26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator McMANUS presented from 69 electors of the Commonwealth a petition showing that ultrasonic waves, translated to audible frequencies for interpretation, can be used to make blind persons almost as self-reliant as bats, which also use ultrasonic waves in the dark.
The petitioners pray: (1) That the Commonwealth produce and provide ultrasonic aids for the blind on the same terms as hearing aids for children, pensioners and others. (2) That alternatively the organisations struggling to provide these aids be approved for subsidy under the States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act 1969.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. 1 refer to the failure of the Minister for Defence yesterday to clarify the future of the Fill in what was probably his last defence statement. Will the Leader of the Government tell the Senate why the Government is stalling on informing the Parliament and the nation about the future of this aircraft and on allowing the Parliament to have a proper discussion of the amazing mess that the Government has created by this years old blunder?
– The Leader of the Opposition, in seeking information, imported into his question observations based on his judgment, not the judgment of the Government. The fact is that a special group of experts went to the United States to carry out investigations relating to the Fill aircraft in order to report to the Government. That panel, which was led by the head of the Department of Defence, is back in Australia and is in the process of making a report to the Government. After the Government has considered that report will be the time for it to make a statement to the Parliament and to the nation. When the proper time comes that course almost certainly will be followed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In yesterday’s edition of the ‘West Australian’ it was reported that the author, Mr Gerald Glaskin, will be allowed to import a copy of the prohibited publication Portnoy’s Complaint’ providing he agrees to certain conditions specified by the Department of Customs and Excise. Mr Glaskin is reported to have said that while he had not been officially advised of the conditions, one of them was that the book would have to be kept under lock and key and a customs officer had to inspect the lock’. Will the Minister inform me whether this is correct?
– The report printed in yesterday’s ‘West Australian’ is completely incorrect. On 19th August I approved the importation of the book ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ subject to certain conditions. The conditions were that the publication must remain in the personal custody of the applicant at all times; that the whole or any part of the contents of the publication must not be used for purposes other than those specified in the application; that the publication must be produced for inspection when so demanded by the Collector of Customs; and that at the expiration of the period specified, or when the publication has served its purpose, it must be returned to the custody of the Collector of Customs. As Mr Glaskin requested use of the book for a period of 1 month, a special condition was added to the effect that he was to return the publication to the Collector of Customs for Western Australia at the expiration of 1 month from the date he took delivery of the book. Mr Glaskin has been advised by the Department of these conditions.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Repatriation to a statement reported to have been made by Mr Wentworth, the Minister representing him in another place, on 20th August. The statement was that the Budget will have a bigger impact on war pensions than many people first believed. Is the Minister aware that since the presentation of the Budget a very great number of ex-service pensioners have received notices advising them of severe reductions in payments ranging up to $18 a fortnight? How many such notices have gone out? Will the Minister make a public statement giving the reasons for such reductions?
– I am not in a position to state how many notices have gone out in the manner indicated by the honourable senator. I shall try to get the information for him. I point out to the Senate that repatriation provisions in the Budget this year provide for additional benefits of an order which has not been matched for quite a number of years. As outlined by the honourable senator, there are some anomalies involved in this matter. I shall see whether I can get full details for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. On 29th August 1968 I asked a question relating to the possibility of providing, as an optional fitting to telephone handsets, a meter to enable the number of subscriber trunk dialled and local calls to be ascertained and recorded. I was then advised by the Minister that field trials were being undertaken and, if successful, the meters would be made available. Can she now say whether the trials are still continuing? If they are not, can she indicate whether the meters will be made available in the near future?
– I promised the honourable senator that I would place his comments before the Postmaster-General and obtain for him further information concerning the matter. I am now pleased to advise him that the field trials were completed and, following the consideration of tenders for the supply of a satisfactory type of subscriber’s private meter, the stage has been reached where a firm order will be placed within the next few days. It is expected that limited supplies will be available for installation early in 1970 and an appropriate charge will be made for this facility.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Following a statement made yesterday by the Postmaster-General that a United Kingdom contractor has failed to deliver principal equipment on schedule for the east-west telephone link, can the Minister assure the Senate that the penalty clause in the agreement, which is intended to minimise such delays, in the public interest, will be put into effect? If it is not to be put into effect, what action is intended?
– I did hear the reply made by the Postmaster-General in another place. I shall bring his attention to the points raised by the honourable senator.
– My curiosity has been aroused by a statement by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party on 22nd August 1969, in which he refers to something that I have always regarded as the Australian Labor Party and designates it the Democratic Socialist Party. The statement was a prognosis on Australia’s defence. My question is: What is meant in the statement by the Deputy Leader of the Democratic Socialist Party that it will introduce a crash programme on defence from 25th October onwards?
– I am not sure that the honourable senator’s question was directed to me, but it is true that the Deputy Leader-
– It is pretty clear that it was not.
– It is pretty clear that the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in another place in fact made a defence statement over the week-end. It is equally clear that he has given some views about the Labor Party’s policy which seem to be in conflict with statements made by his own Leader in another place at another time.
– I take a point of order. This time is set aside for questions by honourable senators to Ministers. It is not to be used for the device of entering into a discussion on what the Labor Party’s policy may or may not be. It is a perversion of the whole procedure for this kind of thing to be doctored up and questions such as this put forward. The Minister’s only answer should have been that it was not within his administrative responsibility. As he has not said that, I ask you, Mr President, to rule the question out of order and to rule that question time be not used for this purpose.
– On the point of order, I refresh the Senate’s memory by pointing out that the very first question asked today, by the Leader of the Opposition, was loaded with political opinion. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, I suggest.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. Had the Minister finished his answer?
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In furtherance of the Soviet Union’s diplomatic offensive in Australia, did the Russian Embassy’s Third Secretary, Mr Ekimenko, address the Woden Valley Branch of the Liberal Party last evening? Did the Russian official wear and help to distribute Liberal Party election badges amongst branch members in attendance?
– As to the first part of the question, I am not aware of what I think the honourable senator termed diplomatic offensives having been undertaken. I would not comment on that at all. Nor would I know officially whether a representative of the Russian Embassy spoke to a group of Young Liberals. Tn any event, I would hot regard that as conflicting in any way with the Liberal approach because we even have members of the Labor Party coming and talking to us sometimes.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen a statement attributed to the Premier of New South Wales that the New South Wales Go vernment will have great difficulty in accommodating students next year at government schools unless more money is made available to the State? Has the Minister also seen a statement attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Health that the New South Wales Government will not be undertaking any new hospital projects in New South Wales next financial year unless there is a substantial increase in the funds made available to it? Will the Minister agree with the New South Wales Premier and Minister for Health that New South Wales is being denied a fair share of revenue by the Commonwealth, and will the Minister use his influence with the Government to see that the State of New South Wales gets a fair deal so far as the allocation of Federal funds is concerned?
– As I read it in the Press - I presume it is true - the Premier of New South Wales has made a statement relating to Commonwealth and State financial relations and the allocation of funds. This is not unusual because for as long as I can remember, at about this time - the time of introduction of budgets by State governments - statements are made about the insufficiency of funds to do what the States, in their judgment, would like to do. There is nothing original in the particular statement to which the honourable senator refers. As he and indeed everybody in the community at large knows, funds are allocated to the States in accordance with the terms of the Financial Agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. The present Agreement will come up for renewal in June of next year. At that time there will be a complete examination not merely of the position between New South Wales and the Commonwealth in isolation but of the position as between every State and the Commonwealth. I submit that it is not fair comment to say that the State of New South Wales is being treated unfairly in that context. New South Wales is being treated strictly in accordance with the decisions reached at the Premiers Conference, in which all Premiers take part. In addition to the moneys allocated in accordance with the formula contained in the Financial Agreement, massive allocations are made to the States, including New South Wales, by way of grants made under section 96 of the Constitution. 1 conclude simply by saying that no doubt at the time of the bringing down of every State budget a Premier or Treasurer or Minister will be heard to say: If I had more money I would be able to do other things which I have not been able to do, and the only way I can get more money is by way of allocation from the Commonwealth under the Financial Agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States’.
– Still in pursuit of knowledge, I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, lt is related to the statement of the so-called shadow Minister for Defence in which he said: ‘In essence, a Labor government would work to return the entire Task Force to .Australia within 6 months of an election’. That refers to Vietnam. He then went on to say: There would be much less difficulty in returning units such as the Canberra squadron and the naval helicopter unit at Bien Cat to Australia’. Does this mean that the Australian Army components in Vietnam would be left without any air support whatsoever?
– I have been asked to comment on a defence statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party - a defence statement not made in the Parliament but at a function outside this place. It is very difficult-
– I take a point of order, Mr President Surely the honourable senator’s question is out of order? It seeks from a Minister an opinion on whether a statement which did not emanate from the Minister or from the Government but in fact from a leading member of the Opposition bears a certain interpretation. With respect, Mr President, it seems to me that it is entirely outside the scope of the Minister’s responsibility to give an interpretation that might be promptly rejected by the Opposition or honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber. For that reason, Mr President, I would suggest that you should confine the questions asked to matters which properly come within the ambit of the responsibility of Ministers.
– Mr President, I rise to speak on the point of order. I submit that the Standing Orders permit ques tions to be asked on matters relating to public affairs. At this time of the year - and preparatory to an election - it is undoubtedly a matter, of intense public interest to have unravelled those inherent problems, ambiguities and qualifications that are part and parcel of the propaganda which is being put out by the Australian Labor Party. I submit that if there can be some elucidation of these matters honourable senators are entitled to seek it from those who have the facts.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– 1 have very little to add to what I said previously. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place did make a statement - and it is in the form of a printed document - in which he set out in categorical terms what he understood to be the policy of the Australian Labor Party. The document says in part that the first act of a Labor government would be to tell the American Government that Australia will withdraw its troops from Vietnam. This is interesting, because it cuts across what the Leader of the Opposition in another place said some time ago in relation to the matter. It is apparent that the ALP is not quite certain where it is going in relation to its defence policy. I think the comment made by Senator Cormack was a fair one. It would be a shocking situation if air support were withdrawn from a battle area and the troops were unduly exposed until such time as they also were withdrawn. In any event, I believe it is true to say that at present the Australian Labor Party does not know where it is going in relation to Australia’s defence policy.
- Mr President, so that we may find out whether the Government knows where it is going, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Now that John Zarb has been released, does the Government intend to send more young men to gaol for refusing to serve in the armed forces, even after a finding by a magistrate that their conscientious beliefs will not allow them to take part in the war in Vietnam?
– The question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is singularly inappropriate and unfortunate. As he was one of those who advocated some consideration of the Zarb case, he would know as well as I do - and I am sure that the whole of Australia knows the facts - that this person was released from gaol on compassionate grounds because his parents were ill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition attempts - and I am surprised that he should do so in the circumstances - to link the Zarb case with the general question of conscientious objection to national service. One should not forget for a moment that the Zarb case was a straight out instance of release on compassionate grounds because of the health of a parent. I am sorry that the honourable senator should bring that case into this issue.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Following the meeting on 4th June this year between Mr Stig Bjorkman, Swedish film producer and director of ‘I Love. You Love’, and the Minister, did the secretary to the Minister state to Mr Bjorkman that he, the secretary, thought that the matter should be played down as much as possible to the Press as the affair could be embarrassing to both parties? Did he add: You have your future concessions to worry about and we have the voters’? Were these remarks intended, as interpreted by Mr Bjorkman, to indicate that future treatment by the Department of Customs and Excise of his productions would depend more on what publicity was given to that interview than on the content of future films?
- I inform the Senate that when I interviewed Mr Bjorkman some members of the Film Society and others, it was reported in the Press at that time that Mr Bjorkman had been on his own in the midst of a number of Customs officers, the Minister and the Minister’s secretary and that he felt he was being subdued by the sheer weight of numbers. If my memory serves me correctly, at that interview, as I have said before, there were two other people present, although it was reported in the Press that Mr Bjorkman was alone. As to whether my private secretary made any persona] statements to the Press or to Mr Bjorkman relating to publicity, 1 can only reply in the negative because no conversation was held between my private secretary and Mr Bjorkman.
– il direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the Minister seen a Press report which stated that the SEDCO drilling rig which was damaged by a gas blowout while drilling Petrel 1 will be sent to Singapore for repairs? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the gas flow has been controlled? If not, will the services of a rig be required to control tile gas flow? If a drilling rig is required to control the gas flow, have arrangements been made for the use of a rig for this purpose in view of the report that the damaged rig will be in Singapore for 4 months?
– I have seen Press reports to the effect that the SEDCO rig which was damaged to the north of Australia about 100 miles west of Darwin will be transported to Singapore for repairs. I believe that the repairs are estimated to cost-
– I am not interested in that; I want to know about the loss of gas.
– I am answering the honourable senator’s question and he will listen, I hope. The repairs to the rig will cost about $2m. I understand that it is expected that the rig will be away at least 2 months before it is returned for further drilling operations in the area. As to whether the gas flow has been controlled, I ask the honourable senator to place that part of the question on notice so that I may get an adequate answer for him.
– I am still pursuing the truth. I refer to the statement issued by the so-called shadow Minister foi Defence in another place, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he would accept as an acceptable criterion for the defence of this country the following statement by the shadow Minister for Defence: ‘In no area is the uncertainty of planning and the lack of precision more frustrating to democratic Socialism than in defence planning.’
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest that it would be making a laughing stock of the Senate if this kind of question were to be permitted. It has nothing whatever to do with the Minister’s responsibility. It is a hypothetical question, and I think such questions are out of order. I ask you, Sir, to disallow the question so that we may get on with the business of the Senate.
- Senator Cormack, you are not allowed to quote when asking questions. If you care to reframe your question it may be in order.
– I will reframe it, Sir, if you will permit me to ask the question.
– When you reframe it I will make up my mind about it.
– Will you permit me to reframe it now?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Would he regard as an acceptable criterion the concept that there is nothing more uncertain of planning and lacking in precision than defence planning? I refer to the statement that has already been made by Labor’s shadow Minister for Defence.
– I again rise to order. I suggest that the question has only been repeated; it has not been reframed. If the objection that I took before is proper, it is still proper.
– There is a very big difference between the first question and the second question.
– May I say that quite obviously the honourable senator is asking me to express a view on a comment made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I would very properly want to see the statement in the context in which it was made before I commented on it as requested by the honourable senator. Whilst I appreciate the point that he is making, one has to be very careful that one is in fact looking at it in the complete context in which it is conveyed. For that reason I prefer not to make any further comment at present.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government will dispel the doubts of the voters of the Farrer electorate on whether Mr Fairbairn, the Minister for National Development, intends to complete his term if re-elected on 25th October. Does the Government realise that there is constant Press and public speculation in the Farrer electorate that Mr Fairbairn, if reelected, will resign to accept an overseas posting, possibly to Paris? Surely as a matter of fair play the electors should know whether he intends to complete his full term, if re-elected?
– Of course, the implications of that question are not lost on us, in a political context. However, I am happy to be able to say that Mr Fairbairn has made a categorical statement in relation to the rumour that previously was circulating. He has made it abundantly clear that he is seeking re-election as the honourable member for Farrer and I have no doubt that after the election he will be the honourable member for Farrer.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that on or about Wednesday, 16th July 1969 a Commonwealth police officer interviewed a Brisbane radio announcer for about 2 hours and questioned her on the contents of a letter received by the Prime Minister? Was the letter referred to unsigned? Was the radio announcer informed that the interview was of a confidential nature? Is it a fact that although the interview was supposed to be confidential, the police officer then interviewed the general manager of the radio station and disclosed to him the contents of the anonymous letter? As it is reported that no threats of physical violence against the Prime Minister were contained in the letter, will the Minister make a detailed statement of the reasons which prompted the Commonwealth Police to act on information contained in anonymous correspondence?
– I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice. Senator Wright, who represents the Attorney-General in the Senate, has just arrived from Tasmania where he represented the Government in connection with the death of a former Premier of Tasmania, as honourable senators will be aware. In any event, I suggest that the nature of the question requires that it be referred to the Attorney-General himself for comment.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read reports of statements made in the Moore electorate by Mr Maisey, the honourable member for Moore in another place, which are strongly critical of the Government’s wheat policy? Are the views which Mr Maisey is expressing in accordance with Country Party policy? If they are not, do the Government parties intend to take any action against Mr Maisey to prevent him standing as the endorsed Government candidate for the seat of Moore?
– I have not seen the statements alleged to have been made by Mr Maisey. Therefore I am not in a position to say whether they are in accord with the Government’s policy.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate seen today’s Press report of a statement on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by Dr David Robinson, former Special Assistant on Science and Technology to President Johnson, to the effect that he is in favour of the Treaty? Did he say: ‘I believe that the United States supports the Treaty . . . and wants every country to sign’? In view of such statements from an eminent American man of science will the Government agree that to refuse any longer to sign the Treaty, which is only the first step, is to be offside with our major ally, America?
– Yes, I have seen the statement. I do not draw the deductions from it that the honourable senator draws from it. The position remains as I have stated in this place previously. Indeed 1 think yesterday, in response to a question on notice, I supplied a reply on behalf of the Government which referred to the Aus- tralian Government’s attitude to the signing of the Treaty, and the point was made abundantly clear that before any consideration could be given to the matter of signing the Australian Government would have to satisfy itself that such a treaty would be in the best interests of the Australian people.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What is the purpose of the research into the pharmacological action in toxin from deadly jellyfish which at present is being carried out by the University of Queensland? What is the interest of the United States Department of Defence in this research? Is the United States Department of Defence paying for the research? Will the results of such research be made available to the Commonwealth Government?
– The honourable senator has asked me three questions without notice which do not lend themselves to response at question time. He already has asked me a question related to the general matter and I have sought information for him on that. The information is not available to me yet. I am not in a position at this stage to indicate the nature of research in relation to jellyfish. I am not in a position at this stage to indicate the terms and conditions under which the University of Queensland is doing research for the United States Department of Defence. As soon as the information is available to me I will make it available to the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise noted that the amount of censorship exercised by government agencies in Australia is considerably less than the censorship based on bias exercised by private controllers of the Press, television and radio against the expression of opinions to which they personally are opposed? In the Bjorkman case, was there lavish publicity for those who were opposed to censorship and a restriction of publicity for those who were in favour of it?
– I know that private organisations controlling the Press and/or radio are complaining bitterly about the customs procedure in relation to the censorship of films and/or books. But I notice that the leading articles in the newspapers that are printed throughout Australia do not ever use the words whose use we prohibit in books or any other material coming to Australia. Of course, I can understand that. We, as a department and a government, prohibit literature which, sometimes after reference to the National Literature Board of Review, is not considered suitable for publication in Australia. One of the reasons for this may be the great number of fourletter words in that material. Yet, in the leading articles in the very newspapers that are criticising the action of the Government, the four-letter words are never used.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. Did the Returned Services League of Australia this year make representations to the Government for the appointment of an independent non-parliamentary committee to completely review the Repatriation Act, its operations and all its provisions and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government? If so, what was the Government’s decision on that request?
– I answered a question which was similar to this one and which was asked by Senator Bishop just recently. It is true that the RSL and other ex-servicemen’s organisations made this request to the Government. The request was considered by the Government but was not acceded to.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that the novel ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ by Phillip Roth has now been made available to the author Mr Gerald Glaskin despite the fact that it had previously been prohibited for distribution on the ground that it was liable to deprave and corrupt those who read it? Will the Minister keep a close watch on Mr Glaskin in order to observe whether he is depraved or corrupted as a result of reading this book? If there is no evidence of Mr Glaskin being depraved or corrupted after reading the novel, will the Minister give consideration to making it available to other members df the community who also may not be depraved or corrupted?
– It is quite well known to every honourable senator that I have released this book to Mr Glaskin under certain conditions, so that he may read it for a particular purpose, although it is a prohibited import. He has agreed to abide by the regulations so that he may read the book and obtain from it any information that will help him. As regards whether he will be corrupted, as the honourable senator shows such an interest in this subject and as he comes from my State, I advise him to have a look and see whether Mr Glaskin becomes corrupted. In addition, let me say that some 3 years ago Mr Glaskin endeavoured to bring in a book which was a prohibited import, and was refused permission. After many complaints he said that he would leave the country if he were not allowed to read the book. For the honourable senator’s information, I believe that Mr Glaskin is still in Australia - in fact, in Western Australia.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer whether the Treasurer has seen the document headed ‘Labor’s Health Proposals’ which was circulated yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Treasurer aware that the document seeks to set out the comparative costs of the present health scheme and the one suggested by the Australian Labor Party? Are the figures set out in the statement accurate? Is it a fact that if the scheme were put into effect Commonwealth expenditure would be no greater than under the existing scheme?
– It was only a short time ago that I had an opportunity to see the document. An analysis of what I have been able to read up to the present time indicates that it would not be accurate to say that the costs would be as the Opposition suggests. I reserve my right to refer again to this subject. I shall be speaking in the Budget debate and shall have an opportunity to carry out a more detailed analysis. It would not be appropriate at question time to analyse the scheme. Having had some experience of hospital administration, it seems to me that the cost factors involved in such a scheme would mean that the subscriber would have to meet added costs rather than lesser costs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister.inCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that in the Budget for the last financial year the Government announced that it would provide a $350,000 loan for the installation of a pipeline from the Jardine River to the Bamaga Aboriginal settlement on the Cape York Peninsula? How is it that 12 months later, according to the Minister’s written answer to me yesterday, negotiations for the loan are still proceeding? Why has work not yet commenced? Who is responsible for the delay?
– As is obvious from the honourable senator’s question, yesterday he received from the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs a very detailed reply to his question concerning this pipeline. I shall repeat what was said, because I believe the reply revealed that this work is in progress. The Minister said:
Negotiations are still in progress on conditions of the loan of $350,000 to the Queensland Government for a project entailing the installation of a pipeline from the Jardine River to areas of the Northern Peninsula Reserve. The loan is intended to hasten the development of the area for the benefit of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inhabitants.
As the Minister informed the honourable senator yesterday, the negotiations are still in progress. When further information is available I shall endeavour to inform him accordingly.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report that many meatworks in New South Wales are expected to close down shortly because of the deterioration of our beef export situation in the United States of America? Has he also seen a statement attributed to the Chairman of the New South Wales Meat Exporters Association to the effect that the situation is more serious than was thought even as recently as last week and that with very few exceptions production for export to the United States during the next 12 weeks would end almost immediately? If this is the situation, does the Minister agree that the livelihood of many people engaged in the meat industry is likely to be affected?
Can he say what action can be taken or is being taken by the Government to keep these meatworks in production?
– I saw in today’s Press the statement mentioned by the honourable senator. I have not had an opportunity to obtain a detailed reply from the Minister for Primary Industry in connection with the matters raised in the rest of the question asked by the honourable senator. I will try to obtain some information for him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, follows a previous one aSked by Senator Greenwood in regard to cost factors of the proposed health scheme referred to in the document circulated by the Leader of the Opposition. Would it be correct to presume that this added cost factor could be met only by taxation?
– I raise a point of order. This question is outside the concept of how questions should be asked. The honourable senator asked: Would it be correct to presume something? Standing Order 99 does not permit honourable senators to ask for an inference, a presumption or an opinion. I submit that the question is out of order.
– I support the point of order taken by Senator Cavanagh on the ground that he has mentioned and on the further ground that the Minister, in his reply to the previous question on the same general subject matters, has indicated already that he has not had time to study the document, that he would want to do so and that- he might say something about it at some other time. Now he is asked to make some assumption as to whether the plan which he has not studied would involve increased taxation. I suggest that the whole question is ridiculous.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I will let the question go to the Minister. He can answer it as he sees fit.
– I would not add anything to what I have said already on the matter. At a later hour today, in the Budget debate, I propose to make some reference to this matter. I will pick up the point made by the honourable senator. I am quite sure thatI will be able to demonstrate where the cost will actually fall in relation to this proposed scheme.
(Question No. 1351)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has any consideration been given to amending the provisions of the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act 1959 and the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Act 1963 which provide an unreal limitation of liability to a maximum of $15,000 compensation to dependants in case of fatal air accidents involving negligence.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has had under active consideration the matter of increasing the limit of damages recoverable for death or for personal injury to passengers on domestic aircraft engaged in the categories of carriage to which Part IV of the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act 1959 and the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Act 1963 apply. The Government has reached certain conclusions on the matter.
All of the States have passed Acts applying Part IV to carriage on intrastate services to which the Commonwealth Act does not extend. Under the terms of all the State Acts excepting Western Australia, any amendment of the Commonwealth Act to increase the limits of liability would operate to increase the limits of liability under the State Act in respect of intrastate operations to which it applies. It is, therefore, considered desirable that the States should be consulted before any amendment of the Commonwealth legislation is made.
It should be noted that the liability of the airlines under this legislation is absolute and is not dependent upon proof of negligence by the airline or its employees.
(Question No. 1384)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Debate resumed from 26 August (vide page 337), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1969-70.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1969.
National Income and Expenditure 1968-69. upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add: and that the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
– When this debate was adjourned I had referred to a meeting of the Australian Conservation Foundation which was held in Sydney recently and I had quoted a resolution agreed to by that Foundation relating to the need for investigation into many problems associated with the sea off the coast of Queensland, the problems associated with the Great Barrier Reef and many other matters relating to the sea in that area. I support the Foundation’s request for an independent inquiry before any hard and fast policy decisions are arrived at. There is great need of a long and scientific investigation into all problems associated with the seas off our coast.
– They are starting to drill on the Reef.
– The drilling is not starting on the Reef. No permits to drill on the Barrier Reef have been granted. The only permits granted so far have been permits to drill in areas off the main Reef. I mentioned these points when we were debating the Coral Sea Islands Bill but I wish to elaborate a little further now. We need to know what are the tidal effects over all seasons of the year, and what they have been over a long period. We need to know the habits and movements of fish and other marine life in the areas off the coast. We need to know ocean temperatures and all about the flow of ocean currents.
I believe that the proposed panel should have on it an oil expert to investigate matters pertaining to drilling for oil. We do not know whether oil exists or is likely to be found on the main Reef or on any of the isolated coral reefs. We have never been told whether this section of the earth’s crust is thin and brittle as it is in the Santa Barbara area. We do not know what chemicals the oil interests have developed to mop up or dissolve oil spillages, accidental or otherwise, since the ‘Torrey Canyon’ episode. If any have been developed, we do not know whether they are effective or what are their effects on marine life. We must know all about ocean movements to be able to evaluate knowledge on these things as it comes to us. Oil slicks have been discovered off the Queensland coast already. They are believed to have been caused by oil tankers cleaning out their tanks in Australian waters. The cleaning out of oil tanks within a certain distance of the Australian coast is prohibited but apparently some tankers have been doing this within the prohibited area.
Dealing with the question of drilling, I should like to quote parts of a report of an interview with the Managing Director of Ampol Ltd, Mr W. M. Leonard, as published in today’s ‘Canberra Times’.
The article states:
Oil companies drilling on the Great Barrier Reef would take additional precautions as the result of campaigns by conservationists, the Managing Director of Ampol Ltd, Mr W. M. Leonard, said yesterday.
I think the people who are concerned about the conservation of the Reef have done very well’, he said in Townsville.
They have put their case and I think the Government, Ampol and Japex are going to take extra care to see a leak does not occur.’
Ampol and Japex are engaged in an off-shore oil exploration programme in Queensland.
Mr Leonard said that the latest techniques developed by the oil industry would be employed to ensure that there was no leak off-shore.
T am all in favour, and so is my company, of protecting the Reef, he said.
I wish to speak further on scientific investigation into all aspects of the Great Barrier Reef, including the waters round the Reef, and the Coral Sea Islands. In this regard, I wish to quote from an article that appeared in today’s ‘Australian’ entitled Ship to double ocean research’, which states:
Military and civilian underwater research will be doubled by 1974 when Australia’s first specially built oceanographic vessel goes into service.
Navy plans to build and equip the ship at a cost of almost $17m were announced last night by the Defence Minister, Mr Fairhall.
Two-thirds of the ship’s sea time will be given to studies aimed at sharpening anti-submarine techniques. The rest will be shared by civilian agencies and academic projects.
It is to be a very expensive and sophisticated ship which will take 5 years to build. I think that is far too long to wait. I have been informed that the work could be done much cheaper by a smaller vessel with less crew. The ship will have to operate over a considerable period of time to achieve the required results.
People in the region of the Great Barrier Reef have informed me that, despite what we heard yesterday from one of the Opposition senators, the greatest risk to the Great Barrier Reef is the risk of an accident to one of the large oil tankers that go up and down the coast. Quite a few of these ships are using the coastal waters. There is the risk of a collision with another ship or the holing of a ship on a rock or on the coral. It has been reported that about 10,000 tons of oil escaped when the Santa Barbara blowout occurred, whereas 100,000 tons of oil escaped in the ‘Torrey Canyon’ disaster. For that reason I believe that a much greater measure of control should be exercised over the oil tankers that ply off our coast. I know that it is very difficult to control these oil tankers when they are in international waters, but I contend that something should be done, because the risk of accidental spillage is becoming greater every day. I contend also that spillage from oil tankers would do more damage to the Great Barrier Reef, to marine life and to the beach resorts on the Australian coast generally than anything else. That is why I think the expert committee should look into the aspect of what could happen if a large oil spillage occurred.
Committees claiming to be protectors of the Reef are already in existence and are supplying many different opinions as to what action should be taken. Some of their spokesmen claim to be experts in the matter. I suggest that none of these committees or their members is in a position to speak authoritatively on how the Great Barrier Reef should be preserved. They have not carried out any lengthy scientific investigations into the effects of the things I have mentioned. There have been a lot of reports about the effect that the Crown of Thorns starfish is having on the Reef. It has been said that the taking of giant clams in the area has upset the balance of nature and has allowed the Crown of Thorns starfish to multiply. From information that I have been able to gather, some of the damage to the Reef alleged to have been done by the crown of thorns has been caused by big cyclones in the past. People in a position to know have said that. There is a big difference of opinion on this subject and until there has been a thorough investigation I do not think many of the so-called experts will be in a position to know exactly what is happening. I have heard that people have never seen the crown of thorns in parts of the Reef in the far north and that they do not know what it looks like. I have heard it suggested that the crown of thorns is spreading in the southern areas, but I should like to read to the Senate a report which appeared in the Press in Bundaberg only a couple of weeks ago. Under a heading ‘Starfish invasion doubted’ the report stated:
Some aspects of reports about the spread of crown of thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef off Bundaberg have been questioned by local skindivers.
The divers who have visited the reefs for more and 10 years said that some recent statements about the crown of thorns starfish appeared to be misleading. An article recently appeared in a Sunday newspaper stating that a Bundaberg skindiving club had reported starfish infestation at Boult Reef.
The statement was made by Dr Robert Endean, reader in zoology at the Queensland University, who planned to visit the Reef as a result of the report.
Bundaberg skindivers club, the only divers’ club in the district at that time denied having made any statement to Dr Endean about starfish.
When starfish infestations were reported from North Queensland a few years ago the club offered to keep a watch for any build-up of crown of thorns on reefs off Bundaberg.
From then, until the last time local skindivers were on the Reef about a month ago, no significant increase in starfish numbers had been noted.
Skindivers said today they were surprised to hear the Boult Reef and Lady Musgrave areas were now considered to be infested.
There always had been crown of thorns starfish on the Reef off Bundaberg and Musgrave and Boult Reef lagoons always had contained large areas of dead coral, they said.
The skindivers had been watching for a significant increase in the starfish and had not noted any significant increase in the areas of dead coral.
The report confirms that there is a big difference of opinion about damage to the Reef. Consequently, I support the suggestion that we should obtain as much information as possible from the expert committee which has been proopsed. When we have found out what the committee can tell us we will be in a position to decide some of these things.
– Before we drill?
– We will be in a position to decide what drilling should be permitted and whether the crown of thorns is a real menace. We will have the answers to many other problems, such as the proper utilisation of the harvest of the sea in the Reef areas and in the vast new Coral Sea territory in respect of which we have just claimed sovereignty. I suggest that at present we are not in a position to have any real knowledge about this problem or about the problems of drilling. I repeat that the one permit to drill which has been given for an area near Proserpine in Repulse Bay is for an area which is nowhere near the Reef; the area is in a mud estuary in Repulse Bay and is a considerable distance from the Whitsunday Islands and many miles from the main Reef. I should like to refer to the following words of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his concluding remarks on the Budget:
This financial year will take us over the threshold of the next decade, the 1970s. From an economic point of view, the prospects are basically favourable. The new resources being opened up must add increasingly to output both for domestic use and for export. Our productivity has risen and will continue to rise. Migrants are pouring in and the workforce is building up rapidly. We are attracting a good flow of capital from overseas. Our reserves are reasonably strong and, despite monetary and trade disturbances abroad, our exports are growing, diversifying and reaching out into still wider markets.
In our part of the world are many millions of people who are potential purchasers of Australian products. As the standard of living of these people rises - and we should do all we can to bring that about - we must be in a position to trade with them to our mutual benefit. This Budget will help to make it possible to continue development and prosperity in Australia. The Budget will maintain the confidence of overseas investors which has been a notable feature of Australia’s progress for 20 years. The Government is sure to be returned to office on 25th October and Australians can look’ forward to continuing into the 1970s the great march of progress which started in December 1949. I support the Budget and oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
– One thing the Government cannot look forward to is being returned to office on 25th October. If any proof of the likelihood of that melancholy happening overtaking the Government were necessary, it is provided by this Budget. I support the amendment moved by Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. It states:
At the end of motion add: and that the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families;
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools;
it ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres;
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures; and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements’.
The validity of that five-pronged attack on the Budget has been established up to the hilt by the speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in another place and by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I propose in the time available to me this afternoon not to roam at large over the provisions of the Budget but to direct my remarks to its inadequate, defective and distorted education proposals, particularly in relation to schools. The Budget estimates direct Commonwealth expenditure on education during 1969-70 at roughly $265m, an increase from expenditure of about $192m in 1968-69. About $63m will be spent on the Commonwealth’s own services, including the Department of Education and Science, the Australian Universities Commission, the Australian National University, colleges of advanced education and those in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. About $165m will be for payments to the States, an increase of about $57m on last year’s allocation. That increase of $57m includes $16.3m in the present year for per capita grants to private schools in the States. Roughly $40m of the increase of $57m is for general purposes. About$3 6m, compared with $32m in 1968-69, is for scholarships and allowances.
The effective way to test the Budget, whether in the area of education or in any other area, is to see what the needs are and what the Budget achieves. It is no good talking about figures if all they do is to conceal the real position. In relation to education I have no hesitation in saying that we should resist the temptation to be anaesthetised by statistics because the magnitude of the sums involved here obscures the magnitude of the problems that are left unsolved. The needs of education at every level in the Australian community are real and urgent. In the course of my remarks in this debate I propose to document those needs, if such documentation is needed, because it has been established by teachers, by educators, by parents, that in every area and at every level of our education system there are staggering deficiencies.
Tested by those needs this Budget is hopelessly inadequate. It has a fatal flaw, a monumental omission, not by accident but by design. This Government has shrugged off the staggering problems facing government schools in every State. It has done that when in the same breath it has granted $16. 3m, or $24.5m in a full year, on a per capita basis, to all private schools, rich and poor alike, irrespective of needs. One of the central difficulties one has in dealing with this Budget is that the Government has acted upon a distorted picture of the Australian education problem. It has concentrated its assistance in one area and on principles which we find unsatisfactory. In due course I shall state what the Australian Labor Party has in mind in relation to Australia’s education problems when it becomes the Government on 25th October next.
This Government is still complacently patting itself on the back for comparatively modest achievements in the past 5 years. For 14 years until 1963 this Government, which has been in office since 1949 - far too long - took no interest in education. Sir Robert Menzies, as Prime Minister, turned his ample back on all education problems and on all efforts to interest the Commonwealth in education other than in the sphere of universities. By the simple public relations technique of talking about figures as though they meant something real, the Government has managed to persuade some people that what it has done in the field of education represents something novel and unprecedented. In fact the Government is claiming credit for policies which it came to espouse within the past few years with all the enthusiasm of a reluctant dragon. It was not until the pre-1963 election period that we had the promise of aid to private schools and government schools for science blocks.
– What was the Opposition’s proposition? What was Labor doing in those days?
– In which days?
– In 1963. What was Labor’s programme then?
– The Minister has been interjecting a good deal. In 1963 we were advocating a Commonwealth ministry to deal with education and science, on which the Australian Government had turned its back for a decade. The Minister should keep quiet about this because I know a little more about it than he does. Our policy has always been to help children wherever they are. The Minister should stick to censorship and little things like that. The Commonwealth has been involved in education, in a real sense, for only about 5 or 6 years. I would be the last to say that nothing has been done but I would be the first to say that, measured against needs, what has been done has been hopelessly inadequate. What has the Government done on this occasion? It has turned its back on 75% of the population, the children who go to State schools. By making grants on an erroneous per capita basis to rich and poor private schools al’ike, the Government is either hopelessly inept, if you want to be flattering, or incredibly cynical, if you do not want to be flattering. It is one or the other.
The Labor Party believes that there must be a complete reassessment of the priority to be given to education in Australia’s national life and national planning. The first thing to do is to recognise that there is a crisis in education. This Government is not interested in needs; it is interested in political results for carefully directed expenditure.
– And votes.
– And votes. I said political’ results’ and by that I meant votes. Therefore the Government’s priorities are not based on educational considerations. The Government’s cynicism on this occasion is, as I have said, monumental. Its formula ignores needs, and in the sense in which it has acted it has actually discriminated against children in government schools. As I think the New South Wales Teachers Federation has said, the Government has treated the public school system with contempt. What is necessary is a programme of massive assistance to State schools.
In recent times we have had very careful documentation of the case. I deal first with technical schools. The President of the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria, Mr George Lees, has been very active during the month of August. He has made several public statements. I mention this because it is necessary to see whether the Government has any reason to pat itself on the back. Mr Lee states, firstly, that one-half of Victoria’s 103 technical schools need complete re-building or immediate extensions, and that only 19 Victorian technical schools have satisfactory permanent accommodation. He believes that $5Om is needed urgently to be spent on buildings and site works. The technical schools at Bairnsdale, Castlemaine, Echuca, and Brunswick are so bad that he says they should be bulldozed immediately and rebuilt. He says also that a major campaign by teacher and parent organisations is warranted because of the desperate position of the school building programme.
My colleague, the Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in my own State of Victoria - he is Leader of the Opposition there - has publicly challenged both the Federal Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Federal Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to visit some state schools, particularly secondary schools, in the inner industrial areas of Melbourne. Within a 5 mile radius of Melbourne, he states, there are obvious claims for assistance in the State education system.
– What about Sydney?
– 1 will deal with Sydney in a moment. In South Melbourne children are spread through sub-standard temporary accommodation in old primary schools and the only answer of the Victorian Department of Education to this situation is to move the third form to Richmond High School some miles away. Obviously there must be emphasis on the needs of pupils in all schools. This Budget in a lopsided way deals with the position in private schools not on a basis of need but on a flat acrossthe board basis and, in doing so, completely ignores the position of the State schools.
There has been a lot of criticism of the basis of the allotment of aid to private schools and I will come to it presently. For the moment I am dealing with the needs of some areas in the State school system. In Victoria parents decided at the end of 1968 that conditions in one school in Fitzroy - it was not exceptional - were so intolerable that they would take the unique step of indicating to the Government that unless the situation was rectified as a matter of urgency they would not send their children to the school at the beginning of the 1969 school year. The children concerned come from low income families. They begin life with a very considerable cultural and econo mic deficit. We believe that the educational institutions which have been provided should compensate in terms of educational endowments for the inadequacies of the children’s social background. At some of the schools about 60% or 70% - sometimes even 80% - of the children are migrant children. Mr E. W. Tipping, the distinguished correspondent of the Melbourne ‘Herald’, described the conditions in these schools as horrifying, like an asphalt jungle and so on. Parents are asking: ‘Is this a fair go for our children?’ and who could say ‘yes’? I could go on multiplying the instances.
The Australian Teachers Federation in its pre-Budget submission, reminded the Government of the serious shortcomings in education in government schools all over Australia, as outlined by the Australian Education Council, which consists of the Ministers for Education in the various States, in a document presented to the then Prime Minister in 1964. It said:
The serious shortcomings . . . still prevail, namely:
schools are short of qualified teachers;
many teachers are inadequately trained and qualified for the job they are asked to do;
States are finding it difficult to provide the new accommodation needed;
there is a large accumulation of make-shift, sub-standard and obsolete school accommodation; and
equipment and supplies of all kinds are required in increasing quantities.
The Federation drew attention to the fact that:
The continued reliance (by State governments) on parent bodies to provide the schools with essential equipment and material results in serious inequalities of opportunity and treatment in education.
Only last week on a talk-back programme on 3DB, the Victorian Minister of Education, Mr Thompson, was asked why the Federal Government had not extended to State schools its per capita grants for private schools. Mr Thompson replied that he wished the Federal Government would make such grants. I do not know precisely what requests have been made by State Premiers and State Ministers for Education. But I am sure that the state systems urgently need similar provision to that which is being made for non-government schools in this Budget. They have not received it. They are entitled to ask why. They are entitled at least to say that there should be some basis of proportionality. Even those people who do not believe in the diversion of public funds to private schools or in a separate private school system are entitled to say to the Government: ‘If you propose to do this, you should give government schools three times as much if you are merely applying some proportionate basis’.
That is what the Labor Party decided at its recent Federal Conference in Melbourne in dealing with this matter in a constructive way. We said that, if emergency grants are to be given, as between the private sector and the public sector any emergency grant made by the Commonwealth for education should be such as to give government schools a sum that is not less per student than any grant made to non-government schools. We do not accept the per capita basis of distribution of funds as a just one or a sensible one, because it is indiscriminate and gives to prestige schools the same kind of assistance as it gives to needy parish schools and as it denies to government schools. The record of this Government in relation to the science laboratories legislation shows that many schools that look after the education of the children of some of the wealthiest people in Australia have received massive assistance from public funds when at the same time underprivileged children in underprivileged school slums have received just the blank stare of Government indifference. To suggest that some of these established, wealthy schools are in any relevant sense needy schools is a misuse of language.
In New South Wales the position is very similar to that in Victoria. The Teachers Federation and the parent organisations have gone to a lot of trouble to document the needs. Earlier this year a committee was appointed by the New South Wales Government to investigate and advise on class sizes and teaching loads in government secondary schools in New South Wales. It was not a committee appointed by the teachers or the parents. It was a committee appointed by the State Government. It had a distinguished chairman in Sir Walter Scott, the President of the Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce, the Chairman of the Australian Decimal Currency Board and the Governing Director of W. D. Scott and Co. Other members of the committee were Mr Coady the Chairman of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales; Professor Walker, Professor of Education at the University of New England; Professor Philip, Professor of Education at Macquarie University; Miss Dear, a former principal of the Fairfield Girls High School; Mr Beckenham, an Assistant Director-General in the Education Department of New South Wales. It was hardly what one might call a committee of dissenters. It was a committee appointed by a Liberal government to report on this question. Its report was very revealing. It was concerned with the problem of reducing the size of classes. It said:
By international standards in comparable countries, the number of large classes (i.e. 36 and over) is much too high in New South Wales, and it is most unlikely that this number can be substantially reduced in the next 5 years unless immediate special measures are taken.
It went on to say:
This report was made on 2nd May 1969. The committee drew attention to the extraordinary difficulties in recruiting and holding teachers. It said this in relation to New South Wales:
A total loss of about 12% of the teaching service, as was the case in 1968, seems to us to constitute an almost intolerable drain when viewed in the light of the output from teachers colleges and universities.
It suggested a number of constructive measures to remedy the situation.
– What is the cause?
– The committee says that the cause is twofold, namely:
The introduction in recent years of two major reforms which are highly desirable on educational grounds: The new system of secondary education
That would be the Wyndham plan -
Each of these was predictably costly in personnel: The first because of the extra year of schooling, coupled with the elective system, and the second because of the inevitable 1 year’s delay in output from training colleges.
This is not to ascribe blame only in one quarter. But the fact is that the crisis is enormous. I have mentioned conditions in the two most populated States. I have with me material that would amply demonstrate that similar conditions exist in every Australian State. What is the good of the Government patting itself on the back, preening itself, quoting elaborate sets of statistics to show that things are better now than they were some years ago and saying that the Government is making a major contribution?
I have barely enough time to say shortly what the Australian Labor Party proposes to do in relation to education when it becomes the Government on 25th October.
– Which year?
– It is all very well for honourable senators opposite to interject, but the fact is that we do have an education policy, which is a lot more than one can say for the Government or for the Democratic Labor Party which, in a foreshadowed amendment that covers a wide range of problems in Australia, has not thought fit to offer one word of criticism about the present state of the education system in Australia. The six or seven pronged attack by the Democratic Labor Party on the Government’s Budget does not mention education.
What we of the Australian Labor Party want to do is to involve the Commonwealth, for the first time, in a more direct way in the financing of education than it has been up to date. We would establish an Australian schools commission which would examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools - I hope no honourable senator wants to complain about that - and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities. Our policy statement continues:
In making recommendations for such grants to the States, the Commission shall have regard to -
The primary obligation of Governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard open to all children.
I hope those words are clear -
The numbers of students enrolled in the various schools.
The need to bring all schools up to acceptable standards.
The need to ensure optimum use of resources in the establishment, maintenance and extension of schools.
We want to do that because we want to survey the needs. The thing that this Government does not want to do is get at needs. It runs away from needs as though they were a plague because that would involve the assumption of major responsibilities in the financing of education. The Government likes to pick off areas where it can win votes by providing comparatively modest expenditure. At the same time it turns its back on the majority of students.
– They are words, just words.
– They are words but they are nobler than those of the honourable senator who is interjecting. These words do not come only from the political Opposition. Today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ contains a well considered article on the Commonwealth’s failure in education and the way in which the recent Armidale conference on higher education has posed the Government with some real problems which, according to the author of the article, it is likely to duck. The writer makes the point that a national committee of inquiry into all fields of education, which the Labor Party has sought for a decade and more and which we would give to this Commonwealth schools commission to carry out, would highlight and dramatise for public consumption the serious deficiencies in the Australian education system. That is why the Government does not want such a commission. The author of this article said:
Scattered tales of leaking classrooms, lack of accommodation for teachers at isolated country schools, unheated schools and crowded classrooms of migrant children add up to a cumulative unease among members of the public interested in education.
But they don’t have the same general impact as an official report would have, nor do they carry the same imperative for action for a Government whose operating philosophy for 20 years has been to do as little as it could get away with.
I endorse every word of that proposition and of that comment. The Australian Labor Party would want to see this principle of needs carried throughout the entire education system. We would want to apply it to help the pre-school field. We would set up an Australian pre-school commission to recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to ensure that pre-school centres are located, staffed and equipped on the basis of need and priority. That is the only way in which to do this. We should not have pre-school centres located only in the better off areas. They should also be in the needy areas. That is where they are wanted. The Government is merely tinkering with this problem of pre-school education.
The same applies to the education of handicapped children who need special education. There is not merely a need for per capita grants. Some of these private institutions may be eligible for some assistance under the proposed per capita grants to private schools; we have not yet seen the full details of this proposal. We need such grants right across the board. We need comprehensive measures to deal with the problems of disadvantaged children, because the Government responsibility in the field of education includes the responsibility to provide an effective education for people with special handicaps, be they physical, mental or social. We should take special steps to help people in such circumstances, and the Labor Party strongly favours such measures.
It is one thing for the Government to talk about what it is doing and to say that it is interested in all children, but rhetoric is no substitute for action which in this case means funds. This Budget will bring no cheers but only bitterness and resentment from the parents of about 75% of Australia’s school children whose needs are not classed as urgent compared with those in non-government schools, even those which cannot be regarded as needy. The great omission of this Budget is that it has not done anything substantial to help children in government schools. When this Government is defeated on 26th October, very few tears will be shed in the education world. The people will then have opened the way for the kind of forward-looking new deal in education which a Labour Government would offer, not to a limited section of the population but to all children, with priority to those in need in all schools in every part of Australia.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen), in supporting the Australian Labor Party’s case against the Budget, which sets out a statement of accounts of expenditure and revenue for the nation’s 12 million people, used the time at his disposal to deal with some facets of education. Once he was nationally minded enough to get away from inner Melbourne and the Victorian boundaries and to refer to something in Sydney. It has been amazing to note, since the rise of academics to power in the Labor Party in the Senate, the number of hours we have spent debating facets of education. The most unbiased listener to the parliamentary broadcasts or reader of Hansard would say that in the great majority of debates on education initiated by the Opposition the Opposition has been soundly thrashed. This is because of the great and growing policy on education that this Government started not this year, not last year, but many years ago. It has been developing that policy since Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, that enlightened statesman, saw the need, firstly, for the Commonwealth to enter into the field of tertiary education.
Probably, if time permits, I shall touch on education but I had expected to follow a member of the Opposition back bench and I had prepared an all-round talk on the Budget as it affects people. In the Liberal Party we believe that people matter. I noted that Senator Cohen, as he was coming to the end of his speech, made a slip of the tongue and gave the wrong date for the coming election. The election will be held on Saturday, 25th October.
– What did I say?
– You said 26th October. In the 16 years that I have been in this Parliament I believe that this is the first time that a Prime Minister has made known, openly and without equivocation, six to seven weeks before an election the day on which he and his Government would go before the people for their judgment. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had every constitutional and traditional right to keep this information to himself, if he so desired, for another 2 or 3 weeks. But, being the man he is, being the leader he is, being the leader of the Party that is in office, he was quite prepared to say: ‘Here is our Budget and in 7 or 8 weeks time an election will be held.’ For the first time in my experience, I believe, it can be said literally that we are fighting an election for another place - not for this place - on the Budget that has been presented to the people.
This Budget, this statement of accounts, this spelling out of fiscal policies, is 14 days old today. What has happened in those 14 days? Naturally the political commentators, through the Press and over the air, have given varying views. That is their just right. I would hate to think that writers on political matters in the Press or commentators over the broadcasting and television media had to spell out things in favour of or against the Government. There has been a mixture of criticism, praise and doubt, but in general the political commentators have conceded that the Budget shows the buoyant prosperity of the Australian nation as at this time. Now I turn to what the financial writers have said about the Budget. They have not all agreed. This is natural. How could one financial writer follow another and express the views of the one that went before? He would be told that he did not have a mind of his own. We have had varying degrees of criticism and of praise, various forecasts of what could happen because of the Budget and various forecasts of what will happen because of the Budget. It is in that light that the electors of Australia are being prepared to cast their votes, unfettered, in secret ballot on Saturday, 25th October. 1 believe that it is only right, if one is to support the Government and the Budget that it has prepared, to deal with the various aspects of the Budget. Firstly, 1 take page 1 of the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). He pointed out that the gross national product of this country had increased by 12% in the year under review. Any developing nation that can, with authority, cite that increase in gross national product can be happy to say that its people are living in a prosperous country and in buoyant times. Later on, to indicate that this is the general situation operating throughout Australia today, the Treasurer estimated that the receipts for the Commonwealth Government would rise by $825m or 13.5% over the previous year’s figures. That shows a great buoyancy in revenue. But the Government has taken some cognisance of the fact that it has to budget in good accountancy terms and with traditional outlook. Expenditure is rising by only 7.2%. Government expenditure in a developing country, with greater emphasis of responsibility being put on the central government, is increasing by only 7.2%. This is at a time when the people are being coaxed by the Government to believe that things are not good. lt seems to be the wish of the Opposition to spread fear among the people of Australia. Practically every honourable senator opposite speaks about hard times in February 1970 if this Government is returned. I believe that that is a premeditated lie and that those who spread that prophecy have no real belief that there are, in any shape or form, bad, restrictive economic times before this country in the near future. 1 have heard them name February of next year. This is to try in this pre-election period to instil in the minds of the electors of Australia some kind of fear. This is woolly thinking on the part of the Labor Party, in my belief. I do not believe the electors of Australia will ever fall for this type of fear complex. Election after election they have seen how this coalition Government has been able to manage the affairs, the fiscal policy and the economy of this country so that each year more people are better off than they ever were in this country’s history.
– There is a difference of opinion among university economists.
– I shall not return to the beginning of my speech. I give all latitude to university economists to disagree. I want to refer to the Budget and to what the Government is doing. An area in which Senator Gair and other members of his Party have always shown great interest - as have all members of the Parliament, I believe - is the amount of money that is or perhaps should be or perhaps might bc made available for social welfare. The Budget proclaims an increase of $192m in the amount available for these payments. 1 will not read, for propaganda purposes, the various increases in social service, repatriation and health benefits that will be made available. I must say that, since Budget day, the Press of Australia has been very good in that it has given quite a lot of prominence to material which helps to inform the people of their new rights to some benefit from Federal resources. That is in addition to the actions that the departments are taking. Each day more and more people are becoming aware of the new benefits that wilt be available to them as soon as the Parliament passes the necessary enabling legislation.
One can go right through the Budget Speech of the Treasurer and find that the theme is the people. The people were predominant and uppermost in the outlook of the Government when it framed this Budget. It is not a class Budget; it is not a deflationary Budget. It is a Budget for the people and it is a Budget which will help the greatest number of people and it will increase that number who receive assistance by way of social service and other grants. Of course, one feature of the Budget that is being received favourably is the liberalisation of the means test. I hope that, whatever government is in power, steps will be taken, as the economy of the country permits, gradually to liberalise the means test. The Budget refers to a tapering off of the means test. We are getting to a stage where this term is fairly relevant. I cannot follow the Labor Party’s policy on social services, but if its policy is still the abolition of the means test directly it comes into power, I am opposed to that. I believe that at this stage it would be wrong the have to force on the people the great amount of taxation that would be required if, all of a sudden, the means test were abolished. I make it quite clear that I am opposed to the complete abolition of the means test. I have dealt with this more fully when I have dealt with social services legislation. I refer to it at this point because the Labor Party seems to have an extraordinary attitude towards the means test. Its members want to abolish it so far as social welfare is concerned, but it appears now that they want to clamp on a means test so far as education is concerned. Therefore, they cannot claim consistency at any rate in their political outlook towards the means test.
Another aspect of the Budget that impresses me is the continued interest of the Commonwealth Government in the housing of the people of Australia. This interest in actively taking part in helping to house the people of Australia other than through the war service homes scheme is a relatively recent one for the Commonwealth. I know, of course, that for many years now money has been given to the State governments by the Commonwealth under an arrangement agreed upon between the Com monwealth and the States. But this Government has many firsts to its credit, and I suppose that over its term of 20 years in a rapidly developing nation it is only right that it should.
A recent first to which I wish to refer was the introduction, in 1964, if my memory serves me aright, of the grants to young people and widows within the age limit to help in the buying of a home. This has been an outstanding success. Only recently I read a statement by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) that in the period since the introduction of this help, this encouragement, this new gift from the nation to the young people, some $64m has been paid out to 147,000 citizens of this country. By this provision, these people have been given an impetus to be thrifty and to save money. This is a very good line for the Commonwealth Government to take. Instead of forcing people to save, it offers them an incentive to save their money. Goodness gracious, as we all know there are plenty of firms and businesses trying to get young people to spend and to waste all1 their money in these days of high salaries; but this Government came out with something new in this excellent legislation designed to encourage young people to save so that they can start buying a home. When they have saved the amount required by the relevant legislation, and provided that they have complied with certain requirements, they receive a Commonwealth grant of $500. As I have said, as a result of that legislation, $64m has flowed into the home owning sector of the community, which is good from an economic point of view throughout the whole sphere of industry; and 147,000-odd people have enjoyed this benefit.
One could go on mentioning other benefits that are flowing to the people. I think it was only last year that the Government increased to $8,000 the maximum advance available to those entitled to loans under the war service home scheme. This has meant that the Consolidated Revenue Fund has had to pay out more money to meet the demand resulting from this not over generous but more generous treatment by the Government in its efforts to help those who have given service to the country in time of war to get into their own homes on their return from service. The provision for this form of assistance has been increased to S55m this year.
We have heard - we will get plenty of this from the Opposition because it is good pre-election talk - various Premiers being very vocal in their criticism of the Commonwealth Government. Of course, it is very easy to criticise the hand that feeds one, although I believe there is great room for improvement in the uniform taxation system that is now operating. I suggest that the best brains both inside and outside the Parliament should be drawn together to see whether we can evolve a better system of Commonwealth-State financial relations and so stop the haggling and theatrical talk that goes on before, after and during Premiers Conferences and meetings of the Australian Loan Council. I believe that neither the Premiers nor the Prime Minister or Treasurer, from whatever parties they might come, can enjoy these annual arguments and the bitter reactions that develop during and after these conferences. However, the Premiers should be grateful - and members of the public who hear the criticisms of these Premiers should be reminded of the fact - that the largest absolute increase in any of the main avenues of expenditure by the Commonwealth in this Budget is a rise of $186m in payments to the States. This brings the total amount to be made available to an estimated $l,643m, which represents an increase of 12.8%. The six Premiers, whichever Parties they belong to - at the moment none of them belongs to the Labor Party - should show some appreciation for the fact that the moneys to be made available to them by the central Government under the agreement into which they have entered have increased by 12.8% in a year.
It would not be my normal practice if, in the limited time at ray disposal, I confined my remarks simply to praising the Government or being critical of the Opposition. I believe that when examining this Government’s management of the people’s money it is our duty, if we are able, to offer some constructive criticisms; and one would hope that if constructive suggestions are offered either in this chamber or in another place those to whom they are directed shall be made to read them. If those in command believe the criticism to be justified and that faults have been discovered action should be taken to ensure that similar criticism this time next year will be invalid.
I am concerned when I read this passage in the Treasurer’s speech:
Departmental running expenses are estimated to increase by $43m to nearly (443m or 10.6% higher than last year’s expenditure. Close to $19m of this increase is attributed to higher rates of pay.
No-one can blame the Government for higher rates of pay. It is very easy indeed for people in private enterprise and members of Parliament to attack public servants. I have found a higher standard of efficiency in the Public Service when dealing with it as a member of Parliament than I have found in many businesses in private enterprise when dealing with them as an ordinary citizen. But that does not mean that there is not a need for employees of the Commonwealth Public Service - from the highest public servant in the land to the most lowly clerk - to realise that when they are wasting money and materials they are wasting the possessions of the people, because the Commonwealth Government can handle only money that is owned by the people.
I do not have with me at the moment statistics showing the number of Commonwealth Government employees, but there would be several hundred thousand of them. With this number of employees laxity can occur, and the bigger the Public Service grows the more widespread it will be. We, as members of Parliament, are always getting requests: ‘Could this section of the Public Service be represented in this city? Could this department be opened up here? Could the Commonwealth come in here?’ So the Commonwealth Public Service is spreading throughout the land and the number of its employees in this wonderful city is greatly increasing. I believe that a lot of the money that is now wasted could be saved if there were the true dedication to duty by all that is required. I do not believe that any government should be pleased - indeed, it should not be even satisfied - to have to come before the people of Australia at the end of a financial year and say that departmental running expenses are estimated to increased by $43 m or 10.6% in the next financial year. This is what makes people annoyed and worried; this is what disheartens the tax-paying businessman who is trying to do the right thing by his clients and his shareholders. These people believe - and in my opinion they have every good reason to believe - that in some instances the money that they are paying by way of taxation is being wasted. I believe that the very system of collecting some forms of taxation is wasteful. One aspect of national importance that I have mentioned before in the Senate is that, in my belief, the whole system of levying and collecting sales tax in Australia should be examined with a view to getting more money at less expense both to the Government and to private enterprise from which it is collected.
I oppose the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. I am amazed that at this time - on the eve of a Federal election - the only possible alternative government should move an amendment that is couched in such loose and platitudinous terms as the one that is before the Senate at this moment The amendment does not deserve to be read out and does not deserve to be examined closely. I believe that it is the mere mouthings of a Party which, in respect of its economic and financial policies, either does not know where it is going or has lost heart. It realises that it cannot get into government, so it does not worry about really determining a policy that it will adopt if it is elected. I believe that the people of Australia will be pleased to continue being shareholders in Australia Unlimited under the guidance of the Government that is now in office, led by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who is a fighter for the people, because it is the people to which this Government is paying particular attention. [ give my full and unequivocal support for the Budget.
– One thing that the Budget surely must prove to the people of Australia is that the Australian Labor Party is the Party of political reform in this nation and that it in fact gives the lead to every major social reform that is contemplated or implemented. In case anyone is in doubt about that statement, let us look at the political events of the last month and put them in true perspective. Firstly, in the last week of July the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party was held. It was a very successful conference and one attended by rank and file members of the Labor movement, selected and elected by their confreres within the Party to represent them. After consideration and discussion the Federal Conference presented to the people of Australia a blueprint for action - a publicly acceptable blueprint for the future development of Australia and the welfare of Australians generally.
Immediately the Federal Conference was over we started to hear the old worn out cry that has been oft repeated for so long by senior Ministers in the Government - we even heard it from the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) - of: ‘Where is the money coming from?’ I interpolate to say now that since the presentation of the Budget not one question has been asked about where the money is coming from so far as financing the Labor Party’s proposals is concerned. Anyone studying this political document - the Budget - who has any knowledge of political affairs will appreciate that on this occasion the Treasurer and the Government have been caught out. For a day or two after the Federal Conference of the Labor movement the Government thought it would be able to tell its old negative tale and to sing its usual worn out song. Indeed, so much did it think this, that the day after the Federal Conference of the Labor Party had concluded the Reserve Bank of Australia announced steps to restrict bank credit and to make money dearer. The Reserve Bank increased the bank interest rate to 7.75%, which is the highest interest rate for more than 35 years, and called for the private banks to deposit $62m with it. The Reserve Bank was frightened of the inflationary spiral that was developing. The Governor of the Reserve Bank went on record as saying that some tightening of monetary policy was desirable. I venture to suggest that that type of economic policy would have been written into this Budget but for the facts that, firstly, this is an election year and, secondly, that the policies and platform of the Labor Party were so well received by the Press and the people of Australia generally. It was with this background in mind that the Cabinet decided it had to do something to counter the platform of the Labor Party. When one reads the Budget speech of the Treasurer one finds economic warnings by him in the preamble. At the same time one finds that handouts are offered by the Prime Minister and some of the other Ministers in his Cabinet to pensioners, primary producers, fertiliser companies and other selected groups. But warnings have been issued by the Reserve Bank about the economic situation that is likely to develop this financial year. These warnings have come out since the Budget was published. At page 5 of the annual report of the Reserve Bank the following statement appears:
On the domestic front, evidence of increasing pressure on domestic resources and the generally high level of private liquidity indicate that policy in 1969-70 will have to pay particular regard to the preservation of internal balance while maintaining overseas confidence in Australia and sustaining the underlying growth of the economy.
Against that background is it any wonder that the ordinary members of the Australian community are genuinely asking themselves whether this Government can really be trusted? That question is being posed not only on economic considerations but also because of many other facets of this Government’s maladministration.
The Government’s external policies are inconsistent, to say the very least. Three years ago we were spending millions of dollars on the Vietnam war to stop the downward thrust of Chinese Communist aggression, but today, according to the Government, we are spending millions of dollars not to stop the downward thrust of Chinese Communist aggression but to keep South Vietnam free. No longer do we hear, as we did 3, 4 or 5 years ago from Government Ministers and other Government supporters, any mention of the old worn-out phrase ‘the domino theory’. Under the Government’s policy our young boys are being called up and are being sent to fight in Vietnam ostensibly, according to this Government, to keep South Vietnam free. Very regrettably, some hundred have had to die. But at the same time we are giving to the Republic of Indonesia economic aid to the extent of SI 5m a year to help that country build up her economy and to help her rid herself of some of the shocking poverty that one can observe readily and easily when one goes to that country. No tags are attached to the aid given to Indonesia; as far as I know it can be spent by the Indonesians as they like.
So far as I and the Labor movement generally are concerned, our aid programmes will have to be stepped up if we are to make this world a better place for all to live. But how inconsistent is this Government’s policy when on the one hand it is spending millions of dollars and hun dreds of good Australian lives in South Vietnam to keep South Vietnam free and, on the other hand, it is giving millions of dollars of aid to Indonesia which does not recognise the Government of South Vietnam. According to a reply given to me yesterday by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), who represents the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) in this chamber, the Indonesian Government does not recognise the South Vietnam Government but recognises the Government of North Vietnam and also has a representative of the National Liberation Front in Djakarta. Because of this inconsistency in foreign policy the people of Australia are entitled to ask how consistent our Government is and how much longer its inconsistent policies can be relied upon. In the last couple of days we have heard much about the defence of Australia, but it is so much poppycock to tell Australian people that our boys must fight and die in South Vietnam to keep that country free when our nearest neighbour, Indonesia, to which we contribute millions of dollars each year in aid, recognises North Vietnam but not South Vietnam and has a representative of the National Liberation Front in Djakarta.
– That is the domino theory in reverse.
– Exactly, and that is why the Australian people who have studied the matter closely and carefully are asking how consistent this Government is in any of its policies.
I turn now to one or two aspects on the home front. It is true, as I have said already, that pensions have been increased by SI a week, but I point out that pensions generally have been increased by SI a week in every election year since a conservative government came into office in 1949. As far back as 1951, just before an election, the Menzies Government increased pensions by SI a week. I am sure no Government supporter will argue that there is any comparison between the value of SI today and SI in 1951. Whilst there is this hand-out of Sl per week for single pensioners, prices and profits soar. The Government does nothing, or appears to do nothing, to protect the public from the rackets that are going on and the racketeers who are exploiting the ordinary man and woman in the Australian community. Even some of the newspapers have awakened to what is going on. So rampant are the rackets that the afternoon metropolitan daily newspapers in Sydney, the ‘Sun’ and the ‘Mirror’, have established sections within their newspapers to enable readers to make inquiries about their situation with respect to some suspicious activity and to enable those who adopt a get rich quick attitude to be publicly exposed. Together with the vast majority of Australians I have always been under the impression that if a person paid an account promptly, as it were in cash, most retailers and other business houses would give him a discount of 2i%. But now, apparently, there is at least one association - possibly there are more - which is blatantly exploiting people who pay their debts promptly. On 24th July 1969 an organisation calling itself the Stainless Steel Products Manufacturers Association sent out a letter to what it called its ‘Confidential A List Distributors’ in which it said:
This letter is being addressed to YOU, as a Confidential ‘A’ List Distributor of this Association’s products in New South Wales, to remind you of the terms and conditions of appointment to this Preferential List.
It is a condition of franchise that sales of Stainless Steel Products manufactured by members of the Association shall be made at prices not below the ‘Minimum Selling Prices’ listed on the Price Lists of the individual members. Settlement terms to your customers are ‘net’, but If it is customary for your company to allow a 2i% Settlement Discount, a figure of approximately 3% should be added to the listed selling price to provide for this.
The names of members of the Association are then set out. The letter concludes:
Please acknowledge receipt of this letter to the Secretary.
– What point is the honourable senator making?
– I am making the point that there are rackets in this community. In this case a trade organisation has told its retailers that they should add 3% to the price to be paid by any person who seeks a 2i% discount for early settlement. If the honourable senator will tolerate that sort of thing it is no wonder that the Australian community is becoming suspicious of the type of political philosophy that he represents. I have knowledge of other price set-ups and merchandising policies of manufacturers which dictate to retailers the conditions of sale of their products. The young man building his home, the chap furnishing his house, the family man, the battler and the middle income man are all thrown on the mercy of these people and, at the same time, are expected to pay astronomical rates of tax.
The Budget was brought down in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 12th August. At page 65 of the House of Representatives Hansard of that date a table is set out of the estimated taxation revenue for 1969-70. It is estimated to be $6,236,800,000, an increase of almost S800m, or 14.7% over the revenue for 1968-69. The estimate of receipts from sales tax for 1969-70 is $567m, an increase of 14.8%. But estimated revenue from income tax on individuals in respect of personal exertion under the existing legislation shows an increase of $475,534,000 or 20% over 1968-69. So the burden is increased on the battler, the middle income man and the low wage earner because of the economic policies pursued by this Government and the current inflationary spiral.
Recently I received from the Treasurer a letter dated 11th July after I had written to him about the incidence of taxation on public servants generally. It illustrates the hopeless and negative attitude that the Government adopts towards the middle income earner. I put to the Treasurer a case on behalf of public servants who had been in touch with me concerning the effects on them of personal income tax. The Treasurer wrote:
Whether or not there can be scope at any time for reducing rates of personal income tax depends on the general revenue requirements of the Government and on the extent to which these can be met from other taxes. As to (he Commonwealth’s general revenue requirements, while one cannot predict what the rate of growth of these will be in the future, it cannot be overlooked that there are strong and persistent demands on the Commonwealth for increased expenditures in many fields, including assistance to the States, social services, developmental works and so on. The question whether a reduction in the weight of personal income taxation should be sought by raising a larger proportion of revenues by means of other taxes is one of considerable complexity which evokes differing views, particularly as regards the effects such a change should have on the incidence of taxation. However, the Government is looking closely at the whole subject of the level and structure of taxation in this country and you may be assured that your comments will be borne in mind in the course of this examination.
Apparently the examination did not bear fruit or produce any recommendations for inclusion in this Budget because there, is still great inequity in the taxation structure. This inequity has existed for a long time under a series of conservative governments and will continue whilst this Government remains in office.
I turn now to the state of the arts in this country and what has been put forward by the Government and the Treasurer to improve the present situation. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has made great play of an allocation of $2,850,000 this year for grants and other support to organisations through the Australian Council for the Arts. Of that amount $100,000 is to be provided to establish an interim council to investigate and report on the form and location of a national film and television training school. The money is not for the establishment of such a school. It is clear from the Budget Speech and a statement by the Prime Minister issued shortly thereafter that the money is merely for the investigation of such a proposal and a report on its establishment after the investigation has been carried out.
A sum of $200,000 is being set aside to formulate plans to encourage the making and exhibiting of short experimental films. Again this sum relates to the embryonic stage of encouraging the making and exhibiting of short experimental films. Again the sum is set aside for the purpose of formulating plans, but not to get on with the job. All told a mere $300,000 has been set aside for such a vital industry to Australia, out of a total amount of $2,850,000 allocated under the general heading of the arts. If it were not such a serious matter it could be regarded as a joke, but it is a serious matter and the Government’s handling of it is turning it into a national tragedy. The Government obviously has chosen to ignore the recommendations of the Australian Council for the Arts which were put to it earlier this year by Dr Coombs, that an Australian film and television corporation be established to administer a fund to make loans available to makers of films and television programmes - the people actually producing films, employing writers, artists, technicians and all the other people who participate in the making and production of a film. But no. The Government decided that such a fund would not be established this financial year, despite the recommendation put to it on 26th May by Dr Coombs when he announced at a United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation seminar that his Council had recommended to the Federal Government a Sim 3-point plan to assist the ‘development of an Australian film and television industry. A comparison of the Government’s activity in this industry in Australia with what is being done elsewhere shows that Australia is very much behind the field. Canada launched a film development corporation with SI Om. I am told that the interested parties in Australia who initially approached the Australian Council for the Arts wanted a corporation with about $5m behind it. After the Council had considered the recommendations and submissions that had been made to it, it reasonably put forward a Sim 3-point plan.
The Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television - the Vincent Committee - as long ago as 1963 recommended a Sim fund. Despite all these recommendations the Government chooses to ignore the principle involved and takes the easy way out, namely, making available the sum of $100,000 for the purpose of investigating and reporting - I emphasise those words - on the location of a national film and television training school, and $200,000 for the mere formulation of plans to encourage tha making and exhibiting of short experimental films. Frankly I think it is a national disgrace that this Government has taken so long to do so little about the establishment of such a vital Australian industry.
The Reserve Bank of Australia in its annual report referred to the necessity to maintain overseas confidence in Australia. If we are to sell Australia properly the best way to do it is by the development of a healthy, viable and effective Australian film industry. After great difficulties extending over 10 years the British have done it. The Swedes have done it and now are making some thirty-two feature films a year for export. The Americans have done it. The Japanese have done it. Even the Koreans have done it. The tiny Republic of Korea makes some thirty feature films a year. All of these countries earn export income from the industry, and I join with the Labor movement in saying that if those countries can do it so can we in Australia. An incoming Labor Government will do it.
Ours is one of the largest trading nations in the world and about the only one without a film industry to assist in promoting our image abroad. In addition to their own indigenous film industries all of the countries that I have mentioned also have educational television stations and educational television programmes. They all have colour television. Yet in this Budget the Australian Government is boasting about spending a mere $300,000 on an investigation into the establishment of a film industry after we of the Opposition have been warning it about the nagging situation here for at least the last 7 or 8 years.
May I use the words of the highly regarded and esteemed Australian Mr John McCallum who, a little over a week after the Budget had been brought down, wrote a letter which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 20th August. I am sure that Mr McCallum is known to most Australians. His letter carried the heading ‘Government must set up Film Fund1 and, amongst other things this is what he had to say:
In ignoring the main issue and handing out a sop, the Government has made another sidestep in line with the prevailing policy of seeming to match and mend for political expediency instead of building for the future with courage and foresight.
What is urgently wanted first and foremost to make films in Australia is the establishment of e Government borrowing fund - not a subsidy - and submissions to this effect have been made to the Government for years now. This borrowing fund is vitally necessary because the accepted and traditional source of investment in film production -that is, from distributors - is not available in Australia.
These facts have been put to the Government time after time, practically week after week, yet despite the recommendation which has been put to it by the Australian Council for the Arts that a fund of Sim be set up this Government has made great play on the fact that it has now made some $300,000 available for an investigation into the production of short experimental films and for an investigation into the location of a national television and film training school.
I intended to say something on the subject of education but my time now is very limited. However, I point out that members of parents and citizens associations whose children attend State schools are sick and tired of receiving letters from the New South Wales Minister for Education stating that consideration will be given to their requests for additional equipment - quite reasonable requests - when funds become available. They are tired of seeing their children being taught in unsatisfactory and sometimes unhealthy conditions, in overcrowded classrooms, in schools lacking even essential equipment. Why is it, for instance, that children at the Kogarah High School in the Barton electorate recently went on strike against the appalling conditions which exist there? The pupils had the full support of their parents and teachers.
Parents are tired of working in parents and citizens’ associations and raising thousands of dollars for essentials for their schools while the large and wealthy greater public schools - they are well known to us all - receive generous handouts from the Government. The parents of the children attending those schools are well able to afford the luxury of such education. On behalf of the hundreds pf thousands of people who have children attending state schools I raise objection to the imbalance in the Government’s educational proposals contained in the Budget They discriminate heavily against the humble man in the Australian community.
This Budget has highlighted the Government’s inconsistent policy. It shows the Government’s abysmal failure to tackle the future with courage and foresight. The Government has proved to the electorate at large that it is a government of political expediency and it certainly deserves the wrath and condemnation of the Australian electorate. I have pleasure in supporting the amendment which has been moved in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy).
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
JJ8.0] - In rising to speak in this debate, which began on 12th August when I moved That the Senate take note of the papers’, I indicate to the Senate that I am not closing the debate. At this point of time I am exercising my right to speak to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). In the nature of things, I may not consider it necessary to speak at the closing of the debate, but I wish to make it perfectly clear that at this time I am not closing the debate.
Senator Murphy gave the Senate a set piece speech, if I may be permitted to say so. It was a set piece of destructive criticism put together and joined to what, in fact, was a set piece amendment identical with one moved in another place by the Leader of the Opposition there (Mr Whitlam). That amendment has been circulated and is in the papers of the Senate. Senator Murphy’s speech, in fact, had no, or practically no, relation to the amendment he proposed. It would be impossible to discover in his speech any argument, or any argument in depth, which related to the five-point amendment that he moved. He referred to part of the Budget as being a ragged patchwork quilt. I would reply to that by saying that a rereading of his contribution to this Budget debate and his amendment demonstrates a patchwork quilt par excellence - a contribution lacking in sustained argument or thought and, if words stilt have the same meaning and understanding as normal people give to them, demonstrably misleading, to put it bluntly.
As I have said at Budget time in the past, a Budget is a conspectus, a tabulation or, if you like, a synopsis of the movements of the economy during the previous financial year up until 30th June. It reflects the state of the economy. It then goes on to reflect and express policies for the future, as this one does on a wide range of matters. In this Budget emphasis has been placed on social welfare. In an economic situation of high prosperity and full employment, this Budget is designed to share some of the growing wealth with the less fortunate. It reflects the Government’s continuing policy of extending help to the aged, the sick and those in need. It helps in the field of education. It provides increased financial assistance to the States. It provides for the expansion of development activities and additional assistance to industry and makes proper provision for defence.
Senator Murphy’s amendment says that in the opinion of the Senate the Budget is inadequate, and then, it states a series of reasons - five in all - for that preface. I propose to deal with those reasons in the order in which he has given them, and in that way to demonstrate on the one hand the falsity of his statements and on the other the accuracy of what I have already said in regard to the positive side of the present Budget. His first point was that the Budget increases taxation and health and housing costs for families. That is not true. Oddly enough, if we refer to the very speech that he made we see this statement, as recorded at page 202 of Hansard:
It is true that the Budget has not increased rates of taxation.
Then he went on to say:
But the Government is doing nothing to stop inflation.
So, whereas the amendment that he moved says that the Budget increases taxation, in the speech that he made he said that it does not increase taxation. I point out that, far from increasing taxation, the Budget has reduced taxation.
I propose to refer to some of the reductions that are in the Budget. The Budget will reduce taxation in the case of recipients of pensions in a notable way. It reduces taxation in relation to primary producers by allowing deductibility for income tax purposes of the cost of plant and equipment in the year in which it occurs. It gives some relief in estate duty for primary producers, which is calculated to assist in the discouragement of the breaking up of economic rural holdings because of the need to pay estate duty. The Budget proposes taxation relief on the basis of income tax related to age allowances and proposes a further liberalisation to residents who are of qualifying age, namely, 65 years in the case of males and 60 years in the case of females.
The Budget, within the framework of the proposed tapered means test, not only will give significant and substantial increases in pensions but simultaneously will give significant reductions in taxation to be paid by pensioners with other means. I propose to give some examples. I am doing this in response to the suggestion in the amendment that taxation has been increased. In order to aid explanation of the examples that follow, with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the effect of the tapered means test, firstly, on a single pensioner and, secondly, on a married couple both of whom are pensioners; a table showing a comparison of tax payable at ordinary rates with tax payable under the present and proposed age allowances; and a table showing aged persons benefits resulting from proposed changes in pension and age allowance, firstly, for a single person and, secondly, for a married couple.
Let me given a few examples. I will give only a few because time is limited and the tables 1 have incorporated in Hansard set out the position. Under the tapered means test, for example, a single person eligible for pension by virtue of age or invalidity and with no other means will receive an increased pension of $1, making a pension of $15 per week. A pensioner can have other means as assessed up to $10 per week without affecting his pension; that is to say, he can receive a pension of $15 per week and up to the present could have another $10 as means as assessed, making a total income with pension of $25 per week.
Under the system operating at present, the pension would disappear at the point where his private means as assessed amounted to $25 per week. Under the new scheme of the tapered means test, however, with private means as assessed of $25, he will receive $7.50 per week. Thus his income and pension will amount to $32.50 per week - an increase of $7.50 per week. The same single pensioner at the present time, with private weekly means as assessed of $25, could pay tax of up to $23.98 per annum. Under the new age allowance provisions, he will pay no tax at all and therefore has a saving of up to $23.98 in tax each year. In other words, he receives an extra $7.50 per week in pension, which amounts to $390 a year, and pays no tax. He therefore saves up to $23.98 a year in tax and, in fact, he could be $413.98 per annum better off. If we add 2c to round off the amount and call it $414, he is $7.96 per week better off.
Let me now turn to the question of the married age pensioner couple, who will each receive an increase of 75c per week. The maximum rate of their combined pension will be $26.50 per week in lieu of $25. If they have other income - that is, means as assessed - of up to $17 per week, their pension is not affected. Under the previous means test, after that their pension would progressively reduce until their means as assessed reached $43.50 per week, at which point the pension would disappear. But, under the new tapered scheme, they will receive $13.25 pension, or a total of $56.75. In fact, all eligible married pensioner couples with means as assessed between $17 and $70 per week will receive increased pensions as a result of the introduction of the tapered means test; that is to say, whereas under the previous means test married couples with means over $43.50 per week would receive no pension, the new proposals not only give additional pension in the $17 to $43 bracket but also give new pensions to pensioners in the group between $43.50 and $70 per week. But let me come back to the married couple whose means as assessed are $25 a week and who, under the previous means test, would have received $18.50 pension a week, making a total of $43.50 a week. Under the new tapered scheme they will receive $22.50 pension a week plus their income of $25 a week, making a total of $47.50.
– No one will know what you are talking about.
– That is a matter of judgment. They will receive an increase of $4. They paid no tax before and they will not pay tax under the new scheme. If you take a married couple who are eligible for pension and whose private means as assessed, be it from superannuation or any other source, are $70 a week, they of course receive no pension. From the third table incorporated it can be seen that under the previous age allowance provision they would pay $312 a year in income tax but under the new age allowance provisions they will pay only $159.64. There is a saving for them of $152.36 a year in taxation. In truth the table shows that there are savings in taxation for single pensioner taxpayers with means as assessed under the scheme between $27 and $46, and some of these taxation savings are quite significant. For instance, with a weekly means as assessed of $31 a single taxpayer under the previous age allowance provisions paid $95.68 in income tax. Under the new scheme the tax payable will be $26, a saving of S69.68.
There are many examples which I could draw upon to demonstrate - the significant and quite important taxation concessions that people will be entitled to. Because I want people to know of this great and important social welfare reform, I would advise as many people as possible to consult the incorporated table to see what benefits may accrue to them from the new proposals either in pension or tax reduction.
Senator Murphy cannot get around the fact that no increases in tax rates are proposed in the Budget. He tried to divert attention from this fact by some misplaced sophistry. Thus, while acknowledging that it is true that the Budget has not increased rates of taxation, he went on to say:
But the Government is doing nothing to stop inflation.
He then advanced the interesting proposition that, if costs increased by 10% and the citizen received a wage increase of 10%, under progressive rates of income taxation, without any change in the law, taxation would increase by more than 10%. Thus he concluded that the citizen is not even square and falls behind. I think that is a fair trans position of his argument. Of course, the defect in his argument was that the illustrative figures on which it is based bear no relationship at all to the real facts of the situation. During the past year the consumer price index increased by 2.9%. In the March quarter of 1969, for example, average weekly earnings were 8.6% above the level of the year before. For 1968-69 as a whole the increase in average weekly earnings was about 7.25%. Thus the rate of increase in incomes is substantially greater than the rate of increase in costs. To use a hypothetical case to imply that the two are equivalent is, I suggest, to misrepresent the position.
The Leader of the Opposition was critical of the Government’s health proposals. He went on to say that Australians were crying out for the scheme which had been researched so well - I would like honourable senators to reflect upon the use of the word ‘researched’ - and presented so powerfully throughout the electorate by Mr Whitlam. It is significant that once the focus of critical examination was put on the Labor scheme by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in another place yesterday, Mr Whitlam found it necessary last night to publish a document in which he says he is able authoritatively to up-date costs of the present Labor health scheme.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. We have had various rulings, and I now seek your ruling as to the right of a senator to read a speech other than when introducing a Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - The point of order is not upheld. I think the Minister is using copious notes.
– I might point out that last Wednesday night Senator Cavanagh’s leader used copious notes, just as I propose to do. Whether he likes it or not I still happen to be the Leader of the Government in this place. This is a rather interesting point, because this same matter was raised this afternoon. It was evident then that there was no wish to bring it out.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I do not want the Minister to canvass the ruling I have given.
– I am not canvassing your ruling, Sir. I appreciate it. It is significant that once the focus of critical examination was put upon this Labor proposal which had been documented so carefully we found that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place brought out what is known as an up-dated report in relation to it. I want to make some quick reference to it. This is germane to the statement which was made by the Leader of the Opposition in this place. It should bc abundantly clear that under scrutiny this proposal begins to fall apart. During question time this afternoon I indicated that I would make some comment about the proposed scheme which now turns out not to be documented but to be very tentative indeed.
It is a scheme based upon compulsion and could operate only under some monolithic government agency which would fix the price for health care and tax people accordingly. A point that comes readily to mind is the effect it would have, for instance, if the scheme were workable, on the people of Queensland where no fewer than 50% to 56% of the people do not contribute to a voluntary health schemecertainly not to a voluntary hospital scheme - because under the law of that State they are not required to do so. Under Labor’s proposal, if it ever became the law of the land, they are doomed to be heavily taxed for something which they at present receive freely under State law. The Labor scheme, as it is stated, has been calculated on a H% surcharge on taxable income. In everyday terms that would mean an 8% rise in the personal tax of the man in the street, the ordinary taxpayer. In any event, the figure of $149m put in the document circulated by the Labor Party was based upon the Scotton and Deeble proposals which in turn were based on figures and taxation returns for the year 1965-66. On current estimates, therefore, the figure of $149m probably would not represent 8% but would be closer to 10% tax of personal income. In any event, whereas under the present arrangement the medical benefit scheme is a voluntary one for which the contributor can claim his contributions as a taxation deduction, under the proposed well scrutinised but now tentative Labor scheme the citizen would not only not get the deduction on taxation but would be called upon to pay tax.
Of course, there was no reference by the Leader of the Opposition to dental and pharmaceutical benefits. We now find from what has happened in another place that Mr Whitlam says that they are long term objectives. A dental service alone would probably cost in the order of $55m and a free pharmaceutical system in the order of an additional $20m. It is true, as stated, that there is a $100 cut-off figure but that would mean that regardless of his income a person would be taxed according to the H% .
In contradistinction to this half-baked, incomplete and not understood proposal which is to be a tax on the public, the Government is proposing a scheme to provide free health insurance benefits for families whose income is below $39 a week. The Whitlam scheme, of course, has no regard for the medical profession as such and would be completely dependent upon its co-operation. Is it likely that the medical profession would be prepared to co-operate in such a Socialist scheme as is proposed? Finally, I would say that the scheme provides for taxation on pay-roll, so employers also are to be taxed. What effect would that have on the small businessmen? A man running a small business would be taxed in a personal way. He would be taxed personally and also as a business man.
The Leader of the Opposition contended that the Budget was inadequate and that it increased health costs for families. The validity of this statement, as it stands, is not self-evident. The Budget does not impose additional health costs on families. The only Budget proposals affecting health costs are certain measures that would reduce the costs of particular groups to which I have referred already. In fact, one of the odd things about Senator Murphy’s contribution to the debate was that, having talked about increased taxation and having said that there was not increased taxation, and having talked about health matters, he went on to say that he welcomed the measures of social justice in the Budget I say to him that quite obviously he cannot have it both ways.
Now I want to deal with the matter of the balance of payments. Here the Leader of the Opposition referred to the growth in current account deficit during recent years, details of which are contained in the Budget balance of payments tables, and he went on to say:
Capital inflow from the United States and elsewhere has been necessary to prop up this financial structure or it would collapse. The inflow largely is not for development but to cover our deficit in trade and other transactions. Australia is not paying its way.
He is clearly mistaken. Capital inflow permits Australia to import additional resources from overseas and helps us to achieve a more rapid rate of economic development. By world standards, Australians are high savers already and capital inflow provides a supplement to our savings. Capital inflow enables Australia to achieve a higher rate of investment and economic growth than otherwise would be possible. He has arrived at his mistaken conclusion because he has overlooked the link between the current account and the capital account in the balance of payments.
He has looked only at the current account. The balance of payments is a set of two interrelated accounts - a current account and a capital account - showing our transactions with the rest of the world. When investment capital flows into Australia it is recorded in the capital account, but the capital inflow is used to pay for the real resources imported from overseas to satisfy the higher level of investment. These additional resources are recorded as goods and services in the current account. Thus the flow of capital from overseas and the related flow of goods and services from overseas offset each other in the balance of payments account. One is reflected in the capital account surplus; the other is reflected in the current account deficit. Therefore we can expect to have a current account deficit because we are successful in attracting investment capital from overseas. I would have thought it was elementary that any country that has a strong inflow of profitable investment from overseas normally will have a balance of payments deficit on its current account. How else could it draw on the real resources from overseas from that capital inflow?
Senator Murphy also made reference to education. That is the second tier of this pedestrian amendment which was moved both here and in the other place. In its amendment the Opposition asserts that this Budget makes no considered or compre hensive approach to the needs of all schools. The honourable senator vainly attempted to lend weight to this contention and he seemed to rely on broad arguments which, nevertheless, are fallacious when one takes the trouble to look in detail at the financial provisions directed towards education in this Budget. His first point was that the Government proposes to do a great deal for independent schools but nothing for Government schools. Inherent in this proposition is the catch cry of the Australian Labor Party: ‘Government schools first’. Let me emphasise the true picture that the Budget presents. Firstly, this Government believes in the dual system of education - this dual system to bc operated by the Commonwealth and the States working hand in hand towards a steadily improving education system for all Australians. We should understand quite clearly that there is a constitutional permission for provision for independent schools. The whole of his argument is wrongly based. If one takes the precise provisions in the Budget one can see that his argument is wrong. The Budget shows the actual amounts to be given. The amount provided to the States for ordinary schools is in excess of the amount provided for private schools.
It is for these and other reasons that the Budget this year proposes, for the first time, a subsidy to independent schools at the rate of $35 per primary school pupil and $50 per secondary school pupil per annum. This subsidy is to be paid to the State Governments. It will be offered to them as grants under section 96 of the Constitution for transmission to independent schools. The estimated cost of this new measure is $ 16.3m in 1969-70. To further refute the ALP’s proposition that the Budget makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools, I point out that over $265m will be appropriated in the Budget for education this year, or 38% more than last year’s expenditure. Further, the Government accepts the proposals of the Australian Universities Commission and of the Advisory Body of Colleges of Advanced Education for the coming triennium and, as a result, expenditure from all sources - Commonwealth, State and fees - will rise from the record $65 lm in the present triennium which ends at the end of this calendar year to not less than $9 10m in the triennium beginning on 1st January 1970. To further refute the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government has done nothing for government schools, I point out that the Budget provides $39.4m towards teacher training, included in which is the sum of $8m a year for capital to build teacher training colleges for State governments. This grant will be increased to $10m in the future and no matching contribution whatsoever is required from the States. 1 have very little time left to me - and 1 want to be reasonably brief in the circumstances - to deal with two of his other points in the proposed amendment, namely, that the Budget defers further development projects and urgent rural measures and that the Budget neglects industries based on Australian national resources and defence requirements. Over the period 1961-67 Australia’s annual rate of increase in gross national product at constant prices was 5.1%. This puts Australia in the forefront when we compare that figure with corresponding figures from the United States of America, 5.2%; the United Kingdom, 2.8%; Sweden, 4.4%; New Zealand, 4%; West Germany, 3.8%; and so on. As the Treasurer has justly pointed out, 1968-69 was an exceptionally good year for Australia. At constant prices, and discounting the adverse effects during the drought and the subsequent jump in production from the rural sector with the passing of the drought, we have achieved an increase in national growth of 6.5% over 1968-69. For the Leader of the Opposition to say that this Government is half-hearted in its approach to national development, as he does in the amendment that he moved even though he failed to support that statement with argument is, I suggest, a ludicrous proposition. For such an outstanding growth rate to have taken place, Australia’s resources must have been utilised intelligently and fully within any good government’s limits of national management. I could - and it may well be that I will have to do this on another occasion - refer to a whole host of developments that have taken place under the care of the present Government.
In the last decade the prospects for Australia’s growth have been transformed. To a significant extent this has been due to intelligent and widespread utilisation of our vast mineral resources. I want to get on record certain figures in relation to our mineral resources. The development can be demonstrated in the following clear terms: The total money value of mining production in 1968-69 was S820m. This figure, which includes the ex-mine value of iron ore, bauxite, black coal, manganese, copper, lead and zinc production, was an increase of 17.8% over the 1967-68 figure- a mammoth increase. Of this total figure, $633m was transformed immediately into export income, which is the important thing. This becomes very germane to the point made in the debate by the Leader of the Opposition. That figure of $633m represents an increase of 42% over the amount allocated last year. Let me refer quickly now to some of the major works currently in progress in the States. For the first time, water conservation works appear in the Budget as part of the total figure of $ 1,643m for payments to or for the States. The Budget also provides for grants to be made to the States under section 96 of the Constitution. The works towards which these moneys will go include, to mention a few, $20m for the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River in New South Wales; $6m for the Keith to Tailem Bend pipeline in South Australia; $57m for the Dartmouth Dam; $4m for the King River project in Victoria; and an estimated $5m is intended for advancement to the Western Australian Government for the Ord River scheme. This follows an amount of $5.1 m made available in 1968-69.
I am sure Senator Keeffe is aware of the contribution made to development of the Brigalow country in Queensland by this Government. Because I am trying to conform to reasonable terms with relation to time of speaking, I sum up in conclusion by saying that I think it must be abundantly clear that the criticisms offered of this Budget by the Opposition were empty. The details of the works and development that have taken place under this Government point up the weakness of the arguments put by the Opposition. We are able to traverse the complete spectrum of Budget proposals and confidently point out that each sector of the economy has been catered for and intelligently managed. The Australian economy is running exceedingly well at the present time and the Budget for 1969-70 will ensure continuation of full employment, continuation of the programme of high migrant intake, continuation of national development, and continuation of the sound approach to social welfare which has never been developed to the extent to which it is being extended by this Budget. I believe that the most certain way of ensuring a continuation of this prosperity, this state of full employment and this capability for national development in Australia is to maintain the form of government that we have here at the present time.
started off by twitting the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) with reading a set piece. If ever I saw an exhibition of a Minister delivering a set piece, I saw it from the Leader of the Government here during the last 33 minutes when he read his speech in defiance of the Standing Orders. I noted with interest that a ruling was given by a Country Party Chairman in favour of the Leader of the Liberal Party.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman - Order! I do not want you to canvass my ruling. If you want to oppose it, you must do so in the proper manner.
– I am not opposing it; I am praising it. I am merely saying that I like to see this co-operation at long last between the two parties. The Leader of the Government then went on to claim that the Budget was a synopsis of what is happening in the economy. He asserted that it detailed the state of the economy and outlined the Government’s policy for the future. What he should have said, if he wanted to be accurate, was that the Budget should have done those things.
But on this occasion, of course, with an election looming, all these things have been thrust to one side in order to bring down an electioneering Budget, despite what the economy demands as the correct policy for the future. It is interesting to note the way in which the Government, by endeavouring to refute the things that have been said, is desperately scrambling back into its crease before being stumped out.
Surely no-one will argue that prior to bringing down the Budget the Treasury, under the leadership of Mr McMahon, was issuing all sorts of warnings. Why, in his own paper, the Treasurer referred to the hypertension that was creeping into the inflationary situation in Australia. Yet, when he was interviewed on television, the Treasurer declined to say that this was a deflationary Budget. He also declined to say that it was an inflationary Budget. All he would say was that he could not tell at this stage what it was going to be.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) adopted a different attitude when he spoke the other night. Senator Greenwood seeks to interject. He has twisted enough words in the last few days. I shall be referring to some instances of that shortly, and he can just sit and listen to it. I will not overlook him. The Prime Minister had no such inhibitions as Mr McMahon had. He said that this was a deflationary Budget. And I emphasise that he said this after his own Treasurer had declined to say that it was deflationary. I repeat that the Prime Minister said that it was deflationary, that in effect it flew in the face of all the warnings that had been given prior to its introduction.
There is no doubt that it is a peripheral type of Budget, which proposes the distribution of money to people on the periphery. The Leader of the Government underlined or emphasised this fact in the set piece he delivered a short while ago. There is no doubt that the money will be going into quick spending hands. If that does not make it an inflationary Budget, I do not know what does. The Government boasts about the amount of money that it proposes giving to people on the periphery of the Australian economy. I agree that these people need it, and we applaud this action, but we say that if the Government had just taken up the slack in the value of pensions as caused by inflation over the last 12 months, at least half of the money that is provided for in the Budget would have had to be paid out on that one thing alone. If it now gives the inflationary wheel another quick spin by injecting this extra amount of money into the economy, we shall find in a few short months - with or without another Budget in the early part of next year if the Government is re-elected - that most of this money will be eaten up by inflation.
The Treasurer then by implication, seeks to justify this Budget by saying that even if it does have an inflationary effect the
Government has already taken steps to counteract this in that, by adopting other monetary means, it has been able to dampen down the inflationary trend. He points out that the reserves of the banks have been tightened and that interest rates have been increased. The Leader of the Government said that the increase in interest rates will not affect those people who are trying to pay off homes. I submit that if we increase the amount of money owing on homes in Australia it must increase the cost of living and put people buying homes in an almost impossible position. And these are not the periphery people; they are the ordinary young married people who are trying to buy their own homes.
But if the Government really had adopted these measures as a means of damping down inflation, one would have expected to see a Budget that complemented these steps, not counteracted them. This Budget, however, counteracts them. It will be most interesting to hear what the employers have to say when the national wage case is being heard. No doubt they will be saying to the judges hearing the case: ‘For goodness sake do not grant an increase in wages because that will add to the inflationary trend’. If an increase is granted, I do not want to see the Government crying on our shoulders and saying: ‘Ah, well, it was the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that was responsible. It granted an increase in the national wage case and that is the reason why inflation is getting out of hand’. Incidentally, we do not look like having the national wage case heard before the election takes place.
In this Budget we obviously have an example of politics versus the economy. Government members may argue as they will; I am certain that if there were not to be an election this year this type of Budget would not have been brought down. There certainly would not have been any cut in defence expenditure. The proposed increases in social service payments are good to the extent that they go, but, after having had no little experience in this place, I have developed a tremendous distrust of policies introduced on the eve of an election. We all well remember the policy relating to housing grants which was dreamed up suddenly during an election campaign. For months after the Government was re-elected it was sending for experts from the Reserve
Bank saying: ‘For goodness sake work out what we meant. What can we do to carry out our election promise?’ Finally the Government came up with this grant of S500 after not having had the faintest idea of how it proposed to carry out its promise. Everybody, including the members of the Government, knows quite well that if the proposition had been given more mature consideration a dozen better ways of helping the people in Australia who are trying to buy homes could have been found. The policy that was adopted did nothing more in my own State than merely push up the price of land to the extent of the grant provided.
Honourable senators will recall what happened with the FI 1 1 aircraft. The decision to purchase these aircraft was taken on the eve of an election. Six years have passed and Australia still has not taken delivery of them. I would say that the Government has got itself into a greater mess over the Fill aircraft than any other government over any other matter. Day after clay honourable senators on this side of the chamber have been asking questions about the FI 1 1 aircraft. We are told to control ourselves and to be patient, because somebody has gone over to the United States to investigate the matter and a report is expected in due course. I refer to these matters because I believe that the money of the taxpayers should not be spent merely to gain votes. This practice can be far too costly in the long run.
After being in office for 20 years the Government has decided to do something about the means test. There is to be what is called a tapering of the means test. I wonder where the Government got the idea from at this stage. Was it because the Australian Labor Party had grasped the nettle and said that it would introduce a national insurance scheme within the space of two parliaments? Why did it do so? The answer is that the policies the Government has followed over the last 20 years no longer have any relationship to the needs of today. The Government does not realise the tremendous progress that has been made and the tremendous changes that have occurred. There is no doubt that the policy decision and the statements of the Australian Labor Party forced the Government to make its very tentative approach. 1 am still not clear about what the Government means when it refers to a tapering of the means test. The means test has a Jong history. Mr Menzies, as he then was, once resigned from a Cabinet because he said a national insurance scheme was near and dear to his heart. The government of the day turned its back on it. As a result, he said that in all conscience he could no longer be a member of a Cabinet that turned away from this great plank of the old United Australia Party platform. One of the Government’s main planks in 1949 was that it would introduce a national insurance scheme. It has now made a hurried and partial attempt to remove some of the means test restrictions. The Government has to face up to this fact. It is trying to chide the Australian Labor Party over this issue. The Prime Minister said that the Australian Labor Party was not worrying about the areas of real need. He said that under Labor’s scheme a lot of money would go to areas other than the areas of real need. What has the Government done? It has increased some pensions by $1 a week and at the same time tapered the means test. It is inescapable that as long as it keeps fooling around with the means test it will come up against the problem of the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’.
There is only one answer to the problem and that is the one which has been grasped by Mr Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party - look after the people on the low incomes and introduce a national insurance scheme to which people will contribute out of their earnings during their working life. That is the only possible way to resolve the matter. As long as a means test is applied we will have the problem of the people who have nothing. If the Government is to match the amount of money that people with incomes will receive under the tapered means test with the pensions for others it will have to do a lot better than increase by Si the pensions of those people who do not have any income.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate referred to health insurance. My note of the words that he used to describe what he terms the Whitlam scheme ends: In contra distinction to this halfbaked not understood proposal.’ That was the way he described the Australian Labor Party’s scheme. That is his opinion. Let me quote to the Senate from the report of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, which is known as the Nimmo Committee. The Nimmo Committee made forty-nine recommendations, but the Government has grasped only one half of one of them. That is all it has done in its health scheme proposals. For 20 years the Opposition has been telling the Government that it is operating a scheme that will rattle to pieces under its own weight. Over the years the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has been saying that it is the best health scheme in the world. If it is the best in the world why is he now revising it? Why did the Government set up an independent committee under the chairmanship of a man of the stature of Mr Justice Nimmo to inquire into health insurance? The Nimmo Committee made forty-nine recommendations. Let us have a look at its first findings. The Committee reported that:
The operation of the health insurance scheme is unnecessarily complex and beyond the comprehension of many.
I repeat that the Committee reported that it was beyond the comprehension of many.
– Who said that?
– The Nimmo Committee when reporting upon the health scheme that has been operated by the Government over the years.
– The Minister for Supply said that it is a good scheme.
– The Minister for Supply said one thing and the Nimmo Committee reported another thing. Honourable senators can decide which one they prefer. Let me quote some of its other recommendations. The third recommendation states:
The contributions have increased to such an extent that they are beyond the capacity of some members of the community and involve considerable hardship for others.
The fifth recommendation states:
An unduly high proportion of the contributions received by some organisations is absorbed in operating expenses.
According to the Government it is the best scheme in the world. The Government has not done anything to improve the situation in the 20 years that it has been in office. Now we find that, as I have said, it has accepted one half of one of the forty-nine recommendations of the Nimmo Committee. Honourable senators opposite talk about taxation. Is the present scheme not taxation in another form? After people pay taxation the Government says: ‘We will not do anything for the health of your family until you contribute to an insurance scheme’. The Government has realised after 20 years that some people cannot afford to contribute to such a scheme. But it is only scratching the surface. What about the people who are in receipt of more than the minimum wage, which is roughly the figure the Government has picked, who fall into hard times? What about the people who, for honest reasons or a lack of ‘means, cannot at some time continue to contribute although they have been contributing for a number of years. I have a letter on my desk at the moment from a person who was unable to insure himself during one year and, as fate would have it, that was the time he suffered serious illness.
A lot has been said about defence. I cannot follow the Government’s thinking. In previous election years it said that it wanted to fight the Australian Labor Party on defence and foreign policy. On this occasion the Government reduces the defence expenditure. Somebody said that the reduction was a quirk of accounting. If honourable senators have ‘a look at the Budget speech of the Treasurer I have no doubt that they will find that the defence expenditure has been reduced this year for no other reason but the forthcoming election. The Treasurer said:
The Army will be authorised to enter into forward commitments this year with the object of acquiring additional arms and armaments. This authorisation could involve expenditure of up to $60m next year. . . .
The sum of S60m a year is a large amount for capital equipment. If that sum is a down payment it is very obvious that a lot of money will be spent over the next 5 years. I cannot follow the Government’s idea of a 3-year defence plan, a 1-year defence plan, a ‘we are continually looking at it’ plan or a ‘we are having a rolling look at it’ and so on. It becomes perfectly obvious that if it believes all of the things it has been saying about the downward thrust of Communism, the domino theory and the hungry hordes waiting to tear in upon us it should not be reducing its defence expenditure this year. Obviously it is reducing expenditure for election purposes.
The very thing the Government should be dodging is a stop-go defence policy. That should be avoided at all costs, lt fell into a trap with the Fill aircraft because of such a policy. Defence expenditure was pinned to $200m a year over the years. The Government tried to hold that down. Then it started to believe its own propaganda about Australia being ripe for invasion. On the eve of an election it rushed in to change to ‘Go’ the signal that had been ‘Stop’ for so long, and fell into this tremendous imbroglio of the Fill. One would have thought that if it wanted to taper off its defence expenditure it would have found plenty of other ways to do so. If one examines the Government’s thinking one will see that there are tremendous gaps in its defence policy. I do not want to keep repeating it, because it is so obvious, but surely to goodness a defence base should be established at Cockburn Sound. A lot has been said about the presence of Russia in the Indian Ocean. The coastline of Western Australia is one of the longest in the world. It stands out as plain as can be that Cockburn Sound is the obvious place for the establishment of defence facilities. Here is an opportunity to begin this project. There have been feasibility tests lo enable us to go ahead and do it. The Government says that it proposes to do something at Learmonth on the central Western Australian coast, but it docs not make any provision for it in this Budget. Why mention it if the Government does not intend to do anything about it under this Budget? Here is an opportunity to develop projects such as that. If the Government believes all the things that it has been saying, that we are not ripe for invasion and that there is no immediate threat to Australia, that we are going to become friendly and quite cuddly with the Russians, here is the opportunity to spend money on these projects.
While referring to the defence statement I come back again to what I said - that Ministers have been making statements which have created quite a furore in the chicken patch. Backbenchers are running about now trying to get the chickens back into position because they do not want to have to use the old Com bogy. But because of the defence statement they are in a little trouble. Mr Freeth said something and a few days later on a television programme he changed it and said that he would not say the Labor Party is a bunch of Corns. A couple of days later still he said: ‘I did not quite mean that. After all there are some, because they are ex-trade unionists and, of course, everyone knows that the trade unions are riddled with Corns from top to bottom’. At least that is the situation according to the Liberal Party. Senator Greenwood asked a question yesterday of which this was part:
Is it not a fact that, far from the Minister inviting Russia to join with Australia in a security pact or welcoming Russian activity to that end, the Minister has stressed that Australia’s policy is and has been to promote co-operation and collective security among countries of South East Asia, of which Russia clearly is not part?
In a very brilliant answer Senator Anderson replied:
What the honourable senator says is undoubtedly true.
That was a set piece with plenty of research behind it. In the course of his speech Senator Anderson said: ‘If words mean what they mean to the ordinary person’, and so on and so forth. Let us take the words used by Mr Freeth and consider Senator Greenwood’s interpretation of what is Australia’s defence policy. We will take the words to mean what they mean to normal people. Mr Freeth said:
If co-operation can be maintained and strengthened among countries of the region -
He was speaking of South East Asia - including, of course, Australia - we will have made important advances towards ensuring that South East Asia will not be a source of weakness in the total pattern of world security. If the Russian proposals prove to be in line with these general objectives, and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them with close interest.
Giving words their normal value, does that seem to anybody to mean that they do not want to enter into an agreement with Russia on South East Asia?
– The honourable senator cannot read that into the words on any interpretation. Try to justify it.
– Try to justify it? They were the words used by the Minister. But as Senator Greenwood is trying to justify the statement that he made, let us go back a little farther and quote a few more words. The Minister said:
In principle, it is natural that a world power such as the Soviet Union should seek to promote a presence and a national influence in important regions of the world such as the Indian Ocean area.
The proposals of Mr Brezhnev for collective security in Asia have not been set out in any detail. It appears that at this stage the Soviet Union itself is exploring reactions of other countries before trying to convert the idea into any firm or detailed proposal.
The objective which Australia has been working for over a period of time has been, as I said earlier, the development of regional co-operation to promote and sustain the security and economic advancement of all the countries of the region.
He finished by saying:
If the Russian proposals prove to be in line with these general objectives, and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them with close interest
This statement was a bit controversial. Some people did not like it and some people did like it. But in this situation we find Government supporters suddenly trying to scramble back into the crease because there is an election in the offing and thinking they will not be able to throw out the Com bogy and use the Com smear against the Labor Party in the forthcoming election.
Much has been said about taxation. Senator Anderson set out to prove that we were going to reduce taxation. But again, giving words their normal meaning, I cannot quite follow this. What we have said and what the Treasurer has said over a period of time is that the middle income taxpayers in Australia - to which I would add the lower income tax payers in Australia - have been hard hit by inflation and there has been nothing to adjust that period of inflation over the last 20 years. When this Government first came into office 20 years ago 5% of the taxpayers were earning more than $2,000, but today more than two-thirds of the taxpayers earn more than that amount. Does that not mean that these people are paying a greater proportion of their salaries in taxation? At $3,600 a year - very few Liberals would be down to that level - the tax on each $1 is 33c. The Treasurer has been pointing this out for a long time and finally, since presenting the Budget, he has been pushed into saying that he will set up a committee to look into this question to see what can be done about it. But this is a trend that we see right through the whole of the economy.
There is a very great slug on people who do not have much money over and above the ordinary amount they need to enable them to eat, clothe themselves and educate their children. These conditions provoke a clamour for higher wages. It does not matter very much whether the people lose out by way of taxation or through increased costs; the fact is that the money comes from the family budget. The only answer that they can see is to develop a clamour for higher wages. As a result the Government has got itself into a mess. It does nothing about those places from where money comes to the pockets of the people but goes into the arbitration court and tries to oppose the trade union movement when it carries out its responsibility by trying to correct the situation in the only way that it knows and the only way open to it. There is no doubt that this has been a peripheral Budget. It has looked at these things to which I have referred, but after 20 years there is no doubt that great new measures are needed. We are no longer living in the horse and buggy era, a term which could be applied to the turn of the century. Modern economics and modern sciences move so quickly today that we cannot wait for 20 years, 10 years or even 5 years to move with the times.
There is no doubt that the things that the Government is doing in defence could lead to a fatal situation. On the eve of an election the Government should be saying that there is a steady growth and development of Australia which can be part of the defence set-up. But this is something against which the Government has resolutely turned its back over the years. In the field of social services the giving of a dollar here and fifty cents there will not cure anything because in a system of uncontrolled inflation the increase will be eaten away before it is received in the pension packet. After much research, many heartaches and a lot of debate at all levels of the Australian Labor Party, we say that the only approach that can cure this situation is a national insurance scheme under which people will pay for the insurance over the course of their working lives. This would protect those little people who, because of sickness, incapacity and all the rest of it, are unable to do very much about their situation.
The Treasurer concluded his remarks on the Budget by talking about its taking us over the threshold of the 1970s. As he said that it struck me very forcibly that over the threshold of the 1960s - all honourable senators will remember the 1961 credit squeeze - we came in with a stop-go economy which would be belted up on the eve of an election only to have something done about it after the election. Businessmen were unsure, nobody was borrowing and no-one knew where he was going from one year to the next. That situation settled down over a period of time. By bringing in a Budget like this the Government is moving out of the 1960s in exactly the same way as it came into the 1960s. We will continue to have a stop-go economy which will infiltrate such things as defence. The Government will keep on budgeting and trying to darn the moth-eaten old garments of health, social services and alt the rest of it. It just is not good enough to begin the 1970s in this way. If the Government is starting to believe its reverse propaganda, that Australia is not now under threat of invasion, this is the time to build up our economy.
May I say one more thing about the defence statement. We cannot go into it fully - there should be a full debate on this subject - but it strikes me that again the Government is making exactly the same error as it has made all along the tine. For years we were attached to Britain. Everybody believed that if there was any trouble the big British gunboats would come out here and we would be safe from invasion. On two occasions we sent soldiers away to world wars. I wonder how many people have grasped what World War I cost us - 60,000 dead out of a population of about 5 million people. In World War II we lost about half that number out of a population of about 8 million people. We have since joined with the United States and have said: ‘Well, for as long as we are tied up with the Americans everything will be O.K. We will have no worries about invasion’. Exactly the same situation could be reached as occurred in two world wars. We have troops in Vietnam today because the Americans want us to have them there. In such alliances small nations like Australia can give far more than they insure themselves against. It seems to me that the United States will get out of this area and Britain is as good as gone from the area. So too the Government’s new found friends the Russians, when they want to do so, will roll up their swags and go. They can do exactly the same thing but we have to stay here.
Communist China and the other Asian nations are here for all time. A permanent peaceful solution in South East Asia does not involve entry of the itinerant nations of the world into the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas. Peace must be made with the people who are residents of the area, just as we are. Not only is the Budget political in the extreme; even now, Government supporters are scrambling around to deny or half deny the things they have already laid down by rote in the 1969 Budget.
– I support the Budget. In doing so I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Government for its excellent provisions. It contains recognition of many areas of need and has catered for them. The presentation of such a Budget at this time is a matter of great credit to the Government. Honourable senators opposite have stressed that the Budget has been presented on the eve of an election, but this is of no consequence. This Budget would have been brought forward, regardless of the timing of the election.
I listened with great interest to Senator Willesee and I was amazed to hear him criticise the homes savings grants legislation introduced some years ago. It has brought great satisfaction to the young people of this country and for it the Government deserves praise and not criticism. Last night an honourable senator opposite said: ‘The attitude the Government is adopting to this is plainly hypocritical.’ I take exception to that remark. I do not look on myself as a hypocrite. To brand all members of the Government benches as hypocrites is a very serious charge indeed, particularly when the honourable senator who made it has stated in this chamber that he would like to see the Senate abolished. Any honourable senator who votes in the Senate and then states that the Senate should be abolished is in my opinion a hypocrite. For him to call Go vernment supporters hypocrites is quite out of order.
At present unemployment is at a very low level. This situation is appreciated in South Australia because there we went through a period of serious unemployment from 1965 to early 1968. Obviously the situation has to be watched. We would not like to return to that state of affairs. Australia is enjoying at present a great increase in its intake of migrants. That is also appreciated because of its contribution to the growth of South Australia’s industrial progress since the change of government in that State.
The education provisions in the Budget once again contain the massive support for education that the Liberal and Country Party coalition Government has shown in the past few years. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has already detailed the sums of money to be provided for education. I do not think it is necessary for me to cite those amounts again. Expenditure on education is to increase by 38% over last year, and payments to the States specifically for education are to increase by 53%. By 1972 there will be about 45,000 extra enrolments in universities and colleges of advanced education. It has been said that there is a crisis in education. At present South Australia spends about 27% of its Budget on education. Last year it spent 25%. I believe that this indicates a very proper attitude by the South Australian Government towards education, in co-operation with the Federal Government.
In the previous triennium South Australia provided out of its own funds S28.3m for universities and colleges of advanced education. In the coming triennium its contribution will be $40. 3m, an increase of about 40% in total, or 12i% a year compounded. Undoubtedly this expenditure will induce great pressures on South Australia’s Budget, as is true of all State Budgets. 1 hope that in the coming year when the States approach the Commonwealth for special grants, the Commonwealth will see fit to give whatever assistance the States apply for, because undoubtedly they are facing massive expenditure on education.
The Budget contains a proposal for liberalisation or tapering of the means test. Undoubtedly this is a real incentive to thrift and self reliance in the community. I cannot follow the policy of the Labor Party for abolition of the means test. I join with Senator Marriott in saying that the Australian Labor Party is completely inconsistent in its attitude to this matter. On the one hand, Labor wants the means test abolished, and on the other hand, it wishes to retain a means test in respect of education. This is a quite irresponsible attitude to put forward.
I turn now to deal with the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. At present the Commonwealth provides S5 a day for each hospital bed. As my time to speak in this debate is limited, I shall deal with the situation in South Australia, because of my knowledge of the position there. The actual cost of a hospital bed in the coming year will be S26 a day; in other words, the State provides a great proportion of the money necessary for the running of the hospital benefits scheme. If the means test was abolished an intolerable burden would be placed on the finances of State governments. We would find that a drastic increase in State taxation would be necessary to meet the costs consequent upon the increased number of people covered by the scheme. Many such people would not need financial assistance.
I am sure that the majority of primary producers in Australia will applaud the efforts of the Government to provide relief for them by the measures contained in the Budget. The most significant measure is a move to provide relief from estate duty. I would hope to see the trend continue in future until the Federal Government vacates this field completely and so removes the undesirable effect that estate duty has of forcing people off the land and dividing estates. I have studied the platforms and principles of the parties, as any young person does these days. I have been amazed while listening to the proposals put forward by the Opposition and upon reading Labor’s platform. It states: ‘We will nationalise the means of production, distribution and exchange.*
– That is an old book.
– Very well, I will call it democratic socialisation, if you like.
– Why did you not state it correctly?
– We do not believe in an excessive number of words. If ever the Opposition gained office Australians would be reduced to faceless people. Everybody would have to conform to one standard, that of the average person. Any citizen with extra ability or a desire to get on in life would be automatically penalised. For the reasons I have stated, I completely reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). J support the excellent Budget brought forward by the Government.
– I cannot share Senator Cameron’s enthusiasm for this Budget. Sure, it tackles some of the problems of the community and in some areas of social services it provides a little relief but I want to direct attention to a matter which could grow in seriousness as the years go by. I refer to the fact that there is in the Budget no solution to the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations. I well remember the courageous speeches of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Prime Minister of the day, the late Harold Holt, when turnover tax on wages was introduced in the State of Victoria which I represent. They said that they would ensure that the turnover tax on wages was stopped. They said that they would take steps to stop State Premiers imposing a turnover tax on wages. But the turnover tax on wages in the State of Victoria is still current and there is nothing in this Budget to suggest that the Commonwealth will prevent the States taxing wages which already have been taxed.
What is the situation of Commonwealth public servants who pay annually the turnover tax on their wages because the Commonwealth refuses to collect it on a weekly basis? They are not even in the fortunate situation in which the businessman who has to pay the tax finds himself. Commonwealth public servants cannot even claim the State turnover tax as a deduction from their Commonwealth taxes simply because they do not have to pay it until after the Commonwealth taxes have been paid. I do not know whether honourable senators in this chamber who come from States where the turnover tax applies have yet woken up to the fact that they are in that position because they too pay the State turnover tax after they have completed their
Commonwealth income tax return and, as I have said, there is no provision to allow them to claim a deduction for the State turnover tax. The Commonwealth said that it would stop the turnover tax on wages but it has not done so.
The seriousness of the situation is exemplified in Victoria where the State Government announced that in spite of a loss of Slim in railway operations there would be no increase in the State turnover tax this year. So already we are being threatened with an increase in this very small amount of tax which is paid on each $10 of turnover. The Commonwealth has done nothing in the Budget to relieve the burden of these double taxes. 1 want to turn now to a criticism of some of the social services which have been increased in the Budget. I want to refer, firstly, to the discrimination against married people which is evident in the Government’s proposals. The Government has given pensioners a handout which in time will serve only to increase the cost of living. Once again we find, as we have found on other occasions, that the married pensioner couple suffer. If two single pensioners of opposite sexes chose to live together they would be regarded as living in sin but they would be 50c better off than those who are living in holy matrimony. I fail to see any reason for that. A pension is a person’s right and the fact that pensioners are married or single should not interfere in any way with their right to draw the subsistence allowance which the State provides for them in the closing days of their lives.
There is a peculiarity in the tapered means test proposal. I am not a good mathematician but I find that if you have $10 a week free income you can earn another $30 a week before the whole pension vanishes, and $40 a week then becomes your maximum permissible income. If you are married your wife can earn another $30 a week. A man and his wife who are pensioners are allowed a permissible income of $30 each.
– That is better than being in the Senate.
– Yes, $70 a week. The only penalty for being married is the initial $10 that you are allowed to have as income from another source before your pension is affected. So in the tapering of the means test this discrimination against married people, so far as the Commonwealth’s handout is concerned, seems to disappear mysteriously. All of a sudden there is now no need for the means test but the discrimination is growing year by year as the pensions are increased. I notice that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) is shaking his head indicating that he does not agree with me. Perhaps the figures I have quoted are wrong. If they are wrong then the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) who read the Treasurer’s Budget Speech in this place, was wrong too because I am quoting from his speech and that is how be described the position. If anything else was meant I will be happy to hear it from someone on the Government side at a later date. The Government has increased pensions and the allowable income under its tapered means test proposal but once again it has used the highly technical calculations that it seems to love.
The most important factor in this is that those people who thought in years gone by that they were providing adequately for their retirement, but who now find that their retirement income is totally inadequate for them to live on, are being pushed into a situation which, in their pride in their younger days, they thought they would never reach. Many of them now will receive the singular honour of becoming pensioners. But although they will become pensioners they will be excluded deliberately by this Government from the fringe benefits which other pensioners receive. I refer to medical benefits, reduced radio and television licence fees and the other benefits which this Government prides itself on being so generous in granting. I do not agree with the philosophy that one should avoid becoming a pensioner. There should be no pride or shame about it. We pay for it in our taxes. But some people do think that they should avoid taking the pension. They were proud of the fact that through their own thrift and endeavours in life they were able to maintain their independence. But now many of them will find themselves in the situation which they tried to avoid by being thrifty when they were young. [Quorum formed.]
I am pleased to note that the enthusiasm of honourable senators has improved suddenly and that they are here in their places.
I was speaking about the people who had been denied what I consider they should have received if the Government was seeking to give justice to those who have made provision for their retirement. The Government surely should have extended to that section of the community those benefits which should be the right of any person in the closing years of his life. The Budget should have removed from these people the burden of medical expenses which can destroy the prospect of any reasonable life of retirement.
A lot has been said about the provision that has been made for independent schools. As a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party I do not have to speak on this now because we have spoken on it for so many years. We are glad that a measure of justice is to be extended to those people who for so long have carried so much of the nation’s burden in terms of education. What is being given will relieve the present circumstances and situations of these schools, but it will by no means totally solve the problem of bringing equity into the education systems of this Commonwealth.
– It is more than your Party proposed.
– It may be more than we proposed but it has not been proposed for as long. When the honourable senator tells us what he has ever proposed we may consider his sense of justice to be as keenly developed as he would like us to think it is.
In spite of the social services provisions about which we have already spoken and which are contained in this Budget, we members of the Democratic Labor Party believe and have stated publicly that none of these things will mean anything at all unless the defence of this country is secure. The defence of this country cannot be secure if we allow the mentality of our people to drift back to the 1930s - the days when this country was alleged to need no defence and when the motherland was so powerful in the Pacific area and ruled the waves all over the world. The attitude was: What does this remote continent have to fear from anywhere? Of course, we did see submarines in Sydney Harbour and we did know the circumstances of war which were diverted from our shores at the last moment. In the early stages of that struggle we were amazed to realise that the Wirraways with which we were playing around were about 30 years behind the times in meeting the challenge of the Zeros which a country that we thought manufactured only poor quality toys was able to produce from nowhere in a matter of weeks.
An incident that happened to me only in the last week highlights how important is the mentality of the people on this question of defence and how easily the mentality of the people can be sabotaged by those who allegedly are leading the nation. I had to speak to a conference of my Party in New South Wales last Sunday.
– As if we did not know.
– I am glad that the honourable senator has heard about it. 1 went there deliberately to arouse the members of my Party to their responsibility as Australians. They were aroused. They will carry to the people of this country the message of the necessity for defence. But a newspaper saw fit to interview young people in the streets. Perhaps Senator Greenwood will say when he speaks later whether he is satisfied that the young people should be thinking this way. The seven young people interviewed were between the ages of 19 years and 23 years. They all said that there was no need for the defence of this country and that the money spent on defence would be better spent on other things. In 10 years time those young people will be about 30 years of age. That is the sort of attitude of mind with which we were involved and which caused us to sacrifice the lives of so many of the youngest and best of my friends in my generation because we had to send them up in Wirraways to meet Zeros when the hour of challenge came.
But we could excuse ourselves. Internationally speaking, the days in which we grew up were calm and peaceful compared with the state of the world today. Yet the young people of this country are being patted down and quietened down. People are saying to them: ‘There is no need to worry’. But they are the young people who have to serve in the armed forces of this country if we are to have any reasonable defence at all. How does it come about, in a world that is more troubled today than it has ever been before, that the young people of this nation - the most vulnerable and underpopulated continent in the world - have this attitude that mere is nothing to worry about?
We are a minor political party, but we have done our best over the years. In the early 1960s we said that the defence vote of this country should be doubled. But the Party to which Senator Georges, who is now interjecting, belongs - I do not know whether he belonged to it then - and the Government parties said that there was no need for any increased expenditure on defence. It is because of the adoption of that philosophy then that we are now 5 years behind where we should be if we want to be reasonably defended. Every honourable senator in this chamber knows that in order to plan the defence of the country we need to be thinking 10 years ahead, with the complexities of modern armaments and modern war. Yet we are drifting behind the times day after day, and we are told to do nothing about it. The allocation for defence in this Budget represents a cut of 5%, in an era of rising prices. Nobody could work out precisely what that means in terms of equipment. What it means in terms of the mental approach of the people to the problem of defending our country is tremendous.
Of course, what is said in the Budget Speech pales into insignificance alongside the statements that have been made by responsible people in the Government parties. I do not charge every member of the Government parties with this. Many of them have spoken to me in recent weeks and have expressed their personal disagreement, but they have not yet made it public. I hope they recognise that the seriousness of the question demands that they forget party politics and make public their own true views. The reduction in defence expenditure in the Budget has been accentuated tremendously by a change in the approach to external affairs by the Minister holding that portfolio, supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I am aware when I say that that I will be told that these men have said that there has been no change. But let us examine the evidence - the irrefutable evidence - which exists and which shows that there has been a change at least in the approach to this problem by both the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth).
I have before me an article that appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 28th April 1969, at the time when the Australian Minister for External Affairs was talking with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Malik. The latter gentleman was expressing concern at the Red Navy buildup, as the headline described it, in the Indian Ocean. He asked the Australian Minister what he thought of it. The article reports what Mr Freeth told a Press conference at the Australian Embassy in Djakarta. It states:
I told Mr Malik Australia had no wish to see the Indian Ocean the scene of some sort of arms race,’ Mr Freeth said.
Asked if Mr Malik also had been talking of a US buildup in the Indian Ocean, Mr Freeth replied: ‘It might well be he did express concern at the US presence, but my impression was he felt the Communist powers had begun this move.
That is why I pointed out that we, for our part, did not want to see an arms race. But if somebody started it, somebody was bound to come in.’
Mr Freeth said that if the Communists build up in the Indian Ocean Indonesia could well expect some buildup in the area by Western powers.
Mr Freeth said he saw Communist subversive activities as the greatest threat in South East Asia.
What did Mr Freeth say the other day in answer to a question asked by Mr Samuel, as published in the ‘Bulletin’? Mr Samuel was inquiring about the Vietnam conflict. A transcript of the proceedings read as follows:
Samuel: In the Vietnam conflict, is there any evidence that the Russians are exercising a moderating influence, pressing the North Vietnamese or Vietcong toward some sort of reasonable settlement?
Freeth: No, we can’t get any evidence of this. The Russians would like to see the conflict ended, but they themselves find it difficult to exert any influence on Hanoi, because they fear Hanoi would then turn to China more than to them and they wouldn’t like to lose influence over North Vietnam.
Samuel: This might apply, too, in other places in South East Asia with Communist insurgencies?
Freeth: I would think Russia would discourage the development of Communist insurgencies in the South East Asian area.
Those are two statements from the same gentleman on the same question within a period of 3 months, yet there is an attempt to claim that there is no change of policy. Who has waved the magic wand suddenly to convince Mr Freeth? For 40 years the Soviet Union has been creating Communist insurgencies in every country with which she has been able to associate. Is Mr Freeth convinced that Russia has suddenly become pure in regard to the South East Asian area and will not do the same things here simply because there has been a discussion, however remote, with the Australian Minister for External Affairs? After that discussion the Russian Embassy called a special Press conference to announce to Australia, to Russia and to the world that Russia considered that there had been a change of policy and that there was now great hope for co-operation between Russia and the Australian Government. And it is said that there is no change of policy.
Everybody knows what I think of a change of policy on those lines. I read in one newspaper during the early stages of this discussion that the Minister for External Affairs bad said that he realised that Russia was not a good nation with which to do business. If you sup with the devil you have to use a long spoon. However, the Minister is aware of this and we are safe! My answer to Mr Freeth is that the people of Hungary would like to borrow his spoon. So would the people in Prague today. They would say: ‘Lend us your spoon, Mr Freeth. We joined the Communist parties in these European countries to save ourselves but even that spoon was not long enough. What do you have to stop the mailed fist of Russian Communism from giving you the indigestion we suffer from today?’ This is at a time when the people of Czechoslovakia - the Communists of Czechoslovakiaare being shot down in the streets of their own cities. They played with the tiger and they finished up inside the tiger. Now we are being told that this is the solution in the South East Asian area.
– Who told you that?
– The honourable senator has not yet woken up. If he is a great supporter of this particular line he should make a speech on it. I am opposed to that line and I am putting my point of view. Is this a sensible line for Australia? Are the advantages that I read into the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs likely to accrue to Australia? These are the things that arise from his conception of what is likely to be the future of this area. If this is all he knows as a result of gazing into his crystal ball then I am entitled to gaze into mine.
– You just guess instead of reading the print.
– I think I would be just as good at assessing what is likely to be the future of this country. I say that because of the years I have lived here and because of the years I have spent in politics. I have kept at least a reasonable eye on international affairs. I have watched the techniques and attitudes adopted by Communists throughout the world. 1 would like the honourable senator to go back to the Minister for External Affairs and tell him what I have said. We should look into the future of South East Asia as it is likely to develop following the diminution of American influence which will be the almost inevitable result of the problems that country is likely to experience in its own sphere. We will see Russia increasing her pressure and tension on the small disorganised nations of South East Asia whose economies are unsound, and who may be almost hopelessly in debt to her already, until at last Russia reaches the key to the Pacific area - Japan, the third most powerful industrial nation of the world.
Japan, because of the geography of the world, some day will be forced to expand as happened once before, ‘even when she controlled vast areas of Manchuria, the Chinese mainland and Korea. That area still was not sufficient for the development of a nation as big and as strong as Japan. If the Minister for External Affairs can predict advantages and disadvantages then I shall do so also. I say to him and to the people of Australia that if we want future security we must consider all the possibilities. We must consider the almost inevitable probability of the containment of Red China by bringing the colossus of Russia and Japan together at some future date. This may well be inevitable. We could not then afford to have a fleet which depended upon America for air cover to keep this nation strong. We must keep this nation strong enough to make it unpalatable and unpayable for anybody to attack us. If honourable senators think America would be prepared to help us in circumstances in which she would have to face the efficiency and economic power of Japan aligned with Russia, then they should have another think about the possibilities. Upon second thought they would nod that that idea was completely impracticable.
This country can be made secure only if the people here are aware of the dangers that may come to us within the next 10, 15 or 20 years. The leaders of this country should counsel the people to make great sacrifices in order to be strong in their own right. We should not return to the philosophies that I knew of. when growing up in the 1930s about having strong and powerful friends. We are only as strong as we can make ourselves.
Those are the reasons why the Democratic Labor Party takes its stand on defence. Those are the reasons why for years we have been the only Party prepared to tell the public the unpalatable truth. Those are the reasons why we face the probability that this country will have to set out deliberately to have a nuclear deterrent as part of its armoury. A nuclear deterrent ultimately will be the only thing that will put us in the situation of making it unpayable to attack us. It will stop enemies from believing that Australia is a ripe plum ready to fall. I renounce those who are prepared to develop the new philosophy of the Minister for External Affairs and suggest to the Australian people that the way in which to defend this country in the future is to assure our young people that they have nothing to worry about because we have pacts with those people who have subjugated so many of the free nations of Europe. Many European people have migrated to Australia. They have sent telegrams to the Democratic Labor Party and have told us how they saw free governments, non-Communist governments, Liberal or Democratic governments - whatever you would like to call them - make the mistake of thinking that their spoon was long enough for them to sup with the devil. Today many of the people of those countries are refugees. Many of them are new citizens of this free land of Australia. Let us keep Australia free.
– I intended at some stage of my remarks to deal with the Indian Ocean. Senator Little has provoked me to deal with it immediately. This is not a time or a subject which should be dealt with in a rabble rousing atmosphere.
– A very good speech, I thought.
– The honourable senator is entitled to his opinion. He has himself made similar comments. He should not provoke me. This matter should be dealt with dispassionately, objectively and in a calm manner. I must admit that I have some difficulty in understanding the objections to the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth). I believe that the statement has been very grossly misinterpreted.
– The statement has been distorted.
– Senator Wright uses a stronger term, which I accept. The statement has been misinterpreted and distorted either because it is not understood or because somebody hopes to gain some political advantage out of this matter. Tonight I do not have time to deal with the Minister’s speech in depth, but I would like to say a few words about it. I hope that I will not be accused of being a dove or of wanting to make peace with the Communists because I believe my record in this chamber makes clear my position both as to the defence of Australia and as to our foreign policy as regards Communism. I do not believe that anybody can point a finger at me and say that I have not stood firm on this issue ever since I came into this place.
– When does the ‘but’ come in? I am waiting for the ‘but’.
– Butter is what cows produce. I am talking about foreign policy, not about dairying. The first thing that one would want to understand is the purpose of foreign policy. I believe the purpose of foreign policy is to protect the vital interests of the nation within the available options open to it and to the best of a government’s ability. This means all kinds of things. It means military strength, economic strength, population and development. At all times foreign policy must be tailored to these requirements. It is no good a relatively small nation trying to behave like a big nation.
– What has the Government been trying to do for the last 10 years?
– Here we have this great genius interjecting again. I will treat Senator Georges with complete contempt, as I have always done. His interjections only strengthen my attitude in this regard. Any student of foreign policy would recognise that even in the last few months dramatic changes have taken place both as regards policy and as regards groupings in Asia. Governments have to face the facts of life; oppositions can ignore the facts of life. A government’s responsibility is to recognise change and, if necessary, to adjust policies to it. One such change in the world is the open hostility that now exists between the Soviet Union and Communist China. Another is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from South East Asia. A further change is the re-thinking of United States policies in South East Asia and, indeed, throughout the world.
– Four years ago we told the Government the United States would do this. The Government is just waking up.
– I look with amazement and amusement at my friends across the chamber. The Minister’s statement was made in this context, and I do not expect Senator Georges to appreciate that. Firstly, let us look at the situation that exists between Russia and China. Recently I read an interesting article by Denis Warner, whom I believe is one of our most respected correspondents, headed: ‘Asia’s winds of change freshen to a gale’. He pointed out the changes that are taking place. He mentioned that a decade ago the Soviet Union and Communist China protested that ‘their unity was as high as the Himalayas and as deep as the Pacific’. Then he said:
Today, the enmity that divides the Soviet Union and China is even higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the Pacific. The Communist monolith has been shattered into many pieces, some of which are quite free from cutting edges.
This is one of the historic changes that have taken place in the world today. The Minister’s speech dealt with the increasing Russian interest over some years in South East Asia, mainly in the diplomatic and economic spheres. History has shown that, quite naturally, a nation’s military power follows diplomatic and economic penetration. 1 speak not in justification or in support of Russian policy but with an under standing of why Russia has moved into the Indian Ocean. There is little doubt that today the Russian navy has emerged as a long range instrument of global power. The Russians, by their movements into the Mediterranean and now into the Indian Ocean, are anxious to show the world that they are a world power, as the United States is and as the United Kingdom was. We might not be happy about their entering the Indian Ocean. I share with my friends in the Democratic Labor Party an unhappiness about the Russians having moved into the Indian Ocean. But we deal with fact and not with fiction. The Minister made that quite clear when he said that this was a time not for panic but for watchfulness. In other words, the Minister recognised that, if not in the short term, in the long term a threat may develop, but Australia should not panic; we should watch events. He went on to refer to what Mr Gromyko said. I think this is where the Minister’s remarks have been taken out of context and misrepresented. He said:
Mr Gromyko, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, said in a speech in Moscow to the Supreme Soviet on 10th July that ‘the prerequisite and potential for an improvement of our relations wilh Australia exist’.
The Minister also said:
The Australian Government has naturally kept these and related developments under observation. Australia has to be watchful, but need not panic whenever a Russian appears. It has to avoid both facile gullibility and automatic rejection of opportunities for co-operation.
It seems to me that the Minister recognised two things; firstly, that in the Russian movement there may be inherent some potential threat to the future of Australia and, secondly, that there may be opportunities to come closer to the Russians. 1 will go on to discuss his statement. In view of this I find it difficult to understand the DLP. I do not know why the Minister’s further statement has not been quoted. He said:
Reason for concern arises when the scale or methods or objective of the promotion are calculated to jeopardise our direct national interests or to endanger the general security and stability in the region. In judging this, we cannot cast out of our minds the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia and the pernicious doctrine of ‘limited sovereignly’ which the USSR attaches to other Communist states. Undoubtedly, these USSR acts and doctrines have constituted- an impediment to international co-operation, and I hope that the Soviet Union will take these repercussions into account when weighing its future actions. 1 believe this is an adequate statement of fact. It is a realistic statement of fact. It recognises the facts of life. It recognises Soviet statements. It bears in mind the change of groupings that is taking place in Asia. It recognises the Sino-Soviet split, which is a very real split, and that Russia’s interests could well be directed not towards threatening Australia but towards protecting her own interests in other parts of this area.
Why has the Soviet fleet entered the Indian Ocean? Admittedly we can put forward a number of thoughts on this and I believe that we should be prepared to examine some of the possibilities.
– They are not there to protect us.
– I do not think they have come there to protect us. I am not under any illusions about that. Nor do I accept immediately that they have come here to threaten us. There is no doubt that Russia wishes to impress on all countries in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean areas that she is a world power, in the same sense as the United States and the United Kingdom have in the past impressed the nations of the world with the fact that they were world powers. As her naval strength grew, she moved first into the Mediterranean. Now she is moving into the Indian Ocean. There is no doubt in my mind that Russia wishes to influence the nations within the Indian Ocean area, not necessarily to threaten them, and to back recent diplomatic and economic advances in this area.
Another element which I think is important and which deserves some analysis is whether there exists a desire on the part of the Soviet to contain or balance Chinese influence in this area.
– Is that why she is in Czechoslovakia?
– We are discussing not the Mediterranean but the Indian Ocean, which is a separate issue altogether. The first area I look at is Africa. There has been a good deal of Chinese penetration into the countries of Africa. I do not believe that Russia is happy about this, in view of her dispute with China which is one not only of ideology. I believe that, in the main, it is one of history which goes right back to the days of the Czars and concerns spheres of influence and territorial claims. Russia has no desire to see China extend her influence into Africa because, in the long term, this might be a threat to Russia. Nor has Russia any desire to see China extend her influence south through the Indian subcontinent. We all recall that when China committed her wilful act of aggression against India one of the first countries to offer India both military and other assistance was the Soviet Union. This was done out of self interest, not in the interests of India. I have no illusions about that. It was done out of self interest because Russia does not want to see China extend her influence so that she will be a potential threat to Russia.
So it is worth while to examine the point that Russia moved into the Indian Ocean to balance any extension of Chinese influence and to let China know that Russia is not unconcerned if China continues her threats and pressures against the Indian subcontinent. There is a desire to balance any Chinese influence in this area. One thinks immediately, of course, of Pakistan.
Another of the many matters that I think we should examine and to which I think we should give some calm thought is Russia’s desire to control the Communist parties of South East Asia. It is worth noting that no Communist Party from South East Asia was represented at the recent world Communist Party meeting held in, I think, Warsaw. Russia wants to demonstrate to those parties that she is there in a physical sense. Therefore there is a desire, in competition with China, to gain control of the Communist parties in South East Asia. These are all factors which may well be influencing Russia in her present moves.
I believe, with the Minister, that at the moment there is no need to panic. But there is a need to be watchful because we are dealing with facts. We cannot maintain the fiction that nothing has changed in this area. After all, Russian forces are there, and if we are to deal in fiction we may think that somebody is going to chase them out. The plain fact is that nobody is going to chase them out. The facts of life are that they are there and we have to see whether they are there to threaten us and whether we can reach some agreement with Russia in view of her fear of China, which may be a greater fear than many of us believe.
As I understand it, the Minister is accused of taking a soft line towards Russia. As I understood the Minister’s comments, what he said was that there has been a suggestion by the Russians that they are interested in some regional co-operation in this area. The Minister then went on to define what Australia regarded as important elements in South East Asia. He mentioned the development of regional co-operation to promote and sustain security and economic advancement. No-one will disagree with that. He also mentioned programmes for economic assistance and market development. He spoke of stabilising the prices of the exports from these countries in South East Asia on the world markets and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Having said that, the Minister went on to say - and 1 think this should be quoted–
– Read it slowly so that Senator Little will understand it.
– J shall read it twice if necessary. The Minister said:
If the Russian proposals prove to he in line with these general objectives and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them with close interest.
– With close interest.
– I repeat, with close interest. In other words, there is no commitment. All that the Minister has said is that we are open to reason, that if Russia is coming into this area to seek objectives which the Australian Government wishes to attain we are prepared to consider her proposals with close interest. I find the statement completely unexceptional. It recognises that winds of change are blowing over this area. Any government that ignores this is playing with fire. We have been told that the Russians welcome the Minister’s statement and issued a Press statement to announce their support. I have read the Press statement. I think anybody who reads it closely wm appreciate that what the Russians are welcoming is the recognition by the Minister of the long term threat from Communist China, because the main part of the Press statement expresses satisfaction with the Minister’s remarks and his sober assessment of Chinese provocations against the Soviet Union. The Press statement reads:
We share the concern expressed by the Minister about the adventurist policies of the Peking leaders.
Territorial claims of the Peking leaders to their neighbour countries, their chauvinistic treatment of the Chinese people in the spirit of hatred to other nations graphically show their far going designs.
I do not hear so many interjections from Senator Georges now. The Russians are confirming the view, that the Australian Government has held for so many years that the major threat to the security of this area comes from the aggressive designs of Communist China. This confirms the analysis I have been trying to make that Russian movements in the Indian Ocean may be-
– Senator Georges is upset.
– 1 am upset because in the last few years we have lost a lot of men in Vietnam.
– Keep off Vietnam.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! Senator Georges should cease interjecting.
– I do not want any protection from Senator Georges, Madam Acting Deputy President. As 1 said earlier, I have certain opinions about him. Recent events confirm the analysis I have been trying to make in order to show that the presence of Russia in the Indian Ocean may well be designed not only to contain China but also to warn China that Russia is not prepared to accept further Chinese adventurist policies in this area. If that is so it would be an act of folly for Australia not to be prepared to listen to any proposals which are put forward by the Soviet Union. The Minister has gone no further than that. I believe that his statement is in the interests of the nation. I do not welcome Russian intrusion into this area, but I believe that any government has to explore the possibilities that open up. These possibilities are real. If we can find some grounds upon which reasonable co-operation with Russia can be achieved - and I am not hopeful about this - it would be the height of folly for any government Jio ignore them. I am unable to understand the hostility that has been engendered by the Minister’s statement. I believe it is a realistic appraisal of the situation and that it was made in the interests of Australia.
In the few minutes at my disposal I wish to make some reference to the Budget proposals, particularly those affecting primary industries. I was pleased to note that the Government has made some taxation concessions for primary industries and that it has made a greater commitment to promotion and research in the wool industry. I notice that it is also providing some alleviation in estate duty. I think the time has come when the Government should have a look at the whole question of taxation deductions as they apply to primary industries today. In the past primary industries have been of great benefit to Australia. I think the Government should look to see whether the taxation deductions are in line with the position as it exists today. We know that the Government is encouraging investment from sources outside of the primary industries to obtain taxation deductions and that this is having an adverse effect upon many sectors of primary industry, mainly by continually forcing prices upwards. I believe that the time has come for us to examine these taxation concessions to see whether they are achieving their objective and are of the same benefit to the rural industries as they have been in the past. But no matter what taxation concessions are made the effect on costs is minimal. I believe it all comes back to other factors which are substantially influencing the national cost structure. One of these is tariffs.
My views on tariffs are well known in the Senate. But criticism is still levelled by the diehards who, I believe, are fighting a losing battle against the proposals of the Tariff Board. We should be constantly reminded that the secondary industries were built up under the shelter of our export industries and were assisted by what I can only regard as a crazy and indiscriminate system of tariff making in the past. Many of the industries in Australia which enjoy a very high level of protection have never had their cases heard by the Tariff Board. They have enjoyed this protection since the 1930s when, in a time of economic crisis, Tariff Board hearings were suspended. Employment was the major objective of government at that time. Ever since, these industries have been enjoying a very high level of protection. I believe it is about time the Tariff Board had a close look at many of them. The high level of protection they have been granted has only encouraged fragmentation and higher costs. They have never felt the cold wind of competition. 1 am always encouraged by the views of Sir John Crawford on tariff matters, especially as he is a former secretary of the Department of Trade. Sir John continues to question past tariff policy and to give support to the proposals put forward by the Tariff Board. At a symposium in Sydney the other day Sir John again spoke out in strong terms in support of the Tariff Board. He also criticised past policies. I had hoped to say more on this subject, but my time is almost up. Those of us who in the past were voices crying in the wilderness on this subject should be encouraged by the great tariff debate that has raged and the changes which are taking place. I believe that in the long term those changes will have a very beneficial effect upon the cost structure of our primary industries.
I support the Budget proposals. I oppose the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party. It is a worn out amendment that has been moved over the years. The Labor Party cries out that there will be a depression, it cries fear, but Australia continues to advance at a rate which is unequalled anywhere in the world.
– I do not propose to deal with external affairs or defence matters. All I want to say on those matters is that for once I am pleased to see that the Government Parties and their satellite are now at war over external affairs and defence matters. The more they argue the happier I will be. I want to address my remarks to the matter that Senator Sim finished on. I refer to the situation of the rural industries. I wish to say at the outset that the Australian Country Party - the Party that has been the great protector of the rural industries over the years - has in fact proved itself to be a fair weather friend. No matter what section of the rural industries one looks at one will find that they are in chaos. The Country Party, which has protected them, or attempted to protect them, over the years, has walked out on them. I refer in particular to the wheat industry and the wool industry.
I invite the attention of the Senate to the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), the champion of the rural industries and leader of the Australian Country Party, following the great reverse that the Country Party received in the Gwydir by-election. Mr McEwen said in a statement that he made after the declaration of that poll that it was unfair that the Country Party should suffer a reverse in the electorate because it had taken the best advice available to it, that of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, on the export of merino rams. That is not denied by the Country Party. Mr McEwen put his tail between his legs and started to squeal when the votes began to run away from him as a result of his taking the advice of an organisation which was not representative of the people.
Mr McEwen, of course, was one of the prime movers in the International Grains Arrangement. He was successful at a time of glut of wheat on the world market in having the minimum price of wheat under the International Grains Arrangement increased by 17.1c per bushel. That was at a time when stability should have been put into the industry, when the price should have been fixed at a level which would have been competitive on the world market. At a time when wheat was saleable he was instrumental in having the price increased. Within a short space of time after our entry into the International Grains Arrangement the accusation was made against Australia that she was in breach of the Arrangement by selling at below the minimum price. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) admitted on his return from America that accusations had been made, but he said that he did not believe them. Subsequently Mr McEwen admitted that the Australian Wheat Board had been fiddling with the freights and the f.a.q. standard. The result was a meeting of the exporting nations in Washington. But what did Mr McEwen do about the wheat farmer at this stage? He agreed that Australia should cease its vigorous campaign to sell the wheat that had been produced by our farmers in order that Canada and the United States might get back their traditional markets. I just do not understand that statement.
What is a traditional market for a free enterprise country? Is it not a market that is available to anyone who can capture it? But to foster American relations, Mr McEwen said that Australia would pull out so that America could go in. If there is a traditional market that belongs to Australia it is Peru, but we are beginning to find now that the United States and Canada are moving into that area. What is a traditional market? Does the expression mean that if a country is importing 1 million bushels of wheat this year and wants 1.5 million bushels of wheat next year, the extra 500,000 bushels is part of the traditional market, or is it open to someone to gain that part of the market? What is meant by the term ‘traditional market’? I say that Mr McEwen, in that sense, sold the Australian wheat farmer down the drain. The United States, Canada, the European Economic Community and Australia have all cut the minimum price under the International Grains Arrangement.
– Would the honourable senator not try to support a price?
– The 1GA is not worth the paper it is written on, despite the fact that Senator Webster says that it created stability for the wheat industry. It created stability for the wheat industry to the extent that there are now 250 million bushels of wheat lying in silos and storage bins throughout Australia. That is a situation that the IGA has created for the Australian wheat grower and there is no way to get out of it. In addition to that, the Government has introduced into the wheat industry a system of quotas, which will result in the absolute destruction of the small wheat growers in Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has said that one-third of the growers will have to go out of the industry.
– When did he say that?
– He said that one-third of the small growers would have to leave the industry. This is the attitude of the Country Party, of which Senator Prowse is a member and which is supposed to protect the rural industries. The Country Party wants to destroy the small growers who, over the years, have proved to be the backbone of the rural industries in Australia as well as in other countries. But because there is a decline in population in rural areas, the Country Party now wants to move into the urban areas and direct its policies towards attracting votes in urban areas. It has decided that it can now dispense with the support of the rural areas.
No honourable senator will deny that the small grower receives only an existence income. How can the small grower afford to have that income reduced? Yet the application of quotas will reduce his income. 1 say, and my Party says, that quotas should not be applied to the small grower. First we must determine what we mean by the term ‘small grower’. In my view a small grower would be one who produces about 10,000 bushels a year. If a grower producing 10,000 bushels of wheat has a 20% cut applied to him under the quota he will be able to produce only 8,000 bushels. The grower who is producing 100,000 bushels can manage very well if he is able to produce 80.000 bushels; he could afford to grow more and provide storage for it.
I went to the trouble of finding out what the effect of the quota would be in terms of the money that the Government was prepared to make available for a first payment at the rate of $1.10 per bushel if no quota were applied to the grower of 10,000 bushels or less. The Minister has said that the maximum that the Government will make available is $440m to provide for a first payment of $1.10 per bushel for 357 million bushels, which includes the 13 million bushels of prime hard wheat from Queensland and New South Wales. I asked the Legislative Research Service what the Government’s total liability to the wheat producers would be, assuming a first payment of $1.10 per bushel, if quotas based on the last 5 years production were placed on producers who grow in excess of 10,000 bushels. The reply which I received was in these terms:
If quotas were applied to any wheat produced above 10,000 bushels per holding, based on a total production figure equal to the average of the last 5 years production (381.5 million bushels), such restrictions would apply to approximately 130.4 million bushels of wheat. The remaining production of 251.1 million bushels comprising the output from the smaller holdings plus 10,000 bushels from each of the holdings capable of producing this quantity, would be unaffected by quotas and would receive a first advance of payment of $1.10 per bushel.
The estimate of 2S1.1 million bushels is based on the assumption that the number of wheat growers with the capacity to produce more than 10,000 bushels has not changed significantly since 1965-66 despite the fact that acreage sown to wheat has increased by 50% and production has doubled. The estimate does not take into consideration new growers who have commenced wheat production since 1965-66.
A table has been prepared and is set out below showing a graduated scale of quotas levied on the 130.4 million bushels in steps of 5% restrictions down to a cut of 50%.
The table also includes the unaffected level of production of wheat up to 251.1 million bushels and the amount of the first advance payment which would have to be made at the different quota levels, assuming the first payment to be $1.10 per bushel.
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the table in Hansard.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to only one item. On a quota level of 80%, production in excess of 10,000 bushels per holding would be 104.3 million bushels. At 100% quota level it would be 130.4 million bushels. The production below 10,000 bushels per holding at 80% quota level would be constant at 251.1 million bushels, giving a total production of 355.4 million bushels, as compared with the total of 357 million bushels that the Minister is prepared to cover. The cost of the first payment would be $390.9m, compared with the amount of $444m that the Minister is prepared to make available through the Reserve Bank on this occasion. The system of quotas that is put forward by the Government will ruin the small farmer. It is unnecessary to apply the quotas to small growers.
– This is a typical Labor proposition which you say is put forward by the Government. Tell the truth.
– I am aware that the Leader of the Australian Country Party met the Australian wheat growers and that the wheat growers accepted the quota system.
To me this means only one thing - that Mr McEwen put to the body representing the wheat growers that quotas would have to be applied. It means that the body representing the wheat growers accepted it, not that that body initiated it. If Senator Webster can tell me of one body representing wheat growers that initiated the quota system I will be very pleased to hear of it, but I believe that it was initiated by the Leader of the Country Party.
I turn now to a consideration of the figures contained in the publication ‘National Income and Expenditure 1968-69’. In 1968-69 the gross value of farm production of wheat is shown as $750m. In 1964-65 it was $5 18m, so that there is an increase of 44% in the value of production in that period. The figure of S750m shown as the value of wheat production is a completely misleading figure to include in a Government White Paper, because nearly half of that wheat producton is unsold and still lies in the silos.
– But it is still production.
– It has no value until it is sold. I say that it is misleading to include that figure in a White Paper. It is of no use to you until you can get a price for it.
– I was quoting to you the Socialist theory.
– I say that to include the figure in a publication entitled ‘National Income and Expenditure’ is completely misleading, because from 250 million bushels there is no income at this stage.
– The Socialist theory is that value is based on what is produced, not on what is sold.
– The Treasurer has presented the publication ‘National Income and Expenditure’. He says that he has a national income from wheat production of S750m, and he has not got it. That is what the Treasurer says. Senator Cormack can read it if he wishes.
– I am not arguing about that.
– Of course you do not want to argue about that. The publication shows that total farm production rose by 14% in the period from 1964-65 to 1968-69; from $3,45 lm to $3,920m. Deductions for production costs other than wages and depreciation increased by 25% from S 1,381m in 1964-65 to SI, 726m. I emphasise that those figures do not include allowances for wages; they are simply increases in costs. I do not know what the increase in wages is because the figures have not been dissected to that extent. In 1964-65 the item for wages, depreciation, net rent and interest paid was $758m; in 1968-69 it is shown as $974m, an increase of 28.5% over that period. When all these factors are taken into consideration, the realised income of farm enterprises in 1964-65 was $ 1,235m, and in 1968-69- despite the 44% increase in the value of production that the Minister has included - the realised income decreased by 3% from $ 1,235m to $ 1,201m. Those figures illustrate the situation in which the wheat industry has been placed by this Government. Honourable senators should not forget that the wheat industry provides between 20% and 25% of our export income - when we are able to sell it, of course. It is a very valuable industry to Australia, yet the Government allows this sort of situation to develop and the industry to deteriorate as it has done. I repeat that there is a difference between value of production and actual income from sales.
The Treasurer has included in the table the amount of $750m as income in 1968-69, but nearly half of that wheat production is still to be sold. He should have included in the White Paper only the value of wheat that he has been able to sell. He seems to be very proud to be able to state that in this Budget there is no contribution this year to the wheat stabilisation scheme. I infer from that situation that he does not expect to sell any of that 250 million bushels of wheat between now and 30th June next. So there will be no contribution to the wheat stabilisation scheme. I do not know what those farmers who have crops this year within the quota or in excess of the quota will do with their wheat. This year most of the farmers in my State will not be very worried about quotas; they will be worried about survival. They will have very little income this year, from what I have seen of the country areas.
What action has the Government taken to reduce the cost of production? I know what the Budget contains. I know that there is a 50% increase in the superphospate bounty and I know that when the Minister for Primary Industry was questioned about the use of superphosphate by wheat farmers he said that only 22% of the superphosphate was used by wheat farmers, lt does not matter what the percentage is, the increase in the superphosphate bounty will be an encouragement to increase production at a time when quotas are being applied. Simply to say that only 22% is used by wheat farmers is no answer. If they used 22% last year and they use 22% this year the degree of encouragement by virtue of the increase in subsidy is the same. The Minister has not provided any acceptable answer, and if he thinks he can fool people by giving the kind of answer that he did he should have another look at the situation.
– What would Labor do about the superphosphate subsidy?
– When the Australian Labor Party was in office it introduced the superphosphate subsidy. When the MenziesFadden Government came to office it removed the superphosphate bounty and reintroduced it again in 1963, and we have welcomed it on every occasion. But we do not welcome the fact that 75% of the bounty is paid to the manufacturer and not to the user. I suppose it is true that if the manufacturer did not get it the price of superphosphate would increase, but no attempt has been made to control the price of superphosphate to the producer. Every time the cost of superphosphate goes up more is taken out of Consolidated Revenue to increase the bounty. There should be an inquiry into the increases in the cost of superphosphate, and if the inquiry revealed that the bounty should be more than $12 there is no doubt in my mind that the Australian Labor Party would support any proposal to increase it, but we are not prepared to support this kind of stepping up all the time without any figures being provided to show why the cost of superphosphate is increasing.
– But you would support an increase in the bounty for wheat growers, would you not? You are saying that 20% of wheat growers should not get the bounty because they will grow more wheat.
– We would apply a quota on production over 10,000 bushels. If that were done quotas would be applied to those people who in fact destroyed the stabilisation scheme in New South Wales and Queensland when they turned to a cash crop and engaged in over-production. They were not true farmers; they were graziers who, having lost their stock, went for a cash crop, flooded the market and destroyed the wheat stabilisation scheme. If a quota were applied to production over 10,000 bushels only those people who destroyed the production side of the wheat industry would be affected.
– What is the relevance of the superphosphate bounty to that argument?
– The relevance is not to my argument but to the Government’s argument that there must be a reduction in the production of wheat. At the same time, however, the Government is encouraging the production of wheat by increasing the bounty on superphosphate, the material which grows the wheat. There is no consistency in the Government’s policy.
– Would the Labor Party give the bounty to wheat growers?
– Of course we would, but under our scheme, not under the Government’s scheme. We would not have a bar of the Government’s scheme.
– You would give the bounty under a scheme whereby a quota was applied to everything over 10,000 bushels?
– Yes, under our scheme, not under the Government’s scheme. What has the Government done about other costs in this industry? Sure, the Prime Minister came to an agreement with Esso-BHP on the price of oil, a price that is far in excess of the cost of production. Esso-BHP will make enormous profits from its operations in Bass Strait and the cost to the Australian consumer of the products from Bass Strait will increase. This means that the cost of power will increase because most of the power stations today are turning over to crude oil. It means that freights will increase because practically all railway systems in Australia now use diesel power. Nearly all heavy duty haulage trucks on the roads are running on diesel oil, and all shipping these days uses diesel oil or oil fired burners. All of these factors will play a part in increasing the cost to the grower, whichever way you go about it.
During the last sessional period the Government brought down a Commonwealth Aids Road Bill which has made it more difficult for local authorities to get their quota of money for roads. Anyone who reads the Press will see that practically every local authority, at least in my State, has had to increase its rates by at least 20%. Because local authorities have to increase their rates an added burden is placed on the primary producer. The Government has not made any attempt to reduce the cost of items of the kind I have mentioned, nor has it made any attempt to bring sanity into its tariff policy. There should be an independent inquiry into the Government’s tariff policy. I believe that efficient and economic industries should be protected. In some cases even uneconomic industries may require protection. According to this Government’s policy the big companies have only to apply for tariff protection; having applied for it, they will get it.
When I look at the balance sheets of companies that are published at the end of the year I sometimes wonder whether we are not protecting profits instead of jobs. I would protect the jobs of the workers. In many cases we read of companies applying for higher tariff protection and then, within a few months of being granted higher protection by the Tariff Board, bringing out a balance sheet which shows increased profits. That is an added burden on our primary industries, yet the Government does nothing about it. I have no quarrel with the members of the Tariff Board but I believe that there should be an inquiry into the Board to see whether it is efficient and properly staffed to carry out the functions that we impose upon it.
If some of the things that I have suggested were done we might be able to bring the wheat industry back to some sort of stability and allow the growers, the backbone of the wheat industry, to get back on their feet and have a decent standard of living.
– I rise to support the Budget. I must say at the beginning that I cannot go along with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I have seen nineteen different Budgets introduced in this Parliament, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, over the time I have been here. I believe that this Budget is the best one that has been presented to the Australian taxpayers and public since I became a member of the Senate. For the nineteenth time I have heard the airy-fairy, impractical suggestions made by a political party that has had no hope of ever achieving power. In other words, there is no danger that it might have to implement its wild proposals. For the nation’s sake I hope that it is never called upon to do so.
This afternoon I had the privilege of sitting in this chamber while the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Cohen) spoke for half an hour on education and dealt with the alleged ills in our proposals and schemes. He criticised the Government for increasing payments to private schools because the children of rich people will receive either $35 or $50 a year.
– What do they want it for?
– The interjector asks: Why do they want it?’ I will give him the reason. There are many people who save up for years and years so that they can send their children to a boarding school. If we did not give them the same as everybody else receives, they would not be able to send their children to those schools.
– God help the poor.
– I hope that the honourable senator listened to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. He said that we were helping the rich. He did not get around to the subject of pensions. He did not say a word on that. What is the Australian Labor Party’s policy on pensions? Is there a means test on pensions under that policy? I do not think so. Members of the Opposition have said - they have laid this on the line - that if elected as a government-
– When elected as a government.
– The word is still ‘if. They have said that if elected as a government they will abolish the means test completely over a period of 6 years.
– On social services.
– That is on social services. So, on the one hand they are saying: We will give everybody a pension, whether he is a millionaire or not; but we are against the children of those millionaires going to school and receiving a small subsidy of $30 a year’. Why do not they come out in the open and say: ‘We have a policy and we will pursue this policy. We do not believe in discriminating between the rich and the poor’? Why do not they come out and say something like that? If they did so, at least they would be consistent. But at the present time they are saying that, as far as they are concerned, in the field of education there should be a means test but in the field of pensions there should be no means test. I do not believe that that is being consistent at all.
We have been in government, looking after the interests of the people of Australia, for 19 years.
– And what a mess.
– This is our nineteenth Budget. I wish to inform Senator Keeffe that there has been terrific development within the Commonwealth in the last 19 years. The population has increased from 7,796,000 to 12,171,000 and the gross national product has increased from $8,39 lm to more than $2 1,677m - all in a matter of 19 years. When we look at the production of steel within the Commonwealth, we find that, back in those dark ages when the Labor Party was in office, in their last year in office Australia was able to produce 1,178,000 tons of steel. The production has now increased to more than 6,599,000 tons. That represents an increase of about 500% in the last 19 years. In those days car registrations were 103,149 a year. At the moment they are more than 459,000 a year. The number of houses and flats built has increased from 52,000 a year to more than 115,000 a year. The value of mineral exports - encouraged by this Government - has increased from a miserly figure of $12,883,000 to more than $464m per annum. It is increasing at the rate of many millions of dollars per annum.
We have done all this in a period of full employment. What a record for a government to have! We can go out to the electors and say that during our administration there has never been more than 3% of our work force unemployed. I believe that that is a record achievement. We do all this, looking at the position from year to year. When times are bad we budget for a deficit. In this Budget we are budgeting for a very small deficit of about $30m, whereas in the previous year the budget deficit was more than $300m.
– So you. are admitting that times are bad.
– We are not admitting that times are bad. We are saying that times are good. When times are good a government does not budget for a large deficit. In this instance my guess is that when the year is finalised we will probably be a very small amount in surplus or a very small amount in deficit.
In the Governor-General’s Speech which was made some 17 months ago it was stated that the Government would look after and look into the problems of the needy aged and others. Let me say to the Senate that within a period of 12 months or a little more we have increased the single pension rate by $2 a week or 15%, which is far greater than the increase in the cost of living. In this Budget we have come forward with a proposal to introduce a tapered means test. This will be quite different from what the Labor Party evidently is advocating; that is, abolishing the means test altogether and giving a pension to the millionaires. The tapered means test will also allow people in receipt of pensions to earn additional income. Single pensioners will receive an income of up to $39 or $40 a week. When we look into these things we must realise that this is an achievement on the part of the present Government. Under the present means test, if a single pensioner has means assessed at $25 a week his pension cuts out. His income remains at $25 a week. Under the proposed scheme a person with means assessed at $39 a week will be able to get a pension of 50c in addition to what he earns. In other words, he will have an income of $39.30 a week. Let us now consider the case of married pensioners. Under this proposal a married couple with assessed means at $69 a week will receive a small pension of 50c a week, giving them a total income of S69.50. At present their pension cuts out if their assessed weekly means is $45.
– What is the document you are reading from?
– If the honourable senator wants to look at it he will find it in the Hansard report of the House of Representatives. We also propose to increase the amount of permissible earnings for the aged in assessing income tax. They will be permitted to earn up to $80 a week without having to pay income tax. The details are set out in a document which gives the benefits resulting from the proposed changes in pensions and age allowances for a married couple. The figures are based on the gross benefit that a married pensioner can get. It is $8 for a single pensioner and about the same for a married pensioner. Let us consider a married couple with means assessed at $69 a week. At present they receive no pension. With the introduction of the tapered means test they will receive 50c a week, giving them a total income of $69.50. At present that couple would pay $6 per week in tax. Under the proposal contained in the Budget taxation will be reduced to $3.07, a decrease of $2.93. The total benefit per week is $3.43. Not only would that married couple get more money as. a result of the tapered means test but they would have to pay less tax, up to a maximum of $3.50. This is just one thing that the Government has done for pensioners.
Let us now consider the proposal put forward by the Australian Labor Party. Perhaps I should- say that the Opposition is just looking at the scheme and if elected will set up a committee to examine it. No definite proposal has been brought forward as yet. The scheme, proposed by Professor Downing, calls for the abolition of the means test over a period of 6 years. To do this, the small farmers to whom Senator Cant referred, small business people, and people who are self-employed will have to pay pay-roll tax at a rate of about 7%. The Labor Party has stated that if elected it will appoint someone to examine this scheme proposed by Professor Downing. However it has not yet said what it will do. If the Labor Party adopts this scheme it will have to tax pensioners.
We have to be reasonable. We have to put up a proposition which will help pensioners. The Government’s proposal is available for everyone to examine. It is set out in the Budget Papers. It has been explained in speeches by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and by supporters of the Government. Everybody understands what we say and what we propose to do. We are going to bring in a tapered means test. I have pointed out to the Senate that single pensioners will be able to receive a total income, including pension, of up to $39.50 a week and that married pensioners will be able to receive a total income, including the pension, of up to $70 a week. This Government is also looking after widows and TPI pensioners. All these rates are being increased, but I do not propose to go into those matters tonight.
Senator Cant claimed that the Government was not very interested in farmers in increasing the superphosphate bounty but was only aiding the manufacturers. I challenge the honourable senator to produce figures to show that the fertiliser bounty has not been passed on to the farmers. That superphosphate bounty is being increased in this Budget by from $8 a ton to $12 a ton. Last year it was increased from $6 to $8 a ton. In a period of a little over 12 months the bounty has increased $6. This bounty will bring the price of superphosphate back to the price that farmers had to pay in 1966.
I should now refer to national development. The Opposition has claimed that this Government does not have a national development policy. In their 20 years in office, the Government parties have increased the amount of conserved water in Australia from 7 million acre feet shortly after the end of the Second World War to over 50 million acre feet. This is an amazing increase. If honourable senators opposite look at the schemes we have encouraged by means of special taxation arrangements, they will understand why the mining industry has taken a fast stride forward.
– There is nothing in the Budget about that.
– There does not have to be anything in the Budget because at the moment we are getting maximum results from our mining tax laws. In this Senate we have brought down propositions which will enable people to subscribe to companies.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to invite the attention of the Senate to the situation that is developing with the granting of permits for oil exploration on the Great Barrier Reef. I quote from Hansard of 26th August a question asked by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton):
Is the Prime Minister still of the same opinion - and I hope he is - as expressed by him in Queensland, that the Great Barrier Reef should not be placed in jeopardy by drilling for oil? If he has changed his mind because of legal obligations, will he see what the Commonwealth Government can do to legislate to remove any legal bars that may allow to take place action which would be detrimental to the Barrier Reef?
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) replied:
I believe that the Barrier Reef, being one of the great wonders of the world, should not be in any way endangered and should not in any way run the risk of having its ecological balance disturbed, or in other ways put in jeopardy. There were a number of leases issued, as the honourable member will know, by the Queensland Government before the introduction of the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States for off-shore petroleum. On entering into the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States on off-shore petroleum, the existing leases which the State had given were protected. That is the situation as it stands at the present time. But
I can only repeat what I said before, and which I say to the honourable member now, that anything which in any way would seem to endanger the Great Barrier Reef, not only on the question of drilling for oil, is something which should not, as far as legal possibilities are concerned, take place.
As reported in the ‘Financial Review’ of 26th August, the Queensland Minister for Mines has stated:
Everything involved a risk, whether it was driving a car, clearing land for a farm or drilling for oil.
Oil exploration permits for this area have been granted. The Commonwealth must accept some responsibility for those leases having been granted.
– Why must it? Would you explain why?
– I invite the honourable senator’s attention to the non-justiciable agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. Clause 1 1 states:
Except insofar as the Commonwealth Government has informed the State Government that it is not necessary to do so, a State Government will consult the Commonwealth Government -
before a permit, licence, pipeline licence, access authority or special prospecting authority under the Common Mining Code in relation to the adjacent area of that State is granted, renewed or varied . . .
I think in answer to a question asked in this place it was stated that the Commonwealth Government has not notified any of the State governments that it is not necessary for the States to consult the Commonwealth; therefore consultation with the Commonwealth Government is required before the permits can be issued.
– Does the honourable senator say that applies to permits granted before the legislation came into force?
– Yes, I do state that. Clause 11 states: . . before a permit, licence, pipeline licence, access authority or special prospecting authority under the Common Mining Code in relation to the adjacent area of that State is granted, renewed or varied . . .
The agreement says nothing about whether or not the licences or permits were issued before the Common Mining Code came into force or anything else. It is true that the Commonwealth’s responsibilities are referred to in clause 11 (2.) and that in those Commonwealth responsibilities we find nothing about conservation. But the Commonwealth Government is the government that became a signatory to the International Convention on the Exploration and Exploitation of the Seabed. By Article5 of that Convention the Commonwealth accepted the responsibility for conservation. Whether or not clause 11 of the agreement mentions it, the Commonwealth cannot avoid its responsibility for conservation of the natural resources. It seems to me that the Commonwealth, at every possible step, is avoiding giving any information to this Senate with respect to the exploration and exploitation of the seabed. I refer to a question asked by Senator Webster on 27th February 1969. He asked the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) who represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn):
That question has not been answered. It was asked 6 months ago. We cannot get information. The Minister either refuses to give the information or he is not interested in giving it.
– We will have to give him another 6 months.
– He is acting in collusion with the Queensland Government.
– Either he is not being consulted by the Queensland Government or he is being consulted and he refuses to tell the Senate that he has agreed to the issue of the permits.
– Or he is waiting till 26th October.
– Unfortunately, he will get away with it because the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources will not have furnished its report by that time. On 19th March 1969 Senator Webster put a question on notice. It was addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and was in these terms:
Was this getting the Minister off the hook by suggesting that it was the responsibility of Queensland? Does not the Minister accept it as his responsibility under the agreement to ensure that the State of Queensland shall consult him? Is he avoiding his responsibility? What is going on? A further part of the question reads:
There is no answer to that. Is it the proper exercise of his responsibility for a Minister to have questions such as these lying on his table for 5 months in one case and 6 months in another case without giving an answer? I have asked in the Senate several questions relating to oil exploration. I do not expect the Minister in this place who represents the Minister for National Development to have everything at his fingertips, but every time a question is asked it is requested that it be put on notice. Are the questions that have now been put on notice going to wait for 6 months before they are answered? There might be a different Minister, or there might be a different government by that time. I would hope that if there is a change of government we shall be given answers very much more quickly than we are now. I am sure there would be a difference in the oil exploration industry if a Labor government was elected.
Let me refer to the fourth part of the first question asked by Senator Webster. In the report contained in the ‘Financial Review’, to which I have referred, this statement appears:
One of the exponents of the ‘hard line’ on drilling, Professor H. Connell, has claimed however that Queenslanders have to decide whether they want the reef or an oil industry.
In my opinion, the two cannot live side by side,’ Professor Connell, who is Professor of Biological Science at the University of California, said in a public lecture in Brisbane.
His lecture was on the biological effects of the Santa Barbara oil spillage in California.
He said the Santa Barbara oil slick has spread over 100 miles.
There were 9,000 off shore oil wells off Louisiana and there was one accident a month and at least one major spill a year there.
There was no scientific proof that an oil spill would harm coral, but the results on the Barrier Reef from a tourist point of view would be disastrous.
The Santa Barbara spill had had its greatest effect on bird life but its real effect on animal life would not be known until those sea creatures that survive could reproduce.
Professor Connell said precautions taken against the spill were strict, but nevertheless it had occurred and there was no reason why a similar spill could not occur from any Barrier Reef oil well.
I return to question time in the House of Representatives on 26th August when Mr Whitlam asked the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) this question:
I ask the Attorney-General a question. It concerns the leases which the Queensland Government has purported to give to drill for oil in the neighbourhood of the Great Barrier Reef. I ask the honourable gentleman: Are these leases in areas in which in the view of Chief Justice Barwick and Mr Justice Windeyer in La Macchia’s case the Commonwealth has full responsibilities?
Mr Bowen answered:
These are permits to explore; the companies concerned have not reached the stage of establishing the presence of oil and asking for licences.
I stop there. I am not very concerned with the rest of the answer because it deals with the division of authority in the area. It is true that only permits to explore for oil have been granted. But exploration involves the drilling of wells, and if, when drilling a well, you strike oil and the well blows, there will be just as much damage as would be done if the well were drilled under a licence to drill for oil. Therefore the fact that the companies have not made applications for licences to drill for oil does not make the danger of destruction of the Barrier Reef any the less.
As I said when speaking to the Coral Sea Islands Bill the other night, we do not know whether an oil spill would damage the Reef. No proper scientific work has been done to see what the effects of oil are going to be if there is a spillage there. Until such time as this scientific work is carried out, the greatest of precautions should be taken and I submit that the best way to do this is to see to it that there is no exploration or exploitation of this area.
I do not want to keep the Senate up late, but I do want to stand up in my place and protest against the Minister’s action and fo accuse him of refusing to answer questions which are placed on notice by honourable senators. I accuse him of complete dereliction of duty in allowing questions to be on his table for periods of 5 and 6 months. If he was in this place I would have no hesitation in moving a motion of censure against him. I think he deserves such a motion and that action should be taken. He has his Department behind him. He can get all the information he wants from it. Surely he can say in answer to questions whether or not he has agreed to the issue of permits. He knows whether his Department has been consulted with respect to exploration. He does not have to wait for 6 months to find out whether there has been consultation. Surely he could say to the Senate either that there has been consultation, that the Commonwealth has agreed to the issue of permits because they were issued prior to the introduction of the joint legislation, or that the Commonwealth has agreed that permits should not be granted. To hold these matters up for 6 months is to hold the Senate in complete contempt.
– I do not propose to take up very much of the time of the Senate, but I do want to support strongly the remarks of my colleague, Senator Cant. Undoubtedly before this Parliament rises there will be opportunities to canvass this matter in greater depth.
– When will that be?
– I am not going to give you the date. You will be in enough trouble when the time comes. The points raised by Senator Cant are very valid indeed. We have been continually sidestepped by Senator Scott, representing the Minister for National Development, on every occasion when we have asked questions in this chamber. I know that prior to the holding of the Queensland elections the Minister adopted the attitude that it was smart to say, in his very terse way: ‘Put the question on notice.’ I remind the Minister that on 16th April 1969 - more than 4 months ago - I asked this question concerning permits to explore for oil:
In the final part of my question I asked:
Will the Minister take the necessary action to ensure that all such oil searches in the Barrier Reef area cease forthwith?
Although it was a matter of great importance at the time, an answer was not given to my question. Instead, the question was put on the notice paper. The Minister will be well aware that the explosives which are used for oil exploration can have two effects. Firstly, marine life in general can be destroyed. Secondly, if the explosives are dropped into a bed of coral it can be destroyed as well. But the effect on coral is more permanent. The ordinary marine life will probably regenerate itself over a comparatively short period of time, but the coral in the area will take many years to build up again. But the significant thing - perhaps this is what prompted Senator Cant to raise the matter on the eve of a recess - is to point out to the Queensland Government, and more particularly to the Commonwealth Government and Senator Scott, representing the Minister for National Development, that this is a matter of great urgency. It is obvious that there is a clear division within the coalition ranks on this matter. In fact, it appears that there is a clear division within the Liberal Party organisation itself because, as I mentioned a day or so ago in a debate in this chamber and during a question, when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was in Queensland he apparently attempted to raise this matter at a Liberal Party conference but was forbidden to do so. As a result, he had to make a statement outside of the conference in order to make the people of Queensland and those issuing the permits realise that it is a very serious matter indeed. 1 believe it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to approach the Queensland Government over the next few days to arrange some sort of a moratorium insofar as the issue of licences is concerned. It is no good saying that nothing will happen where they are searching and drilling for oil at Repulse Bay. I heard an honourable senator opposite say yesterday that there was nothing in the area to destroy. If the tides are flowing in the right direction or the winds are blowing in the wrong direction whole groups of islands can be destroyed by any leak in an oil well and they will probably not be restored to their original condition for many years to come. But it could be even worse. It does not matter if the Great Barrier Reef is 30 or 40 miles away, because the tides will carry the oil on to those parts of the Reef which in this area are above water at low tide. So the matter has to be approached in a serious manner in an endeavour to see what can be done. The company that I referred to yesterday is in fact bringing a rig into the area. It has publicly stated that it intends to commence drilling in October. The Queensland Government is doing nothing about it. If the joint Commonwealth-State legislation has any teeth in it the responsibility lies with the Commonwealth Government to do something. I challenge it to take the action necessary in the immediate future and not when the damage has been done.
– All of the points raised by Senator Cant have been noted. I will take them up with the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). Over the years Senator Cant has taken a very keen interest in mining and oil exploration in Australia. I appreciate the knowledge he has gained. I will put the matters he has raised before the Minister for his consideration.
I want to refute some of the statements made by Senator Keeffe. He said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was not allowed to speak on oil exploration at a Liberal Party of Australia function. That statement is completely absurd. I do not believe it at all. Senator Keeffe also referred to oil exploration in Repulse Bay. Repulse Bay is more or less regarded as enclosed waters. It belongs entirely to Queensland and does not come within the terms of the joint agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government on off-shore drilling. The Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction over this well. I will bring the other matters that Senator Keeffe has raised to the attention of the Minister.
– I refer to the submissions that I made in the Senate on Thursday night during the debate on the motion to adjourn the Senate. (Quorum formed.) The matter I raise concerns civil liberties. A lot of lip service is given to civil liberties, but to my way of thinking nothing is done when certain grievances are ventilated. I referred this matter to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to see what could be done. I am sure that the Minister will not worry about the other aspects of the matter as long as one particular aspect is taken care of. That is the reason why I am on my feet again this evening. The matter I wish to raise is: How much protection can the War Services Homes Division and the attendant Commonwealth authorities give to tenants of war service homes who are being menaced by State instrumentalities and individuals who are empire building?
The Sydney Farm Produce Market Authority is not content with taking over the Flemington saleyards; it also wants to encroach upon Hammersmith Street, Homebush West. This is quite a remarkable matter. There is talk of all sorts about buying people out in this street and paying them the market value of their property. I raised the matter of civil liberties because I was wondering why a person who is perfectly satisfied to live in a war service home should have to leave it. People in this street are not interested in living in any other place of abode. I think we are reaching a stage where some of the State instrumentalities think that they can move in and do what they like. I would be the last to complain if this were a matter of the greatest good for the greatest number, but it is not. A couple of streets are involved, but mainly Hammersmith Street. The majority of the people living there are happy to live in their war service homes. Some may have paid them off. One person who lives in the area is Mr D. H. Clarke of 17 Hammersmith Street, Homebush West. He has a very illustrious war record. He has informed me that he is not interested in the money but is exercising his right to spend the next 25 or 30 years of his life residing in the area. It is on that basis that I bring the matter to the attention of the Minister. In effect, it boils down to whether towers for power lines should be re-sited.
I would like to see this matter regarded as a test case. I hope the Minister can give some comfort or a solution to the people involved. These people have in good faith undertaken commitments to the War Service Homes Division. I have no criticism tonight of the Division. The point is: Why should the people in this area be hit over a net like shuttlecocks when they want to be left alone? As I say, they look for some protection from the Commonwealth. It is for that reason that I submit the matter to the Minister. This is not a matter in respect of which an eviction will take place tomorrow. Negotiations will continue. I met a group of people last Sunday morning who were most irate and who asked me to express to the Minister the hope that she would be able to assist them.
I propose to refer now to two matters which I want to bring to the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who represents the Minister for National Development in this chamber. There seems to be an inability on the part of the Atomic Energy Commission to give clear-cut answers to straight forward questions put to it. I draw Senator Scott’s attention to the remarks I made on the adjournment on 19th August when I sought information and he undertook to obtain answers for me. I asked why the Atomic Energy Commission could not exercise sufficient supervision of its property at Lucas Heights to ensure that private enterprise did not dump industrial waste there which ultimately would pollute the Georges River. I am still awaiting an answer to that question. I do not envy the Minister his task in getting a reply from the Commission, but I can assure him that the Bankstown Council and other parties who are interested are anxious to receive a reply.
The Atomic Energy Commission is to be indicted for its double talk in respect of people in the Northern Territory having a right to visit the Rum Jungle area to see whether there is a continued pollution of the East Finniss River. I simply remind the Minister that on 23rd July no less a person than the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission assured me - I use his words - that there was no restriction on visits to the Rum Jungle area and local people move quite freely through the area concerned. He said this in reply to my question whether the area had a Pine Gap atmosphere. I have since received a letter from Mr W. P. Walsh, President of the Northern Territory Conservation Association, who protested that he was still unable to get a clear cut answer on whether he could visit the area. As he points out in his letter, he still wants access to the river to carry out bio-assay work. I leave those two matters with Senator Scott hoping that he can provide some speedy redress.
(11.33] - During the adjournment debate last Thursday Senator Mulvihill asked me to undertake a study of certain proposals relating to urban development in the Homebush West region of New South Wales. In particular, he asked me to consider representations contained in a document from Mr Hallinan, secretary of the Flemington Progress Association, concerning these matters. Tonight the honourable senator has raised some points additional to those matters. The points which I propose to answer now are those which I promised to look at last Thursday night.
In response to the honourable senator’s request I have made inquiries into this matter and I understand that under legislation passed by the New South Wales Government and which came into operation on 7th June 1968 the Sydney Farm Produce Market Authority was constituted. This Authority will operate under the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture. As from 1st January 1969 the Market Authority took control of the Sydney produce markets and associated assets which had previously been owned by the Sydney County Council. The Market Authority has the authority and responsibility to re-locate the Sydney produce markets on the site of the old stock holding yards at Flemington and to do this the Authority has to initiate the acquisition of forty-four homes adjacent to the stock yards. As part of the development of the new produce markets at Flemington, I understand that the New South Wales Electricity Commission considers that it will be necessary to re-locate some existing high tension electricity mains which are situated in proximity to the proposed new market site. Details relating to the re-location of the electricity mains and the effect that they may have upon existing homes in this area are not available at this stage, but I shall keep the matter under review and I shall inform the honourable senator of any further developments on this aspect as the information becomes available.
In the document prepared by the secretary of the Flemington Progress Association three streets are mentioned in which homes are expected to be resumed as a result of re-location of the high tension electricity mains. Some of these properties were said to be war service homes. I understood the honourable senator to refer to this area again tonight. I have had inquiries carried out by the Sydney office of my Department which has informed me that only one war service home in this area is likely to be affected by this scheme.
– Is that the home of Mr Clarke, the person to whom 1 referred tonight?
– I have not been supplied with the name. 1 have noted the name Mr D. H. Clarke mentioned by the honourable senator and I shall check to see whether it is his property. I am sure that all honourable senators will appreciate that where a large public scheme, designed to meet the developing needs of a modern city is planned, inevitably the resumption of some dwelling houses will be involved. Where this happens, usually some war service homes are found to be affected. Naturally, though I sympathise with home owners whose homes are resumed in these circumstances, I feel that I should point out that the long standing policy of the Director of War Service Homes is never to seek to intervene or obstruct proposals of a State authority for the reasonable development of a locality, except to ensure, when requested to do so, that war service home owners affected by any resumption proposals receive reasonable compensation.
I point out also that whenever a war service home is required by a government or semi-government authority, the established policy is to give favourable consideration, subject to certain conditions, to the granting of a second loan under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. I give the honourable senator that reply to his request that I should investigate these matters. After the honourable senator has given me the name of the individual person referred to tonight I shall look into that case and give him a reply.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia -
I advise Senator Mulvihill that the two points raised by him have been noted. I shall place them before the Minister for National Development for his consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690827_senate_26_s42/>.