baby, if they were both prepared to stand up and say what they really think they would not be supporting this motion; they would be supporting the Public Works Committee right down the line. The Prime Minister has them bluffed. They are not prepared to stand up to him. They are just going to come into this place and do everything he tells them to do. As I have said before, democracy in this country went out the window in 1 975 and people have been putting barriers around the window ever since to stop it coming back again. The shameful exhibition by Government members in this place proves that this country is an autocracy. Whatever the Prime Minister wants he will get no matter how strong the evidence is against it. The evidence against this project is irrefutable, but obviously the House will ignore it on the instructions of the Prime Minister to his supporters in this chamber.
-I oppose the motion that it is expedient to proceed with the construction of a defence force academy. In the first instance, I wish to refer to several criticisms of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), has referred to the criticism that the Committee exceeded its charter. I reject that proposition, which has been referred to at length by the honourable member. I also reject the criticism made by the Department of Defence about the conduct of the inquiry by the Committee. Honourable members will recall that this was raised by the Department of Defence in the analysis which was presented to the House by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on 1 April 1980. I can do no more than repeat what we said in our response to that analysis. The Committee stated:
The Committee strongly resents and repudiates the Department of Defence inferences that its conduct of the inquiry was biased, dishonest or unfair. The motives and actions of the Committee were above reproach at all times, and accorded with the best traditions built up over many years by successive Public Works Committees. The Committee unreservedly maintains that all Members of the Committee faithfully fulfilled their obligations to the Statutory Declaration required of all Members to ‘faithfully, impartially and truly execute the office and perform the duties of a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works ‘.
I am sure that this is respected by many people in this House. As Chairman of the Committee, I refute totally the two forms of criticism to which I have referred. The statement today by the Minister for Defence indicates that significant changes have occurred in the views of the Department of Defence. The Department of Defence has dropped the concept of an autonomous university in favour of a university college of the University of New South Wales. This does have benefits in that academic standards can be maintained, that top quality academic staff can be recruited and that the development of a further university, a very small and uneconomic university of only 1,200 students, can be avoided. To some degree this does meet the views contained in some of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee’s report to the Parliament. In particular, I quote conclusion XI of the report, which states:
The Committee believes that there is scope for higher academic standards by being affiliated with larger institutions which benefit from size and, as present experience shows, from the attraction they have for top quality staff.
It also vindicates the Committee’s following conclusion:
The situation regarding the agreement with the University of New South Wales is not of itself a singularly strong reason for the establishment of a Defence Force Academy.
I should add that much of the sworn evidence to the Committee in relation to the agreement with the University of New South Wales has been shown by the proposal now put forward to be either false or misleading. However, in other respects the arrangement proposed is unsatisfactory and does not heed the conclusions and recommendations of the Public Works Committee. Firstly, the Committee was not convinced that the question of a tri-service academy had been fully researched to ensure that it was the best method of educating military cadets for the three services. Many witnesses before the Committee expressed concern that the basic question of how best to produce officers with a degree had never been investigated. It was certainly excluded from the terms of reference of the Martin committee of inquiry of 1970, although its report made brief and incidental comments on the point. Paragraphs 1 10 and 1 1 1 of the Public Works Committee report summarise this very clearly. The report states:
In response to the concern expressed to the Committee at the apparent lack of evidence of a comprehensive inquiry into the proposal to establish a Tri-Service Academy, the Department of Defence provided the Committee with a confidential document entitled: ‘Chronology of considerations 1936-1978 in relation to establishment of a single Defence Force Academy’. The material is classified as confidential because it contains direct quotations from a number of documents so classified which relate to Ministerial and Government considerations.
Having studied the material, the Committee formed the opinion that the development of the logic for the creation of a Tri-Service Academy suffered from a process of reasoninginacircle wherein the proposition to be tested had as a basic assumption the proposition itself.
The report continues:
The Committee believes that before a decision to establish a Tri-Service Academy had been taken, a comprehensive inquiry should have been conducted to examine all the issues involved in the education and training of officer cadets for the Services and to fully examine all alternatives. The Committee is convinced that this was never done.
Indeed, no evidence was produced to the Committee that the basic question of the best way to produce officers was ever researched. Inquiries on officer development, such as the Army’s Regular Officer Development Committee, started with the acceptance of the Australian Defence Force Academy and were restricted from inquiring into it. All studies in this field appear to have been directed to how ADFA was to be established, not whether it should be established. In fact, the Committee concluded:
There is no clear evidence that the education of cadets of all services in a common establishment would of itself provide any improvement in the quality of officers.
I refer to conclusion 3 of the Public Works Committee ‘s report. The decision announced in the statement made by the Minister still maintains and gives credence to the view that the housing and education of cadets of the three Services together will enhance inter-service co-operation and lead to a common defence motivation. This was argued in the Barnard statement in 1 974, it was part of the Defence argument to the Committee, and indeed it was supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in Question Time on 21 February 1980. The Committee gave deep consideration to this view, and a great deal of evidence related to single-service motivation, the varying disciplines of the different Services, and difficulties to be expected in a tri-service academy. The Committee’s final assessment is set out in paragraphs 128, 129 and 132 of its report.
The Committee decided that service motivation can be more effectively developed and maintained within the discipline of a single service. It rejected the view that association at cadet level would significantly foster inter-service cooperation and understanding. This objective can be fostered more effectively at a more senior level. The Committee further felt that cadets should be associated as closely as possible with their own service environment during education and training. The Committee strongly supported the continuation and extension of the existing individual service colleges, although in a changed form. It further advocated the consolidation of the officer production facilities of each service and saw this as being more justified than the combination of the tertiary education of the cadets of the three Services. The Committee did not accept a need for uniformity of education for cadets of the three Services. It acknowledged the differing requirements of each service and felt that unsatisfactory compromises could result from amalgamation. I am glad that the Minister emphasised that the Government’s decision did not imply that there would be any amalgamation of the three Services because I feel that it is important that each service should remain separate and unique.
The insistence of the Department of Defence on a very strict definition of military environment was not supported by the Committee. It saw no objection to the extended use of civilian universities, and did not envisage a lessening of the quality of officers educated at civilian tertiary institutions. Evidence to the Committee clearly indicated that the Royal Australian Air Force was particularly pleased with engineers being trained on campus at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology but residing at the RAAF establishment at Frognell. Similarly, evidence indicated that RAAF officers trained on campus at Sydney University and Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education, and a number of Army officers trained on various campuses were most satisfactory officers. Indeed, many senior officers appearing before the Committee had completed degrees at civilian universities, and by any judgment they were competent and top class officers.
The report submitted a year ago by the Regular Officer Development Committee set up by the Army continually emphasised the need for the Army and its officers of the future to be more a part of the total community. The Committee saw study by cadets at civilian institutions as one way of meeting this need. Furthermore, additional use of civilian tertiary institutions would allow a wider range of education courses than ever could be available at a small university college of 1,200 students. It is clear also that there is a requirement by certain elements of the service, particularly the RAAF, for engineers and other trainees to be trained in a very practical way at colleges of advanced education.
I wish to refer briefly to costs. The original proposal was to cost $65.22m in February 1978 prices. The capital cost of the Committee’s suggested alternative was $39m in February 1978 prices, and of that amount some $ 10.6m could have been deferred because it related to the collocation of the Central Army Training School from Portsea to Duntroon. One would have expected some reduction in the capital cost of the proposed project with the changes that have now been outlined by the Minister. I ask whether a university college requires facilities to the same extent as set out in the proposal originally put to the Public Works Committee, lt is very difficult indeed, with the information that has been given, to cast any meaningful comment on the recurrent costs that may be likely under the proposal now suggested.
Let me emphasise that the Public Works Committee looked very closely indeed at this project for a tri-service academy. No committee lightly rejects a proposal put forward by the Government, and this Committee’s recommendation that the proposed Defence Force Academy not proceed was made only after full, careful and serious investigation. In the end, the Committee rejected the proposal because it was not convinced that better officers would be produced as a result of the establishment of the tri-service academy. It felt that a less expensive and probably better solution could be developed for the education of the officers of the three Services. The Public Works Committee in its analysis, to which I have referred and which was tabled in the House on 21 April 1980, after examining further papers put forward by the Department of Defence, came to the following conclusion:
Nothing in the Analysis has forced to Committee to amend the recommendations contained in its Report of May 1979 concerning the Australian Defence Force Academy.
Whilst I have admitted that the solution now proposed appears to be better than that originally put to the Public Works Committee, in my opinion it is still unsatisfactory. For this reason, I continue to support the recommendations of the Public Works Committee and will oppose the motion now before the House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– This is the greatest hijack I have ever heard of. Because the Government is embarrassed about the attitude -
Order! The honourable member for Hunter is required to resume his seat. The question is: That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! That is no point of order.
-Order! That matter is properly left in the hands of the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Can the honourable member for Bendigo be compelled to inform the House that the honourable members for Canning and Denison, on principle, have abstained from voting on this matter?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– They are the only two men with a bit of guts and a bit of honesty.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The House will come to order. It is essential that silence prevail so that the Chair may receive non-specious points of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Will you ensure that the office of Speaker is used to protect the honourable member for Fraser- who abstained from voting the last time this matter was raised- from the intimidation he will get from the Labor Caucus?
-Order! There is no point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have crossed the floor against my party and the honourable member for Bendigo knows it.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is that the motion be agreed to. Is a division required?
– The Opposition is not dividing on this particular measure not because it does not feel strongly about it but because it wants time to debate the next measure and a division would reduce that time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Groom) proposed:
That orders of the day, government business, for the resumption of the debate on the motions to take note of the following papers, be discharged:
Defence Force Academy- Report of Public Works Committee- Government analysis- Paper.
Defence Force Academy- The case for- Paper.
Public Works Committee- Report on analysis of Defence Force Academy.
-The Government is now removing from the Notice Paper items which should have been the subject of full debate. If they had been properly debated in the first instance, they would not need to be removed from the Notice Paper now. It has been a symptom of the failure of this Parliament over the last 8 or 10 years- excluding the years from 1972 to 1975- that there has been no order whatsoever in the way in which this place has been conducted.
Honourable members- Ha, ha!
– It is all very well for honourable members to indulge in laughter on this matter. We are members of one of the more significant parliamentary institutions ir. the world. Of the 151 member countries of the United Nations, hardly any have free and open debate in their parliamentary institutions. This Parliament is one institution in which free and open debate still exists in a certain way, but it is gradually being crowded out, partly by the way in which the Government conducts its affairs and partly by the way in which we conduct the Parliament in general. We have to resolve this problem. A very significant discussion has been avoided in this instance. There is no doubt that this matter has caused a great deal of disagreement in the community, in this Parliament and throughout the services which are involved. To treat it in this way and to prevent the House discussing it effectively I think is disgraceful. I wish my view to be recorded. The time has come for honourable members, instead of worrying about human rights in the rest of the world, to start considering exactly how we ought to proceed in a free and democratic discussion in this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration and report: Replacement of operating theatres and surgical wards at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, W.A.
Hollywood Hospital was completed in 1941 and although certain modifications and additions have been carried out over the years, it no longer provides all necessary facilities for the treatment of an older generation of patients having a different range of medical and surgical needs from those of earlier years. All four existing operating theatres are considered substandard and will be replaced. Present ward accommodation is outmoded in terms of present day developments and community standards for the treatment of surgical patients. The proposal will provide 72 new surgical beds. In order to provide the new facilities an existing ward and 13 old timber buildings will be demolished. The proposed work will comprise four operating theatres; theatre support facilities and services; two surgical wards with associated facilities; and associated access roads, car parks and landscaping.
Decisions on the development of Hollywood Hospital have been taken only after close consultation with State authorities to avoid unnecessary overlap and duplication of facilities. Planning has also taken into account possible future development of the whole hospital site and the need to avoid interruption to the functioning of the hospital during construction work. The extensions will be generally of reinforced concrete construction with brick and lightweight panel cladding which will harmonise with existing buildings. The estimated cost of the proposal at April 1980 price is $5.2m. I now table plans of the proposed work for the information of honourable members.
-The expenditure that has just been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works for examination is in many ways like the last matter that the House debated in that it is a doubtful item of expenditure. In the previous case, the Government had had the report of the Public Works Committee for some six months and then made an announcement after the House had risen. I would like to be assured that that will not happen again and that the forms of this House will never be allowed to become empty rituals because they sometimes become inconvenient to the process of Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business Orders of the Day Nos. 5 and 6.
– I wish very briefly to record my disgust at the way in which this House is being managed. I was told about this change in arrangements at 3 o’clock this afternoon. Honourable members on this side of the House were not expecting the debate which is about to take place to be brought on until after the suspension of the sitting for dinner, in the normal course as indicated on the Daily Program- the blue sheet. The blue sheet is supposed to show the order in which business will be conducted in the House. We have been given no reason for the new order of business but we do not have the numbers to do anything about it. The debate will be cut short anyway; so I can merely record my disgust.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
In moving that motion I make the following pertinent comments: Firstly, I refer to the importance of the issues which are contained in these two Bills. They deal, of course, with what has become known as the Laidely case in which the interests of a small businessman were squeezed between a large and powerful union and a large and powerful commercial corporation. The Government announced some time ago that it considered that small businesses, be they operated by individuals or corporations, placed in the position of Mr Laidely, should be given full and adequate protection. These two Bills achieve that purpose. They are therefore of the utmost importance and are matters of urgency.
As honourable members well know, the House is due to complete its business on Thursday next, 22 May. We are therefore coming to the end of the sitting. In order to ensure that these Bills pass through this House expeditiously and are passed through the Senate equally expeditiously, it is necessary to move this motion for the limitation of debate. It is necessary to do that also to ensure that the irresponsibility of the Opposition, as represented by the honourable member for Port
Adelaide (Mr Young), is not allowed to delay the passage of these Bills. I refer in particular to the tactic adopted by the honourable member for Port Adelaide upon the introduction of these Bills on Tuesday, 13 May, when he moved what was obviously both a ridiculous and a spurious amendment to have the debate on the Bills adjourned until 11 December 1980. The honourable gentleman and the whole of the Opposition know full well that by that time the Parliament will have completed its work for the year. A general election will have been called and held and, as he knows, the Government will be returned to the Government benches. So it was quite obvious that it was a spurious move by the honourable gentleman. It was an attempt to frustrate and delay the business of the Government. In particular, it was an attempt to frustrate and delay the attempts of the Government to protect persons or corporations who find themselves in the position of Mr Laidely. I make it quite clear that the Government is not prepared to have either this Parliament or the community suffer from that kind of irresponsibility or to see the Opposition filibustering on matters of this kind deliberately in order to delay the community’s obtaining the benefits of this protective legislation. I would certainly hope -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. May I draw to your attention the content of this speech that is being made to the House at the moment? It seems to me to be very wide of the motion which is before the House. This motion, which has been moved without any notice being given to the Opposition, is guillotining this debate so that there will be less than an hour and a half to debate this matter. This speech is not only wide of the mark in its content but also it is taking up valuable time for the debate. The Minister is using such arguments -
-The honourable member has made his point The Minister will remain relevant to the motion.
– I was about to conclude my remarks because I am aware that honourable members on both sides of the House are anxious to participate in the debate before the vote is taken at 5.30 this evening. I certainly hope that the Opposition takes full opportunity during the time which will be allotted to debate this matter of great importance and considerable urgency.
-Because the High Court of Australia building opens next Monday at a cost of some $ lm to the taxpayers this Parliament has to get up next Thursday. Irrespective of the laws to be passed this will be carried through by the Government. The ant that the Government puts up here as the Leader of the House, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), says that this legislation- the Trade Practices (Boycotts) Amendment Bill and the associated Bill- is so important that it has to be passed by 5.30 this afternoon. He was opposed to the motion that I moved on Tuesday that the Parliament should adjourn this matter until 1 1 December.
We have been reading in the newspapers for some weeks- since the Laidely dispute- that the Government had met many complexities in the framing of this legislation. The Opposition was told on Tuesday that not only were the Bills to be introduced on Tuesday but also that they were to be debated at 8 o’clock tonight. At 3 o’clock this afternoon we were told that the Bills would be debated at 3.30 this afternoon. Now we are told that not only is the debate going to start at 3.30 but also that it will finish at 5.30. That is how important this Government believes these laws are in terms of examination by the Parliament! It has taken public servants weeks and weeks to prepare this legislation in order to overcome the complexities that were confronted as a result of the Laidely dispute. Not only that but also, as the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) who is a former Minister responsible for industrial relations knows, because of the way in which the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is being extended by this legislation- I do not wish to get into debate- this Parliament should be having a very, very thorough look at the way we are suggesting that this legislation be extended because industrial relations will never be the same in Australia after these laws have passed this Parliament.
Do not worry, the debate is not just about Laidely and the arrangements that have been made in disputes such as the Laidely dispute; it is also about the way in which the law can be extended in future as a result of the interpretation that has been given to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act here this afternoon. I reiterate: This Government is not at all interested in a thorough examination of these Bills. It is maverick legislation. It is being dealt with in a maverick fashion by the Government because Government members want to fatten up the biggest party ever put on by the Parliament of Australia. There will be $lm worth of champagne and food at the opening of the High Court building next Monday week. Visitors are flying in from all over the world. Because that function is on next Monday week the Parliament is not allowed to sit to go over thoroughly the legislation which has been introduced. It is a sham. How can the Government expect that we could deal with in an hour and a half what has taken the bureaucracy weeks, if not months, to prepare?
The National Labour Consultative Council has had more time to debate this subject than will the Parliament. Many honourable members from both sides of the House who want to speak on this legislation will be denied their right to speak because the Government has determined that the House will debate it only for an hour and a half. In fact, the way the Government has dealt with this legislation, it is a wonder that it did not put it through this House at lunch time while we were all out. It must be very suspicious of the grounds upon which this legislation stands to be dealing with it in such a fashion. Of course, the legislation overcomes nothing.
If honourable members go to the back of this chamber to have a yarn to George Polites he would tell them how much it is going to overcome. We know- if honourable members look at the results of the last Australian Council of Trade Unions congresses they will know also- that the laws the Government is introducing here today will not overcome any of the problems. But we can protest about that during the debate.
What we protest about at the moment is the way in which this Minister leading the House tries continuously to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He will do absolutely anything to climb up the ministerial ladder, to become more popular with the Prime Minister. It does not matter what he is told to do, he is there to do it- whether it is sacrificing the kids as unemployed or pushing legislation through the Parliament- he is down on his hands and knees and belly crawling all the way to the Prime Minister. He will do it every second of the day.
-That is the role this Minister wants to play.
-Order! I will not permit the honourable gentleman to deliver a tirade of abuse against any member of this House while speaking to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
-Mr Speaker, I think you would understand what I am saying because you were a practitioner in the industrial jurisdiction. It is a sham and it is an insult to employee and employer organisations around this country that we are to deal in an hour and a half with laws which will affect them. We are not putting up the price of union tickets or increasing the subscriptions of employer organisations to the Confederation of Industry. We are dealing with laws which these employer and employee groups will have to look at quite seriously to see how they will be affected by them. This Parliament has set aside an hour and a half to deal with this legislation because we cannot spare the time. I ask honourable members to think back to five minutes ago when we had a debate on the construction of a building involving another $60m. This Government must be kinky about $60m buildings. First of all the High Court is built and now the Government is to build a university for the armed forces. I wish that $60m could be spent on housing in Australia. It would do a lot more good than that university. I reiterate: Because the High Court has to be opened next Monday and because the Chief Justice has to be there to fete all the visitors, everyone will load up with champagne and good tucker- it will cost the taxpayer $lm- we are not allowed to debate these issues.
-I will tell the honourable member what is rubbish, the issues that are going to come before us for debate in a minute are rubbish. If honourable members talk to anyone who practices in the industrial arena they will be told that they are rubbish. It is an insult to every person in this Parliament that the Government believes that the bureaucracy is more important in a debate on this matter than is the Parliament. The bureaucracy can spend months preparing this legislation and we are to spend an hour and a half debating it. The mistakes that will be made in this legislation will be the burden and the responsibility of the Government that is pushing it through. Honourable members ought to look closely at the way in which the so-called Leader of the House is carrying out the dictates of the Prime Minister on the way in which this Parliament is being run. It is, as I said, an absolute sham.
-These Bills are most urgent. The Leader of the House (Mr Viner) has performed a service to the House in introducing the motion. He has proposed the motion so that we can have a proper debate without disruption and the type of activity that we get from the Australian Labor Party as we have seen from the speech that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) just delivered. We should remind ourselves that a few days ago the Australian Labor Party, through the honourable member for Port Adelaide, introduced a motion to the effect that consideration of these Bills should be stood over until 1 1 December. It was a motion that was an absolute farce. Why? Because the Opposition will go to any length to stop these Bills being passed. The Opposition will go to any lengths to prevent debate on these Bills. These matters are extremely urgent. Some months ago it appeared likely that Sydney would be shut down for a number of weeks because of one of the most serious strikes that Sydney has had. The strike threatened to spread right throughout Australia.
The Government has spent time in trying to come up with the best possible amendments to the legislation. I should have thought that the Opposition would welcome the chance to debate these matters and have the amendments passed. The legislation deals not only with abuse of trade union power but also with abuse of power by big oil companies. The Opposition does not even want to have the opportunity to debate a matter dealing with the use of powers by big unions and big oil companies to squeeze the ordinary person and small business. The honourable member for Port Adelaide hardly mentioned these matters. He talked about the High Court of Australia. The opening of the High Court has been set down for many months and that is totally irrelevant to what he said today. This is typical of the types of low tactics that the Australian Labor Party will use.
The very thing that the Opposition is afraid of is something which its former Prime Minister used to mouth about continuously and that is a mandate. This Government has had a mandate with the two greatest majorities in Australian political history in 1975 and 1977 and included in that mandate is the desire of the Australian people to have this Government take strong and responsible steps with regard to trade union blackmail, intimidation and the attempts of left wing unions to bring down the economy of this country. During the election campaigns in 1975 and 1977, almost without exception the greatest cheers in halls came when the present Government promised to deal with trade union destruction and disruption of the Australian economy. The Government has brought in legislation to fulfil its promise. The Opposition just does not want this legislation to go through because its members are pawns and stooges of the left wing of the Labor Party, which is totally opposed to section 45d of the Trade Practices Act and totally opposed to proposed section 45E. The Opposition will go to any lengths to stop this. The Opposition talks about the speeches which are made in the House.(Quorum formed).
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
That the motion (Mr Viner’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative with an absolute majority.
-I declare that the Trade Practices (Boycotts) Amendment Bill 1980 and the Conciliation and Arbitration (Boycotts) Amendment Bill 1980 are urgent Bills.
-Order! The question is: ‘That the Bills be considered urgent Bills’.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) put:
That the time allotted in connection with the Bills be as follows:
1 ) For the second readings of the Bills until 3.30 p.m. this day; and
For the remaining stages of the Bills until S.35 p.m. this day.
The House divided. ( Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 May, on motions by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition opposes the Trade Practices (Boycotts) Amendment Bill and the Conciliation and Arbitration (Boycotts) Amendment Bill, and places on record the fact that honourable members now have less than one hour in which to debate these most important measures.
– Whose fault is that?
-The fault is very much that of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Cabinet, who have social arrangements which commence at 5.30 p.m.
-It is not rubbish. Despite all the objections, let us place on the record the fact that these Bills were to be debated at 8 o’clock this evening. However, as a result of a sudden arrangement, which has been intimated to the House by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), it was decided that they would be brought on at about 3.30 p.m. and that the guillotine would be applied to limit debate to approximately two hours.
I cannot understand why the Government thinks that it will get any kudos for rushing such legislation through the Parliament. It was introduced into the House as recently as last Tuesday and now, on Thursday, is being pushed through. Perhaps it is symptomatic of the position that this legislation which has been so badly drafted in the past- as it is again now- has been the cause of a major industrial confrontation in both New South Wales and Victoria. It has cost the consumers of this country millions of dollars, yet the Government is still toying with the idea that it will have a permanent life.
I place on record that as soon as Labor gets a chance to do so, it will repeal this legislation. That will be done on the basis of what is in the best interests of the community. Let me ask also: Why this enormous speed? Why this attempt to legislate by stealth? Representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions met the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland), who is at the table, and were told by him: ‘In view of the fact that the Laidely case has been settled there is really no need for the legislation now’. Nevertheless, the Government has pressed on. What is its motivation for so doing? When honourable members look at the legislation in the course of debate, it will become plain to them that it will not solve any more problems. The frantic endeavour to push forward this kind of legislation is attributable to the psychological approach of a Prime Minister who can think only of confrontation with the trade union movement. The Prime Minister figured in a major way in the Laidely dispute. His most interesting contribution was to appear on a late evening television show in Sydney and say that it had nothing to do with the Federal Government- that it should be dealt with by Premier Wran of New South Wales. Yet the cause of the dispute was this Government’s own trade practices legislation.
When His Honour, Mr Justice Moore, was able to convene a conference of the parties he was berated in the Parliament by the Prime Minister and the responsible Minister. They could not understand why he had seen fit to convene such a conference. They gave no credit to the distinguished gentleman for calling that conference, the result of which was the settling of the dispute. What sort of a government have we when, against that background, it persists in introducing such legislation in a frantic endeavour to hide the facts from the public and from the ACTU? I am told by an ACTU representative that at a meeting of the National Labour Consultative Council on 5 May that the peak council sought details of the proposed amendments to the principal legislation. Details were not provided by the Government. Thus, as recently as 5 May, representatives of the ACTU sought details of the amendments that are now before us but were not given them. They found it impossible to proceed without knowing the details of the Government ‘s proposals.
Further, at that meeting- this is most significant- the employers and the union representatives, both sides, told the Government that there was no need for the proposed amendments. Everybody concerned with this legislation is saying that there is no need for it and that it will cause further industrial trouble. The ACTU is on the record as saying that. Yet it is to be forced through this place this afternoon by the use of the guillotine. This means that there will be fewer than two speakers from the Opposition and less than one hour in which to debate the legislation. As we have said here in the past, the Government has had this legislation under consideration for some 10 weeks.
Why is the Government so concerned? We listened to a statement from the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) supporting the idea that this is an urgent piece of legislation because it will help ease the problems which were created for Mr Laidely. Mr Laidely has solved his problems. The solution was to retain the status quo. So, the industrial trouble in New South Wales, the great loss to business, the hardship to the community and the stoppage of a State by Federal legislation has all gone for naught because Mr Laidely has solved his problems. The solution was maintenance of the status quo. It is suggested that Mr Laidely is a very small businessman. I have no doubt that his activities can grow much faster, but he has already 400 major outlets. He put $30,000 into the proposed service station that he was anxious to service. The real issue in the Laidely dispute was industrial conditions. It had nothing to do with the supply of goods or competitiveness which would benefit the community.
Why do the real facts not come out? How can the Minister say that Mr Laidely did not get a solution? He solved the problem himself. How can it be said that Mr Laidely is a very small businessman when he is a businessman of some substance? Let us place on record again, in fairness to Mr Laidely, that the court which dealt with the Laidely case in the first instance was a court which was specially created under the Trade Practices Act to deal with this sort of dispute. It was dealt with not by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but by a strictly judicial court. It was there suggested that perhaps the case should be adjourned so that the matter could be the subject of conciliation and arbitration. Mr Laidely jumped up from the floor of the court, from behind his counsel, and said: ‘I am not going to have any conciliation or any arbitration’. In the framework of this legislation we can see that it looks as though even Mr Laidely has been bypassed. Here we have the most curious mishmash and hotchpotch of a deal we have ever seen in our lives.
We have two Bills before us. The first is an amendment to the Trade Practices Act. There are two clauses in it. It is to amend section 45d of that Act. That section caused most of the troubles in the Laidely and Gorman disputes which brought two States to a standstill and which could not be solved in the normal industrial process. Let me place on record again that solutions to both those cases were found outside the judicial powers, if we may say so, of Mr Justice Moore by bis sense and his brilliance as a negotiator in getting the parties together on a basis that had nothing to do with the law. Mr Justice Moore was able to solve both those major disputes. The nation owes him a debt, not the derision or the vindictive abuse which was heaped on him in this Parliament. There ought not to have been the suggestion that Sir John Moore had to give an explanation as to how he settled the matter. No credit was given to the man.
What about the people of New South Wales and Victoria who were denied their livelihoods? What about the fact that hospitals, schools and homes for the aged had no fuel and the whole process was coming to a stop? What about the massive loss in wages and the cost to the taxpayer? Has it all been worth it? Have honourable members looked at this legislation? It has been introduced allegedly to help the competitive nature of business, but in fact the real issue behind it is the element of punishing the trade union movement.
Let me come back to what we are all about. Section 45d, the horrendous application of which is already proving so disastrous, is being amended to make it even more disastrous by including non-corporate targets. A new section 45e is being introduced to guarantee that no arrangements can be made which can be deemed to hurt small businessmen. But the trade practices legislation was really concerned with business competitiveness, to assist the small businessman. One must really laugh at this proposition when one considers the frantic endeavour this afternoon of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) who was worried about service station proprietors who will go to the wall because the oil companies will not sell them petrol at a price at which they can discount it, whereas the companies’ own stations can do so.
Is there anything in this legislation to protect small businessmen in that regard? An honourable member from Tasmania is worried stiff about what is to happen to small businessmen, service station proprietors, who have no future at all. Where do we see competition and the protection of the small businessman in that regard? As recently as three weeks ago I received from Mr Parker of the service station proprietors’ organisation, a letter in which he said that already 4,000 proprietors have been put out of business and that the future of the rest of them is in jeopardy because of the price discrimination by the oil monopolies whereby the price at which the private service station proprietors can buy petrol is above the price at which the petrol stations owned by the oil companies can sell it. Where is the competitive nature of that?
I come to the Swanson Committee which was set up by the Government to recommend amendments to the trade practices legislation and which, by the way, had no trade union representatives on it. The recommendations of the Swanson Committee referred to the scope of the Act. It made some very important statements about disputes which arise and which affect the working conditions of employees. It stated:
The scheme of procedures for resolving disputes under the Trade Practices Act is inappropriate for solving the issues concerning employees.
The Swanson Committee said that the best way to do that, of course, is to go before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission because it has built up expertise in that field. If the Government is suggesting that industrial matters can be solved not only in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but also under the Trade Practices Act- that is, in the Federal Court- let us look at what the Swanson Committee said. It said that that is not the way to go about it because:
Duplication of this expertise would be difficult and costly.
Yet in this proposed legislation we have that exact position- a duplication. In other words, to start to get conciliation in a matter of this sort one must start with an injunction in the Federal Court. In the Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that is the way to get some founding of jurisdiction, for what it is worth.
– You do not have to get an injunction.
-It has to be talked about. Let us make it very clear that where a person applies -
– Yes, that is right- applies.
-Yes, applies. Let us face it. I do not know how often the Minister for Industrial Relations has practised in the court, but that is where one applies to get an immediate injunction. One does not give notice that in 14 days one will ask for an injunction. One walks straight in and says: ‘I am here for an injunction ‘.
– Then you -
-‘ Then ‘-that is right. But there is already a problem in the Federal Court which can still deal with the matter. It can take weeks to deal with the merits of whether an injunction ought to be granted. What does one do then? Is one to fight in two courts on the one day? Is one to suggest: ‘Your honour, I want this matter adjourned because I have to go up the road to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to have a discussion about the matter1? If honourable members think that the court ‘up the road’ can solve the problem, they are wrong. There is no provision in the amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for arbitration on the matter. The only provision is for conciliation. What does the judge have to say to the parties: ‘You will have to agree on a settlement. ‘? They might say: ‘We are not going to agree. We are already seeking an injunction in the other court’. When Mr Laidely applied for an injunction in front of Mr Justice Lockhart, it was put to him: ‘What about conciliation?’. He said: ‘I am not having a bar of it’. Why would he, if he thought he would be granted an injunction? Why should he not say, as an acute businessman: ‘I am going to punish the unions if I can fit them on this one.’? The penalty is a $250,000 fine. Do honourable members think that this helps industrial peace? Has it ever helped any aspect of the matter? They should look at the Government’s record. It is of no use their shaking their heads as if to suggest that they think it all should have been solved.
On 18 March we introduced into the Parliament a proposed piece of legislation which the Government should have another look at. It provided, in the case of industrial matters which allegedly relate to the trade practices situation but which really relate to terms and conditions of employment, for the power to be given to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We put before the Government, by way of a private member’s Bill, a proposal to which it could have agreed. This legislation would have guaranteed that the like of Mr Justice Moore could solve the Laidely dispute within a legal jurisdiction and we would not have had the present situation in which the Government is trying to have the best of both worlds.
The Government cannot in all seriousness suggest, when the Swanson Committee says that it does not want to see duplicity of expense and difficulty and that there should be only one tribunal, that these matters should be left in two areas. This is the Government’s problem. What was the real basis of the Swanson Committee’s report? The report arose from difficulties in respect of the supply of bread and the delivery of cut price petrol. The Committee was talking about price competitiveness in both issues- price competitiveness of bread and petrol. It had nothing really to do with industrial conditions. The Swanson Committee’s view was that we needed some mechanism to deal with these matters. The Committee said, I think very appropriately, that some procedure was needed ibr solving these matters. The Committee did not say that we had to go off to a strict judicial tribunal. The Committee said that perhaps the mechanism could be under the Trade Practices Commission- ‘perhaps’ is the word- or it could be under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– That is right; that is what it says.
-The Minister should not look so delighted about it. Let us look at the cases that have caused all the trouble. I have in my hand details of 24 cases which have arisen because parties have decided to apply for an injunction under the Government’s law. One cannot find out what has happened to some of the cases as they have been stood over generally, but there have been difficulties in some cases, not the least of which was meat workers in Queanbeyan. Although the matter was resolved, although the injunction was dissolved and although there was no question of damage being proved, the fact is that the words ‘likely to have caused damage’ were deemed to mean that the union had to pay the costs. The costs amounted to $10,000. The use of the words ‘likely to have caused damage’ was enough to suggest that that union should pay the costs. Does the Government suggest that this is not punitive? This is what we are about in this whole issue.
Let me make it clear that the Laidely case had nothing to do with the price of petrol. It had everything to do with the terms and conditions of employment. The Amoco drivers were working under Federal awards. They work a 35-hour week and receive penalty rates ‘ as well. The drivers working for Laidely were working under State awards. They were working a 40-hour week and getting a lesser rate of pay. So there we have it. Members of virtually the same union were receiving two different rates of pay. That was fair enough because an agreement had been reached as to what service stations would be supplied. Laidely broke the agreement on the basis that he wanted to re-open a service station which his drivers would supply. The Amoco drivers said that if this practice were to continue- this was confirmed in the Lockhart case- there would be no service stations for them to supply and they would be out of business. This was a genuine industrial matter. How was it solved? It was solved by Mr Laidely and the union agreeing to go back to where they were before. There was a massive confrontation with the trade union movement. This is not a matter that we can just wipe aside and say that it will now be solved.
I ask the Government to look at the legislation it is introducing. Does it really think this punitive legislation will solve these problems from a trade union point of view? The Government has been wishy-washy about the situation by saying: ‘All you have to do is to start off in one court with an application for an injuction and, let us hope and pray, it will be solved in another court’. Nobody in his right mind would think that parties which are so aggrieved and so much at arm’s length that they have to seek an injunction would immediately go up the road to another court and say: ‘We will sit down and solve it’. They would have obtained all the expertise and legal advice well before taking the injunction. Negotiations on the issue would have been carried out for some time. If the Government takes the view that the right way to solve this problem is through conciliation and arbitration- that is where the Government’s hopes lie- why does it not amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as it can under the extension of the corporation power, to guarantee that these matters are solved in the appropriate arbitration commission tribunal.
Under this legislation Ministers also can be involved. In some cases where the Minister is a party the matter cannot even go off to be solved if the Minister does not consent. What is the merit of that from the point of view of solving industrial disputes? I come back to the peculiar fixation of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that there has to be continual confrontation with the trade union movement on all issues. The Prime Minister was delighted to get publicity as to what was wrong with New South Wales because that State could not get any petrol. He denied and decried that he had anything to do with the situation. He said that it had nothing to do with him, that it was a State matter.
There are all sorts of problems relating to State and Federal awards. I have already indicated them to the House, particularly in respect of the Laidely case. The Swanson Committee said that it wanted some deliberative body to solve these matters. It said that it did not want duplicity of jurisdiction because of the cost and the impracticability of the situation. But the legislation now before the House is contrary to those recommendations. The real problem that we face is that this type of legislation is of no help to the Austraiian business community. It is of no help to the small businessman.
We should consider whether industrial conditions are in accordance with awards. If they are not in accordance with awards, we can bet our lives that that is due to the fact that some employer is not carrying out his duty. It is laughable to think that injunction proceedings are a solution. The only time to take injunction proceedings in the normal course of events is when one wants to prevent something from occurring. One would not take such action in respect of a continuing dispute from the point of view of not being able to have it heard. That is not what injunction proceedings are about. Injunction proceedings are taken to stop a certain action in terms of an individual position so that a hearing can take place later. Such action usually relates to building cases, the inability to get access to some place or a matter of that nature. It relates to something that has to be solved quickly. One says: ‘I want you to look at this matter. I want an injunction that no further action is to be taken until such time as you can deal with it on the merits’. To deal with these cases on their merits in accordance with strict judicial evidence would take two, three or perhaps four weeks of litigation. Can one imagine for all practical purposes the State of New South Wales or the State of Victoria saying: ‘None of us is going to get any petrol; we will have to wait for another four or six weeks to see what the judge says’. That is utterly ridiculous. Such a situation would bring the whole nation to a standstill.
The Government is directly responsible for and guilty of introducing this weak approach to the solving of industrial problems. The Government delights in being punitive to the trade union movement. The Government did not even put representatives of the trade union movement on the Swanson Committee. The movement has no redress under the Trade Practices Act. All it can get under this Act is a penalty of a quarter of a million dollars. Does the Government think it will get industrial peace if it imposes a penalty of that nature? How can the Government say that this is the way to solve the problem?
The real issue is that the Swanson Committee wanted the small trader to have his one day in court, not 45 days in court, not costs which run up to $100,000 or more, not for States to be driven into complete sterility on the basis that there is no business activity at all. If major industries, such as the oil and power industries, are locked up there will be complete stagnation and a complete collapse. Cities could not function, country towns could not function and people would be thrown out of work. Why is it that this Government cannot face up to its responsibilities? Why is it that the Prime Minister is dictating the pace of the passage of this legislation? Why does it have to be rushed through the Parliament. Why is it that the Government has introduced legislation that neither the employers nor the trade union movement want? What advantage is it to the community for the Government to think that it will get away with this sort of approach?
Smart businessmen never have any industrial troubles. That is where the profit lies. They need a forum where they can sit around the table and discuss these matters. It is ridiculous to think that all major industries could be tied up because someone decides to get an injunction. The weakness in that concept is that the Government is really saying: ‘We know that that is not the right way to go because once you ask for the injunction we will suggest that you go off to another court for conciliation’. Try as a commissioner might with conciliation he is limited to conciliation. Any decision on the merits has to go back to the Federal Court to be dealt with. In the recent case His Honour Mr Justice Bowen said that he was confined by the nature of the Act to what the law was, not to what the merits of the dispute were. He was confined by that approach, and that is the significant factor. The Government is passing laws which judges have to interpret strictly.
In this case it will be noticed that originally an exception was allowed to section 45 D on the basis that it would not encompass the unions when the dominant purpose of the action related to their remuneration or terms and conditions of employment. I submit that the dominant issue in the Laidely case was the terms and conditions of employment. The union was not able to sustain that argument, but that was the motivation behind it. The Government has allowed that exception to section 45D, but when it comes to proposed new section 45E, which provides that no arrangements can be made which might prevent goods being delivered to a person, the Government allows no exception at all. If one looks at it from that point of view, that matter will be of some interest. The one exception that is made is that if an agreement is made it will be in order. Then we get the curious situation of what is meant by the delivery of goods. The case could arise of an employer who, three months ago, was breaking down award conditions and for that reason did not get supplies. It would be legitimate to suggest that he should not get supplies if he was employing people below award standards. Would that not be a proper dominant purpose relating to award conditions? No exception is provided in this Bill for that situation. Those are the weaknesses in the legislation.
My time is short, but I want again to make the point that this legislation should never have been introduced in the first place. If one uses the Laidely case as an example, it should not be introduced now. As I have said, Laidely has settled his matter in accordance with what one would say are normal, arbitral processes by which His Honour Mr Justice Moore was able to get the parties together. The merits of the dispute were taken into account, and again the real issue was the hours of employment- 35 hours under the Federal award and 40 hours under the State award. The dispute had nothing to do with the price of petrol or the price of bread, which were the issues that concerned the Swanson Committee. We ought to have an honest understanding of the situation. We invite the Ministers to stand up and tell us what section 45 D and proposed section 45E mean. We have had one paragraph of explanations as to what they think they mean. Those sections will do nothing for industrial peace and they will do nothing to help the small businessman.
If one looks at the cases related to injunction applications- I do not have time to go through them- in many cases they have gone against the small businessman. In Barney’s Blue Concrete case, the owner-drivers of concrete trucks were affected on the basis that an application had been made. An endeavour was made by a small truck owner to say: ‘Too many trucks are carrying concrete. Can’t I guarantee some viability for my business?’ A suggestion was made that that should be done in respect of building sites in Melbourne, and immediately an application was made by the company under section 45D. Who had to suffer the penalty? It was borne by the little businessman, the one-truck owner. That is the position. It is not only the trade union that is affected, it is also the small businessman.
We make the point that the Government has the corporation power, through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, to do a complete and adequate job on these matters. That is, it gives the Commission power to deal with these matters. As I have said, we offered the solution as far back as 18 March. Again, the Government has a commission that can get involved if the
Minister so directs. The Minister can give directions to the Commission in connection with its performance and functions under the Act. He can get into the act in terms of coming in to court on the basis of an injunction, and he can then object to the matter going to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. How about that for justice? Under section 29 of the Trade Practices Act, the Minister is all powerful as far as the Commission is concerned. The idea of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to deal with the merits of a dispute in accordance with the facts. The Federal Court can only apply the law strictly, because of the way the law is drafted. I make the point that we have to get rid of the complexities and problems involved in dealing with industrial matters in accordance with the trade practices legislation. There is plenty of understanding of how to solve industrial disputes, but it is all on the basis of negotiation and a discussion of remuneration or working conditions.
There is some doubt about the constitutional power of what the Government is doing. Whilst the Government has a corporation power, it applies to the activities of the corporations, their internal organisation, the regulation of these matters, and no further. It does not apply to circumstances relating to what might be done to a corporation. The Government will face a legal challenge as to whether it has, in fact, acted in accordance with the Constitution. We do not want to see excessive, legal argument on this basis. What we have here is legislation which has been prepared at the instigation of the Prime Minister. Nothing has been done for human rights, company law, off-shore legislation, or the rights of Aborigines. The legislation has been raced into this House in order to punish the unions- an extraordinary fixation of the leader of this nation. He brings the country to a standstill every time he can on the basis of punishing the unions. The real challenge of the next election will be this: Should the country have a leader with this sort of psychological make-up? He is a man who makes addresses to the nation only on the basis of how treasonable the union leaders are. What does that do for industrial peace? The union leaders work very hard for their living. This legislation is riddled with contradictions, sloppy drafting, and inconsistencies. It has nothing to do with industrial peace and everything to do with the mind of an unusual Prime Minister.
-The Opposition gave the game away on these Bills when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) first opened his mouth and said: ‘The
Opposition will repeal this legislation when . . .’ Rather, he should have said: ‘If ever we should get back to power’. That statement really put it on the line. It showed where the Labor Opposition stands when it comes to the rights of the individual, the rights of the small businessman, when it comes to the central issue of whether the trade unions of this country should be subject to the law when they act to undermine and destroy a business in which their members are not employees. We heard time after time in that tirade that the Government should be withdrawing the right of a company to obtain an injunction to restrain a trade union, but we did not hear one word about injunctions against companies. The law has to be different in its application to trade unions from its application to companies.
Let me state as clearly as I can, for the benefit of the House, and the Australian people listening to this debate, what these Bills attempt to do. They attempt to strengthen the law against boycotts, which- are an unacceptable trade practice. This Government is commited to free and fair competition in Australia, and to every person’s freedom to trade. The statute which, above all others, embodies the Government’s commitment to free and fair competition and the right to trade is the Trade Practices Act. That law has to be of universal application in this community, and that means that the activities of trade unions, whatever the nature of the tirade and protestations we heard from the Opposition, where they interfere with fair trade must inevitably come within the purview of that Act. From earliest times trade union as associations of individuals were held to be not, per se, in restraint of trade, and in that sense they were outside the purview of the Act. But not further than that. The formidable economic power and bargaining strength of a trade union can be exerted in ways which unreasonably interfere with the competitive conduct of trade and, indeed, with the freedom of individuals- persons or companies- to trade. That is what is important here. The Labor Party suggests that in some oppressive way this Government is getting at the trade unions in this legislation.
That is the sort of impression the Opposition is trying to convey. As I proceed I will show that this present law gives the best answer, gives the lie, to that. It is not an attempt to be oppressive. I said before that the great economic power of the trade unions can be exerted in ways which quite unreasonably interfere with an individual’s freedom of trade. That brings to mind the case- to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made reference- of Leon Laidely Pty Ltd, a small business in the wholesale petrol selling area. That began as a clear case of members of a powerful union- the New South Wales registered Transport Workers Union- banning the supply of petrol to Leon Laidely from the firm’s main supplier, Amoco Australia Ltd and thus threatening to undermine the business. Honourable members will note that these were not employees of Leon Laidely taking action, in pursuit of their claims, by an ordinary sort of strike. This was an exercise of brute muscle by another party. That is the point. It was a secondary boycott as it is technically called. Mr Laidely, therefore, initiated a section 45D action against the Transport Workers Union. Section 45D contains the law which prohibits such boycotts. That was followed on 7 March by a widespread strike of tanker drivers and refuellers. That strike was settled by a secret agreement under which Amoco and other oil companies in effect joined with the Transport Workers Union, advising Leon Laidely that they would not continue to supply him with petrol. Thus the basis of Laidely ‘s section 45D action was, to some extent, put in jeopardy- too bad for Leon Laidely. His petrol for resale was cut off, not just by the action of the TWU tanker drivers but by the collusive action of the oil company and the drivers.
If ever there was one, this was a clear case of the power of a big union- the TWU- and the power of large and powerful companies- Amoco Australia Ltd and others- exercised to dispose of an individual. I use the phrase ‘to dispose’ deliberately- that is what it was. So a small corporation was disposed of, as the big company and big union wished. That is not good enough. It is not acceptable to this Government, and I suggest that it would not be acceptable to the sense of fair play of the overwhelming majority of the Australian people. Not only big companies but also in this sphere big unions must be accountable under the law. The Labor Opposition’s industrial relations policy formulated in Adelaide in 1979 makes it quite clear that it has no intention- if it were ever to accede to Government- of applying to the trade unions the law which it expects the ordinary citizens and companies of Australia to abide by.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the Opposition will repeal this legislation. It is the view of the Opposition that the unions are above the law. It is not the view of this Government. By and large the trade union movement is an important, responsible and integral part of the Austraiian community. As such it is expected to act within the framework of the law of
Australia. There is no way- though such would be the clear view of the Australian Labor Partythat a union can proceed as an organisation and carry out its activities outside the law. Just as with companies, unions have to act within the law. I said a while ago that in the tirade delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition there was not one word of removing from the Act the ability to get an injunction to restrain companies boycotting another company. All the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wants taken out is power to get an injunction to restrain a union. All that concerns the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party is that the unions are put above the law. I repeat that that is not the view of this Government.
To come back to the situation of Leon Laidely Pty Ltd, we all know that the secret agreement was revoked. At a further hearing before the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission a satisfactory arrangement involving the supply of petrol to Laidely was reached. That was a happy outcome but I want to make two points. Firstly, if Mr Laidely had not had the leverage that recourse to action under section 45d of the Act provided, who knows whether he would be in business today? That is the key point. Whenever section 45D is mentioned the Opposition reacts as if it were a red rag to a bull. Further, the Opposition has said that of the 40-odd actions that have been brought under section 45d few have been carried through beyond the injunction stage. That is true but to say it in that way is to miss the whole point. The point is that the law is there. That is the important thing. What is important is that this provision of the law gives the individual, the small businessman, the threatened company, the lever needed to fight for their rights against the power of the union or, as transpired in the case that I have mentioned, the big union and the big multinational company- Amoco Australia Ltd.
– It protects the small man.
-It protects the small man in particular. It gives the small man a lever to protect his rights when threatened in this way. This happened, in the case I have mentioned, with a big company and a big union acting in concert. However, if it had not been for section 45d Leon Laidely, and other cases before his, would have been walked over. That is what it amounts to.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the accommodation, to which I have just referred, was worked out in the end by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is true. That is very relevant to the way in which this Government has drawn this present legislation. I will come back to that in a moment. The point I wish to make is that it is most unlikely that Leon Laidely would have had the Commission’s effective final intervention had it not been for his invoking of section 45D. The legislation which we are presently considering strengthens the law in this regard so that action of the kind taken by Leon Laidely Pty Ltd will not in the future be so readily circumvented- as it very nearly was. The situation was rescued only by the direct intervention of this Government. The secret agreement which had been reached to settle the wider dispute, at Leon Laidely ‘s expense, was totally unacceptable.
This Bill to amend the Trade Practices (Boycotts) Bill strengthens the law by the provision in clause 5 of a proposed section 45e. Proposed section 45e prohibits, makes illegal, any agreement between a company and a union to refuse to supply a person or a company- the boycott target- normally supplied by that company or those companies. Proposed section 45e prohibits that joint action by company and union to prevent supply and so undermine the business of the boycotted company. Before, a company which was the target of a boycott by a union- such as in the case to which I have referred involving the TWU blocking supplies to the target from a supplier- could take action against the union but could then be frustrated because the supplying company, acting in concert with the union, could refuse to supply. Under this new law such concerted action by the supplying company and the union to boycott the target is made illegal and hence actionable by the boycotted company. That is the law that this Bill will enact. That is the law with which big business and big unions, if they would seek to act in concert to determine the fate of an individual, to restrict or to undermine the freedom of trade of another, would have to contend.
As I said previously, the Bill which amends the Trade Practices Act by inserting a new section 45e will act in conjunction with the second Bill which amends the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This is an integrated package. The purpose of the second related measure is, in a few words, to provide formally for the situation giving rise to action under section 45d or section 45e to be conciliated with a view to arriving at an accommodation and averting the need for protracted court action. It has been something of a flaw in the previous anti-boycott legislation that the matter was, by its nature, confined to the Federal Court under the Trade Practices Act, with no room to mauoeuvre once the action was initiated.
The new trade practices legislation, conjointly with the amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, will provide for a stay of proceedings in the Federal Court so that the matter can be heard by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or his nominee in an effort to conciliate and to resolve the issue.
Let me stress that this represents a very significant effort on the part of this Government to abate the risk of major confrontation in these matters. All we heard in the tirade from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was how this Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in particular were trying to bring about confrontation. In fact, this legislation was drawn up precisely to abate the risk of major confrontation in these matters. The Labor Opposition is always accusing the Government of seeking to provoke and to confront. That really is a joke, because the real problem lies with the militant union leaders confronting not only the Government but also the whole Australian public. The Government is not confronting or bashing the unions- the militants amongst the unions, including these very highly paid tanker drivers, they are among the most highly paid workers, are bashing their fellow workers, governments and all of us. As I said, the whole purpose of the amendment to the Trade Practices Act conjointly with the amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act gives the lie to that charge. The Opposition would say anything, of course, to divert attention from its real view, which is that the trade unions are above the law of the land. So as I have said, these Bills, when taken together, provide for the circumstances at issue to be conciliated and, it is to be hoped, for an accommodation to be reached and protracted court proceedings averted.
Let me stress that if a proposed accommodation is not acceptable to the boycotted target, that will be the end of the conciliation. Nothing in this legislation subtracts from the right of the boycotted person or company. If any proposed accommodation is unacceptable to the target company of the boycott then that company’s right to proceed under section 45d or the new section 45e will be in no way impaired.
– That is what they would do, of course.
– Yes, of course, that is what they aim to do. They aim to remove or circumscribe that right of the individual. This is important legislation. That is why it is urgent. That is why the Bills have to be passed now by this Parliament. It is basic to our liberal philosophy that the rights of the individual must be protected. It is basic to our philosophy that we believe in competition, in the free enterprise market system and in everyone ‘s right to trade freely. It is basic that we believe in freedom, in a free society. A free society, or political freedom, and a free enterprise market system, or economic freedom, go hand in hand. But those freedoms must operate within the rule of the law. As I said earlier, the Trade Practices Act in particular gives legislative expression to the Government’s strong commitment to effective competition, which is fundamental to the proper working of the free enterprise system. No individual, company or trade union in today’s circumstances can operate outside that law, or can seek advantage in the market place in a way which unreasonably impairs the freedom of others to trade, particularly the freedom of the small and medium business which plays so crucial a role in our society, which provides so much of the dynamic and the jobs for hundreds of thousands of Australians.
That is why this legislation is so important. This Government is determined to protect the rights and the freedom of the individual and of the individual company to trade whether that freedom is inhibited by other companies or by trade unions. I am sure that all fair minded Australians will support this legislation and condemn the hypocrisy and obfuscation of the Labor Opposition. I commend these measures to the House.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is not new for the Government to treat the Parliament with the contempt with which it is treating it this afternoon. For one hour we will debate one of the most important issues to come before the Parliament this session. Irrespective of the remarks made by the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), I can give him an assurance that this matter will be repealed by a Labor Government. It will be repealed by a Labor government long before he becomes a Minister. His performance on the front bench when his party was in Opposition set back his career by three stages. He is now on the back bench and he will be there forever.
The purpose of the Trade Practices Act is to deal with competition between businesses to see that services and goods are provided to people at the most competitive prices and with the most competitive efficiency possible. None of the actions that have been taken under section 45D or the proposed actions that will be taken under section 45E have had or will have anything at all to do with providing people with better goods and services. In fact, if Mr Laidely had won his case without resort to section 45D- his action was finally conciliated by Sir John Moore- the people of those areas to which he was providing fuel would not have received their fuel any more quickly or any more cheaply. The action which he took under section 45D resulted from a break in an arrangement which he had made with the Transport Workers Union of Australia and with the oil companies. He took it upon his own shoulders to break that arrangement. Many people- in fact, hundreds of people- like Mr Laidely have similar arrangements which will now have to be put in writing to make sure that they cannot act under section 45D or under the new section 45E.
The Trade Practices (Boycotts) Amendment Bill is a very interesting Bill. It is a great shame that the Government treats the Parliament with contempt because there are some very interesting aspects to the complementary legislation to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which I think should be heralded as one of the greatest steps forward in the life of this Parliament. We see in the amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act not only the action that can be taken under the Trade Practices Act but also the first step by this Government to give the Commonwealth sole jurisdiction in industrial matters.
Whilst Neville Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, who has been seeking some sort of agreement on a single jurisdiction, will be pleased with the legislation, as will our colleagues in Tasmania, when Sir Charles Court, Mr Bjelke-Petersen and the other conservative Premiers of this country read the amendments that have been made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and come to understand the ramifications of the use of the corporate powers as they are derived from the Trade Practices Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it may be that in spite of the Minister’s statement that the States may require mirror legislation in order to facilitate the settling of disputes that may arise under State awards mirror legislation may not be required at all. It may be that the corporation powers in this Bill, as interpreted by this Government, give this Parliament complete power. It may be that any corporation, irrespective of whether it operates under a federal award or a State award, will find itself in future, when the
Parliament in Canberra decides to amend the Act, subject to the laws as they are passed here.
I can give honourable members a classic illustration. If the interpretation is correct that this Parliament can use the corporation powers for purposes relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it may be that we can legislate on all the industrial conditions for people who work in this country. And here we are debating this matter for one hour! I do not suggest that people would have interpreted the High Court decisions that have been given as leading to the alteration which we see proposed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act here this afternoon. But it really is, in the view of many people with whom I have spoken, one of the great steps forward by the Federal Parliament.
All of the other material about what the Government will do to the trade unions which the honourable member for Berowra, the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) had in their speeches is absolute rubbish. No one has been fined and no one has paid a fine under section 45D to date. No one will be fined under section 45E because the Australian Council of Trade Union congresses of 1977 and 1979 have told the Government what to do with its amendments to the Trade Practices Act. That is exactly what it is going to be told as soon as any union is fined. If the Government wants to bring the country to a standstill all it has to do is to take a dispute to its ultimate conclusion and impose a fine on the union involved. Then it can see what happens to the country.
The only sense about the move that has been made by the Government today is its recognition that in the Laidely dispute it was not the Trade Practices Commission, with no experience in industrial relations at all, that settled the dispute; it was Sir John Moore. Even if it is only to the extent of giving him the conciliatory powers, the Bills we are debating today at least recognise that the people with the expertise in settling disputes should be given some say in those negotiations. So the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to be given such powers. But does it want these powers? What is the sort of interlocking relationship that will occur now between the Trade Practices Commission and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? I wonder whether the respective bodies really want that relationship. The Trade Practices Commission has been very reluctant to operate under section 45D. On two occasions only, I believe, has it been the initiator of injunctions. In every other case it has tried to keep out of what it has considered to be industrial disputes. The Labor Party says that if the Government wants to settle industrial disputes it should do it with industrial laws. I seek leave to have incorporated in
Hansard a schedule of actions involving section 45D.
The schedule read as follows-
– Also I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard, for the information of honourable members who do not think the debate is very important, the transcript of proceedings at the final resolution of the dispute between Mr Laidely and the oil industry.
The document read as follows-
Copyright in the Commonwealth Government
BEFORE THE AUSTRALIAN CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION COMMISSION
No. 3021 of 1980 re OIL INDUSTRY ( Matter raised by commission on its own motion) (Continued from transcript-in-confidence, 11.4.80)
TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS AT SYDNEY ON FRIDAY, 11 APRIL 1980, AT 12.40 P.M.
HIS HONOUR: An agreement has been reached between the parties directly concerned which resolves a number of issues including the position of Mr Laidely. The agreement deals with the question of the conditions of employment of employees of members of the APADA, which has always been at the heart of this dispute. The agreement itself will be incorporated in the transcript together with a statement which has been made by the Transport Workers Union.
Notwithstanding any of the foregoing, the TWU does not presume to speak for oil companies. However, TWU employees of oil companies reserve the right to seek enforcement of any or all agreements entered into with oil companies and or agents and to resolve future industrial disputes through normal channels and by way of established custom and practice.
Nothing in this clause shall be misconstrued to imply that previous agreements made by oil companies are void, nor shall methods of negotiations long established by way of custom and practice be necessarily discontinued.
STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION
We have read the agreement as presented and feel that there are some matters which may need clarifying so that the acceptance in principle by this union is not misunderstood.
As we understand it this agreement has been reached in respect to goodwill and with a proper intent for people working together in the same industry to have some mechanism whereby they can talk and solve problems in a work or industrial environment.
The 8 point agreement refers in principle to all known bans existing at this time with respect to Leon Laidely and or any of his companies operating within the oil industry. It is understood that Amoco Oil Company will reconsider its decision on supply of petroleum products to Leon Laidely.
It is expected that oil company employees will fill the Canley Vale service station. Initially this service will be carried out by Total Oil Company employees.
In respect to the status quo- February 13, 1980- in our view it is simply referred to as a date when it is understood no ban or limitation existed of any kind insofar as any of the interested parties are concerned. Indeed the question of delivery (as referred to in pan 4 of the statement of agreement) is no doubt meant to apply to all work normally performed as at 13 February 1980 or if you like the status quo.
In reserving the right to seek the enforcement of all agreements determined between oil companies and the TWU we would acknowledge that a similar right exists insofar as APADA members are concerned should they have agreements or understandings, et cetera, with oil companies.
Of course, it is not the TWU’s intention to depart from the normal channels of resolving industrial disputes which have been established by custom and practice. It is hoped APADA will avail themselves of these new avenues now open to them. Indeed, your Honour, that is why we are here today.
We would also believe it is not the prerogative of the oil companies to change agreements reached between APADA and the TWU. Nonetheless, the TWU considers that all interested parties in a matter of dispute should be free to declare a bona fide interest and participate in discussion. Such participation to our mind is in accord with long established custom and practice.
Finally, your Honour, in clarifying our position relating to item 7, there is a need to appreciate the formality and procedure to be adopted by organisations of any description seeking federal registration. Nonetheless, subject to our right to examine the eligibility and description of industry rule of APADA, the Transport Workers Union of Australia does not object in principle to its application for registration pursuant to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act provided that APADA agree to support any application by the union to the commission for award/awards applicable to APADA ‘s members that contain rates and conditions not less favourable than those contained in the Transport Workers (Oil Companies) Award as varied from time to time.
HIS HONOUR: I would like publicly to congratulate all who have striven so hard to reach this agreement which has resolved a very knotty problem which went beyond the question of one individual agent.
MR BURCHETT: Your Honour, on behalf of the Minister we are pleased at the cessation of the dispute and that those around whom it revolved and who were deprived of supplies have been able to have them restored and that the persons directly affected have had the opportunity to present their views and have them taken into account. If your Honour pleases.
HIS HONOUR: Thank you. I will adjourn sine die.
AT 12.43 P.M. THE MATTER WAS ADJOURNED INDEFINITELY
-I thank the House. Those documents are proof that the actions taken under section 45D have harmed industrial relations in this country. The resolution of the Laidely dispute will show that resolution can be achieved only under the umbrella of industrial relations. All the parties involved in the final resolution of that dispute, Laidely, the oil companies, the Government and the Transport Workers Union, recognise that future agreements will be reached in a similar fashion as the agreement between Mr Laidely and the Transport Workers Union and the oil companies was reached. What the Government says in the Bills is that if everybody signs a letter to say everything is all right it does not matter how big the pen is, it will agree to it. It is only where there is not written agreement that the Government will find a purpose for one of the parties to take action under section 45E.
These measures taken by the Government are being introduced only so that it can spark off an industrial dispute at any time it wants to. It still sees great political advantage in bringing the country to a standstill. Eight thousand man days were lost during the Laidely dispute. What has occurred as a result of the dispute? Everybody has been satisfied with the resolution under the Conciliation and Arbitration -
-Order! The time allocated for the second readings of the Bills has expired.
-The question is that the Bills be -
– As I said at the beginning -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The Government is treating the Parliament with contempt.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is treating the Parliament with disrespect.
– I am not.
-If the honourable gentleman is asked to be seated he should do so. The time has elapsed for the debate on the second reading of the Bills.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to give statutory recognition to the establishment, care and maintenance of Australian war graves and to create the position of Director of War Graves. No legislation dealing directly with the administration of war graves, apart from inclusion in appropriation Bills of proposed expenditure in this area of operation, has ever been passed by the Parliament. Before proceeding to the scope of the Bill, I feel that I should provide honourable members with some background information on the ways in which Australia has commemorated those men and women who died in action, or afterwards.
The practice of commemorating service dead began when the Imperial War Graves Commission, later renamed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was created by royal charter in 1917 to act on behalf of governments of British Empire countries to mark and care for permanently the graves of men and women of the forces who died in the 1 9 1 4- 1 8 war. Later the royal charter was extended to include the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war. Whilst the Commission’s responsibility is confined to war deaths during either one or other of the world wars, it has been the policy of successive Australian governments since the 1914-18 war to extend equal commemoration to all Australians who, irrespective of cause of death, have been awarded the Victoria Cross; whose death has been accepted by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as being due to service in any campaign involving Australian forces; or whose deaths have not been accepted as being due to service, but who were receiving at the time of death a disability pension at the special rate for total and permanent incapacity.
The Office of Australian War Graves, a division of the Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs, acts on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in caring for graves of those men and women who died in the two world wars, and also on behalf of the Australian Government in caring for the graves of other eligible Australian service dead. The extent of the operations of the Office may be gauged by the fact that it cares for all Commonwealth war graves, cemeteries and memorials of the two world wars in Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon IslandsGuadalcanaland Norfolk Island. It also cares for war graves and memorials in Australia and Papua New Guinea of German, Dutch and French nationals on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Under a special arrangement entered into in 1974 with the Commission, the Office of Australian War Graves, as agent of the Commission, cares for and maintains the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Ambon, Indonesia. The Japanese War Cemetery at Cowra, New South Wales is also maintained by the Office of Australian War Graves by arrangement with the Government of Japan.
The Office of Australian War Graves provides without cost to the relatives of deceased veterans a wide variety of assistance which includes: Kerbing, in filling, erecting of headstones and placing plaques on graves of veterans; plaques marking graves in lawn cemeteries; and placing ashes of deceased veterans in niches in memorial walls and sealing of those niches with plaques. The Office does not provide these services in circumstances where a private monumental work has been erected over a grave or where private arrangements have already been made for the ashes of a deceased veteran. However, it is the policy of the Government that all ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen who died as a result of their service for Australia are equally commemorated. To that end Gardens of Remembrance were established in each State capital city and Launceston and suitably inscribed plaques bearing details of the deceased are erected. In this way, the deceased are honoured among those with whom they served in a place of dignity and peace.
The scope of the Bill is limited to the purpose to which I have referred, namely creation of a statutory office of Director of War Graves. The function of the Director will be, under the Secretary to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to administer the Department’s war graves activities. The Bill provides for the Director to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral and the terms and conditions of this appointment and the provisions for termination and resignation are spelled out in detail. The person appointed to the office will be responsible, under the Secretary to the Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs, for carrying out the activities of the Department in relation to war graves in Australia and overseas. It is further provided that an officer of the Australian Public Service if appointed as Director will retain all of his existing and accruing rights through the application of the provisions of the Officers ‘ Rights Declaration Act. Provision is made in the Bill for an Acting Director to be appointed and for staff to assist the Director to be drawn from persons employed in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
To allow honourable members to be informed on my Department’s war graves activities a provision has been included in the Bill that will require the Secretary to the Department to prepare and furnish an annual report to the Minister for presentation to Parliament. Provision has been made in the Bill for the Governor-General to make regulations relating solely to the office of Director. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Validation Bill provides for the validation until 31 December this year, of Customs duties collected, or to be collected, pursuant to Customs Tariffproposals No. 8 (1980) which I introduced into the House on 1 May this year. Proposals No. 8, which are not covered by the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill I introduced that same day, give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on gearboxes, gears and shaft couplings. Honourable members will recall that I gave a comprehensive account of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission and the Government’s decision on those recommendations at the time of introduction.
Under section 226 of the Customs Act the collection of duties in pursuance of Customs Tariff proposals is protected against legal challenge for six months or the close of the session of Parliament, whichever occurs first. The introduction and passage of a validation Bill is therefore a necessary machinery measure which takes over from section 226 pending introduction of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, which I expect will be during the Budget sitting, to formally enact the changes contained in these proposals. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr MacKellar, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the amendment of the National Health Act 1953 by the insertion of provisions which impose substantial penalties upon persons who furnish false or misleading information in relation to certain matters. Provisions are also inserted under which the proprietors of approved non-government nursing homes may be required to submit audited accounts. I will also be introducing a Bill to amend the Nursing Homes Assistance Act 1 974 that will contain similar provisions relating to the furnishing of information by proprietors of nursing homes participating in the Government’s deficit financing arrangements.
As honourable members will be aware, the fees of non-government nursing homes approved for the payment of Commonwealth nursing home benefits have been controlled since 1 January 1973 as one of the conditions of approval of premises as nursing homes under the provisions of the National Health Act. Before a nursing home can increase its fees, the proprietor is required to make application to the Department of Health demonstrating that the operating costs of the nursing home have increased. Commonwealth and registered health insurance nursing home benefits are payable in respect of patients in nursing homes approved under the National Health Act at the same rates. Benefit levels are reviewed annually and are set at levels in each State which, with the minimum statutory patient contribution, wholly cover the fees being charged for 70 per cent of beds in nongovernment nursing homes- excluding deficit financed homes- at the time of the review.
The Government has, over many years, had a very good working relationship with proprietors of non-government nursing homes. However it believes that the relevant legislation in this area, as it is presently framed, could lead to abuses occurring. This stems from the fact that the National Health Act does not, at present, impose penalties on private nursing home proprietors or persons who submit false information in support of an application for approval to increase fees. Further, proprietors of private non-government nursing homes are not required, under the National Health Act, to submit audited accounts covering the operations of the nursing home. This is so even though this requirement has applied to nursing homes covered by the deficit financing arrangements since the inception of those arrangements in 1975. Because of this, nursing home fees can be artifically inflated by proprietors furnishing false information without fear of retribution. Were this to occur, patients, most of whom would be pensioners, would be required to pay more out of their own pockets for their accommodation than they should. In addition, because Commonwealth Government and registered health insurance fund nursing home benefits are related to fee levels, such a situation would also mean that the Government and registered funds would be paying out more in benefits than they should.
The Government believes that the obtaining of higher nursing home fees by means of false claims is no less a fraud on the Commonwealth than the obtaining of Commonwealth medical benefits through a false claim on a medical fund. As honourable members will be aware, the Government has acted firmly to curb the incidence of overutilisation of medical services and frauds related to the provision of medical services. The Government believes that it should minimise the likelihood of fraudulent activity in other areas of the health delivery system by making people who undertake fraudulent actions subject to substantial penalties.
I should point out to the House that in the case of nursing home fees, if a fraud were committed it would not only be perpetrated on the Commonwealth and private health funds; it would also be perpetrated on patients who are usually unable to protect themselves properly because they are people of limited means, in frail health, or extremely elderly.
As honourable members will also be aware, the Health Insurance Act prescribes certain penalties for false claims in respect of Commonwealth medical benefits. The bill now before the> House provides that penalties for the same level would apply in the case of nursing home fees. The Bill therefore provides, in clause 10, for the substitution of a new section 62 for the existing one. Under the new section, a penalty is imposed for the furnishing of false or misleading information in an application for a variation of the scale of fees to apply in respect of a nursing home. The section also imposes a penalty in respect of the supplying of false or misleading information in relation to other matters which are not currently specified in section 62. Such matters include the making of applications for alteration of conditions to which the approval of a home is subject, or for the variation of the nature of approval of a home. A substantially increased penalty is imposed for supplying false or misleading information in connection with a request made by the permanent head for information for the purpose of ascertaining whether the conditions of approval of a home are being complied with. The maximum penalty for contravention of these provisions is a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years. It is a defence, in a prosecution, if a person proves that he did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that the information in question was false or misleading. As I mentioned earlier, this new section is based on a similar provision of the Health Insurance Act- section 129- which imposes identical penalties for the supplying of false or misleading information in relation to an application for approval, or a claim for a payment, under that Act.
Clause 10 also inserts new section 63 in the Act. By virtue of that new section, prosecution of the offences created is to be on indictment, but provision is made for a court of summary jurisdiction to determine a charge summarily if both the defendant and the prosecutor agree, and the court is satisfied that it is proper to do so. In such cases the maximum penalty that may be imposed is a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months. New section 63, which is similar to section 129AC of the Health Insurance Act, further provides that aiding or abetting a person in the contravention of the new provisions or in an attempt to commit an offence against them, shall be an offence against section 62 and punishable in the same manner.
As I indicated to honourable members earlier, the Bill also provides for amendment of the Act to empower the permanent head to request a proprietor of an approved non-government nursing home to furnish audited accounts drawn from records kept in accordance with the Act. This amendment is contained in new section 43A, which is inserted into the Act by clause 5. In the event that a proprietor fails to comply with such a request within a period of three months, it is provided that the permanent head may suspend or revoke the approval of the home.
The opportunity has been taken to empower the permanent head to suspend the approval of nursing homes in circumstances in which he is presently only able to revoke an approval. The reason for this latter amendment is that if the permanent head is able only to revoke approvals, there is a reluctance to take this drastic step, in recognition of its probably adverse effects on the patients of the home. The amendments enabling suspension of approval will provide a more realistic option, whilst providing significant protection for patients. Clause 9 provides that, during a period of suspension of a home, Commonwealth nursing home benefits will not be payable. In addition, by virtue of new section 45B, which is inserted in the act by clause 8, the proprietor of a home will be required to continue to comply with the conditions of approval of the home, notwithstanding that the approval has been suspended. In particular, he will be required to deduct from the fee to be charged a patient the amount of Commonwealth benefit or nursing fund benefit that would have been payable but for the suspension. Registered organisations will not be required to pay nursing home fund benefits during a period of suspension. The effect will be that during the period of suspension of the approval of a nursing home, patients, whether insured or uninsured, will not be disadvantaged with regard to the payment of fees.
Where a nursing home approval is revoked or suspended in the manner set out above, the proprietor of the nursing home concerned will have a right of appeal to the Minister for Health by virtue of clause 7. That clause provides for new section 45 (2) (b), under which the proprietor of a nursing home may request the Minister for Health to review a decision of the permanent head to revoke the approval of a nursing home, suspend such an approval, or extend a period of suspension.
Industry representatives have indicated support for the introduction of penalty clauses and I would expect the proposed amendments to receive the general support of nursing home proprietors, health insurance organisations and nursing home patients. As I stated earlier, the present legislation in this area is such as to allow nursing home fees to be artificially inflated by proprietors furnishing false information without fear of legal sanction. This should not be taken to mean that there is a widespread incidence of such dishonesty. However, the Government believes that the taxpayer, patients and registered health funds should be protected against the likelihood of fraudulent actions. The provision for substantial penalties and the requirement for audited accounts as provided by this bill and the accompanying bill should minimise the incidence of any such frauds. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr MacKellar, and read a first time.
The Bill before the House contains provisions which impose penalties for the furnishing of certain false or misleading information in connection with requirements under the Nursing Homes Assistance Act 1974. These provisions will complement similar provisions contained in the National Health Amendment Bill 1980 relating to the supply of information under the National Health Act 1953.
As honourable members may be aware, the Nursing Homes Assistance Act provides for agreements to be entered into between the Commonwealth and proprietors of certain nursing homes. These are mainly nursing homes conducted by non-profit religious and /or charitable organisations. Under such an agreement the Commonwealth agrees to meet the approved deficit, as determined in accordance with the agreement, incurred in the operation of the home. The proprietor of a deficit financed nursing home is required to submit an annual budget for examination and approval. The Act does not currently provide a penalty for a proprietor who submits false or misleading information in connection with a budget. Nor does the Act contain penalties in respect of the furnishing of false information by a proprietor in an application for the approval of a home or in connection with other approvals that may be sought or other information that may be required to be submitted under the Act or in pursuance of an agreement.
In clause 3 the Bill provides for the insertion of new sections in the Act imposing penalties for the supply of false or misleading information and providing for the manner of prosecution for the offences. New section 30A provides that a person shall not furnish false or misleading information in relation to certain applications or other requirements under the Act or an agreement under the Act. The more important of these are an application for approval of premises as a nursing home, an application for the Act to apply in relation to the provision of services by the proprietor, a request by the proprietor for a variation of the conditions to which the approval of the nursing home is subject and the provision of information relating to the operating costs or revenue of a home. The maximum penalty for these offences is a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years.
The provisions of the Bill relating to prosecution for contravention of the new provisions are in line with those contained in the National Health Amendment Bill 1980 that I introduced into the House before the suspension of the sitting. Representatives of the voluntary non-profit nursing home sector have been consulted and they support the introduction of penalty clauses. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Blewett) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present a statement made in the Senate earlier today by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) relating to allegations of radiation exposure and health effects resulting from atomic weapons tests.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide $628m by way of non-repayable grants to the States and the Northern Territory for the construction and maintenance of roads in 1980-81. This amount represents an 11 per cent increase over the 1979-80 financial year. As honourable members will be aware, the Commonwealth has had a long-standing involvement in the provision of financial assistance to the States for roads. Most recently, this assistance has been provided under the States Grants (Roads) Act 1 977 under which grants to the States totalling $ 1,529m have been appropriated for the three year period 1977-78 to 1979-80. The Bill before the House will enable a continuation of Commonwealth assistance for roads programs.
The Bill will also provide, for the first time, for specific purpose roads assistance to be made available to the Northern Territory on the basis of the same terms and conditions as those to apply to the States. This is in line with the Government’s general policy that Commonwealth specific purpose payments to the Northern Territory should be progressively incorporated in the legislation covering assistance to the States.
The Bill provides for only one year’s appropriation of funds at this stage. However, I should make it clear to honourable members that this does not in any way foreshadow a departure from the triennial funding arrangements that have applied in the past. The Commonwealth has indicated to the States that funding levels for 1981-82 and 1982-83 will be discussed at the Premiers Conference in June. In the meantime, it is necessary to enact legislation this session to authorise the continuation of payments to the States after 30 June next. The Government is committed to amending this legislation as soon as possible to incorporate decisions on funding levels for 1981-82 and 1982-83.
Total funds to be appropriated to the States and the Northern Territory for roads in 1980-81 amount to $62 8m. This represents an increase of 11 per cent over the amounts provided in 1979- 80 and is directed towards at least maintaining the value of the grants at the 1979-80 level in real terms. This is a significant commitment given that, in the coming year, the Government will be again faced with imposing tight restraints on public expenditures in order to contain inflationary pressures. It is evidence of our determination to contribute to the development and maintenance of an effective road network. It is proposed that the total grant for 1980- 81 be allocated among the States and the Northern Territory on the following basis:
This distribution provides for each State and the Northern Territory to receive a uniform 1 1 per cent increase in its grant as compared with the 1979-80 amount.
The proposed allocation of funds among road categories in each State reflects the Commonwealth’s priorities as well as road needs. The bulk of the increases in funding will be directed to national highways and major inter-regional links. In addition, provision will be made to enable the Commonwealth to fund the upgrading of those roads required for the development of particular industries and resources. There will be an allocation of $277.529m for national highways and developmental roads during 1 980-8 1 financial year. This is an increase of $43. 140m over expenditure in this current financial year. There will therefore be an increase of 18.4 per cent for national highways and developmental roads over the amount provided in the 1979-80 financial year.
Under the current legislation the Government has attached a high priority to ensuring that the road funding needs of local government are adequately met. In particular, substantial increases in funding have been provided for local roads categories. The Bill maintains this priority. The legislative arrangements under which assistance is to be provided in 1980-81 will be essentially the same as those set out in the current roads legislation. However, there are some changes to which I should draw the attention of honourable members.
The number of road categories for which assistance is to be made available has been reduced from eight to four, namely: National roads; rural arterial roads; urban arterial roads; and local roads.
The reduction in categories has been achieved firstly by replacing the present three national road categories with a single category. This category will cover the currently declared national highways as well as developmental roads. The new classification of developmental roads will encompass roads that are of national importance from the standpoint of aiding the development of particular industries or particular energy resources or assisting interstate or international trade. Roads currently declared as national commerce roads will be considered for declaration as developmental roads.
As well as the revised arrangements in the national roads area, the rural local and urban local roads categories will be amalgamated. This decision is consistent with the views expressed by all States that the number of Commonwealth road categories should be reduced to a minimum. It will further simplify the administration of the legislation and will also mean that local roads in urban areas will now be eligible for Commonwealth funding for both construction and maintenance. However the Government will expect the State governments to maintain the existing ratio of expenditure on rural and urban local government roads.
The Minor Traffic Engineering and Road Safety Improvements or MITERS category is to be discontinued as a separate category. The MITERS program, under which allocations totalling some $74m have been provided by the Commonwealth since 1974, has successfully focused attention on the need to ensure that road safety is an integral part of road planning and construction. The reallocation of the available funds to the road construction categories will mean that the State governments will in future be responsible for specific road safety measures as part of their normal works. The current program requirements covering the approval of road programs involving Commonwealth funds and the arrangements covering the operation of joint Commonwealth-State planning committees will continue basically unchanged.
Provision has been made in the Bill for the possible introduction of a new approach to the allocation of local roads funds. I have previously referred to the emphasis that the Government has placed on ensuring that the road funding needs of local government are adequately met and that councils receive an equitable share of available funds. Notwithstanding this, there have been occasions on which the Commonwealth’s efforts in this area have been obscured largely as a result of administrative arrangements for handling Commonwealth grants at the State level. Accordingly, I have proposed to the States that we examine the possibility of developing a formula approach appropriate to individual States to cover the distribution of Commonwealth grants to local government authorities.
I would envisage that such an arrangement might simplify current program procedures and provide councils in those States in which we can develop such an approach with a greater certainty of future funding levels on which to plan the road programs in their local government areas. It is the Government’s intention that local government be fully consulted in relation to both the examination and implementation of any new approach. I would like to make it clear to the House that this need for full and detailed consultation to ensure that an equitable arrangement is developed may mean that this provision of the Bill will not be formally invoked in 1980-81. Rather, it is envisaged that the concept of a formula approach is something which may need to be developed over the course of the triennium.
The legislation will again require the States and Northern Territory to meet quotas of matching expenditure from their own resources. The quotas are, of course, only minimum funding levels which the States are free to exceed. It is proposed that the total quota for 1980-81 be increased by 1 1 per cent to $537.5m in line with the increase in the total grant. However, individual State quota levels will be increased by slightly varying percentages with a view to evening out the differences in funding effort which individual States are currently required to make. It is intended that the quota for each State should move towards an ‘equal effort’ basis determined according to a uniform expenditure requirement per registered motor vehicle.
Overall, the arrangements set down in the Bill as the basis for Commonwealth assistance to the States and the Northern Territory are designed to enable the Commonwealth to indicate its priorities and identify the uses to which its funds are applied. In general terms, I believe this approach to be entirely justifiable. The States have, however, expressed concern over time about the extent of Commonwealth involvement in the detailed administration of road programs. Against this background, I informed State and Territory Ministers at a recent meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council that the Commonwealth was prepared to review the arrangements under which roads assistance is provided. This review will take place over the next 12 months. Honourable members may be assured that in this context the Commonwealth Government will take account of the views of the States and Northern Territory and also of the Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations, which is also examining this matter.
I will be asking the State and Northern Territory Ministers for Transport to make maximum use of private contractors in the construction of national roads. I will be discussing this matter with them in the near future. I would envisage that any revision of the arrangements that might result from this review would be incorporated in the future amendment of the legislation to which I have already referred. The explanatory notes that I have circulated describe the main features of the Bill. I would therefore not propose to deal with individual sections in any detail. I commend the Bill to the House.
– This is an appalling piece of legislation. It means that motorists will be paying more tax but will get worse roads with less safe conditions. The legislation will increase unemployment. It is a capitulation to the States. In these circumstances, I move:
-Could the Minister for Transport outline, because it is not contained in his speech, what is to happen to the Minor Traffic Engineering and Road Safety ImprovementsMITERS program now that the Government has abandoned it, against the advice of all road safety authorities in Australia over the last 10 years. The Minister has not outlined these matters in his speech.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member is not free to pursue the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr John McLeay, and read a first time.
– I move:
The effect of this Bill will be to repeal those provisions of Part XVI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 which limit and circumscribe a candidate’s electoral expenditure and which lay down the procedures and penalties relating to the filing of returns by candidates, political organisations, trade unions, and other persons and bodies, except newspapers. All members will be aware that the existing provisions of Part XVI are unsatisfactory in a number of respects, and have proved to be unworkable. Historically, the outdated provisions contained in Part XVI derive from provisions which were enacted in the 19th century and designed to deal with bribery and corruption then existing in British elections. The reasons for many of the provisions that have survived in our Part XVI disappeared with the demise of the electoral system and social conditions of that century. Federal elections since 1924 have been conducted under a system of secret and compulsory voting.
The growth of the modern political party system has meant that the personal electoral expenditure incurred by the candidate is of lesser importance compared with the expenditure by the party machine. One of the consequences of this is that the emphasis of the existing provisions on returns by the candidate himself has become inappropriate. Another consequence is to present candidates with serious problems of compliance. The recent events in Tasmania, in which a general election was followed by a multiplicity of challenges to successful candidates based on the Tasmanian provisions corresponding to Part XVI, make it clear that the Part must be overhauled. In the case of Tasmania, questions were raised whether the challenges would completely paralyse the State Parliament. Clearly this possibility must be avoided in the national Parliament. No control of electoral expenditure at State elections has ever existed in New South Wales or Queensland, and the statutory provisions relating to them were repealed in South Australia and Western Australia in 1969 and 1979 respectively. The report by Mr Justice Kay preceding the repeal of the Western Australian provisions concluded:
The provisions for the limiting of electoral expenses serve no useful purpose, they are not supervised nor do most candidates observe Part VI of the Act. The provisions of any Act which are not observed or policed should not remain on the Statute Book.
Part VI of the State Act contained provisions similar to Part XVI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Turning to the particular provisions of Part XVI proposed for repeal, section 145 at present sets limits on a candidate ‘s allowable expenses in Senate elections at $1,000 and in House of Representatives elections at $500. These limits were fixed in 1946 and are clearly out of date. Section 146 places strict limits on the types of expenditure a candidate may incur or authorise. Over the years the methods of electioneering have changed and the Government feels that, subject to the provisions relating to bribery and corruption, a candidate should be free to campaign in whatever way he thinks fit and is otherwise lawful. The limits on kinds of permissible expenditure contained in section 146 are therefore to be repealed, and also the related provisions in sections 147-150.
The provisions in section 151 relating to returns of candidates’ expenses have perhaps been the most troublesome of all the provisions in Part XVI. They have put candidates in the position of a crisis of conscience, because of their ambiguities and obscurities. For example, the reference in that section to ‘all electoral expenses paid’ leaves uncertain the question whether it refers only to expenses paid by the candidate or extends to include expenses incurred by others in his interest or on his behalf. It is to be appreciated that a candidate may have no means of ascertaining what expenses may have been incurred by others, including the political party to which he belongs. There are other problems relating to the interpretation and operation of the section. For example, how does a candidate determine how much of his telephone expenditure is to be included in his return? The information may be not available and, even if it becomes available, that may happen after the time for lodging the return. Similarly, problems arise under section 152 in respect of returns of electoral expenses by political parties and trade unions. For example, the respective responsibilities of branches and divisions of a political party or a trade union are not at all clear. Insuperable problems of dissection could arise to vex those wishing in good faith to comply with the law.
Mr Deputy Speaker, persons should not be placed in a position in which they are uncertain as to what must be done in order to comply with the law. The Government believes that the public interest is served by public disclosure of electoral expenditure. The determination of precisely what expenditure should be disclosed, of the persons upon whom a responsibility to disclose should be cast, and of the appropriate machinery for the administration of those provisions, is a matter on which the Government would wish to have the advice of an independent inquiry prior to making any decision. Accordingly, the Government has decided to establish an inquiry into the matter. The proposed terms of reference are:
To inquire into and report on what provisions should be included in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1 9 1 8 to require public disclosure of-
In particular, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the report should make recommendations on the following matters:
For the purpose of the terms of reference, electoral expenditure includes any expenditure which is intended or calculated to affect the result of an election, being expenditure incurred between the issue of the writ for the election and the close of the poll, but does not include monetary donations to a political party or to a trade union.
It will be noted that the terms of reference exclude from electoral expenditure monetary donations to a political party. This Government’s views on this matter are well known. The recent report of the Electoral Act Advisory Committee appointed by the Tasmanian Government also took the view that the names of such donors should not be disclosed. The report said:
In our opinion it derogates from the liberty of the citizen to financially back his desire to support a candidate or a party without the public disclosure which could cause him suffering at the hands of those holding strong opposing views. After all his vote is secret and the fact that he is prepared to back his vote with financial support should not subject him to criticism, loss of employment or business or other serious and unwarranted consequences. In this respect a company or organisation can suffer in the same way as an individual.
It is unlikely that the inquiry will be able to be completed and its report considered before the next election. Having regard to the very real difficulties caused by the outmoded provisions contained in Part XVI and the possibility of a multiplicity of challenges at the forthcoming Federal election, the present Bill has been brought forward. Although, for the reasons I have already stated, the Bill repeals the reporting requirements of candidates, political parties, trade unions and others, the Government feels that no similar reason exists to repeal section 153. The retention of section 153, which requires returns of electoral matter published in newspapers and the continuation of the present practice of broadcasting and television stations disclosing electoral matter which is broadcast or televised, will, pending the results of the inquiry, serve to protect the public interest. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition warmly welcomes the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) and related measures, or at least that part of the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) that introduces the 2Vi per cent depreciation allowance on all accommodation, income-producing buildings commenced on or after 21 August 1979. This incentive to the tourist industry has been the objective of the industry for many years and, to someone who has been actively interested in tourism- since I first became a member of this Parliament in 1969-1 am delighted that finally a government has seen the virtue in introducing a depreciation allowance for new tourist accommodation buildings. In June 1 979 1 presented the Australian Labor Party’s Green Paper on tourism in Townsville and the major proposal was the 2% per cent depreciation allowance. In order that I do not have to go on repeating phrases such as ‘income producing tourist accommodation’ I make the point that this means primarily, but not exclusively, hotels and motels. So if I may I will refer to them as such.
There will be those people who ask why the tourist industry has been selected for special recognition and why other new buildings, such as office blocks and factories, have not been included. Australia is the only country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which does not provide a depreciation allowance for all income-producing buildings. We have, of course, some depreciation on rural buildings but generally we do not provide this incentive. However, the normal office block or factory has a much longer life expectancy than does a hotel or motel, not in the sense that its structure will not stand the normal wear and tear but because hotels and motels change quickly in fashion. A hotel built today will be the height of fashion for 10 years or maybe a little longer. It will then start to fade in public appeal as new hotels are built.
One only needs to look around Sydney and Melbourne to see hotels that were built in the 1950s and 1960s with absolutely the latest thing in accommodation and commanding top tariffs. Today some of those same hotels are rather jaded and tawdry by comparison with some of the latest additions. New hotels and motels are being constructed all around the world containing the very latest innovations and styling that leave way behind the hotels constructed in an earlier period. It would be fair to say that in the fashion sense the average top international hotel has a lifespan of 25 to 40 years unless it is old enough to become fashionable because of its age, such as the Hotel Windsor in Melbourne. The majority are ready to be pulled down and rebuilt or at least completely refurbished after a period of 25 to 40 years. Accommodation buildings, therefore, have a much more genuine need for a depreciation allowance than does a normal office block or factory which has a life expectancy at least double that of hotels and motels.
In recent years a number of factors have been retarding the growth of tourist accommodation. Firstly, Australia was not receiving any significant share of the world tourist boom. In fact, from 1974 to 1977 the flow of international visitors remained virtually stagnant at around half a million. Our figures had been artificially boosted by the American rest and recreation visits during the war in South East Asia. There was no access to Australia through cheaper air fares and Australians were taking advantage of the relative drop in the price of air travel to countries like Fiji, New Caledonia, Singapore and Bali. These were cheaper fares but they provided little in the way of return business from those countries because the majority of their population cannot afford to travel.
It is true also that the cost of building hotels in Australia was in excess of the cost in many other countries. This gap has narrowed in recent years but it is still significant. Figures which have been provided for me by the Australian Travel Industry Association show that the capital cost of construction of a hotel room in capital cities of Australia varies from a low of $68,18 1 to a high of $ 104,545. In the United States the low figure is about $47,000 and the high is $95,000. In New Zealand the figures are $63,000 and $86,000 respectively. All these figures led to a dramatic drop in quantity and quality of accommodation construction in Australia. It had been some years since a major new hotel had been constructed. International hoteliers simply were not prepared to invest amounts of $40m to $60m for a top quality international hotel when the return on the investment was virtually nil or, in some cases, extremely marginal.
Incidentally, none of this was helped by the Fraser Government’s economic policies which continued the recession long after it should have been over. Cheaper air fares changed at least one of the factors retarding growth. These air fares which were introduced early last year after a massive public campaign forced the Government to reluctantly change its restrictive attitude aimed at protecting Qantas Airways Ltd and led to a dramatic 28 per cent increase in international tourists. As yet we do not have the final figures. In 1978 the number of international visitor arrivals totalled 631,000. By 19 November 1979 the number had reached 674,000 with an estimated figure of 788,000 after December 1979.
It is projected that by 1981 Australia will receive over one million overseas tourists primarily from New Zealand, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. In my view the latter may well become Australia’s major market now that cheaper air fares are to be introduced to and from Japan. I am convinced that Australia has under-estimated the potential tourist market in Japan in terms of international visits. This increase, together with forward projections, made it clear that Australia would face a critical shortage of accommodation in the early 1980s. The hoteliers went back to their drawing boards. Things looked better as far as capacity was concerned but the costs and lack of incentives, similar to those available in many competing countries, prevented many hoteliers from proceeding. Everyone in the industry, and politicians interested in the future welfare of the industry, felt that there should be some concrete sign from the Government that it was taking the industry seriously.
The evidence placed before the Select Committee on Tourism by so-called Treasury experts was so neanderthal that it horrified everyone in the Australian tourist industry and a great many people abroad. The assertion by these officials that domestic tourism was of little value to the Australian economy because it made’ little difference to the economy if a steak were eaten in Melbourne or Cairns, left the tourist industry absolutely aghast at the level of primitive thinking amongst our economic gurus. It became obvious to the Select Committee on Tourism that the people advising successive Cabinets- both Labor and Liberal- were so far out of touch as to be unbelievable. The first thing that needed to be done was a proper economic study of the effects of tourism on the Australian economy.
It was a further recommendation of the Select Committee- I would point out that it was unanimous- that a depreciation allowance be introduced. In my view the economic study by the Bureau of Industry Economics was the most important thing done for the tourist industry in the past 100 years. I am sure that the evidence of the value of tourism to the Australian economy was the reason why the present Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) was able to finally convince Cabinet to introduce the depreciation allowance. At least he had some hard facts to take on the primitives from Treasury. He took the airy-fairyness out of the debate and came up with some hard facts. Most of the previous assertions about the value of the tourist industry to the Australian economy at best were guesstimates rather than hard facts. This was equally true of papers produced by the industry and Treasury economists. The latter had absolutely no hard data and devoted most of their energies to supercilious criticism of some rather rubbery estimates produced by the tourist industry associations.
Part of the problem was the difficulty in defining the tourist industry. Unlike products such as wheat, wool, coal and oil the very scattered nature of tourism makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where the tourist dollar is spent. The first real economic study of tourism produced the following facts. In 1973-74 tourism’s contribution to the gross domestic product was 2.6 per cent; 2. 1 per cent domestic and 0.5 per cent foreign. Employment in the tourist industry constituted 2.3 per cent of the work force. Tourism contributed as much to the Australian economy as the automobile industry and was only just behind mining.
Who would have believed that tourism was just behind mining in its contribution to Australia’s gross domestic product and the number of people that it employed? This fact ought to be hammered home to everyone in this country, particularly the decision makers in government. When any new mining venture is announced, the amount of money referred to is usually hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. Governments do not hesitate to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide the infrastructure costs for mining development, railways, roads, wharves, ports, coal loaders, airports and telecommunications, not to mention the health, education and welfare facilities that have to be provided in the new towns that go with the new mines. I am not questioning this expenditure on mining development by governments, but what I believe ought to occur is that governments, particularly Federal and State governments, should start to study the tourist industry and its enormous potential for employment, foreign exchange earnings and decentralisation and recognise that the same approach should be taken to develop the tourist industry as has been taken in the past to develop the mining industry and some of our rural industries.
I returned recently from a trip to Mexico where I was a guest of the Mexican Government’s Department of Tourist DevelopmentFonatur. What Mexico is doing with regard to tourist development is mind boggling and puts our paltry effort to shame. I visited two of the projects. One was at a place called Can-Cun on the east coast in the area known as the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean. Briefly, what the Mexicans have done is to select a remote but beautiful stretch of the coast and develop a small city which is totally devoted to tourism. Fonatur acts in a similar way to our National Capital Development Commission in that it has total control of the project. The whole area was superbly planned and landscaped before any of the tourist accommodation was built. Roads, water, sewerage, golf courses, marinas, shopping centres, convention centres, residential areas, schools and light industry were all planned and built to maximise the tourist potential of the area. Then the top hoteliers in the world were invited in. They responded magnificently because they could see that the Mexican Government was serious. The development had their total support. Every major international hotel group, including InterContinental, Hilton, Sheraton, Club Medierranean and the Mexican Government’s own hotel chain, El Presidente, is involved.
The result of all this is a brilliant tourist complex that has about $200m worth of government investment and about $450m worth of private investment. Just to give the House an idea of the return to Government, $75m was spent on the city’s infrastructure costs, excluding the airport, roads and telecommunications, and the Government has already recovered that $75m from the sale of land to hoteliers and other private investors and entrepreneurs. The city has created 9,000 new jobs; supports a population of 36,000 Mexicans; brings 400,000 tourists, half of whom come from overseas; earns $138m in foreign exchange; and provides a standard of living for workers at about 30 per cent above the level of the average Mexican worker. Can-Cun commenced in 1974 and so far only stage one has been completed. This provides for 4,000 hotel rooms. Stage two will bring the number of hotel rooms to 10,000. There are a number of other points that I can make about this development. Firstly, it is superbly planned and has the support of both government and private enterprise. Secondly, because it is a specially selected area it does not infringe upon other communities and their cultures. People often resent the intrusion of tourism into their community. I regret that that is true of many areas of Australia.
The other area that I visited was IxtapaZihuatanejo, on the west coast approximately 200 kilometres from Acapulco. Ixtapa is a similarly planned tourist town although it is about half the size of Can-Cun. It is much more the size and style of what I believe we could accommodate in Australia. It is located in a region which is similar to topography to that existing on Australia’s east coast, particularly in places such as Cairns. I make the point, incidentally, that the architecture in the region is absolutely brilliant. Some of the finest architects in the world are the young Mexicans. They are using the Mexican idiom, the Mayan architecture, and have incorporated that in the design of many of the new hotels. It is something that has to be seen to be believed. I do not suggest that Australia should copy exactly what the Mexicans are doing but I do suggest that whilst we applaud the introduction of this new measure because of the stimulus it will have on new hotel and motel accommodation, unless we as a nation- I include all levels of government- start to look seriously at what is being done in such countries as Mexico, we will really not be able to increase our already very small share of world tourism.
As I have moved around the country in recent months I have described what I have seen to various Ministers responsible for tourism on both sides of politics, including the Federal Minister. I have said that every Minister responsible for tourism, and every departmental head responsible for tourism ought to go to Mexico and see what is happening. Most of the quality development in hotels is taking place in the major capital cities of Australia, like Sydney and Melbourne. That development, of course, is needed. No one denies that, but we must also develop total tourist complexes if we are to compete with what is happening in other parts of the world. The present ad hoc development along Australia’s coastline, particularly the east coast, is not the sort of tourist resort development that will either attract international visitors or convince our own population to holiday at home rather than to go abroad to countries such as Mexico and also to places such as Singapore, Fiji, Bali and the Philippines. The majority of people do not travel to Australia to see just our cities, although Sydney and Canberra are amongst the finest cities in the world. What Australia has to offer is out of the cities in areas like the Great Barrier Reef, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Tasmania and along much of Australia’s coastline. As a nation we ought to be developing a number of small tourist complexes in different regions of Australia similar to what I described earlier.
The Labor Party has made it clear that we give total support to this Bill. We commend the Government and congratulate the Minister on his initiative. Naturally we have some reservations, as does the industry, but we do not wish these to be construed as criticisms. The industry is concerned that the depreciation allowance will not apply to hotel accommodation built prior to the last Budget. Its initial request was for the allowance to be backdated to 1960. There was the fear that new hotels would be advantaged over established hotels. The Labor Party does not agree with that view, at least at this stage. We support the commencement of the depreciation allowance from the date of the last Budget. However, we suggest that over the next few years this aspect be monitored to see whether there is any significant disadvantage to existing accommodation stock. If this does occur, appropriate action should be taken.
We are also concerned that this legislation is not exploited by the smarties and the tax avoiders. We have no doubt that these legal thieves are examining the fine print of the legislation to see how they can make a further raid on the taxpayer’s purse.
The legislation sets out that eligibility for the depreciation allowance is limited, to hotels, motels and guest houses, including cabins and other detached complexes where construction commenced after 2 1 August, which are used to provide short term travel accommodation; where a minimum of 10 guest rooms is provided; and where a guest room or suite is designed primarily to provide short term accommodation of a kind ordinarily made available for hire on a daily or weekly basis in a hotel, motel or guest house. Similar provisions apply to apartments, units or flats. However, the legislation is designed to ensure that this does not apply to normal residential accommodation or to shops, privately owned flats or apartments which are contained in the facility. The industry has been concerned that some new types of accommodation of growing popularity overseas may not be eligible under this legislation. I refer, for example, to suites or apartments which are set up for family holiday makers and which to all intents and purposes look like normal residential accommodation. Similarly, there is a trend overseas to cater for business executives who require meeting rooms, telexes, et cetera, for brief overnight stays in major cities.
What the industry wants to ensure is that there is flexibility so that any genuine changing patterns of travel accommodation are not excluded from the depreciation allowance. We do not want to see a situation arising where new innovative accommodation is not built because under the definition of tourist accommodation it is excluded from claiming the depreciation allowance.
I would like the assurance of the Minister that the Government will be ready to amend the legislation quickly if new patterns in travel accommodation emerge. Finally there is one criticism I have of the Minister and the public statements surrounding this legislation. A number of statements have been made claiming that the depreciation allowance has stimulated some $600m worth of new hotel and motel buildings. A paper circulated by the Minister’s Department makes such a claim. This is patently not true. The industry knows it to be not true. Some of the projects listed are doubtful or are not proceeding. Others were planned prior to commencement of the depreciation allowance and would have gone ahead whether the allowance had been introduced or not.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Initially I would like to commend the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) for the great lift that he has given to the tourist industry due to a lot of hard work and his appreciation of the problems that concern it. I would like also to pass the comment on remarks made by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) that one should not forget the work done by the previous Minister for Transport in relation to agreements with overseas airlines that has enabled an increase in the flow of tourists to Australia. Both of those points are extraordinarily important. What the honourable member for Robertson said is, of course, largely correct- the question depends on what priority governments are prepared to give tourism. If we lived in Mexico no doubt we would give a tremendously increased priority to tourism. The honourable member for Robertson has drawn the attention of the House to the way tourism operates in that country. One could compare the situation in New Zealand. If a country is entirely dependent on agriculture of course it would give tremendous concessions to agriculture to gain the maximum amount of overseas trade credits that it possibly could.
In this country tourism is now expanding in a remarkable way. There are very few country towns in the nation that are not experiencing a big lift in tourism. Statistics show that during the mid-summer months the numbers of tourists going across the Nullarbor Plains were down about 40 per cent this year on figures for the previous year due to fuel costs. Likewise, on the Mildura-Renmark run- a matter of some concern to the electorate of Wakefield- there is now a problem of too many petrol retailers being on this tourist road. That section of the industry is over-supplied, which is a matter of concern to the Government undoubtedly in other areas.
I object to some remarks made by the honourable member for Robertson which were rather an unfair criticism of the people who cannot answer back or protect themselves. He tackled Treasury officials. It is not too many years ago that this country experienced a government that was highly suspicious of Treasury officials. What happened? As I understand it, the Treasury view was not put firmly enough to the Whitlam Government. The Whitlam Government proceeded to bring in various Acts of Parliament and made other administrative decisions that crippled the country. For heavens sake, no government is a worthy government of Australia today unless it is at least prepared to listen to the advice of the Treasury. Governments do not have to obey or take into account every aspect of Treasury advice. But a government must listen to what the Treasury says because it is the check on the use of taxpayers’ funds. It is the check on exorbitant government expenditure. I think it is wrong for the honourable member for Robertson or anybody else to attack unfairly Treasury officers in the way that he did a little while ago.
– I was too kind to them.
– The honourable member for Robertson said that he was too kind to them. I think that demonstrates the problem that the Australian Labor Party will have in the years to come if it wishes the Australian taxpayer and the Australian people to support its policies. It has proved that it is not prepared to listen and that it is prepared to go its own way and damn the expenses. It very nearly crippled this county. It has taken a good many years to get this nation back into a competitive position with its major trading partners. Let us make no mistake about it; as every day goes by Australia becomes more and more competitive with its trading partners. Whether we measure it in terms of our interest rates or our consumer price index increaseswhich were roughly half those of most of our trading partners- or the increasing productivity in our export industries as they affect our future today, this is the case. Let us make no mistake about it. The Fraser Government has something it can really be proud of in the fact that it has increased Australia’s competitive position with all its trading partners over a number of years. This, I trust, will be one of the points on which this Government will be judged later on in the year when it goes to the people.
I want to talk primarily about the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) because I regard this Bill as being one of the most revolutionary and all-embracing benefits to the export industry of Australia in particular that has ever been brought down in this House. It reverses the calamitous decision made by the Whitlam Government to remove benefits some years ago. It probably would pay the House to stop to think of the millions of dollars of extra expenditure that this country has incurred in drought relief measures. If those benefits had continued over the intervening five years, it may well be that the taxpayers of this country would not have had to find the amount of funding for relief measures for drought stricken States that they have to today.
The rural community has never been awfully keen on words such as: ‘You have never had it so good’. I remember the former member for Riverina, who was a Minister in the Whitlam Government, years ago making a very rapid speech because he obviously had a Press release coming out on it for his electorate. He was speaking very rapidly. My friends in the Country Party were nearly going berserk because what he was saying was that due entirely to the attributes of the Whitlam Government the rural community was doing very well. I started to listen when I realised that my colleagues in the Country Party were getting anxious about what he was saying. Finally their din caused the Minister to raise his head momentarily. I remember his reply now as though it were yesterday. He said: ‘Statistics speak for themselves’. He then put his head down again to read his Press release as hard as he could go. There is a limit.
I would not claim credit for the high prices affecting the rural area recently. Perhaps there are areas in the dairying industry in which this Government has had a major role to play in rationalising and altering the mix of the end products so that the dairy farmer today is well off. I will not claim credit here for the rains that have occurred in South Australia any more than I will accept blame for the rainfall that has not occurred in the electorate of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O ‘Keefe). There are some things that rural people will not forget. They will not forget the elimination of some form of accelerated depreciation allowance for water conservation measures- out of touch with the real cash flow of the majority of farmers in Australia today- without some incentive.
They will remember this Bill, I think, for a long period. Its purpose is to allow full deductibility in the year of incurrence of capital expenditure- certainly not maintenance provisions- by primary producers on plant or structural improvements in order to conserve or convey water for use in a primary production business. It is not confined to purely rural incomes. The deductibility is confined to the limits of the boundaries of the farms involved. It is confined to capital expenditure and not to maintenance or recurrent expenditure. For instance, trying to repair dams or to clean them out and cleaning out drains or any of those sorts of maintenance projects will not qualify.
The Bill covers an enormous field. It covers the sinking of dams as insurance for the future independence of the farmer against government intrusion or government help. It does apply to the sinking of bores, to wells, to pumping plant, to underground mains, to above ground mains and to the type of motor used in the plant in order to produce water or pump it to outlying areas that have been suffering from the ravages of drought. In passing may I say how concerned I am with the position that still prevails in large areas of New South Wales and indeed, in the Darling Downs area of Queensland. Although large rainfalls have taken place and floods have occurred in some cases, there is still an enormous problem.
– In Paterson, too.
– Paterson is such a favoured area that I was unaware that that was still the position.
– It is so well represented.
– As it is so well represented, I am sure that the honourable member for Paterson can bring rain to the area very shortly.
– Scratch each other’s back.
– He is held in such esteem that he scratches the bottom of the clouds with his head.
– He can’t walk across water yet.
– I do not need to cross the border. Fortunately southern Australia has had good opening rains. The people of South Australia are very thankful for that. This matter introduces another problem which I notice some elements of the Press have picked up. It introduces a real problem for those unfortunate people in some areas of Western Australia who are now in their fourth year of drought. Those people would have used up their capital resources. There is no way, short of borrowing large sums of money, that they can properly take advantage of the benefits that flow from this Bill. I think that those of us who are concerned for rural people would feel very sorry for those who have been in a state of drought for that amount of time.
Of course, that does not detract from the value of the Bill. Under other relief provisions the Federal Government, in conjunction with the States, is making available all the measures possible for the relief of those people. I note the announcement made this week by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about increasing the amount of aid available under the provision of temporary loans to producers. I think we can ignore that because other provisions have been made for these people. We must concentrate on the fact that the provisions of this Bill really do make a tremendous difference to the future independence and viability of farmers.
If I were to paint a picture- it would probably concern the State of New South Wales more than my own State of South Australia, as there are more creeks and rivers in New South Wales than in South Australia- it would be along these lines: Farmers who have creek beds or rivers adjoining or running through their properties will be able under this Bill to dig a hole at the edge of the creek or the water bed- in some cases quite a substantial hole. The expenditure which they outlay on the digging of the hole will be a wipe off against taxable income in the year that the expense is incurred, as will the expenditure on the pipeline leading from that dam to a shearing shed or an outlying paddock where troughs and dams have proved insufficient to cope with stock numbers during a year as harsh as this one. That situation will apply in relation to the expenditure on the pump and the engine mounted on the dam and the attachment of power to that pump. Those items will receive the same benefit against taxable income within the year in which they were incurred. The provision of electricity lines at the site may be a matter of some degree of cost. Likewise, if the site is an old site and there is a diesel or petrol engine there, in terms of other actions already taken by this Government and in relation to its fuel policy the substitution of that diesel or petrol engine by an electric one will also attract the 40 per cent government allowance available as part of the energy policy to convert stationary plant to the use of electricity from oil and to retain fossil fuel as an available capacity for mobile plant in years to come. That is a very important part of the general provisions of this Bill.
Currently, the tax deductibility on most of the items I have mentioned has been 20 per cent per annum. For some of the items I have mentioned it has been less. The importance of that to rural producers today is that they are now immediately deductible against taxable income in the year in which that expenditure is incurred on capital items. It is purely for capital items.
– Clearly for the Pitt Street farmer.
– If I may refer in passing to the honourable member’s contention, one of the problems is that it is becoming a little hard to distinguish some of these people. On the one hand, there are hobby farmers. Many of them probably vote for the honourable member for Chifley, if there are hobby farmers in his urban electorate.
– He would get lost if he came to the bush.
– He would not get lost on a hobby farm. That is too much to expect, even of the honourable member for Chifley. I make the point, as I did earlier, that the income on which these deductions against taxable income in the year in which the cost is incurred applies to the income of people who produce rurally. I do not run away from that. If one starts to distinguish or discriminate between one sort of farmer and another, obviously a lot of the benefits of this type of Bill would disappear.
I noticed that in one section of the Press it was stated that the water concession will provide no aid to a small farmer. I want immediately to refute that in two ways. Firstly, there are probably no smaller farmers than those whom I represented in the seat of Angas. Traditionally, in the seat that I used to represent, there were no wheat farmers with broad and expansive farms. There were no big livestock farms in that electorate. It was largely a horticultural seat, composed of industries such as the apple, dried fruit, canned fruit and wine industries. It was a small farming area, particularly in the Barossa Valley and the Upper Murray areas. In the Renmark area the size of those properties would average no more than 15 acres. They were intensively farmed. The benefits to those people of this Bill are enormous, so I refute the suggestion that this Bill does not aid small farmers. Certainly in my electorate it does. It is extremely well appreciated at this point.
Secondly, and I now go off in an opposite direction, marginal farms, such as those of wheat farmers who are trying to farm on an area of 350 acres, cannot support the capital equipment that high labour costs have forced them into in recent years. If the provisions of this Bill do not happen to give the same benefits to those farmers it is probably a proper and responsible decision. Other measures are available in terms of farm aggregation to help those smaller farmers to incur loans to enable them to increase the size of their holding. That is the way in which agriculture has remained so productive over the years. Family farmers have done just that and have increased their holding to keep up with the changing cost structures brought about not by any fault of theirs but by a tremendously heavy increase in the cost of any extraneous labour that they may have to employ.
In looking at that form of unemployment, let us not blame this Government or the farmers. The fact is that the unemployment rate started to increase back in the days of the Labor Government when the cost increase of labour soared to an enormous degree. One could apply one’s mind immediately to the current union proposition for a 35-hour week. How on earth can anyone help an elderly farmer, a younger one or anyone else on an agricultural property and proceed to be paid for a 35-hour week? The rural community could not cope with the penalty and overtime rates. I want the members of the Australian Labor Party who support, as some do, the unions ‘ proposition for a 35-hour week to realise that it will cripple an enormous expanse of our export earning industries immediately. There is no way possible that those industries can digest that sort of increase. They are forcing those farmers to do what they have done with increased productivity in recent years- that is, to mechanise most of their procedures.
All honourable members here know of the huge productivity increases which occurred in the wheat industry and in many other industries following the use of enormous and expensive plant to try to retain the cost level of those very industries on which Australia still rides to a very major extent. We cannot finance unemployment benefit payments, age pensions, and a lot of our programs of a helpful nature to the rest of the community if one side of the Parliament is determined to cripple that part of the export earnings. The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) is of enormous consequence to rural areas and to those other than farmers who will gain a tremendous amount of increased employment from a whole series of dam and bore construction and from numerous other areas. At the risk of being accused of being one-eyed in some way, I say that I doubt whether I would have produced a Bill quite as generous as this. It is of enormous consequence to rural areas. It will lift employment and morale in rural areas considerably. I congratulate the Government on its introduction.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1980. However, it will be moving amendments, which I will outline later, to the second readings of the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980 and the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1980. 1 will deal first of all with the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2). It provides for a Vh per cent depreciation allowance for new income-producing buildings and extensions to and conversion of buildings to provide shortterm accommodation for travellers. As such, the Bill is a good proposal for the tourist and construction industries.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill; to the contrary. As was mentioned by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) the proposal set out in this Bill was contained in the Opposition’s Green Paper. It is very obvious that the Government lifted the proposal out of that Green Paper. As it has done so many times, year after year, it has copied the Opposition’s policy and brought it forward. However, being people who always turn the other cheek we still say that it is a very good proposition and one that needs support. The Bill also provides for deductions along the lines of the investment allowance for the conversion or replacement of oil-fired equipment so that alternative energy sources will be used. There is a 40 per cent concession allowance where a new unit is installed. Where a unit requires conversion or adaption the full cost deductibility applies in the first year. The allowance is not available for mobile equipment; for example, taxis, cars and so on. Undoubtedly, this will encourage a transfer to electricity or coal and as such is an energy conserving activity. We do not oppose this.
The Bill also imposes an $18,000 limit on the cost base for depreciation of motor vehicles, lt is said that this measure will close a tax loophole and bring the Government $ 15m in revenue. I find that very difficult indeed to understand. In fact, I question how that $ 15m is to be raised. Without a doubt it will promote the sale of LTD Fords and Holden Statesman cars. If an individual owns a vehicle the net gain to revenue is $1,400 but if a company owns the car the Government will lose approximately $1,260. Taking into account that from now on more cars will be purchased in the name of companies, that is why I fail to see how the Government’s anticipated revenue-saving will be achieved.
Furthermore, the Ford motor company had an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald immediately after the Budget in August last year advertising the Ford LTDs as being under $ 1 8,000 and comparing it with Jaguars and Mercedes. That was the morning after the Budget. One cannot help but ask how the company was able to book space so quickly considering that it was after 8 p.m. the previous evening when the Budget was announced. Did that company have prior knowledge of the Budget announcement? The evidence points very strongly to it and I think the Treasurer (Mr Howard) should look at just what is going on around him. Nevertheless, the Opposition does not oppose the proposal as it helps close a tax avoidance loophole which existed.
Another aspect of the Bill is the assessability of profits from the sale of leased vehicles. Here the Bill closes off an undoubted tax avoidance area. At the same time it maintains equity between the lessee of a car and an owner of the car as far as depreciation is concerned. Why has the Government not also closed off in the same way a large number of similar tax avoidance schemes such as expensive paintings purchased for the offices of executives and exotic cattle purchased by executives as Pitt Street farmers? These are schemes which are being widely advertised as earning large non-taxable capital gains. When is the Minister going to wake up and do something about those issues? If one picks up the Australian Financial Review one can see the advertisements in it. One can also see such advertisements in the National Times. When are those blatantly advertised taxation loopholes to be closed up by the Government? Would it perhaps be that by closing up those loopholes the Government would be hurting too many of its own friends. As I said, those are the major aspects involved in this Bill and as such the Opposition does not oppose them. But I do criticise the Government in respect of those matters I have raised.
I turn now to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1980. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), the shadow Treasurer is a very experienced economist and has great expertise in this field, unlike the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who of course is a gentleman farmer, and the Treasurer, who is a very likeable fellow indeed, but who as a suburban solicitor I do not think would have a great deal of economic expertise. I think that most people recognise that the honourable member for Gellibrand as an economist and, for some years as a research officer for Bob Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has a great deal of expertise which is of great use to the Parliament and will be of great use to this country when he becomes Treasurer. He outlined to the
House that he will be moving an amendment to the second reading of the Income Tax Assessment Amendment BUI (No. 3) which reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the House-
1 ) is of the opinion that the Bill is inadequate in that it:
fails to provide immediate relief to those farmers whose incomes have been severely reduced by drought;
is inequitable in that it provides greatest benefit to farmers with the highest incomes, and
is anomalous in that, in conjunction with other tax entitlements for farmers, it provides a subsidy of over 100 per cent for certain types of equipment, and
therefore calls on the Government to withdraw the Bill and re-draft it to overcome these deficiencies ‘.
I will explain the reasons why the Opposition through the honourable member for Gellibrand will be moving that amendment. It provides for tax incentives for farmers to develop additional water storage and reticulation systems. It gives full and immediate deductibility for capital expenditure on plant or structural improvements for conservation schemes such as tanks, dams, bores, pumps, pipes, et cetera. In this regard I refer in particular to the fact that expenditure which currently attracts a 20 per cent investment allowance or a 40 per cent allowance for energy conversion as mentioned earlier will continue to do so. This means that in some cases such expenditure will attract an immediate 100 per cent allowance which in turn means that in some cases farmers will get an immediate tax deduction of 120 per cent or 140 per cent of the cost of water conservation expenditure. That is an extraordinary situation.
I should also make the point that the Prime Minister called a special Press conference on the eve of his departure for Zimbabwe to announce these proposals. They seemed to have been put together in haste to pre-empt drought relief measures that the New South Wales Government was expected to announce a day or two later. They were subsequently announced and were welcomed by the farming community. They went a great deal of the way towards providing immediate and urgent assistance to those sections of the farming community that had been affected by drought. The Prime Minister’s proposals were designed to show that the Federal Government was concerned about the plight of farmers.
The Australian Financial Review reported on 15 April that the measures were put to Cabinet without a written submission. In other words, they were off the top of the Prime Minister’s head. Officials of the Department of Primary Industry were taken by surprise by the proposals and had not been involved in formulating them. No estimates of the cost of the proposals were available. When questioned on this, the Prime Minister said:
The report adds that he admitted that he did not know what the estimated cost would be. That is an extraordinary situation. Apparently, the decision was made by the Prime Minister alone. I understand that at last, after all this time, the Treasurer is to let us know, during the course of the debate, what the estimated cost of the proposals will be. Certainly at this point we still do not know. Is it any wonder that one tends to criticise and question these proposals?
Again, what is proposed will be of no benefit to those farmers who, because of the drought, are without income. It will be of benefit to them later, when they are once again incomeproducing. Those farmers who receive very low incomes because of the drought will receive very little benefit. Yet this was supposed to be a drought relief measure. It will be ineffective because it will be of no benefit to those without income and of little benefit to those with it. Of course, it will be of great benefit to wealthy farmers. One begins to wonder whether some of the Pitt Street farmers will be tiling their new wells so that they can use them as swimming pools at the appropriate time, as well as to conserve water. The Opposition agrees fully that assistance must be given to the genuine farmer. Today we heard the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) say that there was little difference between the practical farmer and the hobby farmer. The honourable member said that a short time ago in answer to an interjection that I made. One begins to wonder what is the attitude of Government supporters who are from rural electorates. I sincerely hope that the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O ‘Keefe) would not adopt the same attitude. I hope that he will stick by the genuine farmer and not the Pitt Street farmer, who half of the time, is in the game not because it is a hobby but because it offers an opportunity for tax avoidance. The present proposals of the Government open up another tax avoidance area for the Pitt Street farmer.
– The Treasurer had better consult his officials and those of the Department of Primary Industry to learn himself how this will operate. Without doubt, he will eventually have to examine this matter because it will be one of the ramps next used by the tax avoidance industry. I emphasise that the Prime Minister has used the emotional issue of the drought to benefit the wealthier Pitt Street farmers, the wealthy socalled hobby farmers as the honourable member for Wakefield described them earlier, to the detriment of those on the land who really need assistance. In other words, he has pursued his usual policy of benefiting those who are on high incomes to the detriment of those on low incomes. When the Prime Minister was asked what the cost would be, he did not know the answer. That shows to what extent the proposals were off the top of his head. I do not know where he was that day or who had talked him into it, or in what circumstances but it is a wonder that when the time came for the Cabinet finally to approve the proposals it did not vet them far more carefully. That is why the Opposition will move the amendment which I mentioned earlier.
I come now to the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2), which implements the so-called half tax indexation policy that was announced in the latest mini-Budget. I say ‘latest’ because we are becoming very used these days to mini-Budgets. I wish to make the point emphatically that once again the thimble and pea trick is being used. The Government announced that it would implement half tax indexation, but at the same time it has discounted the contribution to the consumer price index of items such as petrol and health costs. In fact, properly assessed, the proposal represents not half tax indexation but 40 per cent indexation, or closer to one-third indexation. Once again we are confronted with a confidence trick. Once again the Government has broken a promise. It gave an undertaking. The Prime Minister said: ‘We will keep the Government honest by giving full tax indexation each year’.
– Nothing was given this year.
– That is so; in the August 1979 Budget no provision was made for tax indexation. Later the Government announced that it would implement not half indexation but in reality what will amount to little more than onethird indexation when one takes into account the way in which the Government has discounted the level of the CPI.
I also draw attention to the regressive nature of the proposed tax scales, especially when one considers the proposed marginal rates. Basically, these days we have three tax scales only. The scales should have six to eight divisions.
– The Treasurer asks why. Does he not understand why that should be so? It would spread the burden of taxation more equitably among the various levels of income- from the lowest to the highest. The tax rate payable on an annual income of between $4,017 and $17,222 is 32c for each dollar over $4,037. For the middle income group- between $ 1 7,222 and $34,000-the tax payable is $4,219.20 plus a marginal rate of 46c for each additional dollar earned over $17,222. To have only three tax scales is iniquitous. The tax rate jumps from a marginal rate of 32c in the dollar straight up to 46c in the dollar. There should be far more divisions of income in the $4,037 to $17,222 range and, for that matter, up to the $20,000 to $2 1,000 range. This would spread the burden of taxation more evenly throughout the different income groups. That is why the honourable member for Gellibrand as the shadow Treasurer in this Parliament and a future Treasurer- as I said earlier, he is a man with economic expertise who is not simply a suburban solicitor and who has the necessary qualifications- will move the following amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House deplores the Government’s continued failure to implement its promise of full income tax indexation, a failure which will result in the great majority of taxpayers paying a higher proportion of their income in income tax in 1 980-8 1 than they paid in 1 979-80 ‘.
I support both the amendments that I have outlined.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Tonight I direct my remarks to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3). As a country member, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles), has already spoken in this debate there will probably be some repetition, because he has mentioned some of the matters which I will shortly raise. As a country man I must view with great concern the remarks made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), who immediately preceded me in the debate. During his contribution he expressed a lack of concern for the conservation of water in our great primary producing areas in Australia.
-I take a point of order. I am being misrepresented. I did not express a lack of concern -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order.
– For the conservation of water resources.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. He knows well that if he has been misrepresented he can take the first opportunity after the honourable member for Paterson ceases his speech.
– The honourable member has lost sight of the fact that our great primary industries bring the largest amount of export income into this country. It is greater even than that brought in by the great rnining industries. If we do not get this valuable export income from our wool, wheat, meat, sorghum, sugar cane and dairy products, the economy of Australia will be in a very serious plight. I am sorry that the honourable member for Chifley has lost sight of that fact.
He made great play about Pitt Street farmers. In my experience many of the Pitt Street farmers who venture into agricultural pursuits in Australia, particularly in my electorate- there are not many of them, but there are a few- being businessmen, see to it that they put good managers on their properties and thereby make a contribution to our great primary production. One can cite many instances of their having brought up-to-date methods to local farming communities, to the benefit of all concerned.
I note that honourable members who have taken part in this debate have mentioned the purpose of the legislation. I think it is worth repeating. Its purpose is to allow full deductibility, in the year of incurrence of capital expenditure by primary producers on plant or structural improvements in order to conserve or to convey water for use in a business of primary production. This legislation could not have come at a better time and will be of great benefit nationally to those engaged in the primary industries. Australia is one of the driest countries in the world and it is experiencing a very severe drought at present. It is one of the worst on record. In the past few weeks rain has fallen, particularly in Victoria, South Australia, in Tasmania and in the coastal regions of New South Wales, but this does not mean that the drought has broken. In the electorate that I have the honour to represent in north-western New South Wales drought conditions still exist. Primary producers have experienced tragic conditions in keeping sheep and cattle alive; and apart from the lack of feed, the water supply situation is possibly the worst of all time.
The great dams on the country river systems have been severely tested and the rivers and creeks which run into those dams have in most instances stopped flowing. In my electorate of Paterson there are two great river systems. One is the Hunter River system on which, above Scone, there is the great Glenbawn Dam. The Hunter River above the Glenbawn Dam has ceased to flow altogether. The ranges above Glenbawn Dam are dust bowls. It is the first time in the history of that area that the Hunter River has ceased to flow. The value of that great dam is exemplified by the assistance that it has given to dairy farms and farmers along the river to where it empties into the sea at Newcastle. It is running possibly at 50 per cent capacity at present. On the Namoi River system, which is also in the electorate I represent, is the Keepit Dam, some 27 miles above the town of Gunnedah. Here again the water in that dam is gradually being diminished. It would probably be at 50 per cent of its total capacity. The rivers above it are flowing very slowly and there is no evidence of a fall of rain coming to help. What a great benefit this dam has been to the cotton growers of Wee Waa who are making a great contribution to our national economy by their production of cotton.
We in this country should be establishing more dams and more water storage facilities to help our great primary industries. It takes a time such as this to impress on the powers that be the necessity for these huge water storages. As I mentioned, we live in one of the driest continents in the world and it is terribly important that we conserve every drop of water that we possibly can. Such times bring home to governments and responsible citizens the need to conserve water and to assist and to encourage farmers to develop water supplies on their properties to benefit not only them but also the nation, because our sheep, cattle and crops are the greatest assets of this country. Good water supplies also provide irrigation for the growing of grain and fodder. The legislation before us tonight provides for complete tax deductibility for capital expenditure on irrigation systems which farmers may put it.
Unlike the honourable member for Chifley, I believe this legislation will not only assist welltodo primary producers but will also very materially assist small farmers. This legislation will amend the income tax law to provide immediate deductibility for capital expenditure by a taxpayer engaged in the business of primary production on land in Australia on the acquisition, construction or installation of plant, on structural improvements or on extension thereto for the purpose of conserving or conveying water for use in primary industry. At present expenditure of this nature is deductible by way of depreciation over the life of the plant or, in the case of expenditure on an item that does not qualify as plant for depreciation purposes, by equal instalments over 10 years. The Bill gives immediate deductibility for tax purposes, provided the expenditure is incurred on or after 14 April this year. That is the commencing date and no expenditure incurred prior to this date will be eligible for deductibility under this legislation.
Clause 5 of the Bill indicates that it will not be necessary for a taxpayer to own the land on which the business of primary production takes place for expenditure incurred by the taxpayer for conserving or conveying water to qualify for immediate deductibility. That is fair enough because there are many Crown lands in Australia which are leased by primary producers for the growing of wheat and the grazing of sheep and cattle. It will not be necessary for the plant or structural improvement or the extension to be located on that land. An example of this would be expenditure incurred by a primary producer on the installation of a pump and piping on Crown land for the purpose of conveying water to land leased by the taxpayer for use in a business of primary production that the taxpayer conducts on that land and it may qualify immediately for tax deductibility.
There are appropriate safeguards in the legislation. Having listened to various speeches in this debate it is evident that unscrupulous dealers could double the amount of a bill going to someone on the land. These items have to be watched very carefully. There are provisions in the legislation for safeguards against this abuse. Expenditure which at present attracts a 20 per cent investment allowance will continue to do so and the legislation will not affect any entitlement to the 40 per cent allowance for energy conversion. In this circumstance the conversion allowance takes the place of the investment allowance that otherwise would be available.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bill does not provide deductibility for expenditure incurred under a contract entered into prior to 14 April, that is, where the taxpayer commenced the construction, installation or extension of a structural improvement before that date. Deductibility does not apply to expenditure for which the taxpayer is, or becomes entitled to be, recouped from a government or other source unless the amount recovered forms part of the taxpayer’s assessable income. There are quite a number of sub-clauses relating to the operation of this provision. Of course, we know that the various States have departments of water conservation and irrigation and they make funds available to farmers by way of loans for the installation of certain equipment. That point is covered in the legislation. There is a special provision under sub-section ( 10) of proposed section 25B of the Act to cover partnership expenditure and the share that each partner can claim for deductibility. Where partners do not agree as to the amount of expenditure to be borne by the partners, the expenditure is deemed to be incurred by each partner in proportion to his or her individual interest in the net income or loss of the partnership in the year of income in which the relevant expenditure was incurred. Each partner’s proportion of the expenditure is to be deductible in the partner’s own assessment. This is magnificent legislation which will be of immense benefit to primary producers throughout Australia.
A lot has been said in regard to the items that are deductible. I think it is pertinent that I should enunciate these items clearly because they may be of interest to many primary producers. I will list the items that are deductible under this legislation. They include travelling irrigators, centre pivots, the enlarging and cleaning out of dams and the sinking of bores and wells. In my own area at present some farmers and graziers have got together and bought pumps and installed bores. They are pumping water into waterways to provide water to farmers downstream from the pumps. The legislation also applies to the provision of irrigation systems and channels, which are very important, where the taxpayer personally constructs, manufactures, extends or alters the property that is within the meaning of plant or a structural improvement or arranges for another person to do so. That is quite clearly a deductible item. It also applies to electricity lines providing power to the pumps that will pump water on to the land or pump water into irrigation systems or channels. Of course, it applies toDiesel engines or other types of fuel and gas engines that provide power for pumping. This is comprehensive legislation that clearly defines the items that are deductible for income tax purposes in the year in which they are spent.
It has been mentioned that it is essential that water be conserved. All of the major rivers in Australia enter the sea and this is a great tragedy. It is a great tragedy that the water that has fallen in the north of New South Wales over the last week has to flow out to the sea. I refer particularly to the Hunter River in the electorate of Patterson, which flows into the sea at Newcastle. I also refer to the Namoi River, which flows into the Darling River and then into the Murray River and the sea. We should be looking at ways of stopping so much of this valuable commodity from going into the sea and being wasted. It has been a great pleasure for me to take part in this debate and to support the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3). This piece of legislation has the full support of the National Country Party members of this House.
-The three Bills before the House the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980, the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980 and the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1980 were introduced into this Parliament on Thursday, 1 May 1980. Let me first of all make a form of protest not so much against the Treasurer (Mr Howard) as such as against the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) about the manner in which legislation of such importance is dealt with in the dying days of the Parliament. Income tax avoidance and income tax evasion, if I can use that term in its loosest sense, have been practised in this country since time immemorial. I think it is about time that this Parliament reached the stage of trying to do something about these practices. Quite frankly, I believe that we are only nibbling at the surface so far as income tax avoidance and income tax evasion are concerned. I will speak about that later.
I will take the three Bills before the House one at a time. The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980 is not opposed by the Opposition. There are some good provisions in the Bill and there are some provisions in the Bill which could be improved, but generally we do not oppose the Bill. The major purpose of the Bill, as stated by the Acting Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) on 1 May when he introduced this measure, was to give effect to ‘important taxation proposals’ which were announced in the 1979-80 Budget. I would remind the House that the 1979-80 Budget was brought down on 2 1 August 1979. However, this legislation was not introduced until 1 May 1980. To me it seems rather incongruous that important taxation measures are announced in August 1979 in the 1979-80 Budget but it has taken until 1 May 1980 to introduce these measures into the Parliament. Also, the legislation has been brought in during the dying days of the Parliament and is being discussed as a matter of urgency shortly before the Parliament rises. I hardly think it is proper to deal with important legislation in this way.
The Opposition does not quarrel with this Bill because it is bringing in something which I have felt over a period of time should have been brought in many years ago by probably more enlightened governments, and I include the Whitlam Government in that. Possibly there could be some widening of the provisions of the Bill in regard to depreciation on the cost of new buildings. The Bill limits the depreciation allowance to 2.5 per cent on the cost of new buildings which are to be used for the accommodation of travellers. I should like to see these building depreciation provisions extended far beyond buildings which are used in the tourist industry solely for the accommodation of travellers.
This Bill and the depreciation it allows provide an important benefit to the tourist industry. I can quote cases of buildings which otherwise would have gone on the rocks, and I use that expression loosely because one of the buildings being built in Sydney is in an area known as The Rocks. I dare say that that building would have been on the rocks were it not for the introduction of the legislation we are debating tonight.
– That is a pun.
-Certainly it is a pun and it is meant to be a pun. Another building I pass every time I come to Canberra is being built for tourism very close to the Kingsford-Smith Airport in Sydney. It was just a couple of girders lying on the ground for many years, but I think it has now got off the ground and is starting to reach fruition. It is a tourist motel-hotel and it is being built adjacent to the Kingsford-Smith Airport at Sydney. It is good that it is going ahead because there has been a lapse in the building industry, particularly in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
There was a time when we had some overbuilding in Sydney, particularly in regard to office accommodation. We are now getting to the stage where there is a dearth of building going on, particularly of commercial buildings. Perhaps this measure, which was introduced by the Treasurer in the Budget in August 1979, will have the effect of increasing the amount of building going on, particularly in the tourist industry. I put it to the Treasurer that at an appropriate stage the Government might give consideration to widening the provisions for depreciation on buildings to other than buildings in the tourist industry. I think that a case can truly be put that, to encourage the expansion of building in all manufacturing industries, depreciation should be allowed on all buildings, not just on plant in buildings, as an incentive to the manufacturing industry to expand further than it has done. That would create employment in the building industry, and it is well known that any expansion in the building industry flows through the whole of the manufacturing industry. There is a saying- it is not a trite saying but a true saying- that if the building industry is healthy, the economy is healthy. I put it to the Treasurer that on some appropriate occasion the Government might give consideration to expanding the depreciation provisions for buildings to other than the tourist industry.
I agree, and so does the Opposition, with the attempt to conserve scarce energy resources- in other words, oil- by providing an inducement to industry to convert from oil-burning equipment to non-oil-burning equipment. It is no secret that there is a shortage of the money that is required to acquire oil throughout the world. The Arabs have certainly got us by the throat- I could use another expression, but I would not be permitted- because they control the world’s oil resources. Any inducements we can give to industry to get away from oil-burning equipment and into electrical means of producing energy are all to the good. To that extent, I commend the Government for what it has done.
Other amendments in the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) will tighten up, in certain circumstances, some tax avoidance loopholes, and I commend the Government for doing that. I know that no government is ever in a situation where it is beyond criticism. I myself have been criticised for the compliments I have paid the Treasurer. I have been criticised roundly in my own Austraiian Labor Party branch because at times I seem to be an arch supporter of somebody it treats as an arch enemy, that is, the Treasurer. I have said in the past and I will say again that I commend the Treasurer for the work he has done in closing off tax loopholes. I think he deserves credit for that. As I have said previously, he is one of our better Treasurers in this area. I am not criticising the Treasurers we had in the Labor Government when we were in power from 1 972 to 1 975. Frankly, we were not in office long enough to achieve all the things we would like to have achieved in regard to the closing off of tax avoidance schemes. Mr Crean did a good job to the extent that he was able. He was Treasurer for only a very short period. He was a former taxation officer and was fully aware of some of the tax avoidance schemes. Festina lente, meaning hasten slowly, is an old Latin tag which is very true. We must hasten slowly in a lot of these areas of very complicated tax avoidance schemes. Festina lente, the Latin tag known by lawyers- I am not a lawyer- is very true.
In the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) 1 980, which is the second Bill being dealt with tonight, there are some matters with which I am not wholly in agreement. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of that Bill, and I will read it in full in order to incorporate it in Hansard. It states:
Whilst not opposing the Bill, the House -
That is the House of Representatives- deplores the Government’s continued failure to implement its promise of full income tax indexation, a failure which will result in the great majority of taxpayers paying a higher proportion of their incomes in income tax in 1980-81 than they paid in 1979-80.
It is true that the burden of income tax falls unfairly on the wageearning section of the community, which can ill afford to be slugged all the time. The wageearning section of the community has not got the opportunity to avoid, if one can call it that, its fair share of the tax burden. As we all know, irrespective of which side of the House we are on, the way is open for the businessman primarily and for companies to avoid or evade or get out of, whichever expression one likes to use, their fair share of the tax burden. The way is not open for the ordinary salary and wage earner to do that, and I include members of this Parliament in that. We are reasonably well paid, even though we do apply for the normal increases the rest of the community gets through the consumer price index. I hope that an increase will come through in the not too distant future because it will put us in a similar position to the rest of the community. However, I am not arguing that matter tonight. The point I make is that there is an inequity in the burden of income tax as it is shared amongst ordinary people.
The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) recently raised a matter in this House by way of a question on notice. He received a reply on 14 May, which was a very significant day in the history of this country, although I shall not mention the reason. The honourable member for Prospect asked the Treasurer:
What proportion of personal income tax was paid at ( 1 ) highest, (2) medium and (3) lowest rate for the last financial year for which details are available.
In his reply on 14 May the Treasurer advised the honourable member for Prospect that, of total personal income tax collected, I might add at the highest rate, which is 60 per cent of taxable income, it came from only 3.49 per cent of the tax paying population. At the medium rate, which is 46 per cent of taxable income, it came from only 8.65 per cent, and at the lowest rate, which is 32 per cent, it came from 87.86 per cent of the population.
It is interesting to see that 87.86 per cent of tax collected came from the income area of between $3,751 and $16,000 a year. That seems a very disproportionate percentage of tax burden sharing. It appears also to be most inequitable and it is something that the Treasurer should have a look at to see whether it is equitable to have only three steps or stages in the calculation of tax. It is most inequitable that a person on a taxable income of $3,75 1 a year should pay the same rate of tax as somebody on a taxable income of $16,000 a year. A stage could be reached where we could have a greater number of steps than the present three. A person earning $5,000 a year pays tax at the rate of 32 per cent of his taxable income. An amount of $5,000 a year as taxable income really is a fairly measly amount. A person on a rather substantial amount of $ 1 6,000 a year still only pays tax at the rate of 32 per cent of his taxable income. It is something at which the Treasurer should look.
In the limited time available to me I want to mention the amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Act and the oft quoted section 260. If my memory serves me correctly section 260 was brought in as an all embracing section in 1936 in an attempt to stop tax avoidance schemes and to demolish schemes and contracts which had as their purpose the avoidance of tax. Various court cases have been held over the years. There are an extremely large number of very shrewd lawyers, tax accountants and tax advisers around the place. Some of these tax advisers and tax accountants with very devious schemes of tax avoidance are males and some females. I will not give the names of some of the females as I know they have husbands in high places.
One of the cases to which I wish to make reference is the well known case of Slutzkin v Federal Commissioner of Taxation (1977), 7 Australian Tax Reports, page 166. It was one of the cases that held that section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act was inoperative in a large number of cases. It helped to demolish the effectiveness of section 260.I do not wish to canvass decisions of the judiciary but it is a fact that one of the best tax avoidance lawyers that this country has ever seen, before he was appointed a judge, was Sir Garfield Barwick. He was a very good lawyer and a very good tax avoidance lawyer. Nobody can deny the fact that he was a very skilled person. As far as tax avoidance was concerned he dealt with some extremely good cases when he was a skilled lawyer.
– Are you sure you are not confusing him and Nigel Bowen?
– No, not at all. Sir Nigel Bowen is an extremely learned judge of the Federal Court. In fact he is my son’s boss. My son happens to be Deputy Registrar of the Federal Court of which Sir Nigel Bowen is the Chief Judge. This case of Slutzkin from which I would like to quote involved a very ingenious scheme. The word Slutzkin is a rather sleazy word. I suppose one could say that, because the first two letters are s and 1 and ‘sleazy’ and ‘Slutzkin’ seem to go together. This case came before the New South Wales Supreme Court on appeal. Mr Justice Rath of the New South Wales Supreme Court dismissed Slutzkin ‘s appeal in which he sought to negative the provisions of section 260. Slutzkin appealed to the High Court and his case was dealt with by none other than Sir Garfield Barwick- Gars Mahal of well known fame. I want to quote from his judgment because it is material. I will only quote some of the judgment as time seems to have got away from me. In relation to section 260 Sir Garfield Barwick in his judgment said:
This is the section which helped to demolish section 260-
Is to entitle the Commissioner when assessing the liability of the taxpayer to income tax to treat any contract, agreement or arrangement which falls within the description in the section-
That is section 260-
As if it had never been made. Any liability of the taxpayer to pay income tax must be found elsewhere in the Act. There must be some identifiable income of the taxpayer which would have been liable to be taxed if none of the contracts, agreements or arrangements avoided by this section had been made.
In other words, the decision of Sir Garfield Barwick in the Slutzkin case effectively demolished section 260. 1 am raising this matter because I am concerned and I would like the Treasurer to comment on this matter when he replies at a later stage in the debate. He replied to a question in this House on 14 May in which he indicated that there would be an apparent watering down or an escape hatch which would be allowed in section 260 which was currently being redrafted. I refer him to the wording that he used. He said:
When the Treasurer replies I would like him to tell the House- I hope that he does- that there is no intention to allow any escape hatch in proposed new section 260 because if it is allowed lt would be a travesty of justice.
– I would like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on these tax evasion measures and various other measures about which I cannot speak now because there is not the time. I would like to put various arguments to the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) who has just spoken. He talked about wages. I remind him that during the Fraser Government ‘s period in office a wage earner has been in a privileged section of the community as 66 per cent of our gross domestic product goes into wages. Several years ago it was 61 per cent and that level has been sustained. For corporations the figure has gone from 1 7.5 per cent to between 13 per cent and 14 per cent. We cannot belabour the corporations for making some profit now to make up for what they previously lost. In any event if we look at the increase compared to a very bad year, that is a bad way of making a judgment.
I wish to comment also on the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). Certainly all honourable members would like to think that they could get tax indexation but we have to consider what will happen to our balance of payments. At present they are remarkably good. But we will have to take into consideration droughts and the provisional taxation that will be reduced. The internal budget deficit will be very much less than the expected deficit this year. We do not know where it will go to next year. We have to look also at crude oil prices. Instead of $ 1,860m this year the figure will be $2, 500m. But until we actually know it will be virtually impossible for us- if we want to be reasonable and sensible and do what is right- to make a forecast now. The second point I would like to make relates wholly and solely to what has been said about travelling. I visited five communist countries last year. I visited Potsdam, Budapest, Warsaw, Athens and Prague. In the presence of the Treasurer I would say that two and a half per cent depreciation is not good enough. These countries positively attract the traveller. They have remarkably good facilities for entertainment and exercise for tourists. I cannot speak for too long on those matters. I wish now to refer to the tax on motor vehicles that was imposed in the last Budget. At that time, the Treasurer said:
The Government has decided to limit to $18,000 the amount which may be depreciated … for motor cars and station wagons . . . ordered after tonight.
At that time, it was thought that there would be a tax gain of about $ 15m and that the tax derived from the sale of leased vehicles would be about $25m. I mention those two matters to show how extradordinary the estimate was. The Treasurer, after considerable argument from me and after getting evidence from the various motor vehicle producers and agents, was compelled to announce a corrected calculation which he said was $5 1.4m. The car dealers gave me a figure of $36.2m loss. This figure was given to me and to other members of my party on 16 October last year. I point out that when we look at the figures for depreciation, we find that the amount of $87.6m was achieved by comparing one year’s loss on sales tax and Customs duty with depreciation savings that would occur not in a full year but over approximately seven years. Secondly, the figure given for the gain from there being no depreciation on 5,800 units was corrected to $80m. That would mean that the tax on the average vehicle would be related to an average price of $ 1 99,866. 1 believe that these figures could be verified at the time. The cardinal error was made in trying to compare the importation of vehicles into Australia with the importation of vehicles into the United Kingdom. That comparison was an absolute fallacy because the United Kingdom, which is a member of the European Economic Community, imposes no import duty at all. Therefore the people of the United Kingdom can sell their vehicles for approximately 33 per cent less than we can sell vehicles.
Recently, in order to achieve some progress or some more reasonable treatment in the Budget, the Australian Automobile Dealers Association carried out a survey in order to make an estimation of the position in a full year. I am prepared to say that the figures that I have just given will be close to the truth. They show the market level up to 3 1 March 1980. On an index of 100, the figure up to March 1979 is 3,413 vehicles. In March the figure was down to 2,604 or 76.3 on the index. We were led to believe by those who were trying to prove the case put by the officials that the recovery would be quick. There is no recovery. The situation is worsening. The figures are becoming paralysingly bad.
– Oh, do not be a fool.
– No, let us hear what you said.
– I will put it in a different way.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The right honourable member for Lowe will ignore interjections.
– I would like the honourable member not to make such comments when he is right behind me. I never know who the comments are coming from. A total analysis is also given of the way in which the loss is calculated. On those calculations the loss to the Treasury would be $55.7m. The figures have been sent to the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I believe therefore that the time has come for Treasury officials to look at those figures to find out whether some change should be made to avoid as much of a loss as is practicable and whether it is possible for the industry to get back to a profitable level of activity. I am compelled to say, to be absolutely fair, that the Treasurer agreed to make certain changes after the Budget announcement and exempted certain vehicles- those vehicles which were in the market place, which were in store or for which there was an irrevocable contract for purchase. There is still an eight months’ stock of those exempt vehicles remaining.
The Treasurer would not yet be able to obtain the figures from the Bureau of Statistics in order to show the break-up of the various classes of vehicles that are sold, and a comparison of the losses for the years under consideration. Those figures ought to be available to him before he can make another statement which should approximate the realities. He could not do that in the last Budget but I believe that in three months time he will be very close to being able to do so. I therefore recommend very strongly that this matter be looked at. Too many companies are going bankrupt and forfeiting licences and too many people are being forced out of employment. As one who classifies himself as a liberal, I believe that if a man earns money and he wants to spend it on a car- if he wants to pay $ 1 6,000 in import duty and sales tax- bless his heart, why should he not be able to do so? Why should we deprive people of what they enjoy? I do not enjoy motor cars so I do not mind what sort of a car I ride in, but if somebody has a flair for them, I as a Liberal believe that he should be able to spend what he has earned on buying a car, as I believe that people who want to buy a yacht- I do not know what the price of a yacht is- should be able to do so. I believe that people ought to be able to enjoy themselves by buying something that is expensive and which other people cannot afford to buy, providing they have earned the money themselves and have paid their taxes.
– What about the worker who does not get a company car? He doesn’t get anything.
– But he has not earned the same amount of money. We believe that those who are engaged in the productive process in this world are the entrepreneurs. As Liberals, we believe that we ought to give people incentives because the income of the salary earner depends upon the success of the entrepreneur. If the entrepreneur is not successful, the wage earner is not going to get -
– The wage earner should subsidise his Lamborghini.
– Frankly, I cannot go any further in talking to the honourable member about that matter. The next point I make relates to proposed new section 57AF of the Income Tax Assessment Act which relates to the limit on the cost price for the depreciation of motor vehicles. Proposed new sub-section 2 of that section states:
Now that means that the owner of the vehicle, the fellow who has to use the vehicle and has to pay for the vehicle over a period, might not get the benefit. That is exacly the advice that was given to me. The substance of my concern is for those who actually use the vehicle and are making their weekly, fortnightly or annual payments on it. Is that a legal and technical interpretation of the proposed section 57AF? Proposed section 57AF (15) states that the end lessee of a vehicle may be deemed not to be the person qualified for the taxation exemption announced by the Treasurer on 16 October in respect of premium motor vehicles on firm order by dealers or distributors at the time of the Budget. Some worrying words appear in the last Une 2 of proposed new section 57AF (2). It states that for the purpose of calculating the deprecation we shall look to the year of first use. I have looked through clause 2 very carefully and I have doubts about it. I think it can be interpreted in one or two ways. If we think that is true then I believe that it is right and proper that we should remove the doubts.
I know that the Australian Taxation Office has advised of the intention of the legislation and that its view is exactly the same as that of the Treasurer. I do say that this was never intended and contradicts the real purpose of the transaction and would have the effect of depriving motor vehicle purchases of the concessions intended in the Treasury’s announcement of 16 October. Therefore I ask that it be looked at and if it is practicable that a small amendment be made which would ensure that it is the person who is leasing the vehicle and using the vehicle who gets the benefit.
I believe that the matters covered by this Bill are for the most part, remarkably good. I certainly approve of them and will vote for them. I would like to see changes in the matter that I have mentioned. I would like to mention one other matter that a true liberal likes to look at, and that is the matter of family trusts. I do believe that the time has come when with equality with indexation of personal taxation, we should look at some better means of taxing the family unit. The Liberal Party, over and over again stresses- the Prime Minister made a remarkable speech about this in the New Year- that it believes in the family and protects the family unit as the vital element of a democratic society. Whilst we can understand what happened during the drafting of the last Budget, those difficulties have been overcome to a considerable extent now. If we can only control wages a little better in the economy and see that they stick closer to productivity and if we can keep up our overseas sales in the way they are progressing at the moment, I think we can look forward to a year that will be the beginning of five years of prosperity in this country.
I ask the Treasurer to have that third look. I do not know whether he will have the time to look at the lot, but there are not many points to look at. He knows about two of them already. I ask that they be considered so that after the next Budget we will have many pleased Australians. Also we will know of the tremendous effort that has been made and the remarkable success that is being achieved by the Fraser Government in getting this country back to a state where we can operate internationally at a 13 or 14 per cent cost advantage instead of operating at a 20 per cent disadvantage under Labor. It does seem as though Australia will experience five years of progress. That being so, this is the time to relax a little. We do not want tightness in a Budget, we want true responsibility. But where it is practical to benefit those that the Liberal Party believes are the basic elements of a good society, I can only hope we will do something to help them.
– I want to speak briefly to the amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) to the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2). It relates particularly to indexation. I will remind honourable members of the text of the proposed amendment by reading it to the House. It states: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House deplores the Government’s continued failure to implement its promise of full income tax indexation, a failure which will result in the great majority of taxpayers paying a higher proportion of their income in income tax in 1980-81 than they paid in 1979-80’.
This proposed amendment goes to the question of the credibility and the integrity of the Fraser Government. That Government was elected twice on the basis of a commitment to tax indexation. The reality is that not since the Government was elected has there been full tax indexation. In 1976-77 tax indexation was of the order of 93 per cent. In 1977-78 indexation was of the order of 80 per cent and in 1978-79 it was of the order of 35 per cent. In the current year tax indexation was removed altogether. Now we have this legislation which introduces a degree of indexation which we calculate as being of the order of 40 per cent. It certainly does not restore full tax indexation and does not make up for the lack of tax indexation in the current financial year.
The arguments concerning tax indexation have been gone over on many occasions in this Parliament. The leader of the present Government, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), asserted when in Opposition that the failure to index taxes resulted in what he described as ‘taxation by stealth’. Of course there is some substance in that argument. An argument can properly be put that an adjustment ought to be made in relation to inflation to restore some equity to the taxation system. Despite the fact that this was promised by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition and despite the constant reiteration of the Government that this is one of its great achievements, the reality is that, after nearly five years of Government, this Fraser tax indexation has in no sense been made a reality. Indeed, this financial year there is- as usual in relation to the figures produced by this Government- something of a fiddle in the way that the figures have been calculated. There has been discounting, for example, of increases in the consumer price index that relate to such matters as petrol and health insurance. The calculation in March of an inflation figure is likely to result in a figure considerably less than the real inflation figure. This means that any talk of indexation as it has been carried out this year as being half indexation is of course, quite misleading.
If one relates what is not happening in relation to tax indexation to the changes and the adjustments which have been made by the Fraser Government to tax scales, one sees that, in reality, not only is this Government responsible for the greatest tax burden of any government in the post-war period but also it has moved to create an income taxation system which is highly inequitable- perhaps one of the most inequitable scales that we have seen in that period. So if one analyses, as the honourable member for Gellibrand has done on a number of occasions, the distribution of tax one finds that the lower income people continually pay higher proportions of their incomes in tax. One also finds that people at the very highest levels of the income scale are, in fact, paying considerably less tax.
There is a failure by the Government to follow through its commitment to tax indexation and there are regressive changes in relation to the tax scales. This means that those people are facing an increasing economic burden each year in relation to their incomes and expenses for basic services including health. They are also paying a higher proportion of their incomes in taxation. One has to look at this legislation, important as it is, in relation to the distribution of the economic burden in Australia and the whole thrust of the Government’s economic policy. The thrust of that policy has been to transfer a considerable amount of the burden of taxation and the burden of survival on to the backs of those people who find it most difficult to maintain a reasonable standard of living. One has to look not only at what the Government has done in taxation but also at the point of view that the Government has consistently argued, the pressure that the Government has placed upon the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and all salary tribunals to ensure that workers do not achieve increases in their incomes that in any sense will enable them to improve their standards of living.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was suggesting that one should look at what is happening in relation to taxation in the broad context of the Government’s economic policy. That policy relates to the question of wage and salary incomes. Under this Government we have seen a real decline in the standard of living of the average worker. In almost every arbitration decision which has been handed down since this Government came to power the increase has not been commensurate with the consumer price index. In a sense we have seen workers falling behind the rate of inflation in terms of their wage incomes. As I have suggested, commensurate with that we have seen an increase in terms of their tax burden. One has to look at the services which were provided under the Whitlam Government and the elimination and cutting back of so many of those services under the Fraser Government, which must have a real effect on the standard of living. The Government has claimed to be responsible for social reform. There is no more often repeated example of where the Government has been responsible for social reform than those reforms, in relation to family allowance, which have been welcomed on this side of the House.
Whilst this piece of legislation does make concessions in relation to taxation deductibility for dependent spouses, one has to put that against what the Government has failed to do in relation to its own scheme, which was concerned with providing support for Australian families through the family allowance scheme. That scheme, which was introduced in 1976, was aimed at replacing the tax rebate for dependent children which operated at that time and the child endowment scheme. An analysis which has recently been carried out by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) gives a comparison of those two schemes- the family allowance scheme and the earlier scheme which existed under the Labor Government- that takes into account the failure of the Government since 1976 to index family allowance. The honourable member for Prospect has calculated that the loss of income for children of families is very considerable indeed as a result of the Government’s failure in that direction. He calculated, for example, that the loss to a family with four children over the period in which the Government replaced the Labor Government’s scheme with its scheme is of the order of $13.25. There are other figures which I will not go into but which indicate the degree of loss which has been achieved by switching to a scheme which, in many respects, we on this side of the House would agree is superior. The Government, having received all the political kudos it could, has not gone on with the scheme.
I draw attention to the proposals which the Australian Labor Party has made in relation to its family income supplement scheme, which is designed, unlike the thrust of the Government’s policies, to redistribute income in favour of those families in Australia that are in the greatest need. I refer to a table which shows what that scheme will mean in terms of additional income, not for the wealthiest families but for those families on lower incomes. The table shows that $4 a week per child will be paid to a family with an income of less than $8,000 a year. A family with an income of between $8,000 and $10,000 will receive $3 a week per child. A family with an income of $10,000 to $12,000 will receive $2 a week per child. A family with an income of $12,000 to $14,000 will receive $1 a week per child.
The scheme which the Labor Party has been promoting and which it aims to introduce when it is in government is in no sense designed to be some kind of election gimmick. It represents the kind of solid thinking about family policy which will enable the Labor Party, when in government, to redistribute income towards that rapidly increasing section of the population that this Government has moved into poverty. The Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research calculated recently that 13 per cent of Australians are in a situation of real poverty. Of course, a very large number of people are marginally poor. I believe that the people receiving lower incomes have received from this Government a very bad deal indeed.
Those remarks illustrate the cynicism of a government which will offer a meagre 85c a week to most families in Australia while increasing indirect taxes more massively than any other government has done- certainly in the post-war period- particularly in relation to petrol taxes.
Alongside this the Government introduced what seemed to be and was a very worthwhile scheme in terms of family allowance and then allowed that scheme to be eroded over the period it has been in government. Having got the political capital, this Government loses interest. It is a fraudulent Government which has no interest in the concept of equity and no interest in redistribution. I think that that could not have been more cogently illustrated than by the excursus on Liberal philosophy by the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon). He told us that Liberal philosophy means redistribution in the favour of the wealthiest. It was very interesting to hear a former Prime Minister and a member of the Liberal Party of such longstanding reaffirming that basic tenet of Liberal philosophy that suggests that the wealthiest members of the community- those with the most luxurious cars- deserve the greatest benefits.
– In the time available I would like to reply very breifly to a number of issues which have been raised during the debate and which I think deserve a response. The first matter that I would like to reply to relates to a specific inquiry made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) about the cost of the measure to allow immediate tax deductibility for certain expenditure by primary producers as a means of giving immediate assistance by way of help in respect of the very severe drought that has affected large parts of Australia during the last 12 months.
I inform the House that, for reasons which will be obvious to honourable members who understand the operation of the tax legislation, it is very hard to give precise estimates. One must make a large number of assumptions and make a large number of allowances for error in those assumptions in giving any figures. I hope that the honourable member for Gellibrand and others appreciate that when I provide the figures. Against that background, and taking into account all of the qualifications that it is necessary to do, the best estimate that I have been given is a figure of $8m in the first full year of operation. Bearing in mind the limited period between the middle of April and 30 June this year during which the measure will be in operation, we have calculated a figure of about $38m for the year 1980-81. That is the best estimate that can be provided. I am sure that the honourable gentleman and others will appreciate how difficult it is to be any more precise than that.
I would now like to reply to the criticisms that were raised by the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) regarding the measure I announced last year about limiting the amount that could be depreciated for taxation purposes on certain categories of motor vehicles. I state very simply that in no way did that measure represent discrimination against people who decide to buy those classes of motor vehicles. It merely represented a decision by the Government to place a limit on the extent to which the general taxpaying community would subsidise the purchase of those vehicles. That is the principle involved. It is not a principle of discrimination.
As I understand it, some figures were supplied by the dealers-in fact, I think they were made available while I was overseas- on the basis of a loss of sales of 5,800 units. According to the calculations of the dealers the loss to revenue was $36.2m, made up of a loss of sales tax of $ 1 9.2m, a loss of import duty of $36.5m, a gain from unlimited depreciation on the remaining 8,000 vehicles of $ 14.4m and sales tax gained from substituted locally manufactured vehicles of $5.1 m. I have had those figures checked and according to the advice given to me the correct amount of revenue gained, on the basis of 5,800 units, should be $5 1.4m. According to my advice, in the calculation of the dealers no allowance was made for the gain from no depreciation on the reduction in sales of 5,800 vehicles. I am told that represents a figure in the order of $80m. That, of course, brings about a shift of minus $36.2m to plus $5 1.4m. I think that is the substantive answer, on the advice available to me, of the concerns expressed by the right honourable gentleman. I have two responses to speeches made by members of the Opposition. Firstly, I say to the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and others that this Government believes that one of the important reforms it has brought in is to reduce the number of steps in the rate scale from seven to three. We have no intention of going back to the sort of thing that the honourable member for Chifley was talking about. Finally, I would like to thank all of those members of the Government and the Opposition who participated in the debate. I believe the measures that were announced on 6 March, particularly those giving help to single income families, represent a very significant and fair acknowledgment of the need of single income families to receive greater assistance under our taxation system. I welcome the support of the Opposition for those measures because they are in every sense of the word fair and equitable measures. The honourable member for Gellibrand, when it suits him, is very fond of talking about percentage comparisons in taxation and these measures in percentage terms confer greater benefits on low income earners in our community. There is no way that that fact can be gainsaid.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to. have been misrepresented?
– Yes, sir; very seriously so.
-The right honourable member may proceed.
– The honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) said that I had said that I favoured a redistribution of income in favour of the wealthy. That is not true. I made a comment about what had been said by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). I merely pointed out that the wage earners’ percentage of gross domestic product had risen from 6 1 per cent to 66 per cent. I said also that corporation income had fallen from between 18 or 19 per cent to 13 or 14 per cent, although I expected that in the next year this figure would rise quite considerably. I made no reference at all to a redistribution of income in any way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The question is: That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question ‘.
A division having been called for and the bells being rung-
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member in his amendment does not disapprove of the Bill but he wants an alternative. In that case, Mr Deputy Speaker, is it in order for the honourable member for Gellibrand to move the type of amendment he has moved?
-The Chair is of the view that the amendment is in order.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I formally move the amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. I move:
– I second the amendment.
-The original question was that this Bill be now read a second time. To this motion the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) has moved that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is:
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not wish to delay the Committee but I wish to draw attention to the extraordinary generosity of the legislation which is now being put through the Parliament. We are now passing legislation which is so generous that it will give a subsidy from this Government to high income farmers of more than the expenditure which they make in certain circumstances in relation to the conserving or conveying of water. The process of a farmer spending money on the conserving or conveying of water in a way which attracts the energy conversion allowance which enables him to write off 140 per cent of the cost of that item in the first year- in association with the averaging provisions for farmers’ incomes, would enable him, if he had a constant income of say, $50,000, eventually to have a tax saving of $ 10,5 19 for an outlay of an initial $ 10,000 on the equipment which attracted the allowance. For the purpose of this example I am taking a constant income. This means that this Government is giving a subsidy of $5 for every $100 spent by high income farmers in a way which attracts the energy conversion allowance. That is an extraordinary situation. We are paying farmers money to spend money in this way.
I think the Parliament generally has not been full acquainted with that and it is important that honourable members realise that that is what we are doing. That has all sorts of implications for investments in rural industry. There will be all sorts of incentives to divert money unnecessarily in this area, particularly for high income farmers, because they will make a tax free income through attracting from the Government a greater subsidy than the money that they outlay in this way. I think that is an extraordinary situation, one which we sought to rectify by our second reading amendment. We have been unable in the Committee stage to move an amendment which would rectify this situation. Indeed, we have been unable to rectify that part of the legislation which provides, even where an ordinary 20 per cent investment allowance applies, for much greater benefits to apply to high income farmers than to low income farmers. Of course, that is an extraordinary anomaly in legislation which is supposed to be about drought relief. Quite clearly a farmer affected by drought will be a relatively low income farmer. Yet he will get much less benefit -
– Not necessarily.
– Not necessarily, but it is most likely that he will be. If he is severely affected by drought he may have no income at all and, therefore, the tax benefits will be of no value to him. If he has a low income he will get much less benefit from this legislation than a high income farmer will get for ordinary expenditure. As I said, in the energy conversion area a high income farmer will be in the extraordinary situation of being paid by this Government a subsidy of more than the actual outlay on the equipment. We think that is an absurd situation.
As I said, we certainly would have tried to rectify that situation at the Committee stage, but the processes of this place prevent us from doing so. The effect of our moving to change the deduction to a rebate system, or to prevent the operation of other tax benefits where an immediate write-off is allowed, would have been the increasing of taxation for high income farmers. Under the rules of this Parliament we, as an Opposition, are not allowed to move for that. Nevertheless, we tried to cover the situation in our second reading amendment. The House rejected that. But honourable members should realise that they are voting for totally inequitable legislation which gives high income farmers a much better deal. It is extraordinarily anomalous legislation in that it allows the highest income farmers to get a subsidy.
– I want to reply briefly to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). Apparently only one category of high income earners in this country should never receive a tax concession when it is made available to the general populace; that is, high income farmers. There seems to be a degree of selectivity in the approach. I do not hear the Australian Labor Party say that any other tax concession which is given generally to a group of people in the community should not be made available to the high income earners in that group, except when it relates to people in the rural community. Even the honourable member for Gellibrand would have to concede that he cited an example of circumstances which would be very few and far between. He knows that as well as I do. A concession of that magnitude would be available in very limited circumstances.
Of course, when a benefit in the nature of a taxation concession is generally made available under a progressive taxation system, a high income earner will get from it, in money terms, a greater benefit than a lower income earner. There is nothing particularly revoluntionary or unusual about that proposition. That applies with any other provision. Of course, a high income earner pays more tax than a low income earner because he has a higher income. Somehow or other that is always forgotten by the Labor Party whenever we talk about taxation matters.
The third point I would like to make is that the honourable member for Gellibrand and other people who have attacked this measure have totally forgotten two important things: Firstly, they have forgotten the relationship of the benefit to the averaging provisions which are available to primary producers and that over a period it affects the value of the averaging provisions to primary producers. I just do not think that ought to be forgotten,
– It makes it worse.
– It does not make it worse. The final thing that the honourable member for Gellibrand has forgotten is that this country, over the last 18 months, has been in the grip of an extremely severe drought. This measure will give great assistance to primary producers who have suffered from that drought and in the process, as my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) mentioned during the earlier stage of this debate, it will also have a very beneficial and stimulatory effect on employment and activity in a large part of rural Australia.
– I rise to correct one point made by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). He is absolutely and totally wrong in saying that the averaging provisions in some way take away from the point that I was making. The averaging provisions exacerbate the problem. It is through the operation of the averaging provisions that the 105 per cent subsidy is paid to the high income earner. I gave the example of a farmer with an income of $50,000 a year and an expenditure of $10,000 which attracted the energy conversion allowance and entitled him to a 140 per cent write-off in that year. That would reduce his taxable income in that year. The averaging provisions operate by averaging the taxable income, which has been reduced by this immediate write-off of $14,000 in this case. So the income drops from $50,000 to $36,000. That reduces the taxable income over the five-year period and enables the tax rate which then applies under the tax averaging provisions to be less than it otherwise would be, which means that the tax savings are greater than they would have been without the tax averaging provisions.
– You are not consistent.
-I do not doubt that the honourable member would not know the first thing about it, although, as a person who represents a rural area, he ought to know something about it. But the reality is that what I am saying is absolutely and totally correct. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an example which spells out the details of the point I am making.
The document read as follows-
Three examples are given. Farmer A has a constant taxable income of $16,000 and Farmer B a constant income of $50,000. Both spend $ 10,000 on new water pipes and receive an immediate deduction for that amount plus the 20 per cent investment allowance, giving a year 1 deduction of $12,000.
Farmer C with a constant income of $50,000 spends $ 10,000 to replace a petrol pump with an electric one. He receives a $10,000 deduction plus a $4,000 energy conversion deduction in Year 1.
-No, I do not want the Treasurer to correct it at all. I am quite happy with the way in which it is now incorporated in Hansard. I thank the House for allowing the incorporation of the document. I know the honourable member for Kalgoorlie would not understand the document if he read it for 10 years. Obviously he does not know anything about taxation provisions. The point is the averaging provisions exacerbate the problem to which I drew attention; they do
not overcome it. It is through the operation of the averaging provisions on top of the 140 per cent write-off that the subsidy of 105 per cent is created. The example which is now incorporated in Hansard spells out the detail of that.
-Some of the most successful people in this country are primary producers. If they happen by their endeavour, by their capital and by their work to have a high income it is very likely they are paying high taxation. If the farming community is now being offered help to increase our country’s exports, I believe that the suggestion of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is a good one. We know that the Australian Labor Party, through history, has always disliked the individuality and enterprise of the farmers. The Labor Party’s miserable amendment is one way in which it can get back at them. Why does the Labor Party not take this amendment outside and cut its miserable throat?
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard)- by leave- read a third time.
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 15 May 1980, pursuant to statute:
Canberra College of Advanced Education ActStatute No. 43- Academic Progress Amendment.
Commonwealth Banks Act- Appointment certificate- M. Djekovic.
Mr Les Johnson to ask Mr Speaker:
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 22 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer provided by Senator Carrick on 23 April 1980 to a question without notice by Senator Keeffe (Senate Hansard, 23 April 1980, pages 1703-11).
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 1 9 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Chemical Defoliants (Question No. 5332)
asked the Minister for Veterans’
Affairs, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Two Reports of the United States ComptrollerGeneral entitled ‘Health Effects of Exposure to Herbicide Orange in South Vietnam Should be Resolved’ and ‘US Ground
Troops in South Vietnam were in Areas Sprayed with Herbicide Orange’, respectively dated 6 April and 16 November 1979. Appendices I and II of the former document detail herbicides used, their quantities and spray periods. The latter gives details of areas sprayed. 1978 Report of the United States Air Force entitled Toxicology, Environmental Fate and Human Risk of Herbicide Agent Orange and its Associated Dioxin’ (report No. OEHL TR-78-92). In the chapter entitled ‘The Use of Herbicides in South Vietnam ‘ the history, type and quantities of herbicides used in Vietnam are detailed.
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
What (a) medical research, (b) medical examinations, (c) surveys and (d) monitoring of information have been instituted to ascertain the extent that exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange or other defoliants may have adversely affected former members of the Australian Forces who gave service in Vietnam, or their children.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has commissioned the Commonwealth Institute of Health to undertake a major epidemiological study into the possible ill effects on humans from contact with herbicides and other chemicals in Vietnam. The purpose of the study is to resolve, if possible, the question of whether exposure to herbicides and other chemicals during the Vietnam conflict, has had or may in the future be likely to have, an impact on the health of Australian Vietnam veterans and their children. In addition, any veteran lodging a claim under the Repatriation legislation is medically examined and a special form is completed which seeks details concerning the possible contact with herbicides in Vietnam. The information is being collated by the Department and will be reviewed when sufficient is available. Further information on the study is contained in my statement to Parliament on 31 March 1980 (House of Representatives Hansard, page 1423).
Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Question No. 5440)
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to my answer to Question upon Notice No. 2982 of 23 November 1978, concerning the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships (House of Representatives Hansard, 20 February 1979, page 123).
The Interdepartmental Working Group has completed its deliberations and its report is currently under consideration.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Question No. 5441)
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to my answer to Question upon Notice No. 2982 of 23 November 1978, concerning the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships (House of Representatives Hansard, 20 February 1979, page 123).
The Interdepartmental Working Group has completed its deliberations and its report is currently under consideration.
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 1 9 March 1 980:
What is the estimated cost of granting Totally and Permanently Incapacitated benefits to all veterans of the 1914-18 War.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The estimated cost, of paying Special (T. & P.I.) Rate pensions to all 1914-18 war veterans (and dependants pension to their wives) would be approximately $1 10m per annum. There would be some offset to this amount in savings of age pensions paid by the Department of Social Security or costs to other Commonwealth Government Departments and State and local governments for extension of ‘fringe’ benefits.
This estimate is based on the cost to the T. & P.I. pensioner while he is alive. It is assumed that his widow would not become a war widow as do all widows of T. & P.I. pensioners no matter what the cause or when they die.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs, upon notice, on 1 7 April 1 980:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) It is not possible to provide information in the form that the honourable member has requested.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 1 April 1980:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800515_reps_31_hor118/>.