26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. What positive steps will the Government take to protect Australia’s wheat farmers if the International Grains Arrangement collapses following the new price cuts for American wheat? Is the wheat industry now on the brink of economic disaster because of the Government’s failure to rationalise it years ago?
– Answering the last part of the question first, I give a very strong denial to the suggestion that the present wheat position is due to any action of this Government. From the questions which have been asked in the Senate over the past few months we all know the position regarding the wheat industry. Turning to the early part of the question, the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday made a statement in another place setting out the position and intimating that a meeting is to be called, I think on Australia’s initiative, to discuss once again the whole question of overseas marketing. The Minister for Trade and Industry is looked upon as one of the best negotiators in the Western world so far as trade agreements are concerned and the honourable senator can rest assured that if anything can be done in Australia’s interests Mr McEwen is the man to do it.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science inform the Senate of the comparative benefits made available to independent schools and state schools in the current Budget? To what extent is there justification for the claim that provisions for independent schools prejudice state schools?
– It will be recalled that the Government’s proposals include per capita grants to independent schools amounting, 1 think, to $16m. If one looks at the amounts which have been made avail able by the Government for school purposes in the States - that is to say for state schools - under the heading of science laboratories, teacher training colleges, - school libraries and other things one finds that $39. 4m has been provided for state schools whereas the amount provided for independent schools, including that for science laboratories, secondary school libraries and other facilities, totals $24.5m. I point out that that amount includes the Si 6m to which I have already referred. So state schools received $39.4m and independent schools $24. 5m.
Taking the whole range of schools in Territories and the educational institutions in the States, universities, colleges of advanced education and our own Australian National University, and taking the amount of the general reimbursement grant that out of this Budget goes back to the Slates and supplies a considerable portion of the State vote for State educational purposes, the total that comes out of the Commonwealth Budget for government institutions in the educational field this year is $5 10. 4m, and for independent schools $26. 2m. Knowing the interest of honourable senators in this issue, 1 have compiled a list of these figures. 1 ask for leave to incorporate that list in Hansard for the convenience of the Senate.
– Order! ls leave granted?
Opposition Senators - No.
– Order! Leave is not granted.
– I shall distribute copies among Government senators for their information.
– 1 ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the figures just given to the Senate by the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science and particularly to that figure of $39.4m, which he said is for state schools and which was referred to by the Prime Minister in debate on the Budget in another place. Is the figure of S39.4m approximately 20% of the moneys paid to date on account of thi purchase of twenty-four Fill aircraft?
– With great respect to the Acting Leader of the Opposition, I point out that there is no relationship between his question and the answer given by Senator Wright.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that in recent months there has been a considerable fall in the landed price of sulphur? What is the extent of this fall? What effect is this likely to have on the price of superphosphate and when will this price alteration be felt?
– I have been able to obtain some information from the Minister for Primary Industry which will enable me to answer the honourable senator’s question. It is correct that a general fall is taking place in world sulphur prices. The extent of the reductions in the price of sulphur from the various sources of supply is not uniform and the negotiation of contracts for Australian fertiliser manufacturers’ requirements throughout 1969-70 will not be completed for several months yet. However, it is expected that the average cost of imported sulphur used for superphosphate making in the coming year could be about $4 per ton lower than the 1968-69 figure. This should enable the fertiliser manufacturing companies to maintain their prices in the face of rising costs in other areas.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the Budget Speech, under the sub-heading ‘Health Benefits’, appears the following:
What is the meaning of ‘family cash income’? Is it the minimum weekly wage prescribed by an award or industrial agreement? Is it the minimum wage plus over-award payments? Is it the minimum wage plus overtime? Is it the minimum wage plus a shift work allowance or any other penalty rate? Is it the take-home pay of the worker? Does it mean that any pay ments from a friendly society should be included? Is child endowment to be assessed as part of the family cash income?
– As I recall the passage in the Budget Speech, it does indicate that there will be legislative proposals to meet this concession which the Government will bring about. It would be wrong for me and, indeed, for any of us here to anticipate the legislation. I make this point: The cash income figure of $39 below which it is anticipated that there will be Government subvention so that it will not be necessary for persons to pay for health insurance will be assessed, no doubt, in the same way as income is assessed for the purpose of pension concessions. It is my complete understanding that family endowment is not taken into account in any calculations. Quite apart from the other matters that the honourable senator raised, I would say that family endowment is not taken into account in assessing the income of a family group for the purpose of this very significant concession that the Government is to give in these cases.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I ask: Has the Minister received a copy of a resolution of an Adelaide conference calling on the Commonwealth and State governments to take immediate action to prevent further despoliation of Aboriginal relic and culture sites? Can the Minister indicate the steps that are being taken to protect what the resolution describes as the sacred sites and areas where there are works of art?
– I believe that a conference was held recently in Adelaide. The resolution has not as yet been received by my colleague the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. The honourable senator also asked what is being done to protect sacred native sites. I would like to inform him that in the Northern Territory these sites are protected under the Native Historical Objects and Areas Preservation Ordinance. In regard to the other States, the Minister is constantly in touch with his ministerial colleagues who are concerned with Aboriginal affairs. Some States are understood to be considering legislation to provide, adequate protection for such sites. I think that all of the statements made by the Minister on the subject of Aboriginal affairs show that he has a very keen personal interest in the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I ask: Is the Government disturbed about the apparent miscarriage of justice in relation to the slaying of Josephine Dunphy by-
– Order! I am not satisfied that the honourable senator’s question is in order. The matter could be subject to appeal. I have been following what has been said in the New South Wales Parliament about the case. I think it would be better if the honourable senator did not pursue his question.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can he inform the Senate of the position in regard to the sugar agreement between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments? Will the agreement, which has already been extended for one year on a short term basis, be renewed this year on a 5-year basis?
– I should expect that the Minister for Primary Industry would be making a statement in relation to this matter in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. I ask: Is it a fact that a number of Australian Army personnel now serving in Vietnam who should be entitled to 68 days home leave have had their home leave reduced to 39 days? Is it also a fact that as a result of this reduction in home leave they will lose a number of allowances and entitlements? I point out that these people consider it to be a breach of the recognised arrangements under which they serve in Vietnam.
– I have no knowledge of the situation that has been outlined by the honourable senator. I would be very surprised indeed if the situation he has outlined is the true position. I am not suggesting that the facts given to the honourable senator were not faithfully relayed. I will make inquiries from the Minister for the Army to ascertain the position.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has the Minister seen an editorial in today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ in which critical comment is directed to the decision of a jury and to a sentence imposed by a judge? Does the Minister see any impropriety in this matter? Is any parallel to be drawn between a comment of this nature and the recent answer given by the Minister to a question concerning the Pratt case which was criticised by the Opposition? Would the Minister regard the absence of comment by the Opposition on this editorial as demonstrating lack of concern this week for a principle which last week it regarded as of the utmost importance?
– I rise to order. I submit with respect, Mr President, that as you ruled the question asked by my colleague, Senator Ormonde, out of order on this matter, to be consistent you should also rule Senator Greenwood’s question out of order. It might invite a debate that would be extensive and lead into areas where we would be trespassing on matters that might be the subject of proceedings in a court.
– I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that there were questions raised in the Parliament of New South Wales on these lines and it was agreed that it was probably not an opportune or wise time for this case to be discussed because there still was an area in which an appeal could take place. As to the newspaper article, I do not know whether it is desired to enlarge on that point. All I say is that I asked Senator Ormonde not to pursue his question and he very willingly agreed not to do so. Legal opinion, of course, may be that I am wrong and that this is an area in which a debate could take place. Personally, I do not think a debate should take place, but I will not rule the question out of order; I will let it go through to the Minister.
– The editorial to which Senator Greenwood refers is an example of the exercise of the right and duty of the Press to consider and discuss judgments of courts of justice along with other public institutions. It was clearly laid down by the court of appeal in recent citations that were made by Senator Rae in this chamber that, whether a matter was under appeal or not, so long as comments are properly made, they are perfectly proper.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate this question: Does the Minister agree that there is a great deal of difference between a newspaper editorial commenting on matters of public interest, including proceedings in a court, and comment by a Minister representing the Attorney-General, on a case in which the Attorney-General has been the prosecutor, while the matter may still be before the courts?
– I cannot see any difference at all between the rights of a senator whether he be a Minister, or whether he represents the Attorney-General, and those of a newspaper editorial in the eases to which the honourable senator refers. 1 would say that what Senator Wright said was established in the debate. Indeed, the vote of the Senate reflected the propriety of what he had said.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Have any discussions taken place between the Minister for the Navy and the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation on the feasibility of establishing steel works at Jervis Bay?
– I am not aware of any discussions that have taken place. This morning I read with tremendous interest, indeed with some excitement, an announcement of the possibility of a big industrial undertaking being established at Jervis Bay. I do not have the information which the honourable senator seeks. I shall endeavour to get it for him and let him know.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a complaint by the Mayor of Launceston that it is difficult, if not impossibe, to contact the Launceston office of the Australian Broadcasting Commission outside ordinary working hours? Will the Minister investigate this complaint and take such action as may be desirable to arrange for that office of the ABC to be adequately staffed?
– I was not aware of this matter until the honourable senator asked his question this morning. I do not know whether the PostmasterGeneral is aware of it, but I shall certainly bring to his notice the point which the honourable senator raises.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Is the Government disturbed about the apparent miscarriage of justice in relation to the slaying of Josephine Dunphy by the United States airman Lawrence James Hull? Does the Minister feel that a verdict of manslaughter in this case was out of order?
– The honourable senator has referred to a State prosecution for murder which involves no Federal responsibility whatsoever. I would not, without knowledge of the evidence in such a case, make any comment.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science follows upon the question asked of him by Senator Young. Can the Minister say how much the Government will pay in direct grants per capita to students in government schools compared with students in non-government schools as a result of the recent Budget brought down by the Federal Treasurer?
– I think the honourable senator would know that this is an incongruous question. The Government has chosen to make per capita grants to the independent schools as a means of making a small amount of assistance available to them. Per capita grants are inapplicable to the state schools because for more than half a century State governments, and for about 10 years this Government, have been making money available en bloc for state educational institutions. The amount that that would work out to per capita can be derived by taking $39.4m for state schools as such, $24.4m for schools in the Territories and the general reimbursement grant of S275m, and then dividing the total amount between the school population. That would give us an amount per capita. I think that figure would show that the cost per capita for a school child in a state school is very many times the amount which is made available to a child in an independent school.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate if or when the drought bonds legislation which was announced in last year’s Budget will be implemented? Is it the Government’s intention to proceed with this proposal or is the issuing of drought bonds to be quietly dropped?
– I shall seek information from the Treasurer and let the honourable senator and the Senate know the answer to his question. Certainly the suggestion in the last part of his question is completely inconsistent with the Government’s intention.
– Can the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities indicate whether arrangements have been made for the sailing ships which are to visit Australia for the Captain Cook bi-centenary celebrations to visit some of the Tasmanian regattas while they are in Australian waters?
– There has been quite some difficulty and delay in arranging the sailing programme for international ships in connection with the Captain Cook bi-centenary celebrations. I have not been advised recently by Admiral Morrison whether final arrangements for the itiner ary have yet been fixed, but as soon as I have that information I shall have a special interest in informing my Tasmanian colleague about the extent to which the itinerary includes Tasmania.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement attributed to him on Tuesday last, repeating his stand that the Great Barrier Reef should not be endangered in any way? What are the views of the Prime Minister in relation to the statement made by the Queensland Premier on Tuesday last, when he said: ‘I am surprised that Mr Gorton should continue to make statements on off-shore oil drilling’ and that State Cabinet Ministers had made repeated statements that any leases off the Queensland coast had been confirmed under joint Commonwealth-State legislation?
– The honourable senator is asking me to say what would be the Prime Minister’s comment on a statement made by a State Premier. In all the circumstances, I say with respect that it is not a viable question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. He will recall my inquiries in the first week of the current session as to Government assistance for the dried vine fruits industry in Victoria. Does he recall a request by the Victorian Government for financial assistance for those seriously affected by natural disaster in the dried vine fruits industry? Has the Commonwealth Government come to a decision on this matter? Will the Treasurer accept the urgency of the matter and give immediate attention to the request that was made to the Federal Government some months ago?
– I am not informed as to the current position on the request made for assistance to the dried vine fruits industry in Victoria. I well recall the question. I well recall the circumstances in which it was asked in the Senate by Senator Webster. I will find out the current position and let him and the Senate know.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, relates to educational facilities for handicapped children in the Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Has the Commonwealth or the Territory Administration ever made a survey of the incidence of deafness and blindness or the number of dumb children in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? What facilities exist in the Territory to assist in the alleviation of afflictions in children or to afford educational benefits to such children? If it be that no survey has been undertaken or that no real facilities exist for the education of these less fortunate persons, will the Commonwealth demonstrate a recognition of its obligation in this matter by promptly considering the best method of having a survey undertaken and by further encouraging, by financial assistance, the establishment of privately organised schools and facilities so that people experienced in specialised training may be used in the Territory?
– I am sure that Senator Webster would be the first to realise the policy implications in the last part of his question. I assure him that I welcome his interest in this branch of educational facilities in the Territory. This matter concerns not only the Department of External Territories, for whose Minister I speak here, but also the Department of Health. I shall take the earliest opportunity to obtain a comprehensive answer for the honourable senator and put it before the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It relates to the promise in 1968 by the Treasurer to introduce a comprehensive Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill and the announced list of specified improvements which, at that date, had been approved by Cabinet for inclusion in the Bill to bring benefits under that legislation in line with the levels operating in the States. I ask the Minister: As many Commonwealth and other employees covered by this legislation have since that time suffered loss of benefits, will he request the Treasurer to consider this matter as urgent?
– Yes, I will do as the honourable senator requests.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air whether the Government is in the process of granting rights to overseas interests to establish permanent charter air services in Australia.
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances referred to by the honourable senator. I will make inquiries of the Minister and let the honourable senator know the results.
– I ask the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities: How many tourists came to Australia last year? How much greater was this number than for the previous year? What is tourism worth to Australia in monetary terms?
– I always keep with me the statistics with regard to tourism. In the tourist world we usually speak in terms of calendar years. The intake of tourists grew from about 221,000 in 1967 to about 299,000 in 1968. I wish the Senate to understand that a great increase occurred because of the number of American servicemen visiting Australia on rest and recreation leave. Their numbers grew from about 6,000 in 1967 to about 63,000 in 1968. Excluding that factor, the increase in the number of tourists was from about 215,000 to about 236,000, or a growth of about 10% on a normal basis for the year. As to the amount that that represents from the point of view of Australia’s exchange earnings, as I have told the Senate once or twice before, the 1968 earnings were about $101 m; but again I want the Senate to understand that of that sum about $16m is attributable to the special circumstances of visits by American servicemen on rest and recreation leave.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report of a statement by the Minister for Primary Industry warning wheat growers against pressure to make glut f.a.q. wheat available to starving stock in drought areas at feed wheat prices? Is the Department of Primary Industry so far out of touch with the Treasury that ways and means could not be devised to make as much feed wheat available to drought stricken stock as is required to preserve this important national asset?
– I have seen a report of a statement attributed to the Minister for Primary Industry on the matter referred to by the honourable senator. It has been stated on more than one occasion in recent weeks that this matter has had the consideration of the Australian Wheat Board. For the reasons that have been given on quite a number of occasions it has been decided that it would not be in the best interests of wheat growers as a whole to act in the manner suggested by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. In view of the large numbers of transistor radios in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the extensive use made of radio by the Administration and the desirability of promoting awareness and appreciation of proceedings of the House of Assembly, has the Government given consideration to the broadcasting of those proceedings? If not, will the Government give serious consideration to this proposal?
– I find the suggestion most interesting. I have not the information that would enable me to say whether consideration has been given to broadcasting the proceedings of the House of Assembly at Port Moresby, but I will have the matter adverted to referred to the Minister and I will further inform the Senate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether Commonwealth and State arrangements for the storage of surplus wheat have broken down. If so, what is the present position?
– To the best of my knowledge no arrangements have been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States regarding wheat storage. This is a matter for the States concerned. However, some States have made representations to the Commonwealth for financial assistance to provide wheat storage. I think the Minister for Primary Industry has made certain suggestions about this matter. To the best of my knowledge the Premier of one State contacted the Prime Minister about the matter but I have not seen an answer from the Prime Minister.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that late last night and early this morning - namely, at 11.45 p.m., midnight and 12.15 a.m. - three jet aircraft flew at low altitude over the suburbs of Hurstville, Bexley and Rockdale in order to land at the Kingsford-Smith Airport? Has the Department received any complaints from residents about the excessive noise of these aircraft at such hours? In view of the fact that the Department has had a curfew on night flying operations at Mascot between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., will the Minister ascertain the reason for these landings last night within the hours of the ban? In order to afford some measure of relief to the residents of the St George district, will the Government ensure that there will be no relaxation of the curfew on night flying operations at Kingsford-Smith Airport between 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m.?
– As yet I have not heard anything about these planes flying over Sydney suburbs last night at the times mentioned by the honourable senator. I know that there is a curfew on planes operating into and out of Mascot between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. If the honourable senator will put his question on notice I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Civil Aviation and obtain an answer for him.
– I also address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Are the residents of Perth peculiarly insensitive to the sound of jet aircraft or are the residents of Sydney particularly sensitive to such sounds?
– The honourable senator’s question relates to the fact that aircraft land at the Perth Airport at all hours of the day or night but that there are no complaints from people living in the Perth metropolitan area. However, evidently many complaints are brought to the notice of the Government by honourable members and senators representing New South Wales about aircraft landing at and taking off from KingsfordSmith Airport between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. We should look at this matter in its true perspective. The runways at Perth Airport can be approached from both the north and south and the approach paths are quite a distance from inhabited areas while the approach paths and landing strips at Mascot are very close to populated suburbs of Sydney.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Twenty-first Annual Report, which is for 1968-69, particularly to the chapter headed More Water for South Australia’. It states that sufficient reserves are available to irrigate up to 350.000 acres of pasture. It continues:
An even greater area of. land could be irrigated if the discharge of water into the sea from artificial drains was prevented and the water used to recharge the aquifers.
During the recent drought the level of reserves fell alarmingly. 1 ask: Could the CSIRO investigate ways and means of diverting this water, which is now pouring into the sea. into the underground reserves and so prevent the annual wastage of high quality water?
– In my perusal of the brief statement which accompanied this report my attention was attracted by the very passage to which the honourable senator has referred. However, before we start to develop other fields for CSIRO experimentation we should note with a good deal of pride, I think, that research into the soil structures of the Gambier plain, which has been going on for 10 years, has shown that this underground water supply is the second largest supply of fresh water in South Australia, being second only to the Murray basin. As the honourable senator has said, the CSIRO has pointed out that this underground water supply can be used for the irrigation of some 350,000 acres. The Organisation goes on to say that drainage of the area does channel some water into the sea. ] do not recall anything in the report about experimenting with that although it is obvious that if channels were turned into dams there could be an increase in the amount of water available for irrigation. I am obliged to the honourable senator and will refer his suggestion to the Organisation.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Science and Education seen reports of a statement made by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Bethune, on Tuesday last to the effect that if the Tasmanian Government could not get through the Legislative Council its State Aid Bill, which offers a further $30 per student to independent schools. Tasmania would receive no Commonwealth aid for independent schools? Does this mean that the programme of per capita grants for independent schools announced in the Budget is dependent on the States passing legislation to offer similar per capita grants?
– I did see the statement that was published in the Press. I think the meaning that should be taken from that statement can be found in the context of Mr Fraser’s statement. When announcing our policy he made it clear that our payment of per capita grants to independent schools was on the assumption that the present policy of the State governments of paying per capita grants, at least to the level that was then provided for, should be maintained. I have no doubt that Mr Bethune’s statement in the public Press was meant to bring to the mind of the public the basis of the Commonwealth Government’s policy which is an expectation that States will continue to pay to independent schools the amounts that they already have provided or have announced as policy.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation is supplementary to those which already have been asked regarding the airports at Perth and Sydney. When the new international airport at Tullamarine in
Victoria is open will an embargo be placed on night flying operations there? From what local government or State authorities in other mainland capital cities, apart from the city of Sydney, have complaints been received regarding the night landing of aircraft at their airports?
– As the honourable senator well knows, an embargo is placed on aircraft arriving at the airports in Melbourne and Sydney, to my knowledge, between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. No doubt this embargo on arrivals came about as a result of complaints received from residents in adjacent areas. I do not know whether or not any other airports have a similar embargo on the arrival of aircraft. The honourable senator asked what will happen at the international terminal at Tullamarine. The Department of Civil Aviation has informed the Victorian authorities that the airport will be built there and hoped that the authorities would reserve adjacent land so that homes would not be built too close to the terminal so that complaints would not then be received. It is hoped that aircraft arriving at the international airport at Tullamarine will not be subject to an embargo because of outcries or objections raised by residents in the adjacent area. I cannot give the honourable senator any assurance that there will not be an embargo on the arrival of aircraft because I understand that people are now building houses very close to the boundary of the Tullamarine airport
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall my alerting the Government to the fact that the British Government had made it known that, due to a projected withdrawal of defence forces from certain areas of the world which have a defence significance to Australia, there was available a Royal Navy aircraft carrier surplus to the British Government’s requirements? The Minister may recall that the Commonwealth Government supplied a written answer which indicated that at that time it was not interested in obtaining the unit. As the defence of Australia is of primary importance to this country, and is demonstrated so to be by the Government, will the Government reconsider its earlier reply and make a thorough evaluation of the suggestion as to cost of purchase and the benefits to be obtained by such an acquisition?
– A written reply was given on the point raised by the honourable senator. I point out that the requirements of the defence forces in Australia are constantly under review by the Government and its defence advisers. It would not be in the nature of things that at all times the Government would have failed to have regard to what naval requirements would be. I assure the honourable senator that there is never any doubt that at any given time there is forward thinking in relation to our future naval requirements. This would apply also to the department of the Army and the Department of Air. It is not necessary, as he suggests, for the Government to make another appraisal of the situation. That appraisal would be going on constantly at the level of the Commonwealth’s defence advisers.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been drawn to the editorial in the ‘Mercury’ newspaper of 25th August last wherein the comment was made that the Labor defence policy, as stated recently by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was little short of irresponsible and amounted to a Fortress Australia outlook without the fortress? Does the Minister agree with this description?
– I have not had the advantage of reading the editorial in the ‘Mercury’. I have read a transcript of a speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to a meeting of the Fabian Society, in which he made abundantly clear what the Labor Party’s defence policy is. I think I should make a personal observation here. I interpret his speech as indicating a policy of no defence at all and of withdrawal of our forces from areas outside of Australia. It has all the earmarks of a Fortress Australia defence policy, if one could call such a policy a defence policy. I believe it is wrong to think that as an island continent we can live in splendid isolation, because tragedy for Australia would inevitably result in the future if such a policy were implemented.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the Leader of the Australian Labor Party has stated that should the Australian Labor Party be placed in office after the forthcoming election the Deputy Leader of the ALP, Mr Barnard, will, as well as being Minister for Defence, be Minister for Air, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army and Minister for Supply? If the Deputy Leader of the ALP occupies those positions he will obviously earn the title ‘Mr Five-in-One’ Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate know whether the address by the alternative Minister for Defence was made in the light of the circumstances of the club he was addressing? Has some unorthodox action been taken to obtain a copy of that speech and to have it circulated throughout the Parliament?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Surely there must be some limit to the use of question time by the Government for blatant propaganda purposes. The question is directed to an area which is outside the responsibility of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. With respect, Sir, I think it lowers the tone of the Senate. Dorothy Dix questions arc rationed out between the Ministers during question time. A Minister will say to a senator: ‘Ask me this question and you will find that I will be good on it’. I am not suggesting this about the question asked by the honourable senator, because I do not know. We will see by the answer. I would suggest, Mr Deputy President, that some limit should be placed on the allowing of this sort of exercise at question time.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Deputy President. Can the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say in effect, when arguing that my question is out of order: ‘We will wait and hear the answer to see whether the question is out of order’? What are we coming to in this chamber when such a situation can occur?
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Deputy President. I want clarification of the ruling that was given yesterday when I asked a question about an indictment on the limitation of the present hospital contribution funds and subscriptions to them. I did not hear the answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I cannot locate his answer in Hansard and I cannot locate my question on the notice paper. If it is good enough for the Government to snipe at the Australian Labor Party’s defence policy it is good enough for the Government to give an answer to my question on the inadequacies of the hospital contribution funds.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - I will now give a ruling on the point of order. A point of order was raised yesterday on a similar question and the President ruled against it. When Senator Cohen raised a point of order a moment ago he indicated that we should await the Minister’s reply to the question asked of him. I will follow that course.
– You put a heavy responsibility upon me, Mr Deputy President. I am not so certain that we should not ask the honourable senator to repeat his question. My understanding is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place is the shadow Minister for Defence, Air, the Navy, the Army and Supply, and that therefore, when he speaks, whether it be to the Fabian Society, the Democratic Socialist Society or any other society, he speaks with some authority as a spokesman for the Labor Party on matters relating to defence. Recently he made a speech to the Fabian Society in which he put forward some views which I admit are contrary to the views of the Government with relation to defence. Indeed, as T understand the position, they were contrary even to some of the views expressed by his own Leader from time to time. As to the rest of the question, in all the circumstances I am prepared to leave it at that. But we cannot get away from the fact that when he speaks as shadow Minister for Defence, Air, the Navy, the Army and Supply, the general public is entitled to assume that it is the authentic voice of the Opposition. If that is not so, I should be interested to hear of it. In his speech to the Fabian Society he spoke of the immediate withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, the cancellation of national service training and other matters.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, lt follows from the last alleged question. I ask the Leader of the Government whether he is aware of the number of personnel on the Federal Parliamentary Executive of the Australian Labor Party and how that number has to be divided to cover the various ministries and to provide representatives to act as spokesmen.
– Quite obviously I have not got that information available to me. Nevertheless, I repeat what I said. It is my understanding that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaks as the shadow Minister for all defence services.
– Yesterday Senator O’Byrne asked me a question, the gist of which was whether I was 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. He asked me how many such notices had gone out and whether I would make a public statement giving the reasons for such reductions. I replied that 1 did not have the information he sought. I was particularly surprised to hear the question. I have made inquiries and now have pleasure in informing the honourable senator that there was one case. In that particular case, there was a review of war pension, which led to a reduction from the intermediate rate pension of S24.5 a week to the 100% general rate pension plus special compensation allowance, or a total payment of $15 a week. This represented a reduction of $9.25 a week or $18.50 a fortnight. The reduction was made in the ordinary way of reassessment by the Board because the pensioner, who had previously been adjudged as able to work only part time or intermittently and had therefore been assessed at the intermediate rate, is now adjudged to be fit for full-time employment and has been assessed at 100% of the general rate pension with special compensation allowance. The reassessment was not made, therefore, in connection with the Budget adjustments. Tt is not correct to say that there have been a great many notices sent out advising reductions in pensions. This notice was in relation to that particular case only. Branch office rehabilitation services are being made available to the gentleman concerned.
(Question No. 901)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth is in close collaboration with authorities concerned with the recent oil leak in the Santa Barbara Channel in the State of California, U.S.A. A senior officer of the Department of National Development has been overseas visiting these authorities. In addition the Queensland Government has sent a senior Mines Department officer overseas to study the possible effects of oil pollution arising from possible blowouts of offshore wells.
(Question No. 1006)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1082)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1112)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
(Question No. 1237)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
(Question No. 1346)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1340)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1342)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not practicable to extract the number of Australian casualties due to mines over the whole period of the Vietnam conflict, and to separate these into regular soldiers and national servicemen without extensive research.
Current records classify casualties (for example battle casualties, non-battle casualties) but not in respect of the cause of the casualty. The total casualty figures to 22 August 1969 in their available form are (a) National servicemen
It will be seen that there have been a total of 1922 battle casualties. An individual examination of the operational records relating to all of the incidents in which these casualties occurred would be necessary to determine the cause of the casualty (e.g. shrapnel from mines, rockets, mortars, or grenades) and whether the soldier involved was regular or a national serviceman.
(Question No. 1350)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1357)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1362)
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1368)
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Note - Some seriously incapacitated Viet-Nam veterans may not yet be receiving pensions at the T. & P.I. rate because they are still receiving full service pay whilst undergoing hospital treatment.
(Question No. 1369)
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
How many ex-servicemen of the following Wars are in receipt of a general pension of less than 75 per cent- (a) the Boer War. (b) World WarI. (c) World War II, (d) the Malayan War, (e) the Korean War, and (f) the Viet-Nam War.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Repatriation legislation does not provide war pensions for Boer War veterans. At 30th June, 1969, the information sought in relation to the other wars in which the honourable senator is interested was as follows: World War I, 15,738: World War II, 141,180; Korea/Malaya, 2,642 (figures are not maintained separately for these two groups); Viet-Nam, 1,376.
(Question No. 1370)
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1400)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
How many telephones in Commonwealth Departments are fitted with electronic recording devices, and in which Departments are such devices used.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are two approved methods of recording telephone calls in the Post Office network.
The first involves use of an approved type of recorder connected to a telephone service by means of Post Office apparatus called a ‘recorderconnector’ which signals to the other party a short ‘beep’ at intervals of about 15 seconds to indicate that the conversation is being recorded. The recording equipment must be disconnected if the other party to the call does not wish the conversation to be recorded. The 15-second ‘beep’ continues to be signalled until the recording equipment is disconnected.
The second method involves the use of an approved type of telephone answering and recording machine, several types of which have been authorised by the Post Office. These automatically transmit pre-recorded announcements to telephone callers and give those callers the opportunity to have a short response recorded for playback later to the subscriber whose service is equipped with the answering and recording machine. This method is well suited to use by subscribers whose offices are left unstaffed at times. It is unlikely that the two types of equipment described are widely used in Commonwealth Departments and instrumentalities but to answer the honourable Senator’s question, records throughout all States will need to be consulted. I will provide him with an answer by letter when the necessary information is available.
(Question No. 1434)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– I present the One Hundred and Tenth Report of the Public Accounts Committee, which relates to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake- Brockman) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Your Committee’s inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission arose from remarks made by the Commission in its annual report for the financial year 1966-67. In that report the Commission drew the attention of the Parliament to some of the difficulties under which it was working, particularly in relation to its accommodation, which, it claimed, impeded effective supervision and control of its staff. At the same time, however, your Committee took the opportunity to examine the operations of the Commission in the wider context of its total administration.
As a result of our inquiry, which included inspections of the Commission’s accommodation in Melbourne. Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, your Committee found that, except in the cases of Perth and Canberra, the capital city accommodation of the Commission, particularly for radio and administrative purposes is inadequate and in many cases is sub-standard. In the interests of efficiency we believe that sustained and urgent efforts should be made to provide the buildings required by the Commission. At the same time, however, your committee believes that, at the earliest opportunity the Commission should establish a central planning unit to co-ordinate the efforts of its building section and to provide it with control, co-ordination and forward planning. We also believe that the Commission should consult the Department of Works at the earliest possible opportunity in the formulation of its works proposals. The evidence indicates that the Department of Works should continue to make available to the Commission the services of its bank unit which, in recent years, has given effective assistance to the Commission in the efficient programming of television studios and other building complexes. It appears to your Committee that the Commission might be assisted in regard to its future planning in Sydney and Canberra if it were to be advised of the likely date of transfer of its head office to Canberra.
In terms of its general administration, your Committee considers that the Commission should seek to strenghten the capacity of its secretariat department and should complete its current review of the structure of its programme division in all states. The Commission should also examine the adequacy of the duties performed by its Organisation and Methods Department. The evidence indicates that the results of a survey conducted in 1967 by a mangement consultant in the Queensland office of the Commission should be applied without delay to the branch offices of the Commission in other States.
It appears to your Committee that the development by the Commission of an adequate system of programme unit costing should be undertaken as a matter of urgency and that the Commission should explore fully the extent to which it can use the computer facilities which it is at present developing to obtain cost analyses as aids to top management.
Finally, your Committee considers that the Commission should publish in its annual reports to the Parliament appropriate details of its staff establishment. The Commission’s annual report should also contain as much information as possible regarding the factors that have given rise to variations in the level of its expenditure from year to year. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
Notice of Motion No. 3 is a machinery matter. It will not become operative until we complete the Budget debate. I suggest that the business paper be re-arranged, with the concurrence of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen), in order to bring on Notices of Motion Nos 1 and 2 prior to receipt of messages.
– I would like clarification on one matter. Will honourable senators be given information as to the order in which the Senate will be dealing with the estimates?
– As we have done in the past, we will be issuing a document setting out the order in which we will deal with the Estimates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
There is only one significant thing 1 wish to point out about the suggested times. If this motion is successful I understand that some honourable senators want clarification about the Senate sitting on Wednesdays, which are to commence at 10.30 a.m. It has been pointed out that there may be Party meetings in conclave at that time. I understand that the other place has carried this motion. I understand it has been agreed that Party meetings will not be held at the relevant time. I have suggested that the Senate should rise at 4.30 p.m. on Fridays. When we have sat on Fridays in the past we have not risen until 5 p.m. I have brought the timing forward because if we left it until 5 p.m. the schedule would be very tight for senators v/ho travel interstate. They would not get home if they missed aircraft. Even if we rise at 4.30 p.m. there will have to be some flexibility, by arrangement with the Whips, in order to meet special cases. However, I think we can accommodate such cases.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) 1 12.18]- The Opposition does not oppose this motion. We are prepared to co-operate in regard to a reasonable extension of hours in order to conclude the business of the Parliament. The suggested times are not unreasonable in view of the circumstances. We want it understood that we would not be nearly as co-operative if there were any suggestion that we should sit into the early hours of the morning. Such an event is not proposed in this motion and it seems that we will be concluding our business each night at 1 1 p.m. The Opposition agrees to the proposal to sit on Fridays.
I want to make it clear that the responsibility for this alteration to the programme does not rest with the Opposition but with the Government. We did not fix the date for the coming election. It is obvious that the Parliament has to sit longer hours if it is to conclude its business. It was the choice of the Government to go to the people as early as 25th October. If the Government believes that by doing this it can escape the wrath of the wheat growers and other sections of the community who are looking for leadership and are not getting it, then the Government might find itself in for a rude shock. The Opposition is ready to accept the suggested programme and we are ready to do battle when the whistle blows.
– The submission by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) in relation to additional sitting times has the approval of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We are conscious of the fact that when we return to this place on 9th September we will have a bare 3 weeks in which to dispose of whatever business we have to deal with. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) is a bit apprehensive about the time that the Senate will rise each night. He is concerned about having to sit after midnight on some occasions. I share his apprehension. I hope that this does not occur, unless it is imperative to complete the business of the Senate.
However, while we are considering this matter, I think that Senator Cohen might exercise some influence to restrict the finishing time of the Senate by cutting out a lot of unnecessary matters which are dealt with on the motion to adjourn the Senate. I believe that some matters are raised unnecessarily and therefore detain honourable senators. I am not suggesting that the matter raised last night by Senator Cant was not important. It is an important matter. However, there will be ample opportunities to deal with such things as we go along, perhaps in the new year when we receive the report of the Senate select committee investigating off-shore oil or when we are dealing with other matters. Raising such a matter now will not prevent drilling on or near the Great Barrier Reef. Already, as the honourable senator stated, permits have been granted and operations are under way. Members of the Opposition frequently raise matters which could not be regarded as being urgent. This delays honourable senators until nearly midnight. On many occasions piffling things are raised. Such matters could be dealt with by way of contact with Ministers or by way of correspondence. They are raised merely so that the honourable senators concerned can elevate themselves in the minds of a few electors or some individual who has a particular case and has not received satisfaction.
– I want to enter into this debate. I would not have done so had it not been for the remarks of Senator Gair. If Senator Wheeldon were present possibly he could do so more effectively. We hear a lot said in the Senate about demonstrations, agitations, participation and the rights of the rank and file. During the first fortnight I was in this place I was prepared to listen to anybody’s advice. I had a conversation one evening with Senator Wright. I remember his words; he said that the Senate was a forum for remedying injustices.
I have never spoken in an adjournment debate for longer than 10 minutes. However, with all due respect to other channels - whether writing a letter or asking a question - I still believe that if I get something in the Senate record it is here for the future, and for further agitation. Even if the matter affects only 20 people - even only 1 person in a small obscure position - to raise it here shows that somebody is here to exercise the democratic right of those people to have it recorded. Tt may be that on occasions I am stupid enough to imagine that because I or another back bench senator has spoken the persons affected will at least feel that the matter has been noted and considered.
Without blowing my trumpet, I know that there have been a number of issues which 1 have raised which have been listened to by the Minister concerned. At the time the Minister has not been over-optimistic but I have found that within 6 months the Government has adopted the suggestion. It may be that through a process of evolution this would have happened anyway. However I am egotistical enough to think that 1 accelerated the transformation. I say with all sincerity that nobody is pushed into politics. A man comes into politics because he feels that in some little way he can be a kind of crusader. I worked in industry and did shift work when I was a member of the loco running staff in the railways. I knew I had to work at night then just as I know I have to work at night now. If people are not able physically to stand up to reasonable working hours - I am going with the Senate and with my Party beyond midnight - they should not be here. But if I or some other senator wants to ventilate a grievance between 11 p.m. and midnight it is our inalienable right to do so.
An incident occurred today which I should mention. There may have been a mixup yesterday about whether a question 1 asked was out of order or something like that. On an earlier occasion Senator Ormonde had had an honest difference of opinion with the President, Sir Alister McMullin. If we are pinned down on the rules and cannot go beyond them we should not squeal because we have had every right to speak in the adjournment debate and elaborate our position.
I know that Senator Gair was speaking in all sincerity when he mentioned that certain matters could be handled by letter or by an approach to a Minister, but I am taking htm up on that. 1 remind the Senate of the famous case of Sandy the dog. A chap who had worked his guts out as a miner on the Snowy Mountains scheme was being stood over by bureaucrats - whether Commonwealth or State does not matter - in relation to a stupid quarantine law. It was only by ventilating the matter here that some progress was made. This was not a matter in which the responsibility was wholly that of a Commonwealth Minister, but when Radio New Zealand got on to it there were three Ministers having a go at one another. The result is that if in future any person wants to take a dog to New Zealand there will be a speedier processing of the quarantine regulations. I throw that in for what it is worth. Here was a miner on the Snowy Mountains scheme who was being stood over. In the democracy I believe in he was able to see a parliamentary representative and I was able to blast inefficient bureaucrats. I will do it again if the occasion arises.
– I had no intention of entering this debate. The Opposition held a meeting and determined its attitude to the Government’s proposal. That attitude was expressed very ably by my deputy leader. I make no apologies for having spoken in the adjournment debate last night. Unlike Senator Gair I am not a defeatist. I do not accept defeat until it is accomplished. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a statement that the Great Barrier Reef should not be put in jeopardy in any circumstances. I understand that permits have been issued to explore. In my opinion that places part at least of the Great Barrier
Reef in jeopardy. 1. have a right to stand in my place and question whether this work should go on. In view of what the Deputy Premier of Queensland, Mr Chalk, and the Minister for Mines in Queensland, Mr Camm, have said, I believe that it is urgent that pressure be brought upon the Commonwealth Government to exercise its inalienable right to forbid work in this area. The Senate is well aware of the recent decision of the High Court of Australia which places this area right in the hands of the Commonwealth.
– You will persist in saying that. The High Court did not say any such thing.
– It did, with the greatest respect for your legal training. I understand plain English. I do not want to sit here after midnight any more than Senator Gair does but I say now that if I have a problem which I believe should be brought before the Senate and I can do that only on the motion for the adjournment, I will do it then. I am not a big offender in that respect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 9 September, at 2 p.m.
– I move:
I have announced in the Senate on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that the other place will rise on 26th September, that the Parliament will be dissolved on Monday 29th September and that the writs will issue at noon on Monday 29th September. That means in effect that if we have not concluded any business which the Government brings to this place by Friday afternoon, 26th September, we will have, in terms of time, only the remainder of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and until noon on Monday to complete it.
– But never on Sundays.
– As Senator Mulvihill has said, never on Sundays, and traditionally never on Saturdays either, although history records that there was a famous occasion when the Senate sat on a Saturday, much to the discontent of many people who traditionally like to pick their fancy and listen to the radio on Saturdays. Instead they had to listen to honourable senators. I am sure none of us in truth wants that unhappy circumstance to arise again.
I make those remarks as background to the motion I have proposed. The Government has a legislative programme which it requires to complete before the House of Representatives rises on 26th September. In the main that legislation is pursuant to the Budget proposals. There are many complementary Bills to the Budget which are of great magnitude and importance and will require debate. For example, I understand that there are Bills relating to social services, repatriation, taxation and the Treasury. Tn those circumstances, looking at the position quite factually and with proper detachment, it is apparent that the time available to meet the legislative requirements of the Senate is not long.
I concede immediately that our membership here is only 60 compared with 124 in the other place, but equally I claim - I think this is something about which we can all be proud - that the Senate tends to take Bills under closer scrutiny in the Committee stage than is the case in the other place, simply because we are a House of review. Tn any way we look at it, having regard to the legislative programme and the 3 weeks that are available to us, even with the extended hours to which the Senate has agreed, we are faced with a very tight programme. In those circumstances I have proposed the motion which is now before the Senate.
This is nothing new. Some of us who have been in the Senate for a long time know that this is almost a tradition. It happens in every session. As I recall it in every session the Leader of the Government at the time has proposed the motion and the Leader of the Opposition - I have in mind Senator McKenna who formerly was with us - has always opposed it. Senator McKenna always made a good speech on it because he had tremendous capability in analysing these things. In the final analysis, the Government has its way. That is the way in which the Senate has operated. This is not some new idea that I have thought up for this occasion; it is a normal procedure. I ask the Opposition to agree to it on this occasion. I make the point that the Government has a responsibility. The Opposition has a traditional responsibility to oppose, but the first ingredient and an essential thing in this place is the presentation of Government business. We are facing a dissolution of the Parliament. We will go out of existence, for purposes of sitting, as a Senate on and after mid-day on 29th September.
In those circumstances I suggest that we have reached a point of time at which we should use Tuesday nights for Government business as a matter of priority. If the Senate so responds that as we approach 29 th September we can reasonably foresee that perhaps there will be some time left, I am prepared to talk with leaders about bringing on general business. In all honesty, I do not believe that that will happen. I believe the programme of Government business will be so tight that we will require the maximum time available. I am the first to recognise that any depreciation of that time available to us will mean that some honourable senators who might wish to speak to a Bill will have some restrictions imposed upon them. For these reasons, and for others which I have not stated - I am trying now to be as brief as I can on these matters - I ask the Senate to give passage to this motion.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) [12.37)- I regret that the Opposition cannot adopt the same benign attitude on this matter as it took on the previous motion, with the passage of which we concurred. We oppose the motion, as we have opposed similar motions in the past, for the very good reason that general business on Tuesday night is the main opportunity during a parliamentary week for the business of honourable senators and, for that matter, of the Opposition to be discussed. It is a hard won right; it is not one that we would give up readily. The Senate has made good use of that time each week for the greater part of this Parliament. Many matters of substantial importance have been debated and disposed of during general business on Tuesday evening. We are not prepared to give up that right. We have co-operated with the Government’s desire to extend the hours of sitting. We have agreed to the addition of about 11 hours to the normal sitting week. Why should we say at this stage that we will agree in advance to give up our general business night for the remainder of this Parliament? We are not prepared to do it.
There are important matters of general business listed in the orders of the day. We have a part heard matter that was debated on Tuesday night of this week. It could have been disposed of if the Government had not stonewalled on a very simple Bill which sought to lower the voting age to 18. We could have passed that Bill. We could have debated a Bill seeking to lower to 18 the age at which a person can marry without consent. We could have debated a number of Bills if the attitude of the Government had been put as succinctly as was the Opposition’s attitude.
– The Opposition’s attitude was not put at all on Tuesday night.
– Our attitude was not put on Tuesday night because it had been put very capably on a previous occasion by our Leader, Senator Murphy. We wanted to vote on the Bill. The Government did not want to vote on it. The whole evening was used up by the Government. The Opposition should not be blamed for taking up the whole of last Tuesday evening. We do not appreciate the Government and the Democratic Labor Party not agreeing to an extension of time at least to clear that matter out of the way. There are other important matters to be debated. There is a motion for the appointment of a standing committee on the overseas control of Australian resources, debated some time ago, initiated by the Opposition but not yet completed because the Government does not want the committee. There are many other important matters on the agenda. It is for honourable senators to decide what business can be brought forward on particular Tuesday nights. There has been a certain amount of facilitation on all sides as to the way in which matters can be brought forward for discussion. I do not want to make a lengthy speech.
– The honourable senator has achieved that already.
– It is about half as long as the one made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) when introducing the motion. I have been watching the time. I repeat our opposition to the motion. We are prepared to consider each occasion as it arises, but we are not prepared to give blanket approval in advance to take away our hard won right to have a general business night.
– Whilst I, too, am jealous of the right of honourable senators to have a period for general business, I must concede that the motion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) that Government business take precedence of general business from 9th September till the Parliament is dissolved is a reasonable one. After all, we have to give way to Government business. Much of it could be of an urgent character and would have to be disposed of before members of the other place submit themselves to their masters at the election on 25th October. I understand that two honourable senators, too, will have to face the music. Senator Cohen said that the Opposition is not responsible for the date of the election. That is true enough. It is equally true that it is the undeniable right of the leader of a government to determine the date on which he takes his government to the people. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has selected 25th October. We have to acquiesce and go along with him. It has met with the approval of the Australian Labor Party Opposition anyway.
– And with the approval of the DLP.
– On this occasion, yes. Having agreed to that date - not that any opposition would have been of any value anyway - we have to comply and fit in our business as best we can. There is an old saying - and it is a very good one: First things first. I think Government business must take precedence of general business in the circumstances.
That the motion (Senator Anderson’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate extends the operation of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954-1966 for a further maximum period of 12 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under the existing Act, bounty ceased to be payable after 30th June 1969. The Pyrites Bounty Act 1960- 1965 also expired on 30th June 1969 and I shall shortly introduce a similar Bill to extend that Act for a further period of 12 months.
The sulphuric acid and pyrites industries are closely allied. Bounty is paid on iron pyrities received into a sulphuric acid manufacturer’s premises for the purpose of being used in that manufacture and is also paid on the sulphuric acid produced from the iron pyrites. In addition sulphuric acid bounty is paid on the acid produced from lead sintergas. Because of this close alliance, I shall deal in this speech with the reason for the extension of both Acts.
The Tariff Board is currently reviewing both industries and is examining the general question of what assistance should be extended to the producers of sulphuric acid and iron pyrites in Australia. Public hearings were commenced in June this year and it could well be early next year before its report is received. The Government considers that the present level of assistance to the industry should be maintained pending receipt and consideration of the Tariff Board’s report. Accordingly, the operation of the sulphuric acid bounty legislation is being extended to 30th June 1970 or to an earlier proclaimed date. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned, and adjourned debate made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
It is proposed to extend the operation of the Pyrites Bounty Act 1960-1965 for a further maximum period of 12 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. The purpose of the Bill is to implement this proposal. I have already outlined the reasons for this extension in my speech concerning the extension of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
Setnator CANT (Western Australia) [2.19] - As there will be six associated Bills to be dealt with I suggest that, for convenience, the Senate would wish to deal with them all together. In those circumstances I submit that the Minister is being a little unreasonable in expecting us to bring these six Bills back to the Parliament for consideration at a later hour this day. I suggest that it would be reasonable if the Minister were to move that resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– It is suggested that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day because, although it is not likely as 1 see the situation, it could happen that the Budget debate will be concluded before we rise tonight. We want to keep our options open so that we may dispose of a few of these Bills which, though of great importance in their effect, are but small in size. The motion is moved only by way of precaution. If the Budget debate is not completed, then resumption of the adjourned debate on the Bills will take place on the next day of sitting in the ordinary way.
– Do I take it from the Leader of the Government that these Bills will be discussed only in the event of the Budget debate being concluded?
– That is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate extends the operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1966 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under the existing Act, bounty will cease to be payable after 31st December 1969.
The Tariff Board is currently reviewing the industry and is investigating the question of what assistance should be accorded the production and sale of cellulose acetate flake and related products. Public hearings were commenced in July this year and it will be early next year before its report is received. The Government considers that the present level of assistance to the industry should be maintained pending receipt and consideration of the Tariff Board’s report. Accordingly, the operation of the cellulose acetate flake bounty legislation is being extended to 30th June 1970 or to an earlier proclaimed date. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill now before the Senate will give effect to the Government’s decision announced in the Budget Speech to increase the bounty on phosphatic fertilisers manufactured and sold in Australia for use as fertiliser.
In speaking on a similar measure last year I pointed to the significance of phos phorus in agricultural production in this country. Over much of Australia the soils have a naturally low phosphorus status. For pasture production in the better rainfall areas of southern Australia the application of superphosphate is essential. Nearly twothirds of all superphosphate is used in this way. The use of superphosphate is also necessary for cereal growing across much of southern Australia and there is increasing evidence of the importance of phosphatic fertilisers for grain production in the north. In addition, it has been demonstrated that phosphorus will greatly stimulate the establishment of tropical pasture legumes, thus opening up the possibility of substantially greater demand for superphosphate and other phosphatic fertilisers throughout the north.
The Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act 1963 provided for payment, during the 3-year period from 14th August 1963 of a bounty of $6 a ton of standard superphosphate with a soluble phosphorus pentoxide content falling between 191% and 20i%. Bounty was payable on other phosphatic fertilisers at the rate of $30 a ton by weight of the phosphorus pentoxide content. In July 1966 the period of the bounty was extended to 31st October 1969.
The bounty was designed to serve a twofold purpose, namely, to reduce the level of farm costs and to encourage greater use of superphosphate as a means of promoting more economic production. It has been largely effective in promoting these objectives. Consequential benefits have been to allow the uptrend in rural output to continue, to improve the competitive position of exports and to give enhanced incentive to the development of new land. One of the most significant effects of the bounty was on the area of improved pasture which increased from 41 million acres in J 962-63 to 54 million acres in 1967-68.
Sales of phosphatic fertiliser expressed as standard superphosphate rose following the introduction of the bounty from a prebounty level of 2.8 million tons in 1962-63 to a peak of 4.3 million tons in 1966-67. Prices of superphosphate continued to rise over the period, in common with the cost of many other farm inputs. This tended to detract from the effect of the bounty in encouraging the use of superphosphate. In 1967- 68 droughts, combined with the overall cost squeeze on farmers, contributed to an initial downturn in use in all States except Western Australia and Queensland.
Last year the Government decided that in the circumstances prevailing some additional incentive was needed to encourage primary producers to continue to expand usage of phosphate fertilisers. Honourable senators will recall that the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act was therefore amended in 1968 to increase the bounty on standard superphosphate to $8 a ton with corresponding increases in the rate of bounty payable on the phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) content of other phosphatic fertilisers. The bounty was extended to 3 1st October 1971 to enable primary producers to undertake longer range planning of property development. It was also provided that the weight of trace elements, approved compounds or other substances containing trace elements when added to superphosphate should be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty. The trace elements involved were copper, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, manganese and boron.
It was felt that the increase in bounty provided in 1968 would encourage expanded superphosphate usage since graziers were more conversant with the management practices entailed by the higher stocking rates needed to utilise fully the fodder available from improved pastures. Furthermore, the breaking of the drought in southern Australia had created conditions favourable to a rapid response by pasture to increased use of superphosphate encouraged by way of a higher rate of bounty.
These expectations were not realised. Sales of superphosphate declined in all States except Western Australia during 1968- 69, despite stable superphosphate prices throughout the year. The increase of $2 a ton in the bounty in August 1968 evidently did not provide sufficient inducement to encourage farm demand. For Australia as a whole, the average ex-works price of bulk superphosphate after payment of bounty is some $4.16 higher than when the bounty came into being. Taking into account the movement of prices received by farmers, the cost of superphosphate would need to fall by about $4 a ton to bring it into the the same relationship to farm returns as obtained in 1963-64.
The Bill before the Senate provides for an increase in the bounty rate on standard superphosphate by $4 a ton, bringing the total bounty to $12 a ton; for an increase to $60 a ton on the phosphorus pentoxide content in superphosphate other than standard superphosphate; and for a similar increase related to the phosphorus pentoxide content of other phosphatic fertilisers. The provisions relating to trace elements remain unchanged, that is, the weight of trace elements added to superphosphate shall be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty. It is anticipated that with the incentive provided by the increase in bounty, sales of phosphatic fertiliser will increase to the order of 4.25 million tons in 1969-70. Bounty payments on this basis are estimated at $50.4m for the full year or $ 18.7m more than in 1968-69.
The total bounty is an appreciable sum of money. Nonetheless, it is considered to be an essential investment to continue the trend toward greater use of superphosphate. There can be no doubt regarding the vital importance to Australian agriculture of low priced phosphatic fertilisers. The bounty is a form of incentive which promotes good farming, fertility maintenance and productivity increase.It is difficult to conceive of any form of assistance to agriculture which could be as effective in its stimulus to productivity and farm income. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
Senator SCOTT (Western AustraliaMinister for Customs and Excise [2.35] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate extends the operation of the Urea Bounty Act 1966 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under the existing Act, bounty will cease to be payable after 31st December 1969. The Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Act 1962-1966 also expires on 31st December 1969 and I shall shortly introduce a similar Bill to extend that Act for a further period of six months. Urea and sulphate of ammonia are both nitrogenous fertilisers and I shall deal with the reason for the extension of the two Acts in this speech.
The Tariff Board is currently reviewing the urea and sulphate of ammonia industries and is examining the general question of what assistance should be extended to the producers of these products in Australia. Public hearings were commenced in July this year and it could well be early next year before its report is received. The Government considers that the present total level of assistance to the industry should be maintained pending receipt and consideration of the Tariff Board’s report. It is therefore proposed to retain until that time the annual financial limits on the total amount of bounty payable as recommended by the Tariff Board in 1966. These are the equivalent of $500,000 in a ful year for urea and $1m in a full year for sulphate of ammonia. Accordingly, the operation of the urea bounty legislation is being extended to 30th June 1970 or to an earlier proclaimed date should the Board’s report be received and acted on. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
It is proposed to extend the operation of the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Act 1962-1966 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 30th June 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. The purpose of the Bill is to implement this proposal. I have already outlined the reasons for this extension in my speech concerning the extension of the Urea Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 August (vide page 424), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1969-70.
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.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for
Income Year 1966-67.
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 -
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’.
– When this debate was interrupted last night I was about to refer to the problems associated with the mining industry in the early part of this Government’s period of administration and to how, through taxation incentives and drilling incentives, we have managed to lift the mining industry to such a degree that the export income earned by it has increased from a few million dollars to more than $300m. I believe that this was a step in the right direction. That, together with the lifting of the embargo on the export of iron ore, has transformed Australia from a country with insignificant mining back in the early 1950s to one of the major mining countries in the world today. That is why I have mentioned the taxation and drilling incentives that this Government has given to the mining industry throughout Australia, and the results those incentives have achieved. 1 do not propose to speak for very long now. 1 wish to mention one or two matters in the Budget, which I believe are rather important. As honourable senators know, in the Budget defence expenditure has been reduced by about 5%. In fact, it has been reduced by almost $60ni. It is impossible and not good housekeeping for a government to increase defence expenditure by a certain percentage each year. When you have obtained all the defence equipment that you need, surely there is no sense in continuing to buy equipment. We as a government have never, since the early 1960s, had a situation in which the numbers of personnel going into the Army by way of national service trainees or volunteers have not increased. Honourable senators opposite will note that this year it is expected that the strength of the Army will increase by at least 2,000 or 3,000. I mention these matters in passing because I believe that these figures should be put down.
When we look at the overall defence picture as illustrated in the statements attached to the Budget speech we see that there is a reduction of about $10m in the expenditure on naval construction; a reduction of about $22m in the expenditure on arms, armament and equipment for the Army; and a reduction of about $73m in the expenditure on aircraft purchase and manufacture - making a total of about $106m for those three items alone. This does not mean that the Government is no longer interested in defence. It means that a government cannot and does not, if it is wise, keep on buying defence equipment from year to year, particularly as it may not be required. That is why I thought those figures on defence spending should be mentioned.
There are some other figures about which I wish to talk. Some people are going around this country saying that the Government is giving all this money to the independent schools and is not doing anything for the States. This is something that should be stopped straight away, because in the Senate this morning Senator Wright produced some actual figures. No doubt, they were obtained from the Department of Education and Science. He pointed out that whereas this year independent schools will receive about $26.2m, the amounts paid to State governments for state schools plus the amounts paid by the Commonwealth to pupils in state schools will total $5 1 Om. That is the source of annoyance of Opposition senators because they have gone around saying that the Commonwealth Government today is looking after only the independent schools. As my colleague Senator Wright said in the Senate this morning, the Commonwealth Government is spending on state schools and the pupils in those schools fifteen or twenty times as much this year as it will provide for independent schools.
– Why run away from it? You have done it and you should at least have enough inside to stand up for it.
– What a wonderful interjection - ‘You have done it’. Of course we have done it. We are giving State governments this year for education and the children attending state schools an amount of almost $5 10m as against about $26. 2m to independent schools. Senator Kennelly has asked why we do not stand up to it. 1 am stating the position clearly to be recorded in Hansard so that the people of Australia can read it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! The Minister will be heard in silence.
– The honourable senators opposite who are interjecting would love the Government to sit down and take the accusations that they level here, but they really hate it when they are told the truth about what the Government is doing for education throughout Australia, whether for independent schools and the children attending them, or state schools and the students at those schools.
– At heart they oppose aid for independent schools.
– I think that is a fair comment. For many years the Australian Labor Party opposed the provision of finance by the Commonwealth Government to independent schools.
– The Victorian branch of the ALP still does.
– That must be correct, or Senator Wright would not say it. I thought I should let the Labor Party and the people of Australia know just what the Government is spending to help education throughout Australia, in respect of finance for State governments and children attending state schools, and independent schools and the students at those schools. The figures are almost fantastic. About fifteen to twenty times as much is being spent on state schools and students at those schools as is being provided for students of independent schools and the independent schools themselves. I wanted to say only those few words on education. I have spoken very shortly on defence. I have said that I wanted to speak as briefly as possible but it is terribly important that certain things should be said to clear the air.
– Here is a colossus.
– If you cannot take it, I cannot help you. I have to tell the truth. If you do not like it, lump it. I turn now to consider what the Government is doing to help totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who are single and without other means, and the effect of the tapered means test on them, and also aged war widows without other means and how the taper affects those people. If there is anybody in this country who deserves looking after by the Government it is the people who are totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of war service, and aged war widows. I spoke last night on the subject of pensions but did not refer to these people.
At present, without the taper, a TPI pensioner receives $33.50 a week. He does not receive a service pension. Under the proposed legislation to be introduced later in this session TPI pensioners will be paid $36 a week plus the service pension of $2 a week, making a total of $38 a week. The increase in TPI pensions, because of the taper, will be S4.50 a week. Only 1 2 months ago TPI pensions were increased by $1 a week. The increase to be paid this year is the greatest single increase granted to TPI pensioners since that pension was instituted. Increases totalling $5.50 are to be paid within a period of slightly over 12 months to these well-deserving people.
Now I shall deal with the pensions to be paid to aged war widows without other means, and the effect of the taper on them. The Government is vitally interested in these people. The present widow’s pension and domestic allowance is $21 a week. The social service pension is $3 a week, making a total of $24 a week. When the legislation receives royal assent, the effect of the taper will be that the aged war widow will receive a pension and domestic allowance of $22.50 plus a social service pension of $8.75, making a total of $31.25. When the legislation is passed, aged war widows will receive a weekly increase of $7.25. The Government is looking after these people. We are also looking after age pensioners to the maximum extent by bringing in the tapered means test.
What do members of the Opposition say? At one minute they say that a means test should be applied to people who have children attending private schools. In the next breath they say: ‘But you must not put a means test on millionaires as far as the pension is concerned’. In one breath they say that pensions do not matter; that when a person reaches the age of 65 years he must receive a pension irrespective of whether he is a millionaire. It was stated in the Governor-General’s Speech some 18 months ago that this Government would endeavour to look after the aged, the needy and the people in the low income groups. This is exactly what we are doing in this Budget. I do not believe that it has the approval of the Opposition but I believe it does have the approval of the electors.
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I think that every Australian should be grateful for the decisions of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party which brought about panic in the Government and produced this Budget. We now realise that it is an election Budget although it gives only meagre help to a limited number of families. We have heard Ministers talk about this help. They have made all sorts of apologies about the Budget. 1 believe that if it had not been for the speeches made by leaders of the Australian Labor Party and, in turn, for the decisions of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party there would have been very little for the Australian people.
Personally 1 am pleased about the fact that some people are to receive some benefit in respect of age, invalid, widow and service pensions. Assistance should have been provided in the field of child endowment, maternity allowance, funeral benefits and other benefits associated with the national welfare and well being of our people. I was very disappointed with the Budget despite the claim that about 250,000 people will become eligible for the first time for a part pension. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred to this matter in his Budget Speech and went on to say:
Persons who become pensioners for the first time because of the introduction of the ‘tapered’ means test . . . will not-
These fringe benefits are the great benefits in this field, and all senators believe it is a very great tragedy that those 250,000 people will not be entitled to them.
The assistance to independent schools is a necessity. The closing of such schools would create much greater pressure on the Government’s finances than the amount made available in the Budget. 1 agree wholeheartedly with the criticism that more should be done in the field of teacher education, pre-school education and the provision of kindergarten facilities because of the neglect of the state school system which is in itself a very great tragedy. The policy of the Australian Labor Party on education has been well announced and is available to everybody. That policy provides for the establishment of an Australian schools commission to determine the basic needs of all schools. That policy is just and equitable and is acceptable to all sections of the community. Personally I am more concerned about assistance being given to kindergarten, primary and secondary schools than to the great colleges whose taxation rebates take care of a large percentage of the payments made to them. Certainly, scholarships should be provided to meet the problems of workers and middle class families and should be greatly increased. No person with educational qualifications or ability should be denied the right to a higher education. We all know what the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said about what is to take place in the education field. However I remind the Government of the statement made the the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, on this matter after the presentation of the Budget. He used the word ‘humbug’.
– Is he a Liberal Premier?
– He is the
Liberal Premier of New South Wales. The newspaper report said:
The Budget exposed the Commonwealth’s humbug and hypocrisy’ on Federal-State finances, the NSW Premier, Mr Askin, said today.
He welcomed aid for independent schools, pensioners and the needy, but added- 1 would like my Senate colleagues from New South Wales in particular to take note of this -
A few months ago. NSW asked for an exim $5tn loan to build school rooms for next year’s new pupils. Mr McMahon waved his hand and gave us a lecture on inflation and the “delicately balanced economy”. As a result, we probably will not have new classrooms for the kiddies next January. We will have to scrimp in the NSW Budget to m:ike ends meet. Wilh a Federal election in the offing, the Commonwealth is able to find hundreds of millions for all kinds of purposes, without a Heeling thought to inflation’.
That, of course, was said by the Liberal Premier of NSW who is a great colleague of Government supporters. It is a disgrace to find a situation like this operating in a major State of the Commonwealth, a State represented by myself and a number of other honourable senators. 1 notice in the Budget that the biggest increase in outlay is the rise of $175,080,000 in the national welfare field, which I have mentioned, and the rise of $186,056,000 in payments to the States for educational purposes and so forth. These payments are more than covered by a 40%, or $475m, gross increase in personal income tax. Tn his Budget the Treasurer went into details to point this out. At page 24 of the statements attached to the Budget Speech this statement appears under the heading Income Tax - Individuals’:
It is estimated that, on the basis of existing legislation, collections of income tax from individuals in 1969-70 would total $2,855m, an increase of $475,534,000, or 20%, on collections in 1968-69.
– What about customs?
– That is in addition to income tax revenue. Senator Little reminds me that this is a direct increase in revenue from income tax. There are other increases, such as has been mentioned by the honourable senator. That is the situation that confronts us at the present time. Referring to Mr Askin’s claim about inflation, we are concerned, of course, with what the future holds. That is what the people of Australia will be making their determination about a few weeks hence, because this is the concern of every Australian. We are told by the Press and over the radio that members of the Liberal Party and Country Party want an early election before the people can be educated to Labor’s policy. We are told too of the very bitter struggle between the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in relation to policy, of the Treasury’s warning about inflation, and the recent increase in interest rates. Inflation has always been a grave issue so far as the Treasury is concerned. The decision to inflate the economy, which was made some months ago, was one of the first steps on this path. A newspaper stated on 4th July:
The Commonwealth Treasurer . . . showed his hand plainly when, in announcing the terms of the new government loan, he disclosed that it involved an increase in interest rates of government bonds to provide for 6% on long term bonds. This was the highest rate in recent years and was a plain indication that the Government was reconciled to an all-round increase in interest rates as a means of curbing what it regarded as a boom in the Australian economy.
The headline of the Sydney ‘Sun’ on that day was: ‘Money Dearer all Round’. That newspaper went on to point out that money for homes, hire purchase and many other activities would be affected in this way. The Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ also referred to hire purchase, the cost of homes and various other increases which had taken place about the same period. That newspaper published a cartoon in which it depicted the Fill aircraft being plastered with paper money. The caption underneath reads:
I mean, why have the world’s highest taxation if you don’t use the stuff?
Those words are credited to the Prime Minister. He was depicted patching up the Fill with inflationary notes. That subject became the topic of conversation throughout New South Wales. In addition, while the Treasurer was concerned about inflation the Prime Minister wanted a wintheelection budget at any price. He cared very little about the consequences. We have seen the consequences in the disputes and brawls within the Liberal Party’s ranks - the Treasurer versus the Prime Minister, and now the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) is involved. Is it any wonder that people ask whether there will be a supplementary budget after this election? The advice that I have is that the Government is talking about calling a meeting of the Parliament, provided of course that it is successful at the election, before the end of the year.
– It has to call the Parliament together.
– It has been suggested that the Government has to call the Parliament together because it will need supply to carry on, but I believe that it may be for other reasons as well. I know the pattern which is followed by the Liberal Party. I recall what took place after the great election victory following the double dissolution in 1951. I recall what happened after the election in 1955. The great tragedy was that in 1961 the Government did not wait for an election but instead introduced the horror budget and tightened its control of the purse strings of the nation. After that effort it almost lost the government. It is obvious that it will not follow that course again. The Government will not do that kind of thing before the election takes place but I, like the people of Australia generally, am quite certain that following this election a supplementary budget will be introduced and the financial screws will be put on, just as has happened in the past, because that, too, is very much Liberal thinking.
Is it any wonder that the Country Party wants an election as early as possible, and before the wheat industry wakes up to it?
We know what is happening in this field. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said that no provision was needed this year to subsidise payments for wheat growers. That was because the excess of the 1968-69 harvest will not be sold before June next year. Of course, the more the country people become aware of what is going on and realise the situation that they face at the present time, the greater will be their reaction against the Country Party.
It is impossible to say yet what gap Commonwealth revenue will have to meet between the average price actually received abroad for the 1968-69 wheat crop and the $1.45 a bushel which the farmers have been guaranteed on the first 200 million bushels of the export crop. Although it is absent from the Budget, support for the wheat industry this year will be a substantially more inflationary element than usually is the case. Wheat farmers have been covered by printing press credit for their 1968-69 crop, but 1969-70 will pass with a substantial element of this credit remaining unfunded by taxation funds. The wheat mess in 1969-70 will make an even greater contribution to inflation in Australia than previously was expected. Of course, the shortage of wheat storage was one of the worst things that ever happened to the industry.
Is it any wonder that a protest has been made by Mr Wood, President of the Victorian Farmers Union, who has defied the Government and in effect has said: ‘I will break the law’. The ‘Age’ of 19th August 1 969 carries an article in these terms:
The President of the Victorian Farmers Union (Mr A. B. Wood) will sell his surplus wheat on the black market if it is not accepted by the Australian Wheat Board.
I am confident many wheat growers will agree and support me in principle on this issue,’ he said yesterday.
But the Victorian Wheat Board grower member (Mr A. C. Everett) said last night that Mr Wood was quite right about black market wheat.
You can’t blame him and hundreds of other farmers like him,’ Mr Everett said.
That is the situation in which the Government finds itself at present. Is it any wonder that it wants an election one month before the time which was assumed by all and sundry? Is it any wonder that the former honourable member for Gwydir found himself a nice little niche and gotaway from the hurly burly? I remember discussing these problems with him in King’s Hall. He talked about the grave dangers facing the new candidate in the person of Mr Roger Nott, and pointed out what a great candidate he was. I did not know that the former honourable member was anxious to get out of Parliament. Shortly afterwards he announced his retirement. After the next election I think we will be able to welcome to our ranks in another House a former most capable Minister in the New South Wales Government and an Administrator of Commonwealth Territories. He is regarded very highly in New South Wales where he held the portfolio of Minister for Agriculture. He is the man to deal with this great problem of wheat and I am certain that the electors of Gwydir will recognise that. There is no question about him being in attendance as a member on our side of the chamber when the House of Representatives assembles after the election.
I have similar feelings about our candidate for the Hume electorate. He addressed a magnificent wheat seminar which was held here recently and which was attended by some hundreds of graziers from the electorate and from the areas surrounding Canberra. They rolled up in great numbers to demonstrate their complete hostility to what is going on now. I think Mr Frank Olley will be with us after the election and I am certain that the policies we have enunciated at our seminars, and which will be enunciated by our Party leader when he makes his policy speech, will be policies that we will be able to put into effect.
The question has been asked: ‘What will Labor do?’ Labor has always concerned itself with the well-being of the people and our policy will be to right injustices wherever and whenever they occur. As I have said, our policy will be outlined by Mr Gough Whitlam, our leader. Particular emphasis will be placed on social welfare, health and development. In relation to social welfare, we have announced our intentions to the world. We will provide social service benefits which will promote the well-being of the nation by means of economic justice and maximum social participation of all citizens. We will provide social security benefits in such contingencies as, for example, sickness, unemployment and old age so as to guarantee families and individuals a minimum income sufficient in general to maintain an acceptable standard of living. I could go on with our proposals but they will be stated in greater detail later.
In accordance with the resolution adopted by the 1969 Federal Conference we will initiate negotiations with State governments with a view to granting reciprocal travel concessions to all pensioners when travelling interstate on government transport. In addition we will seek free travel for pensioners on trains and buses in their own States. We will provide a maternity allowance above that fixed by the Curtin Government in times of necessary budget stringency in 1943 and we will persist in our efforts to gain the restoration of the value of the allowance. We support the principle that child endowment payments should be increased substantially because no substantial improvements have been effected for the past 20 years. In addition, the payment for the first child will be brought to the rate that is applicable to the other children. Our Federal Conference approved a Bill to assist young Service personnel returning from Vietnam, or from any other field of service or after a training course, through a rehabilitation course or some other informative training to improve their future prospects. The defunct Rehabilitation Act should be re-introduced.
In the field of health we also have a programme which has been outlined very effectively and well by our leaders both in the Parliament and in public statements. I have given notice in the Senate that T propose to move:
That the Senate considers that there should be an inquiry into and report upon the problems of mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia.
I believe that one of the first things we will do will be to institute that inquiry. This has been close and dear to my heart for many years. I believe we should take some positive steps to implement action to help these unfortunate people. At present there are many issues which affect them.
As I mentioned earlier, if elected we will provide finance for homes. Our platform states:
The aim of a Labor Government would be to ensure that every family can secure accommodation of its own choosing, appropriate to its own needs.
The Commonwealth can, itself, undertake the construction and financing of houses for present and former members of the Forces, Commonwealth employees, migrants, Social Service beneficiaries and residents of the Territories.
The Commonwealth can make grants to the States for any housing or environmental purpose, can grant benefits to tenants and purchasers of houses, and can regulate the amount and terms of housing loans by banks and insurance companies.
Labor’s housing programme would be planned to- 1. (a) Make grants to the States to construct houses at the lowest possible interest rate for sale or rental, with priority to those most in need, in conditions which conform to specified standards of services, amenities and accessibility.
Make conditional grants to the States for the reclamation and rehabilitation ot depressed areas in accordance with modern town planning.
Make additional special grams to enable States to engage in forward acquisition of land for State housing projects, for development and/or sale.
Make grants to the States for the provision of such community amenities in housing estates constructed with Commonwealth grants as the Commonwealth itself provides in housing estates in the Territories.
That is the policy of the Labor Party. We are pledged to it. We will carry it out.
A great deal has been said about defence. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) talked about a reduction in defence spending of &60m this year. We have heard of the resignation from the Ministry of Mr Fairhall. He attended a Cabinet meeting at 6 p.m. but made no announcement of his impending resignation. He more or less humiliated his leader by making the announcement. He was irate at the decisions made in this field. Ever since, the Government has been running around trying to placate members of another political party who have been threatening the Government with withdrawal of preferences in selected seats at the forthcoming election. Only these preferences have kept the Government in office for such a long period. An editorial in one of the papers read:
You said it, Mr Fairhall.
The resignation of Defence Minister Fairhall immediately after a meeting of Cabinet which he did not inform of his decision is indeed an extraordinary affair.
Mr Fairhall insists that ill health, and this alone, dictated his decision.
In the circumstances perhaps Mr Fairhall will forgive us for quoting a significant remark he made at his Press conference last night.
Admitting that he had recently denied any intention of retiring, Mr Fairhall said ‘But now and again you have to make a liar of yourself to save a situation’.
He made a liar of himself to save the Government. That is the situation that is at present facing the Government and every voter in the Commonwealth. I can assure the Senate that Mr Fairhall’s resignation is concerning the people. Recently I made a canvass on behalf of our candidate for Phillip, Mr Riordan, about whom I will speak later. The Government should not kid itself; there is a tremendous swing against it. I regret that I will not be here to enjoy initially the great benefits of that swing because later today my colleague, Senator Withers, and I, as Senate representatives, will leave to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. I can assure the Senate that the people are concerned at Mr Fairhall’s resignation, the statements that have been made about defence and the charges that have been made about so called political blackmail. The Prime Minister is talking about political blackmail at the moment. He has said to members of a certain Party that he will not be stood over; that political blackmail will not frighten him. This is having a great effect on the voters. A cartoon which appeared in the Sydney ‘Morning Herald’ of 26th August 1969 depicted in 1963 the then Prime Minister, Mr Robert Menzies showing horror at Russians under the bed; in 1966, the then Prime Minister, Mr Holt, showing horror at Russians still under the bed; but in 1969 the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth, and the Russians are bedmates. The great Russian horror is no longer significant. No longer will this fear affect the people of the Commonwealth.
Another matter in which one of the new and younger members will play a very important role when he enters the Parliament, is the lack of planning in the nation’s work force. The nation’s work force has not been geared properly to grapple with the tremendous impact of automation. Mr Joe Riordan, our selected candidate for Phillip and Federal Secretary of the Federated Clerks Union, has made some damming indictments of the Government’s lack of planning to meet this very great problem which confronts our nation. He said:
The organised labour movement has never attempted to inhibit or prevent technological change and the development of more efficient processes. Indeed, Australian trade unions have welcomed and encouraged the introduction of more advanced, mechanised and automated processes.
He pointed out what has taken place in the great build-up of computers over the last 10 years:
The digital computer was first used in Australia in 1951. During the next 6 years, the introduction of computers was relatively slow. There were only five in Australia by the end of 1957. But within a year, this number had increased to eleven. In 1961 there were 101. At the end of 1967 the number had increased to 599. By the end of June this year, there will be more than 730 computers in operation.
It is an indictment on the Commonwealth Government that no work has yet begun on predicting what employment opportunities will be available in particular callings during the next 10 years. Young people are being trained in skills which will undoubtedly be redundant within these next 10 years. In other words, young people who leave school this year could be required to be retrained at least twice during their working lives.
Planning which was desirable 10 years ago, is now a matter of urgent and absolute necessity in order to avert quite serious repercussions on significant numbers of Australian employees. Experience has shown that the computer has no respect for status or position. Junior clerks and senior accountants have all suffered similar fates, when die computer has taken over work which they had previously performed. Although the blow may be softened on a discriminatory basis, those concerned are still left without employment
What Australia needs now is an imaginative policy, designed to encourage the development of automation, but with real safeguards to ensure that the rights of employees - of people - are not ignored. It is imperative that we do not allow the machine to become more important than the man.
This is the policy with which Labor is concerned. This is the matter in which people who will enter this Parliament - 1 have mentioned three - are vitally interested at present. This is the type of planning that is being done by the Australian Labor Party at present. It indicates what will happen when the Labor Party becomes the government in a few weeks time.
Before concluding my remarks I wish to refer to what I regard as dishonest answers to questions. I do not imply that it is done deliberately. I will be going to Malta very shortly. Over a period of time I have asked questions on Malta that are of great concern to me. In particular, I have asked questions concerning the reciprocity agreement between the Australian and Maltese governments on social services. I have asked that the same benefits that apply to British subjects from Great Britain and New Zealand apply also to British subjects from Malta who settle in Australia. Over a period I have placed a number of questions concerning this matter on notice. On 27th May 1969, I received a reply to one such question. It was question No. IISS. Among other things, I asked:
On what date did Mr Dom Mintoff, Leader of the Maltese Labor Party, discuss this matter-
A reciprocal social services agreement - with the Minister for Social Services?
Part of the very brilliant answer I received was:
This matter has not been the subject of discussions between Mr Mintoff and the Minister for Social Services, although the High Commissioner for Malta has spoken to the Minister about it.
I wish to point out that a question was placed on notice - I do not know whether it was placed on notice by Senator Turnbull but it was in response to his prompting - concerning the use of VIP aircraft that took IS to 20 pages of Hansard to answer. The answer was given on 16th May 1968. I notice that page 10S0 of Hansard of that day indicates that on 11th January 1968 a VIP aircraft was used on a flight between Canberra and Sydney by Mr Mintoff, the Leader of the Opposition in Malta, and that the flight, which was by a Mystere aircraft, was authorised by the Prime Minister. The passengers were Mr Mintoff, Dr Pulligino, who is the High Commissioner for Malta, Miss Mintoff and Mr Forace. It appears that they came to Canberra from Sydney to discuss a reciprocal social services agreement with the then Minister for Social Services. The then Minister for Social Services was unable to see them. However, they were able to see the Minister for Immigration. Mr Mintoff and his party came to Canberra on 11th January 1968. On the following day, 12th January 1968, Mr Sinclair, who was then Minister for Social Services, wrote a letter to Mr Mintoff. Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek permission to incorporate the letter in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cormack) - Is leave granted?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.
– I will read it to the Senate.
– Does the honourable senator have time?
– Yes, I have plenty of time. The letter reads: Dear Mr Mintoff,
It was unfortunate that my necessary presence in Cabinet prevented me from seeing you yesterday and that your commitments did not enable a meeting to be arranged for today.
I understand that an item of particular concern to you is the eligibility of Maltese migrants for social services benefits in Australia. As this no doubt is a topic which would have arisen in any discussions between us, I am setting out hereunder the conditions of eligibility for benefits from my Department as they apply to migrants.
Persons who come to Australia with the intention of taking up permanent residence here are eligible, upon arrival, for maternity allowances, child endowment and unemployment and sickness benefits. In 1966 the Government removed from the Social Services Act the nationality qualifications for age, invalid and widows’ pensions and unnaturalised migrants now qualify for pensions under the same conditions as Australian born citizens. This did not affect the position of Maltese who are British subjects and who have always been eligible for social service benefits on the same basis as Australian citizens.
To qualify for age pension a person - whether he be Australian born or otherwise - must have lived in Australia at any time for a continuous period of ten years. If he has completed five years’ but not ten years’ continuous residence and has lived in Australia for periods which, in total, exceed ten years, he may be eligible.
In the case of widows’ pensions, the residential requirement is five years’ continuous residence in Australia immediately preceding the date of the claim, but this period is reduced to one year where the widow and her late husband were living in Australia when he died.
If a migrant becomes permanently incapacitated for work while in Australia or during a temporary absence from Australia he is qualified to receive an invalid pension after five years’ residence in this country. If he was permanently incapacitated for work on his arrival, the residential qualification is ten years.
From the foregoing I feel you will realise that existing social services legislation does not in any way discriminate against migrants from Malta or from any other country.
I trust that your stay in this country has proved to be most enjoyable.
The letter was signed by Mr Ian Sinclair. The following day, having received that letter, Mr Mintoff replied: Dear Mr Sinclair,
I have just this minute received your letter of January 12, 1968.
Mr Mintoff ‘s letter was written on 13th January. It continues:
Its contents reveal to me how important it would have been to meet you on the day you had originally fixed. Indeed had I known you would have found time to see me on any other day before my departure from Australia, I would have cancelled all my other commitments. Unfortunately, this possibility was not conveyed to me.
The Maltese case is simply this: whilst Maltese migrants are treated as British subjects when it comes to obligations, their entitlement to social benefits is inferior by far to that of migrants coming from ‘Britain. A typical illustration was the onus placed on Maltese migrants in conscription before the last amendment to the law.
This discrimination between English and Maltese migrants has arisen because whilst in the case of Britain there is a reciprocity agreement in the case of Malta, the Australian Federal Government has been against such a course of action.
On Thursday January 11, 1968 I discussed the whole issue with your colleague, The Hon. W. Snedden, the Minister for Immigration. Initially his stand was similar to the one taken by you in your letter. It did not however take him long to be convinced that discrimination does exist between Maltese and English migrants (both British subjects).
So much so that at the end of the interview he agreed to let it be known (a) he now understands the problem very well, (b) he would take the first opportunity to raise the matter with his colleagues in Cabinet.
In a nutshell, what the Maltese migrants are after is a reciprocity agreement on similar lines you now have with Britain - an agreement which would put them on a par with other British subjects.
Having heard reports from all quarters of the invaluable contributions made by the Maltese in the development of this wonderful land of yours, I feel confident that you will join Mr Snedden in pressing for an early reciprocity agreement between Malta and Australia.
The letter was signed by Mr Dom Mintoff. I have drawn attention to this matter because it has been intimated that although Mr Mintoff came out to Australia primarily for the purpose of discussing this matter it was his fault that such discussions did not take place. The Government should adjust its policies on this aspect. The record should be put straight, too. This man, who has devoted his lifetime to the welfare of his fellow people, came to Australia with one purpose in mind.
Before concluding I want to refer to one other matter. As I mentioned earlier I will be leaving for Malta shortly. Having adjusted this matter, I feel sure that I can speak with some authority for the Australian Parliament and the Australian Labor Party on the stand that they take on this particular matter. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate what action is being taken by those who are the custodians of this place to protect the rights of the Senate and uphold what has always been termed the prestige of this House. We continually hear much about the rights of the Senate and about what its duties and responsibilities are. We hear many questions asked in it about repatriation matters. I recall that the Senate passed a certain resolution relating to a Repatriation Bill which was designed to give full free medical attention in repatriation hospitals to returned diggers from World War I and to Boer War veterans. It also sought to have cancer automatically accepted as a war caused injury. That Bill was withdrawn by the Government. An entirely new Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and submitted to us as what is termed a money Bill.
It might be argued by honourable senators on the Government side and those charged with protecting the wellbeing of the Senate that what was done on that occasion was done correctly and in accordance with constitutional authority, that similar happenings had occurred on other occasions, but I submit that it does not do credit to the prestige of the Senate.
I should like to know why the will of the Senate was completely ignored with relation to the Canberra abattoirs which I am led to believe has been sold despite the decision arrived at by the Senate. I should like to know what action was taken by the leaders in this place over the setting aside of a decision by the Senate that the new and permanent parliament house should be situated on Capital Hill. I am led to believe, too, that our decision in connection with the export of merino rams will meet a similar fate. The information I have is that immediately after the election, if this Government is re-elected, merino rams will be exported and all sorts of things will be taking place in connection with them.
These are all matters which concern decisions arrived at by the Senate. It is my opinion that the leaders of this place, Ministers, the President and all other people concerned with the wellbeing and prestige of this Parliament, have a responsibility to uphold the prestige of the Senate; We are entitled to know from the custodians of this place, from those charged with upholding the prestige and wellbeing of the Senate, just what is happening concerning determinations arrived at by this chamber.
– I rise to support the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget Papers and to oppose the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. I do not propose to refer to the amendment in any great detail for I think it is typical of the usual patter that we have become accustomed to hearing, particularly just before elections in which members of the Opposition make great promises about one thing or the other without first having gone thoroughly into what they will cost. I am sure that by the time the election takes place the public will realise - if they have not already done so - that to put into operation what the Labor Party plans to do if it ever does come to power would be extremely costly and would involve the imposition of increased rates of taxation. Then, too, we have this inconsistency, which is typical of the Labor Party, which was demonstrated in connection with the means test. Both the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) and Senator Scott have referred to that.
I noted what Senator Fitzgerald had to say about what was likely to happen at the forthcoming election. He referred to the unpopularity of this Government and predicted that the Country Party would lose several seats.
– It will, too.
– When the numbers come up I am sure that I shall have the great pleasure of referring the honourable senator to some of the speeches he has made. He may have to retract some of the things which he has said. I have great confidence in those who support our Party and indeed the Government. They will not turn away from us and support the Labor Party in this instance.
The reception which the Budget has received throughout Australia has been very good. Generally speaking, it has been accepted favourably by the Press as is indicated by the headlines published in the Press the morning after the Budget was brought down. Some newspapers described it as a welfare Budget. Others called it an election Budget, and still others a state-aid
Budget. But whatever criticism there might have been, the fact is that the Government must be given full credit for taking measures to ease the burden on many in the community who had been suffering hardships. I do not intend to go through the whole range of measures proposed by this Government to assist the public generally, but I think it is true to say that the Budget has been welcomed as a sincere attempt to give help where it is needed and as a clear demonstration that the Government is determined to see that our less fortunate people get more of the additional wealth that has come to Australia in recent years. If we face the facts, this of course is the reason why this Government has been returned to office since 1949. It has given the utmost consideration to all sections of the community with the result that today more people own their own homes, more people own motor cars and more people enjoy the amenities to which they are entitled. This clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of this Government’s policy since 1949 and I am confident that the electors will demonstrate a recognition of this effectiveness at the forthcoming election.
When discussing Budgets, it seems to be the custom for most honourable senators to speak on a variety of subjects. I prefer to stick to those matters with ‘which the Budget deals and to matters related to the state of the economy as I see it. As a primary producer, I like to consider the Budget and the state of the economy from the point of view of the primary producer, always bearing in mind that the prosperity of one section of the community is closely allied to that of every other section. I propose to bear that in mind during the course of my remarks today. As I have said, it is to the credit of the Government that it has done this very thing. Let us consider some of the measures proposed in the Budget. I shall refer particularly to those related to primary industry. I mention first the relief to be given to primary industry in connection with estate duties. This, I might add, has been a very strong plank of my Party’s platform for a number of years. Hitherto, estate duties levied by the Commonwealth and the States have represented such a burden that many young men have been forced off the land following the death of their father or other member of the family.
When we remember that a big proportion of the estates of those who are on the land constitutes real estate, we can appreciate how, because of the high estate duties that have been applicable, many properties have been rendered uneconomic upon the death of a landowner. Let me refer to one case that came to my notice recently. The property I have in mind was valued by the New South Wales Valuer-General at $40,000 in 1948 - that was for the land only. In 1966, because of increased values, and perhaps because of improvements and increased production, it was valued at $140,000. In 1948, the duties attracted by that estate for both Commonwealth and State purposes totalled 10%. Perhaps that did not represent a great burden on the estate, but in 1966, because of the higher valuation bracket, duties payable amounted to 35%. This clearly demonstrates the damage estate duty can do to the economy of properties or ventures on the land. I am very pleased that the Commonwealth proposes to increase the exemption as set out in the Budget and I hope that this measure will be the forerunner of further relief not only in the Commonwealth tax field but also in the State sphere.
I wish to refer now to the proposals contained in the Budget so far as they relate to primary industry and to matters pertaining to the economic position generally. I believe it is true to say that our primary industries have never before faced such challenges as confront them now, both economically and in connection with the marketing of their products. It is very difficult to name one primary industry that is not experiencing such difficulties. Perhaps the two most economic at the moment are the rice growing industry and the beef industry. Although their problems are not as great as the problems in some other industries, they do have some problems. If one were to ask why primary industries are in this situation, it would have to be admitted that unfortunately in most cases they are the meat in the sandwich between lower prices and higher costs. For generations the primary industries have provided the great bulk of our export income and have brought to Australia new money which has assisted tremendously in our growth and development. The situation is still the same. At present the primary industries earn well over 60% of our export income. I do not overlook the fact that earnings from our mineral industries are now getting near to the level of export income derived from the wool industry.
In some quarters there is unwarranted and unjust criticism of the Government for the assistance that it has given in recent years to primary industries. It must be remembered that if primary industries become so uneconomic that their contribution to our overseas credit falls, every section of the community will suffer - not only the primary industries but also those who provide the services or contribute through secondary industry in the production of machines and so on. They will suffer as much as the primary industries. To demonstrate that unfortunately primary industries are not making any advance at the moment with regard to their indebtedness, I cite figures which I have received from the Parliamentary Library. At the end of June 1967 the banks and pastoral houses of Australia, which I presume would include the insurance companies, had $ 1,040m on loan to primary industry, but at June this year the amount on loan had grown to $l,351m an increase of 30%.
There has been criticism of the subsidies given to industries. I have been consistent in my opposition to large handouts in the form of subsidies. I have strongly advocated that governments should make a serious attempt to reduce the annual increase in the cost of production in primary industries as well as in other industries. In my judgment the Government has failed to tackle this problem, which we all agree is a difficult one. So primary industry must either be allowed to deteriorate further or be given some form of assistance, such as subsidies. The other alternative is to increase the prices which we receive for our wool, meat, and other commodities. It must be admitted by those who are competent to judge that, because of the surpluses of farm produce throughout the world as well as here in Australia, it would be extremely difficult to increase prices.
So I come back to one of the avenues through which we have a hope of improving the position of our primary industries. I refer to increased productivity, which will assist in this regard. So, somewhat reluctantly, I must give support to Budget measures which are aimed at assisting in this direction. I say ‘reluctantly’ because I know that primary producers are proud and independent people who have a distaste of seeking handouts from governments by way of subsidies, and also because I believe that subsidies, like tariffs about which I have had a great deal to say in the Senate, and bounties, to a degree at least, destroy efficiency and initiative and are a palliative rather than a cure and should be used to tide an industry over a difficult period rather than to become a permanent ingredient in the economic structure of that industry.
If subsidies are necessary, how best should they be given? I believe, as I said a few moments ago, that they should be directed towards lifting productivity and easing the pressure between prices and costs. The main two proposals in the Budget to help two vital sections of primary industry are directed in this way. I refer to wool research and promotion. In a few minutes I shall refer also to the superphosphate bounty. The main purpose of spending money on research is to increase the production of wool in all its aspects, and the purpose in spending money on promotion is to increase the consumption of wool and thus retain or, we would hope, improve the price of the fibre. This contribution by the Government will achieve those two things. The Government’s contribution, which it has been estimated will be about $1.40 per bale, will ease the cost burden, but more importantly I believe it will increase the productivity and ensure a continuity of the work in research and promotion in Australia. In addition it will ensure that the International Wool Secretariat, which is of great and vital concern to the wool industry, will be able to carry on in the same effective way in which it has carried on over the last few years.
Having in mind that two countries in South America - Uruguay and Argentine - hope to join the International Wool Secretariat, we can look forward with some confidence to an improvement in this direction. May I say before I leave this point that I hope that this greater contribution by the Government will not entail greater control of the wool industry through the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat because whereas one has to admit that the Government will be contributing more to the fund, it will be best for all if the wool growers on a board control the affairs of the board.
I refer now to the bounty on superphosphate. The purpose of the bounty is to achieve increased productivity. I deplore the attacks that have been made in some quarters, particularly in some sections of the Press, about increasing wheat production. Anybody who knows anything about the subject knows that these attacks are nonsense. At present a quota system is proposed for wheat and we are likely to have a quota system for at least a year or two. The quota will not be based on acreage, so I cannot see that the superphosphate bounty will result in the production of more wheat. It might achieve a little more per acre. It will not have the effect of increasing wheat production generally because the grower would not be able to market it. The wheat growers acknowledge that some restriction is necessary. I disagree with those who said in the Senate last night that the Government has been entirely responsible for introducing a quota. That is not correct. The quota is being introduced at the direction and initiative of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The Government has acted on behalf of the growers.
– Should there not be a quota?
– Yes, I consider that there must be some form of restriction. The greater proportion of this money will go to the wool and meat industries where about 60% of the superphosphate is used at present, particularly in the higher rainfall areas where it will be of great assistance in lifting productivity, which is so important at present. In 1965-66 we used 4,300,000 tons of superphosphate. Last year we used only 4,296,000 tons. That is an indication that because of the economic squeeze in primary industry many people were not able to put on the necessary amount of superphosphate. As one who has had experience of this, I know that even in the areas to which I am accustomed - - the 14-inch to 16-inch rainfall areas - it has assisted in increasing production and productivity to a marked extent.
Last night Senator Cant said that he did not think the subsidy should be given to the manufacturers and then passed on to the growers. I made inquiries to see what the position is in this regard. I rang up Commonwealth Fertilisers Ltd in Melbourne. Let me quote some of the figures that were given to me. On 17th August 1966 the price of standard bulk superphosphate in Melbourne was $25.95, less the then bounty of $6, which brought it back to $19.95. In July the next year the price was $27, less the bounty of $6, which brought it back to $21. That represented a rise of $1.05 in that year. On 14th August 1968 the price was $26.80, less the bounty of $8, which brought it back to $18.80. That represented a fall of 20c, apart from the increase in the bounty. This year the price is the same - $26.80 - less the new bounty that is now operating, which brings it back to $14.80. So, over that period of 3 years there has been a rise of only 85c in the Melbourne price of standard bulk superphosphate. I do not see how this subsidy scheme could operate in any other way. Like other people, I hope that the manufacturers will not increase the price, but we have to be fair and state the facts as we see them at the present time.
What I have to say from now on may not be directly concerned with the Budget. It will contain some criticism of the Government on economic questions, particularly its apparent refusal to take some measures to stem the cost spiral which is so important to the economy in general, the primary industries in particular and especially the export sector. I know that just recently the Reserve Bank called in money and that that is affecting liquidity at the present time. I believe that this is very desirable in most cases. I know that the government of the day often uses this measure very effectively. I have no criticism of that. In spite of the fact that attempting to stop the rate of increase in the cost of production is a very difficult problem, I believe that eventually the Government will have to face up to these issues.
At various times the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and others have referred to the danger of inflation, which affects everybody. I personally deplore the attitude of general acceptance which some people seem to have. Unfortunately, some people, including people in government, believe that inflation is inevitable and that we must learn to live with it. To me, that is an attitude of despair and it should be completely unacceptable to all sections of the community. I know that a 1%, li% or possibly even 2% increase in the cost of production generally is inevitable in nearly all economies; but when the increase gets to between 3% and 5% we really have inflation from which everybody suffers if it continues.
I believe that it is the responsibility of the Government to do everything possible to keep inflation to a minimum. In my opinion, if measures are not taken to stem the annual increase in costs to which I have referred, industries such as the wool industry face economic difficulties which could be of great significance not only to those industries but to the economy of Australia. Whilst I have great faith in the ability of the wool industry, with its efficiency, to do everything possible to increase productivity, we have to acknowledge that there is a limit to this increased productivity and that in some areas - I refer particularly to the drier pastoral areas of Australia - it is almost impossible to increase productivity.
Measured by the standards of other countries, unquestionably we have one of the strongest economies in the world. We have full employment; we have a high standard of living; and in recent years we have had big increases in the gross national product. But I am sure that the Government is aware of some of the problems that are likely to be ahead of us and of the uncertainty in regard to inflation in particular and the cost of living in general. Admittedly, we are having good seasons in Australia except, unfortunately, in Queensland and Western Australia. But I suppose that in a country such as ours there will always be some areas that are not experiencing the best of seasons. I am sure that we will have a record wool clip. That will help everybody. But, then again, prices are uncertain at this time. We must remember that the opening prices at this year’s sales were somewhat lower than last year’s. On the other hand, next year the Government will probably have to make big payouts in respect of wheat, and we have an uncertain inflow of overseas capital.
I was very pleased to note - this has been mentioned in this debate - that in our trade balance for the year just ended we had a credit of $24m. That is on the basis of imports against exports, and is a great help, particularly when we remember that last year we had a debit of $2 18m in our trade balance. But we are depending on an inflow of foreign capital to a great extent. I personally welcome this because it assists in the development of this great country of ours. We have great resources that need this development. But this capital inflow is an uncertain quantity. I hope that before long every effort will be made to step up exports - not just exports of minerals, which seem to be fairly assured - in order that we may continue the development that we have been experiencing over the last few years. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard figures on the balance of payments.
There is also uncertainty regarding what the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission may do in the next national wage case. 1 believe that increases granted in these cases contribute more to inflation than does anything else. I have frequently referred to the necessity for the Commission to take into account the economic consequences of its decisions. I do not think it is necessary for me to mention that I am not opposed to increases in wages. To be so would be just too silly for words. But I am concerned about increases that seem to be in conflict with the various economic indicators that are used in determining the national wage. Some of them are not in accordance with increases in productivity, the consumer price index or the capacity of industry to pay, which must be taken into consideration. It is important to remember that it is not the amount of the basic wage or any other salary that counts; it is the purchasing power of that wage or salary that counts. Because we have this inflationary tendency, it is important that every section of the community should be aware of the situation which can be brought about by increases in the national wage in excess of what the economic indicators would seem to suggest.
I have examined the wages position over the last few years, between 1953 and 1964 average weekly earnings rose by 4.8% Then in 1965 they rose by 4.9%; in 1966 by 5.9%; in 1967 by 6.6% and in 1968 by 6.3%. I am told that if the rate of increase that has developed in the last couple of years continues, in a period of 1 1 years wages and salaries will double. I think that demonstrates the effect of wage increases. In order to ascertain the relationship between wages and export prices I obtained from the Library comparative figures, taking 1959-60 as 100. From the period 1963-64 to May of this year - the time of the latest available export prices - and taking into account all groups in primary and secondary industries, export prices fell by 11.7%. Over that same period, and taking the same base year, wages rose by 34.4% . This dramatically indicates the disabilities faced by exporting industries because of wage increases. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table obtained from the Library.
I turn now to consider the question of tariffs. I make no apology for again raising this subject as 1 believe that action is necessary in this area. At this time last year, as honourable senators are aware, the Parliament and industry were debating the merits or otherwise of the Tariff Board’s scheme of classification into high, medium and low cost industries in Australia, and systematically to carry out a review of the level of protection in those classifications. The Tariff Board said in paragraph 44 of its report of 1967-6S:
As stated in its last annual report, the ‘Board proposes a systematic review by public inquiry of the main areas of production concentrating initially on those where there has been no recent public inquiry and where the levels of protection are in the high or medium range. The purpose of the proposed review by public inquiry is to enable the Board to assess, on the basis of a full and thorough examination, the protection actually needed and the long term prospects of the producing industries.
I regret that so far the Government has seemed rather to discourage the Tariff Board in its attempt to implement that scheme. Until April of this year there were two vacancies on the Tariff Board. One was filled then, and in May or June of this year the other vacancy was filled. The Government must face up to the fact that it has some responsibility in respect of the Tariff Board, keeping in mind that the Board was kept busy by the references to it and did not have a hope of reviewing industries as suggested in its report, from which I have just quoted, thus helping to establish whether the present levels of protection are justified. 1 have asked questions in the Senate about this matter and on each occasion the answers I have received have referred to filling the two vacancies on the Board. Nothing has been said about increasing the membership of the Board. I think this is essential if we are to get anywhere in reviewing the existing levels of tariffs. I hope that in the near future the Government will look into this question because it is of great importance to industry and to tariff making generally.
Yesterday my colleague Senator Sim referred to a symposium held at the University of Sydney 2 or 3 weeks ago. Press reports indicate that the symposium demonstrated the enormous interest in protection of Australian industries and the new approach to protection levels by the Tariff Board. Slowly but very positively the general public is gaining a better appreciation and knowledge of the new procedures proposed by the Board, in the light of its role as an advisory body which makes recommendations to the Government.
I am not saying that the present levels of protection are too high, but I am saying that every industry must show that it is economic and efficient, that its present levels of protection are justified. Only a public inquiry undertaken by the Board can properly determine this question. I was pleased to learn that the symposium to which 1 have referred was presided over by Sir John Crawford, one of the top level men in Australia on economic matters. I wish to quote a report of his comments at the symposium. I shall quote only portion of the report because of time limitations. The report states:
Drawing out what he felt were areas of general agreement after a lively day which had produced plenty of controversy, S’ir John said it was clear most participants would agree that:
There was no question of a sudden transition to free trade, as even the severest critics of protection agreed that changes should be made gradually. It was likely that over the next decade the present small body of critics of protectionism would become much larger.
Australian policy was moving into an area of more critical analysis of tariff making. This had been a particular message of the chapters of the Vernon Report dealing with tariffs.
The Australian economy had reached a point where, while there were still some opportunities for import replacement, we should be using our developing skills and external economies to enter more into the export field.
Sir John said it was true, as Mr Callaghan had earlier stated, that there was relatively little information on which Australian industries might be uneconomic or not.
Governments seemed to be afraid to let the community find out more about it, and he was grateful to the Tariff Board for the work it had done in this field.
It is time we were less afraid to have public investigation and public inquiry into the facts of our economy’, he said.
Sir John Crawford ably summed up the feeling on the question of tariffs in the community at present.
– Did he say that the small body of opinion for protection would increase in the coming years? I thought I heard you read that comment.
– He said the reverse, that those people who thought there should be an examination had increased in numbers. 1 believe that Australia is facing a tremendous challenge to find markets for its primary products, because a wall of protection has been built around the countries of many of our best customers. I refer, for example, to the United States of America which a few years ago boasted about what it proposed to do for freer trade. At present the United States has imposed a quota on all imports of meat. Australia exports about 225,000 tons of meat annually to the United States. A tariff has been imposed on Australian wool, and more recently the United States has threatened to impose a tariff duty on woollen textiles imported from Japan, Italy and other countries. If that ever happens, it could be disastrous to Australia’s wool industry. The United Kingdom was previously our best customer but now, through its export subsidy schemes, is becoming more self sufficient in respect of meat and wheat, and as a result, our export trade is suffering. Japan has global quotas against meat as well as restrictions on many other products. One can look at the European Economic Community which has a wall around it. I want to refer briefly to what was said by Dr Sicco Mansholt, as reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 16th April 1969. Dr Mansholt is vice-president of the commission of the European Economic Community. He visited Canberra in April. This article states:
The doom of the small European farm was spelt out in Canberra today by the vice-president of the commission of the European Economic Community, Dr Sicco Mansholt.
Dr Mansholt, a Dutchman, admitted that Common Market countries, with their vast farm surpluses, particularly of dairy products, were mining world markets for primary-produce exporters like Australia and New Zealand.
We cannot take the responsibility of ruining the market for others,’ he said.
I am afraid that the Common Market is not doing much about this. However, this does indicate that this wall of protection that has been built up by countries is having an effect on other countries, particularly Australia, which are so dependent upon exporting primary produce. In some quarters there is a clamour for retaliatory measures, particularly against the United States and the United Kingdom. Personally, I do not believe that this is the answer. I do not believe that two wrongs ever make a right. I prefer that some attempt be made to have trade agreements, where possible, and that we continue negotiations in an attempt to reduce trade barriers where necessary.
I think it must generally be agreed that tariff barriers generally contribute to tension between countries. Very often their influence goes much further than that; it can lead to hostility and even to war. As
Australia is a comparatively large exporter of primary products selling on world markets, the Government must do everything possible to have these restrictions eased. In particular, attention must be directed to the United States and Japan. Our efforts in this regard will improve considerably if Australia does not overindulge in subsidies, thus encouraging overproduction in this country. At the same time we much closely examine the existing levels of protection which raise our costs and not attempt to balance them with subsidies. I believe that this is not the way in which our economy should be run. We should be insisting upon a more open economy where supply and demand are given greater freedom. I think that those who attempt to advise the people and Government too often try to evade this vital economic principle.
I believe that I am correct in saying there is considerable apprehension in rural areas at present not because of problems associated with marketing wheat and wool but mainly because our primary producers cannot see how we are going to overcome the problem of prices and costs. I think there is a vital necessity for the Government to ensure that increases in costs of production are not beyond the level at which we can match them with increased productivity. That, I believe, is one of the answers to our problems. I conclude on that note. I support the Budget.
– Mr President, at least I can say that when I stand in the Senate to speak I have the wholehearted support of my Party. The best way in which I can describe this Budget is to say that it is a panic Budget for a panic election put forward by a panicking Government. It is certainly a panic Budget because only recently the Treasury released a White Paper saying that what the Government proposes to do should not be done. It is certainly a panic election. Parliament sits so very rarely that when we are here we normally sit until the end of November. Most elections are held towards the end of November or in December. However, everyone knows what is looming in the future. Everyone knows that there will be an adverse reaction against the Government because of the wheat problem and because of the economic position, which Senator Bull mentioned. However, he did not say what would happen in regard to the economy. Obviously, as soon as the Government parties are returned - I think they will be returned - we will find that they have been bluffing the people and that later on there will be an economic squeeze.
I say that the Government is panicking because the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) feels that he must have a big majority to boost his own actions or, rather, his lack of actions. The Government is frightened that if the election is not held now it will be returned with such a small majority that the people may not have as much confidence in it as they had before. I have been travelling a lot lately. Everywhere I go I note that when I meet Government supporters they are reading as much as possible. When one asks what they are reading they turn pinkish or red and say that they are doing some research. When one eventually looks at the book one finds that they are reading a western novel. What they are researching is the question as to whether you can have a posse without a sheriff or a sheriff without a posse.
– Are you including yourself in those remarks?
– No. I am not a member of the Government parties. It appears that really we do not know where we are going. If, as the Prime Minister says, we are the posse and there is no sheriff, then I do not think he should have made the point so obvious. I think the time has come for some leadership in government. There should be leadership for the people of Australia rather than the country being allowed to go along in the haphazard way it is going.
The Australia Party, which I lead, was formed because we believe there should be a third force in politics. We disagree with the sectarian and sectional interests of the other two political groups. Obviously, people are disenchanted with the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party and are disillusioned by the Australian Labor Party. There is no doubt whatsoever that this feeling is general throughout Australia. That was one of the reasons for the birth of Australia Party. We think the time has come when more thought should be given to Australia rather than to the party. Nearly every action undertaken by the Government has been for the party, not for Australia. It is about time something was done to put Australia first rather than the party first. I am not saying that this happens only on the Government side. It happens on both sides of politics. You do whatever will get you re-elected. You carry it out with energy and vigour to make sure that you are returned. I will refer to this aspect when I get on to the subject of social services.
I point out that although this Party, of which I am the parliamentary representative, has an organisation in every State and has people in every State wishing to stand for election, I am deprived of a secretary or assistants to do the work required of me as the leader of the party. It is practically impossible for me to answer my telephone ali day long. People ring me and ask: ‘Is that the secretary speaking?’ I say to them: No, I am the leader of the Party. I have no secretary’.
– That does not look good, either.
– I do not know whether it looks good. That is not the important point. The important point is that I just do not have time available to me. I am supposed to do my own research. I had no time to prepare my speech today because nobody told me that it was proposed to conclude the Budget debate today. I thought it was going on for at least another week, seeing that we have been discussing it for only one week. I suddenly found that if I did not speak on the Budget today I would not be able to speak on it at all. I think that is pretty poor. I should have been given some warning on the position.
It is practically impossible for me to carry out my duties as leader of a party with an Australia-wide organisation without the aid of a secretary. Not only that; it is also practically impossible for me to carry out my duties without the use of a motor vehicle. I am not asking for a VIP aircraft, but when one leaves a plane at an airport one sees 10 or 12 Commonwealth drivers picking up secretaries and second, third and fourth division public servants but I, on my official duties, cannot have a car made available to me.
– Did you go to
Bougainville in a VIP aircraft?
– No, we did not. Of course I travelled on a warrant but a plane had to be chartered. I will come to that point towards the end of my speech. I feel that it is an improper act and the act of a frightened government to withold those things from me. lt will do anything to prevent its anti-government vote increasing. Everyone knows that there is an increasing interest in the Australia Party. We recently sent representatives to Western Australia. It is rather funny but six people offered themselves as candidates for our Party. The same thing occurred in Adelaide. There was not quite so much response in Brisbane but we have candidates in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria. We cannot run all of them because we are limited by reason of time and finance. I have to carry out all of the work associated with my duties on my own. As soon as the House rises and the select committee of which I am a member has finished its inquiry I have to do a tour from Brisbane to Perth; yet I get no assistance.
Let me return to social services. As Senator Bull pointed out, the Government’s proposals were well received by all the newspapers. That was the first day after the Budget had been presented. The next day everyone recognised the Budget for what it was - election bait. I think the best cartoon produced on the Budget was one that carried a caption to the effect that the Budget was there to help the ordinary people - Gorton, McEwen, McMahon. That is what the people think of the Budget. It was put out merely to bribe the people to vote for the Government so that it can be returned in safety and put on the credit squeeze which must be applied before we meet again next year.
This is a budget to help the Government, not to help the people. It is humiliating for pensioners and other people in the community to be tied to an election handout. Poverty should not be tied to an election hand-out. Surely we should make a study of poverty in Australia to see what we can do about it. The Government hands out a dollar here and a dollar there now and then but in most instances nothing at all. Of what use was a dollar during the past year to pensioners? A dollar does not even catch up with the inflation that is going on yet the Government says: ‘We have given a dollar to the pensioners. Are we not big heroes? That is social welfare’. At one time social welfare was anathema to the Liberal Party. It was considered Labor’s prerogative. But now apparently it is anything for an election victory.
I believe that all social services should be tied to some index. I have said that time and time again. I do not care whether the index is the basic wage or the average weekly earnings of Australians. The Government does not hesitate when it thinks that its members deserve an increase in their parliamentary salaries - and it is a pretty decent bite, is it not? But when it comes to the pensioners it says: ‘No. There is no election. There is no problem. We will not do anything this year but next year we will give them an extra dollar’. A dollar! What is it worth? How many of you people opposite or your parents who now would be of pensionable age could live on the pension today? There is no need to ask. Social services are just a gimmic now. When the Government gives a hand-out to the pensioners it seems to think that it gains the sympathy of the public. But it does not do anything about other aspects of social services. What about the maternity allowance? What about child endowment? What about hospital and medical benefits? What has the Government done about them? Not a thing.
Senator Bull mentioned some poor country man who had land that was worth $40,000 years ago and today is worth $140,000, and that his death duties or whatever it was had increased. But that was due to inflation. Certainly a bit of productivity may have been responsible for some of the increase in value but in the 20 years he mentioned nearly all of the increase in value would have been due to inflation.
– The rate remained the same. That is the important thing.
– I think you are lucky. The value had increased by inflation. But the Government does not accept that when it gives its hand-outs. As Senator Bull properly pointed out, inflation is occurring at the rate of 4% or 5% a year, yet the Government does nothing about raising its own contribution to social service benefits such as child endowment, maternity allowance and hospital and medical benefits. It is not just because I am a doctor that I raise these matters. I have said many times in this House and practically every year during each Budget debate - I am not divulging now anything that was discussed by the select committee of which I am a member - that there would be no discrepancy in fees charged by doctors and the medical benefits if the Government played its part.
The Commonwealth benefit started at 60c, increased to 80c and for the past 10 years or more has not moved. Everyone knows that the 80c of 10 years ago is now worth $1.60. So irrespective of whether doctors increased their fees there would be no gap between the fee and the medical benefit - except for the 10% - if the Government played its part. But the Government is not prepared to play its part. It never does except at election time and then only so far as the pensioners are concerned. That is when it says: ‘Look, are we not wonderful in the field of social services?’
I turn now to taxation. What has the Government done for the people who deserve help most? Not one honourable senator on the Government side would go outside this chamber and say to his constituents that the taxation burden on the majority group was fair. Would they do that? Of course they would not. But they allow this position to go on. For 15 years the Government has done nothing in this field. I have heard the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) attack the Government because it had not implemented many features of the Ligertwood report which was presented some 15 years ago. Nothing has been done for 15 years because the present system is bringing gold to the mills of the Treasury. This is iniquitous, but Government senators sit here and do nothing. Their attitude is: What does it matter? We will be re-elected and we will hand out another dollar. We will be right, Jack.’ It does not matter that the burden of taxation falls on the people I have mentioned, and that they cannot get out from under it.
I have some suggestions to make in relation to taxation but the Minister concerned is not in the chamber. The only Minister here is Senator Wright. Let me say that
Senator Wright is one Minister who sits in the House during every speech, deadly dull though they may be. I give him full credit for that, but in this Budget debate where are the other Ministers who should be listening to the remarks that are made about the departments they administer? They are never here. I suppose they are having afternoon tea or talking to someone. They should be in this chamber. In every Budget debate I have said that they should be here to hear what we are saying about their departments and about the Budget generally. What is the point of our getting up and talking if they are not here to listen? Of course our remarks will appear in Hansard and they may read them but the Ministers should be here to listen to our criticisms and suggestions - not that they will accept suggestions, but, as Senator Mulvihill has said, if we keep making suggestions the Ministers, after they have allowed a certain time to elapse, will advance the same suggestions and claim them as their own. If we make a suggestion it is abhorrent to them. But that does not matter. Our suggestions may fall on some fertile ground and roots may grow. One never knows.
Having that in mind I suggest to the Government that interest on housing loans should be a deduction for taxation purposes. I do not know how far the Government can go on this aspect. It is a matter for study. I believe that many young couples would be married sooner if they could get a home. Those who do marry have to borrow money for a home. The trouble is that the interest they have to pay on the money they borrow is pretty heavy. It should be a deduction for taxation purposes. I do not think that that would ruin the nation. In fact, I do not believe that any increased social service payments would ruin the nation. The Government can find the money when it wants it. I believe that the Government should allow a taxation deduction for interest on home loans, to help young married couples. I do not know how far this concession should be extended. I have not gone into the details. I do not know what the figures would be. But I make the suggestion. I know that the matter will be referred to the Treasurer and to the committee which will consider the next Budget. Then, of course, it will be dropped. If the committee thinks that the idea is a good vote catcher, in a year or two it might be implemented. The committee will say: ‘Look what we thought up’.
– We will remember the honourable senator.
– I thank the honourable senator. At last after 7 years in Parliament I have achieved something. Whilst on the subject of young couples, I want to make a suggestion about the payment of hospital bills for maternity cases. I do not know how much the Government spends on bringing migrants to Australia.
– Is this a policy speech?
– Not quite. These are some of the things that I have said before. Why does not the Commonwealth pay hospital bills for maternity cases? I invite honourable senators to think about the matter. Everyone says that the best migrants are our own children. Why not help the parents? I do not care if the Government does not pay the total bill, but at least it should pay part of the bill to reduce the cost and thus help the parents so that they can have children without incurring high costs. If the Government provided free hospitalisation for births and taxation rebates for housing loans, I think it would find young people getting married sooner and having more children.
Still talking about financial matters, I refer now to foreign investment. I want to mention two things. Firstly, 18 months ago the Prime Minister got into a huff about some life assurance company that wanted protection because it was to be taken over. He made a very strong statement. He said that the Government would introduce legislation and would -io something to ensure that takeovers could not occur. I do not know what has happened since then. We are still waiting for a foreign investment statement. I hope it is made before the election. I made a suggestion here. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) pooh-poohed it, of course. For what it is worth, we believe - I hope that Treasury will take note of what I say - that capital invested in any large Australian project should have Australian as well as foreign content. Each project should have some Australian equity in it. If there is no Australian equity, there should be some provision whereby Australia can play some part in the project now or take up some share in it later on. I suggested that the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance be altered, that the perpetuity clause be deleted and a clause inserted in lieu thereof which limited the time to 10 or 30 years or whatever the Government wished, depending on the circumstances.
Everyone knows that every company investing in Australian projects expects to get its capital investment repaid within a period of 5 to 10 years. The Savage River interests invested $60m and it expects to get its capital back in 5 years. Conzinc Riotinto of Australia in Bougainville expects to get its capital investment back in 8 years. The Government gives such companies total rights to our mineral deposits and to our oil resources. The government is doing nothing to protect our resources. I have seen a cartoon showing the end result of Australia as an empty quarry surrounded by oil, which will be only too true. That is all we will have left. If the Government insists on a time limit, it can ensure that the land, or what is left of it, comes back to us. The companies will have got their capital investment back and will have made their profits. I do not believe the insertion of a time limit will stop companies investing in Australia. No company will invest in Australia unless it is assured that it will get its money back in 8 years or 10 years at the most. If the Government gave the companies 20-year leases they would be happy to invest. The Government poohpoohed that idea; the Government did not think about it. The idea did not come from the Treasury. Therefore, it could not be any good. All the brains of the Commonwealth are situated in the department of whichever Minister one is criticising; nobody else has any brains. That is one way of meeting the situation. Another way is for the Government to give the companies a taxation holiday for a few years and then steadily increase their rates of taxation so that the projects are practically Australian owned. But the Government does not do anything. We have not heard a word since that life assurance company was about to be taken over.
Now another gigantic proposal is envisaged at Jervis Bay. What is the Government doing about that? What has it done about it? What will it do about it? Will it allow foreign investment to build a steel mill there and have no Australian equity in the project? When the Government could have had the benefit of a project of which 20% was offered to the Administration of Papua and New Guinea, or in relation to which the Administration insisted that it be offered 20% - I do not know which - it did not take up that offer. The company would like to know what the Government is doing. Do I hear the Minister snorting?
– The honourable senator does not doubt that the Minister would snort at a remark like that, does he?
– The honourable senator has criticised the Government about this project.
– I cannot see any reason to snort about a remark such as the one I have just made. It is true that 20% of the equity is there for the Australian Government, through the Administration of Papua and New Guinea, to take up on behalf of the Territory. The Government has not taken up that offer. I suppose the reason is that the Government does not know what the company intends to do about the project. There should be no hesitation. The Government, which has said that we should have participation, has been offered a 20% equity and has not bothered to say: ‘Snap’. The Government should have snapped up the offer straight away. If anyone thinks ORA will fail, he must be a bit soft in the head. No guidelines are laid down as to what will happen when work starts on this huge project at Jervis Bay. At the moment it is a question of a feasibility report. The proposal may not come to anything, but the Government should be prepared. It should have some guidelines.
While mentioning taxation, I think I should mention superannuation. I get heartily sick of each side saying that it cannot see how the other side will finance its proposals. If the Labor Party put a proposal to the present Liberal-Country Party Government, the Government would say that the nation could not afford the proposal. What happened in Tasmania whena Labor government was in office and a Liberal opposition suggested certain new proposals? The Liberals said that they would do certain things. The Labor government said that those things could not be done because of lack of finance. Members of the Government ask where the Opposition would get the money. It is the stupidest remark that one hears. The Government could get the money it wanted for any project. If it thought it could bribe voters, it would find the money. Government speakers have said that abolition of the means test will cost too much. Do not they believe in abolition of the means test?
– I do not.
– The honourable senator should listen to the Minister for Social Services,
– I said what I thought.
– The honourable senator may think that no-one believes in it, but a lot of people in his Party do believe in it. Mr Wentworth is a great believer in it. When one studies all of the factors involved, it is a possibility. The abolition of the means test would not ruin Australia. It would be implemented in stages. The superannuation scheme would be started. With the two combined, the cost decreases each year. That is the way in which the means test should be abolished. No-one says that the Government should wipe it off today and that is the end of it.
– With the circulation of the extra money, extra taxation revenue comes back to the Government. It would all come back to the Government.
– That is true. I want to speak about education because I think this will be one of the most important factors in the coming election. I and my Party believe that there is nothing more nauseating than the spectacle of the leaders of both major parties touting for votes. That happened. It was a pretty sickening sight. They have raised sectarian issues which should not have been raised. If one had gone to a meeting of opponents of state aid to independent schools, one would have noted the venom and bitterness in the speeches against those who favour state aid. If the Government believes it is not causing a sectarian issue to arise by the way it is going about this matter it is not thinking very deeply about it. My Party believes that an education commission along the same lines as the one the Australian Labor Party advocates should be established and that to that extent education should be taken out of the hands of the Government. The commission should be established along similar lines to the Universities Commission. Otherwise the policies of my Party on education differ from the policies of the Australian Labor Party.
The Australia Party also believes that there are insufficiently trained teachers in Australia. The first thing the Commonwealth should do by way of assistance is provide adequate teachers colleges, universities or even training schools. I do not care in what form the assistance is given as long as assistance is given by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth should also pay for all teachers in private schools. When I refer to private schools I mean church schools, independent schools and so on. This would take a burden off the schools, because the greatest cost factor to schools is the cost of providing teachers. Insofar as Catholic schools are concerned, my Party believes that the Commonwealth should meet the cost of providing secular teachers only, not religious teachers. What it is in fact proposing is that the Commonwealth meet the cost of providing teachers in colleges and universities as well as secular teachers in all independent schools.
My Party also believes that the commission which it advocates should determine the student-teacher ratio and set standards for classrooms and so on. Each State should have its own commission, and all should be subject to the control of a Federal Commission. These commissions should be responsible for setting standards. State aid would then be given to those private schools which cannot attain the standards laid down by the Commission. Those standards should be the standards that state schools have already attained. In other words, the Australia Party does not believe in a complete handout to private schools. My Party believes that the state education systems must be improved and that every private school which is below standard should be given aid to bring it up to standard.
– Do you mean teacher aid?
– No, the whole lot; the buildings and everything else. I suppose the cost of providing teachers would be the bulk of the cost. The next proposition I want to put up is loans for university students. I think a system along these lines has been introduced in Canada. Moving away from the state aid question, 1 think that loans to university students are essential. A fair number of scholarships are already available. I notice that the Government has increased the number of scholarships it provides. But they are of no assistance to many people who want to live away from home. I think that university students should be entitled to live away from home if they wish. I believe that an interest free loan should be given to them for the period of their course and a few years after they have completed their course they could start paying back the money. Whilst many students would prefer to accept scholarships they are debarred by the means test from accepting aid for living out. Loans would help them in this way. I notice that the Minister for Works, who represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this chamber, is present, so my remarks do not fall on deaf ears. I have taken this matter up with the Minister for Education and Science. Although I asked mainly about medical students, there is no reason why my proposal could not apply to agricultural and veterinary students and so on. At some time in their courses they are compelled to reside in a hospital or away from wherever they are staying and they are charged for it. These students are being charged for this accommodation at the same time as they are paying rent for a flat or for board. I know that medical students have to reside in a hospital for a period if they are doing obstetrics or a similar course. These students are forced to pay so much for accommodation that is not covered by their scholarships. I do not know why their scholarships do not cover it because they cover compulsory fees, and it is compulsory for students to reside in these places. So why should this not be covered by their scholarships.
– ‘There is a means test that cuts them out of living allowances, too.
– Yes. Not only medical students are affected; other groups are affected as well. The Minister will say it would be too costly. The expense to the Commonwealth should not matter as long as it is justified. If there is any justice in the system these students should be given the assistance I have requested. I raise the matter in the hope that the Minister for Works will discuss it with the Minister for Education and Science to see whether anything can be done.
I do not wish to speak for very long on defence because there are one or two other matters that I wish to raise, lt is interesting to note that we are now to have three boats to each admiral instead of two. It must be a very unwelcome sound to the future enemy to hear that a feasibility test is to be undertaken to decide whether each admiral will get another boat. The present naval position is shocking. The only defensive weapon the Royal Australian Navy has is the HMAS ‘Melbourne’.
– Offensive weapon.
– At times, yes. Is it not time that something was done about our Navy. All the Government is doing is giving the Navy piddling little ships. I do not know whether the admirals want them. Giving these ships to the Navy is like giving a little celluloid toy ship to a boy in a bath. This is the way the Government is building up our Navy. What is really essential is an aircraft carrier. Senator Webster raised this matter at one stage and Senator Anderson agreed with him. But Senator Anderson forgot that I asked him a question on one occasion about the Hermes’ and the fact that a newspaper correspondent had suggested to me that we should do something about leasing it. In reply Senator Anderson attacked me and said: ‘Fancy anyone listening to a newspaper reporter’ or words to that effect. I replied: Do they not have as much brains as you and I?’ Of course, I was not being offensive to the Leader of the Government - well, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Anderson has forgotten all about that but I have not. A few days later an article by the Minister for the Navy appeared in the Press to the effect that the Australian Government had been - it could not possibly have been as a result of a suggestion by anyone else but the Cabinet - considering the matter. That is the last we have heard of it. I think this was about 1 year ago. Was it roughly 1 year ago that you asked a question along those lines, Senator Webster?
– Time gets away from me.
– The British Government would be only too happy to be relieved of this aircraft carrier and it would be a great help to us. The British Government could not afford to keep it going. We could have leased it from the British Government with or without British officers. I believe that it would have been of some value to the Navy. It would have been of more value than the twenty-four FI IIA aircraft of which we have not even taken delivery. I do not want to harass the Government any more about the Fill A aircraft. It is the most pathetic story in Australia. I am sorry to say that I cannot see how the Government can get out of not taking delivery of these aircraft. It is a pity. What is the Government going to do with them when it gets them? I have two thoughts about this. One is that we should sell the spares that we have at Amberley back to the Americans and keep the twenty-four that we have purchased for use as spare parts. The other suggestion is that they be used in the VIP fleet.
– They are not reliable.
– That is why I think they should become part of the VIP fleet. Otherwise, what are we to do with them when we take delivery? Of course the Air Force wants them; everyone wants a Rolls Royce. But what are we going to do with them? Where are we going to put them? What is going to happen as each one gradually disappears? The Government states that it is thinking ahead. Has it, in its thinking on forward defence, which it says is ever present in its mind, considered a replacement for these aircraft? We were told this morning that the Government’s forward defence thinking is not on a yearly basis or on a 3-yearly basis but on a continuous basis. Even if we finally get the FI IIA aircraft the Government should be thinking about a replacement, because the casualty rate is so high. What is the Government doing about that? We are already paying S9m a month - I am sorry, I should say S8.9m because the Minister said that is the figure he quoted although it is not the figure that appears in Hansard - to the Americans while we are making a decision on whether we should accept delivery. Since the Parliament adjourned in May the Prime Minister has waffled on about whether Australia will accept delivery, every month we have been paying out roughly another $9m to the Americans. We all hoped at one stage that there would not be a plane of that type as we could easily have the Phantom and be happier with it.
I come now to deal with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Here I shall get some abuse from some honourable senators because I am going to do some slight but not complete recanting. Honourable senators will know that at one stage I said that we should not sign the Treaty. Since then I have been reading more and more about it. I have even read the agreement and have arrived at the same conclusion as Sir Mark Oliphant has done. I go practically all the way with Sir Mark. We have got to be a belligerent pacifist at least, but when we weigh all considerations in deciding whether we should or should not sign, I now think the balance falls on the side of signing.
I cannot get emotional about it because, as I read the Treaty, I think there are just as many dangers in signing it as there are in not signing it. The advantage of signing it is that we shall be able to get nuclear information from the United States, from Great Britain, and from Russia - especially from Russia nowadays because that is where we will probably get it from as the Russians are our big buddies now.
– Is that why you have changed your mind?
– At least we of our Party have a mind to change. We now find that if we sign it we get the nuclear assistance to which I have referred. But do not let anyone be fooled into thinking that the project in Western Australia was cancelled because of economic reasons. It was not. Apparently we had some censorship in Australia at the time because, according to the American newspapers, the American Government reacted strongly to what was suggested. The moment it was suggested that a nuclear device be exploded in Western Australia to help create a harbour, the American Government said: ‘No, Australia has not signed the Treaty and they do not get this assistance.’ That is why the project was cancelled, not because of economic reasons.
On the other hand, if we do not sign it there will be some who will say that this does not matter because we will be able to get help from other nations. The only other nations who could help us are France and China and they are both regarded as second class nuclear nations. Although there have been strong suggestions that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) while in France reached some accord with the French authorities, I do not think we are going to get much help from the French. For those reasons, I think we should sign the Treaty and in this way get some assistance with regard to nuclear development because a country like Australia must have nuclear power for industry. The end result is that we must have it. Those who say that we should sign it should remember that by the very fact of signing it we obtain the nuclear know-how that will enable us to build our own nuclear industries and it is only one step further from that to make an atomic or nuclear bomb. Therefore, those who are opposed to nuclear weapons are really pushing us to that position by suggesting that we should sign the Treaty. As against that, of course, as I have already said, we get the know-how for our development in Australia. Therefore I think we should now declare ourselves in favour of it.
I wish to deal now with Bougainville because I made some statements in the Senate which I feel that I should retract. I am always quite happy to change my mind when I find I am wrong and if honourable senators on the other side of the chamber would do that this would be a better place. I did make some reference to the Administration. T do not withdraw one word of my statement that the situation was badly handled. There is no doubt at all that it was. The proof of that pudding lies in the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) overstepped his own Ministers. He told them to go up there, to re-negotiate and to let Conzinc Riotinto of Australia take part. The situation up there had been badly mishandled. There was no need for the police to go there - none whatsoever. One of my best friends, Mr John Chipper, who was a member of the Legislative Council in the old days, was so horrified that he sent me an abusive telegram and said: ‘Come up and have a look for yourself. So I did. I think he was a bit surprised. I certainly was. We had to charter a plane from Rabaul because the Government would not help us. It is very difficult to get over to Bougainville from Rabaul and back. When we got to Bougainville the company was very good. It lent us a helicopter to fly over the area so that we could see what was going on.
We - that is, the Australia Party - brought down a Bougainville boy named Leo Hannett. We did that because we knew nothing of what was going on up there and we thought we should know the facts. We got in contact with the member for the area, Mr Paul Lapun, who suggested Mr Leo Hannett who is a law student. He had been training for the priesthood and then became a law student. He represented the Bougainville people when they had talks with the Administration. He came down, and he certainly opened our eyes to lots of things that had happened. But one or two of his statements were not quite correct. He told us that ‘the Administration came down like pigs in the night and took our land without telling us’. That was not so. I must be fair to the Administration. The Administration did everything in its power to explain the position.
I should explain to honourable senators that there are two villages up there - Rorovana 1 and Rorovana 2. They are about 400 yards apart, but the political climate in each is totally different.
– Like Northern Ireland.
– Almost, but there is no Bernadette. The two villages own the plantations involved. The people in village 1 are more or less under the influence of the Administration. The people in village 2 are under the influence of a man who is employed by McKillop. It has been the universal thought in that area that the people causing the trouble were the white people who own plantations. I do not want to name them. Honourable senators can guess who they are. One of the people concerned was the employee of a plantation owner. He lived in Rorovana 2, and that is where the trouble was. We spoke to the natives in both villages, we spoke to the Administration patrol officer and we spoke to the foreman of the white planter, to civilians and to several other people. When we asked the natives directly, it became obvious to us that the Administration had been to the area and had tried to explain the position. The villagers in Rorovana 1 were quite happy to accept the proposal but those in Rorovana 2 were told not to listen and not to accept it. So what Hannett had said was a half-truth.
Mr Hannett’s second statement was that they were not shown the land that the Administration was going to give them. This again was a half-truth. The villagers of Rorovana 1 had seen the land, and we saw it. It is quite good. The villagers in Rorovana 2 just refused to see it. They said: ‘We are not going to give our land up, so we are not interested’. I had accused the Administration of using plantation land when the company had asked for swamp land. This, too, was only partially true. The company had asked to use swamp land and the Administration had refused permission for the very good reason that the swamp land had to be filled in and the only filling that was available was a nearby hill. To fill the swamp would have meant using earth moving equipment to move the hill down into the swamp. But there was a village on the top of the bill and the Administration quite properly refused permission. The only land it had acquired was 175 acres where there is no habitation at all. I also said in the Senate that the price paid to the white man was $900 an acre. That was not quite right. After saying that, I found that the price had been fixed at $600. The price of $600 an acre paid to the white man is not comparable with the price of $105 an acre paid to the natives. I pointed out that there was a difference in productivity but that it could not have been so great as to warrant that difference in price.
When we arrived there even Mr Chipper was amazed to find that the Administration said straight out that the white man’s plantation was going downhill. So the productivity was not so great as it could have been. The plantation owner was 200 boys short and with the mine developing he would have been even shorter, with the result that his plantation would have gone downhill rapidly. Incidentally, he had there the most magnificent orchid collection. What surprised us was the fact that the native plantation was well cultivated, which is unusual when one considers most native cultivations. Even Mr Jack Chipper spoke to the foreman and said: ‘In your opinion, what is the ratio of productivity as between the native land and your owner’s land?’ The reply was: ‘Two or three times.’ Chipper said: Then the natives should get S200 or $300 if that is the ratio.’ What I suggest will happen is that the Government will negotiate and that will be the end of the whole problem. As to this business of the ancestral land-
– Is there anything in that?
– No, because in village No. 1 they are prepared to sell. This is just the advice that has been given to the villagers in village No. 2.
– There is no sacred land at all?
– There are in the villages, but they are small. There is no sacred land in the plantation area in dispute. The other natives have been selling their land, so it is not ancestral land which is causing the problem. The Administration is giving the natives who sell their land an equal area of land already planted with coconut palms and until the land becomes productive the Administration will give them the equivalent of the natives’ production in coconuts in bags at their door. I think the matter boils down to an unfair valuation. Everyone knows that if his house is to be taken over by a government he will receive in compensation little more than the valuation of the house, but that if a petrol company or supermarket wanted the house they would pay perhaps ten or twenty times as much for the property. I have said at public meetings that if ORA gave the natives $Im there would be no trouble. I do not retract my suggestion that the matter has been badly handled.
I refer now to the report by Lord Willis who was brought out here by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation at the request of the Australian Government to hold a seminar and give advice on the film and television industries. He presented his report about a year ago but nothing has really happened since then. Lord Willis suggested the establishment of a film and television school. He suggested that it could be done on an Australia-wide basis, that it had to be independent of the Government and backed by the full authority of the Commonwealth. This is done in France, Sweden, Italy and Denmark, which have courses for those industries. If we were to do this in Australia we could start to reverse the brain drain that we have now. At present if anyone wants to be successful in television and films he has to go overseas. By setting up schools here we would gradually reverse the brain drain and people in the industry would be coming back to Australia. The cost of setting up these schools was estimated by Lord Willis to be $300,000 each per annum. That is not a very large sum when it is considered that at the present moment the Australian Broadcasting Commission alone imports films to the value of $2.5m each year. If we set up our own school we could produce better films of our own. I forgot to mention that commercial television stations import about $4m or $5m worth of film each year.
– It is nearer $20m.
– That is not the figure that Lord Willis gave. I took my figures from his report. I am not worrying so much about that aspect. A school would cost only $300,000 to set up and eventually there could be more than one - perhaps two or three of them. I ask the Government to see what is being done about that report. I do not propose to vote for the amendment moved by the Opposition, nor do I propose to vote for the amendment foreshadowed by the Democratic Labor Party.
– What about proposing another amendment?
– 1 am thinking of doing that. As the leader of a new party I said to myself: ‘Should I not foreshadow another amendment?’ But then I thought to myself that in each of the 7 years that I have been in this place I have gone through the childish process-
– That would be a mental tug-of-war.
– Very difficult indeed. I have gone through the process of listening to the quarrels between the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party with regard to social welfare. The moment that the Labor Party proposes a consequential amendment the DLP opposes it, and the moment the DLP proposes exactly the same amendment, or a slight variation of it, the ALP opposes it. I wonder whether if I did move an amendment I would obtain the support of either Party to that amendment. If so, I would be happy.
– I must say that I condole with Senator Turnbull in the disability in which he finds himself in respect of secretarial duties. It is obvious that there is a great need for research in relation to the matters of policy to which he has referred. In my mind this enhances the appreciation of the disability under which the honourable senator is now working. He certainly will require wider and greater research in the many aspects of policy that he has mentioned. He sought to paint a dismal picture of this Government’s policies and achievements, but he had neither the brush nor the materials to produce that which he sought to achieve. The plain fact is that we have a Budget before us which is a magnificent reflection of the economic strength that we have attained. It is no mean feat for a nation of 1 2 i million people to sustain a Budget of just under $7,000m and to note a record gross national product of $27 ,11 4m. This is indeed-
– A lot of hoot?
– Yes. The growth to a gross national product of $27, 000m has not been fortuitous; it is the direct result of sound planning, sound financial policies and the provision generally of an economic climate conducive to bringing out the best in national and individual endeavour. We look back over the last 20 years to note the continuing progress of this nation economically. We see that in 1948-49 the gross national product was $4,479m, with a Budget at that time of $1,1 08m. Ten years later - 10 years ago - in 1958-59 the gross national product had grown to $ 12,524m and the Budget had grown to $3,036m. We now have, as I said earlier, a record gross national product of $27,1 14m. We have under this Budget an estimated expenditure of $6,983m. I must point out that these figures are not strictly comparable because of changes in accounting procedures over the years. But they illustrate the quite remarkable growth that this nation has made in the last 20 years. In the exports field, 20 years ago we were receiving $527m for all we exported. In the past year our income from exports was $2,944m. That again indicates the trend to which 1 have referred.
– It is remarkable.
– It certainly is an achievement for a small and young nation among the nations of the world. My point is that this has not been fortuitous growth; it is directly related to solid financial policies and the climate created by good government. It has been the succession of LiberalCountry Party governments in these 20 years that has given the background and ability for this progress to be made.
This Budget aims really at a balanced financial situation at the end of the Budget year, with an estimated deficit of $30m. In last year’s Budget the deficit was reduced, as compared with the previous year, by $257m to a net $3 85m. This projected deficit of $30m will be $3 56m less than last year’s deficit. So we can see a continuing solidity coming through in our financial affairs. A balanced Budget would be the aim of all responsible national financiers at a time such as now, when we have conditions of full employment. Good or bad government is directly reflected in the state of a nation’s economy. Our present conditions have all the hallmarks of good government. In our economic life we have an air of confidence and optimism. This does not come on its own. Confidence and optimism are engendered by solid backgrounds.
In the last 5 years registered unemployment has never exceeded 1 .6% of our work force and has been as Tow as 0.9%. The present unemployment level is really completely full employment because the unemployable would constitute those not in work. The average annual growth rate in the 1950s was 4%. Between 1958-59 and 1963-64 it was about 41%. In the last 5 years it has been 5%. For this year a growth rate of 7% is expected. In the period from 1964 to 1968 the growth rate in employment was 3.4%. At the same time our rate of productivity growth has improved from 2% per annum to the current figure of 2.4% per annum. Today we have full employment and every prospect pleases.
I cannot reconcile this situation with that which is sought to be portrayed by honourable senators opposite when they seek to decry what has been achieved and what lies ahead with the policies that we espouse. I hope that the growth of this nation will continue unimpeded for many years, based on the same precepts, the same policies and the same determinations, with the individual paramount, with his enterprise being rewarded and with an atmosphere of confidence within the mind and thinking of the individual as in the big industrial complexes of our nation.
Immigration has been a most gratifying feature of our national life in recent decades. With our buoyant economy, the heavy demands on our work force constitute a situation that would concern everybody. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) is to be warmly commended on the vitality he has brought to the immigration programme. In 1967-68 we received 137,000 settlers. In 1968-69 a record programme of 160,000 settlers was set. The actual result was that 175,000 came to us, and 80,000 of them went into our work force. This has been of inestimable value to us in increasing our ability to develop. It demonstrates the attraction of our economy and of Australia as an extremely desirable place in which to live. The good work of keeping up the migrant flow is indicated in this Budget. Provision is made for an assisted migration programme in 1969-70 of 119,000 settlers. It is expected that with the unassisted migrant inflow the total number of newcomers will exceed last year’s record figure of 175,000.
As an impartial assessment of just what has been achieved by the present and previous governments in building up our economy as one of the most progressive and desirable in the world, surely the inflow of migrants provides irrefutable evidence. The policies of this Government are clearly vindicated by results. The attraction to migrants presented by these results is paralleled by a similar attraction to overseas capital. This capital has played and is playing a vital part in our development. Without it we would have to leave natural resources untapped. The rapid development about which we are so happy has carried through and further vitalised the whole economy.
So, having a background of a strong and advancing economy enabling many desirable and necessary social welfare improvements to be made, the Government has acted most properly and with humanity in applying funds to alleviate need where the need is greatest. Benefits have been provided through the whole gamut of social services, repatriation, health and housing. In this Budget the financial provision for social welfare is increased by $192m to a total of $ 1,659m - a fantastic amount of money. This $ 1,659m is to provide for the social welfare requirements of our population of 12i million and is provided in a full Budget expenditure of about $7,000m. About a quarter of the national Budget expenditure is being devoted, as it should be at this stage, to making lives happier in as wide a field as is possible.
The Welfare Committee of the Cabinet has done an excellent job in its wide and searching examination of the needs of the less fortunate members of our community. These proposals emanate from a genuine and deep assessment of real needs and not just from a shallow or surface consideration. Many of the real benefits within our social welfare programme will be revealed in depth to be a source of great contentment for the recipients, arising as they do from a genuine desire to get right down to tin tacks, where the need exists and is greatest. Whilst there is recognition of the concept of great need, encouragement is given to self help, self reliance and thrift.
I am very happy that this is not just a blatant offer of money as a surface effort. There has been real consideration such as everybody in the community would like to see applied to the needs of the people by the Government. I commend the Government most warmly on its attitude to social welfare, as is evidence by the provisions of the Budget. Expenditure on social services specifically rises in the Budget to a record $999m, an increase of $134m over last year. Within the direct province of repatriation pensions and benefits there is an increase of about $8m to a total of about S293m. Expenditure in the fields of health and housing is to increase by $50m to $367m. I refer with great pleasure to the tapering of the means test. This is one provision which underlines the need to encourage self-reliance and thrift.
Exemption levels for payment of estate duty, I am happy to note, will be raised by 20% for primary production estates. It will apply to estates with a net value of less than $250,000. There are some realistic complementary measures in respect of this extension of the exemption, including the elimination of the need to lodge a security in order to obtain an extension of time for payment of duty. This will help very materially when demands for big amounts of duty are made and there is no ready cash available to meet them.
One of the most detrimental factors in rural industries is an inability to hand on to the next generation an economic unit because of the imposition of heavy death duties. Our way of life in rural areas is very strongly linked to a succession from father to son. This is one of the happiest aspects of our rural economy, that a farm remains in a family as an economic unit. Anything that is done to ensure the survival of that practice will support a major pillar of society, as I see it. A family property can be maintained and continued with the blessing of governments which will not usurp that which has been created by up to three generations, very often with the assistance of members of the family who have not been recompensed for their part in establishing an asset which ultimately has been subject to a very heavy incidence of death duties. In large measure that asset has been taken from them.
This has been an attack on one of the pillars of society in a free enterprise world. I regard death duties as one of the most obnoxious means of raising taxation revenue. I would far rather impose greater taxation on income as it is earned year by year so that the residual amounts may be left as assets of the earners. It is not right that after a lifetime of endeavour and payment of charges an entire life’s work should be subject to a further incidence of taxation. This may be the start of a movement to the stage when these duties, obnoxious as they are, will be decreased with the ultimate possibility that they will be replaced by other forms of taxation more in keeping with the aims of people and their objective that their successors may inherit the benefits of their work. 1 have great pleasure in noting that also in the field of primary industry the phosphate subsidy is to be increased as an excellent means of assisting productivity and keeping down costs of production. It is a form of subsidisation, but this form of subsidy is necessary because of its inherent ability to increase profitability in a given situation without in any way using an artificial prop. The Government is prepared to spend up to $27m in the next financial year on wool research and promotion. The contribution by growers is to be reduced by half, from 2% to 1%. It is gratifying to note that the Government intends to introduce drought bonds in September.
I turn now to a subject about which there has been a great hue and cry - the assistance given to independent schools. I welcome and commend the Government’s policies in this respect. This assistance to be granted to independent schools fits into the Budget philosophy of assisting where real need exists. This is the desire and intention of the Government. The independent schools are entitled to the consideration that is now being given to them. It is economically sound that the Government should assist this sector of our education system. Australians love freedom of choice, including freedom of the individual to say where his children should be educated. He should be permitted to have that freedom of choice. After a close study of how much is being given to independent schools and how much is being provided for state schools, I feel that the criticism of the assistance for independent schools has been very much exaggerated. The figures, denied inclusion in Hansard when leave was sought by Senator Wright as representative of the Minister, indicate very clearly just what the position is. To be fair, it is vitally important that these increases be noted. The fact of the matter is that it is estimated that direct Commonwealth expenditure on education in the States in 1969-70 will be-
– Are you referring to the States or to the independent schools?
– 1 am referring to what the Commonwealth proposes to provide for state education systems.
– I want the Senate to appreciate the significance of this.
– I am referring to the total assistance being rendered to state schools and the assistance being rendered to independent schools. This financial year the Commonwealth will provide $5 10.4m for government institutions and $26. 2m for independent schools.
– Will you repeat that? I would like to make certain that all honourable senators heard what you said.
– I shall emphasise it by giving the components for both state schools and independent schools. I shall refer first to the money that is to be provided for school purposes in the States. I am referring to both government institutions and independent schools. In the field of science laboratories $7.2m is to go to government schools and $6. 2m is to go to independent schools. For technical training colleges, state institutions will receive $ 12.4m and independent schools nil. Secondary school libraries in the state institutions are to receive $6.7m and independent schools $2.3m. Teacher training colleges are to receive $ 13.1m. In this regard the allocation for independent schools is nil. The per capita grants for independent schools amounts to $16m. There is no such grant for government institutions. The figures I have read mean that government institutions are to receive $39.4m and independent institutions $24.5m.
I will now refer to school purposes in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for which the Commonwealth is responsible. The Government has allocated $24.4m for government schools and technical colleges in those two Territories. The allocation for independent schools in the two Territories is Si. 7m. Other payments to the States for universities, colleges of advanced education, Australian Research Grants Committee grants, preschool teachers colleges and Aboriginal advancement amount to $101. 3m. In this field the independent schools will receive nothing. There are other payments to be made by the Commonwealth. The Australian National University, the Canberra College of Advanced Education, scholarships, and departmental and miscellaneous expenses are provided for in an allocation of $74.3m. The Commonwealth general reimbursement grants for maintenance by
State governments of state schools is estimated to cost the Commonwealth $275m. This sum is applicable to education generally.
Therefore the Senate can see that $5 10.4m is to go to state school institutions and §26.2m is to go to independent schools. I am fully in support of state system of education. At the same time I believe that there is a place in the sun for independent schools. The amounts allocated - §26. 2m for independent schools and SSI 0.4m for state schools - do not indicate any undue or unfair distribution of money. They indicate a step in the right direction to give justice to a segment of the community which desires to have its children educated in independent schools. I regard this as an excellent Budget and I have much pleasure in supporting the motion that the Senate note the Budget Papers.
Senator GEORGES (Queensland) (5.40] - The 5 minutes that I have in which to expound a case before the Senate rises for dinner does not permit honourable senators opposite sufficient time to retaliate for the many interjections I have made in the 3 months since last I rose to speak in this chamber. I would like to indicate the purpose of this Budget, which I will expound at greater length later tonight. The opinion of the Opposition is 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. That is a fair assessment of the Budget presented by the Government.
This Budget is a White Paper. It is a record of massive indifference on the part of the Government to the needs of this country. It shows massive indifference to the real problems; it glosses over them. It recognises need but neglects to do anything about it. It is a Budget which was prepared by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and unwillingly presented by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), for the purpose of preparing the way for an election on 25th October.
The Government, in presenting such a Budget, neglects the position in which the economy finds itself. It neglects problems which will present themselves very starkly in the early months of next year. However, it is convenient and expedient for the Government and the Prime Minister to neglect the advice of the Treasurer and his experts and to neglect warnings about the economic problems. It is an expedient Budget for the Prime Minister because he seeks to establish himself firmly not only as Prime Minister of Australia, not only as leader of the Liberal-Country Party coalition but as the leader of the cocktail group and the mushroom group. He seeks to establish himself at the expense of the country by a quick and early election based on a superficial Budget which in no way seeks to solve the problems facing primary and manufacturing industries, the cities and the small country towns. The Budget is not concerned with these things. It is aimed at presenting a superficial picture in order to secure votes to return the Liberal and Country parties to the treasury bench.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[8.1] - I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to put into effect the announcement made in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech on 12th August to the effect that the Government would legislate to assist organisations conducting homes for the aged to meet the cost of providing adequate accommodation and personal care services for residents who, while suffering from a degree of frailty, do not require full-time nursing care. Assistance towards the provisions of nursing care is, of course, already available under the National Health Act. We now propose to introduce further assistance which will, in effect, take the form of a $5 a week subsidy for eligible residents. Before I proceed to give details of the legislation, however, it might be helpful if I outline to the Senate the events which have led up to this proposal since the Aged Persons Homes Act was last before the Parliament in 1967.
As honourable senators will be aware, the Government has for the past IS years enjoyed a highly successful partnership with the churches and other voluntary organisations in establishing homes for aged persons throughout Australia. Subsidies totalling $94m have been approved since the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act in 1954 and accommodation provided for some 33,000 aged persons. While the Government is proud of this record we do not intend to rest on our laurels and we are constantly seeking ways and means of further encouraging and stimulating the activities of community bodies willing to dedicate themselves to the care of the elderly.
When the Aged Persons Homes Act was last before the Senate in 1967 legislation was approved to extend the range of eligible organisations to include local governing bodies. At this point I would like to say that while the Government is not unappreciative of the indirect contribution that municipal and shire councils have been making by means of grants of money and land to other eligible organisations, the direct response by councils has fallen short of what we had hoped for. I take this opportunity, therefore, to ask honourable senators to remind local governing bodies in their States that they are eligible to participate in the Commonwealth $2 for $1 subsidy scheme. Municipal and shire councils are uniquely situated to promote the welfare of their aged citizens, both directly and by encouraging the establishment of community bodies to resolve particular local problems. I am sure we all look forward to the time when the provision of homes for the aged will more and more become a feature of local government activity in Australia, as it is overseas.
Returning to 1967 when we last had the Aged Persons Homes Act before us, 1 am pleased to report that since then the Depart ment has not been idle in promoting this most worthy piece of legislation. On two occasions the amount of the maximum subsidy payable has been increased and now stands at $4,400 for each single unit of accommodation and $6,000 for each double unit. A panel of architects has been set up to give advice on the design and planning of suitable accommodation for aged persons. Amongst other things it is at present preparing material for a booklet of guidelines which will be invaluable to organisations and their architects engaged in the planning of aged persons’ homes throughout Australia. The Government is indebted to the Royal Australian Institute of Architects for its kind co-operation.
A colour film running for 22 minutes, dramatising the need for aged persons’ homes and suggesting ways in which community organisations may be set up to meet the need, has been produced for the Department by the Commonwealth Film Unit. This film has been widely screened throughout Australia and acclaimed for the forthright way in which it directs attention to the needs of the aged members of our society. Active steps have also been taken to stimulate the building of more nursing accommodation for infirm and chronically ill aged people. As from January 1969 the basis upon which nursing accommodation for aged people was eligible for capital subsidy has been widened. Organisations conducting or establishing normal accommodation for the aged may now receive capital subsidy for nursing accommodation on the basis of one nursing bed for every two residential beds provided by that organisation in the same State. Organisations operating in the same city, town or district may now pool their nursing bed entitlement and, in addition, organisations that wish to concentrate more on nursing accommodation may arrange to take over the nursing bed entitlement of other organisations not wishing to enter this field. On top of the capital subsidy available under the Aged Persons Homes Act, organisations may also obtain assistance towards the expense of providing nursing care through the receipt of Commonwealth nursing home benefits under the National Health Act. As well as the normal nursing home benefit of $2 a day, which has been in existence since 1963, the Government recently introduced a new higher rate of benefit for patients requiring intensive nursing care. The rate payable is $5 a day.
The Bill now before the Senate advances yet a step further the Government’s programme of assistance to the aged. Having achieved a notable degree of success in encouraging the establishment of accommodation at which aged people may live normal, independent lives, and having directed additional assistance towards the extra costs involved in caring for the chronically ill and infirm aged, we are now turning our attention towards the intermediate category of elderly people who, because of advancing years and frailty, while not requiring full-time nursing care are unable to live in a normal domestic environment without help. It is causing the Government deep concern that many people, whose only infirmity is the frailty of advancing years, are sometimes being admitted to nursing homes and other similar institutions unnecessarily. We have reached the conclusion that if these people were given an adequate standard of personal attention they could continue for many more years to live normal lives.
Accordingly this Bill introduces a new benefit to be known as a personal care subsidy which will be paid to organisations providing approved personal care services in what is generally known as hostel-type accommodation. The assistance will be at the rate of $5 a week and will be paid at four-weekly intervals on the basis of $20 for each person aged 80 years or over residing, on a prescribed date, in such accommodation. Where residents live independently in cottages, flats or home units, the subsidy will not be payable. Assistance is already available for those residents under the States Grants (Home Care) Act. Nor will it be payable for residents occupying beds in registered nursing accommodation, since Commonwealth nursing home benefits are already payable for them.
Inquiries by my Department indicate that over 300 of the homes established since the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act in 1954 are providing the accommodation envisaged by the present legislation and that approximately 6,000 people, or 46% of the total number of residents, would be in the 80 and over age group.
The qualifying age of 80 years has not been selected arbitrarily. It is generally accepted as the age beyond which people can be said to be in the frail category. As I have said, approximately 46% of the occupants of hostel-type accommodation are in the 80- plus age group, and honourable senators will be interested to know that in a report published in 1967 a New Zealand Board of Health Committee on the Care of the Aged recommended, after intensive research, that a maintenance grant should be made to assist with the cost of providing adequate staffing for the care of frail and infirm residents in homes for the aged, the basis of the grant to be the number of aged residents aged 80 years and over.
Adverting to the details of the legislation before us, Mr President, an eligible organisation is defined in section 2 of the principal Act. It will not be necessary for a home to have been established with the aid of a capital grant under the Aged Persons Homes Act in order to qualify for approval of the personal care subsidy, but it is intended that a home will be required to provide at least two meals a day for its aged residents and to employ sufficient staff to help the frail residents with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry, the general oversight of their medication and, in case of emergency, for a staff member to be available on the premises at all times. Though the basis for payment will be the number of aged persons aged 80 and over, homes receiving approval will be expected to provide personal care service to any residents in need of it, whatever the age of these residents.
The Bill provides for the premises in which personal care is being provided to be specified. This will permit part of a home to be accepted as eligible. A temporary absence from homes of residents on holidays, or in hospital, infirmary or sick bay, will not interrupt the payment of the subsidy provided the period of absence does not exceed 28 days. Subject to certification of occupancy by eligible residents, organisations may expect their first payment within 28 days of receiving approval of their personal care services and accommodation. Expenditure under the Bill, which will be charged to the national welfare fund, is estimated at $.l.3m-$1.4m in 1969-70 and $1.7m in the first full year. In subsequent years cumulative increases can be expected.
I should mention one other provision in the Bill. From the commencement of the aged persons homes scheme in 1954 until 1957 only the actual building cost in a construction project was eligible for subsidy and any land cost had to be borne wholly by the organisation. The Act was amended in 1957 to permit subsidy to be extended to include the cost of land purchased after 22nd October of that year. This commencing date of 22nd October 1957 was necessary at the time in order to avoid pressure for re-opening of the amount of assistance granted for projects begun prior to 1957. This period is now long past and there is no longer any question of re-opening grants made prior to 1957; moreover the continued existence of this provision in the Act is tending to cause anomalies. As an example, an organisation which owns land acquired prior to 1957, on which it now wishes to build an aged persons home, cannot have the value of that land included in the capital cost for subsidy purposes. However, if the same organisation sells its existing land and with the sale proceeds buys another block of land, the purchase of this second block qualifies under the present provisions of the Act for subsidy.
There is no reason why an organisation wishing to build on its own land should be placed at a disadvantage by either having to forego subsidy equivalent to two-thirds of the value of the land or alternatively having, in order to become eligible for subsidy for the site on which a home is to be erected, to resort to involved deals. The opportunity is accordingly being taken to repeal the embargo on subsidisation of land acquired prior to 22nd October 1957. The cost of this item is expected to be relatively small, probably of the order of SO.lm a year.
Mr Acting Deputy President, this Bill deserves the unqualified approval of all honourable senators.
This personal care subsidy, together with the capital subsidy already provided for aged persons homes; the subsidies for senior citizens’ centres; the housekeeper, home help and paramedical services provided under the Government’s home care programme; the recently-introduced subsidy for State nursing home beds; and the nursing home benefits contained in the National Health Act; will provide a comprehensive range of assistance to aged people in general, and to frail and needy aged in particular. It is part of a programme in which we may all feel honoured to join. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work.
Customs Building and Incinerator at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport. 1 ask for leave to make a short statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Kennelly) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I present the ninth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed (vide page 487).
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had made the point, that the Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) obviously was not written by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to gain a particular advantage for an early election. It represents a report of massive indifference to the needs of this country. The Budget neglects to protect the nation and the economy from the onslaught of the multi-nation corporations. It fails to protect the country against the operations of economic quislings who are prepared to sell out and to sell the vital natural resources of this country to make a quick profit. The Budget does not recognise the needs and desires of the ordinary people of this community - the families and those who are associated closely with the families.
Before proceeding any further 1 wish to make critical comment upon the speech that Senator Sim made last night. I object to the fact that he viewed my contributions - perhaps my interjections - with contempt. If anyone in this chamber deserves to be regarded with contempt it is Senator Sim. Honourable senators will recall that last night he capitulated, reversed policy, changed attitudes completely and became an apologist on behalf of the Government. So much so that the whole Government could be charged with hypocrisy, especially when one considers the consequences of this change of policy and of attitude. For many years the Government said that Australia was in danger of the downward thrust of Communism, that the domino theory prevailed and that Australia was in dire peril from the north. Suddenly we find that, following a statement by the Minister for Ex ternal Affairs (Mr Freeth), there has been a complete change. I do not object to that. What I object to is the fact that the Governmen obviously was never sincere in its attitude. The Government is now beginning to admit what it has never been prepared to admit before - that a Communist is not something less than human but is someone with whom one can co-exist and that the Russians are a new influence that one can accept, recognise and appreciate.
– I did not say that. Misrepresentation, as usual.
– That is exactly what the honourable senator said. The question I want to ask Senator Sim and the other members of the Liberal Party of Australia is: If it is now possible to co-exist with the Russians, why have we not been able to co-exist with the North Vietnamese, the people of a small nation to whom we have denied justice for so long. In 1954 this small country was subject to the perfidy of France. It was then subject to the treachery of the British. It is now subject to the stupidity of the Americans and the subservient attitude to America of the Australian Government. The Government and its supporters - for whom Senator Sim spoke last night - are endeavouring to impose the Government’s policies and attitudes upon the Vietnamese people, whether they be North or South Vietnamese. These people are prepared to die in their thousands, to see their villages destroyed and their people mutilated because they refuse to accept what Australia and her allies are trying to impose upon them. We thought that perhaps the Government was firm in its attitude and in its belief that what it was doing in Vietnam was correct; it now turns out - as is obvious from Senator Sim’s speech last night - that the Government’s attitude was a hypocritical and false attitude designed merely to gain an immediate advantage.
– Tell us what happened in Greece between 1947 and 1953.
– A similar story. But let us move away from what the Government has done to the Vietnamese people, the people of this small nation that is striving for independence, and see what happened to the men the Government sent to Vietnam.
– The people of the South do not want Communism but you are forcing it on them.
– At present the Government accepts Communism in South East Asia. I object to the fact that for the last 6 years our young men have been wrongly sent to Vietnam to support a policy which has suddently changed - a policy which was obviously false in the first place. Honourable senators should carefully note that the total casualties in Vietnam from July 1962 to August 1969 as a result of the Government’s policy amount to 307 killed and 1,528 wounded. The graves of the 307 Australians killed are tragic markers to the folly of the Government. That is why I strongly object to Senator Sim saying that the opinion of the Opposition is beneath contempt.
– I did not say that the opinions of the Opposition are beneath contempt.
– But the honourable senator said that my opinion was. I say in return that because of the sudden change in attitude I accuse Senator Sim of hypocrisy. I say that he is a deadly hypocrite. What is more, I challenge him to object to my saying so.
– I would not object. I regard it as a compliment coming from the honourable senator.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Sim has not risen, but I rise in the interests of the dignity and the prestige of the Senate. I do not think that the language used by the honourable senator is in keeping with the dignity of the Senate nor is it within the limits of parliamentary language.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I suggest to Senator Georges that he moderate his language a little.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, normally I would accept the standards laid down by the Senate and would not use terms which are offensive, but this is a situation which does not demand deviation from the truth and I will refuse to withdraw my remarks, especially as Senator Sim has not taken any objection.
– Challenge him.
– No. I think the honourable senator should show some respect to you, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Georges has the floor. I think there are far too many interjections.
– I have not accused the Australian Democratic Labor Party of the same thing as I have accused the Government.
– Start and see how you get on.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party has been interjecting. Therefore he should be prepared to accept criticism.
– The paranoic attitude of the Democratic Labor Party to Australia’s international problems is such that one cannot place responsibility upon it for its actions or utterances. But I feel that the Government should accept responsibility for its actions. If Senator Sim accepts his new conviction he should lead his Party back to the Party room and the first resolution it should put through should be a resolution for the withdrawal of our young men from Vietnam. At the present time these young men are groping in the minefields trying to lift mines that he has placed down to protect ourselves.
– That I placed down?
– You, because you made the decision.
– You are doing a good job. Keep going.
– You are not sensitive to insult, so why should I continue directing my remarks to you? Let me give some examples of the capacity of Government members to make decisions and not accept responsibility for them. The other day, Senator Branson received a call-up notice. He said: ‘I am 51. What shall I do about it?’ It is fairly obvious that at 51 years of age Senator Branson is too old to respond to a call-up notice; but he is not too old to make the decision which sends young men to Vietnam. I appeal to the Government. If it has now seen the light, if it has now become soft on Communism - something which it has accused us of having done over many years - why does it not now bring quickly to an end the situation that exists? The longer it continues to support its false policies in South East Asia the longer the young men of this nation will suffer. It must be fairly obvious now that the Government can maintain its attitude in Vietnam only by the enforcement of conscription.
One of the glaring discrepancies in this Budget is that it provides in this developing country no major plan for development. Subservient as it is in other fields, especially in the fields of defence and external affairs, subservient it is also in the field of development of this country. The Government is prepared to allow the initiative to rest in the hands of foreign capital which it welcomes with open arms; it is not prepared to give a guide to the nation and direct its financial strength to the development of the country. The Government prefers to allow the initiative to be taken by the multinational corporations that are flourishing in the world today. Any honourable senator who saw the film ‘Dig a Million, Make a Million’ which was screened in the Senate Opposition Party Room recently must have been impressed by the fact that the decision for the exploitation of the mineral resources of Western Australia - the final decision and the shaking of hands as the contracts were signed - was made not by Australians but by Americans and Japanese. It has become clearly evident that the Government accepts no responsibility for the development of Australia.
The Government’s policy of course, is the Liberal Party policy - if there is a dollar in it it is a good policy; if there is a quick dollar in it, it is a better policy. Who cares for the future generation? Who cares for the generation after that? Who cares if we have sold out our vital resources? Who cares if we do not know how to process our resources? Who cares if we do not develop the skills to process our own minerals and raw materials? If we can become the best excavators in the world, by all means let us do so; if we can make a quick dollar on the stock exchange, it is a good policy after all. But sooner or later Australians will have to face a position where they can no longer support a Go vernment that is not prepared to take the initiative in the proper planned development of the economy of this country.
How subservient have we become? We depend on foreign capital for the development of our natural resources. We depend on a massive policy of immigration to acquire a labour force. And what do we do with the migrants when they come here? We isolate them in ghettos in the main cities of Melbourne and Sydney, and we give them an inferior education in overloaded classes. We are not prepared to populate ourselves. We are not prepared to support our families. We are not prepared even to appreciate that the most important unit in the whole structure of our society is the family.
What has the Government done in this Budget for the family? Is there provision anywhere in the Budget for the payment of even one cent or a fraction of a dollar to the family itself? If honourable senators on the Government side got off the top of the mountain and did a little bit of climbing on the slopes they would appreciate the difficulties which the families of Australia, for which this Government has no appreciation, have to face. The families of Australia face tremendous problems today. The basic wage payable for a 40-hour working week is not sufficient to keep a family in comfort and dignity, let alone educate the children. Today it is necessary for the mother to go out to work.
This Government depends overmuch upon the ability of the women of this country to raise families without support. After working 24 hours a day - and they have had to do this - in caring for their families and rearing them to the age of 13 or 14 years, the mothers of families now find that they have to go out and work to supplement the family income so that their children can be educated. This is happening time and time again. It is happening in the main cities and in the small towns of the west and the further west you go the worse the position becomes. This Government has never, over the past 15 years, considered it necessary to help the family in any way, not even by so much as one cent; yet year after year the Government spends thousands upon thousands of dollars on bringing migrant families here and placing them in an atmosphere of stress, so that it can quickly and cheaply gain skills. All the Government is after is cheap labour. The sooner it appreciates that the family is important in our national development, the sooner it realises just what burdens have to be borne by the mothers, and the sooner it realises that those burdens should be eased, the better. But that is much too much to expect of a Government which brings down a Budget for an early election. It budgets for an election on 25th October because it is not concerned with the welfare of the ordinary persons. They are in the minority and may not affect the results on 25th October. It is too much to expect that the Government would be concerned about them. All it is concerned with is being returned to power and giving its privileged friends the advantage of its being in government.
What sort of development have we had in this country while this Government has been in power? We discover oil in Bass Strait and the price of petrol goes up! We discover gas at Roma, and what happens? The town situated directly above the supply of gas finds it cannot meet the cost of reticulation of natural gas to the homes in the town. The local powerhouse is being charged 57c a thousand cubic feet for gas that merely pours from the ground beneath the powerhouse itself and the people of Roma who live above the natural resource receive no benefit at all. The meatworks at Roma which ought to be able to enjoy the advantage of a source of cheap fuel is asked to pay 75c a thousand cubic feet of gas. Yet the companies which control the pipeline which brings the gas many hundreds of miles to Brisbane are able to manipulate things in order to sell the gas to a fertiliser company so that it can gain the advantage of the subsidies given by this Government What a ridiculous situation we have arrived at when the people of an area gain no benefit from the wealth of the area. Whether we consider Roma, Bass Strait, or Weipa right up in the north of Australia, the same thing applies; the wealth of the country is being taken away and the people in the immediate area receive no benefit from it.
This Government has a bankrupt policy. It seeks to avoid the moment of truth by having an early election on 25th October. It seeks to gain advantage. It seeks to avoid the wrath and anger of the primary industries. Every primary industry in this country is in trouble, being faced with continually rising costs and falling prices. Every primary industry in this country is in trouble because this Government has no idea of how to plan the economy. The Government’s attitude is expressed in these words: ‘Who cares? Let us have a laissez faire attitude to everything. If there is a dollar in it, let private enterprise look after it; but if loss is involved, let the Government take over.’ But this Government takes over when it is too late. Consider the wheat industry which at present is really in trouble. We have reached a situation now where we sell our wheat all over the world at a ridiculous price so that we can get rid of it before we have to store it. What about the situation in the cattle industry in Queensland? There is not one mention of the word relief in respect of the situation in Queensland.
It is all very well for honourable senators from the southern States, these small States that one can ride across in half a day; they may talk, but why do they not get off their haunches and travel through the middle west of Queensland to see the devastation that has been caused by the drought? People in this area of Queensland realise that while their cattle starve and their sheep die wheat is stacking up in granaries in the south. Yet this Government is not prepared to provide wheat as feed for starving stock. After all, they are merely creatures; they are not human. They are something like the Vietnamese or the Communists - although there is a new view of the Communists now. Our cattle and our sheep are merely figures in the statistics. Whilst we have wheat in quantity in the southern States our cattle starve and our sheep die in Queensland. The Government is not prepared to sell the wheat at a lower price or to give it as drought feed because, it says, it will affect the price of other grains. The Government says: ‘Let the cattle starve, let the sheep die, but do not let the price of wheat and other grains be disturbed’. This shows a lack of humanity on the part of this Government. The Government ought to be brought to a reckoning for this attitude.
In spite of the efforts of the Liberal Party, which is opposed to the Australian Labor Party; in spite of the efforts of the
Australian Country Party, which is opposed to the ALP; in spite of the efforts of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which is opposed to the ALP; in spite of the efforts of the Communist Party, which is a minority party but is opposed to the ALP; in spite of the strength of the vested interests and the privileged in this country who are opposed to the ALP; in spite of the machinations of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and its sinister forces which exist in this country - in spite of all these forces which are opposed to the Australian Labor Party we expect, if there is any justice, that after 25 th October we will occupy the government benches and that this will have been the last of these indifferent Budgets which have not recognised Australia’s needs.
– I wish to make a personal explanation as I have been grossly misrepresented. A few moments ago Senator Georges accused me of having changed my mind with regard to Communism and of speaking on behalf of the Government which now supported Communism. This is a gross misrepresentation and is completely false.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Kennelly) - Order! I ask Senator Sim to resume his seat. I suggest that the honourable senator should have risen at the correct time to make his objection.
– I rose immediately.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -As the honourable senator did not rise when the statement was made, I do not believe that he is helping the work of the Senate by rising at this juncture.
– On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, I submit that the Standing Orders provide that the proper opportunity for an honourable senator who has been misrepresented to raise the matter is at the conclusion of the speech that includes the misrepresentation. I ask you to give Senator Sim an opportunity to clear himself of any misrepresentation that he claims was involved in Senator Georges’ speech.
The AC1TNG DEPUTY PRESIDENT -I suggest that the appropriate time for the honourable senator to have raised his objection would have been when the remark was made or that at least, when the first opportunity arose, he should have sought permission to make a personal explanation.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask you to rule that Senator Sim is entitled, at the conclusion of the speech which he claims involves a misrepresentation of himself, to rise and make a personal explanation. I ask you to give that ruling without involving Senator Sim in any compromise. I submit that it is certainly not a condition precedent to that right that he should rise and take advantage of the Standing Orders to object to the words that have been offensive to him. That is a different proposition altogether. I submit that we are entitled to have on the record Senator Sim’s denial of the accusation that he has changed his attitude to accept Communism.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - In view of the arguments presented by the Minister I rule that Senator Sim may continue.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I did not take exception to the epithets that Senator Georges was throwing at me because, as I indicated, I regarded them as a compliment coming from him, but when he accused me of having changed my view with regard to Communism and said that I spoke on behalf of the Government which now supported Communism, this was a gross misrepresentation of what I said last night. If we look at the Hansard report for last night we see that I quoted this passage from the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth):
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.
T went on then and said:
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.
This means that if these proposals were in line with the Australian Government’s policy - not in line with Communist policy, but in line with the Australian Government’s policy and the objectives that we seek in South East Asia - we would consider them with close interest. How this could be twisted to mean that I support Communism is beyond me. I quoted from the Russian statement on the Minister’s statement. Then I went on to say:
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.
Those are the words I used. I have quoted them from Hansard. Therefore, the allegations made against me by Senator Georges were an act of the grossest possible misrepresentation.
– I rise following what I consider was a very emotional and very illogical speech by Senator Georges. I hope that in my speech this evening I will keep within the limits of the standards set by the Senate. Before dealing with the matter that I intend to discuss, there are two points in Senator Georges’ speech this evening that I feel I must mention. He made a misstatement, if I may put it that way, when he referred to the finding of oil in Bass Strait and said that there was an increase in the price of petrol as a result of the oil finds there. He knows as well as we do that that is completely incorrect. I want to set the record straight. There have been no increases at all. We know that this oil will not come on stream until some time in the 1970s. So I discount that statement.
He also said that this Government had not seen fit to give any assistance whatsoever to Queensland for drought relief. I point out to him that in 1968-69 there was an appropriation of $2.2m, of which $2,015,000 was spent. If he looks in this year’s Budget - I doubt whether he has done that, because this is set out there very clearly and he would have seen it - he will see under Division 917 - Payments to or for the States - an appropriation of $8m for drought assistance to Queensland. So I suggest that next time, before criticising the Government, he should make sure of the facts.
I intend to speak tonight, firstly, on a very pleasant theme; that is, the complete context of the Budget as presented by our Treasurer (Mr McMahon). I use the words pleasant theme’ because I believe that the Government can be very proud of its record and that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Treasurer can be very proud of the Budget that has been brought down this year. Once again we see consideration given to the ordinary people of the country as well as to the development of the country. Overall the Budget has made provision for those areas that are so necessary for the development and social security of the country.
One could go on for a long time speaking in praise - and logically in praise - of what is contained in the Budget. But tonight I intend to confine my remarks to the wheat situation. The reason why I do this is that members of the Opposition have not seen fit to bring forward this plan that they have in opposition to the present conduct of the Government, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board. In the other place they have taken advantage of a grievance debate to deal with the Australian Labor Party’s plans for the wheat industry. Perhaps that could be regarded as good tactics politically because they brought this matter forward when other members and the Government were not expecting them to do so. They thought they would get away with it. There has been no debate on wheat in the other place, and no debate there will not be any debate on wheat in this place.
– The matter is on the notice paper.
– Senator Poyser mentions that the matter has been on the notice paper in the form of a motion to bring the Chairman and General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board before the bar of the Senate. But so far they have been very noticeable by their absence. The only reason why they are absent is that the Opposition has not seen fit or has not had the courage to go ahead with the motion to bring them before the bar of the Senate because it would be shown up in a very bad light by the wheat industry of Australia. So, although members of the Opposition may have been a little impetuous at the time, they have been wiser since then and have not gone ahead with the motion. Nevertheless, I have decided that I will speak on certain aspects of the Australian wheat industry.
We all know that today the wheat industry is in an unfortunate position in that it has many problems and perhaps the immediate future is not looking very bright.
Tonight Senator Georges criticised the Government and the country generally for the great surplus of wheat that we have in Australia. But let me emphasise this point: In Australia we have a surplus and a problem with wheat; but this problem is not peculiar to Australia. This is a worldwide problem. One of our partners in the International Grains Arrangement - the United States of America - has a surplus of approximately 812 million bushels at the present time. Canada, another partner, has a surplus of about 850 million bushels at the present time. Its surplus is far greater than the amount it has produced in the peak years of production. I have mentioned two of the producing countries.
There are other reasons why we have a surplus of wheat. Some of the countries that were importers are today exporters. Let me name two. Russia is a country that bought quite a lot of wheat from Australia not many years ago. Today it not only is self-sufficient but has taken on the role of an exporter. Our near dominion neighbour, New Zealand, was traditionally a market for Australian wheat. Later in my speech tonight the Opposition may wish that New Zealand had never been a purchaser of Australian wheat. Today it is exporting wheat. So, on the one hand we have an increase in production in the main producing countries and on the other hand we have an increase in production in some of the importing countries. This has restricted the demand for wheat.
In a world with this surplus, last year, when the old International Wheat Agreement expired, the exporting countries very wisely got together and formulated the International Grains Arrangement. In this arrangement we have the five major exporters; namely, Australia, Canada, the United States of America, the European Economic Community and the Argentine. They established the International Grains Arrangement specifically to keep some control of price. They set a price range, with a minimum and a maximum, according to the type and quality of wheat in order to maintain some stability in the world price of wheat and in the marketing of wheat. This was very essential. We all know what happened during the depression. If we were not around at the time, we have certainly read of what happened to not only the Australian wheat industry but the wheat industry throughout the world because of a lack of organisation and co-operation between the producing and exporting countries. So, in their wisdom, these countries have got together on an international basis and have formulated the International Grains Arrangement.
A few months ago Mr McEwen made a rush trip to the United States because of problems associated with world surpluses of wheat. Price cutting had commenced, and if a price war started there was great danger of collapse, not only of the International Grains Arrangement but also of the price structure of the wheat market generally throughout the world. Yesterday Mr McEwen said in another place that he is to send technicians, as he described them, to the United States or the United Kingdom, or wherever a meeting may be held, to have discussions with representatives of other exporting countries within the International Grains Arrangement. Their object is to maintain stability and avoid a price war which would result in the collapse of the Arrangement and of the wheat industry throughout the world. Let me make it perfectly clear that if a price war starts the Arrangement will collapse.
– That is the reality. What are you going to do about it?
– It is a reality. It is very interesting to note the great interest members of the Opposition have been taking in primary industry in the last few weeks. They have not shown any interest before, except a monetary interest so that they could bleed the producers. 1 have pointed out what could become a fact of life. We hope that never happens because the problem will be wider in its implications than just within Australia. It will be a problem for the whole world if the wheat market collapses. As I have said, if it does collapse we are in trouble.
Criticisms have been made of Mr McEwen. I want to speak on this matter very clearly and concisely so that the Opposition, members of the wheat industry and the people of Australia may hear and understand. Mr McEwen has displayed great initiative and sense of responsibility. He has already made one rush trip to the
United States. Again he is showing that Australia intends to act responsibly and is willing to co-operate with the other wheat exporting countries, not just to save Australia but to save the wheat producing countries of the world. He is to be commended for what he is doing. Within the last few weeks some countries party to the International Grains Arrangement have reduced the parity price of f.a.q. wheat by roughly 10 United States cents. Variations in price occur according to the type or quality of wheat. Suggestions have been made in some quarters that there could be further reductions. We hope that wisdom will prevail, but at least initiative is being shown in the hope of complete co-operation and honesty in selling so that no country will be tragically affected through lack of co-operation and destruction of the International Grains Arrangement. We have this immediate problem.
Irresponsible behaviour could cause collapse of the IGA. As has been seen in the past, wheat production cannot be estimated as is done with products of secondary industry. One cannot make a calculation as is done by manufacturers who say: ‘I have so many machines that can produce so many units in so many hours of operation.’ That cannot be done with wheat. After a certain number of acres are planted with wheat an estimate can be made of the number of bushels that that acreage will yield. But the result relies heavily on the season and there can bc wide variations from the estimate. We have in Australia at present a carryover of between 250 million and 300 million bushels of wheat. It is estimated that this year wheat production will be between 400 million and 500 million bushels. However, drought conditions are present in Western Australia and in Queensland there is a drought. In South Australia the primary producers are looking for rain at present. In those circumstances, who can say accurately today what our wheat production will be?
I have spoken on a State basis, on an Australian basis and 1 turn now to relate the problem to a worldwide basis. In the past droughts, rust, fire, hail and other unfortunate circumstances have caused great reductions from the crop that was estimated. The whole position can change very quickly so that it is necessary at this stage that sanity prevail. It is to be hoped that no country, State or individual farmer will strike the tragic circumstances that history has shown nature so often can create. Again this season nature may play such a part.
Wheat production over the years has increased considerably. In 1967-68 Australia produced about 277 million bushels of wheat. In 1968-69 wheat production totalled 539 million bushels. This year in two States the acreage under wheat has been increased considerably. In other States there has not been such a great increase. Rainfall, of course, plays a very big part. One of the main reasons for the increase in production from 277 million bushels to 539 million bushels was that an excellent season was enjoyed in all States, coupled with the fact that in two of the States there was virtually a double season. Many farmers affected by drought sowed the same ground again as well as land prepared for the following year. Clearly seasons have a great effect on the wheat industry.
The Federal Government has been criticised by people who say that it is doing nothing, is passing the buck and should be ashamed of itself. I wish to quote from the House of Representatives Hansard of Thursday last when a grievance debate was conducted in the other place. The Opposition did not see its way clear to have an an open debate on the wheat industry. It ducked under by raising the matter in a grievance debate. At page 256 Dr Patterson, Labor’s shadow Minister for Primary Industry, is reported to have said:
The Government’s approach to this explosive crisis is one of apathy and passing the buck. The Government’s attitude is to blame the wheat industry and to expect the industry to solve its own problems.
At page 264 Mr Luchetti is reported as saying:
I think the time is long overdue when some light should be shone on the wheat industry, on the operations of the Wheat Board and on the conduct of the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry, to ascertain what the shippers and the agents have been doing.
It is wonderful to stand back as a member of the Opposition and to be so critical. It is the role of the Opposition to be critical and that is to be expected, but it is not the role of the Opposition to be destructively critical. That has been the aim of members of the Opposition. At page 270 Mr Anthony, Minister for Primary Industry, is reported to have said in reply to the accusations that had been made:
Let us get the facts clear. Nobody will deny that the wheat industry is going through a very difficult period. It is going through a difficult period, not because of the actions of any particular government or group of people but because of a world-wide over-supply of wheat at the present time. Great difficulties are being experienced in disposing of the amount of wheat which we produce in this country. The wheat industry itself, with a great sense of responsibility, has approached the problems confronting it and has brought forward a proposal which is a sound and reasonable approach to a most difficult set of circumstances. It has asked the Commonwealth Government to support the proposal by guaranteeing the provision of $440m by the Reserve Bank to make an advance payment of $1.10 per bushel of wheat, even though at the time of the next crop there will be an outstanding debt of $250m. This would make a total advance by the Reserve Bank to the wheat industry of approximately $650m, which is four times more than any other industry in Australia has ever received by way of advance from the Reserve Bank.
Yet Opposition senators have the audacity and dishonesty to stand up tonight and accuse the Government of doing nothing for the wheat industry.
– How is that going to solve the problem? It is merely a stopgap measure.
– I shall answer the honourable senator a little later. Let us be logical before we walk over the end of the gangplank. I shall now refer to what has been put forward about quotas by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The Federation is a responsible producer organisation, and it has put forward its own proposal without pressure from the Government. The Federation looked at many different aspects of the wheat industry and at alternative proposals. It asked the Government, in co-operation with the State governments, to adopt its proposal for assistance to and protection of the Australian wheat industry. The proposal is worked out on a 5-year average of production reduced by 5% in order to reach a quota for each State. The quotas are as follows: South Australia, 45 million bushels; Victoria, 65 million bushels; New South Wales, 130 million bushels; Queensland, 31 million bushels; and Western Australia, 86 million bushels. This comes to an Australian total of 347 million bushels.
Last night Senator Cant quoted figures provided by the Legislative Research Service. He referred to quite a lot of figures and different aspects of some other quota system. The figures revealed reasonable arithmetic on the surface. However, if one reads the small print set out below the figures one finds these words:
The estimate does not take into consideration new growers who have commenced wheat production since 1965-66.
That was quite a long time ago. The problem in the Australian wheat industry has developed only in the last 2 years - last year in particular. That is when the explosion occurred. The explosion involved not only production and acres but the number of growers, in single units or in family units operating on a share farm basis. The Opposition may disagree with me, but I ask: Why did the New South Wales growers, when making allocation for State quotas, adopt three categories? The first category embraces growers who have been in production for 3 years or more; the second category is for growers who have been in production for 2 years or more; and the third category is for growers who have been in production for 1 year or more. The figures produced to the Senate last night by Senator Cant may look good on the surface but the researchers themselves said that the figures relate to the period prior to the 1965-66 season. If we add to those figures the number of new growers in the last two seasons we will get an entirely different set of figures. Senator Cant’s figures would be good up to 1965-66 but they are no good for the 1969-70 period, which is the period with which we are dealing.
The Opposition has been very critical of the Australian system of quotas adopted this year. If this system is so bad for Australia then why have the two major partners in the International Grains Agreement seen fit to do exactly the same thing? We know that the United States wheat industry is heavily subsidised and that production this year is to be decreased from 51.6 million acres to 45 million acres - about 12%. We find that in Canada, growers have reduced production again voluntarily, from 28 million acres to 24 million acres. This shows conclusively that either America, Canada and Australia have been irresponsible or that Australia, initially, was very wise in the methods adopted. It is very pleasing and encouraging to see that these other two major wheat producing countries have done the same thing.
There is one other point that is very pertinent in relation to the wheat industry. The United States, which has a colossal wheat surplus and has had acreage restrictions for a long time, has introduced further restrictions. A statement was issued in that country to the effect that it was very pleasing to see that Australia also is accepting responsibility and is not trying to flood the world markets with wheat. This is indicative of the thinking of many people about the actions of those in the wheat industry in regard to restrictions.
I want to deal now with the proposal put forward by the Opposition, if it could be called a proposal. I have not been able to find a clear proposal from the Opposition but I noted recently that the honourable member for Dawson, who is the Labor Party’s shadow Minister for Agriculture, did mention a broad outline of a proposal in relation to the wheat industry. He said:
The broad bases of the Opposition’s policy on wheat are the provision of additional temporary and permanent storages to cater for non-quota wheat as well as for feed grains, some of these storages to be located in highly susceptible drought areas. . .
Let us look at this proposal for a moment. The idea is to build additional storage and the emphasis is placed on non-quota wheat. Why should we do this when the industry itself has imposed restrictions to make sure not only that the production explosion is checked but that production is slightly restricted? We all know of the explosion that has taken place in the last 2 years. Yet here is the Opposition saying that if it were in power it would build extra storage to handle non-quota wheat. In other words the Opposition is saying: ‘You grow it and we will store it’. How we are to sell this “wheat I would not know. The Opposition would destroy the very concept of what the wheat industry has set out to do. It would encourage a further explosion in the industry.
It costs in the vicinity of 10c a bushel per year just to handle wheat that is in temporary storage, not permanent storage. I do not know whether members of the Opposition are aware of this but wheat is very susceptible to disease. It takes quite a bit of aeration and treating. Unless it is cared for you can lose a complete silo. Who would be responsible if that happened? Temporary storage is dangerous storage. As I mentioned earlier, we have a drought in Queensland and drought conditions in Western Australia. In all probability, according to present estimates, there will be a surplus of storage in those two States.
Then the Opposition says: ‘We will build additional temporary storage’. The first problem with which we will be confronted is: Who will pay for this? I presume that the cost will have to come out of revenue or out of the wheat industry. Must the Queensland farmers who are suffering drought this year and who have a surplus storage pay for it? Must the Western Australian farmers who will have surplus storage help New South Wales, Victoria and probably South Australia by providing storage? We talk about equality. This could cause a lot of problems. I can speak for South Australia but I am not aware of the position in other States. Let me say here and now that South Australia has adequate storage to handle not only the carry-over wheat but also the wheat which will be produced this year under quota.
Then we come to the second of the proposals regarding a continuation of the wheat stabilisation scheme. We cannot disagree with that. We hope that it will continue. This is something to which the wheat industry has clung all the way through and something which the Government very wisely has supported. So one need not comment on that because we have reached an area of complete agreement. The third proposal contains the words:
As long as the parameters of the first advance payment of $1.10 a bushel and the total first advance liability of the Commonwealth of $440m are fixed.
I am not a lawyer. I would hardly qualify as a bush lawyer. To me the words ‘as long as’ indicate something conditional, but I will pass that over because I do not have time to deal with it. The next proposal is:
The provision of individual minimum quotas in the vicinity of 8,000 to 10,000 bushels taking into account the variability of different production regions with drought.
On the surface a quota of 8,000 to 10,000 bushels looks very good. It is supposed to support and protect the smaller grower. Let us look at this proposal realistically. I will advance two or three ideas on my interpretation of the proposal. South Australia has 11,000 wheat growers. If you multiply 11,000 by the 8,000 bushels you come out with a grand total of 88 million bushels. But South Australia has a quota of 45 million bushels so we discount the suggestion that it will work out that way. I presume the Opposition would not be so foolish as to believe that. Nevertheless that is the way it appears.
Let us turn to the other side, the price factor. This is where I think the proposal for a quota of 8,000 to 10,000 bushels of wheat probably sits. I think it sits between the area of No. 1 pool and of No. 2 pool with which I shall deal in a moment. We have a lot of small growers. We have a lot of big growers. The quota of 8,000 to 10,000 bushels has been fixed, possibly because the Opposition thinks that that is about average production throughout the Commonwealth. But this is the beginning of a great problem. The quota can be bypassed in various ways. A small grower may grow only 1,000 bushels. He has a big neighbour who is also a good businessman and is looking for a way out. He can let the little fellow, in for services rendered in other ways and he can get his quota of wheat. The big man might be running some sheep on the little fellow’s land. The little fellow can get his quota of 8,000 to 10,000 bushels. The bigger unitthe family unit with two or three sons - can say: ‘We will operate as single units, each with our own quota of wheat’. So you still come back to the multiplication of 11,000 by 8,000 bushels and you finish up with 88 million bushels. I think it is impossible to overcome that difficulty. What I want to point out is that the Opposition is still encouraging an explosion within the wheat industry, the very thing that the industry itself does not want to happen.
– Who made that suggestion?
– It was made by the shadow Minister of the Labor Party, Dr Patterson. Now let us come to the fourth proposal. I remind honourable senators that I am taking this from the record of Dr Patterson’s speech which appears on pages 256 and 257 of Hansard. He said:
The Labor Party believes that there should be the establishment of a No. 1 pool which would comprise wheat required for the International Grains Arrangement, wheat for human consumption in Australia and special reserves for overseas requirements, and the establishment of a No. 2 pool to handle all non-quota wheat or quota wheat surpluses to No. 1 pool requirements. In association with this additional storage No. 2 pool wheat is to be sold on the basis of feed grain prices.
To me that is one of the most dangerous statements that could ever be made. In the first place, we have a home consumption of 60 odd million bushels a year. We have regular markets for 120 million bushels as well as the China market and other markets that come in, so this is a very flexible area. But let us set a figure on it. Here we are dealing with a pool for non-quota wheat - ‘Grow all the wheat you want to grow and then we will sell it on a feed grain basis. We will sell one lot of wheat for human consumption and we will sell the next lot of wheat for stock feed purposes’. My first comment on this proposal is that it is very dangerous. It could destroy the International Grains Arrangement. I thought that perhaps I would be rather unfair and unjust if I said that, but then 1 turned to page 256 of Hansard where I found the shadow Minister, Dr Patterson reported in this way:
I am convinced that wheat production must be orientated more towards the production of feed grains for export, even if it does mean the collapse of the International Grains Arrangement.
There he is, willing to jeopardise the whole International Grains Arrangement. Let us pause for a moment and consider what will happen if the International Grains Arrangement is destroyed. Australia comes out with its quota of wheat to sell on the export market and we find ourselves involved in a price war with those wheat producing giants, the United States and Canada. On one side we have a nation as powerful as the United States, which already is subsidising its market, which can spend multibillions of dollars on sending men to the moon, and on the other side we have the shadow Minister who has the audacity to say: ‘We will destroy the International Grains Arrangement if necessary. We will take on the United States’. Where would we finish? We would not even run a bad second. We would be so far behind the field and our speed would be so slow that we would never catch up with the leaders. We would show a remarkable lack of wisdom if we were so foolish as to try. 1 have tried to study logically the Opposition’s proposals in relation to the wheat industry to see what I could make of them and I have come to the conclusion that they are all extremely dangerous.
Let me go a little further. The Opposition has seen fit to criticise and to be destructive in its criticism. The alternative proposals which it has advanced are equally as destructive, not only on an Australian basis but on an international basis as well. I think the industry is wise enough not to have a bar of any proposals which the Opposition puts up. The elders of the wheat industry lived through the 1930s. Thank goodness I did not but my father and many others did. They had to sell their wheat on the open market. They did not have the International Wheat Agreement or the International Grains Arrangement. God help the wheat industry in this and other countries if we ever lose the International Grains Arrangement. Senator Mulvihill is interjecting. Apparently I have touched a very tender spot.
A little later I shall deal with the responsibilities of the Opposition, but before I do that perhaps I should say a few words about the great respect and sympathy that the Opposition shows for primary industry. Let us look at how the Opposition plays politics with the responsible organisations within the industry. I will put wheat aside and, for a little variety, will deal with wool. When the Australian Wool Industry Conference proposed a stabilisation scheme and the coalition Government said: ‘OK, we will have a ballot of growers’, the Opposition said: ‘We support the Australian Wool Industry Conference. We would introduce a stabilisation scheme’. On this occasion the Opposition saw fit to back the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Then the Government decided to lift the embargo on the export of merino rams. What happened? On this occasion the Government said that it backed the Australian Wool Industry Conference decision on the lifting of the embargo. The Opposition contradicted the Conference and said that it was irresponsible, that it was non-representative and that everything about it was wrong. Those are examples of a Party, to suit its own political purposes, being for and against an organisation.
Now I go a little further and become very parochial. I refer to my own State of South Australia where for 3 years we had a slight sample pack of a Labor government. Honourable senators opposite talk about sympathy and respect for primary industry. What happened in South Australia? In its short history of 3 years a Labor government in South Australia - I will not deal with the Rail and Road Co-ordination Bill or like measures - tried to introduce a State Succession Duties Bill. Coupled with this Bill was a provision that although succession duties rose considerably the people of South Australia were not to be given the right to take out further life insurance to protect our families, our wives and our children in the case of our demise. This insurance was aggregated to the asset value of one’s property, so anybody who took out insurance to protect his family was making the problem far greater. This is what Labor thought of the problem. The Labor Government would not give the people the democratic right to protect themselves with insurance. This was regarded as an asset. We sit here and see the crocodile tears flowing forth from the Opposition; tablecloths would never dry them. I return now to the wheat industry - and refer back to a period when Labor was in office. This was so long ago that the youth of Australia would not remember. Nevertheless, I think the younger farmers of Australia should be reminded of it. I want to deal with a period when the Chifley Labor Government made a sale of wheat to New Zealand.
– How long ago was this?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Senator Georges will be silent and cease interjecting.
– This is a great indication of what can happen with mismanagement. I want to mention certain facts which are on record. This is most interesting reading. The sale of wheat to New Zealand covered some 18 million bushels. The agreement was that 4.5 million bushels were to be bought from the 1945-46 harvest and that 13.5 million bushels were to be bought from the harvest for the four seasons from 1946-47 to 1949-50. The wheat was to be taken by
New Zealand at a rate of not less than 3.5 million bushels and not more than 4.5 million bushels from each crop. This is the interesting part; I have not time to deal fully with the transaction - it would take 2 hours. The initial price for the first year was to be 9/6d a bushel f.o.b. and, surprisingly, the price came back for the next 4 years to 5/9d per bushel. One wonders why the price dropped. If one peruses the Hansards of the time one does not have to wonder any longer; one becomes extremely amazed.
– What was the ruling world price at that time?
– During that period the price of wheat rose to 18/6d per bushel on the open market The Labor Government of the day had sold wheat forward for 5/9d per bushel. In 1947 the price of wheat was 16/8d per bushel. In 1948 it was 18/8d. In 1949 it was 15/ Id. Under the wheat stabilisation plan at the time, when so much wheat was held in reserve, in 1950 it was quoted as 15/5d. The Labor Government sold the first year’s crop for 9/6d per bushel and the crop for the next 4 years was sold forward for 5/9d per bushel. This cost the Australian taxpayer over £7m Australian - not dollars but pounds. The Auditor-General’s report for 1949-50 stated that the Government was forced to make this commitment by the pressures of the Australian wheat industry and the Opposition of the day. According to Hansard of 5th March 1947, Senator McLeay - a member of the Liberal Party - said:
The Government kas agreed to sell to the Government of New Zealand 4,500,000 bushels of wheat in each of the years 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950 at 5/9d a bushel f.o.b. bulk wheat, notwithstanding that the ruling price is approximately 14/- a bushel. That such an agreement has been entered into reveals an amazing lack of foresight and business acumen on the part of the responsible Minister and the Cabinet which approved the deal.
Mr McEwen, who is still in the Government today, said on 20th February 1947:
What the Government did was to trick the growers by appointing a board that had a majority of growers and then strip that board of all authority for it is now revealed that it denied the board knowledge of major transactions in wheat that were conducted behind its back by the Minister of the day. That is outrageous. Spokesmen of the Australian Wheat Board continually said that they had no knowledge that such a deal has been made.
On 16th October 1947 Mr McEwen asked this question of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture:
In view of the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government may enter into a contract, perhaps a long term contract, for the sale of wheat to the United Kingdom, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give an undertaking that no commitments for the sale of wheat, which represents the livelihood of our wheatgrowers, will be made without first securing the fullest advice of the Australian Wheat Board on all aspects of the proposal, as the sale of substantial parcels of wheat without the full knowledge and advice of the board would represent a complete negation of the purposes for which it was established and render utterly valueless the placing of a majority of growers on the Board?
What was the answer? The Minister replied:
The submission made by the honourable member will be given consideration.
The Board was a statutory board; it had powers and responsibilities. Today the Opposition says what it will do. It speaks of the irresponsibilities of the present Government. The Government works on the recommendations of the Board and of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I have spoken much longer than I intended. I have lost a bit of time replying to interjections. I think it has been necessary to speak at this length to enlighten those in the wheat industry today who have never had to live under an Australian Labor government, to show what can happen when Labor has control of an industry. Much criticism has been made of the Australian Government. Senator Cant said last night:
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.
The senior Vice President of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr Price, has stated:
My organisation accepts full responsibility in originally assessing the need for wheat quotas, and it was at our request that the Federal and State governments recognised the correctness of our attitude in endeavouring to come to grips with the current situation involving a surplus of sales potential of at least 250 million bushels of wheat.
I invite the Opposition to listen to this part. He said:
Should any politician or political party endeavour to make adverse capital out of the introduction of the wheat quotas, they wm be responsible for the greatest disservice ever to the wheat industry of Australia.
I think that is a very good note on which to finish.
– -1 do not propose to go to the lengths that Senator Young went to debate the wheat industry as I have other matters that I want to raise. It is quite obvious that Senator Young has come to the defence of the Government tonight in an impassioned way because he is aware that the wheat growers in all States of the Commonwealth are waiting anxiously for 25th October to indicate their feelings about the Government’s mishandling of the wheat industry. It is quite obvious that the forthcoming election was brought forward 1 month because the Government could not bear to go to the polls after the wheat crops had been harvested.
Senator Young made certain accusations about the Australian Labor Party. He said that the Opposition in the other place refused to debate the problems besetting the Industry except to refer to them surreptitiously during a Grievance Day debate. That is completely and absolutely untrue and the honourable senator knows it is. Senator Young knows that on 30th April 1969 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) made a ministerial statement in the other place on wheat delivery quota proposals and that the moment those proposals had been outlined the debate in the other place as well as that in the Senate was adjourned and the matter was placed at the lowest part of the notice paper to ensure that there would be no debate on it. The only way that the Australian Labor Party could have the matter debated in the other place was to adopt the procedure that it followed.
– How can we debate the wheat industry when the Australian Wheat Board will not tell us the price it is selling the wheat at?
– That is absolutely true. The Opposition has endeavoured to get this matter so placed on the notice paper that there can be a full scale debate on it, but has been unsuccessful. If the Government is at all frank about the wheat industry it has had ample opportunity, through the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), to answer the questions that have been asked by Senator McClelland in recent weeks. It has been said that the Australian Labor Party will destroy the International Grains Arrangement if it gets into office. The Government is in reality destroying it right now. The Government is a party to the disruption that is occurring at present. It is cutting prices in Japan. It did so as recently as yesterday with the lowest quote on the market and won the highest wheat sales. Australia has cut Canada, America and France out of the market. By so doing it is destroying the International Grains Arrangement. When it has been completely destroyed honourable senators opposite should not come into this chamber and accuse the Australian Labor Party of destroying it.
The Minister for Trade and Industry visited America in July of this year. When he returned he said: The world is saved. The world is free. We will no longer have any problems with the wheat industry. To show our good faith we will reduce our sales.’ He said that an agreement had been reached. Two days after he returned home the American authorities said that they would cut their prices and the Canadian authorities said that they would also cut their prices. Australia was left like a shag on a rock with some sort of an agreement to the effect that we would sell less and the rest would sell the lot. The agreement is being destroyed because right now we are a party to price-cutting. What a lot of tommy-rot Senator Young spoke tonight in this chamber. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
A debate on the wheat industry could have been held in both Houses of the Parliament during the autumn period if the Government had so desired. The questions that Senator McClelland has asked about the wheat agreement can be answered at any time the Government wishes. If the Government is as serious about the matter as Senator Young suggests why has it not made a statement on this very important issue? Up to date no ministerial statement has been made that both Houses of the Parliament could debate fully before the forthcoming election. The simple fact is that the Government is calling an early election because it knows that it is in trouble. The
Government wilt not accept the blame for the trouble that it got itself into by creating a two-price system last year. It set a home consumption price that is far too high for the people in Australia who need wheat for drought relief. The Government is in the kettle of fish that the Opposition said it would be in. The Opposition endeavoured to move an amendment to the legislation so that there would be a one-price system of $1.52 a bushel.
– See if it will tell you the price at which wheat is sold to China.
– The Government would not even say the price at which it sold wheat to Japan yesterday, but the world newspapers say that we have cut it again by 3c a bushel. Senator Young said that Australia had cut its prices once. In fact, Australia has cut its prices three times since it broke the international agreement. I did not set out to speak on this subject tonight, but I felt that the things that Senator Young said should not be left unanswered.
The main subject that I wish to speak on tonight is of tremendous importance to me and I believe it is something that should be of importance to the nation. I refer to mental health. I believe that mental health is of utmost importance not only to Victoria, which is the State that I come from, but also to the rest of Australia. Together with a colleague of mine, Councillor Johnson from Broadmeadows City Council in the Melbourne area, I visited the Sunbury mental hospital, which is just out of Melbourne. To say that we were distressed and absolutely horrified by what we saw is an understatement. I think the same situation applies, although maybe to a lesser degree, in a number of other mental hospitals. On inspection we saw things that I do not think any citizen would allow to continue if the facts were brought into the open. We saw a system of buildings which are more than 100 years old. It is the gaol type of asylum that was built in years gone by when mentally retarded persons were put behind bars and left to rot. I was horrified to find that these buildings were still in use. People of great ability and dedication are endeavouring to rehabilitate the mentally retarded under these conditions and they have no hope of doing so under these conditions. I raise this matter tonight in the hope that the Commonwealth Government will make more money available to the mental hospitals throughout Australia. As a Federal body it can do so.
We saw, for instance, a cold, bluestone ward that had been built over 100 years ago. The fireplace was boarded up because of the dangers involved in using that type of heating in such a room. The room is completely unheated throughout winter. There are sixty patients in the hospital. They have the use of two toilets, two showers and one bath. Every morning the sixty patients are taken into a narrow, cold corridor and stripped naked. They stand there for one-half to three-quarters of an hour without any heating other than a small electric strip heater on the wall while they are bathed because they are unable to look after themselves.
– Whereabouts is this?
– The Sunbury mental hospital. I have a report that I can quote from for the benefit of honourable senators. What I am saying has been verified by newspaper reporters who have inspected the mental hospital. I have a Press cutting in which Mr Borthwick, who is Acting Minister for Health in Victoria in the absence of Mr Dickie, who is overseas, is reported as having said that he was absolutely appalled at the conditions he found at the Sunbury mental hospital. I could go on at great length on the types of things that are going on in this mental hospital that I think should be brought to light. As these matters have been frequently and fully aired in the Victorian Press, I do not propose to go into them in great detail. I repeat that the people responsible for the work in this home - Dr Drew, the Superintendent, the matron, the sisters, the nurses and indeed all members of the staff - are very wonderful people who are doing a truly magnificent job under the most trying possible conditions that one could believe to exist.
The reason I raise this matter tonight is that next year we in this Parliament, I hope, will have an opportunity to renew the States Grants (Mental Health) Agreement which I understand expires on 17th June next. Broadly, the Agreement provides for a grant of $1 by the Commonwealth for every $2 expended by the States on mental health. I believe that now is the time for raising these matters in the Parliament for in this way we indicate in advance that we believe that when the Agreement is next before us the Government should make provision for a greater amount of assistance. In my view, the Commonwealth could quite easily increase its commitment to a grant of $1 for every $1 expended by the States. In other words, it should double the amount of its grant. This would greatly assist the States which, as we all know, are in great difficulty in trying to finance these services.
I think the Commonwealth should go even further. Similar difficulties have been found to exist in other countries. I quote the United States of America as an example. When President Kennedy was elected to that high office in 1962, he was so concerned about the mental health of the American people, about the lack of attention they were getting and about the lack of finance available to those endeavouring to give some service that he established a President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. This panel was led by a Mr Mayo. It consisted of some forty experts, including medical men, psychiatrists, teachers, legal men, and in fact men from all spheres who had some expert knowledge in this field.
This panel was divided into three task forces to investigate various aspects of mental health and mental retardation in the American community. President Kennedy established the panel to ascertain at the Federal level the requirements of the people in this field. Some of the disclosures - there are many - make one extremely worried that similar conditions could possibly be revealed in this country. For example, the investigation revealed clearly that the incidence of retardation or mental diseases was increasing annually in that country to a fairly high degree. Each year they were finding in the community far more people suffering from some degree of mental retardation and needing assistance either clinically or within their own homes to make them well.
The investigation also disclosed that mental disease or intellectual disease is very prevalent in America. It revealed that it affects ten times as many children as does diabetes, that it affects twenty times as many children as does tuberculosis, that it affects twenty-five times as many children as does muscular dystrophy and six hundred times as many children as does infantile paralysis. We all know the tremendous efforts that have been made in this country to stamp out tuberculosis and infantile paralysis. We virtually have stamped out both diseases although occasionally we do get minor outbreaks. But we have had to spend a lot of money and to undertake a great deal of research to ensure that these diseases have been checked and when we have this evidence that American experts have discovered that ten or twenty or perhaps fifty times as many children in that country are suffering from mental retardation than are suffering from tuberculosis or infantile paralysis I think it is time that we tackled the problem with the same vigour and made the same amount of money available to the States for that purpose.
The American panel also found that much could yet be learned from research, that much money would have to be spent on additional research in order to ascertain what actually causes mental retardation in children or other persons. The panel discovered that not all causes of brain damage or mental retardation are known. It discovered that not every person who is mentally retarded is suffering from brain damage, that in three out of four cases the complaint is due to some other cause, perhaps some trouble that happened during the pregnancy of the mother, perhaps because a young baby was dropped or because something else happened. There are many causes of the complaint, and the Americans are trying to overcome the problem.
We in Australia should be moving with equal vigour in this field. We should be spending much more money than we are on research in order to ensure that we get on top of this dreadful thing, to ensure that places such as Sunbury are no longer required. But while they are required, they must have available to them much better facilities for treatment than they now have. The panel also found that the institutions in the United States housed from 1,000 to 6,000 patients. It reported that if there was to be any proper plan of rehabilitation, the number of inmates in the institutions must be reduced considerably. Its recommendation to President Kennedy was that under no circumstances should any one of these
Institutions cater for more than 500 patients and that the ideal number would be 250, stating that with the smaller number of inmates the opportunity to rehabilitate persons suffering from mental retardation was much better than could possibly be the case in the present large institutions.
Sunbury home has something like 1,000 patients. It did have something in the vicinity of 1,300, but, thanks to the good work done by the staff at that institution, quite a number of persons have been rehabilitated back into the community. Sunbury is now converting one section for the treatment of children. I should have mentioned earlier that at the present time Sunbury treates only teenage and adult people. One section of the institution is now being converted for the treatment of children. However, when this is completed it will not have any teaching staff to do the rehabilitation work that is required to put many of the children back into the community. It has insufficient psychologists. It wants at least three more but is unable to obtain them.
There are two reasons why Sunbury is unable to obtain the staff that it wants. Firstly, it is very difficult to get anyone to work under the conditions that exist there. Secondly, the salaries paid in Victoria are far lower than those paid in New South Wales. It is for these reasons that the institution continually finds it necessary to seek to obtain psychiatrists. When it does succeed in obtaining the services of psychiatrists, they stay for only a short time and then move into other fields because conditions are so bad and also because the salaries paid are far lower than those paid in other States.
Another recommendation made by the American panel to which I have referred is that the institutions treating this type of patient should be regionalised within certain areas of the State in preference to being concentrated in a particular spot or only three areas of a city. The reason for this is that with a regional institution of 250 or 300 patients situated close to the areas from which the patients come, rehabilitation can be effected much more speedily because the patients very often are then in close proximity to their parents and relatives who can visit them regularly. The patients are far fewer in number. They would be in modern, pleasant surroundings rather than in the places with a gaol-like appearance that now exist. We would have this system of rehabilitation working to enable a much better and higher rate of return to the community than we now have. I ask the Government very sincerely to look at the situation. At the moment we could well be in a position to give an immediate grant to Victoria for the purpose of mental aid or to enable it to carry out remedial work in relation to the Sunbury mental hospital. I think also that we should examine the situation in relation to legislation which no doubt will be introduced in the first autumn session of the new Parliament and ensure that we increase the amount provided for this purpose. If we can do this I am certain that we, as a national Parliament, will be accepting some of the responsibility for the rehabilitation of many of those people whom we know can be brought back into society if the money and conditions are available and if people can be attracted to work in industry.
At present we are being asked for additional money to provide for mental aid. I strongly advocate that before the final drafting of any Bill to be brought before the Parliament to deal with this subject the Commonwealth should do as President Kennedy did in America, that is, make a complete and thorough investigation of the health situation in Australia and find out what the situation really is. I have heard that one family in every ten in the Australian community has a person within the family who will have some mental retardation. I do not know whether these figures are accurate, but they were quoted to me by a doctor who said that this was approximately the situation. A proper investigation would ascertain whether these figures are correct. I understand that in America about 120,000 children each year are born mentally retarded and will need some clinical service throughout their life, if not for all of it. At the moment we do not know what the situation is in Australia. I have seen no comprehensive national report which would give us any figures that would enable us to assess the situation in this country. Because of the alarming situation found to exist in America, we should be in a position to learn whether it is a trend that is common also to Australia.
We must find the money to carry out research work in the same way as we were able to find money for work on tuberculosis and paralysis. We are able to find money for the Heart Foundation and for many other fields in which research work is being performed. But, goodness me, 20 or 30 times more children are affected by mental retardation than there are people affected by some of the diseases that we are investigating. Let us get behind this problem, move in and put the money where it is needed. 1 express my disappointment that the Budget has made no mention whatever of the Government’s intentions with regard to conversion to the metric system of weights and measures in Australia. Honourable senators will recall that in May last year the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures investigated the adoption of this system by Australia. It tabled a report in which it made a number of recommendations and indicated that it believed that it would be in the interests of Australia if we converted to the metric system of weights and measures. One of the major features of that report was the insistence in one of the recommendations that it was vital that the Government declare whether it would carry out the recommendations or reject them so that industry and all other interests would know at an early stage what the Government’s intentions were. But 15 months have gone by and there has been no announcement or statement of any kind. There has been not even a hint of the Government’s intentions. I searched the Budget Speech very closely to see whether there was even a brief reference to this subject and I examined the appropriations, with which we will deal in the next sitting week, to see whether provision was made for the introduction of the metric system, but I find that the Government is completely silent on the matter. This is not good enough.
The report was tabled 15 months ago and we have since had many comments from responsible people and organisations to indicate that they support fully the introduction of the metric system of weights and measures in Australia. They have stated that they are eagerly and anxiously awaiting some announcement by the Government so that they will know what the position will be. Evidence was supplied to the Committee by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and substantiated by a number of responsible people to show that each year of delay in converting to the metric system will add, at a minimum, 7% to the cost of conversion. Naturally enough, big industries, people in commerce and everybody who will be affected by the conversion are very concerned about the delay. Further delay will mean that many organisations which now favour a conversion to the metric system will not be able to support a change because after 2 or 3 years they will not be able to afford the cost. In the ‘Canberra Times’ today we saw an announcement about a United States consortium which plans to build a $400m steelworks in Australia. Many industries are interested in establishing themselves in this country. Many industries have established themselves here in recent months. I understand that all these big industries are most anxious to know the Government’s intention in relation to the introduction of the metric system. The tooling up for a large factory would be a tremendously costly operation.
If industry could have some indication from the Government of its intention in this regard it would have some foreknowledge before proceeding with a major programme. In the Canberra comments of the official journal of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia it was advocated that there should be an early announcement by the Government of its intention. That organisation is completely in support of a conversion to the metric system. A special article in the ‘Management Newsletter’ indicates that the metric system is getting close and mentions the writer’s support for its introduction into Australia. But despite all these things, despite the fact that the Bank of New South Wales brought out a special supplement on this subject seeking some statement from the Government, the silence continues. As I said earlier, we are in the situation that each year we wait before converting will add another 7% or 8% to the cost. As the increased cost will be compounded, if we wait another 2 years - we have already waited 15 months - it will cost about a quarter more to introduce the system than it would cost if we took action now or if we let industry and all others who are interested in the question have some indication of the Government’s intention. Before this Budget debate is over, or at least before the debate on the Estimates is concluded, I would like to hear some responsible statement on whether the Government intends to accept the recommendation and to introduce this system into Australia or whether it intends to let the matter slide and have Australia remain one of the few countries still operating on other than a metric system.
– I support the Budget. In saying that I acknowledge, as I believe all honourable senators would acknowledge, that there are items within the Budget about which one may have a variety of opinions that differ in degree. These opinions, I suggest, may be expressed in other ways and at other times as various items of legislation come before the Senate and in our detailed Committee discussions when we are looking at the various items in the Estimates. Most Budget debates at this stage do not have a great deal of life and must be in general terms or perhaps on a particular item. This is highlighted now because, this Budget coming as it does within a short time of an election, speed becomes the essence of the exercise.
I say that I like the Budget or I support the Budget; but what do other people think about it? I turn to an opinion which cannot be taken other than seriously. This is put out by the National Bank of Australasia. This is not just a rapid Press comment made the morning after the presentation of the Budget. This opinion was expressed as recently as a few days ago under the heading ‘Reflections after the Budget’. It is interesting that a document of this kind, and with its prestige, should indicate that:
Public reaction to the 1969-70 Budget has been favourable on the whole and in many ways deservedly so because it is generally a good one, especially when set against the current economic background and prospects for the remainder of the financial year.
No Budget is all things to all people. No Budget will ever be to the entire satisfaction of all sections of the community. But I echo the sentiments expressed in this article when it says:
The Bank, in further comment, said:
Much wisdom has been shown by the Treasurer and Government in not succumbing to the temptation, which must have hovered in the background, to try and impose some relatively severe degree of direct restraint on economic activity by higher rates of taxation. That kind of action is not warranted in present business circumstances and, particularly if applied suddenly, would have endangered prosperity and growth.
Clearly the Australian economy is improving in strength, in diversity and at a rate that is much better than is generally realised. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), in his Budget speech which was read in this place by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson), referred to the excellent 1968-69 growth rate of 8.7% in the gross national product, as he put it, expressed in real terms. His estimate of a further increase of 6% in this financial year portrays a very reassuring picture of the nation’s capacity for overall advancement.
This Budget has been brought down against a background of many changes in our national growth and many new approaches. Today major changes are taking place in commerce and all sections of industry. Industry especially is growing both in size and in sophistication. In many ways our country is well placed to achieve a high rate of development. I suppose that 1 am only saying that in another form when I say that our growth frontiers seem to have been pushed forward remarkably in recent times and that the development of our natural resources is making a great contribution to that. I suggest that an important feature of the Budget is that it leaves so much of our community, society, business, commerce and industry free to move ahead within the monetary framework that the Budget creates. Flexibility is part and parcel of our system and is established as a principle which is a good one and which is well adopted by the Government in its economic management.
Having made a general comment on the overall situation in terms of background to the Budget, I note something that has created a considerable amount of public comment, namely, that certain characteristics give this Budget its special value and special points of note. As has been said by many people including many commentators, the social service and welfare aspects of the Budget that is now before the Senate are part of its value and its outstanding characteristics. I refer to the pensions proposals, the tapered means test, the health benefits and the unemployment and sickness benefits. Of a more controversial nature, perhaps, but nevertheless of particular value to the entire community are the provisions in the Budget dealing with education - state aid for independent schools and provisions for other education systems, teachers colleges, universities and colleges of advanced education. All of these will be the subject of measures that will come before the Senate in a regular way. I believe that they deserve to be dealt with in more fine and precise detail at that time.
So the Budget goes on to the record of the Parliament and the Government. I think it needs to be said that this Budget follows twenty previous Budgets that have been brought down by the Treasurers in Liberal and Country Party governments. These Budgets have been involved with the policies and political philosophies of Liberal and Country Party governments. It needs to be said and said again that over the last two decades those policies have been approved by the people. Changes have been made within the Budgets and the recommendations that have been brought forward. Flexibility has been adopted to meet new demands and new needs from time to time. And still the electorate extends its approval. I am perfectly certain that in due course the electorate will again give its stamp of approval to the factors within this Budget as they are contained in policies and political philosophies that surely are geared to the best development of this country.
When the Treasurer was delivering the Budget speech he referred to what he called ‘social welfare’ and said that it had an honoured place in the proposals. He went on to say:
They take us much further along the road the Government is determined to follow in accordance with the policy it initiated last year. It will remain our continuing policy to help the aged, the sick and those in need, and to do so in a way that will encourage self-help, thrift and provision for the future.
In commenting on that section of the Budget speech, I express the view that this is a
Budget that reflects the community values in our society. As the Treasurer pointed out, and as I have just quoted from his speech, it is a Budget that encourages thrift. The paragraph that I quoted is evidence that the Budget is reflecting what the Government calls ‘concern’. One might even use the word ‘compassion’. That is a word that is used rather more widely these days than it has been in times past. The community values to which I have just referred are the criteria for standards by which we as members of the community make choices as to what courses of action we will take in our community. The community values are ideas and beliefs that guide people in choosing their manner of living.
The Government does not claim to have reached all of the welfare goals that it has in mind. It is working towards the implementation of them. The Budget that we are debating tonight is a step towards the establishment of those beliefs and the achievement of those goals. In framing the Budget the Government has been aware of its task in working out ways and means by which the values of a good society with a good quality of life can be achieved. In doing this it has to work out a balance. The Government has to take many factors into account and look to the future so as to be able to adapt itself to the changes that may come and the needs that may arise. We have been conscious of the concern that has been expressed by members of our society, particularly for the under-privileged, the less fortunate. I claim that the Government has shown that it is conscious of their needs. It is conscious also of the need for security and self realisation of those people who may be described as under-privileged. It is conscious of their desire for as much independence as they can obtain. As the Treasurer has said, and as we all know very well, economic feasibility sets a limit to what can be done in any field. I believe that within these limits the Budget implements the humane values which are in the forefront of our society and makes a positive contribution in that regard.
Perhaps the outstanding contribution of this year’s Budget in the social welfare field is the assistance granted to widows and those who are deserted or divorced. A recent survey known as the Melbourne poverty survey had indicated that a family in which there is no male income earner is more likely to be in economic difficulties than a family with a man at its head. The survey pointed out that of the adult income units living in poverty, 54% consisted of widows with dependants or families where the husband is not at home, as the survey described it. A further 24% consisted of widows or deserted wives with no dependants. The Government and the Treasurer, as can be seen in the Budget documents, have given great attention to the needs of these people. Special measures are to be introduced to assist them.
The allowance payable to each child of a widow after the first child will be increased by $1 a week, raising the total payment excluding child endowment for each child to $3.50 a week. In addition, and more importantly, there is a reference to what is now very well known as the tapered means test whereby additional income in excess of existing limits will in future reduce the widow’s pension and other pensions by only 50c for each additional $1 earned. I think this is an important development in our total social welfare problem because it provides an incentive for people who are in economic difficulty but who are physically able to join the work force in full time or part time occupations. They can seek some independence and a share in what we have been talking about as the quality of our life in Australia. The tapering of the means test will not only be of financial significance but will also be of great psychological benefit as well.
The Budget speech makes several references to immigration. The Treasurer refers first to the continuing flow of migrants and states that it reflects the buoyant condition of the economy. We can continue to attract increasing numbers of migrants over the years. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who represents the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) in this chamber said in the Senate not very long ago that in 1968-69 Australia set a target of 160,000 settlers. In fact about 175,000 migrants arrived, amongst them being over 80,000 workers. Now the Government has decided to maintain this programme. The Budget provides for an increased assisted immigration programme of at least 1 1 9,000 settlers. It is expected that the total number of migrants, including unassisted arrivals, will be well over 175,000.
The immigration programme is not devised just because it may be a good thing to have more people within the Australian community. The estimates of the programme are based upon a firm plan, supported by very good forecasts. Attached to the Department of Immigration is the Immigration Planning Council which is composed, I think, of one of the best groups of people capable of planning at national level that one could wish to find. It works in close concert with all sections of the community. It has amongst its members leaders of all other economic planning phases that could be expected to work for the total development of the nation. But in any total concept of immigration and social concern the wellbeing of this section of our community needs to be taken into account. The Treasurer and many other people claim that the immigration programme ls of the greatest possible value to Australia. We need to take these people into our areas of social concern.
It is not without significance that in addition to the Treasurer’s early reference to migration, he takes into his speech three factors that provide this kind of social concern. Honourable senators will remember that the first of these is assistance for migrant pensioners who will be paid for a longer period when they are out of the country. The period is to be increased from 12 weeks to 30 weeks. This is part of the programme of integration and improvements upon facilities that are already in existence and which will be of greatest assistance in connection with return trips that migrants may make.
The migration programme has assisted greatly in the settling down processes and the general happiness of migrants. This new development will certainly cog in with other plans. The second reference to social concern for migrants in the Budget Speech relates to unemployment benefits for unmarried minors who have no parent in Australia. As the speech indicates, these people will receive the full adult rate. This may be a smaller form of assistance or a smaller element of integration, but at least it is of assistance and shows that there is very real concern for unmarried minors. to all intents and purposes completely on their own in this country, at a time of particular difficulty.
The third reference relates to the free health insurance benefits that are equal in standard to the combined fund and Commonwealth benefits. These will be available to all migrants for 2 months after their arrival in Australia. I think this is most important and satisfactory and will be of great assistance. New settlers coming to Australia are often in a precarious financial position during the early period after their arrival. Many of them have sunk their savings into coming to this land. Many arrive with minimum prospects of employment and often with severe language difficulties, suffering from all the stresses and emotional strains involved in a complete change in environment. They arc susceptible not only to illness but also to financial problems that might follow such illness. It is therefore the purpose of this proposal to provide for our new citizens what might be described as a buffer zone, a period of settling in at least for the time being so that the fear of financial disaster due to illness can to some extent be disregarded.
I would imagine that in the large bulk of cases within 2 months of arrival migrants will be established to the point of having a job and therefore will be able to commence contributions, should they so desire, to one of the voluntary health organisations in Australia, thus providing themselves with a measure of protection. I do not know how many people will be able to take advantage of this provision. Of 170,000 expected to arrive in Australia next year, perhaps 70,000 would require to avail themselves of this assistance. These are just three things which are the latest of many measures, large not small, that will assist in the integration of migrants into the Australian community.
Answers to Questions on Notice - National Service
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - 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.
(Question No. 1240)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1248)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In view of the fact that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other responsible trade union organisations have consistently asked for an easing of the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act or their abolition, and in spite ot the fact that the requests have been consistently refused by the Government, can it be assumed from the statement by the Minister that the Government is prepared at long last to discuss with the union movement the abolition of the penal sections of the Act?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
There have been detailed discussions between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Attorney-General and the ACTU and the National Employers Policy Committee about sanctions provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. On the 25th August, the Minister for Labour and National Service issued a statement making known the views of the Minister and the Attorney-General.I would commend that statement to the honourable senator. I shall make a copy of it available to him if he so desires.
(Question No. 1277)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1396)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question
- Mr President, on 20th August I replied to a question asked by Senator Devitt and I would now like to give the Senate fuller information upon that subject. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) wishes me to amplify the answer then given. It was in relation to several members of a family whose obligation it is to register for national service. I would now like to say that a good deal of consideration has been given to the position of brothers and only sons. It was recognised that the call-up of an only son or of more than one son could result in a degree of hardship but that where hardship does occur it can arise from a combination of circumstances in which the number of sons is only one factor. What might entail considerable hardship for one family does not necessarily have the same effect on another. Taking this into account, together with the cardinal national service principles of universal liability and equity as between all registrants, it is clear that there can be no question of releasing any individual registrant from his obligation because of family circumstances. The liability to register and to render service is on the individual, not the family, and each individual son or brother has no greater or lesser liability than any other registrant.
There are, however, provisions for alleviating possible hardship which may arise from call-up. First it is open to all registrants, at the time for registration, to opt for alternative part-time service in the Citizen Forces. Men who exercise this option and serve efficiently for the required period, normally 6 years, are not called up for full-time national service. Second, any registrant who is medically examined and passed fit for service has the right, and is given the opportunity, to apply for deferment of call-up on the ground of exceptional hardship to himself, his parents or dependants. Such applications are referred for hearing to a court of summary jurisdiction which has the power, if satisfied that exceptional hardship exists, to grant deferment for up to 12 months at a time.
Similarly if a national serviceman, after being called up, is nominated for service overseas, and there are at that time compassionate circumstances which might justify his retention in Australia, he may then apply to his commanding officer for such retention. I understand that any such application is carefully considered in the light of the circumstances in which it is made.
I might mention also the undertaking given by my colleague the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) some time ago to the effect that where it was brought to notice that one member of a family was killed or seriously wounded in a limited engagement such as would be involved in Vietnam, and a brother of that man was called up for service, the Department of the Army would take steps to see that the same family would not experience an undue share of the burden in that conflict.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.34 p.m. till Tuesday, 9 September, at 2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690828_senate_26_s42/>.