31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that we have present in the gallery this afternoon the Honourable Sevese Morea, M.P., Speaker of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea. Also present in the gallery are the delegates attending the Fifth Australasian Parliamentary Seminar. On behalf of the House, I bid you welcome.
Honourable members - Hear, hear!
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Whereas a fully accredited degree course in chiropractic has been established at Preston Institute of Technology, and
Whereas three hundred students who pay their own fees are in all five years of the program, and
Whereas students and the profession can no longer carry the financial burden amounting to over SI, 000,000 per year, and
Whereas a debt of $240,000 is being incurred in 1980, and
Whereas if funding is not approved by August the course will close and students’ careers placed in grave jeopardy,
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should ensure that funding of the Preston Institute of Technology Chiropractic Program by the Tertiary Education Commission be no longer delayed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume, Mr Bourchier, Mr Bungey, Mr Clyde Cameron, Dr Cass, Mr Chapman, Mr Dobie, Mr Giles, Mr Gillard, Mr Graham, Mr Hayden, Mr Hodges, Mr Hodgman, Mr Hurford, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Killen, Mr McLean, Mr Millar, Mr Nixon, Mr O’Keefe, Mr Peacock, Mr Porter, Mr Eric Robinson, Mr Ruddock, Mr Scholes, Mr Shack, Mr Thomson and Mr Wilson.
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 Dr Cass, Mr Innes, Mr Katter, Mr Macphee, Mr Morris and Mr Nixon.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
Taxpayers who incur child-care expenses in order to earn income should be able to have those expenses exempt from income taxation in the same way as other taxpayers can deduct business expenses from their assessable income.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry, Mr Hodgman, Mr Innes, Dr Klugman, Sir William McMahon and Mr Uren.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that they want the victims of the Hilton bomb disaster to receive a fair and just compensation. They remind the Prime Minister and his Government that they found the sum of $ 1 90,000 to compensate the Hilton Arcade shopkeepers for their loss of business and we the undersigned regard the loss of life and permanent injury even more important than the loss of business. The police involved were guarding the Prime Minister’s life and one of them lost his life, because the Prime Minister and the other international Heads of State were inside the hotel. Three other police were seriously and permanently injured as a result of the bombing. The undersigned petitioners call upon the Prime Minister and his government to compensate these unfortunate victims, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Carlton, Mr Kerin and Dr Klugman.
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:
Employees and Self-Employed Contributions to approved Superannuation Fund.
Your petitioners humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petitions received. by Mr Hodgman and Mr Moore. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 513 undersigned citizens of Australia of Polish origin respectfully showeth:
That this Parliament through the proper diplomatic channels will bring to the attention of the United Nations the demands of the Polish workers that the Polish Government must fulfil its obligations to the Helsinki Agreement.
In particular, to allow, in Poland, free trade union elections and freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, the press, travel and the reunion of families.
That this Parliament through the proper diplomatic channels will notify the government of the Polish Peoples’ Republic that the use of military or police forces to crush the Polish workers movement will have grave consequences to the relationship between Poland and Australia.
Your petitioners therefor humbly pray that this petition be given serious consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Burns. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Fife.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations:
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Fife. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
That local authorities throughout Australia are appalled at the recently announced Commonwealth Government allocation of a mere $628m for roads in 1 980-8 1 . There is extreme disappointment at both the level of total Commonwealth funding for all road categories and at the specific allocation for the local roads category.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr FitzPatrick. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament will:
Reform income tax laws to allow the joint income of husband and wife to be equally divided between them for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Fry. Petition received.
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:
That contributions to Health Insurance Funds should be tax deductible as it is inequitable for some members of the community to be able to claim taxation relief for health care costs, whereas other taxpayers are denied the right to claim relief for the expenditure of income in the provision of insurance against similar costs. It is contended that it is imperative for incentive to be given by way of taxation deductibility to encourage membership of Health Insurance Funds on a long term basis or both they and the Public Health Sector will become subject to abuses which could seriously affect their ability to provide an economic and efficient service to the community.
We, as members of the Queensland Teachers’ Union Health Society, therefore seek early action by the government to restore income tax deductions for contributions by taxpayers to health insurance funds.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Humphreys. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That continued use of animal ingredients in cosmetic products, and the inhumane use of animals in scientific research for cosmetic products is abhorrent and barbaric.
That the Industries Assistance Commission, because of the Commission’s terms of reference, seems unable to impose any regulation or recommend any regulation which might restrict the activities of Cosmetic Companies which produce cosmetics in which animal ingredients have been used, or for which animals were subjected to research.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will:
Legislate to require comprehensive labelling of perfumes, cosmetics and toilet preparations to indicate:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Humphreys. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the under-signed citizens of Australia showeth:
Taxing the value of employer-provided housing in Central Queensland will seriously affect the workforce who already suffer from high costs of living due to transport costs, increased fuel costs and other disadvantages.
That implementation of same without careful regard to other factors will deter skilled and professional labour from accepting positions in the region. That employees are frequently required to be transferred elsewhere in the state for short terms and cannot find or pay for private accommodation. That the employees cannot choose to live in localities where rental charged by employers is equivalent to that of private rental. That some Public Servants are forced to make use of Public Service houses in order to retain their allocation to the employee’s Department or branch of same.
Accordingly, we call upon you to consider very carefully the above in relation to the implementation of section 26 (e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act with respect to employerprovided housing.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Katter.
To the Honourable Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives, assembled. This petition of concerned citizens:
Ernestly request that the funding of the Women’s Health Centres and Rape Crisis Centre be increased to allow these centres to adequately provide the services vitally needed by the women of New South Wales. Further to this end that funding be granted to allow new greatly needed Womens Health Centres and Rape Crisis Centres to be established.
We abhor the continued cuts in funding that have occured over the past three years and which is creating a situation whereby the centres are facing the likelihood of no longer being able to function.
We submit that the deficit incurred by the cuts be made good by the Federal Government and to this end we submit this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr MacKellar. Petition received.
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 the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian Women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Martyr. Petition received.
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 objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Millar. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
1 ) Note that legislation establishing plant breeders’ rights in other countries has had serious adverse effects, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the anti-social activities of certain organisations, in the main purporting to be religious and under foreign control, are causing increasing mental, physical and/or social distress to citizens throughout the Commonwealth of Australia.
Such adverse effects include drastic personality changes, alienation and severance from persons’ families and normal society, dispossession under undue influence of persons’ worldly assets, abandonment of socially useful occupations or career education, mental disorientation, and a common requirement to surrender their labour with little or no pay, working unduly long hours fund-raising for the exclusive benefit of the organisations’ leaderships.
Furthermore, a disturbing number of our country’s youth have died prematurely in unsatisfactorily explained circumstances or have become so mentally or physically debilitated as to require hospitalisation or treatment following their involvement with the subject organisations commonly, but erroneously, described as ‘religious cults’.
AH evidence points to the fact that the subject organisations are commercial enterprises which, for the purpose of evading tax and other business obligations, have falsely assumed the status of ‘religions’ in order to take advantage of the blanket protection provided by Section 116 of the Australian Constitution.
It is your petitioners’ sincere belief that proliferation of such organisations unchecked with their personalitydisorienting and family-divisive practices and effects, represents a serious threat to the health, welfare, and peace of the whole community.
Notwithstanding the decision of the combined Australian Attorneys-General at their October 1979 meeting, that no special action should be taken by Governments to curb undesirable activities of religious cults and that these should be dealt with under existing laws, such laws as would provide protection against the aforementioned malpractices do not appear to exist.
For this reason the Government should proceed with all haste to investigate the widely-alleged malpractices of the subject organisations which include Hare Krishnas the Unification Church (Moonies) and such other groups as are subject of complaints, preparatory to introducing appropriate legislations to curtail the said malpractices to ensure citizens’ continuing enjoyment of peace and harmony.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most effected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia’s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Nixon. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Isaacs respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Act should be amended to limit child support orders to a set scale, to provide custody of children to the parent not primarily responsible for the breakdown of the marriage and establish a set schedule for division of matrimonial property that cannot be varied at the discretion of any judge.
These measures would reduce the divorce rate and reestablish stability and security in family life.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Act be amended to abolish the maintenance and alimony system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Burns. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Lowe respectfully showeth:
That the Abbotsford Point Quarantine Station be dedicated for public recreation, because of:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) left Australia on 22 August to attend in New York the Eleventh Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Economic Development. The Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs until Mr Peacock returns.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
1 ) In the opinion of this House the continued advocacy of conscription by the Government parties is potentially damaging to public acceptance of policies of adequate levels of defence and would, if adopted, seriously weaken the Defence Force and divide the community;
the House calls on the Government to make an immediate and unqualified statement on its intentions on conscription and does not accept as adequate general statements of denial similar to those made by the former Minister for the Army, Dr Forbes, three weeks before the Prime Minister introduced conscription in 1964.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House notes with concern that, whilst the Prices Justification Tribunal fixes a maximum wholesale price for petrol in every capital in Australia, the major oil companies, after justifying further increases, are still able to sell petrol retail in certain selective areas below that approved PJT maximum wholesale price.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House notes that, in 1979-80, $2.775m was spent by the Government for the operation of the VIP aircraft fleet and deplores the Government’s action in approving the use of VIP aircraft by Ministers of the Government for personal purposes at the expense of the Australian taxpayer.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House notes that the preliminary employed labour force details released yesterday by the Statistician record an annual increase in the employed labour force of 21 3,000 persons, acknowledges that this July to July increase estimate is the largest such absolute addition recorded since the first regular labour force survey in 1966 and, therefore, regrets that this fact has not been acknowledged by Australia’s professional pessimists.
– I refer the Prime Minister to his homilies on the similarities in the need to balance the household budget as well as the Commonwealth Government’s Budget. Did the total debt of the Commonwealth Government in 1975 amount to $440 for every Australian? Did that level of indebtedness rise to $1,265 in 1980 for every man, woman and child in Australia? As the Australian Government has increased its level of indebtedness by almost 300 per cent in the last five years, does the Prime Minister regard such a practice as responsible financial management for an Australian household?
– I ask the honourable member for Parramatta to repeat the first few lines of the question so that I might know exactly what description he is using when talking about public sector debt.
– I will skip the reference to the Prime Minister’s well-known homilies. 1 asked: Did the total debt of the Commonwealth Government in 1975 amount to $440 for every Australian?
– I have not done the per capita calculations that the honourable member–
– They are in statement No. 6.
– All right. I have not done the per capita calculations that the honourable member for Parramatta referred to, but nothing can gainsay the fact that as a percentage of gross domestic product, which is surely the most accurate measure of the total resources of any activity, the Commonwealth Budget deficit this year is the lowest that it has been for seven years. Not only is the Commowealth Budget deficit at its lowest figure for seven years but also for the second time, in two successive years, the total size of the public sector borrowing requirement has altered.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Under Standing Orders is it not necessary for answers to be relevant? This answer is not relevant. The question was about public debt. The Treasurer is talking about a deficit. Would you please ask him to be relevant?
– Order! I rule that the answer was relevant. My experience as Treasurer led me to understand that, depending on the size of the deficit, the debt was likely to expand or contract.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to reports today by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that an Australian nun - Sister Anna Cecilia Gleeson from the Order of the Sisters of Mercy in my electorate- has been detained in Chile on a charge of having incited a riot. Is this report correct? If so, what steps has the Government taken to investigate the situation and to secure Sister Anna’s release? I also ask whether further reports which have just reached me that Sister Anna has now been released are correct.
– It is a fact that an Australian nun, Sister Gleeson, was arrested in Santiago, Chile, on 23 August under a decree which allowed her to be detained for up to three months. The latest report received by the honourable gentleman is correct: She has been released. No charges were laid against Sister Gleeson. We believe that she was one of a group of people who were arrested following a visit to a hall which was to have been the site of a meeting to discuss the proposed constitution and the forthcoming plebiscite. The Department of Foreign Affairs was in touch with the authorities in Chile. I repeat that Sister Gleeson has been released.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd yesterday urged a 2 per cent lift in the official interest rate charged on overdrafts of less than $100,000 and a one per cent rise in housing loan interest rates in order to protect the profits of the bank? Would a further one per cent rise in housing loan interest rates mean an increase of $22 a month on a loan of $30,000 repaid over 25 years? Would it impose a heavier burden on those families already paying off their homes? Is it a fact that a person earning less than $305 a week would be virtually excluded from housing loan bank finance and that such exclusion would apply to around 85 per cent of those on single incomes? Would such an increase in home loan interest rates further depress the home building industry, which, according to the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry, is already operating 1 1 per cent below capacity nationally and as much as 22 per cent below capacity in Victoria? Will the Treasurer give a guarantee that his Government will give higher priority to the needs of people than to the profits of private banks, and reject the call of the CBC for a further rise in home loan interest rates?
– I have seen the remarks attributed to the Managing Director of the Commercial Banking Company. I think the honourable gentleman and the House will be aware that it has been the policy of this Government, in respect of the interest rates which are within the control of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to show a preference for small borrowers, and as a consequence that preference has continued to be enjoyed by the very segment of housing borrowers about whom the honourable gentleman professes to be concerned in his question. The result of that policy is that not only do small business borrowers get the benefit of that, but also the small home purchase borrowers benefit. The honourable gentleman is aware that no government can responsibly give the sorts of guarantees that are sought by him. I point out to him that in 1979-80 the volume of money made available for lending by the major institutions was the highest for several years. In 1979-80 the building societies and banks recorded the highest volume of lending for quite some time. The honourable gentleman will do well to remember that, and also he will do well to remember that dwelling construction during the course of 1979-80 rose very strongly, by several percentage points in real terms.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Trade and Resources, refers to uranium exports. I ask the Minister: What is the outlook for sales of Australian uranium?
– A few weeks ago I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition casting his normal gloom, saying that there had not been any sales of Australian uranium and that the future was very bleak. It is his usual performance to try to talk down the economy, or the success of the Government. The facts of the matter are that only last week I announced to this House that contracts had been entered into by Energy Resources of Australia for the supply of $2,000m worth of uranium to West Germany and Japan over the course of the next 16 years. Further contracts have also been signed with Korea and Finland, and there are advanced negotiations on sales to the United States. I believe that the prospects for long term growth of the nuclear generation of electricity from uranium are very clear. At the moment 230 nuclear power stations operate in 22 countries and 232 are under construction in 28 countries. There has been some slippage, because of the economic slackness around the world and also because of delays in licensing, particularly in the United States.
It is anticipated that there will be a trebling of nuclear power capacity in the western world in the course of the next 10 years. Indeed, only recently the Atomic Industrial Forum said that in the past 1 8 months there had been a 25 per cent increase outside the United States in nuclear power generation around the world. So, to those people who want to talk gloom about the nuclear industry and the development of the uranium industry in Australia, I say that that is just a lot of hogwash.
– I refer the Prime Minister to the Government’s crippling campaign to extract an extra $6 per week tax on the subsidised rental value of the homes of Central Queensland miners. Also, I refer the Prime Minister to the statement by the Treasurer on 8 August that tax is not payable on a subsidised rental if a taxpayer has a permanent residence elsewhere. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Treasurer’s statement of 8 August was correct when he said that the Prime Minister was not liable for taxation on the subsidised accommodation at the Lodge because the Victorian property, Nareen, is the Prime Minister’s permanent home? Is it not a fact that the dwelling at Nareen is owned by Fraser Properties Pty Ltd, a private company, and not by the Prime Minister, J. M. Fraser the taxpayer? On what basis did the Treasurer make the claim that the residence at Nareen in ownership terms is the Prime Minister’s permanent home?
– Nareen is obviously my permanent home and has been since 1944.
– It will be after the next election.
– I expect it to remain so for quite some time even if, after the next election, I will not be able to spend as much time there as I often would like. The question of whether tax should be paid on the accommodation at the Prime Minister’s Lodge is something which, I am sure, the Commissioner of Taxation has examined, especially in the light of the current arguments on this subject. I think it ought to be noted that all members of parliament, when they are in Canberra, get a travel allowance for being in Canberra to meet whatever accommodation arrangements they might want to make. They also receive that allowance when they are in Sydney or other places. I obviously use the Lodge in Canberra a great deal; so when I am in Canberra that travel allowance is not paid to me. I very occasionally use Kirribilli House in Sydney and if I happen to be staying there, that travel allowance is not paid to me.
– You haven’t said who owns the Nareen property yet.
– I have answered the question about Nareen very plainly. The Prime Minister’s Lodge is obviously provided to me and has been provided to all Prime Ministers because of the needs of the office. If that accommodation were to be taxed on the basis that the honourable gentleman is indicating, it would make just as much sense to tax the travel allowance which honourable members get paid when they are in Canberra.
I thank the honourable gentleman for the question he has put to me because I would like to say that the taxation of miners’ subsidised housing is, I think, misunderstood in significant parts of the country. There is a very real principle involved in this issue. The overwhelming majority of taxpayers are paid their total remuneration by way of salary - in dollars. Be they wharf labourers or other people working in Melbourne or Sydney, overwhelmingly their remuneration comes to them in cash and they have to make their own arrangements for houses, rental accommodation or whatever. That is paid for out of their income from which tax has been paid. There are other people in the Australian community - the miners are one example - who have a house provided to them and that, therefore, is a supplement to the wages that are normally paid. Overwhelmingly, those people pay something on account of that subsidised housing by way of additional tax because it is obviously a very definite supplement to their total remuneration. If that provision were not in the Income Tax Assessment Act, there would clearly be a great movement right across Australia for people to be provided with subsidised housing because, if such a supplement were not subject to tax, it would obviously be a great inducement to move in this direction and to give people untaxed additions to their normal salaries. That, of course, would establish a very difficult situation and one which would lead to great inequities between taxpayers, those who were not able to live in subsidised housing being the ones who would be very hard done by under those circumstances. The great majority of wage and salary earners would be in that position.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not wish to delay the Prime Minister unduly but the purpose of the question was to establish the basis of ownership of the residence Nareen - whether J. M. Fraser owns it or a property company owns it and whether the Prime Minister pays a rental to that company or an adequate commercial rent - to establish the basis of the tax avoidance on the Lodge.
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The answer given by the Prime Minister is relevant to the question asked which was clearly based upon certain events relating to miners’ housing in Queensland. I rule the answer relevant and therefore in order. I call the Prime Minister.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. Clearly, the Government is concerned about equity between different classes of taxpayers and it is particularly concerned to maintain a position of fairness for all those taxpayers, who I believe are the great majority, who have to provide their own homes totally out of their own income.
It is worth noting, I think, that the miners in this area of Australia are in almost a unique situation. Because of the rental they were paying for their houses and because they had not caught the attention of the Commissioner of Taxation for a number of years, they were in a privileged position that was not shared by any other group in the Australian community that I am aware of. So, the proposition that the Treasurer has put is one which is based very much on preserving equity between taxpayers. It should not be thought that the miners are fighting a battle for the great majority of taxpayers who may be in subsidised housing across the rural areas of Australia because that is just not the case. The great majority of those taxpayers in subsidised housing across the remoter parts of this country already pay some tax on account of their subsidised housing. It is the miners at Blackwater who are not doing so.
– A point of order!
– This is the situation that has arisen in relation to it.
– I call the honourable member for Blaxland on a point of order. But I say to the honourable gentleman that, if it is a repetition of the past point of order, it is out of order.
– Mr Speaker, in terms of relevance, all I want to know is whether the Prime Minister owns his own house?
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order. I call the Prime Minister.
– I think it is worth noting also that there has been a great deal of reporting about what I may or may not have said a year or more ago to some miners at Blackwater. If honourable gentlemen look at the totality of those Press reports that came out as a result of that meeting - I do not think at this point I want to weary the House about the details of those Press reports - they will see that it is perfectly clear that the reporters who reported that particular meeting, with the exception of one, were under the very clear impression that I had given no guarantee to the miners that they would not be paying any tax. I refer to one report on 15 June 1979 in the Mackay Daily Mercury when the combined mining unions spokesman, Mr Bill Coffey, said:
We feel there is a possibility our people are going to be lumbered with some kind of tax increases … Mr Fraser never said outright that tax would be wiped out altogether.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and concerns Australia’s relations with Britain. Are Australia’s relations with Great Britain today an important element of Australian foreign policy? Particularly, does the Government regard the Centre for Australian Studies in London and the work of the Australia-Britain Society in Australia as important?
-The honourable gentleman obviously has been paying greater attention to the Budget Papers than many other honourable gentlemen. For the first time we are providing a grant to the Australia-Britain Society of $150,000 to enable it to organise a permanent secretariat and to strengthen its organisation in Australia. In addition, we have provided $160,000 a year to pay the academic salaries, travel and other expenses of the Centre for Australian Studies in London which also has been given quite strong support from sources in the United Kingdom. I hope that the Opposition also will be warmly in support of this measure. Small though it is, we regard it as significant.
Over recent years, Australia’s trade relationship with the United Kingdom has diminished as a result of Britain’s advent in the Common Market. The practical trading links and indeed the defence links with the United Kingdom which had endured throughout Australia’s history are much less than they once were. However, this Government regards the continuing closeness of relationships between Australia and the United Kingdom as something of great importance and something to be worked at, especially since many Australians now come from different backgrounds and do not have the Anglo-Saxon background of many older generations of Australians. We believe that both these measures will assist what are essentially private institutions in promoting wellbeing, understanding and close relationship between the United Kingdom and Australia. We think these are causes well worth supporting and I believe they will have the support of the whole House.
– I refer the Minister for Health to the Government’s decision to abandon the proposal to permit pharmacists to discount prices for drugs covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme some 48 hours after the proposal was introduced. Why did the Minister not recognise before he made the decision that the proposal might ‘dramatically alter the structure of the pharmaceutical industry’? Why did the Minister not recognise before he made the decision that it was inappropriate to make the proposal at a time when three major reviews are being conducted into the industry’s operations? Are not the ministerial explanations simply a confession of ministerial incompetence?
Mr MacKELLAR The Government, of course, has under consideration the results of the Ralph Committee of Inquiry into the Pharmaceutical Industry. The Committee came up with about 26 recommendations. Those who have read the report of the Committee will know that some of those recommendations, particularly those relating to chapter 1 7, are extremely complex and could result in very great changes not only to the services provided by pharmacists but also to the structure of the pharmaceutical industry and the services offered to the general public.
As the honourable gentleman knows, the Government, in reviewing the Ralph Committee’s report, decided to introduce a 20c across the board payment in relation to pharmaceuticals going to chemists. In relation to another matter - recommendation No. 7 - the Government looked at the report of an interdepartmental committee and at the representations that had been received from industry organisations and individuals. In the event, following the announcement of the decision, there was a very widespread reaction throughout Australia, and I took into consideration the nature of the representations made to me. The basis of those representations was that, given the fact that a major company had engaged very rapidly in a price cutting or discounting situation, the rapidity of the structural change in the industry could be such as would not provide the sort of service that we would like to see provided for the general public. Therefore, the Government has set aside the decision to allow time for industry representatives, interested groups and individuals to make their point to the Government in relation not only to this recommendation but also to other recommendations contained in the report of the Ralph Committee of Inquiry. It seems to me to be utterly sensible that when good points are made in representations the Government should be in a position to review them. That is exactly what has happened.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations, relates to consultation between government and the trade union movement. Can the Minister inform the House what the Government has done to implement consultation between government and the trade unions?
– This Government, ever since it came to office, has encouraged consultation and communication as a means of improving the standard of industrial relations. As the House will know, in 1977 we established the National Labour Consultative Council so that government, employers and unions could meet regularly. During the last three years this Council and its committees have done much useful work. One of the main benefits of this work - I freely acknowledge this - has been better industrial legislation. In addition, as a matter of course we maintain less formal contacts on a continuing basis.
That is in stark contrast to the record of the Labor Government. Even though that Government had available to it what was then known as the National Labour Advisory Council, not once during the three years it was in office did it call that body together. I notice that the Australian Labor Party is now talking again about consultations and national conferences. All that mumbo-jumbo sounds very hollow when one looks at the Labor Party’s track record. Last week the Leader of the Opposition said that a Labor government would maintain a separate Department of Industrial Relations, but the honourable member for Port Adelaide is on record in this House, when referring to the division of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, as saying: . . . was a matter to which we on this side of the House object. As soon as the people of Australia re-elect a Labor Government that will become one department.
Obviously that will not happen, but it is interesting to speculate on who would get the job. There would appear to me to be a couple of candidates - one inside this House and one outside it. Even the Leader of the Opposition would know that two will not go into one.
– Is the Prime Minister concerned and embarrassed that he will go to the United States to receive a B’nai B’rith award for humanitarianism next week when he refused again yesterday to use Commonwealth powers to protect Western Australian Aborigines from social and religious oppression by his Western Australian State colleagues? Is the Prime Minister more concerned with his image abroad than with the interests and future welfare of our Australian Aborigines? Will the Government now take responsibility for protecting Aboriginal interests or leave that responsibility to be undertaken by trade unions, perhaps the clergy, and certainly the Opposition?
– The Government’s view all along has been that sacred sites should be protected and that a community ought to be protected. It is worth noting that throughout the discussions yesterday it became very clear that the major concern of the Aboriginals present with us was the preservation of their traditional way of life and of their community. In a very real sense the preservation of sacred sites is important but symbolic of that. It is not just a question of the sacred sites; it is because that is an important part of their own tradition and culture. All parties agreed - the Aboriginals at Noonkanbah, the National Aboriginal Conference, the State Government and the Federal Government - that these things must be protected, so it is a matter of great regret to the Commonwealth that it has not been possible to come to an agreement through negotiations. Since there is an agreement that the sacred sites and the way of life of the people must be protected - this is common to everyone who has an involvement in this matter - we believe it ought to have been possible to come to a negotiation in relation to it.
The honourable gentleman has asked this Government to use powers which the Opposition never thought to use when it was in office and which no Government hitherto has sought to use. This Government established land rights in the Northern Territory. Much has been achieved over the last five years under the two Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs whom we have had and whom the Aboriginal communities widely regard as the best Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs that this country has ever had. That has been said by community after community right around Australia because those Ministers have given effect to government policies which have been realistic and which have given dignity and self-esteem to Aboriginal communities and groups. If all people in Australia are to advance, as this Government would want, these policies must continue. It will not advance the cause of Aborigines if one government is virtually to go to war with another over the question of what ought to be done. Just as we believe that the problems at Noonkanbah should be resolved by negotiation, as has been said privately and publicly on many occasions, so too we believe that if there are differences between governments they ought to be resolved by negotiation because both governments have a responsibility to the Aboriginal people and for their advancement. As there seems to be a misunderstanding among honourable gentlemen opposite I shall read a statement that was issued today. It states:
The Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference, Mr . . . Hagan said in Canberra today that the NAC Executive Committee was pleased with the outcome of talks last night with the Prime Minister . . . and senior Cabinet Ministers.
As a result of the talks the Federal Government was now fully aware of the Aboriginal viewpoint on land rights and the protection of sacred sites.
The Government had agreed that protection of sacred sites and of Aboriginal community lifestyle was paramount in any negotiation of mining on Aboriginal land.
Mr Hagan said the meeting had provided valuable insight for both the Government and the NAC into the complexities of the other situation and this would prove beneficial in any further top level discussions. ‘While the NAC entered no agreement with the Government on the Noonkanbah issue, it is confident that the Government, for the first time -
I beg to differ slightly here because I believe the Government has understood the issue- now fully understands the feeling of the Noonkanbah people and of all Aborigines on the question of land rights’ . . . ‘The NAC made the Government totally aware of the resolve of the NAC and other Aboriginal organisations that in this instance it should intervene to effect a peaceful resolution to the Noonkanbah dispute.’
He said Press reports that the talks had failed had presupposed that the NAC had met the Government with the expectation of effecting an immediate change in the situation.
This was not the case.
So it goes on. That was a Press statement by the Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference on its behalf. As indicated at the end of that Press statement, it is true that the Conference put to us that it would prefer this Government to use the totality of its Commonwealth power. The Government, in response, said that if these matters are to be resolved through negotiation and consultation, it will be not only a question of negotiation and consultation among Aboriginal groups, the State Government, miners or the Federal Government but also a question of negotiation and consultation between governments. It is not a question of one government arbitrarily using powers in relation to another. That would not advance the cause of Aboriginal people. That Press statement on behalf of the National Aboriginal Conference demonstrated plainly that the meeting yesterday was a constructive and useful one and that there is a better understanding of the totality of the issues involved. That meeting will be followed by discussions later this week with the Deputy Prime Minister and others and with the mining groups which have an interest in making sure that these matters can proceed in a reasonable way by negotiation and without confrontation. I have no doubt that this Government will have the co-operation of mining groups in relation to that.
Some other simple facts, I think, are not necessarily well understood in this issue. The mining is not on a sacred site. On the basis of the Western Australian Museum report, the proposed drill hole is about a kilometre and a quarter to a kilometre and a half away from a sacred site. There is a question of an area of influence. That is a different matter. The matter of sacred sites does not arise. It was made quite plain by the National Aboriginal Conference yesterday that the matters of prime concern were, firstly, sacred sites and, secondly, the preservation of the Aborigines’ own traditions and lifestyle. This Government fully agrees with that. There is no mining on a sacred site and there should be no suggestion that there is. The other point that needs noting is that Noonkanbah was bought as a pastoral lease for the Noonkanbah people some time ago. If
Australia were to accept the proposition that any minority group could, for all time, reject or prevent mining on a pastoral lease, that would be saying something of great significance which I do not think many Australians would want to embrace. That does not detract for one moment from the proposition that all those matters of importance to the Aboriginal communities need to be safeguarded and protected, whether they be sacred sites or the habits and customs of their daily living.
– Has the Minister for Post and Telecommunications seen some overseas postage stamps which focus attention on the damage that can be caused by the use of hard drugs? Does the Minister see value in using postage stamps as a warning to drug users in Australia? If he does, is he prepared to recommend the general concept of those stamps to Australia Post?
– The sorts of stamps which are appropriate in some cultures may not always be appropriate in Australia. Nevertheless, I think the idea of the Australian Postal Commission looking at the suggestion sympathetically to see whether there is an appropriate stamp which could assist in the drive against drug abuse is a useful one. Therefore, I will ask the Commission to have a look at it.
– I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement which he made to this House on 19 August concerning the recent Australian Security Intelligence Organisation investigation into the Office of National Assessments, and I refer in particular to the fact that the right honourable gentleman mentioned in that statement that he rejected Press allegations that the ASIO report had been watered down. I ask the Prime Minister: How does he react to allegations which are continuing to be made despite his statement, for example in the Weekend Australian and the London Daily Telegraph, to the effect that the Prime Minister was hoodwinked over the ASIO report?
– I repeat what I said on that occasion, and I repeat the offer. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to take up the matter he can see the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation report or the letter Mr Justice Woodward wrote to me as a result of it. I have nothing further to add.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Resources advise the House whether, following the Industries Assistance Commission report on cheese, a satisfactory conclusion has been reached with New Zealand on limiting cheese imports to Australia? If an agreement has been made with New Zealand, what part was played by the two governments and by the dairying industry organisations, and where does the agreement fit into the New Zealand- Australia Free Trade Agreement?
– The export of cheese from New Zealand to Australia has been a vexed issue and one that has come up many times at New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement discussions. There has been a long series of consultations and discussions to try to resolve the differences between our two countries. I am pleased to be able to say that a few weeks ago this matter was resolved as a result of industry organisations in both countries coming together. Basically, it was resolved by New Zealand adopting a reasonable policy of restraint on its exports to Australia. It has given an assurance to the Australian industry that it has absolutely no intention of disrupting the Australian market and that exports for this coming year will be at the same level as in 1 979.
It is also worthy of note that at the NAFTA discussions only a few weeks ago Mr Talboys said that it made absolutely no sense at all for New Zealand to be exporting excess quantities of cheese to the Australian market and causing unnecessary disruption. This matter has involved both governments in a series of discussions and correspondence, and it is pleasing now that a sensible solution has been evolved between the two dairying industries under the framework of NAFTA and with the co-operation and support of the two governments.
– I refer the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to the changeover of television channel ATV-0 to ATV-10, a changeover that was made with indecent haste after pressures were applied by–
– Order! The honourable gentleman must ask for information and not argue the issue.
– I ask the Minister: What was the reason for dismantling the channel 0 transmitter? Why is the transmitter now being rebuilt with second-hand material from the old transmitter when a new transmitter on order from Japan will mean a further dismantling and replacing only a few weeks after the transmitter is rebuilt? Was this dismantling, rebuilding, dismantling program an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money so that the Government could keep on schedule, at all costs, the opening of the ethnic television service as a phoney election gimmick?
– If the Opposition thinks that the start of multicultural television is a phoney political event let it say so to the ethnic groups throughout Australia. Indeed, I have been advised–
– It is a phoney election gimmick and you know it. Why did you haul the tower down in the first place?
– The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent.
– Tell us why you pulled the tower down?
– I warn the honourable member for Melbourne to cease interjecting.
– I have been advised that the ethnic councils in New South Wales and Victoria and the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia are utterly distressed by the attitude of the Opposition towards the start of multicultural television services in Australia. They are astonished at the Opposition’s obvious lack of concern for ethnic communities in this country. It is true that it is the Government’s desire to get multicultural television going under existing powers and regulations, as supported by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on 24 October. Some technical matters were raised in the honourable member’s question, and I will have them looked at.
– I refer to the Prime Minister’s reply to a question without notice on 21 August from my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar regarding the Woodward Royal Commission’s second report on illicit drug trafficking in New South Wales. Is the Prime Minister able to advise the House whether the Government has initiated any further action in this matter?
– The Government has considered this matter and has considered the report of its own officials in relation to the Woodward Royal Commission, especially in relation to Nugan Hand Ltd. It has considered not solely that but also the broad aspects of the report. A number of matters in that report are clearly matters of Commonwealth concern and responsibility. As a result I have this day written to Premier Wran. I think 1 can say on behalf of all honourable gentlemen in this House that we are glad to see that he has his voice back. He has been through a difficult time and, however much we intend to beat him politically and in whatever environment, we would not want to win by default.
– You get two out of ten for that one.
– It is the only way that the Opposition could ever win. Drug trafficking is clearly a great threat to any modern society. I think that is agreed by all governments and by all political parties. Mr Justice Woodward’s conclusions about the involvement of known criminals are a cause of very grave and serious concern. The report points to offences against Commonwealth laws, to criminal involvement in foreign exchange transactions, to importation of narcotics and to passport and immigration offences. He also refers to Commonwealth-State co-operation, access to and security on wharves, for example, and to the enforcement of laws against drug trafficking where clearly the Commonwealth and State governments must co-operate in a very close and very real way. Today I wrote to Premier Wran proposing, on the first hand, an investigation of Nugan Hand Ltd and persons associated with it by a joint police task force. Recommendation 5 of the Woodward report is relevant to that. It recommended:
That evidence concerning Harry Wainwright; Nugan Hand Limited and its associated companies; and the affairs of Murray Stewart Riley (and in particular his associates as revealed in evidence) be referred to appropriate law enforcement bodies for further investigation.
That is part of recommendation 5 which clearly has some consequences for the Commonwealth. We are proposing, therefore, an investigation by a joint police task force in relation to it.
We are also offering assistance to the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission in its investigation of Hugan Hand. I hope very much that that assistance will be warmly accepted by the Corporate Affairs Commission and by the Minister responsible for it. We are proposing that other recommendations, namely, the first recommendation, which concerns security on the wharves and other related matters, and recommendation 6, which recommends that ‘special steps should be taken to ensure, insofar as possible, adequate and proper co-operation between the New South Wales Police Force and relevant Commonwealth authorities’- that is how that recommendation begins - go to Police Ministers this Friday and then to the Commonwealth-State Ministers Committee established on 27 June by the Premiers Conference. We hope that these matters can be expedited. I would hope that I would receive an urgent response from Premier Wran in relation to our co-operation in these matters.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence.
– The honourable gentleman, I understand, wishes to add to an answer.
– I wish to supplement an answer that I gave.
– He may proceed.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Treasurer is going beyond an answer to a question without notice. He sought to brief himself and he now wants to canvass the issue. I suggest the proper way to handle this would be for the Treasurer to make a statement and to allow debate to ensue because it is an important point. The Opposition would be keen to debate the issue with him.
– It has been my practice to permit a Minister, when he indicates to me that he asks for my indulgence, to add to an answer when that addition to an answer is an issue of fact. I will listen to the Treasurer. I will not permit him to argue the matter, but I will permit him to provide extra information to the House.
– Mr Speaker, because I can anticipate the quality of the fact, may I have your indulgence to put certain other facts to the House in response to what he might care to put foward? I presume that it is in relation to the question that the honourable member for Parramatta directed to the Treasurer.
– I will hear the Treasurer.
- Mr Speaker, in the interests of ensuring that questions asked of me are answered directly, I wish to add to the answer to the question of the honourable member for Parramatta. He asked me about overall Commonwealth debt. He obviously was drawing from statistics about securities on issue. I gave an answer that was related to the size of the Commonwealth Budget deficit. Clearly, that was not an answer to his question. From recollection, the figures he quoted in respect of 1975 and the later year are in fact correct. There are reasons for that, as he well knows. They are culmulative figures and they do not necessarily bear upon whether one government or another is spending more of the people’s money and incurring more debt.
– Mr Speaker, with your indulgence I would like to put the record straight.
– I will not permit the Leader of the Opposition to do so.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, that is not an accurate reflection of the facts. You said that you would listen to facts. I have them here. They are considerably different from the interpretation that the Treasurer has given.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
Government members interjecting -
– If you are incompetent and do not know your own business, that is not our fault, but we are not going to see the procedures of the House rigged to protect the Government, surely.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent. I will ignore the implication against me. In the interests of the House I permitted the Treasurer to add what he assured me was a statement of fact. I will not permit the procedure of the House to be overtaken by an argument about whether the fact as claimed by the Treasurer is accurate. Other procedures are available to the House for that purpose.
– I understand that the honourable member for Lalor intends to lodge a request for detailed information relating to the administration of the parliamentary departments.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, 1 seek information in relation to the operation of the parliamentary departments.
– I ask the honourable member to put his request in writing and hand it to the Clerk. If the request is in order it will be printed in today’s Hansard and in due course I will provide a written answer, which will also be printed in Hansard.
I understand that the honourable members for Batman, Melbourne Ports, Griffith, Werriwa and Capricornia also intend to lodge requests for detailed information relating to the administration of the parliamentary departments. I ask them to put their requests in writing and hand them to the Clerk. If their requests are in order they will be printed in today’s Hansard. In due course I will provide written answers which will also be printed in Hansard.
- Mr Speaker, on Thursday when you were not in the chair I made a request for a statement on the use of Hansard tapes.
– That matter has been brought to my attention and I am examining it. When I am able to do so I will inform the honourable member for Corio and the House of my findings.
– Pursuant to statute I present the report of the Auditor-General dated 26 August 1980 on the status of financial statements of statutory authorities and other activities.
– For the information of honourable members I present a document entitled ‘Food Aid Convention 1980’.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Defence Report 1980. A printed copy of the report will be prepared very shortly.
– I have pleasure in presenting for the information of honourable members a document entitled ‘Functional Classification of Outlays - Departmental Estimates 1980-81’. This is a new presentation of information and I hope that it will assist honourable members in their examination of departmental estimates.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the social impact of uranium mining on the Aborigines of the Northern Territory, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs relating to the report.
– Mr Speaker, I would like to take a point of order. I draw your attention to the way in which a very important paper by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Affairs, dealing with the way in which uranium mining and the payment to Aborigines of royalties derived from that mining, is being handled. I ask for some support from you because this is a most important document. I have not been given access to it. I ask why this very important report was not dealt with by way of a ministerial statement in the normal way, with the shadow Minister being given the courtesy of several hours’ notice and the ability to reply to it. If it is too late to do that now, perhaps I might receive an assurance from the Government and from the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that we will receive within the next several weeks before Parliament rises, no doubt for an early election, an adequate chance to debate this very important report. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to what has been said about this report in the Australian newspaper today.
– Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will resume his seat. I have given considerable latitude to the honourable gentleman. At this time in the procedures of the House, Ministers are entitled to present papers without previous notice or leave, or anything of that kind. I have permitted the honourable member for Cunningham to make the point he did, not as a point of order but because I interpreted it as a request to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to see whether he could provide debating time for the matter.
- Mr Speaker, I am sure that if the Manager of Opposition Business were aware of the interest of the honourable member for Cunningham, he would have approached the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to ask whether notice might be taken of the paper. As I understand it, that would be the appropriate procedure. If the Opposition wishes to take that course, we would be ready to accommodate it.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– Is the honourable member for Cunningham moving that the debate be adjourned?
– I am willing to speak to the House about this very important matter, although I have not received notice of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable members I present a Convention on
Contracts for the International Sale of Goods which was adopted on 10 April 1980 at a diplomatic conference held at Vienna together with a protocol amending the Convention on the limitation period in the international sale of goods, which also was adopted in Vienna on 10 April 1980, and an explanatory memorandum prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department relating to the Convention. Mr Speaker, with your indulgence may I make a very short further explanation with respect to the matter, in my capacity as representing the Attorney-General (Senator Durack).
– Is it an explanation relating to the presentation of the paper, or the material contained within the paper?
– It relates to the presentation of the paper.
– The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– The Vienna conference was attended by 62 states, including Australia, an observer from another state and representatives from eight inter-governmental and nongovernmental organisations. The Convention represents the culmination of some 10 years’ work by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, commonly known as UNCITRAL. It was established in 1966 with the principal aim of furthering the progressive harmonisation and unification of international trade law, and Australia has been one of its active members. In furtherance of that aim the present Convention has been formulated as a uniform law to govern the formation and operation of international sales of goods. The protocol harmonises the Convention on the limitation period in the international sale of goods which the Convention adopted at Vienna. The Convention and protocol are now open for accession. With a view to determining whether Australia should accede, the Government will be consulting with relevant business interests and with the State governments. Interested persons or organisations are invited to convey to the Attorney-General or to his Department their views on whether Australia should become a party to the convention.
Pursuant to section 7 of the Advisory Council for the Intergovernment Relations Act 1976 I present the third annual report of the Advisory Council for Intergovernment Relations for the year ending 31 August 1979.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Efficiency and Administration of Hospitals, June 1980.
. INDUSTRIES ASSISTANCE COMMISSION: REPORT ON CHEMICAL PRODUCTS
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on Chemical Products (Part B).
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. The honourable member for Grayndler has not been here long but I assure him that it is the practice of the House to listen to personal explanations in silence.
- Mr Speaker, you have ruled often that when honourable members interject, that interjection is included in Hansard if it is acknowledged by the person to whom it is made. I refer you to page 593 of Hansard when the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) was called by you after saying that he wished to be heard. He then made some rather spurious remarks about me. I feel sure that you would agree that if I made an interjection and he felt it was somewhat hurtful, it should have been included. I merely said: ‘Here comes the expert, and we all know that an expert is a drip under pressure’.
– (Moreton- Minister for Defence)- by leave-Last week the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced that $3.54 1 m had been allocated to defence in the 1980-81 Budget. I propose now to give the House more detail concerning this year’s defence Budget, and to explain why the Government considers an increase in defence expenditure is necessary and how the money is to be spent.
I begin by referring to the main features of the 1980-81 defence Budget. The outlay for defence is $3, 541m, an increase of 17.7 per cent over 1979- 80. This outlay is assessed as representing a real increase of no less than 7 per cent, and about 2.8 per cent of the gross domestic product. Firstly, SI, 7 19m is allocated to manpower. This is a 2 per cent real increase over 1979-80 expenditure, and represents about 49 per cent of defence expenditure. Secondly, running costs take up SI, 004m. This is a 6 per cent real increase over 1979-80 expenditure and represents about 28 per cent of defence expenditure.
Thirdly, $638m goes on capital equipment. This is a 19 per cent real increase over 1979-80 expenditure, and represents about 18 per cent of defence expenditure. Fourthly, $138m will be spent on capital facilities. This is a 34 per cent real increase over 1 979-80 expenditure, and represents about 4 per cent of defence expenditure. Finally, defence co-operation is given $39m. This is a 26 per cent real increase over 1979-80 expenditure, and represents about 1 per cent of defence expenditure. There is also a small net provision in the defence outlay for future salary increases and revenue.
On 25 March 1980, 1 informed the House that my Department had been instructed to plan for 1980- 81 on the basis of at least a 5.5 per cent real increase above the 1979-80 level, and that expenditure would be further increased, if necessary, to cover requirements for the purchase of the fourth FFG guided missile frigate. The real increase in defence outlay above 5.5 per cent takes account of the decisions to accelerate acquisition of the fourth FFG. to establish the operational deployment force in Townsville, and to accelerate the growth of the Army Reserve to 30,000. These figures should also be seen in the context of the Government’s five-year defence program.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his statement on 19 February 1980, referred to the Government’s acceptance of the need for a sustained increase of resources to improve defence capabilities, to maintain a higher state of preparedness, and to expand activity in the Indian Ocean and in other areas in our neighbouring region. The Prime Minister and I announced details of a program totalling some $1 7,600m~~in August 1979 prices-over the next five years, involving an average real growth of about 7 per cent per annum, increasing to around 3 per. cent of gross domestic product by 1984-85.
The Government is increasing expenditure on defence in response to significant trends in the strategic environment. The Government’s assessment of these trends has not been made in any abstract way. The assessment has been made following advice to the Government from its professional defence advisers. It deserves to be emphasised that the character of that advice is professional in every respect.
Some observers of the defence scene assert that government takes decisions on defence issues according to some curious political formula. Assertions of this kind are mischievous and do great injustice to all those who advise government in what is a highly complex field. To take but one significant example; the purchase of a new fighter aircraft will be the largest investment ever made by Australia in defence equipment. It is not merely a matter of choosing one highly complex piece of machinery rather than another, though that task in itself is extremely complicated. Strategic circumstances, supporting facilities, maintenance equipment, training of personnel, their living and working accommodation, the involvement of defence industry - all these matters are studied in detail by experts from a wide range of professional disciplines. Vast amounts of data are checked, examined, refined, and synthesised into a report to Government. I ask honourable members to keep in mind the high seriousness of purpose in these matters and to appreciate the complexity of judgment involved. These are vital issues in the real but often misused sense of the word. They demand a responsible approach.
I propose to say little more, in this statement about defence administration, other than to express my gratification that, at last, there are signs that the petty and irrational ‘knocking’ of earlier years is being replaced by more sober and more knowledgable appreciation within the media - and, I hope, in this Parliament- that the task of managing the nation’s defence affairs is an enormously complex one. It is a task which is in very capable hands indeed in the Department of Defence and the Defence Force.
The re-organisation of the 1970s has, on the overwhelming balance of things, worked outstandingly well and, given opportunity now to settle down, will continue to do so. The enlarged responsibilities which the defence organisation must now shoulder make it the more imperative that it be given that opportunity. I have said before, and I repeat, that complacency is the last quality to be found in that organisation. Selfcriticism and hard-headed analysis of weaknesses are amongst the first.
My Department is contributing to the widening of knowledge and understanding of defence matters by improving public information programs. It has held two-day public seminars in four capital cities this year. Another seminar will be held in Sydney early next month. I am proud of these efforts. No other major department of state since Federation has made such an effort to account to the community for its activities and to explain its organisation and objectives. I am pleased at the welcoming response these seminars have received from those who have participated in them.
There have been significant strategic developments in the world this year which merit close consideration. The Prime Minister and I have made a number of references to those developments. In March of this year I summarised the longer term implications of what had been occurring as follows:
First, there will be recognition that super power relations are now characterised not only by tension but by mistrust. There is scope now for crises deeper and more frequent than we have hitherto experienced. Secondly, there will be few now who can confidently assert that, wherever favourable opportunities may occur for manipulation, subversion and interference, including the Asian and Pacific regions, The Soviet Union will not exploit them. Uncertainty and instability everywhere are stimulated by this.
Nothing has occurred since I spoke in March that significantly alters the uncertain prospects I then described. Relations between the superpowers continue to be dominated by tensions and apprehension. No easing of the massive accumulation of Soviet armaments is occurring or is in sight. The Soviet Union is devoting 12-14 per cent of its GDP to this effort. In 1979 it spent almost 60 per cent more than the United States of America on its military forces. Its ability to project power across the oceans into places distant from the Soviet Union itself is constantly increasing. Of particular concern to us is the pattern of current and anticipated Soviet naval construction. It appears to indicate that the role for the Soviet fleet is now moving towards a capability for limited sea control and an improved capacity to intervene in conflicts in the Third World.
We are bound to ask: ‘Why? Why is the Soviet Union developing military strength, both conventional and nuclear, far beyond the proper and understandable requirements of its national defence?’ Let me quote the judgments of three experts in the field - one Russian, one British and one French. First, Soviet Admiral of the Fleet, S. G. Gorshkov, has written:
The constantly growing maritime might of our country ensures our ability to enlarge our exploitation of the colossal natural resources of the world ocean. The exploitation of the natural resources of the world ocean combined with the advance of science and technology, making such exploitation possible, open new vistas of economic and political integration for the socialist states, widen the sphere of their international co-operation and heighten the prestige of the Soviet state on the international arena.
Admiral Gorshkov has also written:
Today we have a fully modern Navy, equipped with everything necessary for the successful performance of all missions on the expanses of the world oceans. Naval forces can be used - in peacetime - to put pressure on their enemies, as a type of military demonstration, as a threat to interrupting sea communications and as a hindrance to ocean commerce. The flag of the Soviet navy now flies over the oceans of the world.
Second, the British Secretary of State for Defence said in the last British White Paper:
There is also an explicitly aggressive motive for the Soviet military build-up. It is a basic, if nowadays, seldom stated tenet of Marxist-Leninist philosophy that communism will ultimately be extended to every nation and its spread should be promoted, if necessary, by military means when circumstances are right. The Soviet Union has already demonstrated that it will use force to maintain the Soviet brand of communism on Eastern Europe. The invasion of Afghanistan, at the end of 1979, was the first example of military intervention to ensure the Soviet hold on a country outside the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union will, we believe, continue to watch for opportunities to build up its influence in further countries and will be ready again to use force. The objective of this drive for influence is to limit and reduce first the influence and then the security of the West.
Third, Raymond Aron, a notable French writer whose competence in international politics has long been recognised, wrote recently:
In the 1930s the threat was on our front doorstep staring straight at us, and yet it went unrecognised. Today it is diffuse, shifting and unpredictable. Every country from the Suez Canal to Pakistan is astir with revolutionary movement, some of them inspired by religion, the rest by Marxist ideology. The Soviets are closer to that theatre than the United States and they have no hesitation about despatching Red Army military advisers or Castro’s Cuban soldiers. Interrupting oil supplies would be a far cheaper and safer way of bringing Western Europe to heel than by nuclear warheads from an SS20.
I do not challenge the veracity of any of these blunt statements. Rather, I endorse them. The truths they contain are illustrated plainly by recent events. Soviet aggression in Afghanistan has not ended and an end to it is not in prospect. Soviet forces continue to crush a people whose non-aligned independence presents the Soviet Union with no conceivable military threat. Our concern with the situation in Afghanistan and the neighbouring region must not obscure for us the aggression by Vietnam - a treaty partner of the Soviet Union - on the border of our own area of primary interest. Vietnamese military occupation of Kampuchea has not ended. Vietnamese forces are still conducting military operations there against Kampucheans. Military attacks have been launched across the border against Thailand.
Let there be no doubt on this point. One quarter of the armed forces of Vietnam - that is some 250,000 Vietnamese military personnelare outside Vietnam, in Kampuchea and Laos. Well may we ask: ‘Why?’ I know of no external threat to the integrity of these once independent states - apart from Vietnam itself. I am pointing to public facts - Soviet military expansion, Soviet military suppression of the Afghan people, Vietnamese military suppression of the Kampuchean people, aided by the Soviet Union. I declare that Australian policies cannot remain unaffected by these facts. The Soviet and Vietnamese military operations must profoundly affect the prospects for stability in the international order which we now know and which, by and large, supports our own security. A most uncertain decade looms ahead.
How then, against this background of heightened tension and increasing instability, can Australia best act in our national security interests? First, we can act in concert with our friends. Second, we can build up our independent capability. We seek to co-operate with our friends in our common security interests, to sustain peace and to help contain the risk of threats to the independence of nations. We harbour no aspirations to dominate any nation. We do not wish to involve our forces abroad unless in the support of these objectives.
The central burden of deterrence of the Soviet Union must be borne by the United States. Its willingness and ability to carry the heavy load of defence expenditure, and to lead its friends and allies in an international deterrent effort, are critical to the independence and security of nations. In that effort, our American ally has Australia’s full support. This is the reason why, wherever we can, we should look favourably upon United States requests for assistance in projecting its deterrent strength into the Indian Ocean. The Defence Department has been discussing with United States authorities ways in which we can assist their forces which are operating so far from continental USA. At this time no specific proposals have been received from the United States authorities.
An Australian task force will shortly be deployed into the Indian Ocean. The Government has stated publicly that its purpose will be to demonstrate our concern, in support of many nations’ concern, that new Soviet threats in that area be deterred. Our operations, while co-ordinated with those of the United States, will be independent. Many of Australia’s neighbours are increasing their military defence capabilities in response to the recent disturbing global and regional developments. As foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in February, the Government believes that cooperation with the independent nations in our neighbouring regions is a long term measure of major importance. Within our limited resources, we are, therefore, giving particular emphasis to providing practical support to the improvement of the independent capability of our neighbours to protect their own security.
Following visits earlier this year by an Australian training team to the Association of South East Asian Nations and later to Papua New Guinea, and consultations by the Secretary of my Department with senior defence authorities in the ASEAN countries, action is now in hand to expand the training and defence co-operation programs with our friends in the region. The activities involved in these programs bring the Defence Force into direct and practical co-operation with more than 1 1 countries in South East Asia and the South West Pacific. As an example of our policy interest in this I mention that, at the request of the governments of Papua New Guinea and of Vanuatu, we have made our loan servicemen in Papua New Guinea Defence Force available to assist, in non-combat roles, the operations of the PNG Defence Force in Vanuatu. Our Defence Force is also giving practical assistance to Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea in other ways.
In addition to international defence cooperation we must improve our independent defence capabilities. The 1980-81 Budget introduces a commitment to sustained development which will lift the Defence Force and the national defence infrastructure to a higher level of capability, preparedness and self-reliance. We will continue to develop the basic capabilities we need. These include surveillance, reconnaissance, patrolling and strike capabilities, mobile and versatile land forces, air defence and strategic and tactical air support. Extensive opportunities will open up in defence industry - vitally important for increasing our self-reliance - in design, development, production and continuing support of a wide range of new equipment.
Technological skills will be upgraded. We will continue to emphasise the development of this essential component of our capability. We will achieve this year a higher state of defence preparedness through these measures and through increased training levels- more flying hours, more steaming time, more track kilometres. We will move to a higher level of investment in capital equipment and facilities, as well as adding to the numbers of our defence manpower.
I wish to mention specifically our plans regarding the Army Reserve expansion. I repeat the
Prime Minister’s call to young Australians to contribute to Australia’s future security by joining the Army Reserve. We will be spending $25m this year, including $7m for equipment, on the expansion of the Army Reserve from 22,000 to 30,000. Let me say unequivocally that the Government regards the nation’s Reserve forces as an integral part of our - defence preparedness and a foundation of our policy for timely expansion to meet a future defence emergency. We need these forces. We welcome the men and women who form them. We are proud to have their support.
I draw the attention of the House to some of the more significant elements of our capabilities and to the expenditure being committed this year on their development. First, however, I feel impelled to make a point I have made before in response to those who may be urged to comment that the decisions and developments I will be describing are ‘nothing new’. Decisions the Government has taken in the Budget are consistent with the fiveyear program I announced earlier this year. At that time,.many items now in the Budget were approved only in principle as part of the planning process.
I take it as a compliment that there are those who suggest that much of what I say today has been heard before. It reflects my intention to keep this House informed on not only those matters for decision now but also on our plans for the future. We could of course keep our deliberations and decisions secret with a view to accumulating ‘news’ for Budget time. But 1 doubt that honourable members would wish me to refuse to announce - except at Budget time - decisions taken over the past 1 2 months. I doubt whether they would wish me to refuse to discuss in this House possible developments in our defence capabilities. I doubt whether they would wish me to tell my Department to cut out those public information programs to which I referred earlier. If my assumptions are correct it is surprising that people should seek to draw public attention to the absence of totally unforeseen announcements.
We have a vital interest in expanding our maritime and surveillance capabilities. Warships, patrol boats, aircraft, airfields and support facilities all contribute to the modernisation and development of our strength in these areas. The Government is allocating substantial sums of money this year to their improvement. An amount of $ 167m will be spent on the four FFG guided missile frigates. The third and fourth frigates will be fitted with a close-in weapon system for defence against attack by aircraft and missile.
It has been my practice to keep the House informed of developments affecting the cost of these vessels because this subject was in earlier years the source of some considerable but misinformed commentary. Once again I can report that there has been no significant change in real costs. There have been some minor changes upwards and downwards in some items, with the overall effect being no change in real terms. The cost for the first three vessels now stands at $76 lm in January 1980 prices, which is $38m more than the previous approval. This is the product of inflation and exchange variations. I re-affirm that the cost of the fourth FFG is $280m in January 1980 prices. That ship incorporates more recent developments in the ship’s design, and improvements to a number of systems which are in the first three ships. It has been fashionable in the country to concoct criticisms of the defence administration over supposedly escalating costs of these destroyers. Most such criticisms have been spurious, based upon comparisons between unrelated figures. I should add that it may not be possible to decide finally on a suitable helicopter for the FFGs for another two years. The United States Navy is presently fitting its ships with an interim helicopter while a suitable aircraft is being developed. We will wish to evaluate the new United States aircraft for use with our FFGs and possibly for Navy utility tasks. We are examining our own options for an interim helicopter for Royal Australian Navy FFGs.
The Oberon submarines, the guided missile destroyers - DDGs - and the River class destroyer escorts - DEs- are being substantially modernised; and we are looking ahead to the acquisition of follow-on destroyers to replace the destroyer escorts. We now have recommendations regarding ship designs for these vessels and I expect to announce a decision on this in the near future. We intend these vessels to be built at the Williamstown Dockyard, which is undergoing extensive modernisation to prepare it for this and other shipbuilding programs to commence later in the 1980s. Facilities there to enable the efficient construction of hulls in line with modern technology are largely complete. Work is in hand to provide more efficient fitting-out facilities for ships.
The management arrangements at the dockyard are also being reviewed. The Public Service Board and the Defence Department are conducting an internal review of management procedures at the dockyard. In addition, consideration is being given to establishing a high-level external review of the dockyard. We need to ensure that the planning for the construction of the follow-on vessels is done thoroughly.
Modern naval vessels require extensive support facilities. At the naval base, HMAS Stirling, Cockburn Sound, Western Australia, work has already commenced on the construction of an armament depot, and further works will commence this year to provide fuel facilities. Additional housing will also be provided. Subject to parliamentary processes, work will commence this year on the modernisation of the fleet base and dockyard at Garden Island, New South Wales. This is a major and long overdue task which will give better support to modern high technology warships, will improve the efficiency of operations and will greatly enhance the appearance of the area.
We will spend $27m this year as we continue our acquisition of the 1 5 new Fremantle class patrol craft. The first craft, HMAS Fremantle, arrived in Australia two weeks ago, after passage from the United Kingdom. We expect the first Australian-built boat, HMAS Warrnambool, to be launched later this year. We have decided to proceed with an order for the first five of an additional 10 patrol craft to be built in Australia. Our patrol boats will be supported by the construction of new bases at Darwin and Cairns.
Our surveillance capabilities will be further improved by the development of a new military airfield 30 kilometres south of Derby and improvements to existing airfields at Learmonth and Pearce. The Department of Defence is cooperating with the Department of Transport and the Northern Territory Government in planning a new airline passenger terminal and general aviation complex at Darwin airport.
The Royal Australian Air Force will acquire a flight simulator for the P3C Orion long range maritime patrol aircraft, which will release an additional 1,000 flying training hours every year. Modernisation of the older P3B Orions is being planned to see what new radar, sonics and navigation systems should be fitted. Eighteen new light helicopters will be acquired. Twelve of the helicopters will be used for training Air Force and Navy pilots and six will be used for Navy survey and utility tasks.
The Government will continue to give a proper emphasis to the provision of facilities for the use of the Defence Force in the north and north-west part of the continent. It is, at the same time, important that this House and the Australian people have a sensible perspective of Australian defence as it relates tc the location of defence facilities within the country. It makes much sense for the Defence Force to have available to it airfields and places where ships can take on supplies and so forth along the northern littoral - ‘bare base’ facilities or a little more. But it does not make sense for components of the Defence Force to be strung out in penny packets permanently located at a large number of such facilities dotted around the country. I want to emphasise this because of the perhaps understandable but nevertheless not very rational pleas that I sometimes hear to locate this or that unit in such and such a remote area of the country. On the whole, it makes more strategic sense and is certainly more cost-effective for our main forces and our main facilities to be located in the more heavily populated parts of the country, along the east seaboard and in the south-west corner. Such a policy does not mean that other areas of the country are being left ‘undefended’ or ‘more vulnerable’.
Naval vessels require support at sea as well as on land and a substantial sum will be spent this year on construction at Vickers Cockatoo Dockyard of the new fleet underway replenishment ship, HMAS Success. The Government also recently decided to proceed with an order for a second such ship, also to be built in Australia. The very complex task of selecting the appropriate way of providing for an Australian maritime air capability to follow the retirement of HMAS Melbourne in the mid-1980s is nearing completion. The Government will announce its decision in the near future.
Important developments are being planned in our air defence capabilities. The TFF program continues to attract substantial interest. It is good that this is so. The program will be the most expensive ever entered into by this country. We will be purchasing an aircraft which will be in the service of the RAAF for at least 25 years. We are dealing with a technology which is one of the most advanced in the world. Suggestions that there has been undue delay in reaching a decision on the particular aircraft are nonsense. I refuse to be influenced in the least by the views offered by some people on this issue which range from imperfect to wildly irresponsible.
The new fighter aircraft will be an absolutely indispensable feature of this country’s defence capability. It will occupy that role for many years ahead. I expect a major uplift of the technology of the Australian industry to be a consequence of the new fighter program, and the industry has been directly involved in the planning with the overseas manufacturers. The Government is nearing a decision on this most important project. The Government and I, as the responsible Minister, are absolutely determined not to make a decision which would in any way jeopardise the defence capability of this country and pay scant regard to the position of the Australian taxpayer. In the meantime, the Government is allocating substantial sums to the structural refurbishment of the Mirage fighter, to ensure that these aircraft will be operationally capable until they are completely replaced. An amount of $ 17m will be spent this year.
Mobility is an essential element of any defence force. Let me take two examples. First, the Army will be replacing its 2i-tonne and 5-tonne trucks with about 2,200 four-tonne and eight-tonne vehicles to enter service from 1982 onwards. A number of these trucks will be allocated to the expanding Army Reserve. A significant Australian content is intended in this project. Second, there will be Slim spent this year for construction, in Australia, of the amphibious heavy lift ship, HMAS Tobruk, which will be commissioned in the next few months. She will be able to carry combinations of up to 550 troops on amphibious operations, a squadron of Leopard tanks and a flight of Wessex helicopters.
The Defence Force must keep up with modern technological developments. I note particularly two examples. The first is the purchase of 36 Ml 98 155-millimetre Howitzers from the United States to replace the Army’s 5.5-inch guns, now obsolete. An initial quantity of ammunition will be sought from overseas. But it is intended that Australian industry will manufacture the high explosive ammunition for the Howitzers. Secondly, we are programming major improvements to enhance the Fill capabilities. The United States Air Force has now been asked to provide a letter of offer and acceptance for the purchase of the Pave Tack target system. This system uses lasers to deliver conventional bombs more accurately and to use precision-guided munitions or ‘smart’ bombs at any time, in adverse weather and at high speed.
The pace of technology is unrelenting. Four Fills were approved to be fitted for reconnaissance capability. Three have been completed. This gives to this country a strategic reconnaissance capability unique in our region. These aircraft can carry out reconnaissance missions in all weather, day and night. These aircraft incorporate systems which, among others, include an infrared line scan which can detect changes of temperature so slight that it can tell when parked aircraft have recently moved and can detect camouflaged aircraft and vehicles. Trained manpower is vital to operate and maintain the Defence Force’s weapons and equipment and we spend more on manpower than on any other element. This year direct defence expenditure on manpower is estimated to cost $l,719m; $1,1 18m for the Defence Force; $397m for civilian staff; and $204m for the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Fund.
The Government is very conscious of the constraints that high manpower costs place on our ability to provide funds for other purposes, such as the acquisition of new capital equipment, and since 1975-76 manpower costs, as a proportion of the Defence Budget, have fallen from about 58 per cent to 52 per cent in 1979-80. This year it is estimated that this proportion will fall to about 49 per cent. Nevertheless, as I have previously informed the House, some increases in manpower are necessary to support the increased capabilities and levels of activity planned. There will be a growth of 1 ,580 in regular Service manpower, lifting the overall target strength for 30 June 1981 to 72,591. Increases will be for Army 840, Navy 370, and Air Force 370. This growth will provide for 580 of the 630 additional men required to bring the Army’s Third Task Force at Townsville up to full operational strength, as the basis of an operational deployment force. Some 250 houses will be provided for them. The operational deployment force is to be trained for airportable and airmobile operations as the Army’s immediate response force for low-level contingency operations. The civilian ceiling in the Department of Defence is also to be increased by 450 in 1980-81. This growth will be channelled to support areas directly affected by the expanded defence activities. Additional manpower is required in the dockyards, for technical services, in stores areas and for the repair and maintenance of equipment.
I wish to remind the House of two other important matters. One is the work of the internal and external reviews of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation. I expect to receive final reports on these matters later in the year. The other is the Parliament’s approval for construction of the Defence Force Academy. I have already announced that the Academy will not be established as an independent university. The University of New South Wales has approved in principle the establishment of an arrangement whereby the University would ensure the academic integrity of the Academy, perhaps by establishing a college of the University. Negotiations with the University of the terms of an agreement are under way. It is planned that the Academy will open in 1986, on a site adjacent to the Royal Military College, Duntroon. A start will be made this year on site works. The need for a highly trained officer corps to serve this country in the years ahead remains absolutely vital. I repeat the assessment of my professional advisers that the establishment of the Academy will further that goal. I agree completely with that assessment.
In conclusion, the Budget I have been describing provides for substantial increases in the nation’s expenditure on defence. With this Budget and future defence expenditure envisaged, we shall maintain and develop what we already have - the largest and the best equipped and supported Defence Force that Australia has ever had when not engaged in combat. Yet I must make clear to the House that what we are doing is still limited. Essentially, we are rounding out and upgrading the Force we already have. We are improving our expansion base but- except in the recruitment of reserves - we are not expanding the force in any substantial way - in numerical terms but rather in terms of defence capability with a strong technological basis. I have made clear to the House why the Government considers this enhancement of our defence preparedness a prudent and necessary measure.
It would be irresponsible for me not to acknowledge that the program on which we are embarked raises formidable financial demands in future years. Maintaining the nation’s defence preparedness is an extremely costly business. Given the responsibility we must now accept to improve our self-reliance and our capacity to operate independently, the costs are bound to remain high. The Government has no illusions about this. Defence is long in preparation. If the costs, as I say, are high, the future price to the nation of neglect now could be much, much greater. Sustained defence effort must therefore be accepted if we are to influence the shaping of our national destiny and to provide for our future security. These are the basic objectives for the present Budget. I commend it to the House.
I present the following paper:
Defence Budget 1980-81- Ministerial Statement, 26 August 1980.
Motion (by Mr Garland) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Garland) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Corio speaking for a period not exceeding 38 minutes.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) was at great pains and, I think, probably a little self-conscious, which it is almost impossible to say in this House, when he said that the Government refuted the suggestion, which was not supported by evidence, that activity in the area of defence surrounded the timing of elections. It may be only a coincidence that on this occasion the Government’s defence statement is being made on the day on which the Budget debate is to resume. In previous years, when the Minister occupied that office, a statement has been made at least a month and sometimes later in the Budget session. Recognising that the later dates may be illusionary because of election needs, the coincidence of the timing of this speech clearly indicates that it is being presented to the House today for two reasons; the main reason being to inject into the 1980 election campaign an air of urgency about defence - an air of urgency which is not only necessary but also is something the Australian people should understand. Whilst the Minister has outlined publicly - not included in the speech he made today- very comprehensive Government intentions on defence and has announced in round terms rather large expenditure programs which are ten or more years away from commencement, the actual figures contained in this Budget, which I suggest are not represented accurately in the Minister’s speech, indicate that new expenditure on defence this year will be less than $50m.
– Who told you that?
– If the Minister took the trouble to read his own speech, then if he got the estimates of his own Department as set out in the Budget Speech, and added them up, he would find that they do not come together as a cohesive whole. Someone is cooking the books. If the Minister’s statement is correct then it is his Department. I will point out to the House what the Budget shows. The Minister states that this year 49 per cent of the defence Budget will be spent on manpower. That represents a two per cent increase, in real terms, on manpower expenditure. The fact is that, based on the components of the manpower assessment on which he arrived at an expenditure of 52 per cent of the defence vote for last year, the expenditure on manpower this year will also be 52 per cent. There has been no alteration in the percentage of the total defence vote, as set out in the Budget, to be spent on manpower. The Minister said on the second page of his statement:
There is also a small net provision in the defence outlay for future salary increases and revenue.
He said that there is a small net provision. It is not included in the assessment that he makes of the total percentage to be spent on manpower. The increases in manpower costs are included in the total sum where he arrives at the 52 per cent assessment for 1979-80. That small amount is $1 10m. It may be a small amount but it is a very significant amount. The total increase in cash terms for manpower in this defence budget is $252m. The Minister’s assessment is based on an amount of $141m or $145m, depending on which document one looks at. Another amount of S 1 79m in the defence budget is for increased costs, charges, changes in exchange rates for equipment already on order and $52m is provided for maintenance - not new expenditure- of existing facilities. Maintenance facilities of the defence forces and the Department of Defence have been neglected over the last two or three years as a deliberate act of policy in order that money could be diverted to other areas of defence expenditure because of the Government’s program of cutting costs in the defence area as in other areas of Government expenditure. So when those figures are put together, they total well in excess of $460m.
Other figures for recurring non-avoidable cost increases add another $50m to the Budget expenditure of the Government. This leaves less than $50m available for new orders when we account for falls in expenditure and some recoveries in other revenue areas. Most of the new equipment being paid for in this Budget was ordered prior to the Afghanistan conflict. It was ordered a considerable time ago. I acknowledged that the Minister has announced a number of new programs. Significant programs for defence are under consideration, not the least of which is the tactical fighter force. Unlike the Minister, at this stage I would not criticise delays in the decision. I would like to be absolutely certain that the decision will be made based on adequate information and assessment of the aircraft concerned. At least one of the aircraft is still in the developmental stage. Whilst the company concerned assures us that it does not have problems, there are recurring rumours and reports coming out of the United States Congress and from other sources such as the Canadian Parliament which indicate that problems do exist.
The Minister has indicated that this will be the most costly purchase ever made by an Australian Government. It represents an expenditure of about SI SO for every Australian. It is a major commitment that has to last us into the twentyfirst century at least. Therefore if there are any considerations which cannot be assessed confidently and if there are any considerations which cannot be made on the basis of existing information, it is important that the commitment be delayed a few months to clear up the doubts. It will not cost the Australian Defence Force, in its capabilities, anything near as much as it would cost if the decision were made prematurely.
I think it is important to point out also that the Minister has announced that a decision on the proposed carrier force will be made in the near future. The vessel being mentioned so far has not received any commitments from the United States forces. It represents an expenditure in current terms in the order of $750m. If a decision is made to proceed with such a carrier, it is likely that Australia will have to pay the research and development costs especially for alterations in the drive components which currently are not turbine but conventional and which are not being altered for United States purposes at this time. We could find ourselves involved in very heavy costs if a premature decision were made. One can say that in this case a premature decision would still be a late decision because of the inordinate delays which have taken place in bringing the matter forward for consideration, given that it has been known for more than a decade that HMAS Melbourne would be pensioned off in about 1985.
The follow-on destroyer program is a major program which has to be at least advanced significantly in the first half of the 1980s if we are to receive deliveries of vessels to coincide with the pensioning off of existing destroyer escort vessels. It has been suggested- we have suggestions only which have not been confirmed; but it is not unusual for this House to be given information until after decisions are made and I think that is lamentable - that we will continue with a production run of FFG frigates built in Australia under licence. I suggest that that may or may not be a convenient means of advancing the follow-on destroyer program. But it should be taken into consideration that the vessel, good as it may be, lacks flexibility and a capacity for altered roles.
Already an assessment done at the request of the Australian Department of Defence for a different form of equipment was found to be too expensive to proceed with. It should be the aim of the Australian Defence Force to have flexibility of capacity in its major surface vessels in order that it can carry out the variety of roles which would be expected of a defence force in the Australian environment. That environment certainly is not uniform and the major components of our Defence Force cannot be placed in a position of being operational for narrow purposes. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics can afford that type of luxury. Australia certainly cannot. The problem of the helicopter for the FFGs must be one of the recurring scandals in defence at the moment. The first FFG was ordered in 1976. We are told that there is still not a helicopter which is capable of performing the role expected of a helicopter operating off that vessel available anywhere in the world. The United States may be restricted because it purchases only equipment which is derived from United States sources. That is becoming more and more the Australian Government’s policy also. A variety of helicopters are available. I doubt whether it is beyond the capacity of the Australian Defence Force to find a helicopter which is capable of carrying out the roles for which we require a helicopter for the FFGs.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said, in May of this year - members of the House should remember it- that we have to be ready for war in three years at the latest. We will get our first helicopter for the FFGs one year after that war has started if that timetable has any validity at all. I think it was an hysterical statement made by a person who has no commitment to honesty in the statements he makes when he wishes to influence a current political decision.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I ask the honourable member for Corio to withdraw the reflection.
– I withdraw the reflection. All I can say is that the Prime Minister has never been inhibited in those statements which he makes when he feels that his political interests are involved.
The Minister has laid it on the line, I think as clearly as anyone has ever done in this House, that our current enemy is the Soviet Union and that we are preparing to be involved in hostilities against that country at some time in the future. Ministers in the present Government have previously made exactly the same statements. Members of the front bench, though younger then, made exactly the same statements about China in the run-up to the 1966 election and in the period before that. Today we are talking about defence co-operation with China - joint exercises - and it is at least reasonable to suggest that the Prime Minister consults the Chinese as much as he does the British about his future foreign policy decisions and his pronouncements. The Government’s love affair with China is one of the great mysteries of our time.
The Government now is not talking so much about Afghanistan, but it is still promoting the war-with-Russia theme, both here and outside. It may be that that is the greatest threat. Certainly, I do not support the Russian action in Afghanistan. I do not believe that the projection of military power is a reasonable or acceptable means by which foreign policy or government objectives should be pursued by any power, and the Soviet Union certainly is acting quite improperly in that area. However, we ought to look at what the Government is doing in this area. For instance, we had the embargo on the Olympic Games, but that has finished now. Whether it was successful or not, it would not have made any difference to the Russian Politburo or the Russian ambitions. The Minister for Defence in his statement quoted at least one Russian general and a number of other spokesmen–
– He is an admiral, for a start. There is a basic difference.
– I apologise to the Minister. I am not as well acquainted with him as the Minister is. On the other hand, the Government is acting in exactly the same way as it did in the run-up to the Second World War. At that time threats were made to Australian waterside workers who refused to load pig-iron to go to Japan to make armaments which ultimately were used against Australian forces. On this occasion, at a time when we have a trade embargo, at a time when we are teaching the Russians a lesson on the international field, we have a situation where last year our trade with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a record. Trade with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is at the highest level ever at a time when we have a trade embargo on that country.
Earlier this year it was pointed out that we were exporting rhodium, a strategic material, to the Soviet Union. That trade was cancelled for seven days but then restored. Rhodium is the base material for titanium. The Minister in his statement made great play of the Russian build-up in naval capacity. Surely his intelligence has told him that the Russians are currently constructing a super-submarine with titanium hulls capable of operating at depths below the reach of any known sonar detection devices. We are providing the base raw materials for production of that weapons system, which will place the Russians at a great advantage over all the allies.
– Do you support this statement on defence?
– The Minister made great play of this particular area. If the honourable member looks at the statement, which I am sure he has not done, he will find considerable effort made to portray the Soviet Union as our enemy. I am saying that the Government has double standards. The Government wants its cake, but it also wants to be paid for it after the cake has been eaten. So that we can be absolutely certain about how the Government treats who it names as its enemies, a few days ago an agreement was entered into whereby we will send uranium to Finland for processing in the Soviet Union. The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) said that we have the Russians’ word that they will not keep any of the material. He has the Russians’ word! That must be the greatest guarantee a Liberal government in this Parliament has ever had. In addition, the Government is fully aware that the waste from Finnish nuclear reactors is sent in part to the Soviet Union and that in fact it contains the raw material for nuclear weapons construction. We are going to supply them with uranium because there is money in it. Australians may die because of that profit, as they died because of the profit made in 1939.
The Minister’s statement makes a lot of claims for things that have not or will not be done. It is designed to whip up in the community a belief that things are being done in defence that are not being done. In fact, this year’s Budget achieves the 1 978-79 projections in the White Paper delivered to this Parliament in 1976 by the Government as its blueprint for defence. The Minister mentioned the 5.5 inch guns, but the Budget does not. If he looks through his estimates he will find that no money has been allocated for them this year. A small sum is allocated to the 105-millimetre Howitzers. The 5.5-inch weapon has been obsolete for nearly 10 years. It was due for replacement in 1 977, but that was deferred by this Government. The 105-millimetre Howitzer was due for replacement in 1978. That is still under consideration.
In the White Paper presented in 1976 it was indicated that there was a need in the five-year program for the Army to be provided with medium and short range surface-to-air weapons. These are no longer in the five-year program; they have been dropped by the Government. I do not know what honourable members opposite think, but I suggest that any Army unit going into a hostile area that was not equipped with adequate surface-to-air missiles would be totally vulnerable. If Government members do not believe this I suggest that they read the history of the fall of Singapore. Air offensives have improved significantly since that time.
The Minister’s statement is a repetition of preelection, conservative government defence statements. The increase in pay for the Services and the increase in commitments on already acquired projects form the major basis of this year’s increase in defence expenditure. The reality is that that increase has become necessary because of total neglect, because earlier commitments to defence were not met by the Government. The 1976 White Paper program is, and has been, in tatters.
If the five-year program is met in full it will catch up with what the Government announced in October 1976 would occur. In no year in the first term of this Government did it allocate to defence the amount required under the 1976 White Paper. Since that time it has not caught up with the three-year backlog- the equivalent of $ 1,500m - which accrued as a result of the 1 976 White Paper program’s not being met. The results are that our Air Force will have to depend on Mirage aircraft which have reached the end of their effective life and which can be kept in operation only in the hope they will not be required for combat. The jet trainer program has been dropped.
– You told us a moment ago not to hasten to a decision on the TFF. You are in a state of confusion.
– The Macchi replacement jet trainer program has been dropped. We have no helicopters, and there will not be even orders for the next two years. According to the Minister’s statement, anti-armour has been dropped from the five-year program for the Army. We have announced for the third time that we will be examining multi-hulled minehunters for the Navy. Our minesweepers are 27 years old and do not have a capacity in this day and age to deal with modern mine warfare. The Caribou, which the White Paper announced was to be replaced, will not be replaced.
– There is nothing wrong with the Caribou, and I said nothing of the sort in the White Paper. Your imagination is running your intellect.
– The Minister might think that we have some other form of light to medium military transport aircraft. The Caribou is the one that I know of, and the White Paper mentions that. I think it is unfortunate that in the lead up to an election we have what is developing into a scramble to prove prudency in the defence area which can and probably will seriously affect the future balance of our defence forces. Whenever a situation occurs in which a government, through conscious decision, defers action in an area in which obsolescence already exists, in which regular maintenance is not performed and in which manpower conditions are allowed to deteriorate, that government places itself and the nation in a position in which efforts to catch up in a shorter period than is reasonable can result in serious damage and a waste of public funds.
At the moment there is a mad scramble to get contract commitments for defence items for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that those responsible want signatures on the dotted line before an election is held because they know how easily things can be forgotten after an election. The evidence of that was in 1969 when the Budget increases in defence and announcements on equipment programs were completely scuttled in the following two years because of economy measures by the government of the day. The announcements which took place in 1976 never reached the stage of programs. They also were completely scuttled in exactly the same way. I think it is time that defence was treated as a continuing and ongoing thing in this Parliament, and that more information of a real nature was provided to the public. I think there is a little more information being provided for which we should thank the parliamentary committee which has operated in this area and of which the Minister has been so critical.
The statement by the Minister was a lot of words. It was the standard format of defence activity by Liberal governments over 75 to 80 years of this century. It is talk, talk, talk - and nothing is done. Their commitment to defence is a verbal one. Whether this program comes to fruition is something we are not able to predict or to project into the future, but on every occasion in recent times when a statement of this nature has been made immediately before an election, the commitment has been to the political result and not to the defence forces, which have been left holding the bag afterwards.
– In view of the hopeless speech by the honourable member for Corio, I move:
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that the honourable member is not entitled to comment when moving an adjournment motion. I suggest that, in accordance with Standing Orders, he be listed as having spoken in the debate.
– If the House will allow me to consult on that matter, I am quite sure that the substance has some merit and that the honourable member for St George should not have done other than move to adjourn the debate. I take on board the point of view of the honourable member for Corio but what can be done about it is another matter again.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, no Standing Order was raised by the honourable member. I have never heard of such a Standing Order. If I have breached the Standing Orders, Mr Deputy Speaker, I apologise to you. The honourable member made a terrible contribution and is just trying to cover up for it.
– Order! The honourable member for St George will resume his seat rather than magnify the problem. The question is that the debate be now adjourned and the adjourned debate made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Tariff Proposals Nos. 9-14 formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices during the last recess. The changes contained in Tariff Proposals No. 15 are new and arise from the Government’s decision on the recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on chemical products (Part B).
Tariff changes implemented by Proposals No. 9 operate from 1 June 1980 and reduce the rates of duty on phenoxymethyl penicillin and benzyl penicillin to minimum rates. This action follows on from the Government’s earlier consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission report of August 1976 on pharmaceutical and veterinary products and complements the introduction of a bounty scheme. The scheme is designed to operate for a period of rive years with an initial overall annual limit of $900,000 and will ensure that penicillin production capacity in Australia is maintained for health and defence purposes.
The changes in Proposals No. 10 which operate from 9 June 1980 give effect to the final phase down in the rates of duty applying to certain medicaments. These changes were agreed to by the Government following general acceptance of recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on pharmaceutical and veterinary products announced on 10 June 1977.
Proposals No. 1 1 which operate from 1 July 1 980 contain tariff changes as a result of:
The changes in Proposals No. 12, which operate from 7 July 1980, are the result of a reduction in the margin of preference applying to certain white goods, such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dryers and airconditioning equipment from New Zealand. On implementation of the Government’s decision on the Industries Assistance Commission’s report of 3 February 1978 on domestic refrigerating appliances, it was decided to establish a margin of preference of 17.5 percentage points for these goods. The preference was to be an interim arrangement pending review of Schedule B arrangements to the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. As agreement was not reached the margin of preference in favour of New Zealand has been reduced to 1 5 percentage points.
Tariff Proposals No. 1 3, which operate from 24 July 1980, implements the Government’s decision on the report of 5 May 1980 by the Industries Assistance Commission on polymeric plasticisers and certain polyester polyols. The Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendation that increased assistance to the industry would reduce distortions in the use of resources among competing products. The rate of duty has been raised from 6 per cent to 1 5 per cent for polymeric plasticisers. In addition, the duty rates for certain polyester polyols and additional products of polyester polyols with isocyanates would be increased from free to 20 per cent. Polyester polyols of the alkyd type would continue to be dutiable at 30 per cent.
Proposals No. 1 4 contain tariff changes which give effect to new assistance arrangements for carpets. The changes operate from 18 August 198C and follow the decision of the Government on the report by the Industries Assistance Commission on textiles, clothing and footwear. The Commission found the carpet industry to be a relatively efficient section of Australia’s manufacturing industry and recommended, in general and from 1 January 1982, duties of 20 per cent together with duty free imports of carpet yarns and abolition of the Canadian preference margin. It considered these recommendations should reduce the carpet industry’s present disadvantages, provide reasonable protection, and ensure resources are not lost to less efficient high cost activities. For trade relations reasons the Government has decided to maintain a preference margin for Canada of 10 percentage points. It has decided that duty rates of 40 per cent general and 30 per cent for Canada will apply from 1 January 1982. As the Government has decided that reductions in duties on carpet yarns will not take place until 1 January 1982 additional interim assistance of 10 percentage points has been given to the industry until that date.
Proposals No. 15, which operates from tomorrow, implements the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in Part B of its report on chemical products. The decision on Part A of this report was announced in August 1979. With few exceptions the Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendations that the goods under reference be dutiable at rates of duty ranging from minimum rates to 30 per cent. Products under reference had been dutiable at rates of up to 37.5 per cent. Goods covered by this report include flavours and fragrances, propyl acetate, ethyl formate and related goods, pure water, lubricating preparations, artificial waxes, polishes, refractory cements, metal pickling preparations, laboratory preparations and gum bases. The Government has not accepted the Commission’s recommendations in respect of menthol, citronella, ethyl formate and related products, or casein and casein products.
The Commission recommended that menthol be dutiable at 1 0 per cent. However, in view of the strong import competition facing the industry at present, the Government has decided that for two years the duty rate should be 20 per cent when it will phase to the recommended level of 10 per cent. Because of Australia’s international trade commitments citronella will continue to be admitted free of duty and not at the recommended rate of 1 0 per cent. Ethyl formate and related products will be dutiable at 25 per cent. The Government has varied the Commission’s recommendation of minimum rates to align with the industry rate of 25 per cent applying to most other acetyl products. This rate was introduced following the Government’s decision of May 1979 on the Commission’s report on acetyl products.
Because of the inter-relationship between various manufactured dairy products it has been decided that the question of assistance to producers of casein and casein products should be examined within the broader context of a future review, by the Commission, of dairy industry marketing arrangements. The Government considers that implementation of the Commission’s recommendations will at least maintain the level of employment and activity in the industries covered by the report at the time of the reference.
Proposals No. 15 also contain administrative changes. These changes which relate to surfaceactive agents, calibrated drainage bags, dental hand pieces and flexible discettes for computers are necessary to ensure that levels of assistance agreed to by the Government are maintained. A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes has been prepared and is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Garland) - by leave- agreed to:
That Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 31 to 35 (1979) and Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 1 to 7 (1980), constituting part of Order of the Day No. 49, Government Business, be discharged.
– by leave - I would like to review the Government’s energy policy and to outline the quite exciting prospects ahead for Australia in the area of resource development. Our energy policies are firmly in place and recent events serve to illustrate their correctness. Successes in this area are already evident; but in view of the uncertainties about future oil prices and supplies we cannot relax our efforts. Associated with the rapid increases in crude oil prices, there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for the energy resources with which Australia is richly endowed. It has provided Australia with great opportunities. Australia’s objective must be to make the most of those opportunities, while continuing to reduce our vulnerability to disruptions of world oil supplies, and to further increases in world oil prices.
The energy problem is a global one. Failure to make appropriate adjustments will mean lower world economic growth, higher unemployment and inflation. Sustained economic growth in the remainder of the century will require further major changes in the Western world’s energy usage patterns. Australia is participating in discussions on energy with our industrialised partners within the International Energy Agency. The IE A has emphasised the need for measures to reduce levels of imports, to use oil more effectively, and to develop alternative energy sources. There is overwhelming agreement within the IEA that domestic oil prices must reflect fully movements in internationally traded oil prices. The Venice economic summit in June agreed on the need to place maximum reliance on realistic pricing to reduce dependence on crude oil. These strategies represent a full endorsement of Australia’s energy policies, especially our crude oil pricing policy.
Australia’s position is one of considerable opportunity, but at the same time, of some risk to which I shall refer later. Our energy resources, combined with abundant supplies of many raw materials, create the opportunity for a large expansion in energy exports and in energy intensive resource developments. These developments will add greatly to our national product, to incomes and to wealth, and all Australians stand to benefit from being members of a wealthier society. The benefits of economic growth will, as always, extend far beyond those directly involved; they will entend to all sections of Australian society.
Australia’s potential is illustrated by:
Increased interest in and demand for direct exports of energy sources from Australia, primarily coal but also liquefied natural gas;
Increased desire to process raw materials in Australia; and
Accelerated plans to increase coal-based electricity generating capacity in Australia.
The developments in prospect will, of course, need to comply with Government requirements in areas such as the environment, foreign ownership, and taxation. We are determined that all companies, both domestic and foreign owned, shall operate in the interests of all Australians.
Australia recognises its responsibilities in an increasingly energy hungry world. Our rich resource endowment carries with it an international responsibility to make resources available on fair terms and conditions to countries less well endowed than ourselves. Developed and developing countries alike are vitally dependent on stable and secure supplies of resources for their economic advancement and well-being. In turn, Australia expects consuming countries to provide stable access for our resources by way of long term contracts. This is absolutely essential if companies are to commit the huge amounts of risk capital which are necessary to bring Australia’s resource projects on stream in the 1980s.
Australia’s greatest energy resource is coal, which comprises over 80 per cent of our identified energy resources. As well as providing 70 to 80 per cent of the country’s electricity, coal is a major and rising export product, with total exports reaching 38 million tonnes in 1978-79. With increasing emphasis on coal-generated electricity throughout the world, Australian exports of steaming coal are expected to increase greatly in future years. The Government is determined that potential developments should not be held back by lack of necessary infrastructure.
To this end, projects involving borrowings amounting to around $228m to provide coal export facilities have already been approved by the Loan Council under the infrastructure program. In addition, the Loan Council has approved borrowings of $182m for up-grading and electrification of the Waterfall-Port Kembla railway, primarily to facilitate haulage of coal to the new loader at Port Kembla. Possible infrastructure borrowings to finance electrification of other coal railways are under consideration.
Plans for the north-west shelf project are firming up, with arrangements for the joint venturers to supply natural gas to Western Australia in 1984 and to commence exports of LNG in 1986. The joint venturers have demonstrated their confidence in the project by letting contracts for construction of some of the major facilities, and arranging the borrowings to finance development of the project.
Australia contains around 16 per cent of the Western world’s low cost reasonably assured uranium reserves. Although anticipated growth of nuclear power programs in some countries has been reduced in the last few years, there are signs that the contribution which nuclear power can make to energy needs is being reassessed in the light of the overriding priority of reducing reliance on oil.
As the cost of oil continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly attractive to process raw materials in Australia in preference to transporting them to other countries where energy costs are higher or where there is a doubt about the availability of the required energy. The availability in Australia of low cost coal-based electricity is of prime importance. The combination of low cost energy and plentiful supplies of raw materials has increased the opportunities for economic raw materials processing in Australia.
The most outstanding example here is aluminium smelting. Annual smelting capacity is expected to expand from 280,000 tonnes at present to about 1 .3 million tonnes over the next five years, requiring the investment of around $2.9 billion. Further aluminium projects under serious consideration could lift annual capacity to over two million tonnes in the second half of the 1980s, bringing total potential investment in the industry to around S4.5 billion. In addition, substantial new facilities are planned for the petrochemical industry, based primarily on hydrocarbon feedstock material from Bass Strait and the Cooper Basin.
Investment in additional electricity generating capacity represents one of the greatest development challenges in Australia. Recognising the very high cost of, and long lead times associated with the construction of electricity generating stations, the Commonwealth has taken a series of initiatives to encourage and assist the State authorities concerned.
The Commonwealth has encouraged the States to bring forward proposals for coal-based electricity projects to be financed under the infrastructure program which it initiated specifically to facilitate the provision of public sector infrastructure required to complement the big prospective increase in private sector investment in developmental projects. Borrowings of $3 billion have been approved under this program for electricity generating projects with an estimated total cost of $7.4 billion. One can see from that the enormous assistance that this program gives to the State governments involved.
In addition, there are under examination further electricity generating projects proposed, including those by New South Wales and Queensland for which total borrowings of about $4.4 billion are being sought towards outlays of $9.1 billion, and further proposals from other States have also been foreshadowed. It is difficult to convey the magnitude and importance to Australia of those developments. Projects already approved will add 40 per cent to Australian electricity generating capacity by about 1990. The proposals from New South Wales and Queensland currently being examined by officials involve almost half as much again.
Installed generating capacity in Australia has grown dramatically since 1950:
Between 1950 and 1960 it grew by 165 per cent or 3,500 megawatts;
Between 1960 and 1970 it grew by 160 per cent or 8,400 megawatts; and
Between 1970 and 1980 it grew by 71 per cent or 10,000 megawatts.
In each case the decade growth has continued to rise. On the basis of current plans, installed generating capacity is expected to rise by a further 9,000 megawatts by 1985 and by a further 12,000 megawatts in the second half of the decade to reach about 45,000 megawatts by 1990. In this decade the increase in generating capacity is expected to be greater than in any previous decade or even in any previous two decades. In 1979, the Commonwealth in conjunction with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, established a committee of inquiry into electricity generation and sharing of power resources in South-East Australia. The main function of the inquiry is to examine the feasibility of a strongly integrated electricity supply grid in South-East Australia.
Resources and energy-related developments have an immense potential for generating economic growth in this country and raising the standard of living of all Australians, but the realisation of this potential could be imperilled if appropriate policies are not pursued. I refer particularly to:
Our vulnerability to disruptions to supplies of crude oil and the need for appropriate energy policies to minimise risk;
The need for sound economic policies which will provide an economic environment in which the massive investments which will be required can be made with confidence; and
The need for unions to play a positive role in this development and to avoid the industrial unrest which might put at risk major investments by adding to costs and uncertainties and might prejudice Australia’s image as a reliable supplier. The Commonwealth will continue to consult with the trade union movement in every effort to improve the industrial relations climate.
The National Energy Advisory Committee has estimated that if we do not find more oil our selfsufficiency in naturally occurring crude oil is expected to fall from about 67 per cent today, to about 40 per cent in 1990, and to 10 per cent by the year 2000. In order to avoid increasing reliance on potentially unreliable overseas supplies of oil - which will often be at much higher cost - government policies need to be directed at reducing our dependence on crude oil and towards cushioning the effect in Australia of any external oil shock.
The cornerstone of our policy is the pricing of indigenous crude oil at import parity. When we introduced import parity pricing, we knew that it would not be popular; but we believed that it was right, and necessary for the future well-being of
Australia. Import parity pricing is vital to conserve our scarce supplies of? liquid fuels, to encourage exploration for oil and to assist the development of alternative sources of energy. This policy is clearly working.
The case for the policy is overwhelming:
It is vital that we should price our own supplies of oil at the value placed on them in world markets and not allow them to be used at artificially low prices.
If we were to allow our irreplaceable indigenous oil reserves to be squandered- used up - at unrealistically low prices, it would be an act of extreme selfishness towards our children. It would be easy enough to say ‘You and I will use that oil cheaply today’, but that would be making no preparation for our children and for the next generation in the years to come. We would then be required to make adjustments much harder, much more painful and much more difficult than any being asked of any Australian today. .
Only by pricing indigenous crude oil to reflect world prices can alternative sources of energy such as shale oil and ethanol become viable and thus contribute towards reducing our dependence on imported oil.
Because these developments will take time to - have their full effect we must begin to make the necessary adjustments on a wide scale now.
The choice we face is between paying realistic prices for petroleum products now or paying even higher prices later to producers in other countries when we may be unnecessarily dependent on expensive and uncertain supplies of imported oil. The degree of sufficiency we now have because of Bass Strait is important to Australia and it is important that we now make plans to make sure that in future years other Australians will have that same degree of independence and self-sufficiency.
The crude oil levy recovers for taxpayers generally a substantial part of the windfall profits which would otherwise accrue to domestic oil producers as oil prices rise. Certainly it has assisted the Government to meet defence obligations which could not be postponed, to help reduce the deficit and to finance cuts in taxation applying from 1 July 1980. So, quite plainly, those additional oil revenues are working to the advantage of all Australians.
Notwithstanding our adherence to import parity pricing for indigenous crude, the price of Australian petrol is still amongst the lowest of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries- the advanced Western countries. For example, prices in Europe range from 55c a litre in the Federal Republic of Germany to 62c a litre in the United Kingdom, which is also an oil producer, and to 78c a litre in Italy. Australia’s import parity pricing is based on the prices set for ‘Arabian light’, the lowest price at which a major part of the world’s oil is traded. In addition, the Government has backed up its pricing policy with supplementary measures to achieve its desired objectives to which I would now like to refer.
Conservation offers the most effective means of reducing our reliance on oil in the short term and has the potential for further gains as investments are made in energy efficient capital equipment, vehicles and buildings. Pricing of crude oil at import parity encourages conservation by ensuring that consumers make decisions based on realistic prices.
To encourage conservation, the Government launched last November a national energy conservation campaign; introduced a national industrial energy management scheme to promote and foster efficient energy consumption patterns in industry; and will be seeking a commitment from industry to establish and maintain energy management programs, under which companies will monitor energy use, establish goals for reducing energy use, and report this information through their industry association.
The available evidence suggests that, despite strong economic growth, consumption of petroleum products is slowing in Australia.
Whenever possible the Government wishes to replace the use of petroleum products by other, more readily available substitutes. Again, of course, the prime incentive for such substitution is provided by realistic pricing of petroleum products arising from import parity pricing.
Natural gas, which is already available in all mainland capital cities, and in many other centres, provides an attractive alternative to crude oil products for many users. The Government is committed to extending natural gas pipelines to provide wider access to this energy source. Construction has commenced on a Sydney-Newcastle pipeline and will shortly commence on a line from Young to Wagga Wagga and Cootamundra. Plans have been approved for a spurline to Canberra and consultations are being held with New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia on the possible extension of the southern lateral from Wagga Wagga to Albury. Such a line would link the Victorian and New South Wales gas distribution networks, and the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait gas fields.
In June last year I announced a number of initiatives to encourage the automotive use of liquefied petroleum gas. When it became evident that massive increases in the world price of LPG threatened this policy, the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) announced last April measures designed to restore an element of certainty to potential automotive users of LPG by tying the price of LPG to that of indigenous crude oil. These measures also recognised the position of household consumers of LPG by providing a temporary subsidy of $80 a tonne. This will give households the opportunity to switch gradually to more suitable indigenous fuels such as natural gas and electricity.
The Government’s import parity pricing policy provides a basic framework within which alternative fuels can be developed. The Rundle shale oil project is a classic example of the effectiveness of the Government’s’ import parity pricing policy. The developers of this project have made it clear that the Government’s import parity pricing has been crucial in their decisions to make the very large investments required in this project - investments of a size that could make the North West Shelf appear to be almost modest in terms of its financial requirement. This emphasises that if we are to compete internationally for capital, expertise and skills, we will only attract these to Australia with rewards which are internationally competitive.
The first stage of the Rundle project is expected to cost between $300m and $400m in 1979 values and, if it is successful, to lead to a project costing many billions of dollars and producing about 200,000 barrels of syncrude a day- probably between 25 and 30 per cent of our expected requirements at that time. Its output should come on stream as Bass Strait oil production declines by the early 1 990s. If we are to maintain Australia’s degree of independence, that merely underlines the importance of policies that will enable the Rundle investments to proceed in a reasonable and profitable way. Indeed, Rundle is likely to be the largest project ever undertaken in Australia and one of the largest in the world. Rundle, however, is only one of several rich oil shale deposits.
If it proves to be viable it will almost certainly lead the way with its technology in the development of a great new industry for Australia, providing Australia with that important degree of independence and self-sufficiency.
Development work is being carried out to arrive at processes for the economic conversion of coal to oil. Joint ventures have been established by Australia with Germany and Japan to investigate these possibilities. Another promising alternative to crude oil is ethanol, which can be produced from a number of vegetable products such as grain, sugar cane and sugar beet. It has potential for use primarily as a petrol extender in blends containing 10-20 per cent ethanol. The Commonwealth Government is providing funding to assist in an economic and technical evaluation of the potential contribution of fuel ethanol to Australia’s liquid fuel needs. Ethanol for use as an on-farm or transport fuel has been exempted from excise whether produced on-farm or commercially.
Research into alternative energy sources and other aspects of energy use is necessary to develop viable techniques to reduce our dependence on oil. The Commonwealth is providing increased funding for a substantial research and development program.
The response by oil explorers to the Government’s policies has been pleasing indeed. Confidence of investors has been restored and exploration activity has increased dramatically. Import parity pricing has, of course, provided the certainty as to future returns which has underpinned this recent expansion in oil search activity. For example:
The Australian Petroleum Exploration Association now expects that expenditure on petroleum exploration and development will exceed $71 5m this year compared with $150m in 1975.
Last year, 108 exploration and development wells were drilled in Australia and in 1980 it is expected that 121 such wells will be drilled. Only 29 wells were drilled in 1975.
The Government has been concerned to provide greater security of supply of petroleum products to Australian consumers. In the event of a major interruption to oil supplies we would need to have adequate stocks of both crude oil and petroleum products. Our greatest protection against disruption in international oil markets is continued production from Bass Strait. The Government considers that a prudent objective for stock holdings in Australia is the equivalent of about 75 days of total consumption of crude oil and petroleum products. To put this objective into perspective, at the beginning of 1979 stocks of crude oil and petroleum products in Australia were equivalent to about 52 days consumption. They have now risen to 67 days, and discussions are being held with the oil industry to increase these stocks to the target level.
Member countries of the IEA are required to hold a minimum level of stocks equivalent to 90 days of net oil imports in the previous year. Australia easily complies with this requirement. Our oil and gas production facilities in Bass Strait and the associated onshore facilities in Gippsland meets some 62 per cent of our domestic oil consumption and all Victoria’s natural gas requirements. The Government has taken action in consultation with Victoria and with ESSO to enhance the security of these installations and to enable more rapid restoration of supply in the event of disruptions. The Government is acting to reduce further the risks of accidental collision by vessels with the offshore installations. On 6 June, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) announced that increased surveillance and related activities were being undertaken by units of the Australian Defence forces, including naval and air units, in the vicinity of the Bass Strait production platforms.
Sound economic management is of great importance to the realisation of Australia’s great development potential. Continued downward pressure on inflation and the avoidance of destabilising imbalances in the economy are prerequisites for the very large investments required. The Government’s record in this area is good and the recent Budget demonstrates our resolve to continue to pursue anti-inflationary policies. The Government’s foreign investment policy is understood and accepted not only by foreign investors but also from the wider Australian community.
– I am glad that the honourable member is following it so closely. It ensures consistency, equity and predictability for investors, while ensuring that Australians get maximum benefits from developments.
Planning, development and operation of major projects involving the investment of very large sums require reasonable certainty about costs and timetables. Delays arising from industrial unrest which could adversely affect both costs and timetables must therefore be avoided. We also need to avoid industrial unrest in the production phase particularly in the mining sector, as disruption to supply can be a source of concern to our trading partners, as well as to prospective investors. An essential component of Australia’s image as a reliable trading partner is our ability to meet contracts as scheduled. The Commonwealth will encourage consultation and co-operation between management and workers in an effort to reduce the level of disputation and to provide a constructive industrial relations environment.
Events of the past 1 2 months confirm that the Government’s strategy is working:
In 1979-80 consumption of petrol declined by 0.7 per cent, compared with a average annual increase of 4.6 per cent in the five years preceding full import parity pricing; In 1979-80 consumption of heating oil and fuel oil fell by 36 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, over 1978-79; Introduction of natural gas into Sydney is estimated to have saved the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil in 1979; Esso and the Rundle partners have announced that they have signed heads of agreement to develop the huge Rundle oil shale deposit; Exploration for oil has increased dramatically since the mid-1970s.
The latest survey by the Department of Industry and Commerce has identified investment of $29 billion, either committed or in the final feasibility stage, in major resource and manufacturing projects, with some two-thirds being energy related. Investment in electricity generation and transmission exceeding $19 billion over the next decade has been foreshadowed.
The policies being pursued by the Commonwealth will create the conditions which encourage the massive investments necessary to bring the potential resource-based developments to fruition. The investment of many billions of dollars in resource based developments will stimulate economic growth and employment. This investment, the growth of great new industries and the expansion of others will mean increased incomes and higher living standards for Australians. This exciting prospect has relevance for all of us; we all stand to participate in it. Our energy policies are firmly established and their success is already evident. The Commonwealth will continue to build on these policies to ensure that Australia is well placed to meet possible upheavals in the international oil markets. The measures I have outlined this afternoon provide evidence of this determination. Mr Speaker, in the statement I have made, I have provided an outline of the Government’s energy policy and the prospects for resource development. For the information of honourable members I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a somewhat fuller statement.
The statement read as follows -
STATEMENT OF ENERGY POLICY AND RELATED RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
. In June of last year I outlined the Government’s response to the existing energy situation. The measures adopted by the Government, particularly the pricing of indigenous crude at import parity had four main objectives: To encourage conservation of scarce sources of energy, particularly liquid fuels; to promote the switching out of oil into available alternate energy sources - mainly natural gas, LPG, and coal fired electricity; to increase oil exploration activity and maximise the development of existing fields; to stimulate commercial development of major new energy projects in areas such as shale oil, coal liquefaction, ethanol and methanol.
That statement was made against the background of rapidly rising oil prices and uncertain supplies of imported crude. Over the past 14 months oil prices have risen further but for the time being at least imported supplies of crude have become more plentiful.
The changes that have occurred in this period reinforce the wisdom of the Government’s basic energy policies. Despite the success of these policies, and the current easing in the international oil situation, the Government is conscious of the large uncertainties attaching to future events in this area and in the past 12 months further measures have been introduced to reduce Australia’s vulnerability to disruptions in world oil supplies.
Other countries, too, have been adjusting to the effects of rapid increases in crude oil prices. This has led to a dramatic increase in the demand for the energy resources with which Australia is richly endowed. It has provided Australia with great opportunities.
Australia’s objective must be to make the most of those opportunities, while continuing to reduce our vulnerability to disruptions of world oil supplies.
To realise our potential we must provide an environment within which very large investments can be made with confidence and the Australian community will share in the benefits. We must be seen by our trading partners as a reliable source of supply. This calls for a stable, well managed economy, for laws and their administration which are seen to be consistent and fair; and for co-operation between management and workers in the construction and operation of major projects.
1 cannot stress too strongly the need for responsibility in industrial relations. Nothing could so harm our prospects as industrial disputes which escalate costs, which introduce uncertainties into investment decisions and which destroy the confidence of customers in our reliability as a supplier.
If we adopt sound and responsible policies Australia can expect to do well in the 1 980s and beyond.
World Oil Situation
Despite production cut-backs by some producing countries and a sharp drop in exports from Iran, stocks have greatly improved and the world oil supply is currently adequate to meet demand. But we should not be complacent.
Although the oil market has eased over recent months, the prospects for the future continue to give cause for serious concern. Supplies are partly dependent on the political stability of oil exporting countries.
Over the foreseeable future, OPEC production is unlikely to increase significantly beyond its present levels. Competition for that oil is likely to grow. Increasing demand from the OPEC countries themselves and from developing countries will reduce the availability of oil to the western industrialised countries. Some observers expect that the Soviet Union may also become a net importer of oil before the end of the decade.
There are also important changes underway in the structure of the world oil market. The role of the major oil companies in the distribution of oil has declined sharply. OPEC Governments now market more than half their oil directly. The involvement of producer Governments has in some cases introduced political considerations into the terms of contracts.
Even on relatively optimistic scenarios for future production and consumption, the prospect is for further increases in oil prices. In the preparations for the Summit meeting in Baghdad in November, member governments of OPEC are currently considering proposals which would provide for regular indexed price increases.
- The recent measures by some OPEC members to protect price levels by reducing production was an important development. This may well mean that future price increases may be associated with lower levels of production.
The energy problem is a global problem. Failure to make appropriate adjustments or a lack of investment in energy supply would mean for the industrialised countries lower growth, higher unemployment and inflation.
For the poorer developing economies higher energy prices, and the associated lower levels of growth in the major economies, can mean poverty and starvation; it can put selfsustained growth beyond reach. For the newly industrialised countries energy costs threaten their economic prospects and add to their debts.
Energy is the issue which underlines the interdependence of our economies. Finding a way of reconciling the interests of the oil producing and consumer countries - developed and developing- will be a major challenge over the decade ahead.
What is clear is that sustained economic growth in the remainder of the century will require further major changes in the Western world’s energy usage patterns. In addition, there are risks that there will from time to time be further major disruptions to supplies.
- Australia is participating in discussions on energy with our industrialised partners within the International Energy Agency. The IEA has emphasised the need for measures to reduce levels of imports, to use oil more effectively, and to develop alternative energy sources. There is overwhelming agreement within the IEA that domestic oil prices must reflect fully movements in internationally traded oil prices.
Taking up agreements reached in the IEA, the Venice Economic Summit in June agreed on a strategy to reduce dependence on crude oil. Under this strategy maximum reliance is to be placed on the price mechanism. The strategy adopted represented a full endorsement of Australia’s energy policies especially our crude oil pricing policy. The seven heads of government also urged measures to increase substantially the production and use of alternative energy resources, especially coal and uranium.
Rising crude oil prices, the risks of further disruptions to supply, the desirability of diversification of sources of supply away from regions where there are high political risks of one sort or another, and the explicit policies of the kind just referred to all have the effect of pushing up prices of, and adding to the demand for, other sources of energy. This is already evident in the case of coal, LPG, and LNG - with which Australia is well endowed.
Australian Situation - The Opportunities
The two dominant factors in the Australian situation are our partial - and declining - self-sufficiency in naturallyoccurring crude oil and our abundant reserves of other energy resources, especially coal. Of the 24 OECD countries, we are one of only five that are net exporters of energy.
Australia’s position is one of considerable opportunity, but at the same time of some risk. Our energy resources, combined with abundant supplies of many raw materials, create the opportunity for a large expansion in energy exports and in energy intensive resource developments.
These developments will add greatly to our national product, to incomes and to wealth. Initially it will be the direct impact of the new resource development projects which will be most obvious as new job opportunities are opened up by the projects themselves and in the industries directly servicing them. But all Australians stand to benefit from the increased wealth which will flow from resource development. The higher incomes will be spent, this will in turn lead to new demands for a wide variety of goods and services and create opportunities for us all to realise our own individual potential in many differing fields of activity. Indeed our whole history has shown, starting from the pastoral developments in the 1 830s and the gold rushes of the 1 850s to the mineral boom in the 1960s that the benefits of economic growth will always expand far beyond those directly involved. All sections of our society will be able to share the gains from the developments which are in sight.
However, this potential could be put at risk by a number of factors. Our partial dependence on imported crude oil leaves the economy vulnerable to major disruptions to world oil supplies. We must also ensure that our economic policies create the necessary pre-conditions to foster the large investments involved and that our potential is not undermined by industrial disputes.
Higher oil prices and uncertainty about supplies have stimulated interest in Australia’s abundant raw materials and large reserves of other energy forms, particularly coal. This is illustrated by: increased interest in and demand for direct exports of energy sources from Australia - primarily coal but also LNG increased desire to process Australian raw materials in Australia especially where the processing is energy intensive; accelerated plans to increase coal-based electricity generating capacity in Australia, to provide both the power to service raw material processing industries, and to cater for a shift out of petroleum products towards electricity as a preferred energy source.
The developments in prospect will, of course, need to comply with Government requirements in areas such as the environment, foreign ownership, and taxation. We are determined that all companies, both domestic and foreign owned, shall operate in Australia’s interests and in the interests of all Australians.
The fact that much of the output of Australian resource-related projects is exported underlines the need for Australia to be seen to be a reliable supplier on terms which are fair and equitable to both buyer and seller.
Australia recognises and appreciates its responsibilities in this area in our present age of increasing world energy shortage. Our rich resource endowment carries with it an international responsibility to make our resources available on fair terms and conditions to countries who are less well endowed than ourselves. Developed and developing countries alike are vitally dependent on stable and secure supplies of resources for their economic advancement and well being. In turn, Australia expects consuming countries to provide stable access to their markets for our resources by way of long term contracts - whether in processed or unprocessed form. This is absolutely essential if companies are to commit the huge amounts of risk capital which are necessary to bring Australia’s resource projects on stream in the 1 980s.
Australia’s greatest energy resource is coal, which comprises over 80 per cent of our identified economic energy resources. Coal currently provides 70 to 80 per cent of the country’s electricity and in addition is a major and rising export product. In the period since 1960, annual exports of coal have risen from 1.9 million tonnes to 41.3 million tonnes in 1979. Most of this is coking coal, but a growing proportion is steaming coal for electricity generation.
These exports are expected to increase significantly. For example, the IEA recently predicted that Australia’s steaming coal exports could be expected to reach 35-40 million tonnes annually by 1990, compared with about 6 million tonnes at present.
In terms of coal availability Australia is well placed to meet the increasing demand. The main challenge will be in planning for and coping with the necessary rail, road and port infrastructure needs and the associated need for skilled labour. Plant and equipment requirements will also be significant and pose increasing demands on our manufacturing sector.
The Commonwealth is concerned that potential developments should not be held back by lack of necessary infrastructure. The Commonwealth, in conjunction with New South Wales and Queensland, is assessing the likely timing and size of future demands for coal exports and is examining whether current proposals for infrastructure will be sufficient to accommodate the likely growth in exports.
Projects involving borrowings amounting to around $228 million to provide coal export facilities have already been approved by the Loan Council under the Infrastructure Program. In addition, the Loan Council has approved borrowings of $182 million for up-grading and electrification of the Waterfall-Port Kembla railway, primarily to facilitate haulage of coal to the new loader at Port Kembla. Possible infrastructure borrowings to finance electrification of other coal railways are under consideration.
Plans for the North West Shelf Project are firming up, with arrangements for the Joint Venturers to supply natural gas to Western Australia in (984 and to commence exports of LNG in 1986.
In accordance with its previously announced policy for the North West Shelf Project, the Government granted in November last year long term export permits for the export of LNG and, subject to the requirements of the domestic market, of LPG. The export permits provide the necessary basis for the negotiation of firm long-term contracts with overseas customers. These were necessary formal Government approvals to enable this great project to proceed.
The major technical studies on the Project were completed by the Joint Venturers during 1979 establishing that development on a commercial basis would be possible. The participants are now drawing together complex matters relating to construction, marketing and financing with the intention of making final investment decisions as soon as possible. The Joint Venturers have already demonstrated their confidence in the Project by letting contracts for construction of some of the facilities, including the major contract for the jacket section of the first offshore production platform, and arranging the borrowings to finance development of the Project including a $ 1 .3 billion loan raised by Woodside Petroleum Ltd.
Australia contains around 1 6 per cent of the western world’s low cost reasonably assured uranium reserves. Although anticipated growth of nuclear power programs in some countries has been reduced in the last few years, there are signs that the contribution which nuclear power can make to energy needs is being reassessed in the light of the overriding priority of reducing reliance on crude oil. At the Venice Summit, to which I have already referred, the leaders of the largest industrialised nations affirmed that they will seek enhanced use of nuclear power in the future.
Raw Material Processing
In addition to vast reserves of many energy forms, especially coal, Australia has good reserves of many raw materials, including bauxite, iron ore, zinc, nickel and petrochemical feedstock.
As the cost of oil continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly attractive to process raw materials in Australia in preference to transporting them to other countries where energy costs are higher or where there is a doubt about the availability of the required energy.
Of prime importance is the availability in Australia of low cost coal-based electricity. The combination of low cost energy’ and plentiful supplies of raw materials has increased the opportunities for the economic processing of raw materials in Australia. A further factor has been rising transport costs, particularly for bulky items.
. The most outstanding example here is aluminium smelting. Annual smelting capacity is expected to expand from 280,000 tonnes at present to about 1.3 million tonnes over the next five years. This will require investment of around $2.9 billion. Other aluminium projects under serious consideration could lift annual capacity to over two million tonnes in the second half of the 1980’s, bringing total potential investment in the industry to around $4.5 billion.
In addition substantial new facilities are planned for the petrochemical industry, based primarily on hydrocarbon feedstock material from Bass Strait and the Cooper Basin.
Quite apart from our favourable energy and raw material resources endowments, our economic and political stability is a key element in Australia being a favoured location for resource-based processing projects.
Investment in additional electricity generating capacity represents one of the greatest development challenges in Australia.
Because Australian electricity is produced primarily from coal we have been spared the very large increases in electricity prices being experienced in countries dependent on oil for power generation.
The prospective availability of large quantities of relatively inexpensive coal-based electricity has generated interest overseas in locating energy-intensive industries in Australia.
Recognising the very high cost of, and long lead times associated with the construction of electricity generating stations, the Commonwealth has taken a series of initiatives to encourage and assist the State authorities concerned.
The Commonwealth has encouraged the States to bring forward proposals for coal-based electricity projects to be financed under the Infrastructure Program specifically to facilitate the provision of public sector infrastructure required to complement the big prospective increase in private sector investment in developmental projects.
Borrowings of S3 billion have been approved under the Infrastructure Program for electricity generating projects with an estimated total cost of S7.4 billion.
The borrowings for electricity projects which have been approved under the Infrastructure Program are: $774m for Eraring and Bayswater power stations in New South Wales; $ 1,076m for the Loy Yang A and B power stations in Victoria, and, in addition; $460m for power stations in Queensland;
SI 45m has been approved for the Northern Power Station in South Australia; $4 14m for power projects in Western Australia;
SI 13m for hydro-electric power works in Tasmania.
There are, in addition, further electricity generating projects proposed, including those by New South Wales and Queensland for which total borrowings of about $4.4 billion are being sought towards outlays of S9.1 billion. These proposals are currently being examined by Commonwealth and State officials. Further proposals from other States have also been foreshadowed.
It is difficult to convey the magnitude and importance to Australia of these developments. Projects already approved will add 40 per cent to Australian electricity generating capacity by about 1990. The proposals from New South Wales and Queensland currently being examined by officials involve almost half as much again. Installed generating capacity in Australia has grown dramatically since 1 950: between 1950 and 1960 it grew by 106 per cent or 3,500 megawatts; between 1960 and 1970 it grew by 150 per cent or 8,400 megawatts; between 1970 and 1980 it grew by 70 per cent or 10,000 megawatts;
On the basis of current plans installed generating capacity is expected to rise by a further 9,000 megawatts and by 1985 by about 12,000 megawatts in the second half of the decade to reach about 45,000 megawatts by 1990. In this decade the increase in generating capacity is expected to be greater than in any previous decades or even two decades.
In 1979, the Commonwealth in conjunction with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, set up a Committee of Inquiry into Electricity Generation and Sharing of Power Resources in South-East Australia. The main function of the Inquiry is to examine the feasibility of a strongly integrated electricity supply grid in South-East Australia.
Resource and energy related developments have an immense potential for generating economic growth in this country and raising the standard of living for all Australians.
However, realisation of this potential could be imperilled if appropriate policies are not pursued. I refer particularly to: our vulnerability to disruptions to supplies of crude oil and the need for appropriate energy policies to minimise risk; the need for sound economic policies which will provide an economc environment in which the massive investments which will be required can be made with confidence; and the need for unions to play a positive role in this development and to avoid the industrial unrest which might put at risk major investments by adding to costs and uncertainties and might prejudice Australia’s image as a reliable supplier.
As I mentioned earlier Australia’s partial selfsufficiency in crude oil leaves us vulnerable to disruptions in world oil supplies. The oil shocks of the 1970s, from which fortunately Australia was spared the worst effects, illustrate the dependence of Western economies on reliable supplies of crude oil.
The National Energy Advisory Committee has estimated that if we do not make additional crude oil discoveries our self-sufficiency in naturally occurring crude oil is expected to fall from about 67 per cent today, to about 40 per cent in 1990 and 10 per cent by the year 2000. In order to avoid increasing reliance on potentially unreliable overseas supplies of oil Government policies need to be directed at reducing our dependence on crude oil and towards cushioning the effect in Australia of any external oil shock. We must reduce our dependence on oil as a fuel, find additional oil deposits in Australia, and develop alternative energy sources.
Import Parity Pricing
The cornerstone of our policy is the pricing of indigenous crude oil at import parity. The Government’s firm commitment to this policy was again illustrated recently with the decision to increase indigenous crude oil prices by $2.73 a barrel from 1 July to fully reflect changes in the price of Saudi crude since the beginning of this year.
When we introduced import parity pricing policy we knew that it would not be popular; but we believed that it was right, and necessary for the future wellbeing of Australia. Import parity pricing is vital to conserve our scarce supplies of liquid fuels, to encourage exploration for oil and to assist the development of alternative sources of energy - this policy is clearly working.
The case for the policy is overwhelming:
The increases which have occurred in the world price of oil, and the further increases which are likely, represent a reassessment of the value of this scarce resource. It is vital that we should value appropriately our own supplies of oil and not allow them to be used at artificially low prices; if investment decisions by business and expenditure decisions by the community as a whole are to be on a sound long term footing, it is imperative that they be made on the basis of realistic energy prices. Otherwise, there is the risk that expectations as regards costs and returns will not be realised when the true price has inevitably to be paid for energy inputs; only by pricing indigenous crude oil to reflect world prices can alternative sources of energy, such as shale oil, and ethanol, become viable and thus contribute towards reducing our dependence on imported oil; these developments will take time to have their full effect in reducing our dependence on imported oil. That is why we must begin to make the necessary adjustments on a wide scale now, before our dependence on foreign oil reaches high levels; the choice we face is between paying realistic prices for indigenous petroleum products now or paying even higher prices later to producers in other countries when we may be unnecessarily dependent on expensive and uncertain supplies of imported oil; if we were to allow our indigenous oil reserves to be squandered at unrealistically low prices, it would be an act of extreme selfishness towards our children, adding to their vulnerability to disruptions to imported oil supplies and increases in oil prices; the crude oil levy recovers for taxpayers generally a substantial part of the windfall profits which would otherwise accrue to domestic oil producers as oil prices rise. The effect of this is to relieve the community of the need to pay higher taxes of other types. The community and taxpayers at large benefit from this policy; the receipts from the crude oil levy have assisted the Government to meet defence obligations which could not be postponed, to help reduce the deficit, and to finance cuts in taxation applying from 1 July 1980.
Some sections of the community have argued that they should pay lower prices for petroleum products because of their productive activities. But if we were to move to a two tier pricing system most users would quickly seek to be in the lower tier and it would also slow the adjustment to realistic energy prices, including the prices of energy inputs for industry. It would seriously undermine the whole import parity pricing policy.
Notwithstanding our adherence to import parity pricing for indigenous crude the price of Australian petrol is amongst the lowest of OECD countries- for example, prices in Europe range up to 78 cents a litre in Italy. Australia’s import parity pricing is based on the price set for ‘Arabian Light’, the lowest price at which a major part of the world’s oil is traded.
The Government has backed up its pricing policy with supplementary measures to achieve its desired objectives. These include: measures to promote conservation of liquid fuels, particularly petrol; encouraging of inter-fuel substitution away from petroleum products, e.g. towards natural gas; encouraging the development of alternative sources of energy, such as development of the production of syncrude from shale and coal, ethanol from plants; encouraging of oil exploration; support for increased energy research, development and demonstration.
Conservation offers the most effective means of reducing our reliance on oil in the short term, and has the potential for further gains as investments are made in energy efficient capital equipment, vehicles and buildings.
Pricing of crude oil at import parity encourages conservation by ensuring that consumers make decisions based on realistic prices for the petroleum products which they use. This is increasingly occurring.
For example in 1979-80 in spite of strong economic growth petrol consumption decreased by 0.7 per cent and the consumption of the major petroleum products was 1.5 per cent lower than in 1978-79. For the five year period to 1977-78 - i.e. proceeding the move to full import parity - the corresponding average annual increases were 4.6 per cent, and 3.9 per cent, respectively. In addition, in the first half of this year four-cylinder cars accounted for 65 per cent of the new vehicle market, compared with 56 per cent in the corresponding period of 1979 (and 39 per cent in 1972). Further savings will result from the voluntary fuel improvement goals recently agreed with the motor vehicle industry.
In co-operation with most State Governments, the Commonwealth launched last November a national energy conservation campaign. The program was continued in this year’s Budget following the results of a survey which indicated that the campaign had a significant effect in increasing awareness of the need to conserve energy.
There is scope for energy conservation in Australian industry. International estimates suggest that energy savings averaging 20 per cent can be achieved within five years with up to 40 per cent savings in particular cases, mainly through ‘good housekeeping’.
In recognition of the important role of energy conservation in industry the Government announced in this year’s Budget the introduction of the National Industrial Energy Management Scheme to promote and foster efficient energy consumption patterns in industry.
The Productivity Promotion Council of Australia has also undertaken six pilot Energy Productivity Achievement Programs to date resulting in first year savings estimated at over Sim. In this regard, the Government will be seeking a commitment from industry to establish and maintain energy management programs, under which companies will monitor energy use, establish goals for reducing energy use, and report this information through their industry associations. I call on industry leaders to give full support to this program.
As foreshadowed in my Statement of 27 June 1979 the Government conducted a preliminary survey of all portfolios to ascetain liquid consumption patterns, conservation efforts undertaken by departments, and identify areas to seek additional savings.
The initial responses indicated that many Commonwealth departments and agencies had already introduced some important conservation measures in their transport operations, buildings, factories and other plant. For instance, the purchase and use of 6 cylinder and larger vehicles are subject to stringent criteria and the proportion of 4 cylinder cars in the Commonwealth car fleet has increased from 1 5.3 per cent in 1976-77 to 34.2 per cent in 1978-79. This trend will continue as more cars fall due for replacement.
The Commonwealth has commenced a program of converting Government houses in the ACT from oil to electric heating. In addition, any new public housing in the ACT will in future be constructed in accordance with thermal efficiency guidelines.
Whenever possible the Government wishes to replace the use of petroleum products by other, more readily available substitutes. Again, of course, the prime incentive for such substitution is provided by realistic pricing of petroleum products arising from import parity pricing.
Demonstrated economically recoverable reserves of natural gas (including the North West Shelf) are about 700 billion cubic metres compared with Australian consumption in 1979 of 9 billion cubic metres. Major gas production presently occurs in Bass Strait and the Cooper Basin, with smaller producing areas in Queensland and Western Australia. All mainland State capital cities are supplied with natural gas, and pipeline systems are being extended.
Natural gas provides an attractive alternative to crude oil products for many users. The Government is committed to extending natural gas pipelines to provide wider access to this energy source. The recent penetration of natural gas into the Sydney market is particularly heartening.
Construction has commenced of a Sydney-Newcastle pipeline and will shortly commence on a line from Young to Wagga Wagga and Cootamundra. Plans have been approved for a spur line to Canberra and consultations are being held with NSW, Victoria and South Australia on the possible extension of the Southern lateral from Wagga Wagga to Albury. Such a line would link the Victorian and NSW gas distribution networks, and the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait gas fields.
In June last year 1 announced a number of initiatives to encourage the automotive use of LPG. At the moment most of our naturally occurring LPG is exported and it is the Government’s aim that his valuable fuel be used increasingly in Australia to replace imports of crude oil.
Earlier this year, it became evident that massive increases in the world price of LPG threatened this policy. High prices for LPG, but more importantly uncertainty about future price movements, coupled with fears about safety standards, had adversely affected the demand for automotive LPG conversions.
The policy announced by the Minister for National Development and Energy last April is designed to restore an element of certainty to potential LPG users by tying the price of LPG to that of indigenous crude oil. In this way people could be assured that the benefits from conversion would not be eroded by increases in the price of LPG larger than those for crude oil.
Our policy also recognised the position of household consumers of LPG by providing a temporary subsidy of S80 a tonne to be paid through wholesale distributors. This will give households the opportunity to switch gradually to more suitable indigenous fuels such as natural gas and electricity.
The success of the Government’s policies aimed at encouraging substitution is clear from the 1979-80 consumption figures for selected products; for examplefuel oil consumption was down 8 per cent; industrial diesel fuel consumption was down 1 5 per cent; and heating oil use was down 36 per cent. Alternative Sources of Liquid Fuels
With increasing prices for crude oil, there has been a dramatic increase in the prospects of developing alternative sources of liquid fuels which will be competitive economically with crude oil. The Government’s import parity pricing policy provides a basic framework within which alternative fuels can be developed.
Australia has extensive deposits of oil shale. A large, high grade deposit, known as the Rundle Deposit, is located near Gladstone in Eastern Queensland. Other very large rich deposits have also been indentified over a wide area of Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
The Rundle shale oil project is a classic example of the effectiveness of the Government’s import parity pricing policy. The developers of this project have made it clear that the Government’s import parity pricing has been crucial in their decisions to make the very large investments required in this project.
An agreement, recently signed between the Rundle partners and Esso, provides for the completion of the first stage of a project to produce up to 20,000 barrels of oil a day by 1985 and, if this is successful, subsequent development to produce about 200,000 barrels a day in the early 1990s. This syncrude output which should come on stream as Bass Strait oil production declines will be equivalent to between 25 and 30 per cent of our expected requirements at that time.
The first stage of the project is expected to cost between $300m and $400m in 1 979 values; and if it is successful to lead to a project costing many billions of dollars. Indeed it is likely to be the largest project ever undertaken in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.
Rundle is only one of several rich oil shale deposits. If it proves to be viable it will almost certainly lead the way with its technology in the development of a great new Australian industry.
Developmental work is being carried out to arrive at processes for the economic conversion of coal to oil. Joint ventures have been set up by Australia with Germany and Japan to investigate these possibilities.
The joint Australian/FRG coal-to-oil feasibility study estimated to cost about $4m will report in mid-1981 on the feasibility of establishing liquid fuel plants at nominated sites in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.
The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry has expressed interest in joint development of the KOM1NIC solvent refining technology for liquefaction of Victorian brown coal. A decision on a pilot plant will be preceded by studies which will assess the KOMINIC technology in the context of competing coal liquefaction technologies and report on the feasibility of establishing pilot and commercial plants.
Another potentially promising alternative to crude oil is ethanol which can be produced from a number of vegetable products such as grain, sugar cane and sugar beat. The Commonwealth Government is providing funding to assist in an economic and technical evaluation of the potential contribution of fuel ethanol to Australia’s liquid fuel needs. This high octane fuel has potential for use primarily as a petrol extender in blends containing 10-20 per cent ethanol.
In addition to funding research and development, the Government has introduced an Experimenters’ Licence Scheme to permit working trials of small-scale fuel ethanol production and use, particularly on the farm. These trials will be of particular interest to farmers interested in small-scale production as a means of attaining fuel self-sufficiency. Some 39 licences have been approved to date.
Ethanol for use as an on-farm or transport fuel has been exempted from excise whether produced on the farm or commercially. This exemption will apply at least until the commercial viability of large scale use or ethanol as an alternative fuel or a fuel extender has been established.
Research and Development
It is clear that research into alternative energy sources and other aspects of energy use is necessary to develop viable techniques to reduce our dependence on oil. The Commonwealth is committed to a substantial research and development program. Apart from the ongoing programs of Commonwealth organisations, the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Program has provided additional stimulus to all sectors, across a wide range of energy technologies. Since its inception in 1978, in excess of $41. 8m has been committed in grants under the Program. In 1980-81, $ 13.5m has been provided for expenditure on the Program compared with $9.0m in 1979-80, an increase of 50 per cent. Total expenditure by Commonwealth organisations on energy research and development in 1979-80 was around $32m.
The response by oil explorers to the Government’s policies has been very pleasing. Confidence of investors has been restored and exploration activity has increased dramatically. Import parity pricing has, of course, provided the certainty as to future returns which has underpinned this recent expansion in oil search activity.
A comparison with activity in 1975 when the Government came to office illustrates the industry responses:
The Australian Petroleum Exploration Association now expects that expenditure on petroleum exploration and development will exceed $7 15m in 1980 compared with $ 150m in 1975; last year 108 exploration and development wells were drilled in Australia and in 1980 it is expected that 121 such wells will be drilled- only 29 wells were drilled in 1 975; we now have twice as many exploration permits on issue as in 1 975- over 233 permits now compared with 1 22 then; in 1980, the amount of seismic work completed was more than six times the amount undertaken in 1975 (an estimated 50,000 tine kms compared with 7,800 line kms); at 30 June this year there were 20 active drilling rigs operating onshore and offshore in Australia. At the same time last year there were 10, and in mid-1975 there were only 4.
Another indication of the success of our policies is the amount of oil which has been added to Australia’s petroleum reserves.
Almost 1 billion barrels of oil have been added to Australia’s economically recoverable reserves in the last four years, and at 31 March 1980 remaining reserves stood at 1 ,838m barrels which is a net increase after production of some 3 1 0m barrels over the period.
Security of Oil Supplies
Particularly since the 1979 oil crisis, the Government has been concerned to provide greater security of supply of petroleum products to Australian consumers. 100. In the event of a major interruption to oil supplies we would need to have adequate stocks of both crude oil and petroleum products on which we could draw. The Government considers that an appropriate objective for stock holdings on land in Australia by the oil refining and production industry is the equivalent of about 75 days of consumption of crude oil and petroleum products. 101 . To put this objective into perspective, stocks on land in Australia were equivalent to about 52 days consumption at the beginning of 1979. They have now risen to 71 days. Discussions are being held with the industry to increase these stocks to the target level. 102. Member countries of the 1EA are required to hold a minimum level of stocks equivalent to 90 days of net oil imports in the previous year. Australia easily complies with this requirement. 103. One product area in which shortages were felt in 1979 was avgas. As a result of efforts to have Australia’s avgas refining capacity increased:
Mobil is increasing the annual capacity of the Altona refinery from 40,000 tonnes to about 70,000 tonnes; and
Shell has decided to manufacture avgas at its refinery at Geelong in Victoria, and on 16 May 1980 commenced production at an annual rate of 70,000 tonnes. 104. Total refining capacity is now in excess of 140,000 tonnes per annum, well in excess of our traditional demand of about 100,000 tonnes. 105. Our oil and gas production facilities in Bass Strait and the associated onshore facilities in Gippsland meets some 62 per cent of our domestic oil consumption and all Victoria’s natural gas requirements. The Government has taken action in consultation with Victoria and with the operators of the installations, Esso, to enhance the security of these installations and to enable more rapid restoration of supply in the event of a catastrophe. Further measures are in hand. 106. The Government is acting to reduce further the risks of accidental collision by vessels with the offshore installations. On 6 June the Minister for Defence announced that increased surveillance and related activities were being undertaken by units of the Australian Defence Forces, including Naval and Air units, in the vicinity of the Bass Strait oil production platforms. 107. The Government has established the National Petroleum Advisory Committee to advise it on suitable allocation arrangements that might be adopted in the event that any shortage arose.
Economic Conditions 108. Sound economic management is of fundamental importance to the realisation of Australia’s great development potential. Continued downward pressure and the avoidance of destabilising imbalances in the economy are necessaary prerequisites for the very large investments required. The
Government’s record in this area is good and the recent Budget demonstrates our resolve to continue to pursue antiinflationary policies. 109. The economic climate provided by the Government is essential in order that investors, both domestic and foreign, should have the confidence necessary to make decisions to invest the massive amounts of money involved in many of the potential resource and energy related projects. 1 10. The Government’s foreign investment policy is understood and accepted by foreign investors. It ensures consistency, equity and predictability for investors, while ensuring that Australians get maximum benefits from developments.
Industrial Relations 111. The Commonwealth, in conjunction with State Governments, has adopted policies directed to providing the necessary environment within which the massive resource and energy-related investment can proceed with confidence. Planning, development and operation of major projects involving the investment of very large sums require reasonable certainty as regards costs and timetables. Delays arising from industrial unrest which could adversely affect both costs and timetables must therefore be avoided. It is in the interests of the workers and indeed all Australians, that the very favourable prospects for development which Australia now has before it should not be prejudiced by industrial unrest. 1 12. Unions must play their part so that their members can share in the benefits which the prospect of resource development holds out for Australia. There needs to be continuing consultation between unions, management and Government so that there is early and clear understanding of the features of proposed developments. 113. It is also vital that we should avoid industrial unrest in the production phase particularly in the mining sector, as disruption to supply can be a source of concern to our trading partners, as well as to prospective investors. An essential component of Australia’s image as a reliable trading partner concerns it’s ability to meet contracts as scheduled. 114. Minimal industrial unrest will greatly enhance our image overseas; it will spare workers and their families the effects of unnecessary losses of income which they rarely, if ever, recoup; and it will be in the interests of all Australians. It is essential if we are to maximise the benefits from our unique combination of energy and raw material reserves that the level of industrial disputation must be reduced. The Commonwealth will encourage consultation and co-operation between management and workers in an effort to reduce the level of disputation and to provide a constructive industrial relations environment.
Achievements and Prospects 115. Our experience of the past twelve months confirms that the Government’s strategy is working: in 1979-80 consumption of petrol was 0.7 per cent less than in 1978-79, compared with an average annual increase of 4.6 per cent in the five years preceding full import parity pricing;
In 1979-80 consumption of heating oil and fuel oil fell by 36 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, over 1978-79; consumers are showing a strong preference for cars with greater fuel economy leading to 4 cylinder cars holding 65 per cent of the vehicle market in the first half of this year compared with 56 per cent in the first half of 1979 (and 39 percent in 1972); introduction of natural gas into Sydney is estimated to have saved the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil in 1 979;
The Esso and the Rundle partners have announced that they have signed Heads of Agreement to develop the huge Rundle oil shale deposit; coal-to-oil feasibility studies are underway, possibly leading to establishment of pilot plants; exploration for oil has increased dramatically from the low of the mid-70s;
Investment in electricity generation and transmission exceeding $19 billion over the next decade has been foreshadowed. 1 16. There has been an unprecedented interest in increasing raw material processing in Australia. The latest survey by the Department of Industry and Commerce has identified investment of $29 billion either committed or in the final feasibility stage in major resource and manufacturing projects, with some two-thirds being energy related. For example: exports of steaming coal are estimated to increase from 6 million tonnes at present to 35-40 million tonnes by 1990; annual aluminium smelting capacity is expected to increase from 280,000 tonnes at present to a possible capacity in excess of 2 million tonnes by 1990, earning some $2 billion export income at current prices. 117. The prospects are for continuing high interest in Australian energy exports and in establishing energy intensive industries in Australia. 1 18. The large scale investment of many billions of dollars in resource based development will stimulate economic growth and employment. It will provide greatly increased demand for our manufacturing industry, particularly the fabrication and construction sectors. It will also have favourable effects on transport and other service industries. 119. The policies being pursued by the Commonwealth will create the conditions which encourage the massive investments necessary to bring these potential developments to fruition. In addition the Commonwealth, in co-operation with State Governments, is acting to ensure that developments are not being impeded by lack of essential infrastructure. 120. Our energy policies are firmly established and their success is already evident. The Commonwealth will continue to build on these policies to ensure that Australia is well placed to meet possible upheavals in the international oil markets. The measures I have outlined evidence this determination.
– I present the following paper:
Energy Policy and Related Resource Development - Ministerial Statement, 26 August 1980.
Motion (by Mr Garland) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Garland) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Blaxland speaking for a period not exceeding 29 minutes.
– There was no news in the statement delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). There were no new announcements. What we have just witnessed is an idle piece of political window dressing to give some form to the ad hockery of the Government’s energy and resources policies. In fact the statement could have been labelled ‘101 unreported Press releases’ because there is nothing in it that we have not seen spread over the last 18 months. The statement is laden with distortions and half truths. Repeatedly in this statement, the Prime Minister refers to maximising the benefits for Australia but he cannot even get together a statement on the Government’s policies. What the public would not have seen, with that incorporation in Hansard, is a second statement of 31 pages which was obviously intended to be the original statement and which was rewritten into a 20 page statement which was just read by the Prime Minister. So we have now had 20 pages read and 31 pages unread but incorporated in Hansard. This amounts to a 50 page statement. The Opposition received one hour’s notice of this statement. No attempt was made to permit study of the statement because the Government is not interested in scrutiny.
Government members interjecting -
- Mr Speaker, could you give me some protection from the drongos on the other side of the House, the layabouts on the Government back bench, the drones? Quite simply, no attempt has been made by the Government to allow any kind of scrutiny of the statement by the Opposition.
There is no news in the statement. The Prime Minister talks about making the most of our opportunities. Clearly there was no policy by the Fraser Government to make the most of Australia’s opportunities in the areas of energy or resources policy in general. There is now no semblance of a foreign investment policy to maximise Australian ownership. The great boom which we are led to believe will take place will not benefit Australians in the way in which it should. Of course no tax regime is being or has been established, other than company tax, to try to equitably share the benefits between the Australian community at large and private corporations, many of which are overseas corporations, which would participate in mining and energy ventures in this country.
There is no national pricing policy. We are now selling coking coal - some of the best coking coal in the world - at $8 a tonne to $10 a tonne less than we should be selling it and we are exporting about 35 million tonnes. So we are losing about $350m of national income this year simply because the Government does not have the foresight to develop a rational export pricing policy in respect of those resources. It does not matter where honourable members look in the resources front. Australia may muddle through, but there will certainly be no plan by the Fraser Government for the development of Australia for the benefit of most Australians. As far as it is concerned, leave the El Dorado to the foreigners and maybe we will get some of the crumbs from the table.
The whole mining industry of Australia employs 1 i per cent of the work force of Australia. The Government talks about an investment of $x billion in the next five years. Already thousands of billions of dollars are invested in the Australian resource industries which employ H per cent of the work force. Even if $ 1 0 billion or $ 1 5 billion - take the last number you thought of and double it, as the Government does - were to be invested, the existing level of investment would not be duplicated. Even if it were, it would increase the work force in the mining industry from H per cent to 3 per cent.
What is being done about employment in Australian cities, where the majority of the people live? Australians are very immobile people and we have a very high level of home ownership. They do not want to pick up their houses and go to the backblocks of north Queensland. If they did the Government would tax their subsidised rental accommodation, as it is now trying to do in the case of the miners of Queensland and the miners of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. The Government wants people to go to these places and develop them and then it wants to impose economic sanctions on them.
The Government will not tell us where it will supply some jobs in the cities of Australia. This is a very urbanised country and the Government does not have a policy for providing employment where it matters. If honourable members opposite think that the Baader-Meinhof groups and the urban guerrillas of Western Europe will not be a feature of Australia as we move through the 1980s with high levels of employment in the cities, I think they may be disappointed. The Government has no policies about developing Australia. Australia has an abundance of coal and the Government is hoping that the world will want to buy steaming coal, so that we can all hop into the back of the steaming coal truck and be delivered to the land of prosperity - the great El Dorado.
The Prime Minister talked about 38 million tonnes of coking coal exports this year. Coking coal is associated mainly with the steel industries of Japan. There is no growth in the world’s steel industries. Also, the unit of coal per tonne of steel is dropping continually. There will not be the growth in coking coal exports that people on the Government side of the House believe. It just will not be there. We are exporting about five million tonnes of steaming coal. The Prime Minister quoted the International Energy Agency as saying that we will export 35 million tonnes to 40 million tonnes of steaming coal. Frankly, that is an overoptimistic figure and it will not be reached. What the Australian Government is doing, what the Fraser Government is doing, is waiting on the electricity producing industries of Japan to come here and order steaming coal for new steaming coal power generation plants.
There is no inventiveness about converting to coal the oil fired plants which are languishing in every developed country and then selling the pulverised coal to these oil fired conversions. There is nothing as imaginative as that whereby Australia would get in on the ground floor of a huge market which we could make available to Australians. No, we are going to sit back and wait until each new coal fired station is developed and then sell it coal. As well as that, so much coal will be available that prices will be depressed. The Japanese power industries will make sure that they manipulate Australia so that they develop much more capacity than they need in any one year. We will find the same position applying to steaming coal as applies to coking coal - namely, depressed prices for Australia. Australians are selling their heritage in coal - their non-replaceable reserves - to Japan and to other countries for less than those reserves are really worth.
Before the Second World War and after that war the rule of thumb was that steaming coal was worth half the oil price per tonne. On that basis, steaming coal today would be worth about $80 to $90 per tonne. We are getting $32 per tonne. A year ago we were getting $22 per tonne. This is the sort of stupidity that the clowns of the Government believe can be defended as commercial exploitation of Australian reserves. They have no idea what to do with this country or how to develop it. They are turning it over to foreigners who will take them to the cleaners because they are small businessmen.
Government members interjecting -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The Prime Minister was heard in silence. I expect the same courtesy to be extended to the honourable member for Blaxland.
– They are small time solicitors, refugees from the small debts courts–
– I take a point of order. I object to what the honourable member is saying.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– They are broken down real estate salesmen, second class car salesmen and small debts solicitors.
– Mr Deputy Speaker–
– Order! The honourable member for St George will resume his seat.
– There are no businessmen in the Fraser Government. There are no people with creative ability on the other side of the House. Supporters of the Government would not know an international businessman if they fell over one.
– What the honourable member is saying–
– I warn the honourable member for St George that if he continues to interject I will take action against him.
– Government members could not manage the thrust of nations such as West Germany and Japan - the motor economies - which are looking for energy and will manipulate any country to achieve that end. The Government has no policies. It is about to try to hook itself to what is happening in New South Wales. The Prime Minister talks about the power generation program there. Who put the power generation program together? It was Neville Wran, notMalcolm Fraser. Neville Wran is the person who convinced the aluminium industries to set themselves up in the Hunter Valley. He is the one, through the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, who is developing the new capacity.
What did the Commonwealth do? At a meeting of the Loan Council the Commonwealth gave the New South Wales Government approval to operate in its own right and to carry the economic responsibility for its borrowings. Thank you very much! Big deal! In other words, the Commonwealth has allowed New South Wales to carry the can for its own borrowings. That is what the Prime Minister now calls the national power generation program. This part of the program is the creation of the New South Wales Government, which wanted to do something about the declining fortunes of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the languishing shipbuilding industry which the Federal Government virtually snuffed out and which the State Government has developed now to the point where the employment implications for the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales are important.
Let me say the same thing about the Queensland Government. At least what that Government is doing is being done on its own initiative. It is not being done by the Fraser Government. Honourable members opposite are a lot of carpetbaggers when they come in here and say that it is their program. They could not find their way to the wharves, the power generation plants or the new railways, much less build them. In a cardinal act of fiscal and economic irresponsibility the Prime Minister says without any prior consultation, without any investigation, that he will electrify the Sydney to Melbourne railway line. When Rex Connor talked about this proposal five years ago it was labelled a piece of economic irresponsibility- a reprehensible circumstance. Now, of course, the Government is looking for these token gestures. It will grab at anything. The Prime Minister is trying to climb onto the development bandwagon started by the State Premiers and to take unto himself the borrowing program. The borrowing program is a disgrace because the Commonwealth is to allow the States to carry the load of the borrowings.
The Prime Minister talked about the establishment of a committee of inquiry into electricity generation and sharing of power resources in south-eastern Australia. The casual observer would be excused for believing that the Commonwealth is really thinking about some kind of national approach to power generation. After all, one of the first things an intelligent country, particularly a country with a lot of coal resources, would do would be to organise its power generation into a national grid, but the Government does not have a national energy policy. It does not think about anything other than high petrol prices. Belting the motorist is the Government’s only energy policy.
The committee of inquiry into power generation and power sharing in south-eastern Australia is not a Commonwealth initiative at all. It is an initiative of Dick Hamer, the Victorian Premier, and was put forward simply because of the power planning deficiencies of the Victorian Government. It has dawned on Premier Hamer that six or eight years down the track there will not be enough electricity for Victoria. What he is now doing is using Prime Minister Fraser, through the Liberal Party, to plug himself into the New South Wales grid, which will have plenty of power because of the decent planning of the Wran Government and the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. Let me tell honourable members this: New South Wales will have not a bar of it. The Prime Minister can talk about his committee. We will tell him what he can do with his committee. He can go and tell Premier Hamer to get off his backside, do some work and develop some decent power policies for Victoria instead of turning over half of Victoria’s brown coal fields to some spurious coal to oil program using Second World War second rate technology based on the SASOL model. He should tell Mr Hamer to get down there and really produce some economic benefits for Victoria.
We hear all this talk from the Prime Minister about aluminium. Somebody listening to the speech of the Prime Mininster on the radio could be excused for thinking that there are some real initiatives here. There are no initiatives by the Commonwealth; they are all State initiatives. Worse, we have a Commonwealth that could really help if power generation was being sold short in Victoria. Victoria’s policy is to sell power at cost without a real benefit to the Victorian people, to the people who smelt aluminium in this country. If it were to sell power at cost the final product price should reflect the subsidy of that cheap electricity. If the Commonwealth were to look after the interests of the people of Australia - the corporate wealth of the Commonwealth, of the Australian public - and to have a pricing policy which makes sure that the price of smelted aluminium is a price equivalent to the traded price internationally, then, of course, the profits would be declared by the companies operating in Australia. Under a company tax and a resources tax the Australian public would have the benefit of the cheap electricity. This Government does not even have a pricing policy on aluminium. Worse still, a couple of weeks ago the Commonwealth allowed the decision of the High Court to permit Comalco Can and Containers Ltd to sell its aluminium to a subsidiary operating in Hong Kong where the subsidiary picks up the profit and is not liable for Australian taxation. Once again, Australia is short changed. The High Court of Australia, that citadel of income tax evasion and avoidance, aided and abetted by the Commonwealth Government in its complacency in energy pricing, particularly in respect of aluminium–
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. That was a serious reflection on the judiciary and should be withdrawn.
– I did not hear any reflection, in my opinion.
– If the Commonwealth Government were at least to buttress what the States are doing with a decent aluminium pricing policy then these big international aluminium companies could not through their vertical integration, shuffle the product prices in such a way that Australians lose that benefit. The Government does not even have an aluminium pricing policy. Not only is the Government not establishing the power reactors to smelt the aluminium, and establishing an aluminium smelting facility, as have been established by the States, but also, it does not even have a pricing policy for which it has constitutional responsibility. The Government is a disgrace to this country. It has no ideas.
If Australia remains in this Government’s hands for very much longer Australians will miss most of the benefits which could accrue from the development of our natural resources.
The Prime Minister justified his high petrol pricing policy; his import parity pricing policy; the rip off; and the tax by stealth at the petrol pump. There was a very interesting quote in his supplementary speech which I think will have a great bearing on the election. The Prime Minister, in a very uncharacteristic display of candour; said that even on relatively optimistic scenarios for future production and consumption the prospect is for further increases in oil prices. In the last few weeks Government Ministers have been arguing that a world oil glut is developing and there will not be any movement in prices, therefore there will be no difference between the policy of the Australian Labor Party and the policy of the Government. Here the Prime Minister is committing himself in a statement to increases in oil prices. Because of the Government’s commitment, reaffirmed a few minutes ago by the Prime Minister, that the price of oil in Australia will be tied to the international price of oil, under a Fraser Government in this country we can expect continuing increases in the price of Australian oil.
A Labor government will break that nexus or link with import parity pricing. There will be cheaper oil and cheaper petrol under a Labor government. This confirms what the Labor Party has said over and over again, that our oil prices will continue to rise and that Saudi Arabia will lift its price from $28 to $32 a barrel in an attempt to get to a uniform Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries price. If the people of Australia were unlucky enough to have a Fraser government at the end of the year, on 1 January that Fraser Government would lift petrol prices once again. Every sensible Australian should reject that proposition.
When one looks at the rip-off in petrol prices which the Government implemented one sees that in the December quarter of 1975 the price of petrol was 15.6c a litre. Today, in August 1980, it is 36c a litre. The price has more than doubled. The revenue which came from old oil was $257m in 1975-76; $309m in 1976-77; $458m in 1977; $1,189 in 1978-79; $2,200m in 1979-80; and an estimated $3,054m this year. In other words, this year oil and petroleum products will account for 1 1 .8 per cent of total Budget receipts. Three years ago it was 5.7 per cent. This Government is engaged in the most massive tax wrought and rip-off that the Australian public has ever witnessed - a tax by stealth. It was a tax which had no mandate at the last election. In fact, it was a mandate to the contrary- to reduce tax.
We remember the sleazy advertisements of the Government with the fistfull of dollars and the statement: ‘Ring up and find out what your tax cut will be’. The Government gave tax cuts in February and took them back in July. Then it implemented this tax by stealth at the petrol pump which cost the average family $950 each year in petrol taxes. The Government had no approval, no mandate at an election, and it made no mention at an election of this slug, this tax by stealth. The Government’s policy is now working! Today the Prime Minister boasted that the Government had reduced petrol consumption by 0.7 per cent of one per cent. This year in the United States of America petrol consumption has been reduced by 10 per cent - not 0.7 per cent of one per cent - without an import parity policy. Do honourable members know why? It is because the United States Congress had the guts to say to the United States motor vehicle manufacturers that there would be mandatory fuel consumption standards; that the manufacturers would make motor cars which would do so many miles per gallon. But this Government would never say that to Brian Inglis from the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd or to Chuck Chapman from General MotorsHolden’s Ltd. It would not have the guts to say that to them. We know what those companies will do. They will run down investments in their old engine plants, putting a five-litre motor into the latest Commodore, which does about 1 1 miles a gallon, or four-litre engines in the Ford and General-Motors range.
This Government is not requiring mandatory fuel consumption standards as the Americans and Europeans do. It is using the blunt instrument of price to belt every low and middle income earner off the streets. That is the policy of this Government. Its policy is to drive every low and middle income earner off the road. If one has money in Australia one can enjoy all the fruits of the industrial society. One can lease Mercedes Benz. Rolls Royces and BMWs. This is tax deductible and the petrol is also tax deductible. If one happens to be a slave or ordinary working person one is taxed off the street all on the basis that only price should be the weapon which rationalises petrol. It is not that all cars should be made more fuel efficient, or that we should be reducing consumption through more efficient vehicles. The Government does not worry about that. Its attitude is: Do not upset General-Motors or Ford, but just belt the Australian motorist and his family.
In the last year we have had a 33 per cent increase in petrol prices. This year $3.5 billion will have changed hands between the motoring public, the Government and the oil companies. What do we have for the $3.5 billion transfer of wealth? We have a reduction of 0.7 per cent of one per cent. The Prime Minister has the hide to stand here today and to say that that is some kind of virtue or some kind of achievement. It is a disgrace that we have such modest gains with such a high cost policy. Absolutely no comparison can be made with any of the other industrialised countries which do not have an import parity policy and which are not ripping off their own people and making them pay the world price for their own oil, as we in Australia are paying. We are being asked to pay $27.50 a barrel for oil which is produced at a cost of $1 a barrel at Bass Strait. This is the kind of puny justification of the Prime Minister.
We heard the Prime Minister talk about Rundle. We have heard so much about Rundle from the Government. Again there were quite uncharacteristic references in the Prime Minister’s speech to the real impact of Rundle. I will tell honourable members what he said. He said that by 1985 at stage one the much publicised Rundle would produce 20,000 barrels of oil a day. Do honourable members know what 20,000 barrels of oil a day represents? It is 5 per cent of Bass Strait’s production. It will produce 5 per cent of Bass Strait’s production by 1985. If that is a success, Rundle will then go to stage 2 which is 200,000 barrels a day or half that of Bass Strait production in 15 years to the year 1995. So what the Government is talking about when it crows about Rundle, as it does incessantly, is that it will produce about half of the Bass Strait production in 1 5 years time and 5 per cent of the Bass Strait production in five years time. God strike me pink! How can the Government talk about that being the economic salvation of Australia? It talks as though it is going to change the economic face of Australia next year. Rundle will not even have its pilot plant operating until 1985, on the Prime Minister’s own admission, and then it will produce 5 per cent of Australia’s oil production. We could get more than 5 per cent from the liquefied petroleum gas which comes out of the Cooper Basin or Bass Strait.
The Prime Minister went on to say that Rundle will be developed because of the Government’s pricing policy. Of course, that is just a plain untruth. The Australian Labor Party introduced the policy of import parity for new discoveries of oil in 1975. The Government has continued with that policy. In pricing terms, Rundle will be developed under our policy the same as it is being developed under the Government’s policy. It has nothing to do with the price of old oil. The price that we pay for Bass Strait oil has nothing to do with Rundle. There is no reason why Australians should be paying $27.50 a barrel for Bass Strait oil when it costs $1 a barrel to produce and when both parties support the payment of the full world price for oil yet to be discovered and produced. Rundle comes into that category; so Rundle could be developed under the terms of our policy the same as it will be developed under the Government’s policy. Of course it is just so much hogwash.
The Government has mentioned development of the North West Shelf. I have forgotten more about the North West Shelf than most Government ministers know about it. I have been involved with it from the day it started, from the day Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd took over the Burmese interest. In all of the brochures which have been produced in Japanese and German and in all of the other brochures which have been produced for the banking consortium, my statements and the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in support of this development are printed. The consortium knows this and every decent thinking Australian knows this too. But the Government tries to claim that for itself as it is trying to claim Rundle for itself and as it is trying to claim the aluminium industry for itself. These developments do not belong to the Government. They were started by the States and by entrepreneurs, not by the Fraser Government. It cannot even introduce a decent pricing and tax policy that makes sure most Australians get some of the benefits.
The really savage misrepresentations and distortions in this statement came in respect of oil exploration. The Prime Minister said that 29 wells were drilled in 1975 and 121 wells were drilled this year under the Fraser Government. In other words, 29 wells were drilled under the Labor Government and 121 wells were drilled under the Fraser Government. 1 ask honourable members: What is the real truth? In the three years of the Labor Government, 146 wells were drilled; in the first three years of the Fraser Government, 94 wells were drilled. In other words, 60 more wells were drilled in the first three years of the Labor Government than were drilled in the first three years of the Fraser Government. In the three years since import parity pricing was introduced, 151 exploration wells have been drilled in the country. Despite a trebling in oil revenues to the oil producers in that period, the Government still has a drilling rate which is akin to the rate of 1973 to 1975. So where is the value for all of the heartache and suffering it has inflicted on motorists, farmers and industrialists through its high petrol pricing policy? Where are the benefits in exploration? They simply are not there.
When the Labor Party proposes that some of the money which the Government collects from oil production goes back to exploration, it is called a socialist monster. Not one penny of the $2, 200m of the crude oil levy that the Government collects this year will go to exploration. A Labor Government will return that money under an Australian hydrocarbon corporation which will be a government body the same as exists in most parts of the world to search directly for oil and gas, something this Government is not doing. This year 60 holes will be drilled in Australia. This year 3,000 holes will be drilled in Canada and 250,000 holes will be drilled in the United States. There will be 250,000 holes drilled in the United States compared to 60- not 60,000- in Australia and 3,000 holes will be drilled in Canada compared to 60 holes drilled in Australia. Sixty miserable holes will be drilled off-shore and on-shore in Australia. More than that number were drilled in the early 1970s. The Government has fleeced the Australian public of $3.5 billion in the process. What has the Australian public got in return?
What is the Government spending on energy research and development? Last year the Government spent $9.1m out of a total of $2,200m. This year the Government will spend $ 13.5m out of a total of $3,000m. That amounts to $2.10 per capita in Australia compared with $13.80 being spent in Belgium, $4.90 in Canada, $4.80 in Denmark, $6.90 in Japan and so on. In other words, we are spending an infinitesimal amount of this huge rip-off money on energy research and development and nothing on new exploration. The Prime Minister should be ashamed of his statement. As I said earlier it could be called a collection of 101 unreported Press statements. It is a mish-mash of ill-truths, half-truths and illconceived notions, all on the basis of giving some kind of form to the ad hockery of the Government’s energy and resources policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– One aspect of this debate needs to be referred to for a few moments. The heart of the energy statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) deals with the oil policy. The lack of oil has caused the swing to coal.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, there was an agreement between the Opposition and the Government that this debate would terminate after an honourable member from each side had spoken. No arrangement has been made for anyone else to speak. I move:
A division having been called and the bells being rung -
– Mr Deputy Speaker, there was an arrangement that there would be only one speaker on this matter from each side of the House. Therefore, there is no suggestion that a Government member should now speak. I propose that the division be called off and that we proceed with the debate on the matter of public importance.
– If the House does not object, that course will be followed.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kevin Cairns) adjourned.
- Mr Speaker has received a letter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure by the Fraser Government to uphold the principles of human rights.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places -
– Human rights is the most important matter for any Parliament to discuss. Whilst time for this debate is limited, I think that we can adequately cover the most important matters about which the Australian nation would like to have a reminder. In Geneva at present a committee on human rights is meeting. It will listen to a delegation from the National Aboriginal Conference of Australia saying that the Australian Government has failed to fulfil its obligations to protect the Aboriginal race. That is a shocking indictment of any government and of any Prime Minister. It is particularly inappropriate coming at the same time as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) visits New York to receive the B’nai B’rith award for his contributions to human rights. As his own Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has said, the Aborigines talking about this at the
United Nations will create a climate in Geneva that must besmirch Australia’s reputation.
It is significant that the Prime Minister became so worried about the matter after the announcement was made last Friday that he decided to meet the Aborigines’ representatives in Canberra yesterday. He said that he feared a backlash from the black Commonwealth countries because of the actions of governments in Australia which are not anxious to protect human rights but are anxious to legislate against the Aborigines. Our Prime Minister said that he feared a backlash from black Commonwealth countries over what is called the Noonkanbah dispute because of adverse publicity the dispute has received in Africa and Asia. It is disgraceful that we have again to raise these matters in Parliament. This Government has been so weak and servile when it has met the reactionary leaders of Queensland and Western Australia that it has completely abdicated its responsibilities in respect of human rights.
Let me refer quickly to the Noonkanbah dispute. The Prime Minister at Question Time today said that he had regrets about the matter. How long are we to continue to regret while people suffer because State governments fail to protect human rights? The Prime Minister said that it is not a question of going to war about the matter because it has not yet reached that stage. How long can the people of the Aboriginal race put up with all this legislative and police action, with being controlled all the time because they happen to be Aborigines and are not our equals? We have a Prime Minister who is a great advocate of black rights overseas and a great advocate of white rights in Australia. The two cannot go together because there will be conflict. There has already been conflict. The Prime Minister has said that it is not a question of one government acting arbitrarily. It is a question of one government acting arbitrarily, and that is the position we face at present.
As the Prime Minister has said, a committee of the Western Australian Government called the Aboriginal Sites Committee of the Western Australian Museum had the responsibility of looking at the pastoral lease for Noonkanbah. It established beyond any doubt that the area in question was a sacred site. It is a site that cannot be drilled simply because it is a sacred site. The report to which the Prime Minister adverted is not available for public information - he must have been referring to it only from second hand information because honourable members will be astounded to learn that the Western Australian Government has refused to table the report. However, the Prime Minister adverted to it and stated that it is only a question of drilling. It is not. I am told that the area is about 10 kilometres square and is of great religious and economic significance. The mythical connections, which are both authentic and ancient, are linked to the economic present. The area is connected with Aboriginal culture because it relates in Aboriginal mythology to the area used for the hunting of food such as goanna. The drilling of the area from which the goanna is deemed to come could affect Aboriginal culture in the sense that it could bring about the destruction of food supplements in that area. References by the Government to a purely sacred site are irrelevant because they ignore the larger area identified by the investigation.
The Opposition is complaining about the failure of the Government, both domestically and internationally, to uphold the traditions of human rights. Twelve months ago or more we were arguing the question of Aurukun, an area in Queensland that the Aboriginal people wanted for their own. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Bill was introduced into the Parliament some time before that on the basis of protecting the area of Aurukun. That Bill, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament, guaranteed that the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun would have the title of their lands protected. Before the ink was dry, however, the Premier of Queensland altered the definition of ‘reserve’. No longer will the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island have the benefit of the legislation.
We must ask what sort of government it is that passes through both Houses legislation which is completely meaningless. If one goes to Aurukun one finds that the people there are still wondering what their future will be. They are deemed to be protected now by a lease given by the Queensland Government. The terms and conditions of that lease have not been disclosed to this Parliament but the people of Aurukun can tell us that the rights granted under the lease mean that anybody who wants to mine for bauxite can do so and the Aurukun people cannot prohibit it. That is an example some two years or more ago of a situation similar to that at Noonkanbah. It is an example of a government failing again.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Article 2 obliges this Government to protect people of all races and religions. It is important, when a national government has legal responsibilities given to it by the people of Australia, that it should act in accordance with those responsibilities. It is a waste of time to plead with Premiers such as Mr Bjelke-Petersen or Sir
Charles Court. They laugh at the Fraser Government. They have reduced the present Minister to a point where he is completely ineffective, well meaning though he might be. On that issue alone we are entitled to be castigated in the United Nations and everywhere else.
I have here a report of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, dated 4 February 1980. The report concerns Australian activity toward the furtherance of human rights in Australia. The two States singled out for criticism in the report and which receive adverse comments on the laws they have passed are Queensland and Western Australia. The laws criticised by the Committee are not limited only to those dealing with Aboriginal rights. It also mentions the right of assembly and the right to march, matters that we have discussed before in this House. It is important, when a government has the legal responsibility - as this Government has by an alteration of the Constitution - to protect the people of the Aboriginal race, that it should do so. It should not make statements that perhaps something can be done by negotiation.
The Government has failed all along the line. There was no contingency arrangement to protect the people of Aurukun. The people of Noonkanbah will create an adverse climate for Australia at the international forum. The Prime Minister is entitled to say: ‘How embarrassed I am to be in New York, holding out my hand for a gold medal on the basis that I am protecting human rights, when I am going to be castigated all over the world for failing to do so in Australia’. Those hands are not clean. The Prime Minister’s hands are soiled by the very fact that he has failed to legislate in an area in which he could have protected those people. When those people make such allegations, they do so on the basis that they know that an injustice has been perpetrated against them and that a national government has failed to do anything about it. Does that not belittle not only our reputation at home - we will deal with that at the election soon- but also our reputation in the world?
Twelve months ago I was in South Korea talking to Kim Dae- Jung who said that there were no human rights in South Korea, that there will be more bloodshed in South Korea, that nobody is safe and that the Americans are wasting their time if they think that 30,000 troops will protect South Korea when there are no human rights there. That same man is now on trial for his life in South Korea, but we do not hear from the Australian Government any suggestion that we should plead for his cause. His only crime was that he wanted to talk about human rights. Thousands of people have died in South Korea since that time and all this Government can talk about is selling uranium to South Korea.
We then come to the present situation which in our own area, particularly the South East Asian region, has been identified very clearly. I refer to the infamous Pol Pot. Under the human rights clauses of the Covenant one of the facts we must certainly be guaranteed protection against is genocide. If ever a person has been guilty of genocide, it is the infamous Pol Pot. Genocide is also referred to in an international covenant. It describes genocide as the killing of members of a group, the causing of serious or bodily harm and the forcible transfer of children from one group to another. Three and a half million Kampucheans have been slaughtered by Pol Pot, yet this Government still recognises the Pol Pot Regime as the legitimate Government of Kampuchea. Is it any wonder, whether we look at human rights in the domestic area or in the international area, that we have failed?
We have a Foreign Minister who allegedly does not want to recognise Pol Pot but who has to do so because the Prime Minister has had a discussion with Chairman Hua of China and has guaranteed Chairman Hua that we will continue to recognise Pol Pot. For how long is our foreign policy to be made by the Chinese? They are the same people with whom, according to the Prime Minister in the 1960s, we had to be involved in a war in Vietnam to prevent their destroying and invading Australia. It is important to look at what the rest of the world is saying about people such as Pol Pot. There is a report by the Central Intelligence Agency of America, of all organisations, called ‘Kampuchea: A Demographic Catastrophe’. It states that the unprecedented destruction of the Kampuchean race may well mean their virtual extinction. It summarises the position in this way:
Decimated by disease, famine and war and bereft of its leaders and labour force, the Kampuchean society will need decades to come back, if it survives at all.
Two Australians were executed by the Pol Pot regime. They were Ronald Keith Dean and David Lloyd Scott. Their only offence was to sail too close to the Kampuchean coast. Their butcher, the camp commandant subsequently escaped to Thailand where he was fed by aid. His name is Duch. He has now returned to Kampuchea with a promotion, as Security Officer in the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It turns out that the confession of David Lloyd Scott was signed, after extensive torture, on 12 December 1978. On 13 December 1978, this Government announced that it had decided to open negotiations with Pol Pot with a view to entering into diplomatic relations.
What a sorry record it is when we think that such people, whether we are talking about the rights of Aboriginal people or of Australians in the hands of a butcher such as Pol Pot, cannot be protected. I have no doubt that the Foreign Minister does not want to recognise Pol Pot, but he cannot have his way. We will give him credit for trying, but it must be astounding to the Australian people to think that our foreign policy is now tailored to meet the demands of the Chinese in this respect.
I make it very clear that, until we in this country have a government which stands up for human rights in accordance with the Charter, the Aboriginal race will not get any benefit. It will still be subservient to the wishes of Sir Charles Court and Bjelke-Petersen, both discredited people. The nation of Australia will be besmirched in international forums, as it should be. When we talk about international relationships it is important that we do not prolong the agony of the people of Kampuchea by continuing to recognise the butcher called Pol Pot. We cannot give him any legitimacy; no other worthwhile nation would do so. We are entitled to raise these matters here on the basis that the Government has failed. The Prime Minister is not entitled to accept any international awards on the basis of his contribution to human rights. He has failed miserably. Those who are so misguided as to suggest that the Government is doing a favour to the Australian nation can now look at what it has done. It has certainly caused the Aboriginal people to raise this matter in the United Nations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The matter that we have been asked to discuss as a matter of public importance is:
The failure by the Fraser Government to uphold the principles of human rights.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has asserted that proposition but the facts as I will recount them, I think, prove that statement to be patently false. I propose to demonstrate that in a positive way and not in the negative and carping way which I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done. It was a most negative speech.
– You tell the Aboriginal people that.
– I will come to the question of the Aboriginal people in due course.
– You do not have any interest in them.
– I have a great deal of interest in them. I am pleased to see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition taking some interest after a long absence in that field. The Government’s record on human rights, both nationally and internationally, is outstanding. I refer to the recent efforts of this Government to introduce the Human Rights Commission legislation.
– You have made a mess of that one.
– We have not made a mess of it. It is this Parliament, in fulfilling its role of discussing matters, which has not been able to achieve agreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate and which to date has prevented this Bill from becoming law. But that Bill was introduced by this Government. Because of the delay, the Government has also moved to establish a human rights bureau within the Attorney-General’s Department. That is a rather positive initiative to make sure that the work which would otherwise have been done by the Human Rights Commission will be continued. That is an interim measure until the other legislation can be proceeded with.
This Government has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, having had a long-standing interest in this matter, no doubt would recall the failed negotiations of the Whitlam Government to ratify that Covenant. The fact is that, after two years of negotiations, the Labor Party was not able to get the agreement of the States to the ratification of that Covenant. On 13 August this year, that Covenant was ratified. It guarantees a large number of human rights, including freedom of expression, fair trial and opportunities to participate in public life. Of course, ratification presents a very gratifying culmination to the activities of this Government in bringing about the circumstances in which it could in fact be ratified. That has been achieved by cooperation with the States and not by confrontation.
On 17 July, this Government also signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Of course, Australia has been re-elected this year to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. That affirms Australia’s high standing as a country known internationally for its active commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights. Of course, human rights are monitored around the world and Australia’s record, in world opinion, is unblemished. I think that has to be acknowledged. I do not think it does this Parliament great service for somebody as distinguished as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make the sorts of allegations about Australia’s record which can be used as the basis for condemnation of it when our record stands so high. The United Nations has consistently found satisfactory Australia’s reports on the elimination of all forms of discrimination which we have had to make from time to time. Australia’s record in reporting on its human rights situation generally is regarded by other states as exemplary.
The honour which has been bestowed upon the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and which he said quite clearly he regards as an honour for all Australian people is of considerable significance. The B’nai B’rith organisation - an international Jewish non-government organisation with half a million members - has recognised the Australian Prime Minister’s entitlement to an award for his leadership in human rights questions. Past recipients of that gold medal include Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy of the United States of America. Mr Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir of Israel also received that award. Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands and King Christian of Denmark were other recipients of this award. I think it is of great credit to Australia in these difficult times that Australia’s outstanding record has been so acknowledged.
One of the very distinguished organisations that report on comparative measures of freedom throughout the world is Freedom House. In its January-February comparison of events this year Australia recorded the highest points possible for any country. Whilst the time for this debate is short it should be acknowldged that in terms of political rights we have been given a number one rating. That states that we have a fully competitive electoral process and that those elected clearly rule. Most Western European democracies belong there, as does Australia. Relatively free states may also receive it. Other states get lower ratings, of course.
In the civil liberties area Australia also received a number one rating. That rating deals with a large number of matters, including the courts available to protect individuals, whether persons are imprisoned for their opinions, whether private rights and desires in education, occupation, religion, residence and so on are generally respected, and whether law abiding persons are in fear or otherwise of their lives because of their rational political activities. These sorts of criteria have been used as the basis for judging Australia. We have been ranked among the leaders of the world in that regard. It is worth looking, as I do each year, at whether Australia has been mentioned in the reports of Amnesty International. In the most recent report of Amnesty International - that for 1979 - the only mention of Australia is in terms of the various sections of Amnesty International that exist here and the wide-ranging interest of Australians in that organisation and its very important efforts throughout the world to look into questions of human rights breaches. As far as I am aware, Australia has never been mentioned in any disadvantageous way in the reports of Amnesty International. I think this reflects our very high standing throughout the world as judged by independent organisations, not governments.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to canvass at some length the situation as it pertains to Aboriginal people in Australia. He mentioned very negative matters but there is a large number of positive aspects of this Government’s record which ought to be acknowledged. There is the significant purchase of land for Aboriginals. There are now nearly 60 pastoral properties throughout Australia which have been bought for them by the Commonwealth Government through the Aboriginal Land Commission. The property at Noonkanbah is one of those purchased by this Government in 1 977 for Aboriginal people and it is available to them. We have the situation in the Northern Territory where, as a result of legislation passed by this Government, some 345,000 square kilometres of land - approximately 26 per cent of the Northern Territory - is in the process of being transferred to Aboriginal people in their own titles. We have the significant contribution of more than 7,000 houses being purchased or constructed through the auspices of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and its programs for Aboriginal people. Aboriginals are now able to receive royalty-type payments as a result of negotiated agreements in the Northern Territory for mining on Aboriginal land. That question of negotiation is an important one which I wish to emphasise in the context of this debate. We have the facts that a significant number of low interest loans - some 1,200 loans - have been made available to Aboriginal families through the Aboriginal Loans Commission. That record can be elaborated on at length. I want to mention some of those matters. In monetary terms more than $1 billion has been made available to Aboriginal people through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs since 1972. A very significant amount has been made available for the benefit of Aboriginal people in a whole variety of programs.
I think it would do the Deputy Leader of the Opposition good to read the speech that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) made when Parliament. resumed last week as it would expand his knowledge of Aboriginal matters. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has sought in this debate to embarrass the Fraser Government in a political sense - nothing else. He was not seeking to judge our record on human rights issues in relation to Aboriginal people other than in terms of embarrassment. He says that there is to be a meeting in Geneva and the Prime Minister is to be given an international award in recognition of his contribution to human rights. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is seeking to use this opportunity to embarrass the Australian Prime Minister. The only way in which Aboriginal interests can be served in this country, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and I have said, is through negotiation and compromise. It can never be achieved by confrontation between governments in which Aboriginals are used as pawns in the games that white men so often want to play with them.
We have seen a cynical exercise by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the use of Aboriginal people for the purpose of exploiting an issue on which Aboriginals ought to be encouraged - as the Court Government in Western Australia ought to be encouraged - to negotiate to find a reasonable solution. The area of difference is not so very large. If honourable members read Professor Berndt’s report on the significance of the Aboriginal sites at Noonkanbah they will see that there are sites of various significance to Aboriginal people. Professor Berndt makes it clear that if drilling were to begin at Pea Hill - a very significant site - it would be totally abhorrent to anybody, including the Western Australia Government. Professor Berndt also makes it clear that even from the point of view of the Aborigines concerned drilling on other sites is negotiable. The whole station site cannot be ruled out from the point of view of its absolute significance. It is one which has various degrees of significance. That is the important point.
I want to mention briefly the question of the situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island, which was also mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that lease arrangements were concluded in a situation in which the Labor Party would have had us in confrontation. There are elected councils in operation there and there is in a real sense peace between the Aboriginals and the rest of the Queenslanders at this time. The continued fighting which was an embarrassment to us all and in which Aboriginals were pawns is not a situation which is progressing. A Labor government would have had us continually in a situation of confrontation and would not have wished for negotiation which could achieve a reasonable settlement. That is the real test in this situation. We want a situation to exist in which Aboriginals are consulted and negotiated within relation to these matters. That is the point which has to be understood clearly by all Australians. The position between the Government of Western Australia and the Aboriginals is not one that is so far apart that if reasonable men sat down together it could not be worked out by negotiation. The Government’s record in terms of the arrangements that have been established in the Northern Territory for settling Aboriginal land rights claims proves beyond doubt that governments can sit down and negotiate and conclude a settlement with Aboriginals under which mining can proceed. I believe that that result can be achieved in Western Australia.
I would like to make some brief comments on one other matter. There has been an attempt by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to suggest that this Government had no concern about the human rights record of Pol Pot.
– That is quite right.
– That was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s suggestion. I very much regret that in a Parliament in which we have seen over a period much greater unanimity on the matter of human rights and a preparedness to work in organisations like the Parliamentary Amnesty Group the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would raise this question in this way. I know of no situation in which any Australian Government has accorded recognition to a country on the basis of that country’s human rights record. I do not recall members of the Opposition ever asking for the withdrawal of diplomatic recognition of, or refusing diplomatic recognition to, the Government of Uganda on the basis of human rights questions. I do not recall their saying that we should not, on the basis of the human rights record of the Soviet Union, withdraw recognition of the Soviet Union. The fact is that human rights records have never been the determining factor.
– They have so.
– They have never been the determining factor. It was never Labor’s basis for determining recognition. The fact is that it was the Labor Party which negotiated recognition of the Pol Pot regime and accorded it recognition. The latter question of diplomatic relations was dealt with by the present Government. That has to be acknowledged. It is not a situation in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, on the facts, has proved his case. The record of the Fraser Government on human rights questions is exemplary and deserves to be admired by all Australians, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We are now in the final months, perhaps the final weeks, of this Thirty-first Parliament. Fortunately for Australia we are also in the final months of this Government. When we return after the coming elections, some 25 to 30 of the members who sit opposite will no longer be with us. They will include some outstanding examples of so much that is wrong with this Government and its policies. We look forward with great pleasure and anticipation to their permanent absence. We shall not miss them. Neither will our fellow Australians, the great majority of whom will simply be thankful that they are gone. Those of their colleagues who remain will be sitting where they belong - on this side of the House.
It will be a great and memorable day for Australia. We in the Labor Party will then be able to get on with the fair and proper administration of this nation’s affairs. We will do so on the basis of all that has been lacking in national government for the last five barren years. I refer specifically to the qualities of competence, honesty, compassion, proper standards and fair play - qualities that are as foreign to this Government’s character and conduct as truth is to the language of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
In its broad essentials, this latest Budget is no different. The Government’s failure in economic management is matched only by its failure to keep its word. A year ago, in my response to the 1 979 Budget, I reminded the House of the 91 promises the Prime Minister had made to the Australian people just before his election four years earlier. I recalled to members how the great majority of those promises had been broken, discarded, ignored, or dismissed because, as the Treasurer (Mr Howard) once sought to explain, they were no longer appropriate.
To the Prime Minister’s great discomfort, I also reminded him of his central promise five years ago of full economic prosperity within three years. Well, we now have come five long hard years since that commitment was given to the Australian people. What this Prime Minister promised would be achieved in three years has not been achieved in five. It was not achieved within the promised three years, and it has still not been achieved after five years.
Yet, for four years now, we on this side of the House have been saying that the Government’s harsh and unyielding approach to economic management would not work. With each Budget in each of the last four years we have argued that the Government’s approach was wrong. Each time we argued that what the Government sought to do Could not be achieved with these policies. Each year the Government has persisted. And each year the Government has been wrong. Each year the Government has not delivered what it promised in the Budget it would deliver. The great battle of economic recovery is now an undignified rout. Full economic prosperity is now further away than it ever was. We have the highest taxes, the highest prices, and the highest interest rates in our history. We have the lowest family living standards in half a decade, and the worst unemployment in almost half a century.
Yet despite this magnificent record of failure, the Treasurer came into this House last week and presented the country with another massive dose of the same economic formula of the last five years - more economic attrition, more unemployment, higher interest rates, more squeezing of family living standards, and a few welfare crumbs for some of the disadvantaged groups in our community. And for what? To quote the Treasurer from his Budget Speech:
The dominant feature of our policies has been our relentless effort to control inflation. There must be no relaxation of that effort.
Government members - Hear, hear!
– Of course Government members say: ‘Hear, hear!’ The people from the bush would believe anything because the Treasurer said virtually the same thing in his Budget Speech a year ago. Again I quote him:
Tonight I reaffirm the determination of this Government to maintain the uncompromising nature of its attack upon inflation.
And the year before that, in presenting the 1 978 Budget, the same Treasurer forecast that government policy would have inflation down to an annual rate of 5 per cent within 1 2 months.
Opposition members - Oh!
– I am waiting for the ‘hear, hears!’ So what happened to those forecasts? In 1978-79, inflation turned around and, by the middle of last year, it was more than twice the predicted 5 per cent rate. Throughout last year, the rate increased by 20 per cent over the 12 months to take Australia solidly back into yearonyear double figure inflation by the end of June. By the end of this year, 1 have no doubt inflation will have reached between 1 2 and 1 3 per cent, despite all the hardship, and distress, and unemployment, and falling living standards, of the last five years. So much for this Government’s economic competence and the quality of its policies. In the last two years, its Budget measures have achieved exactly the opposite of what they were framed to do. Now the Treasurer tells us exactly the same as he had done in the last two years, and still he expects the Australian people to believe him.
The simple, stark fact is that there are no measures in this Budget to control inflation, and I defy the Treasurer or anyone else in this Government to say that there are. What we have is another thinly-disguised high tax Budget which continues the same rigid policies of economic attrition of the last five years; policies that are wrong, that have not worked in previous years, and will not work now - except to take Australia even further backwards.
However, I do not suggest that economic incompetence is the sole reason why this Government persists year after year with management policies which achieve the opposite to their intended purpose. Most sensible people would think that even this Government would wake up after five years, and accept the evidence of its failures. The reason it has not done so, I suspect, is to be found in the remarks of a former Cabinet Minister in another place whom the Prime Minister sacked two years ago when the senator was careless enough to get caught fiddling with the electoral redistribution process.
Government members interjecting–
– I am afraid that the Government benches are full of arrogance and old brandy after dinner. But Senator Withers said not so long ago - and 1 quote him exactly:
Malcolm’s got a psychological genetic incapacity to admit that he’s ever wrong.
Those who know him best can speak of him best. That is not a flattering description of the Prime
Minister, but it is a very accurate one, as his record testifies. And it is one that our unemployed, our handicapped pensioners, our black Australians, our poor Australians, our Greekborn citizens of Sydney, and our Olympic athletes, would confirm without hesitation.
As everyone in this Parliament knows, the Prime Minister is as stubborn, and as rigid, as he is immune from the harsh realities of his Government’s economic mismanagement. He would no more admit publicly to a mistake than he would concede that he was a Prime Ministerial dwarf alongside the stature of his predecessor. It is one of the defects in his makeup that will cost his Government dearly in the weeks ahead. Another is his credibility, or total lack of it, as 1 pointed out earlier when I referred to his long list of broken promises to the Australian people. Yet even now, when his public relations machine is turning itself inside out to erase his record of mendacity, the Prime Minister cannot shake off the habits of a lifetime.
Last week, in an attempt to obscure his Government’s deplorable record as the highest taxing Government in our history, the Prime Minister abused Question Time to prevaricate about what Hansard loosely describes as the ‘Government reduction of the taxation burden’.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, you have ruled that word unparliamentary. The Leader of the Opposition should withdraw.
– Order! The honourable member for St George will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition will recall that I applied that term against him. He asked me to withdraw; I now ask him to withdraw.
– I withdraw. I think the honourable member for St George -
– The honourable gentleman will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I do, but I think the honourable member for St George is the authentic representative of the demi-monde of extreme right wing politics in this establishment. Let me continue my speech. During this difficult exercise, the Prime Minister said this:
I think honourable gentlemen sometimes forget that there have in fact been two tax cuts within twelve months.
And then a bit later, he added:
This Government, during its period of office, has introduced substantial tax reforms.
The two tax cuts to which the Prime Minister refers were: One, the elimination in November last year of the tax levy which this Government imposed after the 1977 elections and which eliminated, for 55 per cent of all taxpayers, the modest benefit of the Government’s previous socalled tax cut which lasted only five months. Two, the miserable 90 cents a week tax benefit handed out to four in every five taxpayers from 1 July this year. As for the general proposition that the Fraser Government is responsible for substantial tax reforms during the last five years, the Prime Minister last week was at his mendacious best.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is not able to use that word. He will withdraw.
– I withdraw. To rebut this claim for the absurdity that it is, the House does not have to rely on our word. Instead - and I trust honourable members will listen - I will quote to honourable members opposite from the most recent report of an inter-departmental committee on economic strategy, the Government’s most senior source of departmental advice on economic management. The House will quickly understand why the Government insisted that the report, dated May this year, has been classified confidential and restricted to senior departmental officers. I quote in part from a section of the report entitled Fiscal Outlook, which says: ‘Since 197S-76 there has been some success in reducing the ratios of Budget outlays and the deficit to GDP, but the overall burden of taxation (as a proportion of GDP) has increased. Indeed, the increase in the burden of taxation was the most important factor underlying the reduction of the deficit achieved in 1979-80.
Government advisers are there advising the Government that every time it comes into this House and claims otherwise it is being dishonest. I will quote from the report again:
On balance, the most important factor underlying the increase in taxation relative to GDP has been the rapid growth in oil revenue.
Total individual income tax receipts have increased as a proportion of GDP since 1975-76, but their share of total revenues has not changed much.
The burden has fallen increasingly on PA YE taxpayers.
There has not been any reduction in average tax rates since 1975-76.
Suddenly we find that Government members are silent, embarrassed. Let them rebut the evidence of the official advisers of the Government, the highest taxing government in the history of the nation.
– Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to invite interjection from the right.
– You tell them to be quiet!
– Why don’t you tell them to be quiet, Mr Speaker.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The honourable member for Fremantle will cease his outbursts. Is that a member of the National Country Party or the honourable member for Robertson who was interjecting?
– For the record, let me contribute some more quotes from the inter departmental committee report:
Average rates of tax for average earnings have increased slightly over the period, but have fallen for non-wage and salary income . . . because of increased tax avoidance. ‘Company tax receipts have declined both as a proportion of total taxation receipts and relative to GDP,’
Abolition of the Stock Valuation Adjustment will sharply raise receipts in 1 980-8 1 but company tax will contribute proportionately less to total tax revenue than in 1975-76.
I trust honourable members opposite enjoyed those quotations. They had better get used to them. They will hear them repeated a lot in the weeks to come.
Government members interjecting -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable members for Macarthur, Kingston and Canberra will cease their continual interjection.
– I advise the Prime Minister that every time he gets up in this House, as he did last week, and tries to peddle the fiction that his Government has been responsible for so-called substantial tax reforms, he will have this report quoted at him to prove the dishonesty of his claims. Taxes have not fallen under the Fraser Government. They have gone through the roof. Total tax receipts have almost doubled since this Government came to office. More taxes have been collected in the last four years under this Government’s policies than the combined total of all taxes collected in the previous eleven years by the Menzies Government, the Holt Government, the Gorton Government, the McMahon Government, and the Whitlam Government. What a record of tax achievement that is! Eighty per cent of all income tax payers now pay more tax in both actual and real terms than they did five years ago under the last Budget of the Whitlam
Government- the Hayden Budget. That is another statistic that honourable members opposite will get sick of hearing in the weeks ahead. They will be fully tested in defending themselves against the fiction that they are a low tax government. They are a big tax government, a big brother government. Ask the invalid pensioners who find their pensions are being whipped off them; ask the Greeks in Sydney what they feel; ask the Aboriginal people at Noonkanbah what they believe of this Government.
Just in case the point has not been quite understood by members opposite, let me emphasise it. Income tax paid by wage and salary earners last year jumped 1 H per cent and this year W1 go up another 13+ per cent- a total increase in two years of 31 per cent. I trust that all Government backbenchers will pass that information on to their constituents. Let me assure them that if they do not, we certainly will, just as we will tell them that four in every five working Australians now pay out a bigger share of the weekly pay packet in income tax than they ever did under the Whitlam Government. Let me remind honourable members opposite of the boast of the former Treasurer- rubbery Phil- who told this House in his last Budget in 1977, before he got caught up with his–
– I raise a point of order.
Opposition members interjecting-
– The Minister for Defence will resume his seat. I ask honourable members on Opposition benches to remain silent so that I may hear the point of order.
– Can’t you cop it? You will not be here for long.
– The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent.
– On my point of order, I have spent a long time in this place, longer than the majority of members opposite. That is a disgraceful comment.
– You won’t be here for much longer.
– I have heard that threat for 25 years. The remark made by the Leader of the Opposition is disgraceful and should be withdrawn.
– Order! I heard the remark to which I think the Minister is referring. I do not intend to repeat it, nor do I intend to ask him to repeat it. It was not an unparliamentary expression. It was an offensive expression as interpreted by some but it was not unparliamentary.
– The previous Treasurer attracted the sobriquet -
– The honourable gentleman should not refer to it again.
– He attracted the sobriquet by claiming his own figures were rubbery. No one else said that; he initiated it. I remind honourable members opposite of the boast of that former Treasurer - rubbery Phil - who told this House in his last Budget in 1977, before he got caught up in his Melbourne land dealings:
We have ended the big tax rip-off.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition has been offensive to the honourable gentleman. I ask him to withdraw that last statement.
– I withdraw it. To his credit, his successor has never repeated the fiction. The present Treasurer has more respect for his personal credibility, a quality not shared by most of his colleagues. I also find it significant that it is the Prime Minister, and not the Treasurer, who these days has to trumpet the distortions of the Government’s tax relief policies. The Treasurer knows that the idle boasts have no basis in fact. On the other hand, the Prime Minister, who, despite his usual outwardly smug appearance, is now showing the first indications of electoral panic, simply does not care. It is a clear sign of what Senator Withers would describe as a communications problem. To quote the honourable senator in full once again - and I quote him exactly:
There’s all this bullshit about that the Government’s got a communications problem. Ill say it has. It can’t even talk to itself sensibly.
It is on the record.
Honourable members interjecting.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. No point of order has been taken by honourable members on the Government side. However, obviously offence was taken at the word used. I permitted the Leader of the Opposition to use the word as he was quoting. However, I want him and all other honourable members to understand that the level at which I will permit quoting depends on the circumstances. I find that word offensive but I do not require it to be withdrawn.
- Mr Speaker, if there is any quibbling as to the accuracy of the record, I will arrange for a full transcript of the honourable senator’s remarks to be made available. Those remarks about his leader, the Prime Minister, were to the point, if somewhat searing. I am sure the transcript would read well in the electorate newspapers of back benchers on the Government side.
The Labor Party does not run away from the fact that economic conditions for the first half of the 1980’s will be difficult; nor do we excuse the fact that the Government’s strategy is making them even more difficult. But difficult conditions are no excuse for meanly conceived and unfairly applied policies. The people of this country expect and deserve a better future than what is offered by the economic management of this Government. Australia needs policies that will rekindle enthusiasm about what this great and rich country can achieve. It needs policies which fairly share our national wealth among all Australians. Soaring boardroom profits and plunging job prospects are the symptoms of an unjust society. They are symptoms existing today in this society under this Government. Average family living standards have fallen by $1 6 a week in real terms while the stock exchange index is now going through the ceiling. These are the elements of an unfair society. They are elements of our society today.
An income tax system that plunders four out of five modest to middle income earners but is most lenient on the top 20 per cent is the sort of privilege that operates today because this Prime Minister allows it to operate. A few years ago, Australia had a Treasurer who spoke constantly about how the four arms of economic policy all had to work together if low inflation and full employment were to be achieved. The right honourable member for Flinders, in his first year as Treasurer talked incessantly about how fiscal policy, monetary policy, wages policy and external policy had to operate in harness. He is right in his diagnosis, even if he is hopeless in effecting a cure. We have not heard much about the four arms of economic policy since the external policy arm dropped off with the November 1976 devaluation. Since then, two of the other arms- monetary policy and wages policy - have vanished, leaving nothing of economic policy, except a domestic budget surplus. Unfortunately for Australia, a one-armed policy cannot solve any of the great problems facing this country - even inflation, which the Government still insists is its main concern even if it is doing nothing about it.
Tight Budget policy without appropriate monetary policy can inflict great damage on many Australians who must look to the national Government to secure their interests, but it will not arrest inflation. Tight Budget policy without appropriate wages policy can keep unemployment rising, as it has in the past five years, but it will not stop inflation. Tight Budget policy without appropriate external policy is completely self-defeating.
A small cosmetic domestic surplus in itself will achieve nothing. The last’ time we had a domestic surplus in Australia was seven years ago in 1973-74. The surplus that year was five times as large as the surplus this year. The overall deficit also was a modest $293m, compared with the overall deficit of $l,566m this year. It is history that the domestic surplus of 1973-74 did nothing to lower inflation, because it was not supported then by a wages policy that had wide union and community support.
History is now about to repeat itself. The Budget Papers make it clear that the Treasury, expects a wages explosion in the coming year. It is right to expect it because the Government has no wages policy at all, except the arid and divisive policy of bullying and abusing the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is also right to expect it because the ordinary wage and salary earner simply will not go on copping the depression of real wages, the erosion of living standards, that this Government has enforced as economic policy for the last five years. The unions certainly will not tolerate any further depressions of wages when they see corporate profits booming as they have done in the last two years. There is no way of preventing a general explosion of wages without community acceptance of wage restraint in the context of Government measures to ensure equitable distribution of incomes and wealth. That is where this Government has neither the wit nor the nous to negotiate with the unions. It would rather brandish the big stick than seek to discuss sharing the carrot.
Elsewhere the Government seems to accept that it has no credibility left on monetary policy. Last year it forecast a 10 per cent growth of money supply and actually achieved 1 3 per cent. This year it has not even tried to come up with believable figures. It forecasts a 9 per cent to 1 1 per cent growth of money supply, inflation of 10 per cent or more, and real growth of 3 per cent. Now, that is sheer nonsense. The numbers simply do not add up. Something will have to give somewhere. Either there will be a much higher growth of money supply or there will be no real economic growth.
In any case, it is again a blatant falsehood for the Government to attempt to slide away from its economic failures by lamely asserting that Australia is doing better than other Western industrialised nations. It is not and it certainly has not done so based on annual average performance for the four years from January 1976, two months after this Government came to office, to December 1979. On this basis, we have done much worse than the average of the other nine Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, among them the United States of America, Japan, Canada, Britain, France, West Germany and Sweden. Our economic growth has been lower, and our inflation and unemployment much higher, while the size of our work force has grown much more slowly.
To bolster that view, on the basis of the official statistical evidence available, I seek leave to incorporate a table in Hansard.
The table read as follows -
– There are two other general areas of economic policy I want to deal with tonight. One is the broad thrust of what will be the economic strategy introduced by the Hayden Labor Government in the new year. It is a shame that so few of our good friends on the opposite side of the House will be able to enjoy the delivery of that by Ralph Willis. The other is its cost.
– Now we’ll hear the alternative Bob Hawke.
– The hardboiled Deputy Prime Minister! He proves the truth of the old maxim: Hardboiled people are always half baked. Before I do so, however, there are several comments I want to make about defence spending in this Budget. The first is that the Opposition welcomes the significant increase in defence expenditure. It has been a long time coming, given the noisy posturing of our Prime Minister on this issue for so much of his political career. At the same time, I would like to acknowledge the weekend comments of the Liberal Party’s Senator Puplick who told a teachers conference in Sydney that the Government had allocated more funds to defence than to education this year because it believed defence was more politically popular.
We on this side of the House are gratified to be reassured that the Prime Minister’s renewed interest in defence spending springs from a real concern for this country’s security and not simply from the base motives of political expediency in an election year. After all, there has been some suspicion among the more cynical in the community that the rapid process of decay in defence spending under this Government had only been arrested by the Prime Minister’s wish to exploit the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as an electoral smokescreen for his mishandling of the economy. We are grateful to Senator Puplick for removing any misunderstanding on this question. At this point I should like also to remind the House of the Prime Minister’s shattering silence on Afghanistan since our Olympic athletes attended the Moscow Games. We are into our second week and there was not one dire warning of the impending peril that we heard day after day, hour after hour, on every other sitting day in the last session. Then the Afghanistan issue was so grave that the Prime Minister claimed in February, that World War III could break out in three days. Later he amended this to three years. Now he says nothing. The Olympic Games are over.
The Prime Minister’s silence on Afghanistan is astonishing. In its capacity for astonishment it is similar to the total absence of accompanying hysterical headlines in the newspapers of his media acolyte, Mr Rupert Murdoch. Like the Prime Minister’s rhetoric, the interest of the Murdoch press in Afghanistan evaporated the instant our athletes arrived in Moscow. Perhaps the Prime Minister could explain this curious coincidence if and when he takes part in this debate. Perhaps he could tell the House also who or what he now intends to boycott to get the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan or if, indeed, he now has any policy at all. In international affairs he is a man to be recognised in humanitarian endeavour. As he leaves this country next week - once again - to receive his award, he will do so to the acclaim of Pol Pot and to the bewilderment of the Noonkanbah Aboriginal people.
My colleague, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), will develop the attitude of the Opposition to defence more fully at a later stage of the Budget debate. It should be pointed out, however, that while the proposed increase on defence spending is impressive, a large part of the increase is a consequence of inflation and does not represent any addition to our defence capabilities. The increase of $533m in this Budget -
A Government member - Rubbish!
– If we are to talk about rubbish I will have to give the floor to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) who interjects. Of the increase of $533m in this Budget, some $290m, or 54.4 per cent, is directly attributable to inflation. Only 45.6 per cent, or $243m, of the extra funds, will flow directly to improving our defence forces. The Budget also points out the lamentable failure of the Government to maintain an orderly flow of new equipment orders. In a Budget which reflects the priorities for higher defence spending resulting from dramatic changes in strategic circumstances, it is worth noting that in two key equipment areas, the Budget provision is actually lower. Naval construction drops by $18.8m, or 7.7 per cent, and the category of armoured and combat vehicles, artillery, et cetera, drops by $4.7m, or 16.4 per cent. So the self-appointed major of Dad’s Army, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), may cogitate on that.
This illustrates the impact of lead times on the ability of the Government to make short term orders for new equipment. It also demonstrates in a most telling way the failures of recent years in ensuring the orderly process of necessary reequipment. Little progress has been made in attaining the Government’s often professed aim of reversing the balance of defence spending from manpower, stores and maintenance to new capital equipment. Superficially, there is a perceptible improvement, with a smaller proportion to be spent on wages and salaries in particular. However, if we include the allowance of $110m for prospective wage increases, then the share of manpower costs rises to 51.7 per cent of total expenditure, which is little different from 1 979-80. Even with 1 7.2 per cent of funds going to new capital equipment, the Government still is a long way of short of bringing this share up to its objective of 25 per cent.
I now want to outline what we regard as a fair and practical economic strategy for Australia at this time. We would argue that it is the only appropriate strategy in the circumstances we face. Unlike the Government, we will forsake the levitation school of economics. Our proposals will come as no surprise to the Parliament. I have advocated these policies for each of the last two years. The pity is that the Government did not adopt them. In general, we will apply policies that generate economic growth, create jobs, wind down inflation, and improve the real level of family living standards.
Without an economic growth of 5 per cent a year there can be no sustained reduction in unemployment. The national Government must intervene, and intervene helpfully, to ensure the economy achieves this sort of growth. By careful and controlled stimulus, it must lift the spending power of Australian families so as to increase effective demand. This, in turn, will boost productive output and generate new jobs. At the same time, the high and inflationary fixed costs of under-utilised productive capacity in industry would be steadily reduced. We are committed to the principle of restoring the right of every Australian to a job. We commit ourselves firmly to full employment in Australia. As a first step, and at a modest cost the economy can afford, we propose a program to create 100,000 new jobs in our first 1 2 months of office. Such a program will convert unproductive people wanting jobs into productive employees earning wages, paying taxes instead of receiving unemployment benefits, buying more goods and services, stimulating business activity and, in turn, generating more jobs. We will introduce a program to extend free medical care to all children and to expectant mothers, and impose a freeze on the local crude oil levy to moderate petrol price rises. Both initiatives will increase the real spending power of the family pay packet, while at the same time, with judicious reductions in the cost of essential commodities, such as health insurance and transport, restrain inflation.
We will establish a sensible wages and prices policy that recognises that we must have cooperation and consultation between Government and the union movement; not confrontation and disputation. Such a policy, by direct Government action, would be directed at improving real living standards, curbing inflation, and establishing processes for Government negotiation with the unions to ensure that the potential for wage push in the 1 980s can be contained.
Finally, in supporting increased resource development, we will introduce a resource tax - or excess profits tax - to ensure that more of the great chunks of wealth generated by mining stays in Australia to regenerate our manufacturing industry and create jobs where they are needed most. Mining is capital intensive and creates few jobs, directly or indirectly. The benefits of resource development will not come through increased employment, except for a skilled minority. Does anyone on the Government side dispute that? Even the Government’s senior advisors acknowledge that the benefits to Australia from resource investment must be maximised.
The IDC report on economic strategy that I quoted from earlier urges greater income gains from mining development for all Australians, a cutback in tax concessions for particular projects or types of activity and suggests that the Government may have to consider the sort of excess profits tax - resource rental tax - that we intend to introduce. So the Government’s advisers recognise the virtue and the pertinacity of what we propose. Only the Government shirks the responsibility it should discharge to the Australian people. In passing, I should note that the IDC report has very clear and firm reservations about the alleged extent of resources projects that are to get under way during the 1980s. The Prime Minister and his Liberal Party Deputy, old rubbery Phil-
– Order! The honourable gentleman, in identifying the person to whom he is referring, may give him his title - the right honourable the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the right honourable member for Flinders.
- Mr Speaker, I accept that. The two have been insisting in recent weeks that projects worth $29 billion are now committed for development. Not surprisingly, given the credibility of these two gentlemen, the IDC is nowhere near as positive. I think we can rely on the veracity of the IDC rather than the fantasy of the Prime Minister. The IDC report states:
Great caution is necessary in interpreting any aggregation of individual projects, particularly as regards timing. The coverage of the estimates also defers from ABS estimates of past investment, particularly in resource-based manufacturing, for these reasons, neither precise comparisons with past trends nor confident pictures of the future are practicable.
That is a vast difference from what the Government is proposing. That is not quite what the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr
Anthony) or the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) have been telling the Australian people for the last two months. They have been trying to engage in saloon bar solutions to very serious problems which face the community.
We also have firmly announced our intention to restore increased powers to the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Trade Practices Commission, and to establish an Agency to break up the Cartelised power of the oil companies. All three initiatives will assist in stabilising prices in key sections of the economy and thus further restraining inflation. Continued foreign investment is needed by Australia but not at any price. This Government insists on selling out our country, including our great energy resources, to any and all foreign buyers. The Hayden Labor Government in the new year will not be anywhere near so lenient.
Wages policy over the next two years is going to be crucial to economic management. I freely acknowledge this, though for reasons vastly different from those paraded by the Government. As the IDC report makes clear, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues are on the threshold of abandoning wage indexation, in defiance of the benefits indexation has brought to economic management since it was introduced under the Whitlam Government in 1975. It is also a move that would ignore the enormous clout it would give to a number of large and powerful unions throughout the country. By the same token, it displays a naive disregard for the structure and interrelated strength of the trade union movement, factors that guarantee, as surely as night follows day, a full flow-on to even the industrially weakest unions of any wage benefits gained by individual application. The fact remains that wages until this year have lagged well behind cost of living increases. Even this year they have not matched the joint mix of improved productivity and higher cost of living.
In the years ahead, there will have to be a general improvement in wage justice. And if Government does not provide that justice by a judicious blend of social wage measures, then it will be achieved by the unions in direct wage initiatives. That stark, unavoidable fact must be acknowledged by any government in office if we are to avoid perhaps the greatest industrial upheaval to be experienced for many years. I repeat: The ordinary wage and salary earners of this country are no longer going to put up with the wage and salary compression, and depressed living standards, that have taken place in the last five years. Certainly they will not do so at a time when the profit levels of so many large and powerful corporations continue to soar as they have done in recent times.
They will not pay the slightest heed to Government calls for restraint when that Government has been increasing their tax burden by the stealth of inflation at the same time as it has been handing out some $2,500m in tax concessions to industry.
This Government, of course, by its attitude and actions in recent years, has utterly destroyed any trust or credibility it might have held with the trade union movement. The average Australian worker no longer trusts this Prime Minister to give the wage and salary earner a fair go, to treat Australian families with decency and respect, which is why this Government is in such a panic over the agreement reached between the Federal parliamentary Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions last week on the framework for a prices and incomes policy. I have endorsed the agreement and so has Bob Hawke. What we have achieved, for the first time in this country, is a political-industrial agreement on procedures for an effective and economically sound policy covering prices, wages and non-wage incomes. It is an agreement reached by co-operation, understanding and goodwill. It will bring a Labor Government and the trade union movement into consultation on some of the most sensitive economic issues facing this country. It is endorsed by people on both sides who look for more from industrial relations than union bashing and heavy-handed strike action. It is supported by people who put Australia first and the best interests of Australian families ahead of the crude, and often callous, division generated by the Prime Minister. It is a vast improvement on anything this Government has been able to achieve in five years of big stick policies. It will be implemented by Bob Hawke–
– The new Leader of the Opposition.
– I constantly hear references being made to the relationship between myself and my colleagues. I merely invite the House to consider the front bench of the Government. It is a clutch of wealthy subsidy-grabbing graziers, an international playboy, a sports store operator, a former goldfish salesman as Treasurer and a born again funeral parlour proprietor. Let me repeat–
– Order! The House will come to order. I remind the honourable Leader of the Opposition that this is the national Parliament. Those references to honourable members of this Parliament, while not strictly unparliamentary, are quite clearly a departure from reasonable standards of debate in this place. I call upon the Leader of the Opposition to continue his speech.
– It almost seems that there are two editions of the Standing Orders that apply in this House.
– Order! The honourable Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I will ignore the reflection made against the Chair. I ask the honourable gentleman to proceed with his speech.
– Let me repeat that this policy will be implemented by Bob Hawke as Minister for Industrial Relations in the new Labor Government - that is, by the man universally acknowledged as the most experienced and successful industrial negotiator for at least the last 30 years. Let me now move on. Our announced policies on family health care, family allowances, petrol prices and housing have potential benefits for a couple with three children on a weekly income between $190 and $250 of between $20 and $25 a week. That is a substantial contribution to shoring up and restoring the living standards of the men, women and children of this country, living standards that have been deplorably depressed by the conscious policies of this Government. What has happened to families in this country? The way in which taxation has been aggravated by the Government’s pricing policies is not the product of some sort of accidental incident, some sort of equivalent of a natural disaster like a cloud burst over north Queensland. They are the product of consciously applied deliberate Government policies. They can be as easily reversed. That is what we are talking about. We are now considering a range of tax options. One of these options - I repeat one - will be announced in the detailed launch of our economic policy next month or whenever it is appropriate. The options under consideration are:
Before the Prime Minister runs those all together, multiplies by four, adds $ 1,000m for good measure, and then rushes into print shouting, ‘We’re all going bankrupt’, I repeat that only one of those options will be adopted. The proposals do, however, add to the substance of our attempts to improve family living standards in real terms. Whichever of these measures is adopted, the resultant tax deduction will clearly be of assistance in obtaining co-operation on the wages front from the trade unions.
Our broad policy represents a modest set of proposals - too modest for some, no doubt, but almost as much as can be achieved within the limits of sound economic management. It is a package of proposals that will ease the tax burden, improve family spending power, bring down inflation, provide for a workable prices-incomes policy, save on government outlays on unemployment benefits, generate more national wealth, and bring about economic recovery. It is a healthy contrast to this last Budget of the Fraser Government - the document of a bankrupt organisation that freely confesses that higher inflation, higher unemployment, and higher interest rates are all it has to offer Australia this fiscal year. In total, it represents a modest domestic deficit and will allow a needed, controlled, and manageable expansion of the economy to take place. The marginal additions to money supply and non-bank sales of securities will be such as to avoid pressure on interest rates or inflation.
Finally, there is the matter of cost. For one thing, the Government has no credibility when it comes to cost, even for its own programs. In the last four Budgets, its costings of a number of programs, predominantly for unemployment benefits, have been wrong to the accumulated extent of $875m. Yet it asks to be taken seriously in this area. More pertinently, we knew that the Prime Minister had seen the two latest opinion polls when he began his exaggerated hysteria last week, saying that our programs for health care, family allowances, housing, education, and jobs would cost variously between $2,000m and $4,000m, depending on which news bulletin one listened to and at what time of the day. Both opinion polls suggest that the Prime Minister’s term of residence in the Lodge is about to come to an abrupt end.
As in his claims about tax reform, the Prime Minister’s only real alternative was to initiate an immediate and massive campaign of misrepresentation of the costs of our programs. Not to put too fine a point on it, he misrepresented the issue, and he will continue to do so until polling day. He began on the early morning news bulletins last
Thursday with a cost of $2 billion; by the lunchtime bulletins it was up to $2.5 billion; and by the time of the 1 1 p.m. Australian Broacasting Commission news that night, the Prime Minister had the cost up to $4 billion. It was a superb example of Fraser economics - $2 billion increase in less than 24 hours. That is inflation really at work. The whole exercise is just as transparent as the Government’s progressive escalation of development projects from $6 billion at the end of 1977 to $29 billion today. As I pointed out, by reference to the interdepartmental committee report it can be seen that the Government’s own advisers do not believe the Government. Why should Australians believe it? All this is from a Government whose sole contribution to development to date has been to close down the central Queensland coalfields in pursuit of more tax from the miners there. What a magnificent struggle of principle! Each week the Government is prepared to forgo $30m in lost export income, to forgo $13m each week in lost revenue to State and Federal Governments in a dispute over a small beer tax that will gain no more than about $20,000 to $25,000 a week. Already more than $240m has been lost in export income and more than $100m has been lost in revenue to the Government. That is sheer stupidity.
The costs of our programs have been hidden from no one. We have released our costing for each program, and justified it under questioning, as each policy has been announced since November last year. Our jobs program was announced in March. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) initially claimed it would cost $300m, until the Prime Minister upped the ante a week later to $600m. At least they are imaginative. Now the Prime Minister has put it up to $1 billion. The total cost of these five programs in the first full year will be $835m. This total is made up of $1 50m for housing, $1 30m for health, $275m for family allowances, $l80m for new jobs, and $100m for education. All these details have been announced progressively over the last eight months. I repeat: It will be the total additional cost in their first full year of operation.
– What about the Tasmanian air fares you are to reduce?
– If it looked like keeping the honourable member there I would cancel the undertaking. So far as this Budget is concerned, the additional cost will be a maximum of $250m, given that we will not be able to start gearing up the new programs until the new year. By then, no more than four or five months of the current fiscal year will remain, and not all our programs will be capable of being implemented before 30 June. I am overwhelmed by the optimistic assessment of our capacities on the part of the Government. 1 am certain, however, that it is not altruistically motivated. The facts are that there will be limits to the rate at which we can implement the programs and the time from which they can commence.
Our revenue proposals will be set out in detail in next month’s policy launch. Broadly, they involve the resource tax that all the Government’s advisers - Treasury, Reserve Bank, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance, and Trade and Industry - have recommended. The resource rental tax would net upwards of $100m a year, while we estimate to gain a conservative $500m to $600m a year with retrospective legislation to close off the tax avoidance industry. That is, there will be fair dinkum action against an industry that nourishes under this Government. The increase in the number of tax avoidance practices identified by the Taxation Commissioner so far has been 1,300 per cent under the Fraser Government. It cannot be fair dinkum.
There is one very relevant example that puts the Prime Minister’s cost hysteria into perspective. Page 87 of the Budget attachments discloses that government spending on student assistance this year will increase by $5m for a half year, or $10m on a full year basis. Included in this amount is a 10 per cent increase in the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance for tertiary students. I would like honourable members, especially members of the Government, to absorb this. It is further evidence of the total fabrication which goes into the Government’s exercises in costing our programs. I repeat: Page 87 of the attachments to the Budget Papers shows that on a full year basis the cost of the 10 per cent increase proposed in the TEAS allowance is $10m. Our education program proposes a 20 per cent increase in the TEAS allowance. Yet, while the Government can accommodate a 10 per cent increase within $10m it is claiming that a 20 per cent increase in our program will cost $8 5m. It is not on this side of the House that the eyes are speckled green. That illustrates better than anything I can say just how absurd and dishonest the Government’s claims are.
Mr Speaker, this Government scatters deceit like confetti at a wedding. It distorts and misrepresents its own actions and policies just as readily as it maligns and misrepresents those of its opponents. It fabricates arguments against the Australian Labor Party in exactly the same way that it fabricates the supposed virtues of its Budget. The extent of this exercise borders on the grotesque. This Government has rigged its Budgets year after year to make them conform more with the image it seeks to propagate. Items have been dropped from the Budget, juggled between accounts and accounting periods - the proprieties of proper presentation- have come to mean nothing. Standards have been demolished under the Fraser Government.
We have heard the Prime Minister and his Treasurer lecture this House and the community on their good housekeeping. They have had the gall to claim that they have paid off the debts of Labor’s period of government. Yet this same duo has increased the debt burden of this nation sixfold compared with the Labor years. The last Labor Government increased Commonwealth debt by less than $2 billion. The present Fraser Government has increased that debt by more than SI 2 billion. That is its idea of good housekeeping. It is typical of all its propaganda about its expertise and success. It is a testament to its failure and soon will become its epitaph. This Government stands condemned by this Budget - the outstanding example in its outstanding record of failure. We reject it and on behalf of Australia we repudiate it.
– Mr Speaker, ‘inconsistent’, ‘inadequate’ and ‘incompetent’ are the best words to describe that repetition by the third Labor Treasurer of those three disastrous Labor years. His speech contained personal abuse, empty epithets and hollow phrases.
– At least he didn’t pocket $300,000. Pay back the money. Pay back the $300,000.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I warn the honourable member for Fremantle to cease interjecting.
– Lest anyone listening to Parliament tonight should forget it, 1 think it is worth reminding them that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has just demonstrated not only that he is incompetent in most things but also that, were he in government, he would lead Australia to a situation of even worse inflation than that into which he helped to lead Australia during those three years of Labor government. He has tonight demonstrated that Labor remains a high taxation party - a party committed to higher deficits than this country has known previously. Lest anyone should forget it, let us just turn back to the headlines of the Sydney Morning Herald of 20 August 1975, the morning after the presentation of that last Hayden Budget. Do honourable members remember? I quote:
Duty on beer up 4c a middy, about 10c a bottle. Duty on brandy up He a nip, about 39c a bottle, other spirits up . . . 26c a bottle. Cigarettes: Duty up 6c on a packet of 20 (likely retail rise 8c) , other tobacco products up 6c on a packet of 20 likely. Petrol: Duty up by about 6c a gallon. Airlines: Dearer airfares likely as a result of greatly increased air navigation and other charges.
Tonight the Leader of the Opposition has demonstrated again that he is moving into that same category of economic management. We all recall so well how the Australian economy was in tatters in 1975. Within two years of Labor gaining office, inflation leapt from less than 5 per cent to 1 7.6 per cent. So much for the comparisons the Leader of the Opposition tried to make with the Budget that has been brought down by my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Howard). In various 12-month periods, the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a part saw unemployment grow by 177,600, a rise of 114 per cent. It saw government spending grow by 46 per cent in 1974-75.
The Leader of the Opposition talked of generating opportunities for new jobs. Where but, of course, in the public sector? Yet he was one of those people instrumental in a government policy which saw 1 23,800 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector alone in the 12 months from June 1974 to June 1975. Over his period, average weekly earnings rose by 28.2 per cent, putting thousands out of work and forgetting the admonition of an earlier Labor Treasurer who mentioned that one man’s pay increase is another man’s job. In the year to March 1975, we saw a 38 per cent increase in federal award wages. The money supply grew by 23 per cent in the 1 2 months from September 1974 to September 1975. The Leader of the Opposition was one of those who was involved in a government under which personal tax collections rose by 125 per cent over three years and under which industrial strikes reached record levels with over six million working days lost in 1 974 alone.
So much for that supposed paper on industrial compromise, a paper which fascinatingly the Leader of the Opposition referred to tonight. Of course, it is not a social contract. It has apparently been entitled: ‘The Relationship Between the Australian Labor Party and the Trade Unions’. It contains no conclusions, just a reference to a number of areas in which there is a recognition that the Labor Party would remain subservient to the dictates of its trade union masters. Company profitability is a fact to which the Leader of the Opposition gave little mention tonight other than in debasing form. He knows that in that period it collapsed, as did business and consumer confidence. Government spending jumped by 20 per cent, 46 per cent and 23 per cent in those three consecutive years. Of course, more dramatically, overseas markets were lost and imports replaced Australian-made goods. Farm costs soared, foreign investment dried up and, above all, mineral and oil exploration stopped dead in its tracks.
Labor’s economic vandalism continues. It hurt in those days those people whom the Labor Party claims to care most about - the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick and the newly-arrived immigrants. What chance is there under the program which the Leader of the Opposition has outlined tonight to see any different pattern?
This Government, on the other hand, has launched a program which does not bring about changing headlines year by year in the contents of the Budget. It is a program designed to ensure continuity and economic management, to sustain real economic growth in the nation, to underpin the growth and development of Australia’s vast mineral and energy resources, to sustain a healthy and competitive manufacturing sector and, above all, to promote the creation of new and secure job opportunities for all of those willing and able to work. It has provided responsible management for the national economy through appropriate fiscal, monetary and external policies. It has encouraged wage and salary restraint in order to boost employment and to improve the competitiveness of Australian industry and agriculture. It has ensured the minimum level of taxation consistent with responsible budgetary policy.
I think it is necessary to look at the positive program of this Government as the Leader of the Opposition spent so much time attacking what he saw as the personalities of the Government rather than their real achievements. Let us look at some of those achievements. Australia’s inflation rate has been dramatically reduced. In particular, if we look at the world-wide resurgence of inflation, Australia’s record can be assessed only as admirable. It has been substantially below the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. At the moment it is about 3 percentage points below the average of the OECD group of countries.
I wish to say a few words about taxation. The Leader of the Opposition started to talk about some of the developments, as he sees them, in a Labor-induced taxation program. I believe this is the area of most concern to the Australian people. To me the Labor Party’s system of tax introduced by the Leader of the Opposition was a vehicle by which the Labor Party directly placed a restraint on individual initiative and endeavour. Tonight in his speech on the Budget he demonstrated yet again that he is going to continue in that vein. Let us make no mistake about it: Tonight’s speech on the Budget is the opening of the Labor Party’s 1980 election campaign. He has laid down a few ground rules which I think we need to take note of. He has talked about a resource tax and an excess profits tax, but then he talked about what he sees as some of the regressive effects of indirect taxation in our community. I have already referred to the category of those that he introduced in his last Budget. Let us look at this list of taxes to which he and his colleagues are already committed. In the Age of 31 December 1979 the Leader of the Opposition said:
I have committed my organisation to a capital gains tax, a resource rental tax, a levy on domestic oil producers, a number of initiatives in the tax area and other measures of that nature.
In what constitutes an elaboration of those other measures one of his colleagues - the shadow Minister for Economic Affairs; he is never likely to advance beyond that status - said:
It is wrong that we do not have some form of tax on capital, be it death duties, capital gains tax or wealth tax or perhaps some of those or all three.
It is interesting to note that in his analysis tonight the Leader of the Opposition has looked at what he asserts to be the high taxation policies of this Government. What utter nonsense! The Leader of the Opposition has already accepted, as recorded in Hansard of 29 March 1979 on page 1294, that if his own tax scales were to have applied at that date - that is nearly 18 months ago - people would be paying more in taxation. He said:
The Prime Minister is constantly asserting that if the tax scales which I introduced as Treasurer in 1975 applied today people would be paying S3,000m more in taxation than they are actually paying. I do not dispute that assertion.
Here we have this low tax advocate acknowledging that his own tax scale would have generated $3,000m more in taxation a year than the Australian people are now paying, and that figure is 1 8 months old. I do not doubt that in the course of that period at least $ 1,000m could be added to those figures. The Leader of the Opposition continues:
Mining is capital intensive and creates few jobs directly or indirectly. The benefits of resource development will not come through increased employment except for a skilled minority.
The difficulty is that the Leader of the Opposition fails to recall those commitments and comments that he has made in other places. Not that long ago - on 10 June 1980 - he addressed the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. Let me quote what was said then about mining by the Leader of the Opposition - the man who a few moments ago told us that mining is capital intensive and creates few jobs directly or indirectly. He said:
Mineral development can create the wealth needed to generate the industrial renaissance Australia so urgently requires, and, with it the jobs our people so pressingly want.
All things for all people. So be it. The Leader of the Opposition is not the only one who should be quoted. One finds that the shadow Minister for Industry, Commerce and Business Affairs produced on an occasion not that distant - in April 1980- what he called a progressive industry policy for the 1980s, a green paper on industry. Let us hear what he said about the prospects for employment in the mining area. He said:
The scope for investment in this area needs no further elaboration. It is a mistake to think that this investment–
Energy and minerals - does not lead to many jobs. Although highly capital intensive, about three quarters of the outlay on resource projects is spent in Australia on locally produced materials and the spin-off on other production and maintenance is large. It is also a mistake to consider the investment in these pursuits substituting for investment in more labour intensive areas. The one stimulates the other.
It is about that sector that the Leader of the Opposition has stated tonight that he believes it creates new jobs and has deliberately asserted that he is going to introduce a resource tax or excess profits tax designed to limit future exploration, future development and, of course, overseas investment. As if he were not content enough with that, he continued with talk about what he calls the necessity to restore increased powers to the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission and to establish an agency to break up the cartelised power of the oil companies.
Most of the members of this House have had an opportunity to read a very well informed and well documented analysis prepared by the Confederation of Australian Industry of the costs of regulations. This analysis illustrates that we are already over-regulated. What would happen under Labor’s alternative proposal? The Labor Party would augment the machinery of intervention. It would restore many of those interventionary socialistic practices which its left wing tends to impose on any Labor program. The three points identified by the Labor leader tonight ensure that Australia would have even greater intervention at the Federal level, to the point of completely denying initiatives, investment and employment.
– What about the hydrocarbon corporation?
– And then there is, as my friend and colleague from Lilley mentions, the proposed hydrocarbon corporation. One thing of which members of this House are only too well aware - I wonder whether even the people who have not pursued the theory are not by now beginning to recognise it - is that from the hydrocarbon corporation through to the program announced by the Leader of the Opposition tonight with respect to this freeze on oil prices for 1 2 months we have a totally unreal energy policy from the Opposition. It is a policy which would cost more, which would ensure that there would be less exploration and, thirdly, which would not maintain the flow of energy, particularly of petroleum products, to the Australian consumer. We have already had an illustration of that as a result of the programs followed by the Labor Party over those three disastrous years when it was in government. There is nothing in the speech tonight of the Leader of the Opposition that can give anyone any confidence but that the Labor Party will continue with the same disastrous trait.
On the other hand, as far as the Government is concerned, let us analyse some of the achievements that have been laid down by the Treasurer and where we are going. I refer firstly to taxation. Our simplified three-step system of personal income tax has produced a tremendous incentive to individuals. The 90 per cent of wage and salary earners on a standard rate of tax demonstrates the alternative. After all, the seven-phase tax system of the Labor Party did provide uncertainty and it was directly regressive in its application to the citizen. This Budget, moreover, has provided selectively in areas of human need and care. The amount of money allocated to health, social welfare and education has increased significantly over the preceding period. Contrast our approach to the needs of people to the Opposition’s approach. Our approach has been to provide according to need, whereas the Labor Party’s approach provides irrespective of need and in a way that places too great a burden on the productive sector of the economy.
The cost of all the proposals that the Labor Party has outlined tonight are to the cost of industry, business, agriculture and individual initiative. The cost of the Labor Party’s socialistic program is beyond the capacity of Australia to bear. The names might have changed, but the Leader of the Opposition remains as one of the principal figures during those three years that are not so far distant. The fascinating thing about the program tonight is that the one name that was outlined by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech as being that of the man to whom all things are to be referred is a man who at this stage is not even a member of this Parliament. I think the people of Australia need to remember that the former President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is obviously in the wings, presumably still able to exercise the influence of the trade unions over whose affairs he has been a guide and mentor for so many years. It will mean that to an even greater degree in any future Labor programs we will see the intrusion of trade union policy.
That without doubt is the only conclusion that the people of Australia can reach with respect to the paper that has been produced on the relationship between the ALP and the trade union movement. That indicates that the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hawke have now entered into an agreement under which the trade union movement will continue to dictate to any future Labor program. It would be a program that would be set by the democratically elected members of this Parliament. It would be a program determined by those who are ideologically committed within trade union movements and who are in no way answerable to the people of Australia. Labor’s economic policies would spell disaster for this country. There is no overall plan, except vastly increased public expenditure. To promote its socialist and interventionist objectives Labor would lay the dead hand of bureaucracy on the economy and industry. It would establish an economic planning advisory council as a major arm of government - shades of 1984. It would initiate democratic national planning in order to relate activities of both the public and private sectors to the goals of society.
– What does that mean?
– It is all words. What does it mean? It would influence the allocation of resources between the various sectors of the economy in accordance with priorities set by the national economic and social strategy. It is an interventionist program, not attuned to the economic realities of today but attuned to the ideologies that will be set by a trade union dominated Labor alternative. The Leader of the Opposition will intervene where necessary on both the demand and supply side of the economy to achieve national objectives; establish or extend public enterprise where necessary to combat antisocial monopoly; maintain and extend essential economic activity; and facilitate the restructuring of industry. Again, we see the heavy hand of bureaucracy. Labor’s program will limit foreign investment by developing a public sector capacity to undertake investment in industry. Labor proposes to introduce a wealth tax to impose crippling rates of tax on higher income earners. It will introduce a secondary profits-related resource tax. It will threaten oil exploration and other major energy policies. Labor’s economic package and its big spending programs are more than Australia can afford. They are nothing more than a proposed rerun of failed Whitlam policies. Big spending and big government, the hallmark of Labor, will be a disaster for this country. It was before, and it would be again. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition admits that considerable suspicion of the Labor Party and all Labor Party governments remains in the electorate. So it should.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I suppose it is something of an anticlimax to have to speak this evening in the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1980-81, particularly following the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The effectiveness of that speech can be judged by the fact that he dragged in the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to follow him. Historically, I am sure that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition tonight will be recognised as the springboard upon which he launched the campaign to return to the other side of the House. His speech included competent criticism of the Government’s program over the last five years, and it gave an indication of the temperate thinking which could be applied to return confidence to the ordinary individuals in the community. The Leader of the House gave what seemed to me to be a quaintly historical response. I wonder how much longer he really believes comments in regard to the 1972 to 1975 period will be accepted. I wonder how long he believes the mouthing of the anti-socialist, shibboleths, which were so effective from 1955 onwards, is really going to play any part. I think that they effectively disappeared in 1972. If his attitude persists and it is genuine, should the Opposition look at the period from, say, about 1966 to 1972 when the seeds of the downfall and defeat of the Government of that time were sown?
I listened to his remarks with regard to Mr Hawke, who undoubtedly will be the next honourable member for Wills. I have found this to be a rather circular argument. It seems to me that even his Government found that Mr Hawke was a representative of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, put there because of his ability. He was a man welcomed by the Government for his intervention in many industrial disputes. He is a man who obviously knows the industrial area and who is internationally recognised in this field. I would have thought it would have been a much greater criticism of the Opposition if its leader had suggested that Mr Hawke would not be used to effectively put forward policies and to negotiate in the industrial area. The argument of the Leader of the House was a rather quaint one.
Since 1975 I have listened to the Government’s Budgets and I have looked for some changes in those Budgets in response to what has been happening in the real world of Australia. The only changes we have seen are the broken promises. Certainly they have not benefited the community. It seems that this Government has accepted the text book hypothesis that if we do X, Y will follow; on the other hand, if we want to achieve B, we must do A. But, all honourable members of this House are used to politics. We know that a number of factors cannot be controlled and that they cause the predictions to go wrong. In those circumstances, the thing to do is to admit that they have gone wrong and try corrective measures. To the idea that a policy is a hypothesis which has to be tested against reality and corrected in the light of experience, the Government responds: ‘Nonsense’. Its dogma on economics is right and will always be right despite the evidence, the facts, that its measures are producing a type of Australian society which we have never seen before and which most Australians do not like. There is heavy taxation, absurd restraint on expenditure, a record number of unemployed and, despite all the promises, an inflation rate still above 10 per cent.
Whilst the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is able to claim that there have been income tax reductions, this has been made possible only by the Government’s import parity pricing for our crude oil. This is a tax imposed on all Australians because its effects flow through all aspects of the cost structure and far exceed any tax concessions that are given. We are fortunate to have a substantial domestic production of crude oil. One cannot expect that we can allow this fact to keep costs of our fuel way below costs in other countries. But, Australians should expect some economic benefit from it not its use as an extreme taxing measure. I wish to illustrate that situation, because I like to illustrate what is happening to the ordinary people in electorates such as that in which I live, amongst ordinary working people. Let us look at how this taxing measure affects the low income earners, including the pensioners. I will not use my words, but the words of one of my local municipal councils. It may seem a pretty small matter on the national scale but it represents what happens to a lot of people. In this letter, the Shire Council states:
As you are aware, this Council has, for a number of years extended assistance to Pensioners by operating a Pensioner Fuel Subsidy Scheme. The Scheme provides assistance by way of payment of an amount equivalent to the cost of 3 bags of briquettes, which amount is presently $9.90 per annum.
That is little enough. The letter continues:
It has come to Council’s attention that some Pensioners who have oil heaters installed in their homes, cannot afford to run their heaters, nor can they afford to have them converted togas.
– They won’t be able to afford to run them under Bill Hayden.
– They will have more sympathy and more opportunity under the Leader of the Opposition than they have under the present crowd.
– Six hundred homes in Canberra are being converted for pensioners.
– The unfortunate part is that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) will not be here. He will be out in the community and will have to observe it, along with the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem). The letter continues:
It is considered that the hardship that is being experienced by these people is directly correlated to the Government’s World Parity Oil Pricing Policy.
The purpose of this letter is to advise you of Council’s concern that although it is offering assistance to Pensioners in meeting the cost of home heating fuel, the amount that it is providing is becoming insignificant to those operating oil heaters as the price of heating oil increases with the Federal Government’s World Parity Oil Pricing Policy.
Perhaps this is a matter for interjection by honourable members on the Government side but if they had to live in the community that I live in, if they had treated these elderly people, as I have, as a medical practitioner and if they had represented them in State Parliament and Federal Parliament, they would have a lot more sympathy for the things that have been done to these low income earners by this despicable policy.
– We have more sympathy for them than you have.
– Well, it is a pity the Government did not show it. There has not been any evidence of it in five years and the Government will get its answer, I assume, next month. I turn now to some of the other social costs of government policy.
– What about the family allowance scheme?
– 1 will get to the family allowance in a moment. One of the problems with the Government’s attitude is the sort of psychological attitude it instills in the community with regard to the unemployed, particularly the young unemployed, and their chance of getting jobs. I cite another case. To save the individual involved any embarrassment, I will call him Tony of Reservoir. I quote from a letter I received about him. It was written by a friend of his. It states:
I am writing to you on behalf of one of your constituents–
I am referring to him as ‘Tony of Reservoir’ - and with regard to discriminatory and unjust action taken against him when he recently applied for employment with Australia Post.
Tony having successfully completed the required entrance examination and also having been told during the subsequent interview that he was ‘most suited to the job’ was then finally advised (during the same interview) that he was unacceptable because of his so called ‘unstable work record’.
Indeed, Tony has held three different jobs, each of which he left for extremely sound reasons, and has not surprisingly spent some time unemployed: (and sickness benefits). However, I suggest that given the economic/employment circumstances of the day, that fact that an individual has been unemployed or held a number of jobs, is absolutely no reflection of his character. Clearly, Tony as a victim of soaring unemployment, is being blamed as though he were responsible for it.
– Who wrote that?
– One of Tony’s friends. The letter continued:
The dilemma is that if individuals are to be rejected on the basis of a ‘non continuous employment history’, then it seems that people who experience the misfortune of being unemployed are to be continually denied meaningful work.
That is one of the problems of the policies of this Government: The unemployed are caught in a vicious circle. Even in the Government’s own offices if, because of their youth, because of the problems of unemployment, people have not been able to get a job, this is used as an argument against their being employed. The Government takes no note of the social costs this produces. It takes no note of the social costs of crime, broken health, drug taking, vandalism and the increased costs this causes in law enforcement, health costs, drug rehabilitation, domestic upsets–
– Broken marriages.
– And, as my colleague says, broken marriages. Then there are the private and public costs of repairing the effects of vandalism brought about by the frustration of a society produced by a government that does not care about it.
In many other areas there is hidden youth unemployment. In certain areas it is easy to identify the evidence of youth unemployment. I am convinced that in some of the middle class areas, particularly rural areas, because of the problems of respectability there is an enormous reservoir of ‘ hidden young unemployed. In fact, in one area after making inquiries I had cause to call a meeting for Friday of this week to discuss the evidence available.
It is the general air of heartlessness of this Government that causes so much despair in the community. It is reflected in the Government’s attitude to social security. This Budget provides little or no help to the unemployed and to low income families. The Government talks about an overall 12.4 per cent increase in social security and welfare allocations but this reflects an expected increase in the number of welfare recipients rather than a better deal for many individuals. It has been said that under this Budget approximately two million people will be condemned to another year of poverty level living in Australia, an Australia which we are always being told by the Government is rich in resources - a lucky country. This is an intolerable position. What is the financial situation of the unemployed? What has been done? The benefit for the unemployed young remains at the 1975 level - $36 a week. The $2 a week increase for single unemployed people over 18 is 50 per cent less than an indexation increase would have given. While one could welcome the easing of the income test for the unemployment benefit to reduce work disincentives, it does not go far enough. The unemployed remain seriously disadvantaged compared with other welfare recipients. The impact of this contractionary Budget will further erode the chances of the unemployed finding part time work to supplement their meagre benefit. The Government always sneers at job creation schemes. No funds are provided in this Budget to create the additional half a million jobs or any part thereof that the work force needs. This gives no satisfaction to those seeking employment. 1 turn now to deal with single parents. Despite the removal of the six-month waiting period for the supporting parent’s benefit and increases in payments to children of pensioners and social welfare beneficiaries, the increases will lift the incomes of very few families above the poverty line. What has happened with children’s allowances? They have risen from $7.50 to $10 a child a week. But these payments have not been increased for nearly five years. Merely to keep pace with inflation the payments should have increased to approximately $12.50 a child a week by November 1980. Overall, the Government’s measures mean that most pensioners and beneficiaries will continue to have an income below the poverty line - and this in the sort of country we are told Australia is.
In comparison with the small gains for the poor and the disadvantaged there are important omissions in this particular program. For example, there is no increase in the supplementary allowance to pensioners renting accommodation. That allowance is now $5 a week and was last increased in 1974. Only last week one of my constituents complained to me about this fact in my office. My colleague, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), will be concerned at what is an effective cut in public housing funds.
– A massive cut.
– Yes, it is an effective massive cut in public housing funds. In this Budget there has been no increase in the personal care subsidy for frail aged persons hostels and there is no hope for the working poor. In the more general fields we find that expenditure, expressed as a percentage of total government expenditures, has fallen in the following areas: Education, social security, public housing, community development, labour and employment and even in payments to the States. We heard comment, of course, about the increase in the proportion of government expenditure directed to defence and to industry. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, this increase in defence expenditure has been brought about essentially because of the lag in defence expenditure over recent years. In industry, as always, the assistance is directed to the capital intensive industries and to the rewards that the entrepreneurs receive from those industries. Clearly we have a situation where, while we have declining real wages, we also have declining social wages. It is a Government strategy of planned social regression and as such should be roundly condemned.
Some time ago I had occasion to raise the question of benefits for veterans. The Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association had made certain claims for the updating of benefits to keep them in line with current cost increases. Some changes have been made in this Budget, but the associations involved - in this case the Victorian Branch of the Returned Services League of Australia, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association, the Limbless Soldiers Association, the Partially Blinded Soldiers Association, the Naval Association and the Tuberculosis Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association - are all concerned that the Government has not overturned the decision of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) to reject totally submissions made for the restoration of rights, services and the care of aging veterans which a grateful Government had previously given them but has now removed.
– The Opposition wants to be all things to all people, at a massive cost to the taxpayer. In government it would adopt the ‘blunderbuss’ approach, showering government supports and assistance in all directions so that no one misses out. Never mind about directing government expenditure to those in need. Never mind about the cost to the taxpayer. Never mind about the disastrous impact of a bloated public sector on private enterprise and economic growth. Under a Labor Government no one would forgo some form of Government assistance. After all Labor’s philosophy says that the State spends money and makes decisions far better than do individuals. Everyone in the community would pay dearly for Labor’s excesses and profligate spending as tax burdens rose, inflation skyrocketed and government debts steadily accumulated.
Labor’s so-called ‘alternative’ approach to economic management simply amounts to increasing the size and pervasiveness of the public sector, building a ball and chain around the leg of private enterprise. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) on numerous occasions has admitted his partiality to a large public sector. In 1978 he said:
I am committed to seeing a larger public sector over time.
In 1980 Mr Hayden said: 1 favour the maintenance of a steady rate of growth in the real level of public expenditure to fulfil Labor’s policy aspirations.
The private sector be damned under a Labor government! If Australians do not see clearly that Labor’s alternative means big government, high taxation and increasing public sector control and interference in the economy, they should look carefully at Labor’s binding commitments in the following areas: To spend a minimum additional amount of $2,000m in five policy areas alone - manpower, health, housing, welfare and education; to increase government expenditure on over 200 other policy commitments in other areas; to set up more than 50 new qangos, councils or committees; to abolish staff ceilings in the Commonwealth Public Service; and to introduce a whole new range of taxes such as a capital gains tax, a resource rental tax and a number of other punitive measures.
How large are Labor’s proposed spending programs? The Government estimates that Labor’s additional spending in five policy areas alone will be around $2, 000m in one year - $l,000m in manpower, $380m in health, $276m in welfare, $164m in education, $175m in housing. Our estimate of $2,000m must be regarded as an absolute minimum extra to be spent under Labor. It substantially underestimates the total cost of the Opposition’s programs, by excluding many other proposals and commitments within the five areas which are not costed by Labor; by grossly erring on the conservative side in the estimates of the numbers who may be eligible for assistance under Labor’s many schemes; by taking no account of the costs of over 200 other binding commitments in the Opposition’s policy statements and platform; by ignoring the cost of setting up over 50 new statutory authorities, councils and committees; by excluding the costs associated with the proposed abolition of staff ceilings in the Commonwealth Public Service and by omitting the $500m extra that the Leader of the Opposition has committed to raising pensions and benefits to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. In each of the five areas of spending, the same fundamental principle of ‘big government’ shines through: To the taxpayer Labor says: ‘Give us your money because we know how to spend it better than you do’.
How much does Labor propose to spend in manpower? According to our estimates the total is $ 1,000m in a full year, made up of $600m for the establishment of a community services corps- although I am told that the Labor candidate for La Trobe said the other day: ‘Do not worry about that; it is only temporary’ - $338m for the work program scheme, $48m for the private sector employment training program, and an uncosted plan to ‘restructure’ the apprenticeship system.
Unlike Labor’s costings, our estimates are based on the up to date costings of not only the wages component in project work but also the other related expenses such as worker’s compensation, transport, accommodation, tools and equipment plus the costs of supervision and administration. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has described Labor’s manpower policy as the biggest job creation program ever to be undertaken. Given the disaster that occurred with the Regional Employment Development scheme under Mr Whitlam, one shudders to think what would happen if the Hayden scheme were to be introduced. It is ironical that a manpower program which is so similar to the old, thoroughly discredited RED scheme can be proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, when it was he who abandoned the original RED scheme in his 1975-76 Budget.
In addition to the enormous cost to be borne by taxpayers, the problem with Labor’s make work schemes is that they simply will not work. ‘Job creation’, as envisaged by our opponents, is just another way of describing increased government spending. In fact it is a prescription for job destruction. For every government job ‘created’ by more spending there would be several lost in the private sector once the inflationary impact of Labor’s policies was felt. Unlike the claim in the Leader of the Opposition’s comments there are no offsets. Given the Opposition’s commitment to boosting apprenticeship training by 50 per cent and to pursuing many other programs under the direction of a new statutory authority - the Australian manpower office - the figure of $ 1,000m, representing our estimate of the cost of Labor’s manpower programs looks very conservative indeed.
What about Labor’s proposed additional spending in Health? Labor’s family health care plan, which we estimate will cost $380m in one year, is the first step towards the restoration of a universal health scheme. The $380m is made up of Labor’s estimate of $1 30m for the provision of full medical coverage to all children under 1 6, to dependant students and to expectant mothers, plus $2 50m which is our estimate of the increase in institutional costs that would result from a decrease in the number of people covered for hospital insurance.
Let me itemise how I assess the $250m. It comprises $78m for recognised hospitals with private patients, $146m for private hospitals; $14m for nursing homes; $10m for outpatients services; and $2m for professional services charges. There may be small savings by way of reduced payments of the private hospital bed-day subsidy but they would make very little impact on the overall cost of Labor’s program.
In addition to the $380m, the Leader of the Opposition has already foreshadowed the staged reintroduction of Medibank, which he says will cost $600m. In his words:
Labor will restore Medibank . . . it is a commitment we will not back away from.
There is no doubt Labor would do this, irrespective of the cost. Labor’s estimates of the total cost of its proposed family health care plan are way out. They take no account of the impact of health costs on increasing numbers of Australians abandoning private health insurance funds. Institutional health costs must rise under Labor’s scheme as more and more people are encouraged to drop health insurance cover and jump on to the government-subsidised health bandwagon. Because of the Leader of the Opposition’s commitment to restoring Medibank fully, because of the so-called free nature of Labor’s family health care plan, under a Labor government the community could expect massive and escalating government expenditures on health - far in excess of our humble estimate of Labor’s additional spending in only one year. Just think of what Labor’s openended, universal health scheme would cost in subsequent years.
I turn to Labor’s foreshadowed expenditure on housing. The lack of details, the vagueness, the ambiguities in the Opposition’s proposals in this area make accurate costing a difficult task. Nevertheless, we estimate that when fully implemented the additional full-year cost of Labor’s housing programs will not be less than S 1 75m. Here again we find that Labor is significantly underestimating the cost of its programs by underestimating the numbers eligible for assistance. Under the family home ownership grant scheme, assistance to homebuyers is not exclusively directed to those in the community whose housing needs are greatest. The family home improvement scheme will provide very little real assistance to low income earners. It is a token gesture, again at the taxpayers expense, which would not significantly improve the standard of housing or the general stock of existing dwellings in the community. Labor’s commitment to greatly increasing its spending on public housing shows the Opposition’s blind faith in the belief that the solution to housing problems is to be found in higher government expenditure. In addition to these three schemes, Labor would also re-establish the Australian Housing Corporation with wide-ranging functions and a rural housing improvement fund scheme. We would see not only much higher government spending on housing under a Labor Government but also the employment of more bureaucrats to administer the programs, and greater government interference in the housing marketplace.
Let us examine the Opposition’s spending proposals in the fourth area that I want to cost tonight - education. We estimate that a Labor government would spend at least an additional $164m. The Opposition’s figure of $101 m once again grossly underestimates the cost of its programs. The additional $63m is made up of the following items, again detailed: $ 12m on universities and colleges of advanced education; $1 .5m on nurse education; $38m on Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances; S2m on assistance to isolated children; $4. 3m on secondary students assistance and $4. 7m on needs funding of schools. Labor’s underestimates in these areas represent serious errors of judgment.
In addition to the proposals we have been able to cost and include in our costing of $ 164m, there are several commitments in Labor’s policy statement which indicate increased funding in future years but for which no cost estimates are provided. For example, quotes from Labor spokesman on policies include references to encouragement of a national tertiary academic staff superannuation scheme; pilot projects to develop more effective co-ordination of post-secondary institutions, and additional funding to a variety of non-institutional mature-age education organisations and centres to increase access to recurrent education. For these and many other policy commitments, which would involve substantial additional government spending, the public is entitled to know how much they would cost and over what period. Certainly, there is the potential for an explosion in government spending on education. If we add to the Opposition’s shopping list the special inquiries into Asian studies and technological innovation, there can be no doubt that a Labor government would spend far in excess of our minimum estimate of $ 1 64m for its additional expenditure on education.
I turn now to the final costing area of welfare. We estimate that Labor would spend an extra $276m on welfare.
– I will tell the National Country Party about you.
– They are all itemised. The honourable member can scrutinise them all night if he wishes. This amount is made up of an expenditure of $250m on the family income supplement and $26m on the mother’s.guardian’s allowance. The Labor Party’s own costing and our costing take no account of the Leader of the Opposition’s recently stated commitment to raise pension levels to 25 per cent, and thereafter to 30 per cent, of average weekly earnings. The cost of increasing pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings would be of the order of $500m. To put them up to 30 per cent would cost $ 1,900m in a full year over and above the $2,000m that I have already indicated.
– In one year?
– An amount of $ 1,900m extra in a full year. It is plain for all to see that in government Labor would be big spenders once again. The $2,000m that I have estimated is the Government’s conservative figuring of the Labor Party’s proposed additional spending in a year in five, and five only, policy areas. To that total we have to add: The $500m expenditure for which the Leader of the Opposition has committed a Labor, government to in respect of raising pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings; all the uncosted items of which there are an abundance in the five costed policy areas; Labor’s binding financial commitments to tourism, sport and recreation- a minimum of $12. 5m- and to all the other yet uncosted areas of spending to be found within the policy statements and platform of the Labor Party; and the multitude of new statutory authorities. The establishment of bodies such as the national fuel and energy commission, the Australian hydrocarbon corporation, the economic planning advisory council and the technology planning council would have only one effect on private enterprise- that is, to stifle its growth.
It is obvious that if all Labor’s commitments to additional expenditures were implemented the cost to the taxpayer would be many billions of dollars. If the Labor Party is to support a much bigger public sector, it has an obligation to explain to the taxpayers where the money is to come from. Where is it going to find the funds for its profligate spending programs, its army of bureaucrats, and its new statutory authorities, committees, councils and the like? The Government challenges the Leader of the Opposition to reveal to the public the total cost of all his expenditure promises and the means by which Labor intends to pay for the explosion in government spending. I wonder how long it would take before Labor’s open-ended commitments in health, education, housing and the rest necessitated significant rises in income tax. The Leader of the Opposition has already promised to impose punitive taxes on high income earners. It is not difficult to see what would follow. A big spending party by definition has to be a high taxation party. Australians will not be fooled again by Labor’s election pledge of ‘vote for us and we will spend your money for you’.
The Opposition’s policies are rooted in the past. The Labor Party has no credible economic strategy because it has no policy to contain inflation. In fact its alternative Budget is highly inflationary. Labor’s big spending answers to Australia’s problems - doing all things for all people at enormous cost to the taxpayer - are totally unsuited to the requirements of responsible economic management. Australians want an economy to be managed sensibly with stability in direction and an overriding emphasis on containing inflation. They want the Government to be selective in spending programs, directing assistance, not everywhere, but to those in need. They do not want a party in power that promises to spend money willy-nilly on their behalf. Those are good enough reasons for the great majority of Australians to reject Labor and to wholeheartedly endorse the Fraser Government’s policies in the 1980s.
Tonight the Leader of the Opposition had an opportunity, in his reply to the Budget Speech, to announce alternative economic policies for this country. Instead, he chose to spend the greater part of his speech on abuse of the Prime Minister and members of the Government. Personal abuse is not a substitute for sound policies. The Opposition leader has distinguished himself, during his period in office, as having a great capacity to hurl abuse. He will discover, to his political cost, that the Australian electorate will reject this approach with the scorn it deserves. When I listened to the Leader of the Opposition projecting his Party’s socalled alternative economic policy I got a strong feeling of deja vu Somewhere, some time not long ago, I recall the Australian Labor Party, then the Government of the day, proposing similar programs to those which have been announced in this House tonight.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is not surprising that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) in the ‘End of term report’ in the Melbourne Age some two months ago had the following write-up:
Robinson, Eric - Minister for Finance. Profoundly ignorant of economics. Doesn’t seem very bright. Has the reputation of being a power in Queensland, and is therefore safe.
That was the full write-up for the Minister.
– Did you write this?
– No. It was one of the honourable members opposite. I tipped one member but he denied it. It was probably one of the Victorian senators. If we look at the write-up for the present Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) it states:
MacKellar, Michael - Minister for Health. Suspected of being a lightweight. Saved by coming from New South Wales, if he had come from Victoria he would have been a permanent backbencher. Career depends on doing something politically popular about health (its effect on health standards is immaterial). Likes dealing with foreign affairs, about which he is very ignorant.
This report was written by one of the members of the Liberal Party. Who am I to argue with it? When listening to the Minister for Finance one would have thought that one was listening to a spokesman for a low tax government. What are we dealing with? We are dealing with a government which has increased taxation more than any government of this country. If we look at page 333 of Hansard of last Tuesday which deals with Budget receipts we see that the proportion of the gross domestic product collected in Budget receipts is estimated this year- everybody agrees that the estimate is low- to be 26.7 per cent. Under the Labor Government it was 24.8 per cent. It has gone up to 26.7 per cent. At the time of the Gorton Government in 1970-71 it was 24.1 per cent. At the time of the Labor Government when it went up to 24.8 per cent of the gross domestic product there were many screams in this community. Some of them may well have beer, justified. They concerned the increase of money taken out by the Commonwealth Government in Budget receipts.
What has happened during the last four or five years? The gross domestic product being taken out in receipts and being removed from the community has increased from 24.8 per cent to 26.7 per cent. Let us look at what has happened. Between 1975-76, the time of the so-called Hayden Budget, and 1980-81, which involves the current Budget which we are discussing today, income tax paid by individuals has increased from $9,21 9m to $ 17,070m, an increase of 85.2 per cent. Total tax revenue has increased from $16.8 billion to $31.8’ billion, an increase of 88.8 per cent. In the same period the consumer price index increased by 55.7 per cent. We have an increase in the consumer price index of 55.7 per cent. In the same period this low tax government increased total tax revenue by 88.8 per cent and income tax paid by individuals by 85.2 per cent. Excise duty on oil and gas increased by 1 ,096 per cent. So much for a low tax government! I would hate to find a high tax government facing us. I ask for leave to incorporate a table in Hansard.
The table read as follows -
– I ask for leave also to incorporate in Hansard a comparison of income to tax paying families from the family allowance scheme with what it would have been with tax rebates and child endowment. The table has been previously incorporated in Hansard but I ask leave for it to be incorporated again.
The table read as follows -
– I thank the House. The table shows that every tax-paying family in this country is $4 a week worse off with one child; it is $7 a week worse off with two children; and $10 a week worse off with three children. This has resulted since this Government came to power. Finally, I ask for leave of the House to incorporate in
Hansard a table dealing with social security payments and education allowances showing the present payment, the date of the last increase, and the Budget increase. It demonstrates what the increase should have been if that increase had been according to the rise in the consumer price index.
The table read as follows -
– I thank the House. The point I want to emphasise is that this Government is a high tax government. I wish to deal with one specific point dealt with by the Minister for Finance and that was the question of costing health expenditure or, would-be health expenditure under our so-called family health plan. At the time that policy was announced I was the Labor Party spokesman on health matters. I am prepared to argue that our costing of $ 130m is an accurate costing. Tonight the Minister decided to add $250m to that cost by taking some notional number- a fairly large percentage - of people who would withdraw from private health insurance if our scheme came into being. He did not tell us what figure his Government had picked on but it must have been a very large number of people to lead to an increase of $250m.
I will give one obvious example which will show that he does not understand the method of health financing and the costs to the Commonwealth Government if people remove themselves from private health insurance. He gave all costs to the Commonwealth if people removed themselves from private health insurance. I make the point quite clearly that it does not work that way at all. Let us take the average person who is admitted to hospital for, say, surgery. In the case of a public patient the Commonwealth and the States share the total expenditure fifty-fifty. No medical costs are involved for the doctor performing the operation or for the administering of the anaesthetic. But in the case of a patient who is admitted and who is covered by health insurance, the Commonwealth Government picks up the cost of all the medical expenses above $20. If the surgery costs $200 then the Commonwealth pays $ 1 80 towards the cost of that surgery. If the anaesthetist charges
$60 for administering the anaesthetic then the Commonwealth pays $40 towards the cost of that anaesthetic. If the patient is a so-called private patient that is a cost to the Commonwealth Government. It is different in relation to the States. The withdrawal of people from the health insurance scheme would not increase the cost to the Commonwealth Government.
Because the Budget debate provides one of the few opportunities to speak on almost any topic, and before coming back to what is strictly the Budget debate, I would like to speak briefly about foreign affairs. One of the things we ought to be worrying about is what is happening in Poland at the present time. I think that one ought to congratulate the Australian Council of Trade Unions for expressing its solidarity with the strikers in Poland and for supporting their attitudes. I think it is a worry for honourable members on this side of the House - it probably is on everybody’s mind that the introduction, for example, of free trade unions, which is one of the demands of the Polish workers, will invite Soviet invasion of Poland as it did exactly 12 years ago in Czechoslovakia when the Czechoslovak Government made concessions to try to bring in what it called socialism with a human face. It is remarkable to me that there are still people who consider themselves socialists and who do not see that what is happening behind the Iron Curtain is a complete travesty of socialism. I ask leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the ranking of nations by political rights and by civil liberties. This is a ranking prepared by Freedom House which is a fairly respectable American organisation.
The table read as follows -
– I thank the House. I am pleased to see the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) sitting at the table tonight because, in my capacity as shadow Minister for science and administrative services, I would like to deal with problems facing science in Australia. It is an unfortunate fact of life that scientific and medical research funding will be held at low levels in countries with non-expanding economies where governments are confronted with harsh decisions concerning priorities and that the Australian research effort may fail to receive the attention in the next decade which it deserves and requires. The state of scientific research in Australia has been viewed all too complacently over the last few years. Whilst no political party can guarantee to restore the halcyon days of growth of research and tertiary institutions in a non-expanding economy, Australia lags behind comparable countries in the funding of scientific, technological and medical research.
Australia’s research effort is small and, over the last four years, has declined to dangerously restricted levels, with no consideration of our long term national interests. Commonwealth Government funds expended on research and development in Australia in 1978-79, as compared with 1973-74, have dropped in real terms by 18 per cent. In recent years the Government has ignored the calls for increased research funding by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develpment Examiners in Science and Technology, the Australian Science and Technology Council, the Tertiary Education Commission, the Australian Academy of Science, the Industries Assistance Commission, academic staff associations, the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. Research contributes to industrial development, mastery of technological innovation, improved use of resources, energy self-sufficiency and an increased standard of living.
It is accepted that it is necessary, as a matter of national prestige, that we participate meaningfully in the extension of knowledge, particularly in matters related to the Australian skies, sea and land mass and, of course, to areas of the Antarctic under our care. Such activities contribute to the intellectual and teaching vitality of our academic institutions and form the basis of practical applications. The Australian Research Grants Committee was allocated $ 13.9m in the 1979-80 Budget. In real terms this represented a cut of 8 per cent compared with the amount allocated in 1976-77. The current Budget, the 1980-81 Budget which we are discussing now, increases this figure by about 9 per cent which is less than the rate of inflation. The science statement for the 1980-81 Budget shows an increase of only 8.4 per cent in funds for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation leading, to quote the Minister: … to a further slight contraction in the Organisation’s total research activities, because of staff ceiling adjustments and a reduction in real terms in operating funds.
So we see a further drop in the amount of money available for scientific research in Australia. The National Health and Medical Research Council was allocated $ 14m for the 1979-80 financial year which represented only 0.2 per cent- one-fifth of one per cent- of the total health budget compared with 0.4 per cent four years previously. The Council has been able to fund only 37 per cent of applications for the next year. The manpower engaged in research and development in business enterprises has dropped from 14,710 in 1973-74 to 7,651 in 1978-79, a decrease of nearly 50 per cent. These are the latest figures that I have been able to find. This suggests a serious drop in the rate of innovation in the manufacturing industry. The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on industrial research and development in Australia which was presented last year stated:
In the competition between nations and between enterprises, many elements play their part including national resources, investment strength, and traditional skills and attitudes. However, one critical element is the ability to innovate and thereby achieve technological strength.
A manufacturing industry without innovation will not produce competitive products, will be at the mercy of imported technology, will be unable to draw on research and development resources and technical expertise in universities and government establishments and, ultimately, will decline, taking with it jobs and wealth.
There is also a need for Federal and, where appropriate, State governments to develop greater discrimination in incentives. Too often previous schemes have either spread the resources so thinly as to render them ineffective or have served only to channel them to the large and capable firms least in need of them. There is a need to discriminate between process innovation which, by and large, is job displacing and product innovation which is job creating. Whilst firms may quite reasonably wish to improve their productivity through capital intensive development, there is no reason why they should be subsidised in this by government. The level of uncertainty is low, the market is established and the capital is available. In other words, the level of risk does not require support from public moneys nor should they assist in labour displacement. In other words, public moneys should not assist in labour displacement.
Growing technological complexity can bring with it a danger of polarisation and conflict. Society appears to be already dividing into those who are familiar with science and those who are fearful of it. There is a rising disquiet in the community about some aspects of science and the possible effect of new technologies on employment is one such issue. There are others including nuclear energy. In many cases, there is a lack of scientific understanding on both sides of politics about its benefits and dangers. If we want to compete it is terribly important that we have an intelligent and educated community which is able to take advantage of technological advances and which is aware of, but not unnecessarily scared of, the non-benefits of new technologies. I am one of those who are optimistic about science. I believe that it may solve many of the problems which face us, as it has in the past. It is important that those supporting or opposing new technologies put on their platforms not extremists who take only one point of view but people who are obviously able to see both sides of the issue and who are able to provide us with intelligent leadership in the future. I feel confident that the majority of the population of Australia is looking for rational discussion, not messianic statements of heaven on earth or of doom.
Let me deal with one very short point in my other area of responsibility, that of administrative services. One of the items dealth with in the Budget under the Department of Administrative Services is the Government Information Unit, which is the political propaganda unit of this Government. It is difficult to obtain exact figures of its expenditure, in the last financial year or in the coming financial year. But it appears, inasmuch as we can correlate the expenditure, that last year the Unit spent $271,820 and that the estimated expenditure for the coming year is $329,900. This is a large amount of money for a political propaganda unit led by Mr Vincent Matthews, who was formerly with one of the newspapers but is now working for the Government to push its line.
I come back to the point with which I started and emphasise that this Government pretends to be a low tax government. In fact, it is a government which has increased taxation to a higher point, a higher proportion of the total gross domestic product, than it has reached under any other Federal government in Australian history. It is important that the Australian people realise that this Government is a high tax government. Let me quote the words of one gentleman, the Victorian
Treasurer, Mr Lindsay Thompson, who is probably a man of some standing amongst members of the Government. Commenting on the Government, Mr Thompson said that he was disappointed that grants to the States increased by 10.4 per cent while Commonwealth expenditure increased by 1 5.6 per cent. In fact, this year the Commonwealth’s takings- the Budget receipts - are estimated to increase by over 1 6.2 per cent. So much for a government which pretends to be a low tax government. So much for a government which pretends that it cannot do certain things because it does not have enough money coming into its coffers.
– I completely agree with the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) that tax in Australia is too high. The honourable member need not have worried about saying that. However, he made a few inaccurate statements. In fact taxation in Australia is now a lower proportion of gross domestic product than it was in 1975, which is to the credit of this Government. The honourable member is confusing expenditures. The Government is trying to balance the Budget, as any good housekeeper would try to do, and of course expenditure as a proportion of GDP probably has gone up.
I have listened tonight to the debate with a great deal of interest because, as a citizen of Australia, I expected to hear some words of wisdom and some good alternatives from the person who believes himself to be the alternative leader of Australia - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). I must say I was very disappointed that his speech contained, as it did in large part, not economic policies, not criticism of the Government based on sound reasoning, but purely vitriolic attacks on individuals. That is something we have come to understand as being part of the Leader of the Opposition’s character. It was certainly not the sort of reasoned debate the Australian people want to hear in this Parliament. For that reason I imagine that tonight many people will have long since switched off their radios, disappointed people who wanted to hear an opposition with something to say, people who know that those on the front bench of the Opposition have things to say. Those people would have heard words of wisdom from the honourable member for Prospect, who is a diligent and capable front bencher, but absolute rubbish from the Leader of the Opposition. They probably now would ask how on earth Australia can have a balanced Parliament when this crowd is in Opposition. I am afraid that that is what people are saying. I am afraid also that when it comes to leadership it is not to that sort of person that the Australian people will look.
Not having heard tonight an alternative economic policy from the Leader of the Opposition, we were informed that shortly the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), will bring forth an economic policy. I believe that that was projected tonight as being something that will bring a few rabbits out of the hat. We do not look for rabbits out of the hat from political parties. In the case of the Liberal Party and the National County Party, we have basic philosophies, policies we will follow if that is possible within the productive capacity of the country. On the other hand, we know that within the Australian Labor Party there are philosophies. It cannot bring rabbits out of the hat unless those rabbits are misleading. I expect that the philosophies the Labor Party has been following for about 100 years will be followed again.
If people are going to put their votes in the ballot box in the forthcoming election thinking that the Labor Party might change, I hope that those people will think again. I hope that those people who vote for the Labor Party will base that decision on philosophies that are well known. I respect the way in which those people will vote, but those philosophies will inevitably mean higher taxation. I do not think we should beat around the bush about that. Another point of view, not held by me but held by many people in this country, is that we should have higher taxation, that we should ask the working people of Australia to give more of their wealth so that it can be redistributed, so that we can have this mythical thing called equality, so that we can get stuck into all these programs that are coming out bit by bit from the Labor Party. If people want to vote in that way I respect their decision. But let us face it: Those people who vote for the Labor Party will be voting for higher taxation. It is no good Opposition members saying that the Liberal-National Country parties are parties of high taxation. The taxation we are charging people unfortunately is too high - we say that all the time - but let us not say that the Labor Party will have lower taxation. If anything, and it will admit this, it wants higher taxation. As the shadow Treasurer often says, the Opposition expects people to want to pay higher taxation to fund the programs it believes are required.
If we follow that policy of higher taxationhigher still than the taxation we have at present - we will knock the productive working man of Australia, the man who goes out, decides to work hard, and hopes that he can take home most of his pay. He is the bloke we are knocking. I am not running away from that. We in government at present are knocking him too hard, and that is why we are trying diligently to bring back the Budget to a responsible position of balance. That is the first step. We hope then to bring back taxation and revenue to a position where the working man will not feel that he is being beaten around the head every time he makes an extra dollar in overtime or his wage goes up. Surely that is the sort of country we want. It is not the sort of country the Labor Party wants. It wants to tax the working man because of lots of ‘you beaut’ programs, and I will discuss that further the next time 1 am able to speak in the House.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke tonight about economic growth. Economic growth is something that we depend on in order to be able to look after people, not only in this country but in other countries. He spoke of our need for an economic growth of 5 per cent per annum, and said that without that there can be no reduction in unemployment. I ask: How on earth would the Labor Party achieve that growth? The Government is trying hard enough, and it is very difficult to get an economic growth of 5 per cent per annum. It is very difficult in the context of wage restraint and monopoly restraint. It is very difficult even in the context of governments trying not to spend quite so much every year, as the Government is doing at present. I wonder how the Labor Party would achieve an economic growth of 5 per cent. With the prospect of a Labor government, a lot of people would be talking about sending their money out of the country. There is a fearful prospect, if we were to have a Labor government of people shrinking from investment. There is a prospect of people being rendered absolutely incapable, and this began to appear in the mid-1970s, of buying a house, a motor car or television set without resorting to massive loans. The Labor Party believes in taking away from the productive people and giving to the hangers-on. I hope that in the continuation of this debate I will have an opportunity to expand on what I have had to say.
The Parliament: Question Time - Television Transmitter - Proposed Land Development in Randwick - Immigration - Tasmania: Unemployment - Society of the Helping Hand - Unemployment Benefit
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am prompted to speak in the Adjournment debate this evening to raise again, and to bring to the notice of the Parliament, the scandalous behaviour of people who take on the responsibility of being a Minister of the Crown. I cite the example this afternoon of the irresponsibility and the laxity with which Ministers deal, by non-answers, with very important questions which go to their integrity and to the waste of, and scandalous approach to the handling of, taxpayers’ money. I refer to the answer, or non-answer, from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) to a question today. He refused to answer a question about the ATV transmitter in Gippsland.
A transmitter bought by the Postal and Telecommunications Department to put multicultural television on the air in Melbourne is old, obsolete and probably unworkable. Further, I am told it was purchased for $20,000 from the Murdochcontrolled ATV television station after being pulled down with sledge hammers and crowbars and destined for the garbage heap. In Question Time this afternoon, the Minister would not answer when confronted with the issue. All he was prepared to say was: ‘I will have the matters looked at’. The question was directed to an issue which he knows all about. I had asked the Minister:
What was the reason for dismantling the Channel 0 transmitter and why is the transmitter now being rebuilt with second-hand material from the old transmitter when a new transmitter on order from Japan will mean a further dismantling and replacing only a few weeks after the transmitter is rebuilt? Was this dismantling, rebuilding, dismantling program an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money so that the Government could keep on schedule, at all costs, the opening of the ethnic television service as a phony election gimmick?
The Minister refuses to come to grips with the central issue - the flagrant and deliberate waste of taxpayers’ money. Money is being wasted in an attempt to gain political capital for the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the election. By the time the transmitter is repaired, if that is possible, and reconstructed and then pulled down again- -all in the space of a few months- -hundreds of thousands of dollars will no doubt be involved.
It is obvious that the Government bought the transmitter in the hope of being able to fulfill the election promise of ethnic television before the 1980 election when it became clear that the permanent transmitter would not arrive before January. I am sure that the Prime Minister gave the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the hurry-up to ensure an interim service, no matter how poor. This transmitter is obsolete. It is not in working order. I am told that parts have been out of production for years. The transmitter was bought incomplete. One necessary component was requested of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd and I am told that that company quoted $35,000 for its one-off manufacturealmost the price of the complete Japanese transmitter.
The Postal and Telecommunications Department’s engineers and even private consultants hired by the Department are now attempting to patch together a working transmitter without guarantee of success. The transmitter has a potential output of only 30 kilowatts to 40 kilowatts, considerably less than that of its permanent replacement and only one-third of the output of Melbourne’s commercial broadcasters. The Government had earlier reached agreement with Sir Reginald Ansett over use of the old transmitter when ATV moved from Channel 0 to Channel 10. But Rupert Murdoch apparently reneged on the deal after gaining control of ATV. So desperate was the Government for a transmitter- any transmitter- that a cash offer was made for the ATV equipment which by then had been junked. It seems that Murdoch hit the Government both coming and going. This seems poor recompense for its friendly attitude towards Murdoch’s television share holdings.
– My electorate of Phillip is the smallest electorate in Australia yet has a higher density of population than any other electorate in the Commonwealth. It is for this reason that open space is naturally at a premium, and all existing open space must be preserved for posterity, for our children and for their children’s children, which is their birthright. With this in mind, I draw the attention of the House to the recent despicable, high-handed and totalitarian action by the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment, Mr Bedford, when he intervened to the detriment of all local residents and issued an interim development order over an idyllic area of open space in Randwick known as Glebe Gully.
The battleground is a four-hectare area nestled between high rise flats and once-stately mansions in densely populated Randwick. The Randwick
Council, to its everlasting credit, refused development applications for the area. Its opposition was led by the Mayor of Randwick, Alderman Ken Finn, and ably supported by the other aldermen, including Alderman Bill Newman, Alderman Harry Price, Alderman Jack Dillon and Alderman Munro who, I might add, are five of the finest aldermen ever to represent the people of the municipality.
The matter was eventually aired in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and its decision supported the Council’s stand. One could have been excused for believing that this was the end of the matter. On 1 November last year, a delegation was received by the then New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment, Mr Landa who told the delegation that all parties had to abide by the Supreme Court decision on the matter and that, further, he would not interfere with that decision. I believe Bedford’s decision was a stab in the back to the Randwick Council and to not only immediate residents but also all residents of the eastern suburbs. His decision is clearly an exercise in rodeo-style politics whereby the wishes of the people have been trampled in the dust.
The whole operation smells to high heaven. It permits the developers to build 94 units and 13 single dwellings on the gully land. Labor politicians will shortly be taught a lesson that they will never forget, namely, that they are the servants of the people and not their masters. The whole operation smacks of Robin Hood working in reverse, namely, talking from the poor to give to wealthy developers. The only other open space of comparable size in the immediate vicinity is Waverley cemetery. A recent statement issued from the Minister’s office said:
Randwick Council didn’t seem to want to be interested in it. We looked to it for some kind of guidance of what the local people wanted but it wasn’t forthcoming.
That statement is untrue and not in accordance with the established facts whereby the Randwick Council, led by the good men whom I have mentioned, stood their ground and have been most vocal in telling this Minister exactly what the people wanted. He has snubbed invitations to inspect the area and to speak to local residents, and his whole handling of the matter is so suspect that he should resign forthwith. Earthmoving equipment had even started bulldozing operations in the gully earlier this month only hours before a delegation of residents had failed to persuade the Minister to halt the development. The buildings which eventually rise on this wonderful area of peace and tranquillity will forever bear testament to the way the New South Wales Government takes notice of the wishes of the people. The whole operation is a scandal of the highest magnitude.
– I welcome the appointment of the new permanent head of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I hope that he brings to his position the humanity and consideration for others with which he is credited in the report by the Australian of 8 August 1980- an in-depth study of John Menadue, Australian Ambassador to Japan. I believe, along with many others, that humanity and consideration for others are qualities which have been lacking in some of our immigration policies. Of course, I refer most notably to the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System and family reunion policies.
When Labor is returned to office, after the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) advises us of the date of the election, it will be Labor policy to abolish NUMAS. NUMAS is biased against family reunion and against non-English speaking immigrants. Indeed, the immigration policy in general is biased against any family reunion except that of dependants. There is clearly little justification for such a bias against family reunion. A policy which seeks to allow into this country migrants with no ties and no close family to speak of is a policy which sentences such migrants to a lifestyle without guarantees. Without a network of family ties and associations there can be no guarantee that many of our migrants will assimilate readily into the community. Whilst they may have a knowledge of English and a skill which the Government desires, this is not to say that they will automatically settle into a community whose culture and values may be quite alien. In fact, it could well be a sentence of isolation because a family which comes on its own may have no contacts in this country and may find its situation extremely difficult in a social sense.
The problems of social integration would not arise if the Government’s policies were to place more emphasis on the reuniting of families. In our country family ties are important. In many of the countries from which our immigrants come these ties are vital. When they are broken it is very hard for these people to understand the inhumanity of a government which refuses to allow families to be together. Make no mistake, there is little room for humanity in the policies of this Government. The treatment of many immigration applicants is often ruthless.
This applies particularly in the case of female applicants under NUMAS. Female nondependent relatives rarely meet the strict NUMAS criteria. Females are penalised because their economic viability is not considered satisfactory. They may not be employed or have a trade in their home country so their applications are dismissed. This type of attitude can be criticised for three reasons. Firstly, it discriminates against women and may be in contravention of the United Nations convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, recently signed by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). I believe that it is discriminatory to assess all women under NUMAS when quite clearly differing lifestyles require a different form of assessment. Secondly, the application of NUMAS in this way does not take into account the reality of the situation of migrant women in Australia. Whilst these women may not have worked in their home country, many do work when they settle in Australia. Many studies have been done of migrant women workers and they certainly are not an insignificant section of the workforce. Thirdly, the application of NUMAS to some intending women migrants is callous and heartless. I have a constituent whose case I believe shows just how ruthless and inhumane NUMAS assessments can be. I ask for leave to have the correspondence incorporated in Hansard. I have spoken to a Minister about it.
The document read as follows: - 23rd July 1980
Mr J. L. McMahon M.P., Member for Sydney, Commonwealth Parliament Offices, Chifley Square, Sydney 2000
I am writing this letter to you in answer to your request for me to do so, regarding my efforts and the efforts of my parents, brothers and sisters to try and bring my widowed sister Mrs Ousaline El Azzi and her three children to this country.
The first application was made nearly two years ago when her husband died, and since then, my family and 1 have met with nothing but hardship and continuous refusals from the Immigration Department. Why?
My sister was widowed at the age of twenty three and left with three very young children in Lebanon, a very war-torn country. She has no one over there. No relations and no support from anybody.
Her husband also had no one over there to help her in raising her family or with financial support. Her parents and all her brothers and sisters are here and she is living by our support alone. Her home was burned and she is living in two rooms, trying to raise her family.
Is this right? A young woman battling alone, in a very unsettled country, trying to live on what we send her.
I will guarantee my sister and her family in all ways, with the help of my parents, brothers and sisters. I have a three.bedroomed house at her disposal and I work at Sungravure My nett wage is $200.00 per week approximately. 1 have the support of my parents, Mr & Mrs Chafic El Azzi, my brother
Elias and his wife, my sisters and brothers-in-law, Tannous and Odette Taouk Maroun and llham Jounieh and Tannous and Norma Nakhle.
My mother will look after my sisters’ children whilst my sister works, to help support her children and my family will assist in financial matters. My sister and her children will be no encumbrance on the Australian Government or the Australian people, this I can guarantee fully with no fear at all.
The current system NUMAS, which assesses who is eligible and who is not to come to Australia- could you please tell me, how did my sister fall short? It is all very well to say and I quote ‘Mrs Elazzi fell far short of meeting the NUMAS requirements’. How? She is guaranteed accommodation - Anyone from any department is welcome to come and view my house at any time. She has $9,000.00 Australian Dollars which she can bring to Australia with her. Her children have $4,000.00 each Australian in Trust accounts, which can be transferred to this country. She has unlimited assistance from her family and relations.
A list of these good people is available to anyone who would like to interview them from the Immigration Department to verify that what I say is true. My sister will obtain work in a factory and if she has any difficulty finding employment, we will all come to her assistance.
As I said before, I earn approximately $200.00 per week and have $2,000.00 in the bank, which can be checked at any time.
Where has she fallen short? In speaking the English language? This she can learn from Night School, from us and various nieces and nephews, not to mention work.
If after all 1 have told you, my sister ‘falls short’, then please tell me, who gets to come to this country then? 1 have been in this country eight years and am very happy. I am naturalised, as are my parents and family. We all own our own homes and are all employed. We wish our sister and her children to be as fortunate as we are.
There is nothing left for me to tell you, except this. My sister is twenty five years old, a widow with three very young children to look after. I beg you to please reconsider your decision.
If her case cannot be give a little preference then whose can? We have been trying for two years - before NUMAS was introduced. Why can preference be given to the defectors then. Does my sister have to jump from a Russian ship or defect from a Ballet Company?
I am not a petty person and I say ‘Good Luck’ to anyone who can get into our glorious country and is allowed to stay, but you do get upset when we see and read of these happenings and a truly deserving case, like my sister, is refused entry.
I beg you all, please reconsider your earlier decision and let my sister and her children come to Australia so our family can be reunited again.
Hoping to hear from you soon. I remain,
Your faithfully, Maroun El Azzi
– The correspondence is from Mr Maroun El Azzi of 19 East Street, Marrickville. He is a constituent of mine. He has a sister who is living in Lebanon. She is 25 years old, a widow with three small children. The parents and all the brothers and sisters of this woman are in Australia. Her family have guaranteed her maintenance and accommodation. The woman could work when she came to Australia and her family would be available to look after the children. They cannot do this while she is in Lebanon and therefore she is not able to work there. She has a little money saved, which must certainly be to her advantage. She does not speak English but is more than willing to learn. Yet the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has told her that she falls short of meeting the NUMAS requirements. Why does she fall short? She falls short because she is not a tradesman with the skills that this Government requires because it forgot to train its own. She falls short because she is not a ballet dancer or a girl in a red bikini. She falls short because she is a young widow alone in the war torn country of Lebanon with her three little children. She is a woman who has been refused the right to live with the only family she has - her parents and her brothers and sisters, all hard working, naturalised Australians. What kind of Government can countenance such policies? What Government can be so cruel as to force this woman to live in fear, loneliness and poverty away from her family? If this is what the NUMAS policy offers and if this is the best we can do, it must be abolished immediately. Because this lady is an ordinary woman, not a defecting ballet dancer, not a Penthouse pet who can fit through a porthole and not a skilled male worker, her chances of coming to this country to be with her family are nil. It is time that this Government woke up to the fact that its immigration policies are a disgrace.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Two weeks ago, rather like Cinderella and the ugly sisters, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and his entire shadow Cabinet visited Tasmania. Unfortunately for us all they chose to spend most of their time in the capital city of Tasmania, Hobart, in the Federal electorate of Denison. Rather like the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Leader of the Opposition, after barely two hours of discussion with the Premier of Tasmania and his colleagues, emerged waving a magic wand and revealed to the world a half-baked, ill-considered and constitutionally impossible election gimmick confidence trick promise of subsidised air fares. It is one of the most incredible things that I have seen in politics, State or Federal. I cannot understand how a man who claims to have academic qualifications at tertiary level could believe that he could sell to the people of Tasmania a confidence trick election gimmick which was disposed of and destroyed within a matter of hours not by the politicians but by the people who really count. Let me quote the words of probably the leading Tasmanian pensioner, Mr Arthur Dart. He described the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition as ‘pie in the sky and administratively impossible’. I would have preferred the Labor Party to come to my State with genuine promises and to put facts before the people of Tasmanian, instead of treating them as a bunch of natives who would bow down and receive recognition for beads, mirrors and glittery things.
– What does Arthur Dart think of petrol prices in Tasmania?
– I am very glad that the honourable member for Port Adelaide is in the chamber because he made an absolute laughing stock of himself when he appeared on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program conducted by Sue Becker. The honourable member told the people of Tasmania that Tasmania had the second highest- unemployment figures in Australia. He should have checked on that. I have a tape recording of the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide and I have another tape recording of remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. The week before figures had come out showing that Tasmania had the second lowest unemployment figure in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition to be- the contender for the crown, the pretender for the throne - has been mentioned tonight. When we were listening tonight to the Leader of the Opposition saying all the wonderful things about the great industrial advocate who is to take his place in the Federal Parliament we thought he was talking about the honourable member for Port Adelaide, but he was not; he was talking about Bob Hawke. There are a few people on this side of the House who are loyal to the honourable member for Port Adelaide and who said: ‘What about Mick?’ But the Leader of the Opposition was praising the Leader of the Opposition to be, Mr Bob Hawke, the new honourable member for Wills.
The short point is that as the Federal member for Denison now and for some considerable time to be, I want to invite the Leader of the Opposition to my electorate as often as he likes because I reckon it is worth 500 votes for me in Denison every time he puts his foot on Tasmanian soil. He made a complete and utter fool of himself. He was the man who stood up in front of the journalists club luncheon and announced that the Labor Party candidate for Denison was a Mr Lance Free. He was the man who said that Mr Neil Batt - not Mr Neal Blewett - was going to bring in the Medibank legislation. Bill Hayden is being laughed about in Tasmania.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Denison will take note of the requirement to use the title of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition seems to think that Tasmania is some form of disease, unlike his predecessor, Mr Whitlam, who said that the best thing that could be done for Tasmania was to cut the cord and let it float away. As far as we are concerned the honourable member for Oxley is a distinct electoral advantage and we welcome him back. In conclusion I say that the runs are on the board. The fact is that this year Tasmania will receive from the Commonwealth Government, including funds under the freight equalisation scheme, $71 1 m, an increase on last year’s funding of 12.2 per cent, which is in marked contrast to the performance in the Whitlam years of 1972 to 1975. I invite the honourable member for Port Adelaide to come back, but next time he goes onto Sue Becker’s program he should get his facts right. Tasmania has the second lowest unemployment figures in Australia, not the second highest.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have certain information which I wish to bring before the House this evening. I preface my statement by saying that the privilege of this Parliament is not meant for abuse by parliamentarians but it is there for use by members of the community who have no other recourse in their attempt to secure justice and expose corruption, and who do so per medium of their elected representatives. For obvious reasons I shall refrain from making subjective comments about the nature of the material I am presenting.
An investigation has revealed to me most disturbing accusations. They concern the operations of what has been, until a few weeks ago, a charity known as the Society of the Helping Hand. It is a registered company and its chairman is Mr Keith Ashton of 589 Logan Road, Greenslopes. The directors are also listed in the Public Register. The company’s books were audited recently by an independent assessor, Mr Ken Hayward. It is a company limited by guarantee and the limit of guarantee by individual members is $10. It pays no tax and therefore, as a charity, has not been required to keep records for the Australian Taxation Office. The company’s official statement of April 1980 declares that the Chairman, Mr Keith Ashton, received $1,813.39 during the year as wages for work performed in the social welfare area. Mr Ashton states his other business occupation as being involved with Queensland Community Radio Ltd. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard that part of the Society’s financial statement listing in detail receipts and expenditures.
The document read as follows -
– I thank the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) and I thank the House. I have also a copy of the auditor’s report to the Society’s directors for the year ended 30 June 1979. 1 seek leave to have that report incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
THE SOCIETY OF THE HELPING HAND LIMITED
Auditor’s report to the members of the Society.
Year ended 30.6.79
Lit has not been possible to establish from the Accounting Controls and records of the Society that all donations and contributions have been received by the Society, or once received, banked to the Society’s accounts. In consequence I have been unable to confirm the total of all income.
It has not been possible to establish from the Accounting Controls and records of the Society that all cheques and cash outgoings have been paid to creditors, including employees, of the Society.
No books of original entry have been maintained by the Society.
Because I have been unable to satisfactorily discharge my duty by the use of practicable audit procedures, in my opinion.
I have not obtained all the information and explanations that I have required, and
Proper accounting records and other records (including registers) have not been kept in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and
I am unable to report in respect of the above matters required by Section 167 (2) of the Companies Act 1961-79.
Ken Hayward Chartered Accountant
– I thank the Minister, and I thank the House. I have referred before to certain accusations made by more than half a dozen young men and women, mostly in the mid or late teens who passed through either the Society’s Amelia Street hostel or its hostel at Kangaroo Point. Accusations have been made by certain persons who have for various periods worked at the Society’s hostels, either as volunteers or for payment. I have their names and addresses and I have checked their stories but I am sure that the Parliament respects their right to remain anonymous. They have all indicated that they would be available to speak to the Australian
Federal Police or officials of the Department of Social Security if an investigation proceeds.
Because of the constraint of time I can only summarise factually and objectively their collective accusations. There are numerous references to sexual activity among certain tenants at the hostels - some of them minors - between certain tenants and some members of the Society’s management, and among some of the Society’s supervisory staff at the hostels. Equally, there are numerous references to condoned drug taking. Several allegations have been made from different individuals that Mr Keith Ashton provided glue to 15-year-old and 16-year-old boys who developed a glue-sniffing habit. There are many references to drunken and belligerent behaviour, not only among the hostels’ tenants but also chiefly on the part of the hostels’ supervisors.
The Society has been involved also in schemes to sell stationery, Christmas cards, candles et cetera, using hostel tenants as salesmen. All the people who have contacted me confirm that only one dollar in ten was kept by the young unemployed people who made the sales. Also, it has been alleged by people who have worked at the hostels that Mr Keith Ashton has overstated the number of persons at the hostels for the purpose of defrauding State and Commonwealth departments which fund the Society. Further, it has been stated by several persons that considerable amounts of revenue from rent, sales schemes and donations have not been accounted for in the Society’s financial statements. I refer honourable members to the statement of the official auditor. All of these accusations can be obtained verbally or in writing from persons whose names I have in my office in the event that a Commonwealth investigation is held.
I could comment a great deal about this sort of operation but, in the best interests of justice, I simply lay these allegations before the House and request the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle), whose Department funds the Society, to have these matters of fraudulent claims investigated. The Fraud and Consorting Squad of the Queensland Police is now inves- tigating the Society of the Helping Hand and, following a letter sent by the Reverend G. R. Griffiths to the State Minister for Welfare Services, the Society has been recently deregistered. I ask for leave to have a copy of that letter incorporated in Hansard.
Leave granted. The document read as follows -
JULY TWENTY-SECOND, 1980
The Minister for Welfare Services. Parliament House, BRISBANE
Dear Mr Doumany
In the past two years or so, there has been a growing concern among Welfare Organisations in Brisbane who deal particularly with homeless and unemployed young people, with the activities of the Society of the Helping Hand. This concern is based on three aspects of the Society’s work.
. The nature and the quality of the work undertaken.
The alarmingly large number of stories of damage - emotional, moral and physical- done to young people while in the care of the Society. These stories come from young people themselves and from those who deal with them.
The financial aspects of the Society’s dealings with young people in their care.
The undersigned Agencies have met to discuss their concern and have resolved to communicate this concern to you. We feel that on the basis of our perceptions the situation is fairly critical and that something ought to be done to investigate our concern to see whether in fact our perceptions are substantiated.
We are happy to co-operate with you in whatever investigation you may want to initiate into this matter. We also understand that both the Police Department and the Justice Department are carrying out their own investigations and we will co-operate with them too if invited.
Rev. G. R. Griffiths
For: Teen Challenge,
Brisbane Youth Service, Lifeline Brisbane,
Youth Emergency Shelter (Windsor), Salvation Army Social Service, R.A.D.C., Q.C.O.S.S.
– I thank the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and I thank the House. It is understood that Mr Ashton may have more than one bank account and that he may have an open ticket to an overseas destination. Also, I ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) to urge the Federal Police to investigate the matter.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that most honourable members of the House- certainly those on this side- would agree that the present Treasurer (Mr Howard) is a very decent man. I think that within his makeup there is a decent trace of compassion. But, I am afraid that after living in the rarefied air of the Bennelong electorate, and particularly as he socialises quite a deal in that salubrious area of Hunters Hill, he has dropped out of touch with reality. This is reflected by the Budget papers and, try as I might, I can find no provision which increases the dole for those people under 1 8 years of age. It still exists at $36 a week, as it existed in 1975. Despite enormous inflation since then, which even those people on the Government side cannot deny, it has not been indexed up since that time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. I am sure that many honourable members would like to raise matters such as this, but this sounds as though it is directly related to the Budget and it is not in order to refer to it during the adjournment debate.
– The honourable member for Parramatta is not free to allude to other matters before the House but I had not disqualified the matter on the basis that it may have been introductory in nature.
– This matter does not appear in the Budget; that is the problem and the reason I raise the matter. The Budget makes no provision for it whatsoever. So, the dole payment still exists at $36 a week and even those honourable members opposite with the most limited mathematical ability could work that out to be something over $5 a day. I ask honourable members how much one can do on $5 a day. Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise this matter because those people under 1 8 years do not have a vote as you would know. In fact, before 1972 young people in Australia were sometimes surprised to find that 20-year-olds did not have a vote. I would be very cynical if I suggested that there has been no increase in the amount because they do not have a vote so I will drop that subject.
Let us get back to what I think is very important. In my electorate of Parramatta there are an estimated 200 under 18-year-olds living on the street. When I say ‘living on the street’, I mean just that. They are literally living in derelict houses, old abandoned cars, on park benches, under bushes, on the verandahs of churches and in all sorts of unlikely places. That is where they are living out their existence, their miserable lives, because they are kids with all sorts of social problems. They are from broken homes or orphans, or kids who graduated from institutions when they were 16-years-old. There are kids who have been kicked out of home because of a break-up with the parents, and who are totally lacking any sort of family support and love. There are kids who are cast on the street. They are cast on the street because, for many reasons, they cannot get employment. They are victims of modernity; probably victims of increasing technology. But, to a great extent they are victims of this Government’s economic policies.
The fact that they are getting $36 a week in a country as rich as ours is something which I find grotesque. It is almost hideous that a country as rich as Australia could allow these children - they are really children - without any family support at all to live a miserable existence on $5 a day. There are certain charitable groups within my electorate doing their best for these people. In the Parramatta Psychiatric Centre the Methodist Church has set up what is known as the Hope Hostel, which is ostensibly to house the old lags and the alcoholics that we find in every city area. It is quite hideous that kids of 1 6, 17 and 1 8 years are sharing an auditorium with old drunks. It could hardly be called anything other than an auditorium, because it is a large room with a great mass of beds.
I do not know what the Government will do about this. Obviously they are in need of enormous support, and in the Budget I could not find any job promotion scheme that might provide these kids with some hope for the future. So, we have this whole mass of human flotsam parading the streets of Parramatta through the day, hanging around the shopping centres, pinball parlours and billiard rooms, waiting to find somewhere to lay down their heads at night. They do not have a family to go home to; they have no support from parents and no love in their lives at all. All they can do is go to the Community Youth Support Scheme office for a couple of hours each day, and put their hands out each week to get their $36.
I am appalled to be a resident of Australia, but I am more appalled to be a member of a parliament that allows this sort of thing to go on. How long will this Government take to come to the conclusion that every kid under 1 8 years who is getting $36 a week does not have a family to live with; how long will it take the Government to realise that Australia’s corporate image is lowered because of the miserable dole that these people are handed. I implore the Government in the name of everything that is human to revise this situation. It has revised several things in the Budget already; it should revise this matter and increase the level of this dole payment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m. PAPERS
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 26 August, pursuant to statute:
Audit Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, Nos. 234, 235.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act- Ordinance- 1980 - No. 3- Education.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 236.
Customs Tariff Act - Orders -
Declared Preference Country- No. 1 (1980). Developing Country -
No. 2 (1980)
No. 3 (1980)
Defence Amendment Act - Interim Determinations - Statutory Rules 1980, Nos. 238, 239.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department - Employment and Youth Affairs- G. E. Rose.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations- 1980 - No. 12- (Fire Brigade (Administration) Ordinance).
Telecommunications Act - Australian Telecommunications Commission- BylawsTelecommunications (Charging Zones and Charging
Districts)- Amendment No. 1 (1980)
Telecommunications (Community Calls) - Amendment No. I
Wheat Marketing Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1980, No. 237.
Mr Humphreys to ask Mr Speakerwill he provide details of how the increase for administrative expenses for the Parliamentary Library from $353,997 in 1 979-80 to an estimated $648,000 in 1 980-8 1 contained in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1980-81, page 10, Division 104.2 line 02, will be spent.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 February 1980:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 28 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Education: Canberra Staff (Question No. 5964) Mr Cadman asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 21 April 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The total number of staff of the Department based in Canberra at 30 June 1 980 was:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 14 May 1980:
When can I expect an answer to Question No. 5346 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 9 February 1 980.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the Weekly Hansard of 22 May 1980, page 3197.
Reference of Industrial Powers from the States to the Commonwealth (Question No. 6152)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 20 May 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The New South Wales Premier was reported earlier this year as having proposed a national referendum ‘to force the States to hand over their powers’ (The Australian 14 March 1980). Although such a referendum is part of ALP policy, he has not pursued this matter.
References by the States for the purposes of section S 1 (xxxvii) need not necessarily result in any diminution of the States’ responsibilities. For example it would be possible for references to be limited to overcoming particular constitutional limitations that restrict the Commonwealth in dealing with industrial relations in areas now covered by Federal Awards. In practice those areas are already effectively outside State jurisdiction. The Commonwealth would prefer that all possible approaches be examined to establish whether changes to the present system in this way would lead to more stable and harmonious industrial relations.
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 22 May 1980:
When can I expect an answer to Question No. S877, which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 S April 1980.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the Hansard of 19 August 1980, page 41 7.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 22 May 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) (b) The purposes for which each pesticide is used are:
The remaining products are permitted for use only in those situations and in the manner indicated on registered labels. Appropriate and informative labelling information including directions for use, safety and first-aid information and the like is a prerequisite in Australia for the registration of agricultural chemicals.
I am advised that the situation regarding usage of the substances in the United States of America, Canada, and Sweden is:
and (vi) Chlordane heptachlor- permitted for structural treatments. Remaining crop uses are being progressively phased out.
Aldrin- for use against subterranean termites in buildings
Heptachlor- for use against narcissus bulb fly.
Sweden: None of the substances in question is presently registered in Sweden.
(a), (b) and (c): None of the substances in question is manufactured in Australia. DBCP aldrin, chlordane and hep.tachlor are either imported ready formulated or imported as active constituents for products formulated in Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800826_reps_31_hor119/>.