27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– J present from 1,480 residents of Sydney the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That they are gravely concerned at what they consider to be the adverse effect on moral standards in the Australian community of the increasing portrayal and description of obscenity, sexual licence, promiscuity and violence in films, books, magazines, plays and, ro a lesser extent, television and radio programmes.
That their concern arises partly from the fact that historians such as J. D. Unwin and Arnold Toynbee have shown that nearly ail nations which have perished have done so because of internal moral decay; and partly because obscenity and indecency are contrary to the teachings of Christianity which is the acknowledged religion of more than 80 per cent of Australians, besides being ‘part and parcel of the law of the land’ (Quick and Garran in ‘Commentaries on the Australian Constitution’, Page 951); and
That, in accordance with the findings of the Australian gallup poll, published in the Melbourne Herald’, 14th November 1969, the majority of Australian citizens want censorship either maintained or increased.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on censorship of films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to preserve sound moral standards in the community.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notices of motion for the next day of sitting. The notices are given as General Business in my capacity as a senator and not as a Minister of the Crown. The notices of motion read:
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting or so soon as the motion can be dealt with I shall move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigat ion and report: Development of the Avalon Airport to Boeing 747-Concordc standard.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration I refer to the Government’s refusal to grant a visa to United States negro entertainer Dick Gregory, ls Australia no longer a free country? Is this famous non-violent champion of civil rights to be kept out of Australia because he is black or because citizens of Australia may wish to hear him during the Vietnam Moratorium?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied information which I believe will answer the points raised by Senator Murphy. I am informed that the Government’s policy is to allow the maximum freedom to travel to Australia. People are not prevented from visiting Australia just because their political views may differ from those of the Government. This, cf course, is subject to the essential consideration of Australia’s national interest, and the Government is not willing to authorise visits by persons whose activities are considered to be contrary to the national interest and where the stated purpose of the visit is not judged to be bona fide.
In the Government’s view this applies where the intentions are related to a onesided distorted anti-war Moratorium Campaign inimical to the objectives for which our troops are fighting in Vietnam, lt authority were given to persons to come to Australia for this purpose it would have the effect of betraying Australian servicemen in Vietnam, damaging the morale of our troops and giving encouragement to those who seek not peace but peaceful submission to those who seek to promote the power of the mob and the rule of the streets with the consequent threat that that involves to the maintenance of law and order in this country.
Consistent with the reasons stated above the Government, therefore, will not authorise the entry of Mr Gregory. The Minister has been informed that Mr Gregory planned to arrive in Australia on 13th September for a 2 weeks visit which would have covered the period of the Moratorium Campaign and that the purpose of the visit was stated to be ‘sight seeing’. His application for a visa was not accepted as genuine and the application, therefore, has been refused.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs noted the results of the Senate election in South Vietnam as reported in today’s Press? Is not the fact that 4 major parties each polled approximately 1 million votes the truest possible indication of the existence of free elections? Also, is not the fact that approximately 3 million voters supported the general policy of the Government of South Vietnam a telling answer to those in this country and in the United States of America who claim that the Government of South Vietnam is unrepresentative of the opinion of the people of that country?
– I have not had the advantage of a complete study of the results of the Senate election in South Vietnam but I have had sufficient study to confirm the point made by Senator Greenwood, namely, that it was a classic example of the justification of the democratic principles which exist in South Vietnam.
– Some of the candidates were put in gaol.
When I hear such comments made by way of interjection I feel that I must again direct attention to what happened when the enemies of South Vietnam tried in all ways, including bombing orphanages and other places, to frustrate the conduct of a proper democratic election.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and relates to the same subject as the one which I raised earlier with the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I ask: Is the Leader of the Government aware that the United States of America is to allow persons from outside that country, including prominent Australian citizens and members of this Parliament, to go there and speak against the war in Vietnam? How does it come about that the Australian Government is less free in its standards than the Government of the United States of America?
– 1 have nothing to add to or subtract from - indeed, I agree wholeheartedly with - the comments of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration on this issue. 1 do not think it is necessary for me to make any further remarks about it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: In view of the outbreak of cholera in several parts of the world, including Africa, and the reported likelihood of it spreading to Europe, and having regard to the changed conditions which have been brought about as a result of air travel, which was not in existence during earlier major outbreaks of cholera, will the Minister assure the Senate that Australia’s quarantine authorities will redouble the precautions they take at airport and shipping terminals to keep this dreaded disease out of Australia?
– I have noted the comments which have appeared in the Press concerning an outbreak of cholera. 1 can assure the honourable senator that Australia’s quarantine officials are constantly on the lookout at all Australia’s first ports of entry for new arrivals who may be infected with this disease. As an added safeguard against the risk of cholera being introduced into this country, Australia requires that all persons over the age of 12 months arriving in Australia by air from a country which has been proclaimed to be a place from or through which cholera may be brought or carried are in possession of a valid international certificate of vaccination against cholera. Australia regularly receives reports from the World Health Organisation advising of countries currently infected with cholera. These reports are carefully studied in order to ensure that quarantine officials at first ports of entry in Australia for both ships and aircraft are kept informed as to which travellers are likely to have been exposed to the dangers of infection. I appreciate the point which was raised by the honourable senator. I believe that the reply which I have given will assure him that first class information is available to our authorities and a watch is constantly being kept for cholera.
– My question is directed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. 1 draw the Minister’s attention to the statement by the American negro comedian Dick Gregory that he wished to come to Australia as a sightseer, although it would appear that Government officials believed that he wished only to speak in the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. 1 ask: Has the Minister expressed any concern to the Minister for Immigration about the refusal to grant a visa to Gregory under these conditions? What would be the implications to Australian tourism if Americans who wished to come here as sightseers were refused visas and the Government declined to give reasons for its refusals?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable senator’s question is no. The answer to the second part of his question is none.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. As the standard gauge railway line between Port Augusta and Whyalla is to commence shortly, and taking into account the proposals for a new standard gauge line between Tarcoola and Alice Springs, is the Minister able to say what the position is regarding the standardisation of the Port Pirie-Adelaide line and when construction is likely to commence?
– A standard gauge link between Adelaide and Port Pirie is a necessary part of the national standard gauge network linking Australian capital cities. It is, as the honourable senator has said, of considerable importance to South Australia. After substantial discussion, an independent study by internationally recognised engineering consultants was commissioned to examine the most efficient and economic method by which Adelaide could be connected by a standard gauge railway line to the interstate standard gauge railway line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. The initial report by the consultants was accepted by the previous South Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government as a suitable basis tor connecting Adelaide to the national standard gauge line. Since the present South Australian Government has come to office it has indicated reservations to the consultants’ report and has submitted alternative proposals which appear to be based largely on a plan rejected in 1968. While the Commonwealth is prepared to re-examine these proposals, it is disappointing that the commencement of the standard gauge link, which we all are anxious to see, has been deferred. This delay has not been caused, the Minister for Shipping and Transport informs me, by the Commonwealth. Until the alternative proposals are examined, and until further discussion is held with the South Australian Government and agreement on the project is reached, it is not possible to indicate when construction may commence.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that freight rates on wool exported to Great Britain and to Europe rose by 4 per cent yesterday? If so, what reason does the Government have for not invoking the shipping provisions of the Trade Practices Act to prevent such increase? As this increase will cost the wool growers an extra $4m for the export season 1970-71 and as it will, as Mr Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, stated, be passed on to the wool growers, what action did the Government take to counter this freight rise seeing that the Government has a vested interest in the shipping conference through the Australian National Line? Is the Australian National Line free to fix its own freight rates when it carries Australian exports, particularly wool, butter, wheat and other primary products?
– The honourable senator has addressed to me a series of questions relating to the increase in shipping freights cm the United Kingdom route. I will refer these to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Yesterday Senator Bull asked a series of rather similar questions. I understand that an answer to his questions is on the way. I will arrange for a similar answer to be provided to Senator Kennelly. If that answer does not give him all the information he requires, f Wil obtain extra information for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Are the reports that Australia has arranged to bring 50 meat inspectors from New Zealand to cope with the disruption of our meat export trade caused by the shortage of meat inspectors in Australia correct? While this action is commendable in one sense, is it not embarrassing to Australians to have revealed the situation that we have not provided properly for inspectors in one of our most important industries? Is not the long term remedy the improvement of the conditions of recruitment and service of meat inspectors in Australia so that we may provide our own?
– It is true that we will bring 50 New Zealand meat inspectors to Australia. They will be brought here immediately, as a result of arrangements made with the New Zealand Government following the Government’s awareness of the concern among parliamentarians and people in the meat industry about the ability of abattoirs to cope with mutton and Iamb killings this season. The New Zealand inspectors will be here for 2 to 3 months. Last week, when I answered a question on similar lines, I pointed out that some of the present meat inspectors, because of the pressure of work, had not been able to take a holiday for about 3 years and that the Government, through the Public Service Board, had upgraded the position of meat inspector and had rostered meat inspectors so that they would be able to take their leave. Following negotiations with the Public Service Board aimed at improving the conditions of local inspectors, the number of permanent positions has been increased from 615 to 1,100. Another 100 temporary positions have been established. The wage level has been increased considerably and gradings have been adjusted so that the local inspectors can receive higher salaries. I shall give an example of the salaries being paid to meat inspectors. The salary range of meat inspectors, grade 1, has been increased from $3,531-$4,293 to $3,948-$4,800. I could refer to the salary of a number of other grades of inspectors but I do not wish to bore the Senate with these figures. If Senator McManus would like a copy of them later I will give one to him.
– Can the Minister for Housing tell me why officers of the Department of Housing refuse to disclose to unsuccessful applicants for homes savings grants the departmental valuation placed on a property, when the valuation by the Department is above the amount prescribed by the Act? Does not the Minister consider that this information should be available to applicants to enable them to put rebuttal evidence before the Secretary of the Department? I refer particularly to applicants who have either built their own homes or have had homes constructed by sub-contract.
– I should like to get a very detailed answer to the honourable senator’s question because, as he knows, when a house is built by an owner-builder, we must have the house valued. An amount representing a builder’s profit margin is then deducted for our purposes. But I should like to give the honourable senator full details of this matter.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior recognise the importance of granting Aboriginal land rights in terras of recognising Aboriginal ownership of existing Aboriginal reserves and Aboriginal ownership of traditional tribal land at present owned and leased by the Crown? If the Minister does not recognise these Aboriginal land rights, will he explain how culturally and economically depressed groups of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are to be assisted to develop into healthy, cohesive and selfsupporting communities?
– 1 am quite sure that the Minister for the Interior and the Australian Government have a proper understanding of their responsibilities towards Aboriginals. But fundamentally this question covers policy areas and I shall refer it to the appropriate Minister.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of several assurances which he has given, extending back to the last session of Parliament, that the Phillip fountain in Chifley Square, for which the Commonwealth Government made a sizeable grant, would be operating shortly, why is the fountain still not operating? Can we continue to accept the credibility of the Lord Mayor of Sydney in the light of these unfulfilled assurances?
– lt is true that during the last session 1 was able to provide information for the honourable senator about the delays in relation to the contractual arrangement entered into by the Council of the City of Sydney. The delays were related mainly to the materials used in the construction of the fountain. An industrial dispute in Sydney involving builders’ labourers also meant that there were further delays in the completion of the fountain. My previous reply was to the effect that the fountain should be completed within 4 or 5 weeks of the settling of the industrial dispute. I recollect reading recently a Press report which stated that the fountain had been completed. However, before I could say definitely when the fountain was, or will be, completed, or when it will be put into operation, 1 would need to make further inquiries of the Council of the City of
Sydney, and when 1 have received a reply to those inquiries I will let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the increased marketing activity in the South Pacific and the opening of a Sydney office of LAN, the Chilean international airline? Although the closest this airline comes to Australia is Tahiti, does this increased activity have any significance regarding the completion of the Southern hemisphere circuit? If so, can the Minister say whether Qantas Airways Ltd has given consideration to seeking a greater quantity of Southern Hemisphere and South American business and to extending the range of trade, tourist and general business opportunities in this continent?
– I am aware of the interest in South Pacific flying and the possibility that this will generate a Southern Hemisphere traffic pattern. Most international Hying drops down and then goes up to the Northern Hemisphere pattern and there is considerable importance through time in the development of a Southern Hemisphere pattern. I am aware of the interest of LAN of Chile in this and I know that that company’s present flying terminates in Tahiti. I should say to the Senate that one of Australia’s great aviation pioneers. Captain Sir Gordon Taylor, was one of the men who pioneered this route and I think was the first man to land on Easter Island. So for a long time Australia has been looking at this route and has been exploring the possibilities. Qantas is interested and is examining the situation. The honourable senator may be quite sure that any opportunity for increasing traffic to and from South America when it becomes commercially viable will certainly be investigated.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health is supplementary to and more detailed than the one asked by Senator Lawrie a few moments ago. In addition to the precautions mentioned by the Minister in relation to airline passengers, can she inform the Parliament what protective measures are being taken against having cholera introduced into Australia by illegal migrants coming in along the thousands of miles of unguarded northern coastline? Also can she advise whether vaccines are readily available, and if so in sufficient quantity, to immunise the whole of the Australian public if an outbreak of cholera should occur in this country?
– I shall certainly get the details concerning the last part of the question in which the honourable senator asked whether adequate vaccine was available if an outbreak of cholera should occur. I am aware that people have injections if they go overseas and protect themselves in this way. But the honourable senator has raised also the question of illegal entry into Australia along our vast coastline. This is always a concern in a country such as this, and it is a matter which is watched very carefully.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the eye disease trachoma been removed from the list of notifiable diseases? If so, why?
– I am unable to inform the honourable senator whether trachoma has been removed from the list of notifiable diseases, but I shall certainly ask my colleague the Minister for Health to advise me on this. If I am able to supply further information on its removal from the list - if such is the case - I shall advise the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Housing. I understand that the Commonwealth Government has approved several building schemes submitted by the States for the construction of dwellings for single age pensioners. I ask: How many schemes have been submitted by each State and approved? How many single age pensioners will be accommodated in each State? When will construction commence on these dwellings? When are these dwellings expected to be occupied? What rentals will be charged? Is the Government aware of the number of qualified single age pensioners requiring such housing? If not, will it take steps to ascertain this information?
– The honourable senator has asked question concerning the legislation which was brought in with the Budget last year and in which the Government, realising and appreciating the great need there is for housing for single age pensioners, made available $25m to be paid to the States over the next 5 years. This, of course, is a grant to the States. As the honourable senator will appreciate, this scheme is only in its commencement. As I stated last night, this year the Government expects to pay to the States $5.7m for this purpose. The story is a very interesting one. The overall position to date is that 49 building schemes - the total submitted by the States - have been approved for the purposes of the Act. These 49 schemes will provide a total of 801 single aged pensioner units and on current estimates should attract grants amounting to $4,436,514. I think the progress in each State up to the moment would interest the honourable senator. As the details are set out in a lengthy list I think it would be better if I had them incorporated in Hansard. I will give the honourable senator a collective figure for each State.
In New South Wales 22 schemes have been approved. These will provide 261 units. In Victoria approval has been given for 9 schemes which will provide 316 units. Queensland has submitted to me the proposed areas in which it plans to have these units built but it has not as yet submitted the details for approval. In South Australia 8 schemes comprising 100 single units have been approved. In Western Australia approval has been given to 9 schemes to provide 104 single units. In Tasmania approval has been given to 1 scheme which will provide 20 single units. I had the pleasure of opening that scheme and seeing some of the people who are going to enjoy the units. I think the honourable senator asked what rental was going to be paid by these eligible single pensioners. It will be between S2 and S3. 20. Last night Senator Hendrickson asked me where these places were in Victoria. As Senator Brown is a Victorian I shall give the names in Victoria and ask leave to include the others in Hansard. The places where approval has been given in Victoria are Brunswick, Preston, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Mornington, Geelong, Numurkah, Warracknabeal and Warrnambool. These will total 316 units. This scheme is only in its first year and we look forward to an increasing number of units as the amounts of money are paid. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard the lists of building units for the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it ls a fact that the 1949 Commonwealth Rail Standardisation Agreement to which the Commonwealth Government was a party undertook to convert the Adelaide to Port Pirie railway system and also the northern part of the South Australian railway system to standard gauge and. in fact, this meant an obligation upon the Commonwealth to do this work? Is it also a fact that 3 governments of South Australia - that is the Hall Government, the Walsh Government and the Dunstan Government - have put before the appropriate Commonwealth Minister a proposal from the South Australian Railways Commissioner which meant that certain northern parts of the railway system should be converted? If this is the position why is the Minister and the Government now refusing to undertake conversion work except for the Adelaide to Port Pirie connection?
– 1 am in no position to recall the events of 1949 in this or any other parliament. All I can say to the honourable senator is that I shall direct his question to the Minister and ask him how he reconciles the honourable senators comment with the situation as it now is.
– My question is directed to the Minister, for Civil Aviation. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday that he cannot give an undertaking that the curfew at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport will be retained, I ask: Is pressure still being applied by the international airline operators and by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to have the curfew on all jet night flying operations at the airport lifted? Further, did the Minister state on 3rd July last that he ought to have available in the near future the inter-departmental committee’s report on the siting of a second major airport for Sydney? Has the Minister yet received this report? If not, when does he now expect to receive it? When he does receive it will he make a statement on the subject in Parliament?
– It is not easy to take down a detailed question which is divided into various sections. First of all, I have not had from international air operators or from Ansett Transport Industries Ltd or anybody else any request to lift the curfew at Mascot Airport. Applications have been made from time to time for aircraft to fly between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. As I have said previously, these applications are examined carefully and approved by the Department or by me if we feel that the requested operation is necessary. Sometimes applications are approved by the Airport manager. This is done with applications made late in the evening when it is necessary to get aircraft moving at times close to the curfew hours and technical or adjustment problems have been experienced. I know of no proposal to change that pattern, although I know that people have tried to read into the situation statements that have never been made. 1 did say that an interdepartmental committee’s report on the airport needs of Sydney, both at the present site and at any other future site, would be available fairly soon. I expect to receive that report within the next week or so, according to information T received this morning. When I do receive it my first course of action will be to talk to the State Government about it, as I have promised to do. When that has been done a statement may be expected.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Statistician is currently undertaking a detailed study of the feasibility of establishing sufficient comparability between State industrial accident statistics so that the national situation may be more accurately assessed? If so, can the Minister indicate the progress of such study and whether the report when completed will be made known to the Parliament before it is implemented? Can the Minister state why at this advanced stage in industrial regulation it is only now that we find that Australia-wide information in relation to industrial accidents is inaccurate for statistical purposes.
– The last part of the question would imply that Australia is lacking in legislation appropriate for the reduction of industrial accidents. I would have thought that our legislation had shown marked improvement over the last decade or two. What the honourable senator specifically asks for concerns a matter of statistics. It requires an accurate answer and if the honourable senator will put his question on the notice paper I shall see that such an answer is obtained.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I refer to the reasons for refusing to allow Mr Gregory to enter Australia. I ask: Is Mr Gregory the only person who has been refused entry? Is it not a fact that a Baptist minister has also been refused entry? Are the reasons for the refusal the same in both cases and are the Government’s attempts to justify its actions also the same?
– I have replied, on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Immigration, concerning Mr Gregory. The honourable senator asks another question and refers to a Baptist minister. I have no knowledge of the person to whom he is referring and nor can I give him any information about the matter.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Housing. Does the Minister recall issuing, on 16th July this year, a Press statement headed ‘Home Building Prospects Likely to Improve’ which contained this sentence: ‘In the past 6 months signs were appearing that home buildings were more than sufficient to meet demand in one or two regions’? Where were the one or two regions in which home buildings appeared to have been more than sufficient to meet the demand?
– There were signs at the beginning of 1970 of some overbuilding in some areas.
– These were in the States of Western Australia and New South Wales.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. What has happened to the intention of the Government, stated some 18 months ago, to establish a bureau of criminology for the purposes of, among other things, the prevention of crime, corrective treatment of prisoners and aftercare and rehabilitation of prisoners?
– I am not possessed of information as to the stage which that project has reached, but I shall obtain the information from the Attorney-General and communicate with the honourable senator.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise whether there is to be a further change in Government rural policy following the Prime Minister’s plea at the recent Tenth Asian Regional Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, in which he called upon Australians to help close the world food gap between the hungry and the satisfied? Does this mean that Australia will be encouraged to increase production and to send more food, including wheat, to help solve the world food problem? Also, will the Government plan to reduce the wheat acreage planted by Australian farmers now be amended or scrapped?
Senator Sh KENNETH ANDERSONThe honourable senator poses 2 questions which, on the face of them and the way he presents them, would suggest that 2 things are moving in opposite directions. I do not think that is so. Everybody knows of the problem in the wheat industry. It is a world problem and is related to the international wheat agreement. That is a separate matter. As to a change of our rural policy in relation to what we do for other countries - notably the less developed countries - I merely repeat what I said here a few days ago: In terms of our capacity, our population and our heritage, Australia is probably one of the most significant countries in the world in giving help to less developed countries. We have special tariff provisions to help them. All in all, our aid to other countries is significant. Having regard to our population, our history and our economic strength, we in Australia do a very significant job. I do not believe that in what the Prime Minister said, which was commendable, there is any suggestion or implication of any change in our rural policy. Maybe a question of emphasis comes into it, but I would not suggest that it implies any basic change in our rural policy.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, follows one that Senator Buttfield asked 2 days ago. A brochure has now been distributed by the Postmaster-General, advising that mail posted prior to 6.10 a.m. at the Parliament House Post Office as priority paid mail will be delivered into private boxes in Perth by. 2.15 p.m. the same day. I posted a letter priority paid at 9.30 p.m. on 25th August and it was not delivered in Perth until 9 a.m. on 27th August, which is 19 hours late.
– And you paid the extra fee.
– Yes. Will the Postmaster-General ensure that priority paid mail, which carries a heavy surcharge, is delivered as stated in Perth?
– I note the point raised by the honourable senator. 1 thought that it was a very good information kit that was distributed by the Postmaster-General. It contained a lot of information. I thought that it answered many of the questions that I might be asked in the Senate; but apparently it has not answered them all. 1 certainly will take up the point raised by the honourable senator and draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to it. If the honourable senator has the envelope with the stamps on it and if he will let me have it, I shall see that it goes to the Postmaster-General because I think it could be helpful.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Will the Minister advise the Parliament whether a detailed survey of water resources required by the Aboriginals of the Wave Hill area for both rural and domestic use has ever been carried out? If the answer is in the affirmative, will the Minister undertake to make available to the Parliament a report of the survey?
– I shall direct that question regarding the possible water resources of the Wave Hill area to the Minister for the Interior and get an answer for the honourable senator.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Supply I remind him that on 19th August I asked him a question about a report that executives of the McDonnell-Douglas aircraft company, manufacturers of the Phantom aircraft, had met certain Australian officials in Washington and had discussed the question of the manufacture of Phantom aircraft or offset orders within Australia. Has the Minister any further information in connection with that report?
– lt is true that on 19th August the honourable senator asked me a question about Phantom aircraft and I undertook to get further information for him. Honourable senators will be aware from my previous reply that Australia is making it clear to major suppliers that in future it will be looking for co-production, offset orders or sub-contracting arrangements before entering into commitments involving important equipment procured from overseas. Discussions to this end have taken place with McDonnell-Douglas. The company is the manufacturer of both civil and military aircraft that doubtless enter into consideration by Australia. We are anxious to make our attitude clear to McDonnellDouglas and to the other overseas companies and to have them become aware of our wide range of defence production capacities. The Secretary of my Department and the Controller of Aircraft Guided Weapons and Electronic Supply expect to be overseas later this month and to include McDonnell-Douglas in their itinerary. It is hoped that this will be followed by an early visit of McDonnellDouglas executives to Australia to see our nation and to obtain first-hand information on its capabilities and capacities.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Does the refusal to grant entertainer Dick Gregory a permit to visit Australia due to the belief that he may speak at a Vietnam moratorium meeting indicate that Australians are permitted to hear only the views on the Vietnam war approved by the Government?
– The first question asked today concerned the entertainer referred to by Senator Cavanagh and was directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. It covered the matters in the question now asked by the honourable senator and I do not think there is any need for me to give a further answer.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health give me any information on the concern of the residents of Ballina at the cessation of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia facilities in that town?
– I read some time ago a Press article setting out clearly the honourable senator’s concern about this matter. I have gone to some lengths to obtain quite a lot of information for him. It may interest him to recall that the report of the Nimmo Committee commented on the fact that the larger open funds in New South Wales and Victoria had appreciably higher expense rates than some other funds. It considered that one of the factors contributing to the high expense rates was the establishment of branch offices and cash payment centres in areas already well serviced by other funds. The Nimmo Committee expressed the opinion that the elimination of duplicated servicing of a wasteful nature would considerably strengthen the scheme. The Senate Select Committee on Hospital and Medical Costs also recommended that the numbers of branch offices conducted by registered organisations should be limited to reasonable economic levels related to the total number of each organisation’s contributors and regional distribution.
It appears that the registered organisations studied the reports to which I have referred and have taken note of the comments on branch offices. It seems that they are taking positive measures to reduce their high expenses by reducing the number of branches. I also noted in the comments reported to have been made by Senator Mulvihill his view that the massive reserves held by the funds should enable maximum country town service facilities to be maintained. In reply to that point I advise him that the main issue in this matter is the cost of maintaining local fund offices for the collection of contributions and payment of claims and the effect of such costs on overall operational expenses of the funds. Where practical experience shows that the continued operation of a local branch is unwarranted - that is, that the volume of business does not justify retention of the local service facilities - it seems reasonable for the fund to discontinue the service. The Government has made clear to the funds its desire that their management expenses be kept as low as possible in the interests of contributors, and to the extent that reserves are in excess of reasonable requirements it is the Government’s intention that the excess should be used to provide lower contribution rates or higher benefits as the need arises without increasing contribution rates. Efficiency and economy in the operations of funds will thus be reflected in their contribution rates.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. As Dick Gregory claims that he desires to visit Australia for sight-seeing and as an entry permit has been refused in the belief that he desires to speak at a Vietnam Moratorium meeting, will he be granted an entry permit if he gives an assurance that he will not engage in Vietnam Moratorium activities? If not, is the refusal of an entry permit based on the person rather than on the person’s activities?
– I have already replied to similar questions and have nothing to add. If my memory serves me correctly, there is also a question on the notice paper relating to this matter.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation received a further request from the internal airlines for an increase in air fares, having regard to the fact that an increase was granted to both Ansett Airlines of Australia and TransAustralia Airlines within the past 4 or 5 weeks? If he has received such a request will he make a statement in the Senate after he has decided that the increase will be allowed? I ask that question because I believe that the Senate is entitled to a statement so that if honourable senators desire to do so they can at least put their point of view.
– There is before the Department at present a request for an increase in air fares consequent upon the increase in fuel tax provided for in the Budget. This is being considered.
– You had better wait to see whether the Budget gets through.
– That is a point but I do not think things will happen in that way.
– Has the Government an arrangement with the DLP?
– I am answering a question by Senator Kennelly, and as I have great respect for him I should like to be able to answer it without interruption, if the facts that I receive in regard to this matter seem to me to be facts which it would be useful to incorporate in a statement, I will consider that aspect. Equally, if they seem to me to be facts which can be passed on to the honourable senator by letter 1 will see (hat he receives such a letter. In any case it is too early for me to say now whether the matter is large enough in content to call for a statement or a letter.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to an announcement made on Australian Broadcasting Commission radio today by a spokesman of the Swiss Red Cross, which is supervising the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, in which he strongly criticised both the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese military authorities for their disregard of the Geneva Convention and their failure to observe the rights and entitlements of prisoners of war. As adherence to the Geneva Convention is one of the last remnants of sanity in the barbarism of modern warfare, will the Minister reaffirm Australia’s previously declared observance of the terms of the Convention and condemn the non-adherence of other countries to the terms of the Convention?
I suppose it would be true to say that Senator O’Byrne, Senator Branson and I probably have more feelings about the Geneva Convention than anybody else in this chamber because we went through a period of our lives as prisoners of war. The significance and importance of the Geneva Convention is. to my knowledge, something of which all countries - all countries in the free world, al any rate - are aware. I do not think that I should enlarge at question time on this matter. It is my belief that Australia subscribes to the Convention absolutely but 1 am only going on my personal knowledge, f would prefer a statement by the Minister for External Affairs to be put down in this place. 1 can understand Senator O’Byrne’s personal interest in and concern about this matter because we both experienced a period of time when, I regret to say, the Convention was honoured in the breach. It was only very late in the war that it was applied.
– I desire lo ask a further question of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration concerning the subject I raised earlier. When I asked the Minister whether Dick Gregory would be given a permit lo enter Australia if he gave certain assurances the Minister replied that she had already answered this question. I ask: When did the Minister answer this question? What was the answer?
– I believed that the first reply I gave this afternoon to a question asked by Senator Murphy answered entirely the other questions which have been asked by honourable senators on this subject. If the honourable senator does not feel (hat his question has been properly answered, 1 shall be pleased to place it before the Minister for Immigration in order to obtain a reply. I thought I had answered in my first reply the further questions which have been raised on this subject. J will place the honourable senator’s question before the Minister for immigration.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Will the Minister note that most honourable senators are more interested in fighting the cause of bona fide migrants who are trying to enter this country in order to embark on a new life than in fighting the cause of political agitators who want to come here to start political bushfires, including some who are prepared to stand up to their principles only on an expense account of Si, 000 a day?
– I have noted the points which have been very adequately expressed by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Does the Minister recall a matter which I raised at question time during the last session of the Parliament on behalf of Slovene migrants who had complained that erratic doctors in Zagreb who were supposed to examine migrants from other areas had tended to force intending migrants to stay overnight and incur extra expense? If so, has the Minister been able to obtain a report from the Australian Embassy in Yugoslavia on the methods which have been practised?
– I remember well the question which was asked by Senator Mulvihill. If I recall it correctly, the honourable senator was particularly concerned because of the distance which people had to travel for a medical examination. I do not have any further information for the honourable senator, but I shall certainly take the matter up with my colleague and obtain what information he has on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. I ask this question in view of the question which was just asked by Senator McManus concerning the fact that most honourable senators were prepared to fight for migrants coming to Australia and the remarks which were made earlier about the disallowance of a visa to an American citizen.
– Order! What is this in relation to, Senator O’Byrne?
- Mr President, 1 would like to ask the Minister whether she has seen a copy of today’s Melbourne Age’ which states that 4,000 aged people in Victoria are on the waiting list for admittance to homes and hospitals for the aged; that many of them will have to wait up to 5 years before they are admitted, and that in some cases the waiting period exceeds their life expectancy. Have representations about this matter been made to the Minister by Senator McManus? What information has she as to whether such a condition exists not only in Victoria but also in the other States? What does the Government intend to do about the problem?
– I did see the article to which the honourable senator referred. As I recall it, the homes that are discussed in the article are private homes over which the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction. I remind the honourable senator that this Government has always been most concerned about the care of and housing for the aged. As the honourable senator will recall, as part of the social service legislation the Aged Persons Homes Act provides a $2 for $1 subsidy to church and charitable bodies wishing to care for aged people. In the financial year 1969-70 a sum of $12,700,000 was paid out under that Act throughout Australia. An expansion of that amount is expected in 1970-71.
Earlier this afternoon, in answer to a question asked by Senator Brown, I had much pleasure in explaining how the Government is assisting eligible single age pensioners to obtain single units. A grant made available under the Budget last year provided for the expenditure of $25m over 5 years. I have had incorporated in Hansard a list of the areas in which approvals have been given. I believe that these grants will give great assistance. I appreciate the point raised by the honourable senator. It is always of great concern to us that aged persons, whether they be active and able to care for themselves or whether they be ill, as commented in the article, should not be able to get the accommodation which they need. This Government and the State governments are continuing to work towards assisting them.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, follows upon the question asked of him by Senator McManus earlier today in relation to Commonwealth meat inspectors. Does the Minister recall that I first raised this matter in the Senate during the last sessional period, when I was told by him that the employment conditions of Commonwealth meat inspectors were being reviewed? Can the Minister say when the Commonwealth Meat Inspectors Association first applied for a review of wages and working conditions of its members and how long it took the Commonwealth Public Service Board to consider the application? How many additional Commonwealth meat inspectors have been appointed, disregarding those who have been brought temporarily from New Zealand, since salaries for Commonwealth meat inspectors were uplifted? Finally, can he say what is the standard of training of New Zealand meat inspectors as compared with the standard of training undertaken by Commonwealth meat inspectors?
– I well recall that in the last sessional period the honourable senator asked me a question about meat inspectors and about conditions prevailing within the industry. 1 have not all the answers to his question because 1 do not know when the Public Service Board agreed to the payment of increased salaries. I will check that. The information I have is that the number of permanent positions has been increased from 615 to 1,100. Also 100 temporary positions have been created.
– That is not the question I asked. 1 asked about the filling of positions.
– 1 will have to check that. Those are the figures that I have. What the honourable senator has raised is important, but the lamb killing season is in full swing at present. If a farmer wants to get the top price for his lambs he has to sell them at the right time. If through a shortage of meat inspectors he is unable to have his lambs killed, they lose their bloom and prices drop accordingly. In some cases already this year prices have dropped to half of what should have been obtained.
– Did the Minister say half?
– Yes, 1 said ‘half.
– ls that why the Government intends to bring meat inspectors from New Zealand?
– That is why the Government has gone out of its way to bring these temporary inspectors from New Zealand. But I shall have a look at the question which the honourable senator has asked, take it up with the Minister for Primary Industry and get a reply for the honourable senator.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by saying that I am appalled when I think of the position in which the Government is placing Australia by adopting its present attitude to the application for a visa by a certain person. I ask him: Does he think that the Government is enhancing Australia’s prestige by stopping one person from coming here, irrespective of whether this person wants to speak at a meeting which is being held to protest against the declared policy of the Government and which has the support, one may say from the votes cast in the last general election, of practically half the population of Australia.
– The very first question today was a question directed by the Leader of the Opposition to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. She gave an answer which was based upon information she had obtained from the Minister for Immigration. Five or six attempts have been made to move into a certain area for the purpose of debating this issue at question time. I have tremendous respect for the honourable senator who asked the question, but the facts of life are that an answer has been given by the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I can add nothing to it, nor do 1 wish to do so. If honourable senators have any other questions in relation to this matter, I suggest that they put them on notice and Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin can refer them to the Minister for Immigration, lt is not within the province of the 5 Ministers in the Senate, who represent 26 portfolios in this chamber, to give views on matters of policy in the name of other Ministers. Every honourable senator knows that and we have to adjust ourselves to it.
(Question No. 532) Senator MULVIHILL asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has formulated the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 546) Senator KEEFFE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Did the Pharmacy Guild of Australia invite the Minister to meet the Federal Council of the Guild on ISth July 1970? If so, did the meeting take place, and what decisions were reached.
I was invited by the Federal President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Sir Eric Scott, to address the Guild’s Federal Council on 15th July 1970 about the dispensing fees paid by the Commonwealth to chemists for dispensing pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions. I informed Sir Eric Scott that I had put the Guild’s recent application for an increase in National Health dispensing fees before the Government (as I had undertaken at a recent meeting with him to do at the earliest opportunity) and the matter had not yet been considered by the Government. As he would understand, it would not be proper for me to discuss the matter while it was before the Government for its consideration. I said I regretted that, in these circumstances, I would be unable to accept the invitation on this occasion but I also made it clear that I would be pleased to meet the Guild’s Federal Council, if it then desired this, as soon as it was mutually convenient to do so after the Government had made its decision on the subject.
(Question No. 574) Senator MILLINER asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
As re-arrangements for receipt of passenger luggage and seat allocation for travel on TransAustralia Airlines planes from Brisbane Airport have had to be instituted, in order to overcome congestion, when will the igloo-type passenger lounge at Brisbane Airport be replaced by more modem terminal facilities?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
With the advent of the noise exposure forecast technique which better defines aircraft noise nuisance in the vicinity of airports and with the release of some detailed information on the Serpentine scheme to the east and north-east of Brisbane Airport it has proved necessary to completely revise the master plan for that airport. This is a multi-million dollar project in the long term and the revision is unavoidably time consuming. However arrangements have been made to create a special study group to look after this project and immediately more precise information is available I would like to take the opportunity of advising all concerned.
(Question No. 280) Senator MURPHY asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
In what cases, in the High Court of Australia in the last 10 years, has the Commonwealth other than pursuant to the order of the Court paid or contributed to the costs of any litigant who was not an agent or instrumentality of the Commonwealth?
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth has paid or contributed to the costs of a number of litigants in the High Court who were not agents or instrumentalities of the Commonwealth. I do not think I should furnish for publication the names of the persons who were assisted as this would disclose their financial standing. I have had prepared a list of the persons who were assisted and I will be happy to supply a copy of the list to the honourable senator for his information if he so desires
(Question No. 467)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Has the Attorney-General’s Department, or the Commonwealth Police Force, been approached by the Department of Customs and Excise for advice and assistance to enforce the laws against illegal import and export of birds, or has the AttorneyGeneral’s Department taken action itself?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Officers of my Department have, as the occasion required, given advice and assistance to the Department of Customs and Excise in such cases. My officers have conducted prosecutions in cases where there was sufficient evidence, to warrant proceedings. The Commonwealth Police Force has taken normal police action in cases that have come under its notice.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Bill 1970.
Book Bounty Bill 1970.
During the autumn sittings, on 12th May 1970, the Leader of the Opposition asked me what steps are being taken to protect Australia’s interests in relation to telecommunication and air navigation satellites following the cessation of the programme of the European Launcher Development Organisation at Woomera. He also asked what is being done to see whether we can provide inducements to retain the community of experts in the field of satel lite communications. At that time I indicated that I wished to reply fully to these questions.
I will be making a separate statement for the information of the Senate on the recent meeting of Ministers of the European Space Conference in Brussels. I should explain here that the transfer of ELDO launchings from Woomera to French Guiana will not mean the end of our association with Europe in this field.
To answer the honourable senator on the protection of Australia’s interest in satellite communications, it should be noted that our main technological benefit in this area has not arisen through ELDO, but through our collaboration with NASA. This is a question which also concerns the Postmaster-General, but I will just mention that the NASA ATS-1 satellite has been used by Australians over the recent past to conduct experiments in communication from Cooby Creek and while the Cooby Creek facilities have now been closed down, this type of technological pursuit may well be continued in the future by joint United States-Australian experiments with the more advanced satellites ATS-F and ATS-G planned to be launched in 1974 and 1976.
Of course, Australia’s limited resources do not permit an independent launcher programme. However, as a member of the International Telecommunications Satellite Corporation - INTELSAT - we have committed our resources heavily to the INTELSAT project for overseas communications, both in the space sector and in ground stations at Moree. Ceduna and Carnarvon. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Aust.) and broadcasting and television authorities are already using satellite communications, while the Australian Post Office has used the INTELSAT system for telephone communications between Sydney and Perth. But. in parallel with our interest in international communications we, like Europe, have a real interest in a domestic system of communication particularly to serve our outback communities. The Post Office is studying the possibility of a national satellite system.
The technology of satellite communication is well established and is constantly being improved. In some circumstances it is already competitive with conventional services where these exist, and again in some cases it can provide services to inaccessible areas more economically than conventional systems.
As an example, I can quote the improvement, which has taken place in only 5 years, in the INTELSAT series of satellites. Starting with INTELSAT I which had 240 telephone circuits and an expected life of li years, we have progressed to INTELSAT IV which can handle 5,000 circuits and has an expected life of 7 years. Further improvements will undoubtedly follow and, as Dr Paine of NASA has recently predicted, communication satellites will include such functions as data relays and computer controlled message switching.
With regard to the honourable senator’s question on air navigation, I would point out that we have not, through our association with ELDO, considered geostationary satellites other than for communications and television purposes. The honourable senator may be aware of the interest being shown by the European Space Research Organisation in a satellite navigation system for ships and air traffic in the North Atlantic, where congestion is becoming a cause for alarm. A feasibility study has been commenced by this organisation in collaboration with NASA who are expected to place the satellites - the preferred system comprises two geostationary satellites - into their planned positions over the equatorial region of the Atlantic. Australia is not a member of ESRO and, as such, has not participated directly in the ESRO study. The Departments of Civil Aviation, Shipping and Transport and National Development, and the RAAF and the Navy are all interested in use of satellites for navigation.
The honourable senator’s last question was directed to ascertaining the steps we are taking to preserve the expertise at Woomera after the close down of the ELDO facilities.
There will be no loss of expertise in the fields I have covered as a result of the ELDO closedown. The ELDO programme has not been the only source of work for people engaged in scientific, technical and skilled tasks at Woomera and Salisbury. Even for those who were employed mainly on work related to ELDO, such as provision and operation of launch site facilities, the wide range of remaining tasks will ensure that they can be employed in other areas.
Australia will be associated at Woomera with the British national space programme which involves the continued development of Black Arrow. This vehicle is designed to insert small payloads into close earth orbit over the poles. Association with this programme will maintain expertise in multistage vehicles and give us immediate access to the satellite technology developed in the United Kingdom.
On the defence side - and now I speak also on behalf of the Minister for Defence - we have not been slow to appreciate the opportunites for good communications which the new space technology offers. However, it is as well to remember that a satisfactory defence system must operate not only during peace, when it is not likely to be interfered with by man, but also during war, when we must expect the enemy will attempt to disrupt our communications. This aspect poses special problems that do not arise in the civil field, and calls for special studies which are being undertaken. My Department and the Department of Defence are maintaining close contact with developments in the United States of America and the United Kingdom so as to be in the best position to judge which approach will eventually best suit Australia’s growing needs.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Arc notices of motion numbers 1 and 2. Government Business, formal or informal?
Development of the Port of Darwin
– I move:
That the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Development of the Port of Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal includes construction of a small ship facility at Frances Bay, the East Arm bulk port, a general cargo berth at Fort Hill west, and associated railway and road works. The estimated cost of the proposed works is SI 9.03m. I table plans of the proposed works. To enable the Government to meet an established programme of design, development and construction it is necessary to ensure effective coordination of various components of the proposal. I would request the Public Works Committee’s co-operation in making it an objective to table its report during the present parliamentary session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal provides for the purchase, delivering and erection of 40 transportable houses and 1 classroom building. The houses will be erected on serviced blocks of land made available by the local authority. The classroom will be provided as an addition to the existing school. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $775,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I suggest to the Senate that this important reference to the Committee be supported. So far no matters have been referred to the committees which have been set up. Today proposals will be submitted to deal with references to the Health and Welfare Standing Committee and the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. I think there may be general support for the proposal that this matter of mentally and physically handicapped persons, their problems and assistance to them be inquired into by the Senate. I address myself to the question of whether this should be done by a standing committee or a select committee. Senator Fitzgerald will be putting forward substantial reasons why this matter should be inquired into and I do not propose to deal with them. I merely raise the question as to the vehicle of inquiry. I suggest for the consideration of the Senate that this be done by a reference to the Standing Committee. The subject in itself is an important one. It will require the assistance of staff and some attention from honourable senators who will be on the Committee, whether it be a standing committee or a select committee. We already have a number of select committees. We have the 2 standing committees and the estimates committees.
In opposition to my proposals honourable senators have sometimes suggested that we are already running short of persons to man the committees. In these circumstances I suggest it is unnecessary and unwise to establish a further special select committee to inquire into this subject. I am assuming that the Senate would want to inquire into it. It is desirable that this be done by way of the Standing Committee which has already been established. No doubt it will acquire a staff versed in this subject matter, the material, the know-how and it will arrange the assembly of experts willing to give assistance. This will all be done in connection with the standing committee in any event as this is an aspect of health. I commend to the Senate the view that if it wishes to inquire into this most important subject matter this be done by way of the reference which is proposed. Instead of dealing with substantial reasons why the inquiry should be undertaken by either of such bodies I request that Senator Fitzgerald who has long taken a special interest in this matter should address the Senate on the subject.
[4.21] - I am sure the Senate has no objection to Senator Fitzgerald’s putting his view about this matter because, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has said, Senator Fitzgerald has motions on the Notice Paper for the
Standing Committee on setting up of a select committee on the subject relating to this reference. But I want to remind the Senate of the circumstances relating to the setting up of standing committees. When the Senate decided to set up standing committees Senator Murphy gave notice of motion to establish 5 committees within the framework of the 2 standing committees that had in fact been established by resolution of the Senate. When the first motion of which notice had been give in this respect was brought on in the Senate, I spoke against the reference of the matter in question to a standing committee. At the time I indicated that the arguments I would bring forward were related not so much to the substance of that reference but to the procedures that were inherent in his proposal. Subsequent speakers on the Government side and certainly from the Australian Democratic Labor Party spoke in the same vein as I did. I said that the argument i had advanced in respect of the first notice of motion was equally applicable to the others.
Now that we have come to one of the other notices of motion I do not want to canvass all the reasons I gave as to why the Government would not support the motion for a reference to a select committee. This afternoon Senator Murphy in handling his motion was commendably brief and 1 hope to be the same. The reason why the Government objects to this reference is that it believes it is not in the image of what the Senate proposed when it set up standing committees. The Government believes that references to standing committees - as distinct from select committees which in the Government’s view conduct a far deeper, longer and broader review - were intended for 2 heads. The first one would be related to a Bill which would be before the Senate when it was believed there may be some aspect of that Bill which the Senate was not happy to go on with and take into Committee. It would refer that Bill by resolution under notice to the relevant standing committee to obtain elucidation of some aspect before the Bill reached the Committee stage and the third reading of the Bill.
The second head on which the standing committees would function would be some immediate matter of particular consequence but which would not involve a long term examination in which the committee
Health and Welfare 405 was going to move from place to place necessarily and call witnesses from industry, and other fields of endeavour. But such references would be confined to topical and eminent subjects on which honourable senators in their judgments felt they needed almost immediately some background information. That was the understanding that we had in relation to the establishment of standing committees. There may be some grey area which remains vague and it may be that we will have to draw a line to show where we should start and finish in making references. But we did believe that select committees were to be left in that restricted field and that where a long term issue was involved it would be more appropriate for it to be bandied by a select committee which takes more time and involves itself in much more detail.
At present we have a number of select committees. One of them, the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, has been in existence for about 32 months. We have other committees which have been operating for 5 or 6 months, lt was never intended that standing committees should conduct those longterm surveys. Without touching, as Senator Murphy deliberately has chosen not to touch, upon the substance of this suggested reference, it is sufficient for me to say that the Government believes this matter is one which, without reflecting on its merits or demerits, it would be more appropriate to a select committee than to a standing committee. For those reasons the Government resists the motion.
That at the end of the motion there be added: “, but the Senate is of the opinion that a Committee of the Senate should inquire into and report upon all aspects associated with the provision of assistance to handicapped children”.
That amendment was subsequently agreed to by 28 votes to 23 votes. I went on to say after moving that amendment that if the legislation was carried by the Senate I would take certain steps so as to give effect to the terms of my amendment.
There are 2 proposals on this subject on the Notice Paper under the heading of General Business. They are items 4 and 6. Although I am not sure that these proposals will overcome the concern which I and other honourable senators share with many thousands of people throughout the length and breadth of Australia who are eager to see something done for these handicapped people, it is true to say that standing committees have been set up and it is also true to say that the Labor Party has proposed certain references and that every one of those proposals has been rejected. It is my personal opinion that this very grave problem is one which can properly be referred to a standing committee of the Senate. I am asking that my amendment, which is in terms similar to an amendment of mine which was carried on 1 1th June last by 28 votes to 23 votes, will be endorsed by the Senate today, so that this will be the first matter referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, one of the committees which have been talked about so glibly and so graciously, as a matter of fact, over a long period of time. I think that every honourable senator will support my proposal for an investigation of this most grave human problem. We must undertake the task of assisting those affected, their families and the many organisations which are engaged in the work of helping the afflicted, be they adults or children. I therefore hope that the Senate will support this proposal.
I sincerely believe that a committee of this Senate with all its powers will reveal to all Australians the problems confronting the blind, the deaf and the dumb, the cerebral palsy cases, the mentally and physically handicapped, the crippled, the spastics and the quadraplegics, their needs and their requirements. These are matters which we believe, and I think the whole nation believes, ought to be investigated so that some understanding might be had of this very vital matter. There is much to be done for the autistic children, those suffering from dyslexia - those requiring speech training and speech therapy - and the mongoloids. These are matters which have been spoken about in an idle fashion over a long period of time in both Houses of this Parliament. This matter was also referred to in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs which has been referred to as the Wedgwood Report. In fact that Report said that in relation to this matter there was so much to be done but that there was so little information available. I hope that those honourable senators who were associated with that Committee will endorse the proposal before us.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) estimates that there are some 50,000 handicapped children in Australia. I emphasise that this is only an estimate. The Minister has no definite information as to the number of people in Australia who are affected. In answer to a question asked on notice in May last the Minister said:
The number of handicapped children in Australia is not known.
As we all know when a question is on notice the Minister has time to study it and obtain advice from his Department, but that was his reply. The question was No. 905 on the notice paper of the House of Representatives. It has been claimed by a reliable authority that the latest figures of the World Health Organisation show that Australia could have up to an estimated 300,000 retarded children. I wish to refer to an extract from ‘Trends in the Social Situation of Children’. In a report on children by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 8th January 1970 it was stated that there could be 300,000 mentally retarded children in Australia. Those children are divided into 3 categories: Mildly, moderately, and severely. It was further estimated that every 78 minutes a child is born in this country which falls within one of those 3 categories. I do not say that my figures are right or wrong. In fact I hope that the estimate of the Minister as to handicapped children is correct. We on this side feel that there should be some investigation undertaken by this Parliament. I recently read of a retarded sub-normal girl in a criminal centre in Sydney. How many more of these unfortunates are in similar situations? I am asking, and we on this side are asking as a Party, to try to find out the number of persons so affected. This is our purpose in seeking to have this matter referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.
On 6th August 1970 in the Sydney ‘Sun’ newspaper this article appeared:
The Commonwealth Government will take steps to improve conditions for mentally and physically handicapped people in Australia.
A confidential survey, underlining the need for better rehabilitation facilities for the handicapped, is to bc presented to Federal Cabinet.
The moves follow a call for an inquiry into the situation by Labor Senator j. F. Fitzgerald on Monday.
Senator Fitzgerald suggested setting up a Senate committee to correct the frightening lack of sufficient information on the numbers of afflicted persons hi Australia.
We should all be pleased that this information is to be sought if only by way of a confidential survey. The information is not available at the present time from the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services or the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. 1 personally requested this information from these departments prior to speaking on the second reading of the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill 1970 on 11th June this year. 1 hope that the Government will not reject our proposal simply because this confidential survey is being undertaken. The government inquiry by departments could and probably will keep the information confidential and within the confines of their own use.
I ask: Why was not such a survey made many years ago? Why did the Government wait until the Senate decided to take action? 1 repeat that on 11th June last we accepted by 28 votes to 23 the amendment that 1 read out. 1 am afraid that, if the Government intends to use this proposition as a counter to our proposal, every Australian will say that it is only a face-saving gimmick on the part of the Government and that it is not good enough. T feel that the Senate will not accept this counterproposal. A Senate committee can and will benefit from the knowledge of the government departments, as it will from that of the many organisations dealing directly with the problems in each of the States.
I can say that those organisations are delighted that such an inquiry is likely to be conducted. I have before me at the moment letters from numerous organisations stating how delighted they are that an investigation of these problems is likely to be undertaken by the Parliament. I have letters from Mr C. H. Watt, the Managing Editor of Australian Children Ltd; from the Wheelchair and Disabled Association of Australia; from Miss Jean Garside, the Executive Director of the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled; from His Grace, Archbishop Carroll; from the Australian College of Speech Therapists; from the Speech Therapy Training School at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children; from Professor L. H. Stevens. Associate Professor of Paediatrics and Chairman of the Division of Neonatal Paediatrics at the University of New South Wales; from the Autistic Children’s Association of New South Wales; and from numerous other organisations which I could go on naming for a long time. But, as I said before, this matter has been discussed at great length previously.
As a matter of fact, 1 believe that the vast majority of honourable senators will not accept the proposition that this mailer is not one that should be dealt with by this Standing Committee. The fact is that this Standing Committee has been brought into being for the purpose of dealing with problems of this nature. We believed that this was the purpose of setting up such committees. I believe that the Senate will not be hoodwinked. 1 hope thai it will allow this inquiry, if no other inquiry, by this very thorough and, I am certain, responsible Committee. In our Caucus today we elected responsible people to this Committee. I am certain that the Government, senators will do likewise in their Caucus. The Democratic Labor Party has already made an announcement that one of its members will be appointed to a committee set up to make an investigation of all aspects and problems of physically and mentally handicapped people.
When the Committee has been fully informed of all the problems and difficulties, it will bring before the Parliament and the people of Australia a repor t om lining the facts and the needs that require to be met. 1 assume that this is what the committee will do. We are all aware of the needs - and 1 mean ‘all’ because there is not a senator who is not conscious of the needs of the individual, the family and the institution, religious as well as private, in the way of medical and hospital care, educational and institutional requirements, research, guidance clinics, staff training and workshops. Therefore, I am confident that the Senate will support our proposal. In these days of great medical advancement it will be less costly for the Government to act quickly than to stand idly by and neglect to do something when there is so much to be done. I repeat that there is so much to be done. It has taken us a long time to reach the point of doing something along these lines. I appeal to the Senate today not to allow this opportunity to slip by. Let us not say: ‘Let us wait for some years before reintroducing this matter in this Parliament’. I can assure the Senate that this question is very close to and held very dear by hundreds of thousands of people who have members of their families who are affected in this way.
I do not want to belabour the matter. 1 repeat that 2 months ago we debated fully all the issues. I would like a decision to be made and a vote to be taken on the motion. It may be argued - this is certainly true - that this is not a new problem or something that has just been thrust upon us. No doubt it has existed since children were first born. But it is no credit to our nation that more has not been done, because only in more recent years has the Commonwealth Government entered into the picture in order to meet some of the many needs. But, with the advances in medical and scientific knowledge being made today, much can be done. Of course, it can be argued that the faster the rate of living - with so many accidents and such like - the worse the problem will become.
Much can be learnt from overseas countries such as Sweden and America. We are all aware of the great progress that has been made in America, particularly as a result of the efforts of the late President John F. Kennedy. As we all know, he had a sub-normal sister. He made very great progress in this field. In an address to Congress some years ago he stated that mental illness disabled 10 times as many people as diabetes, 20 times as many people as tuberculosis, 20 times as many people as muscular distrophy and 600 times as many people as infantile paralysis. He referred to that as being the position in America, but it is also the position in comparable countries. Australia, as a comparable country, would find itself in that position, although as regards to tuberculosis, of course, the figure today would be much higher than 20.
In regard to my own personal endeavours - Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson commented on this point - in 1954 he and I led a deputation to the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Menzies as he then was, on questions similar to those that were dealt with in the Bill that dealt with physically handicapped persons some 16 years later. That is why I say to the Senate: Do not let us wail another 16 years before we do these important things. We put proposals before the Prime Minister of the day at that conference in 1954. Whilst he was very sympathetic, nothing was done.
In 1964 I submitted to the Parliament a motion on the need for a national inquiry. We had a great discussion on that. Yet, whilst nobody objected, nothing was done to establish it. That was 6 years ago. A full debate took place on that motion. The present Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) took part in that debate. In 1969 I again placed a motion on the Senate notice paper, but when the Senate was prorogued because of the elections that motion went out of existence. Then on 17th June last the amendment that I have read out was carried by 28 votes to 23. Subsequently, similar motions were placed on the notice paper.
Whilst I have shown some degree of interest in this matter, other members of this Parliament have just as much desire and eagerness to see a motion of this character carried. In my view, as I have said previously, this is one of the most important matters to be dealt with by the Senate because it may help so many children already born and so many yet unborn. It is not a party political issue; it is a humane issue. I believe that future generations will judge us not by our great wealth or our great buildings, such as the Sydney Opera House, but by the way we help those who are unable to help themselves. This Committee can readily secure information and assistance from each of our States, from the many organisations which operate to help those in need and from every advanced country in the world. It may open up a new life for many handicapped persons., their dedicated families and teachers throughout the nation.
I sincerely ask honourable senators to support the motion so that the matter can be referred to the Standing Committee on which all parties in the Senate are represented. 1 believe we would be serving humanity by that move. We would help hundreds of thousands of families who, I say with all the sincerity I can muster, are looking today for assistance with their great problems. Again I repeat this nation will not be judged in the future by what we have done in the fields of manufacture and production but by what we have done to help our people in need, i ask the Senate to support the motion.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [4.46J - The Senate is indebted to Senator Fitzgerald. He has raised this very important matter for our consideration on a number of occasions. He has waged a crusade to have this matter of conspicuous importance presented for the consideration of the Senate and the attention of the Australian people. He has shown great concern for the relief of mentally and physically handicapped children. In more recent times Senator Fitzgerald has presented 2 motions to the Senate, both of which still stand on the notice paper. In each case he has asked for the appointment of an investigating committee. In one case he has asked that a Senate select committee investigate the whole question of mentally and physically handicapped children in the community.
I believe that the Senate is in complete accord with Senator Fitzgerald as to the importance of the subject and the need for early investigation and governmental and national attention. The only area of dispute between the honourable senator and some members of the Senate is as to a better method by which that end could be accomplished. In more recent days we have provided for the establishment of a series of standing committees and have actually established 2 of them. One of those committees might be considered to be an appropriate vehicle for the carriage of such an investigation, but that is the area of dispute.
Already this matter has been canvassed on the first motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). The general principles were discussed and on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party I expressed the feelings of the Party as to the principles that should be applied in the operation of the standing committees and as to the nature of the references that should be made to them. In broad outline, as I recall, those principles expressed that matters of very great proportion and area of investigation which would involve protracted inquiries may not be suitable, and probably would not be suitable, for a standing committee which, by the very nature of its constitution, seems more particularly adapted to specific references in a narrow field with the consequence of being able to present a report on a limited area of investigation and to report promptly for the on-going business of the Senate. lt is obvious that the project espoused by Senator Fitzgerald is worth while, but it does not appear to me to be a matter of investigation that would fall within the compass of those committees, worthy and all as the project is. I strike a note of caution, more particularly since the circulation of the paper by the Clerk of the Senate as to the proposed mode of operation of various committees. The Standing Orders Committee will have what we might call designated members’, but all senators may participate in its discussions. A designated member will be a voting member, as I understand it.
If a matter of this proportion were referred to that Committee and went over a period, one can imagine that there could he 2 consequences. One consequence could be that while the major investigation was proceeding at great length and with great particularity, a number of intermediate references could come from the Senate to the Committee on ad hoc matters requiring immediate investigation and quick report. That would immediately put the major investigation down the line until almost inevitably there would be a series of interruptions, continuity of investigation would be lost, and continuity of interest in honourable senators would be destroyed. If this continued over a period, there would be a constant appearing and disappearing of members of the Committee. It seems to me that it would completely destroy the effectiveness of the investigation to obtain the type of information which it is necessary for such a committee to obtain.
For the reasons I have stated I do not feel that our Party can support this proposition. We have already indicated our interest in the project. On 2 occasions we have shown our hearty support for the proposal that a select committee of the Senate should be appointed to investigate this matter. We have stated that we would be prepared to serve on it. On the last occasion this matter was discussed Senator Little spoke for our Party and indicated that it had our warm support. In very emotional terms, apparently because he has had some particular acquaintance with this type of disability, the honourable senator indicated that he would be our nominee for the committee.
The importance of this matter rests in human and economic terms. It is the aim of all parties in this Parliament to enrich our society. We set our faces strongly against the economic disentitlement of anybody who is not able to participate in an enriched society. Disentitlement to participate could well arise from intellectual inhibitions, or physical or other deprivations. It is therefore our role to make sure that every person is put in a position, despite economic or physical handicaps, where he or she will be given the maximum opportunity to participate in the society which we are continuously attempting to enrich. After all, if every human unit is not used to the full extent of intellectual and physical capacity, the opportunities to enrich that very society will themselves be limited.
On all grounds and for all reasons, the object we are discussing is a most worthy one. I disagree with Senator Fitzgerald only as to the method by which he is pursuing it. Therefore I find that our Party cannot support the motion to refer this matter to the Standing Committee.
– Did you say that that is the view of your Party as well as your own?
– Yes. Our Party is prepared to support the establishment of a select committee and we are prepared to serve on it. Even with our limited numbers and with the knowledge of the strain it would put on our physical resources in serving on a multitude of committees, we are prepared to serve on such a committee. Therefore at the appropriate time we would be prepared to facilitate a proposition for a select committee. If that comes forward, the honourable senator can be assured of our support. We think that that would be the most fruitful manner in which this question could be pursued and concluded. I indicate that we are unable to support the proposed reference to the Standing Committee.
– I rise to take some note of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in introducing his motion. He said that his motion concerns an important matter. That is not a criterion in qualifying the matter for reference to a standing committee. He said that it would require staff. Every committee requires staff and relies on that staff in very great degree. The honourable senator said that it would require the attention of senators. I would hope that it would nol be implied that senators would not give earnest attention to any type of committee. Having said that, I wish to say that I feel very much persuaded by the observations by Senator Byrne that we ought to try, now that we are in the preliminary stages of experimentation with standing committees, to see just what is the line of thought as to the selection of matters for reference to a standing committee.
I do not think any honourable senator is unsympathetic with the objectives of an inquiry such as that which has been proposed. But the inquiry would take us into consideration of all problems affecting mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia. It would take us into a consideration of providing assistance for mentally and physically handicapped people in Australia. That would obviously need an examination of the present criteria in respect of invalid pensions, handicapped persons, and sheltered workshops. I suggest, in view of the terms of the motion, that probably it would include the whole area of workers compensation. Then it would include all of the questions relating to the mentally ill.
It is apparent, therefore, that there are 2 wide fields of inquiry. If we were to refer a matter of that kind to a standing committee I would think that the committee would have time for no other work for at least 12 months. I believe that the subjects that we should refer to a standing committee are subjects which arise upon amendments to legislation or out of an administrative decision on a particular matter. We should avoid general references which will overburden a standing committee and prevent it discharging its function which is to complete an examination of a particular question and to report back promptly to the Senate. By that means it will discharge a function which is not in the slightest degree capable of being absorbed in continuing inquiry. Instead it will get to a conclusion as readily as may be.
I have listened to Senator Fitzgerald’s reference to the ambit of this motion. I think he demonstrates that it is spoiled only by an attempt to use the wrong vehicle to get a Senate inquiry. I say that because Senator Byrne, speaking for the Australian Democratic Labor Party, has again affirmed that that Party would support a proposal for a select committee. I am not raising a word against that method of procedure nor am I raising a word to gainsay the appropriateness of a decision of the Senate to set up a select committee on the subject. For myself I say only that I prefer the view, even with a select committee, that the ambit of inquiry should be limited so that the real objective shall be reached when the select committee reports. Physically and mentally handicapped children should have their problems examined. I believe that we should leave the adult aspect out of consideration. I submit that we would have there sufficient scope even for a select committee.
Now that Senator Murphy has returned to the chamber let me say that I really believe that on both sides of the chamber there is a great hope that the 3 tier system of committees that we have set up in the Senate will work. I think that every one of us feels a great deal of satisfaction at the work that has been done by select committees since they began to operate more frequently and efficiently over the past 2 or 3 years. In this regard I never cease to take the opportunity to recall the name of Senator Laught who did most painstaking work as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of
Weights and Measures. I remind honourable senators of the great contribution that was made by the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs.
Do not let us prevent the standing committees reaching an effective decision by giving them a subject which, of its nature, requires a discoursive and continuous inquiry. Let us select subjects which they can discuss and upon which they can formulate a recommendation to us within 2 or 3 weeks and so aid the decision-making capacity of this chamber. It is in that spirit, and in that spirit alone, while this matter is in its preliminary stages that one feels justified in speaking on the principles which should govern it so that, by debate I hope, we can forge a viewpoint.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Two hours having elapsed since the time of meeting of the Senate, the Senate will proceed to orders of the day.
– by leave - I move:
Depending on how my motion proceeds, the Senate may wish to resume the Budget debate. I have moved this motion in accordance with the understanding between the Government and the Opposition that we will proceed with my motion and with Senator Rae’s motion.
– I have no knowledge of any understanding, and as it is apparent that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is in another place at present, I am unable to confirm or refute the claim that there is an understanding.
– He made it with me yesterday.
– All I wished to say was that I think the sensible thing would be to give an indication that we will terminate this debate within, say, the next half an hour.
– Within the next few minutes.
– On that understanding 1 will accept the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– When my speech was interrupted 1 was saying that I spoke only for the purpose of trying to produce, by debate, a common understanding of how to define the matters that were appropriate to go before a standing committee, not necessarily to have my formulation of the principles established. I hope that the Senate will reject this proposal and define a more particular proposal for reference to the standing committee or refer the subject matter to a select committee on another proper occasion.
– I will not deal with the merits or demerits of the motion because 1 think it is accepted by all sides of the chamber. It boils down to a question of the kind of matter which should be referred to the standing committees. We have not had standing committees before to know what matters should be referred to them. Senator Wright has suggested that a matter referred to a standing committee should be one on which the committee can come to a quick decision and report that decision to the Senate for discussion. I do not see standing committees in that light. He has raised one aspect but I believe that a proposal of the kind now before us will not take that many weeks to investigate. I think that it should be referred to the standing committee so that when the committee has no other more urgent matter to discuss it can revert to investigation of the subject already on its plate. This procedure will give the committee something to do when no other more urgent matters are before it.
As I have said, we have not had any experience of standing committees to know the kinds of matters which should be referred to them. If there is no limitation as to time for producing a report, then obviously this is the kind of matter which should be referred to a standing commit tee. Although 1 was not in the chamber at the time, I heard in my room Senator Byrne’s remarks on Senator Murphy’s motion. 1 felt that Senator Byrne contradicted himself. He said, on the one band, that the Senate was overburdened with committees but, on the other hand, he was in favour of the setting up of another committee. The fact that Senators are overburdened with Senate select committee work is sufficient reason to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare because it has been set up to inquire into matters of this nature. If a Senate select committee is set up to inquire into this matter its findings and recommendations may be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare anyway. It could well be that the inquiry would be duplicated. Anyhow, we do not know whether the system of standing committees will be successful. This is a very good subject - the inquiry would not be too lengthy - to use as a basis for determining whether they will be successful. Standing committees could consider a matter such as this when they have no urgent matters to consider. For those reasons, I support the proposal.
– in reply - I wish to thank honourable senators for their observations on this proposal. It seems to be the general agreement of honourable senators that the Senate should inquire into the problems of and the provisions for assistance to mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia. The only question is the method of conducting the inquiry. For the reasons Senator Turnbull has just stated, I am of the view that the inquiry ought to be conducted by the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. Standing committees in other countries undertake inquiries of this nature. A standing committee should not be regarded as a body which would deal only with ad hoc matters. It should not deal only with Bills, the estimates of a department or something which can be done quickly; it should be also able to deal with the extremely important matters which concern the community. The problems of the mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia are a most important matter which should be referred to a standing committee.
I would assume that some very important matters will be referred to, say, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence when it is set up. Surely it will not be restricted to inquiring . into minor matters which can be dealt with in a hurry. This is not what happens in other countries. I do not think that this will be what will happen in Australia, whatever the view of some honourable senators may be about referring only relatively minor matters or matters which, even though they may be important, can be dealt with in a short time. I predict that they will change their views and that this chamber as a whole will come to the view that major matters and long term matters should be referred to the standing committees.
– What does the Leader of the Opposition see as being the difference between the type of subject referred to a standing committee and the type of subject referred to a Senate select committee?
– The only matters which should be referred to Senate select committees as distinct from standing committees are those which are regarded as calling for a special kind of inquiry. They will be something extraordinary. The welfare of mentally and physically handicapped persons is an important subject - in some ways it is perhaps a fundamental matter - but it is not a subject which comes within the category of being extraordinary. Something special may arise which needs to be dealt with urgently. That could be referred to a Senate select committee. The welfare of mentally and physically handicapped persons is a problem which will continue to be with us for a long time but it is not something which is unusual. I think it is a proper subject matter for a standing committee to inquire into. May I say that there may have been some misunderstanding in the chamber about this matter. I would ask all honourable senators to consider the matter carefully and support the proposition which is now before the Chair.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 September (vide page 386), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1970-71. Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1970-71.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1971.
Particulars of proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1971.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1971. Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1970.
Income year 1967-68. National Income and Expenditure, 1969-70.
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add “, and the Senate condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to schools, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries, and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature”. -
– 1 shall make a number of observations on the Budget, but perhaps it is appropriate for me to commence by commenting on a couple of the observations made by Senator Maunsell last night. He referred to the restructuring of the economy of primary industries generally and then advocated, quite unequivocally I thought, a single wool selling authority. I am not quite sure what is the Government’s policy on this matter. In view of remarks that have been passed in recent weeks I gather that there is complete confusion at Government level as to wool marketing policy and on the woo) industry generally. I will have more to say on this in detail later in my contribution to the debate.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) when he opened the Budget debate on behalf of the Opposition last Wednesday. The amendment is:
At end of motion adil “, and the Senate condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to schools, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries, and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature”. -
I think that really sums up the Opposition’s attitude to the Budget. If this country is to progress and if we are to have any kind of social justice, then this destructive Budget ought to be defeated in this place and in the other place also. I see Senator Young is in the chamber. 1 was interested in his contribution to the debate yesterday. I thought he would have left for Vietnam by now. He mentioned that he had compiled his own white paper with a list of all the people of doubtful political affiliation who were associated with the Moratorium Campaign. He said that he would table the list. I could probably table a list, equally as interesting, of people associated with the Moratorium Campaign, including the names of relatives of Government senators, active and prominent members of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and even a few members of the Democratic Labor Party who have not been ashamed to associate themselves with the Campaign. But I do not indulge in this kind of action because I think it is unfair to the persons concerned. I do not know the actual serial number of his Liberal Party ticket, but I am quite convinced that if Senator Young or any other member of the Government parties wanted to table a list of this nature this would be looked upon as being in the general realm of pimping, lt is significant that the list should have been mentioned by Senator Young, one of the better known South Australian wheat producers, who earns additional profits over and above his parliamentary salary by growing wheat to sell to North Vietnam through mainland China.
– How many more votes will this get the honourable senator?
– I do not know what the honourable senator does with his profits from the sale of wheat to North Vietnam, but I hope they are adequate. In recent limes we have heard much discussion here and in the House of Assembly in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea about the new law and order. The new word which is used there and which will become part of the Australian language is laaw’n’order’. Probably the earliest discussion that took place about law and order was in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea Bill of Rights. Last weekend this Bill was condemned by jurists and by many people in the legal profession who were most upset at its implications. It seems likely that the Australian C0at of arms, in addition to having the kangaroo and the emu on it, will have a cricket bat added to it if the Government is successful in the Senate election, or in a general election if one is held. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) apparently thinks that there is no better weapon of defence than a cricket bat. He has complained about demonstrations, as has the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). On an Australian Broadcasting Commission television show only a few nights ago I saw the honourable member for
Evans, that great upholder of democratic practices as long as no one is allowed to indulge in them - I am not condemning him; he is in another place and he can answer if he wishes - in confrontation with my colleague Senator McClelland. The honourable member for Evans came off very much the worse for wear politically and in every other way.
To illustrate the secrecy in departments and in the Government generally, and this new law and order programme that is advocated by so many Government members, I refer to a case that was brought to my notice a few months ago. It is one of the tragedies of the current Australian way of life. In 1942 a Mr and Mrs Cribb had this telegram forwarded to them:
Further my telephone conversation regarding Sergeant Cribb.
He was the son of this couple. The telegram continues:
He was member crew of aircraft which did not return from night operational exercise to seaward on Friday night. Commanding Officer advises searches were continued Saturday Sunday and today for missing aircraft but regret no trace found aircraft or crew.
The telegram continues in the same general tone. This lad was a member of a crew which disappeared over Bass Strait during training exercises in 1942. As honourable senators will recall, a Labor government was in power at that time.
I will give a brief story, in the words of the mother. In a moment I will tell honourable senators just how cynically, how off-handedly, the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) treated this matter when representations were made to him only a few weeks ago. This is the bereaved mother’s story. On 2nd October 1942, Peter, a navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force and a member of a bomber crew of 4, was reported as missing on a flight across Bass Strait. The flight was part of an operational exercise from Bairnsdale in Victoria. A telegram conveying the news that the son was missing was sent to the woman’s daughter. I will not go through the whole story, but I will read all the relevant sections. The night of the alleged disappearance was clear and bright. The sea was calm. The bomber was equipped with wireless for emergency. No message of trouble was received.
The mother states that later they were to learn that on the evening of 2nd October 1942 the flight was directed to a secret base at Sale in Victoria and that early in the next year, 1943, it went to another secret base at Gove in Arnhem Land. Then the mother states:
In July 1943, we recognised Peter in an official RAAF photo published in the ,A,n Register’.
All those honourable senators who were involved in the last World War would know that secret missions were flown on many occasions. Obviously, for many months at a time families were out of contact with their sons, brothers and husbands. She continues:
He was one of nine Airmen at a table, some playing cards, the others watching. The caption said ‘Awaiting any urgent call for action, RAAF men pass the time playing cards’.
I have a copy of the actual photograph amongst my papers. She continues:
Because of the limitation on my speaking time, I am not able to go into all of the details, but they are of very great interest. They are available to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) if he wants to examine them. They are available to you, Mr President, or to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) or to the Minister for Defence if he is interested enough. At a later stage there was additional evidence to indicate that possibly the lad depicted in the photograph could have been this couple’s lost son. I am not saying that this airman is still alive, but I am saying that lengthy investigations were carried out at that time. In 1949 there was additional evidence from a shopkeeper who had a small shop near a private hospital in New Farm, which is a suburb of Brisbane. This is what the mother says: . . I went into a sweets shop in New
Farm, near a private hospital where my mother was a patient. I way buying some glucose barley sugar for her. The young man produced a lovely huge jar of it. I asked him if, when a jar became empty, he’d sell me one to store home made biscuits. He said that he was sorry he could not do so - that he had got a few jars at a RAAF disposals sale and couldn’t replace them. Mr Cribb, hearing his remark, said ‘Did you ever run across a chap called Peter Cribb in the Air Force?’ Straight away he said ‘Too right. I knew him well. We were on the Gove peninsula together. Peter was air-crew. I was ground staff’. Mr Cribb then said, ‘When would you have last seen Peter?’. He said ‘About January, 1944, when we all split up*.
This evidence is contained in a signed document. Some time after the reported disappearance there is evidence that this lad was still alive. On 18th February 1970 I wrote to the Minister for Defence. I said:
Recently a case was referred to me of an airman reported missing in 1942, and it appears that there are some strange factors about this case. The airman concerned was Mr Peter Cribb- and I gave details as to when he was reported missing and so on. Then I continued:
The lad’s father is’ now deceased, and apparently in his will he provided for a memorial to the value of £500 to be established if it could not be proved that his son was still alive twelve months after his own death.
However, the mother claims that, in a photo published in a North Queensland newspaper in (1943, a picture of her son was included.
In conclusion I said: lt would be appreciated if this case could be reviewed to ascertain if there is any further evidence whether the lad concerned is, in fact, deceased, or whether he was alive and may be still alive, even though he was reported missing in 1942.
Subsequently, on 25th February, the Minister wrote to me and acknowledged the fact that he bad received the letter. 1 thought then that some investigation would be carried out. On 16th March, approximately 1 month later, the Minister again wrote and said: 1 have had the personal record of Sergeant Peter Cribb examined, and I am informed that there is no evidence that he is alive. Following the disappearance of the aircraft in which he and three other crew members were making an operational training flight, a search was made but no trace was found of the aircraft or the crew. They were posted as missing, presumed dead and the Air Force has received no further news of Peter Cribb or his crew mates.
This is one of the most pathetic cases that it has been my misfortune to have to raise. After the Labour Government was defeated in 1949, the only person who endeavoured to carry on these inquiries was the late Right Honourable Dr Evatt, and he came up against a brick wall on every occasion. He continued inquiries until he left this Parliament, and he struck the same sort of problems that I am encountering now. I am asking that in the name of decency the Minister should at least carry out a thorough investigation to see what facts can be ascertained. I believe that the members of the family, in their hearts, do not expect to see their son again but, nevertheless, this is indicative of the intransigent attitude of this Government to cases involving ordinary human beings that are brought before it, not every day of the week but several times every day of the week.
To return again to some of the other matters in the Budget, we note that on this occasion the defence vote has been increased to $ J, 137m, which is an increase of 3.1 per cent over last year. I think that the people of this country would be more than interested in getting the truth as to what is being done with the defence allocation. We see glib words set out in a number of pamphlets, programmes, ministerial statements and what have you, but 1 claim - and I believe that a lot of Australian people would adhere to this view - that many of the details relating to the expenditures have been effectively smothered. The Fill aircraft is a case in point. It is almost impossible for a member of the Opposition to ascertain just what is proposed with the Fill. Or is it that the Government is so incompetent that it does not know what it proposes to do itself?
The problems facing primary industry have been played up by honourable senators opposite. They claim that we are not interested in primary industry. They claim that honourable senators on this side of the chamber, in their speeches, have not given adequate treatment to the problems facing primary industry. My submission, in return, is that the Australian Country Party has walked out on every farmer in Australia. It is no longer interested in what happens to rural industries. There are more insolvent sections of primary industry today than there have been in the last 50 years. I have only to instance the wheat industry. I made some remarks a while ago to an honourable senator opposite who has apparently had his feelings hurt and has gone away to have a Bex powder and a glass of water. Only a couple of weeks ago honey producers made submissions to honourable senators telling them what a mess the Government had made of the honey industry. The dairying industry is in an equally precarious state, and in my own State of Queensland the sugar industry lives on borrowed time, and the whole of the North Queensland economy is built on the sugar industry. I mentioned the wool industry a moment ago - and so it goes on.
This is the dreadful and undesirable state of affairs which faces primary industry in this country today. Queensland made an appeal for additional funds for drought aid, but the Government took no notice of it. We saw a sorry spectacle in this chamber only a few days ago when the Opposition moved a motion, to which an amendment was subsequently moved, which sought to refer to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the question of the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought. Honourable senators from the splinter party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, opposed the motion. They are presently absent from the chamber. They are tearing each other apart while they decide what attitude they should adopt to the Budget. Honourable senators from the Government Parties said: ‘If you make it a Senate select committee we will support you.’ What did we see? We saw the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who was the Minister responsible for steering 2 Bills through this chamber on the last day of the session of the Parliament prior to the winter recess, getting up on that occasion and saying: ‘I move the amendment and I move that the question be now put.’ In other words, he stifled discussion. We saw him sitting on the front bench again the other night when we were discussing this question of the effects of natural disasters. But where were the members of the Country Party? As a rule, one never sees them in the chamber although they are paid to come here to represent their constituents. If Senator Webster, who is trying to interject, wants to interject he should sit in his own seat, otherwise I will ignore him.
– The Chair will decide that.
– Mr Deputy President, I draw your attention to the fact that Senator Webster is not sitting in his own seat and by interjecting he is out of order. On this occasion members of the Country Party have joined with the big businessmen of the Libera] Party in order effectively to prevent any sort of further drought control or funds ever being made available to drought stricken farmers in Australia or to people affected by flood or fire. Members of the Country Party should not be hypocrites, because that is exactly what they did.
The social welfare section of the Budget provides for an extra 50c a week for pensioners. The Budget perpetuates the wife’s allowance of $7 a week and all the other injustices that have been meted out by this Government for almost 20 years. The plight of the pensioners has to be seen to be believed; it certainly would not be believed in other countries. A Press statement issued immediately after the Federal Budget was brought down a few weeks ago states:
The S0c pension rise is laughable if it were not so serious for our people - only 7c a day to cope with the steepest rise in the cost of living during the past 3 years. Indirect taxation also reduces the pensioners’ spending power.
Mr Bury’s speech said the Budget will have ‘a steadying effect on spending’. Fifty cents will certainly have that effect on pensioners’ spending power - they have again been sacrificed by the Government. It is cheaper to die than to live.
On the day when pensioners were in Canberra to make representations to Government supporters and members of the Opposition I saw a number of Government members standing at the stairs of Kings Hall and laughing at the representations being made by pensioners. I do not know whether there is any compassion or feeling in the heart of any member of the Government team. The Democratic Labor Party has made up its mind to vote against the defeat of the Government on social services, because members of that Party also want to see pensioners die so that they will not be about the place needing additional pensions. This is their official view. This shows the hypocrisy of this group of people who, as reported in the Melbourne Sun’ on Friday, 21st August 1970, said through the official spokesman of the DLP:
In formulating the Budget, the Gorton Government forgot the family man, ignored the chronically ill and insulted the pensioner.
However, I venture to say that members of that Party will take their bat and ball home when the crunch comes. We have had complaints about poverty. Although I should like to speak in greater detail on some of these things I am unable to do so because of the limitation of lime. I propose to raise these matters during debates on the adjournment motion or during debates on money Bills that come through this chamber at a later date this session.
It is interesting to note what the Queensland Teachers Union said in a resolution carried during the last few days. The resolution was in these terms:
With reference to the 1970 Budget, this meeting of Queensland teachers deplores the callous disregard of the needs of education at the pretertiary level and the failure to acknowledge in the Budget the undertaking given by the Prime Minister in his election policy that this Government would give consideration to the survey of the needs of State education over the next 5 years, made by the Australian Education Council.
The resolution continues in those terms and then states:
This meeting of Queensland teachers affirms that the 1970 Federal Budget has not deceived them. Despite reduced taxes on ‘lower and middle incomes’ in accordance with the Government’s pre-election promise and even before the application of such reductions, it has imposed such severe indirect taxation that the alleged benefits are reduced to nothing;
That responsible body of people who are dedicated to the teaching of our children has been able to make that pungent statement. The remainder of the resolutions are in the same vein. One would think that this great law and order Government would take some notice of these comments. 1 should like to speak on repatriation and other matters, but as I will get an opportunity at a later date to mention some of these things, together with some documented cases of social injustice, I shall conclude by referring to the very poor deal that the Aboriginals of Australia are receiving at the hands of the Government. Honourable senators will notice that the total expenditure on Aboriginal advancement programmes this year will be a little in excess of $llm but that the actual allocation in the Budget for 1970-71 is $10.4m. The expenditure will exceed the allocation because almost Sim was left over at the end of the last financial year. Needless to say it is a disgrace that Aboriginals in every State of Australia, with the exception of Tasmania, require schools, jobs, health services and all the other things that every one of us with white skin expects as the norm. But they are not able to get them. I make particular reference to the problem at Wave Hill which has been referred to fairly extensively in Press articles recently. It is interesting to have incorporated in Hansard a little of the history of Vesteys. A booklet The Vestey Story’ states:
Vesteys are particularly important in 2 fields - the economic development of Northern Australia and the conditions of Aborigines in the North. Neither Held reflects much credit on Australia or Vesteys.
There is some untangling to be done in our values: The 20 year old is told that this country is so valuable that he must protect it, with his life if need be, against people who have never expressed the slightest interest in taking it: the Lords Vestey are told that its value is 55c a square mile per year provided they pui up a few fences;
They have 6,150 square miles in the Wave Hill property. The booklet continues: the Gurindji tribesmen are told that it’s not their country anyway, no matter what they tlo for it, despite the fact that they had lived there for several centuries.
I have not time to read it all. I decline to seek leave to have this material incorporated in Hansard as I am not very impressed with the charity of Government supporters in regard to the incorporation of documents. The publication continues:
The Vestey group is a group of private companies controlled by the English Vestey family. There are at least 123 known Vestey subsidiaries . . .
The largest number of Vestey directorships is still held by Sir Edmund Vestey, grandson of the original Baronet Edmund Vestey. His 61 directorships include 8 Australian companies:
Central Queensland Meat Export Co. (Pty) Ltd
Riverside Meat Co. Ltd
Bajool Land Co. Ply Ltd
Red Bank Meat Works Pty Ltd
Riverstone Meat Co. Pty Ltd
Angliss & Co. (Aust) Pty Ltd
Angliss & Co. Pty Ltd
Angliss & Co. (Trust) Pty Ltd.
The list, of directorships has to be seen to be believed. The list of directorships held by Lord Vestey goes from one page of the book to half way down the next page. Edmund Hoyle Vestey*s directorships go from half way down one page almost to the bottom of the next page. Ronald Arthur Vestey’s directorships are listed from the bottom of one page to over half way down the next page. I shall have those directorships incorporated in Hansard at some later date. I shall not come out now with an attack on the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) - that will probably shock a few Government supporters - but I am saying that because of the division of control over this aspect of Australian administration nobody knows where he is going and. meanwhile, the Aboriginals suffer.
Let us consider the history of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), because he is the man in the spotlight at the moment in relation to Wave Hill, in particular. The Vesteys are apparently anxious, as they told Mrs Kath Walker on a visit to London some time ago, to make an allocation of land. It is obvious they have Seen to the Government and that the Government has said that they cannot do it and that it will not allow them to do it. the reason being that once land is allocated on a tribal basis to any tribe in this country the whole question of tribal rights in relation to land will have to be investigated. This Government will do nothing about that. This applies not only to the Northern Territory but also to any part of Australia where there is any semblance of tribal life or where descendants of Aboriginals should be receiving compensation from the Government.
The Hon. Peter James Nixon was elected as a member of the Country Party to the House of Representatives for the division of Gippsland, Victoria, at the general elections of 1961, 1963, 1966 and, of course, 1969. He was a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts from 5th March 1964 to 31st October 1967. He was a member of the parliamentary delegation to East Asia in June 1965. He was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs from 19th May 1967 to 8th November 1967. He has been the Minister for the Interior since 1 6th October 1967. He was a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House from 25th October 1967. About his only contribution in relation to land rights has been his membership of that Committee. I do not know that this is of great interest to the Aboriginals, particularly the Gurindjis, but I make the appeal that in the planning and administration for the present financial year consideration be given to the matters 1 have mentioned. Thousands of these people are living in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia where injustices are being perpetrated by pastoralists, by governments and by people who, in many instances unfortunately, are associated with departments which are supposed to minister to their welfare. I respectfully request that there be a complete re-evaluation of the whole matter, that the control of the Aboriginal problem be placed in the hands of one man rather than have Mr Wentworth trying to do a job and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) saying: ‘lt is my job; I will exercise control.’
Sitting suspended from 5.4S to ft p.m.
– Mr President, honourable senators, it is indeed an honour arid a privilege to have been elected as an Australian Country Party member to represent the State of New South Wales in this distinguished House. I believe that as a representative of New South Wales, and particularly as a representative of rural New South Wales - the towns, villages and provincial cities and the people who live on the farms and the grazing properties - 1 have an obligation, a challenge and a responsibility to represent them in this House to the utmost of my capacity. ! imagine that by representing that part of the State of New South Wales, I am in fact representing the Commonwealth scene in total.
I should want to go no further without mentioning with great regret the circumstances which led to my election to this House. I refer of course to the death in April of the late Senator the Honourable Colin McKellar. Senator McKellar who served in this Parliament for 10 years - 5 of them as a Minister of the Crown - was well known to all honourable senators and, indeed, well known to many people in many places outside this Parliament for his sincerity, his capacity for work and his determination I am sure we could all learn something from Senator McKellar’s ideals and standards.
In introducing myself to the Senate perhaps I may be permitted briefly to draw attention to a few facets of my own political philosophy, not because they are my personal beliefs and not from an egotistical point of view but because 1 hope they are important to average Australians. I believe my philosophy may be a useful, important yardstick in assessing the value, purpose and effect of legislation whether it is Budget legislation or any other. If we are to survive as a free enterprise democracy the strength and stability of the family unit is fundamental to our very survival. I believe this is most important in maintaining permanence in a free enterprise democracy. The strength and security of the family unit is perhaps the basic reason why we have, to this stage of our political history, arrived by evolution and not by revolution. It is the duty of all governments to provide the maximum possible facilities for equality of opportunity. This Government is acting nobly in this area. In this Budget, direct Commonwealth expenditure on education represents an increase of some 25 per cent on the previous year, 50 per cent on 2 years ago and 500 per cent on the figure of some 10 years ago. It represents a real contribution towards providing the facilities for equality of opportunity.
But although the Government has provided the facilities for equality of opportunity I suggest that man is not equal. Man is a strange and variable person and because of this we must retain in our society the profit motive within a properly constructed system of legal restraint. We must retain the profit motive within a system of law which has been developed by society over many years and which is imposed by that society upon the entire community. The profit motive probably goes closer than anything else to establishing the answer to the desires of human nature. It is human nature which tends to break down most of the theories, philosophies and solutions which we can so readily find to our problems. I suggest that the incentive of profit within a properly constructed system of legal restraint goes much further than anything else towards satisfying man’s desire to be free, to have individual ownership and individual and personal incentive.
I believe that the time is right with us mow when we should analyse in depth just what we mean by freedom. Freedom is freedom within the law, within that system of legal restraint developed by society and imposed by that society upon the entire community. I feel that today freedom is being challenged in many parts of the world and not the least in our own country because there is perhaps an over- enthusiasm for the pursuit of freedom to the degree that we tend to lose our sense of definition and perhaps we are accepting permissiveness and unbridled licence in the guise of freedom. This we must guard against if we are to survive as a free enterprise democracy.
Another facet which occurs to me is that though I am fully aware of the tremendous importance of pure theory in many fields I am also aware that we should be well advised to temper pure theory, be it economic theory or any other, with the demands of social and political consideration lest we become the slaves of ivory tower concepts. May I reiterate these 5 points: The security and strength of the family unit; the provision of ever greater equality of opportunity; the maintenance of a profit motive within a properly constructed and developed and generous legal system of restraint; a careful attitude to our real understanding of freedom; and a suggestion that we should temper our concern for pure theory with social and political considerations lest we become slaves to ivory towered conceptions. I believe that these points are useful and pertinent yardsticks in our examination of the purpose and the effect of legislation, be it budgetary or otherwise.
May 1 refer briefly to 2 more specific areas that concern me quite a deal, particularly as a representative of the State of New South Wales. Indeed I would imagine that these are matters of concern for the entire Australian continent. I am concerned that the Federal Government should enter still more vigorously in cooperation with the States upon an attempt at real decentralisation, at real population balance in this magnificent country, so that we may in fact stem the tide of population drift which threatens rural Australia today. The drift is from the towns and the villages and the farms to the metropolitan colossi of our coastline. The imbalance in the population structure of the Australian scene is largely historical in origin because in the late 18th century and in the 19th century there was a distinct movement towards industrial concentration in the Western world and this led naturally to urbanisation. It was at that time that the Australian continent as an entity of the Western world was born. Indeed, added to this tendency to urganisation, the fact of our geographical vastness, coupled with the transport and communication difficulties of those days, made our development a difficult thing beyond the confines of the few small urban centres of the land. But today those things have changed radically. This country has, particularly in the last 20 years, been shrinking, lt has been shrinking because of the amazing speed and efficiency of communication and transport and I suggest that technically the problems of decentralisation are rapidly disappearing.
The recognition of the need for a balanced development in Australia goes back to the heady days of post war reconstruction in 1946 when the Federal Government of that time called a Premiers Conference to discuss regional development. As a result of that conference in my own State of New South Wales 19 regional advisory committees were established. They were to examine the potential of the various regions of that State with a view to establishing a properly conceived move towards decentralisation. Unfortunately, for nearly 20 years that concept, great and important though it was, remained merely a concept. In fact in the 8 years prior to 1965 a mere $3. 6m was spent in New South Wales on decentralisation. Since 1965 a Department of Decentralisation has been operating under the guidance of my colleague, the honourable John Fuller. In the past 5 years this Department has expended some $20m and, what is more important, it has built, maintained and enlarged industries in rural New South Wales to the number of 460 and it has, on a conservative estimate, retained in country areas not less than 30,000 people who would otherwise in all probability have joined in the drift to the cities. This obviously shows that decentralisation can be achieved and that it is possible to stem the tide of population drift from rural areas.
The reasons for decentralisation arc obvious. Surely rural Australia with its vast areas of smog free and pollution free land is the natural host to tertiary and secondary industries, just as it is the traditional home of the famous and important primary industries of our land. For defence, sociological and economic reasons I believe that decentralisation is an important issue. It is an issue in which this Federal Government could well aid, perhaps more effectively than it has up to this point of time, the State field, lt has done a lot in the area of communication from the point of view of equalised postage and equalised fuel costs. I suggest that it may well be time to look very carefully at the possibility of equalising the costs of telephone communications which rate so highly in the area of costs of established rural industries. Perhaps there could also be added special incentives to decentralise export industries, in the form of tax rebates or in the form of capital write-off. It could perhaps be conceived that a Si for $1 arrangement may be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the State governments for the development of particular projects at certain times and in certain places. But above all. there is a great and urgent need for close cooperation between the Commonwealth and State instrumentalities to ensure that balanced development on the Australian scene is not just some part of the English language, not just a phrase, but that it has real meaning.
There is just one other field J would like to touch on briefly. It is a field which was entered upon by the 1969-70 Budget. For the first time an attack was made upon the incidence of probate duty in the Commonwealth. In that Budget there was a considerable change in the rate of duty on rural estates up to $240,000 and, what is more important, there was a lifting of the time-to-pay element. 1 believe that in this field the States must follow suit. But I also believe that we can go still further in this field because from a revenue point of view we are talking of something less than I per cent of the total Commonwealth revenue. I believe that the steepness of the scale of probate duty rates should be reduced dramatically, just as the steepness of the scale of income tax rates has been reduced to a degree in the present Budget.
The incidence of probate duty represents a too heavy impost. Perhaps just a simple example of what I mean when I refer to inflated values bringing about hardship and dismemberment in an industry that can ill afford them will suffice. A 1,000-acre farm may have been worth $25,000, say, 20 years ago. Today it may be worth $100,000. That is a fourfold increase in value. There is certainly no fourfold increase in the real earning capacity of that farm. The significant point, however, is that in the probate liability field the increase is not fourfold but 16 or 17 times. That is why I say that it is high time the steepness of the scale of probate duty rates was drastically reduced with a view ultimately to getting rid of this form of taxation completely. I believe that it is a destructive tax, that it is a penalty on development and that it is even an immoral tax. I consider that it holds no place in our society and that it is well within the realm of this Government to act along the lines I have suggested. I believe that in the field of decentralisation there is a real and important challenge to us in the Federal sphere as there is to those in the State sphere. Also in the field of probate duty there is a challenge and a necessity for action in the Federal sphere as there is in the State area.
Let me conclude by once again drawing to your attention, Mr President, and to that of honourable senators those 5 facets of which I suggest we should not lose sight. The first is that the fundamental strength and security of the family unit is basic to our society in a free enterprise democracy. The second is the provision of ever-increasing equality of opportunity. The third is the maintenance of the profit motive within a properly constructed and amended and generous legal system of restraint. The fourth is the constant examination of the significance of true freedom and the recognition that it is a disciplined state of affairs and is vastly different from anarchy which is just through a shallow barrier from freedom. In anarchy we shall know only the law of the jungle. I suggest that if we ever reach that stage - I trust that this will never be - we shall surely fall easy prey to the first disciplined force that opposes us. Finally, we must learn to temper pure theories, whether they be economic or otherwise, with social and political considerations. Mr President and honourable senators, I thank you for your kind attention.
– I take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Douglas Scott on the making of his maiden speech. He is a member of the Australian Country Party and I am proud to be a member of the
Labor movement. But at least we have 2 things in common: Firstly, we have the same christian name and, secondly, we both represent the State of New South Wales in the National Parliament. Senator Douglas Scott comes from the Grenfell district of New South Wales, which was part of the beloved country of a very great son of the Labor movement, Henry Lawson - the man who wrote the immortal Faces in the Street’, ‘Wait Here, Second Class’ and many other great poems that had a profound influence on the thinking of the Labor movement. Although I disagree with Senator Douglas Scott’s political persuasion, I am prepared to acknowledge the depth of his maiden speech and the contribution he has made here this evening. Now that he has made his maiden speech in silence, I, together with my colleagues, look forward to his participation in the debates that will take place in this chamber in the future.
If ever a document that highlights to the Australian people the incompetence of this Government and its inability to face up to the very great and growing problems besetting this nation was presented to the Australian Parliament, it is the Federal Budget which was presented recently by the Federal Treasurer, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury). The Budget shows that the Government is not only a government without ideals but also very largely a government without ideas. It is a government that is guided in its actions by dollars and cents, with little, if any, regard for human values.
This is the era of the 1970s in which Australia certainly has to get with it. There was a time in Australian history when we knew what Australian governments and Australia as a nation stood for. Our pioneers of the nineteenth century were proud of the society they were moulding and were guided by ideals because they had learnt so much from the past. They were men and women who believed in social justice. Indeed, for several generations this great nation was in the vanguard of social reform throughout the world. But, as I look closely at the Budget Papers presented by the present Treasurer, I see in them no evidence that this Government believes in social justice or that it is prepared to face up to the need for social reform in our society of the 1970s. In fact, the Government itself admit1;, to use the Treasurer’s own words in his Budget Speech, that inequity has grown into the taxation system.
True it is that under this Budget taxpayers on incomes up to $10,000 per annum will receive a reduction of 10 per cent in the amount of tax payable. Bui the inequity has existed for 14 or 15 years, as acknowledged by the former Treasurer, Mr McMahon, and also by the present Treasurer, Mr Bury. With a sleight of hand trick, the Government appears prima facie to partially overcome this inequity. I say prima facie’ and ‘partially’ deliberately and advisedly, because offsetting any benefit that might have been given to the lower and middle income earners there are other charges which have been imposed and all of which, if not imposed directly on the lower and middle income earners, will certainly be passed on to them by way of consumer costs.
Postal charges in the aggregate are to be increased by about S53m in a full financial year. Charges for telephone calls and rentals, stamps and other services provided by the Australian Post Office are to be increased. These increases are all passed on to consumers. Sales tax is to be increased by 24 per cent on some items. The excise duly on petrol has been increased by 3c a gallon.
– lt does not stop there.
– Yes, it certainly has not finished at that. So the vicious circle of inflation continues, inflicted upon the working class of this country by the policy of the Government in adopting an attitude of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Then there are the pensioners. The Government proposes a niggardly, paltry and miserable increase of 50c a week in the maximum rate of age and invalid pensions. Government supporters boast that a married pensioner couple will now receive $27.50 a week, but the minimum wage standard fixed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for a worker is $42.50 a week. Therefore the Government, by paying a petty increase of 50c a week in pensions, expects a married pensioner couple to exist on an income of $15 a week less than the minimum wage set by the Arbitration Commission for a single worker.
The Government is saying in the Budget, in effect: ‘We expect a married pensioner couple to live on 66 per cent of the minimum wage struck by the Arbitration Commission for 1 man.’ The last Year Book published by the Commonwealth shows the average basic weekly earnings last year at around $64.30, or about $20 a week above the minimum wage fixed by the Arbitration Commission. Therefore the Government is expecting married pensioner couples to live on a weekly income equal to about 36 per cent of the average weekly earnings of a male worker. The comparison with a single pensioner is much more alarming.
In December 1969 the pension paid to a single pensioner represented 19.4 per cent of average weekly earnings. In December 1949, the last year of a Federal Labor Government, the single pensioner rate represented 24 per cent of the average weekly earnings, ls it any wonder that the Australian public are fed up with this Government? Mr Justice Nimmo, who was appointed by the Government to preside over an interdepartmental committee to inquire into voluntary health insurance in Australia, said a month or two ago that the evidence presented before him in that inquiry showed that at least 1 million Australians are living not only below the poverty line in Australia, but miserably below it.
– Did he define what he meant by the poverty line?
– No. But the National Health Act introduced by the Government uses $42.50 a week as the minimum wage, because people receiving less than that weekly income are exluded from certain benefits of that legislation. We are therefore entitled to assume, on the standards laid down by the Government, that that is below the poverty line. On that basis, Mr Justice Nimmo said that about 1 million Australians are living miserably below the poverty line in this country: that is to say, about I. in 12 Australians, or about 8i per cent of the population. That evidence was adduced by an impartial member of the Arbitration Commission. in a very generous and beneficent mood the Government is granting a paltry SOc a week increase to pensioners who are ekeing out the rest of their days in this society. The annual conference of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association was held in New South Wales in February 1970. A resolution was carried requesting the Federal Government to give to pensioners an emergency increase of $3 a week so that they could live in reasonable dignity, having regard to present costs. On 10th February the Association sent a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Exactly a month later the Association received a reply signed by the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) on behalf of the Prime Minister. The reply rejected the Association’s request. But in January, only a month before the Association held its conference and 2 months before it received a reply to its telegram, ministerial action was taken by the Minister for the Army because of increased costs in the community to pay to Army personnel, from the rank of private to the rank of brigadier, increased salaries.
In March, at the time the Minister for the Army on behalf of the Prime Minister rejected the request of the pensioners, His Honour Mr Justice Eggleston was appointed to inquire into the salaries of academics throughout Australia. His report was tabled in the Parliament in the last week of the last session. In that report Mr Justice Eggleston recommended that in order to keep pace with the cost of living that had taken place in the community, an increase of 20 per cent in salaries should be awarded to professors and a 17 per cent increase should be awarded to lecturers. His Honour recommended that the increases be paid from 1st January last.
I do not begrudge our servicemen and the academic staff of our universities and colleges higher salaries and wages. As a member of the Labor movement I believe that they have deserved those increases, having regard to the services they are performing for this country. But just as they are deserving of those increases, so too, I suggest, are our pensioners. They are entitled to better and more consideration than they have been given in the Budget by the Government. These people have been the mainstay of this country. They have lived, worked, fought and suffered for this country through wars and depressions. They have worked to give their children a better chance in life than they had themselves. Surely it is the responsibility of the Government, irrespective of whether it is a Conservative government, as is the present Government, or a Labor government, in a so-called era of affluence to ensure that there is a more equitable distribution of the wealth of this great nation.
Not only the pensioners of this country are protesting about the Government’s actions and its niggardly treatment of them. Practically every section of the Australian community has resorted to a demonstration of strength and has exerted pressure to show that the people are not satisfied with what the Government is doing. Farmers, supporters of the Party that you, Mr Deputy President, represent in this Parliament, have held protest meetings. They have marched in Melbourne and Adelaide in protest against the Government’s policies. In addition, as you would know, Mr Deputy President, they have held protest meetings in the main regional centres and towns of the States that we represent in this Parliament. They are not militants; they are not radicals; they are Australians who assert their right to show the Government that they believe that they are not getting, and have not been getting, a fair go.
Nurses with their very long, great and proud history of service to this nation, and indeed to humanity, have had to strike to sheet home to the Government their low wages, their shockingly long hours and the poor conditions in which they have been working for a number of years. Commonwealth public servants have resorted to work to regulations campaigns to focus attention on their employment deficiencies.
– What about the Merchant Service Guild?
– What about the airline pilots?
– Are members of the Merchant Service Guild and airline pilots militants? Are they radicals? They are people who are dissatisfied with the conditions that have been meted out to them by this Government. It is scandalous that our mutton exports to the United States and Canada have had to be stopped to highlight to this Parliament and to the Australian people the grave shortage in
Australia of Commonwealth meat inspectors. Senator Drake-Brockman, who in the Senate represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), told us today at question time that men engaged in this industry have not been able to take holidays for 3 or 4 years because of the shortage of Commonwealth meat inspectors. Men have had to be brought from New Zealand to work in our abattoirs to get our exports flowing.
Teachers and parents are protesting about the inadequacies of our education system. The other night Senator Wright, who represents in this place the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), brought down a long and detailed statement of what the Government is doing in the field of education. He referred to the Government’s claim that it had involved itself in increased expenditure on education, but he and other members of the Government conveniently forget that the Weedon Committee which the Government appointed some years ago to inquire into projections for the future in the field of educational television in Australia, produced positive and forthright recommendations, all of which were rejected by the Government.
On the subject of education let mc read portion of a letter which was sent by teachers at the Blakehurst High School in Blakehurst, a middle class area of Sydney, to the parents of children attending that school. Amongst other things, the teachers said in that letter:
The undersigned members of the start of this school have taken this unusual step of writing lo you because of the serious situation which is developing in relation to the provision of adequately trained teachers to teach your child.
Early in second term the size of classes jumped in English, Science and Maths when students of 4th Form Classes were ‘rationalised’. In English. Maths and Science, for example, 5 classes were reduced to 4. In transferring from one class to another students in some cases had to surrender the texts they were studying for the School Certificate examination to commence study on other sets of texts. The purpose of this ‘exercise in rationalisation’ was to ‘save’ a teacher who could then be transferred to another school . . . The situation in 1971 will show further deterioration as the teacher shortage becomes more acute.
Is it any wonder that teachers, parents and children are crying out for a greater share in the equity of this country? The Government talks about assistance in the field of education but is doing nothing.
I turn to the provision in the Budget for child endowment, lt will be seen that $20m less is being budgeted in this financial year than was the case last year. Yet this is the Government which talks about the stability of the family and the family being the whole future of this country. Is it any wonder that protests are mounting in every section of the community when the Government refuses to heed the plea for equity and social justice?
Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the May Moratorium march to indicate their opposition to Australia’s involvement in Vietnam and the spilling of Australian blood in a war which the Government refuses to declare to be a war. In the 6 years since the Government involved Australia in the war in Vietnam - the figures I am about to cite were prepared for me by the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library - defence expenditure has amounted to $5,432,895,000- almost $5,5G0m. Of that amount over 25 per cent, namely $l,454m, has been spent abroad. In other words, 25 per cent of the revenue raised by the Government from Australian taxpayers for defence purposes has been spent outside this country. With the concurrence of honourable senators 1 incorporate in Hansard details of defence expenditure from - the years 1964-65 to 1970-71.
Of the estimated expenditure of almost $l,137m in the present financial year, some $23 3m will be spent abroad in the so-called defence of this country.
As well as the sections of the community to which I have referred, our artists and writers are now protesting and are demanding the right to employment in their own industry, in their own profession, in their own country. Why does this feeling exist throughout this country? Why is there this overwhelming feeling of frustration, cynicism and inadequacy? The answer simply is that this Government is a poor government. It cannot comprehend the problems of the man in the street. It will not learn from the past and cannot look to the future. It has neither hindsight nor foresight. The Government has allowed the taxation injustice to run on for years, taking no action and doing nothing about it. An article which appeared in the Australian Financial Review’ of 24th April 1969 stated:
In a 13-year span in which personal income in this country has increased in money terms by 234 per cent, central Government has achieved a rise in revenue from pay-as-you-earn income tax of no less than 370 per cent. lt has achieved this by barely lifting a finger. Largely, in fact, by sitting back and watching a new army of aspiring, unsuspecting and largely uncomprehending taxpayers arise in the field of already set, high marginal tax rates, and yield, like wheat in the path of a mechanical harvester.
The Government has now adopted without blushing the financial device of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The Government allowed this nation’s health scheme to get completely out of hand until the weight of numbers in the ballot box at the last general election forced it to stop proclaiming to the nation and to the world that Australia had the best health service in the world. Ministers really had to get their thinking caps on and patch up - indeed, it was a poor plastering job at that - the very unsound and crumbling world of voluntary health insurance in Australia.
But what did the Government do about other human values. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) announced recently that he had evidence of cheese being dumped in Australia and that he would request the tariff authorities to investigate the matter. However, for years Australians have been fed culturally on our airwaves a great diet of imported pro grammes in an endeavour to make a patchwork job for the time being of Australian culture. Whilst Australians are either out of work or have been forced to go overseas to make their names we have this great flush of so-called culture coming into Australia from overseas.
– Most of it is rubbish.
– Most of it is rubbish. Ten of the top 50 screen writers in England are Australians, yet the Government says that Australians have no talent. There is a dearth of writers and there is a dearth of artists in Australia to project the image of this great country. What success would internationally famous artists like the late Errol Flynn, Ron Randell, Rod Taylor, Joan Sutherland, Rolf Harris and Graham Kerr, to name a few, have had but for the fact that they went overseas to show that they had skill and talent that they could use to gain world wide recognition. Over the last 8 years Australia has spent $140m on the purchase of films for use on television and as feature films. In return we have earned a mere $2m from the sale of Australian programmes abroad. But the situation is getting worse. One television station alone has spent SI 6m in less than a year on the purchase of overseas programmes. It proudly boasts that in the next few years it will be spending $30m abroad. How long is this Government going to allow this situation to continue? It boasts in this Budget that grants to support the performing arts will be increased by 45 per cent to a total of $3.85m. The Prime Minister’s Department has 12 special committees advising the Prime Minister on these matters and yet, in the basic area of Australian television, Australian artists and writers are being denied the opportunity of employment.
Sir, I understand that my time has expired. In conclusion I would say that I believe that this Budget is typical of the Government. The Government has lost its right to be called an Australian Government; indeed, by this very Budget, I regard it as an un-Australian government. For this reason, I say that it deserves the condemnation of this Parliament and the Australian people.
– Normally the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party upon a matter so important as the Budget would have been given by its Leader, Senator Gair. Regrettably Senator Gair is ill. His illness is not serious, but he has been ordered by his medical adviser to seek full recovery in the bland climate of the sunshine State of Queensland. The Democratic Labor Party cannot support the amendment which has been moved by the Australian Labor Party. Therefore, Mr Deputy President, I formally advise you that for the present my remarks will not be directed to the main question. I propose to refer to the amendment moved by the Opposition, foreshadow a further amendment and reserve my right to speak on the main issue at a later stage. As I have said, the DLP cannot support the amendment which has been moved by the Labor Party because it has found on examination that the amendment is entirely destructive in character, lt contains a number of clauses which pinpoint certain defects in the Budget, but offers no constructive remedies. This failure to be constructive on an issue as vital as the Budget in our view makes the Labor Party’s amendment hopeless of improvement. Therefore, the Democratic Labor Party intends in these circumstances to move its own amendment. 1 foreshadow that at a later stage I shall move, on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party:
At end of motion, add ‘but the Senate is of the opinion that:
the defence vote still does not adequately meet the requirements for Australian defence and security demanded according to the Government’s own Budget statement by “the changes occurring in international relationships especially as they affect South East Asia and Australia, and of developing defence policies which will serve us in the strategic developments of the future”;
there is inadequate provision to make the armed forces a career, encourage voluntary enlistment, and arrest the alarming rate of resignations by improved conditions of engagement and service;
the Budget merely plugs holes in social services and makes no provision for a comprehensive national insurance scheme or for necessary aid for family life through better child endowment, maternity allowances, housing, health and education assistance;
the Budget again fails to remove pensions from the area of politics by setting up an independent tribunal of experts to determine pension rates;
the Budget fails to properly compensate pensioners for cost of living increases;
the Budget fails to ameliorate in a substantial way the restrictive operation of the means test;
while offering limited short term relief to primary producers, the Budget fails to provide for the necessary examination of the whole structure of rural industry by an expert Commission which could advise the Government on the application of fundamental long term remedies;
the Budget offers no adequate provision for decentralisation; and (SO the Budget fails to ensure that the tax burden is equitably distributed over the community by action to prevent evaders employing legal technicalities to avoid their responsibility’.
Honourable senators will observe that while the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party, to which 1 will address myself, is purely destructive and contains no constructive proposals to improve the Budget, on the contrary the amendment which will be moved later by the Democratic Labor Party seeks to offer constructive remedies for those defects which in our view exist in the Budget. For example, the amendment of the ALP makes no reference at all to the vital issue of our defence.
Our Party does not adopt the suggestion put by some people that we should protest merely because there may not have been an increase or a desirable increase in the defence vote each year. We realise that there is always room in housekeeping for differences from year to year. Our objection is to the failure of the Budget to contain an indication of a co-ordinated plan for the future defence of our country - a plan which should be based upon vital proposals such as one for a naval base in the west for the defence of northern Australia and also for our commitments to the assistance of allies, particularly those in South East Asia. The ALP amendment makes no reference at all to what is perhaps a vital issue in regard to our defence - the increasing number of resignations from the forces and the failure to maintain the strength particularly of officers and noncommissioned officers. We believe that an essential feature of the defence vote in any Budget is that provision should be made for improved remuneration for those who enter the service of their country so that in future young men may make the armed forces a career.
The ALP attitude to social services is negative. We believe that reference must be made to the need for a national insurance scheme and to the need for an independent tribunal to take the issue of pensions out of politics. Why do we have this embarrassing situation every year when pensioners come here and beg for an increased sum? Surely the proposal that the DLP haj sponsored over the years, but which no other party will support, commends itself to the fair minded Australian. We contend that a board of experts in social services should be appointed to determine a fair and just pension and that the pension should be the rate paid. We would like to ensure that while we are waiting for the determination to be made, something is clone to ensure that present pensioners receive the benefit of cost of living increases. We believe that a constructive amendment demands reference to the means test which today penalises unfairly thousands of reputable Australian citizens who have sought to prepare for their own future.
We point to the problems of primary production. The ALP amendment contains a vague reference to primary production but contains no reference to the need for such a constructive proposal as that which we have put forward repeatedly. I refer to our proposal for a commission to examine all aspects of Australian primary production and for the elimination of the system by which one industry competes with another industry for favours. Our proposal seeks to ensure that the examination would be on a basis fair to all. We do not suggest, as the ALP does, a merely negative statement that the system of taxation is no good; we put the constructive proposal that a considerable sum could be reaped from persons who use legal technicalities to evade their responsibilities and so throw those responsibilities onto the backs of others, lt is the intention of the Democratic Labor Party in the Senate to promote these policies because we believe that, from a financial point of view and from a social point of view, they are for the benefit of Australia.
One matter which 1 thought was regrettable in the weeks preceding the formulation of the Budget was the attempt to involve trade unions and professional organisations in a political campaign against the Budget. I make it clear that I. with everybody in trade unions and professional organisations, am seeking to improve the working conditions of employees. 1 think it is entirely undesirable that such organisations, particularly when some of their leaders are prominent members of a particular political party, should adopt the attitude that they will take a particular stand prior to the Budget and threaten the use of industrial action if their demands are not acceded to.
I made the statement, which I stand by and for which I was criticised at the time, that I do not entirely accept the demand which these people made, on political grounds, for considerable decreases in taxation. I know, as everybody else knows, that the beneficiaries of taxation cuts will not be the underprivileged. What they get from tax cuts is very little. My attitude has been that, if it were possible to save $280m, then that sum should have been devoted to the pensioners, to child endowment, to education and to other deserving causes. I believe that the average Australian, knowing the plight of the underprivileged, would be glad to forgo the $5, S6 or $7 that he on a low salary might get from the tax cuts if he thought that sum would be devoted to causes which would help the underprivileged. lt has been suggested that, as a result of the Budget, the Democratic Labor Party might be placed in a difficult situation. We do not know why. We point out firstly that, in voting on the motion before us, no decision in regard to the Budget will be made on this vote. We are merely debating a motion that the Senate take note of the Budget Papers. A vote on such a measure could not defeat the Budget. What happens in relation to this motion is that the Opposition parties express their opinions of the Budget, but any decision to defeat the Budget depends not upon this vote but upon votes which will be taken upon subsequent Bills. We have seen statements that in relation to those Bills the Australian Labor Party will take action to defeat the Budget and that this will necessitate the holding of an election. I was interested in those statements. For a considerable period I was a member of the ALP, and I am aware that over the years tradition has been against that kind of action. I do not suggest that the Senate does not have the power to reject the Budget, but firm ALP tradition over the years, particularly in my home State of Victoria, has been that action to defeat the Budget in the upper House is uncalled for. I remember occasions when the Australian Labor Party in my home State has taken the firmest of stands on the constitutional issue of whether the lower House has not the power to control money matters.
Of course wc have all read statements made in previous years by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) suggesting that it is not the province of the Senate to interfere with or to reject a money Bill. I emphasise that the Senate has the power. When suggestions that that power should be interfered with have been made, the Senate has reacted very firmly. 1 merely refer to the fact that the ALP is breaking with tradition. on this occasion when it suggests that it will attempt to defeat the Budget. I was interested in a statement which related to this matter and which appeared in the ‘Bulletin’ this week. It said:
The old possum stirrer, Mr Calwell, was in great form in Canberra last week. As the voice of tradition, he strongly attacked the Labor Party’s decision to oppose in the Senate legislation which will give the States their $125m in revenue from the receipt duties tax; it was against constitutional practice and ALP tradition, Mr Calwell told Caucus last week, for an upper house to interfere with a money Bill. The recommendation to the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to oppose the receipts tax Bill in the Senate was a recommendation made, Mr Calwell said, by a parliamentary executive of aging men desperate to implant their rears upon the back seats of ministerial limousines. ‘You will live to regret this’, said Mr Calwell.
As a matter of interest, although Mr Calwell is a backbench member of Parliament these days he regularly implants his rear upon the back scat of a ministerial limousine. The article went on to say:
When Senate Opposition Leader Lionel Murphy claimed that it was ALP policy to oppose money Bills in the Senate, Mr Calwell gave him a swift one-two. ‘How can it be - our policy is to abolish the Senate?’
The situation therefore is that tonight represents a great break with tradition. The Australian Labor Party sacrifices the traditions of the past. It attempts to force an election because in the view of its veteran former leader, members of the Labor Party have been overcome by the starry eyed glittering of the ministerial benches which face them on the other side of the chamber. It is suggested that the Australian Democratic Labor Party should be conned or compelled - whatever term one likes to use - into supporting the Australian Labor Party in order to force an election on the issue of the Budget. I have read such a challenge in the newspaper, but nobody has approached me upon the question. Nobody has attempted to suggest to me what is the object of the ALP. I received no telephone calls. Repeatedly in the corridors of Parliament House I run into members of the Australian Labor Party, but none of them has stopped me and said: ‘1 want to place before you the terms of the challenge.’ When they pass me they are so mute and pale that I wonder whether the shock of the proposition calling for a House of Representatives election or a double dissolution has proved too much for them..
In 1961, in a period of crisis and depression, the DLP made an approach to the ALP to ask whether there was any desire on its part to collaborate to try to get a better government in the interests of the suffering people. It was rejected with insult. We said at the time that we would make no further approaches. If anybody is going to proposition me, I would like him to let me know something about it on some other basis than making a very vague and indeterminate statement in a newspaper, a statement which apparently, because of the present control of the Party - and it still exists - members of the Labor Party in this chamber are afraid to stand behind. If there is a proposition, what is to be the situation regarding the issues which the DLP has always said are most vital in any Australian election, those of defence and security? Are we going to be asked to collaborate to put the ALP into office in order that it may overturn every policy that we see as being vital to the defence and security of Australia. I would like to know.
I would also like to know what is going to be the controlling interest in the ALP. We are told that things are moving. I have made no reference to what is being done. But I and a lot of other people would want to know, where there is a proposition to put the ALP into power: Who is going to run Victoria and who is going to run New South Wales? I would like to know whether it is true, as somebody has suggested, that all the present moves portend is an attempt to replace the unintelligent left by a more intelligent left. A day or two after I received correspondence from an organisation which claims that it is about to set in train a tremendous campaign to bring the benefits of abortion to Australia, I read that the Leader of the ALP had come out and portended moves for the introduction of abortion. So I say to myself: ‘If there is a proposition, if there is a suggestion that the ALP should be put in power, where does it stand on defence and security? Where does it stand on the extreme left wing control of its Party? Where docs it stand on the vital social issues?1 1 have been long enough in politics to know that if 1 am being called upon to go in any direction, I want to know the sort of ground over which I am being requiested to move. I think 1 have sufficiently clarified our attitude on those issues.
I want to refer to another matter which has been mentioned by the ALP in its amendment, lt refers to the very unsatisfactory tax situation. I point out. that I believe one of the most effective remedies available is to catch the evader. But I want to say a few words about another form of taxation, and that is the iniquitous - and I use the term advisedly - receipts tax legislation which was defeated in this Parliament some months ago. 1 agree with those who say that this is a vicious, inflationary and unacceptable form of taxation. It causes an overwhelming amount of paper work, it irritates industry and it snowballs in the case of the rural inhabitant who has to pay more than the average person for goods because heavy transport costs are added. The tax acts against people who live in rural areas in a way which is completely unacceptable, in my view, to any member of the Senate. Because it has a snowballing and inflationary effect, it is extremely bad as far as the poor people are concerned. I have received correspondence, as no doubt other honourable senators have, from organised farmers’ bodies saying that this tax is iniquitous and that in their opinion it should not be enacted by any Australian parliament. I have received a statement from the Associated Chambers of Manufacturers of Australia in which it is stated:
This tax … is among the most inequitable forms of taxation which have been used in Australia.
Private employers had hoped that the Government would refrain from reapplying such an objectionable form of regressive taxation.
Receipts duty tax applies to each and every firm or person irrespective of his ability to pay and has an adverse multiplier effect on costs throughout the whole economy.
I want to make a considered statement concerning the attitude of my Party to this question. Some time ago the States of Victoria and Western Australia essayed to secure additional revenue by the imposition of a tax which was subsequently held by the High Court to be beyond their constitutional power. The Commonwealth, at the request of the States concerned, then undertook to impose the tax as a Commonwealth tax to be collected by the States. For constitutional reasons this tax had to be imposed uniformly in all States, even in those States which had not imposed the tax in that form or at that level. The Parliament during the last session, rejected the legislation to impose the tax, and it is now proposed that the Parliament be again asked to support legislation to that end. We concede the needs of the Slates for the revenue, but throughout this whole matter the DLP has at all times indicated its opposition. In Queensland it would impose a grievous burden of taxation where there was a comparatively light burden before. In Queensland where freight costs to remote parts of the State greatly increase prices to primary producers the tax would be a crippling impost. I emphasise the position of primary producers not only in Queensland but also in the other States. At the moment they are calling out for cuts in costs. They are in a desperate situation and this particular tax would merely add to the serious and grave plight in which they live.
We are conscious of the stress that the rejection of this tax may impose on State Budgets and the difficulty that rejection would pesent. We would hope that alternative sources of finance can be found for these States to tide them over the existing difficulty and that a compensating formula can be found to avoid any future possibility of the imposition of the tax. We therefore cannot see any reason to reverse our previous parliamentary attitude should the same situation arise, that is, should a similar Bill come in. We will support any measure to validate up to 1st October 1970 collections made under the receipts tax legislation as we do not think it equitable that the States should be called upon to deplete their revenue and perhaps disorganise their Budgets by surrendering moneys collected in good faith. Our attitude so far as the Bill is concerned is that as a matter of principle we would not be able to support it. Therefore the position would be that if we are supported in our attitude, the tax would cease on 1st October this year.
– What about the ones who do not pay it?
– That is a matter which could be settled by those concerned. We will support legislation to validate the tax which has been collected up to 1st October. But, as I have said, assuming that the Government presents the same provision, my Party will vote against it. Those are the views of the Democratic Labor Party on the Budget and upon the important question of the receipts tax. We have not made our decision purely by ourselves. We took steps in recent weeks to poll members of the public, supporters of our own Party, representatives of business and representatives of the rural community. I have rarely found a more overwhelming feeling in our community against any legislation than there is against the receipts tax legislation. I therefore declare the opposition of my Party to the Bill should the Government reintroduce it as it was introduced 3 months ago.
– We are all indebted to Senator McManus for relieving the minds and hearts of honourable senators by indicating that there will not now be a double dissolution.
– Is that what you have decided?
– I shall not force a double dissolution either. In the short time that I have I want to speak of the Department of Health services. I do not want the Senate to think that I am having a one man hate campaign against this
Department; 1 have the same hate for any department which is inefficient. When we find gross carelessness being exhibited by the Department of Health to such an extent that we can lay a charge of negligence against the Minister and his Department it is time that we brought the matter to the notice of the public. I do not mind the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) not having technical knowledge, which implies that he is run by his Department; he has to be. Therefore, practically speaking, the blame that I am laying at his door should be laid at the door of the DirectorGeneral of Health, Sir William Refshauge.
Exactly 2 years ago I raised the question of trying to prevent accidents to young children under the age of 5 years. Many children are brought to the public hospitals of Australia suffering from poisoning as a result of their obtaining tablets from containers. When I raised this matter 2 years ago I asked Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who represents the Minister for Health in this place, a question concerning what were called Palm-N’-Turn containers. There are several other types of safety containers, but that was the one that I was used to. In those 2 years nearly 3,000 babies and children under the age of 5 years have been admitted to our public hospitals in Australia suffering from poisoning as a result of ingesting medical tablets.
Which years were these?
– The years 1968 and 1969. The figures that I am stating were given to me by the National Health aud Medical Research Council.
– There were none in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.
– I am not talking about the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory; I am talking about the public hospitals of Australia. Approximately 3,000 children have been admitted to hospital because of poisoning as a result of the ingestion of medical tablets and capsules. The National Health and Medical Research Council figures show that there were 3,615 cases of poisoning during 1969, of which 40 per cent were due to the ingestion of tablets and capsules. This brings the. number of cases from this cause to 1,500 in that year and, if we double that figure to arrive at the number in 2 years, we find that there would be approximately 3,000 cases. This is plain stupidity on the part of the Department of Health. The Department refused to accept any advice given to it because, as I have said repeatedly in this place, if: you pay a man a large sum of money - $22,000 a year - he is supposed to know the answers and therefore any outsider obviously cannot have any brains or any worthwhile idea.
Two years ago 1 suggested to the Minister that he should direct that all tablets that are dispensed should be put into these Palm-N’-Turn containers or similar containers. The Minister replied in writing and said that he viewed the matter with concern - so much concern that he did nothing for 2 years and passed the buck to the National Health and Medical Research Council. On every occasion that the matter has been raised he has passed the buck saying that it had nothing to do with him, but he knew full well that all he had to do was pass a regulation under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act staling that all these capsules and tablets had to be in a PalmN’Turn container. I do not want the Minister representing the Minister for Health in this chamber to say that that is not the answer. That is what the Minister for Health said, so in saying that she would be restating exactly the answer that I have been given. Of course it. is not the whole answer, but it is practically 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the answer. These Palm-N’-Turn containers are not 100 per cent safe. Honourable senators will recall that I distributed the containers in this chamber and that at least 8 or 9 senators could not open them. Pressure must be applied to the lid of the container in order to open it, so no child under the age of 5 years would possibly be able to open them. Some brilliant children might be able to do so, but at least the bulk of them would not be able to do so. But 2 years have now passed and I do not know how many deaths have resulted from no action being taken.
Since I asked the question 2 years ago, every death that has occured from this cause can be laid at the door of the Minister and his Department because these acci dents could have been prevented. There was no need for them to happen, if they had been prepared to accept advice. The Minister said in his letter in May 1969 that he thought it was a good idea but was not a full answer. Therefore he took no action. So we have case after case admitted to our children’s hospitals because the Minister would not take action. A further answer was given that it is a matter of education and also the fault of the parents. Of course it is the fault of the parents for not putting their drugs away, but in every household these things happen and when elderly people are careless about their tablets children will get at them. But it does not matter how the children manage to get the tablets; the point is that this was a preventable disease. We could have prevented these accidents. But 3,000 cases later we are doing something about it.
A circular has now been sent out lo chemists asking that they please put tablets in containers of this type. But the Department had the power to insist on this. Even in the early days when a container might have cost 0.5c or lc more, surely that would not have been too much for the Government to provide. That amount could have been deducted from the sum paid to chemists or the cost could have been shared with the chemists. There is no excuse for this not having been done 2 years ago. The National Health and Medical Research Council, upon whom this matter was thrust, stated straight out that it recognised the need for increased education in the prevention of accidental poisoning and it commended the use of tablet containers which would not readily be opened by young children. But why was the matter referred to this august body? Any housewife or mother could have told us that it was better to have a container difficult to open rather than one from which the top came off easily. Anyone with any commonsense would know that but the Minister had to pass the buck. Now 2 years later a letter has at last been written asking: ‘Chemists, would you all please use this?’ But again, the letter does not insist on it. That is the final question in regard to this matter. Why does not the Government insist on these containers because today they are even cheaper than ordinary containers? It is not a question of cost at all.
The Minister is quite wrong in saying that he cannot order this in every State. He can order it under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act and so compel the chemists. He does not have to order the States. He orders the chemists and it does not matter what State they are in. Because the Department is too pigheaded to accept some advice and to be told that something is available and because the advice did not come from the Department nothing is done. I am pleased and interested to see that Sir William Refshauge is in Australia long enough to sign the notice which was sent to the chemists. One could well ask where he has been all this time, especially when matters of concern to the Australian public in regard to national health and hospital benefits were the vital issue. Where was the Director-General of Health? But I. am not going into that question now. 1 have two other points in regard to the Health Department which 1 want to raise. I hope the two Liberal Party senators and the two Australian Country Party senators who are sitting on the Government side of the House and the Country Party senator in the Chair will take note of what I am about to say because the Liberal Party is supposed to be the upholder of free enterprise. So 1 ask honourable senators on the Government side of the House to take note of what I am about to say. 1 ask them to take the matter up with their own health committee and see whether something cannot be done. In the city of Canberra we have the Australian Capital Territory Health Services. It is a service which any equivalent city in Australia would be only too proud to have but could not afford to have. The taxpayers of Australia pay for the service in Canberra. In Canberra a man is practising private pathology. The hospital in Canberra does public pathology. This happens in quite a number of big cities throughout Australia where the Commonwealth Department of Health maintains public pathology services - I do not mean hospital pathology services - but very rarely in a capital city. Canberra is the equivalent in size of Hobart or a little better than Launceston at the moment although it is outstripping Launceston. In Canberra this man is doing private pathology. There is hospital patho logy. There is public pathology. Yet in Canberra the Department immediately sets up public clinics in different suburbs.
Nowhere else could anyone afford this service. This may be a good thing if it is done throughout Australia. If the socialist government which is in power at the present moment wants to continue its socialism it should do this thing. The Government is providing a socialist service. I am proud of the Government for doing that. But 1 want it to provide that service throughout Australia. Why pick Canberra? If the Government does not believe in providing free medical services everywhere it should stop it in Canberra as well. The Government keeps on talking about private enterprise yet here is a man who has set up a clinic in a suburb and the Commonwealth Government immediately sets up a public one opposite him. The Government hits informed him that it proposes to set up further public pathology clinics for the use of the people. If this is to be done in Canberra, I say to the Government: Please do it in my city of Launceston and in every other city of Australia. I am quite happy about that because it is a very good socialistic move. But the Government should not just pick on Canberra and do it here when it is not being done anywhere else.
This man sets up his private enterprise and the Government is going to surround him with public clinics. How do honourable senators opposite expect him to carry out a practice? The Department has said that there will be a public clinic in every suburb. This seems to be the aim. This man opened a branch surgery in the Woden Valley in order to give private practice a better service and the Government promptly put in a free service in opposition to him. He was informed that the Department envisaged further free branches in new centres, especially in the surburb he is in. I sincerely say that the Liberal Party supporters cannot have it both ways. If they want socialism they should do this in every city in Australia. If they do not believe in socialism then they should see that this is stopped. I will not raise this subject any more. I have onlyone more point and that is on the question of smoking.
– Senator, are there other health services given to the people of Canberra which are not available in the States?
– That is right. In Canberra one can have any district nurse attend one. 1 do not want to be bitter about this but in Canberra the DirectorGeneral of Health or any other departmental head on $22,000 a year can have free district nursing. It is very difficult to find free district nursing applicable to anyone who can easily afford it in any other city. Canberra has its pre-school centres and so on. There is no doubt that to make up for the high cost of living Canberra has to have some advantage. The people receive it in health services and some of the education services. I do nol want to start on the subject of education but if honourable senators look at the schools and compare them with schools in their own States they would be horrified with the ones in their own towns compared with the ones here. But the interjection drew me aside. I come back to smoking.
I have mentioned smoking again and again and again ad nauseam. All the time there has been the same apathy, the same reluctance by the Department of Health to do anything because the greatest contributors to the Liberal Party funds are the tobacco companies. The greatest advertisers on television and in the Press are the tobacco companies. So again nothing is clone about a substance which everyone will agree - except the tobacco companies - has been proved time and time again to be harmful. All the companies have been asked to do is to put the tar content of cigarettes on the packets, ft is a simple thing like that. The Government worries about aspirin which does not affect many people. It worries about whether aspirin is going to give people kidney disease and takes it off the pharmaceutical benefits list. For some inexplicable reason the Government has put it back on the pharmaceutical benefits list. No-one can understand the workings of the Department of Health. But it took aspirin off the list because it is a dangerous drug which causes gastric bleeding. What about tobacco? Not a thing is done about that. Yet it is a greater cause of morbidity in the community than any aspirin, phenacetin or any other drug that the Department of Health starts to worry about., takes off the list and puts on again to try to pacify someone or other. Here we have a means of telling people what to do about smoking, but the Government does nothing. When I first raised this question I was told: ‘You must not tell people not to smoke. You must educate them.’ What has the Government done to educate people? I ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who represents the Minister for Health to tell us. Unfortunately the honourable senator has spoken in the Budget debate.
– Yes, I have spoken.
– The honourable senator might be able to obtain a statement from the Minister of what he has done. Of course he will pass the buck to the States. But remember the excise comes to the Commonwealth. It can increase the price of cigarettes. If people want to kill themselves let them pay for the hospitalisation they will cause in later life. The Commonwealth controls the television stations and it is no good passing the buck to the States and saying that the Commonwealth cannot do anything. It can. A simple amendment to the Post and Telegraph Act could enable the Commonwealth to gel control of advertising on television stations. The Government will not take any action because the Press, in effect, owns the television stations and it is not willing to hurt the Press. Medical committees have been set up to request the Government to make it mandatory for cigarette manufacturers to state on cigarette packets that smoking is dangerous. The Government has provided for words such as ‘This is harmful to the consumer’ to be placed on aspirin packets, yet this Government is not prepared to take the same action in regard to cigarette packets. We have asked the Government to provide that cigarette packets should show the tar content of the cigarettes but again the Government refuses to do so.
I have received a letter from the Minister for Health which says that he has been discussing these matters time and again and that a sub-committee has been set up by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Minister has simply passed the buck. He also said that the matter of labels on cigarette packets is the responsibility of individual State governments. I agree with him, but the Commonwealth can act through the Department of Customs and Excise. The Government could perhaps reduce the excise on cigarettes conditionally upon the displaying of the required statements on cigarette packets. There are only 2 brands of cigarettes that are safe to smoke, Hallmark and Ransom. If a person wants to smoke he can smoke about 5 times as many cigarettes of those brands as he can of other brands such as Peter Stuyvesant.
The tobacco companies are so concerned about this matter that they set up a committee of their own to show that smoking is not harmful. If ever there was a biased committee this is it. This committee has been set up and paid for by the tobacco companies to conduct research over a 5-year period to show that tobacco is not harmful. If 1 were a business man I do not think I would set up an organisation which I knew would return me an adverse finding. However, the tobacco companies do not have to worry because the Department of Health is on their side. Why has the Government not taken tiny action? Why does it refuse to lake action? Honourable senators sit around here and say, Yes. smoking is bad for the kids’. We worry about drug abuse. Very few people take drugs compared with the number who smoke and therefore the morbidity as a result of smoking is far greater than it is from drug abuse. In any case, what is being done abour drugs? The maximum penalty for drug abuse should be the minimum penally. The Commonwealth should give a lead on this. Every person who is a pusher of drugs should after conviction be imprisoned straight away.
– Get some of the old Tasmanian triangles out.
– That might do a bit of good. Would the honourable senator rather use the triangles or would he rather thai his children took drugs?
– I reserve my judgment on rh;ir.
– I think I know the honourable senator well enough to know that his judgment is similar to mine and that he would prefer to have the triangles. There should be a vote of no confidence in the Minister for Health over his handling of the affairs of his Department, lt is outrageous that for 2 years the Minister did nothing about the problem of children being poisoned with drugs and medicines to which they should not have had access, lt was only on 5th August 1970 that the Minister sent a memorandum to pharmacists about this matter. When we find out the number of deaths that have occurred in this way in the last 2 years we can be sure that every one of those deaths can be blamed on the Minister and his Department because they could have prevented those deaths if they had taken the appropriate action. I do not want to start another attack on the Department of Health in connection with the prevention of disease but the fact is that the Department does very little about that problem. Perhaps I could leave that until a later occasion when I continue my tirade against the Department of Health. 1 ask the Minister to find out for us what has happened in the matter of smoking and the labelling of cigarette packets and also whether the Government intends to provide pathology clinics throughout Australia. We would all be pleased to receive that information.
Senator LAUCKE (South Australia) 19.44] - I wish at once to congratulate warmly and to thank Senator Douglas Scott for his magnificent speech this evening. As a maiden speech, in this chamber or in any other place - and I have heard or read many of them - I regard his as one of absolute importance, insofar as it was given with a depth of consideration for fundamental matters of concern to our community. I feel that we are indebted to him for his contribution to this debate and the indication that he gave of his future contributions in debates in this Senate. I have no doubt thai ahead of him lies a real area of great service 10 his Slate and lo the nation in i his representation here.
I must say that the Budget debate so far has been unnecessarily and undesirably political. The contributions by the Opposition have been marked by the attitude displayed by the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Murphy. This attitude is not a constructively critical one but is purely condemnatory, lt was typified in the opening words of the amendment moved by Senator Murphy when he said:
The Senate condemns this deceptive and negative Budget.’ In what way is this Budget deceptive? I have too high a respect for the intelligence of John Citizen, as has the Government, to suggest that open detailed statements of receipts and expenditures, as is this Budget, would pull the wool over the eyes of anyone. It would be arch foolishness, in my opinion, and also a matter of great insincerity to even attempt to do so. Certainly criticisms do arise as to the avenues of Government income and its wide disbursements. This is to be expected and is to be welcomed provided, of course, that the criticisms are realistic and constructive. Senator Murphy said that this Budget is negative. I ask: In what way or to what degree is the Budget negative? The expenditures indicated in the Budget are in complete accord with past budgets of successive Liberal-Country Party governments. Have the results of those past budgets proved them to be negative budgets? The answer is to the very contrary.
I think it is a salutory exercise and a very necessary one to reflect for a moment on the magnitude of this Budget and to trace briefly the growth of budgetary capacity in Australia over the last 20 years. This exercise reveals that remarkable advances have been made in our economy. This year estimated revenue is at an alltime high of $7, 992m. The proposed expenditure is $7, 883m. Those figures constitute an increase in revenue of S840m or an increase of 11.9 per cent over last year. On the side of expenditure the increase is 11.2 per cent. It can be seen from those percentages that, adopting a responsible attitude towards income and outlay, the Covernment has ensured that there will be more income than disbursements in order to maintain the financial stability in the direction of this nation’s financial affairs. The increases in the past year indicate the rapid growth of our economy within a very short period of time.
When we look back at the picture over the last 20 years, we find that, in the field of budgetary compatibility, on a comparative population basis Australia has a unique record among all the developing nations of the world. It is a proud story and one which should not be denigrated by means of politically inspired criticisms that are not constructive. If we look back at the
Budget of 1949-50 - that is 20 years ago - we see that the national Budget amounted to £544m or, in decimal currency terms, $ 1,088m. That was provided by a population of about 8 million. After a decade - that brings us to the 1959-60 Budget - with an increase of about 2 million in the population, which took it to more than 10 million, the amount that the economy could provide for budgetary purposes was $2,783m. That represented an increase of 260 per cent or just over 2i times. Today a population of about 12i million is sustaining a Budget based on revenue receipts of just under $8,000m, representing a threefold increase over the amount made available 10 years ago.
The ability of the nation to make the progress it has made, as indicated by its continually strengthening budgetary capacity, is due to many factors, not least among which has been the climate provided by successive Liberal-Country Party governments through maximum encouragement of the free enterprise system with reward for initiative. It is so true that the prosperity of the individual collectively becomes the prosperity of the nation. The encouragement to have maximum effort by the individual for his own purposes is the ultimate assurance of a prosperous nation. Herein our policies differ so greatly from those of the people who oppose us politically. ‘Profit’ is not a nasty 6-letter word; it is the most basic force for progress for human beings that has ever been devised. Its benefits flow from the initial recipient through the whole gamut of activity within the society.
We can look back with pride on those things that have been achieved in the economic field in Australia in the last 20 years. We see the improvement in services to the people, be they in education, hospitalisation or services generally to improve the way of life and the living standards of the people. I believe that they all come back to the contribution made by governments prepared to assist in the encouragement of individual effort, with the backbone of preparedness on the part of the Australian people to work hard and to achieve for themselves those things that are for them possible of achievement in a political climate properly provided. So, as we view this Budget in the overall sense this evening. I say that we have achieved a situation which on world comparisons is second to that of no other country. It rather hurts me to hear condemnation of the situation that exists here. We have living standards of which we should be completely proud and which we should seek to improve. We should not, through political bias in our attitude, destroy the bases from which we can go on to greater things and make this country of ours the greatest country in the world.
Let us look at the state of the economy in Australia at the present lime. It is marked by a very high rate of growth. In the last year, at constant prices, the gross national product increased by 5.5 per cent, despite the trials and setbacks of rural industry. I fully appreciate that it is incongruous and anomalous that, in an era of buoyant prosperity generally, the vitally important rural sector is in a generally depressed condition. But this situation is not peculiar to Australia. 1 am very pleased to see the consideration being given by the Government to, and realisation by the Government of, the plight of rural industry at the present time. We note that this year $2 1 5m is to be devoted to the immediate problems of rural industry to assist it in this difficult period which, as I have said, is common to all rural economies throughout the world. This assistance is S77m in excess of that which the nation provided last year, ft will assist the vitally important rural sector of our economy in these troublous times.
I have no doubt that, primary industry, which now provides no less than 58 per cent of our overseas earnings, is recognised as being of such importance that it must not be permitted to reach such a situation that the whole ecnomy and all the people of Australia will suffer by virtue of the difficulties besetting the rural industries. Last year the number of wage and salary earners in Australia increased by 4 per cent. We have a full employment situation. Consumer spending has increased by 9.6 per cent. This buoyancy is due to the attitudes of the people of Australia generally, within the framework provided by sound, effective, efficient and understanding government.
The Budget provides for a large increase in essential expenditures, especially pay ments to the States. This year, of the total Budget expenditure of nearly 38,000m, $2,708m is devoted to reimbursements, payments or assistance to the States. That represents an increase of £29 lm in the past year. This, within the context of the financial ability of the nation to ensure an equitable and necessary distribution of the available finance, indicates the Government’s deep concern and respect for State requirements or needs and that the Government is meeting them at the maximum level having regard to the nation’s ability to pay. Social welfare receives the second largest allocation under this Budget. This year no less than SI, 820m is allocated for social services, health services, repatriation benefits and housing. This represents an increase for these very human requirements of Si 57m. The attitude of this Government towards humane legislation is highly commendable. It has made an honest attempt to render maximum assistance in the areas of greatest need. I believe that when the impact is felt individually and the expressed desires and intentions receive real monetary consideration, the people of this country will appreciate that it has been the deep desire of the Government, within the very difficult situation of the allocation of moneys available for the many necessary purposes, to ensure that the basic needs are met. 1 turn now to the introduction in this Budget of excise duty on wines. I am concerned at the introduction of this tax. Its appearance is most untimely for an industry which has only in recent years enjoyed a buoyant situation. It could well mark the passing of the industry into an era of difficulty comparable with that experienced 5 or 6 years ago by the viticultural interests in placing the vintage. One would need a very short memory not to recall that in 1964-65, with a vintage of much smaller dimensions than that of the past year, great difficulty was experienced. A vintage of about 295,000 tons was gathered last year. In the current year it is expected to be about 330,000 tons. With such an increase in grape production a continuing distribution of the product is essential both on local and overseas markets. Otherwise a situation similar to that of about 6 years ago could be repeated.
I recall vividly that in 1964-65 in South Australia, where 68 per cent of Australia’s wine grapes are grown, because of huge stocks of wine held in the wineries, despite their best endeavours to take in the vintage it was found to be impossible. At that time co-operatives were set up to process grape juice into spirit. Government assistance was given to obtain locations for the transformation of the juice to spirit. Finally payments were made to growers on the returns of processed spirits or brandy. Since that time there has been a great increase in the demand for table wines in Australia. However, exports of wine have not increased appreciably over the period and the local market has formed the basis for the seemingly prosperous and buoyant state of the industry.
– The home market is the best market.
– That is so.
– Do you think that that will continue?
– No. I arn concerned at the situation.
– We share your concern.
– Yes. If overseas outlets were available for our wine, containment of present plantings could be anticipated, lt is anticipated that within 5 years not less than 500,000 tons of grapes will be available annually for processing. Turkey, our greatest competitor on overseas markets for dried fruits and particularly for vine fruits has devalued its currency. Advantages for Turkey arising from that move may detrimentally affect our sales of dried fruit products. Further, the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community could be a blow to an avenue of exodus for our surplus dual purpose grapes. It is clear that a not particularly happy situation is facing the grape growing industry and the wine making industry in Australia. About 6000 people are dependent in Australia on grape growing for their livelihood. In the main these people have mixed holdings, on which fruit trees and vines are grown. Honourable senators will appreciate that in many areas the products of the vines have kept producers going through a difficult period.
– The product is better.
– It certainly is. The introduction of excise of 50c a gallon on table wines could lead to a decreased demand for wines.
– lt will be felt on the home market.
– Yes. This being so, repercussions could be felt by the industry which has hitherto been ruggedly independent. It is one rural industry which has not required or sought assistance from the Government. I am perturbed at the prospects of this very important industry. It has been nurtured and advanced through the assistance of family organisations, particularly in South Australia. There is a very proud history of co-operation between winemakers and grape growers. Because of a temporary upsurge of demand for wine, plantings have been increased to a point which could mean real difficulties in the near future. The incidence of the excise must be watched very closely by the Government to study its effects on local sales of wine and on the ability of growers to sell their perishable products at vintage time.
I repeat that the grape growing industry is the only major primary industry which has not in recent years approached the Government for a subsidy or price support. The wheat, wool, dairy and sugar industries have gone to the Government in a procession, unfortunately, and the problems of the canned fruit industry through a glut of citrus fruits and apples and pears are constantly brought to the notice of the Government in Canberra. It must be appreciated that an industry which has thus far stood on its own feet should not in any way be so detrimentally affected as to be unable to sustain itself because of factors beyond its control, including the imposition of excise duty.
– Can the honourable senator see any sense in allowing a home brewer to brew 8 gallons a week for his own consumption, without tax?
– That is another matter. I wish to deal now with the imposition of the excise duty without regard to the quality of wines. Excise, as distinct from sales tax adds to the prime cost of the product, and as such requires financing from the producer through to the retailer and is taxed again for State liquor taxes. Therefore, the 50c per gallon becomes 13c per bottle to the consumer. In practical terms a bottle of wine at $4 increases by 13c, that is, an increase of 3.25 per cent. On a bottle of wine which costs 75c the increase of 1 3c represents an increase of 17.4 per cent. A flagon of wine at $1 .25 increases by 39c to $1.64. namely 31 per cent. It is this inequitable incidence of increase which could cause great difficulty to the industry. 1 believe that a sales tax, being a tax al end product and based on the ad valorem principle, would have been better for the industry than an overall increase which has the same application to a bottle or a flagon of wine of low cost and to a bottle of the best champagne. The Government should for the present allow vignerons to pay the lax over a period of normal commercial term credit.
One could quote many figures relating to this matter. It would be tedious to do so but they would show explicitly what lies ahead. Unless there is an awareness of the problem and a preparedness to take action to remove the charge there could be adverse effects on the whole industry from grower to wine maker. If there is any obvious decline in wine sales or if any difficulty arises at next vintage for the placement of wines by growers, I hope that the Government will consider immediately lifting the proposed impost.
– lt has already plunged the industry into a price war.
– I understand that that is so.
– The main thing is that it has taken away liquidity. One company had to find $140,000 of liquid money, never to be seen again.
– lt certainly requires more capital on the part of all vignerons, but in the case of the small wine maker it has a special effect. 1 am very happy with the general attitude of the Minister for Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, to this matter. He is considerate of the position of the wine maker, the grape grower and the small man who will experience difficulty in finding funds to pay the excise under the system which is to be applied.
– Do you mean that he will do something about it?
– I believe that he will assist by understanding the financial considerations which could arise for the small operator. That would be of real benefit to them.
– ls this in the form of relief or only in the form of extended payments?
– I understand that it could be only in the form of extended payments. I think that ordinary commercial term credit for the payment of the tax would be in itself of major assistance to the wine making industry.
– An extension of 30 days would help the industry, would it not?
– That is right. It would run through the gamut of production.
– I join with those honourable senators who have congratulated Senator Douglas Scott on his maiden speech tonight. We look forward to his further contributions in the Senate. Senator Douglas Scott made his maiden speech tonight; my colleague, Senator Jim Toohey, last night made his final speech on a budget. I am sure that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber will join with me in saying how much we regret this. I thank him for all the assistance that he has given me in the years that I have been in the Senate. I take his place as number one in the Labor Parly team for the forthcoming election and I only hope that I can carry out my job as well as Jim Toohey carried out his.
Senator Laucke commended the Government on the Budget and then went on to criticise the Government for imposing the excise duty on wine. However I suppose it is only natural to expect that he will support the Government. Senator Cavanagh also mentioned the wine industry so I shall content myself by saying that the proposed excise duty will be a heavy blow not only to the wine industry but also to South Australia as a whole. The wine industry is vital to the economy of South Australia, which I have the honour to represent, and any adverse effects suffered by the industry will be felt throughout the State, lt has been said that people have a right to make a profit. The Labor Party has never chai- lenged that concept nor has it been opposed to profit making but it is opposed, and at all times will be opposed, to profit making by means of exploitation. Senator Laucke praised the standard of Australian welfare and mentioned our present economic standard but, like the majority of his colleagues on the Government side, he said nothing about the miserly 50c that the Government has given to the pensioners of this country.
I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). This Budget does not meet the needs of the Australian people. Although it may perhaps satisfy a minute section of the community, it will not benefit the community as a whole. In fact, it will make the lot of the Australian people much more difficult than it is. The Budget does not make any provision for an increase in child endowment. If the Government had seen fit to do something about increasing child endowment instead of reducing the level of personal income taxation on taxpapers in the lower and middle income groups I feel that it would have been more beneficial to the family man.
– But the Opposition was all for a rebate before.
– This may have been so. However, I feel that an increase of child endowment could have been more beneficial to the family man. As I have said before in this chamber, the family unit is the backbone of Australia. I feel that assistance to the people in the lower income bracket by way of increased child endowment payments would have given them a greater opportunity to better their standard of living than a reduction in their level of personal income taxation.
Consideration should have been given also to people on fixed incomes. Their incomes are being whittled away by inflation and they have no means of redress. 1 agree with some of the criticism which has been levelled at this Budget, particularly with the Press description of it as a give and take Budget. It certainly takes more than it gives. I have already mentioned the miserly increase of 50c in the age pension. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber have pointed out, and it has never been refuted by honourable senators on the other side of the chamber, that the increase of 50c in the age pension will be absorbed by the extra costs which pensioners will have to meet as a result of the imposition of different forms of indirect taxation. One has only to look at the increased postage charges. The proposal is that the letter rate will be increased from 5c to 6c. Many pensioners like to write to their families. Most honourable senators in this chamber receive correspondence from pensioners who are either seeking some help or are thanking honourable senators for the help which they have provided. The increase in the cost of a postage stamp will mean that more than one-tenth of the increase in the age pension will be absorbed each time a pensioner writes a letter to his or her member of Parliament seeking information concerning, for example, some small benefit which might be available.
All honourable senators know that the increase in the excise on petrol must have a bearing on the cost of living. The same applies to the increase in the sales tax on certain commodities. Everyone knows that pensioners and others on fixed incomes will have to meet the increased cost of living just as well as people who are receiving very high salaries. A pensioner who is a smoker and enjoys rolling his own cigarettes will find that much of his pension increase will be taken away by the increased excise on cigarettes and tobacco. When one looks at what has been given to the pensioners one must agree that they have been very sadly neglected indeed.
Last night Senator Toohey spoke about the injustice suffered by a man who is eligible for the age pension but whose wife is ineligible because she is under the age of 60. Such a couple are obliged to live on the single age pension rate unless the husband is an invalid. If the husband is an invalid his wife will receive an allowance of $7 a week. However, a restriction is placed upon the wife if she goes out to work. The allowance of $7 a week is paid only if she is looking after her husband full time. It has been pointed out before in this chamber that it is very difficult for a woman - even a man - over the age of 50 to obtain employment. However, because a married couple are permitted to earn only $17 a week part time employment has to be found. This narrows the field considerably. Some men who are forced to retire on reaching the age of 65 have wives who are not eligible for the age pension. If these men have contributed to a superannuation fund or receive a lump sum payment in the form of a retirement benefit restrictions are placed on how much the wife can earn if she wants to work. 1 suggest to the Government that one way this sort of problem could be overcome would be to increase the permissible earnings of pensioners whose wives are not eligible for the pension. Also, if the wife’s permissible earnings were increased 1 feel that she would have a better chance to obtain employment than she has under the present circumstances.
I refer now to repatriation benefits, lt is claimed that the totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner will receive an increase of $2 a week under the Budget proposals. According to my calculation a TPI pensioner will not receive the full $2 a week. I will illustrate my point in this manner: At present a single TPI pensioner receives $36 a week. If he receives the Service pension it means that he receives an extra $2 a week, which gives him $38 a week. Under the Budget proposals he will receive §38 a week but his Service pension will be decreased to $1.50 a week, which means that he will be receiving only $39.50 a week, an increase of Si. 50 a week and not $2 a week as mentioned in the Budget. A married TPI. pensioner whose wife is eligible for a pension receives $53 a week at present. Under the Budget proposals he will receive a total of $55 a week, which means an increase of $2 a week. The wife will not receive any increase at all. To say that the TPI pension rate has been increased by $2 a week is incorrect. When the amounts are studied, the increase for the single TPI pensioner is $1.50 a week and the increase for the married couple is $2 a week. I will not proceed further with comments on repatriation benefits. Many things could be said on the subject, but 1 think that the most opportune time to say them would be when the consequential Repatriation Bill is introduced.
Honourable senators opposite have always complained about increased wages being the main reason for rapidly rising costs and prices. They blame all the ills of the nation on increased wages. In particular, they blame increased wages for the plight of the rural industries. 1 do not for one moment suggest that wages do not have any effect on increased prices and costs, because one would be very naive if one believed that they did not. On one hand one would be blind not to see that wages do have some effect on prices but, on the other hand, one would be equally blind not to see that wages are not entirely to blame. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the publication The Australian Economy 1970’. The article on page 12, under the heading ‘Costs and Prices’, bears out my contention. The article reads:
Wages are the largest element in costs bin by no means the only one. Profit margins, interest rales, taxes and charges all have a direct part in determining cost levels within the economy and, proportionately, can do as much lo raise costs as wage movements. At times, also, external factors, such as export and import prices and exchange rate movements, can have considerable influence, in one direction or the other, on the domestic price structure.
What will be said here abou: lnc effect which rising wages have had on prices in recent years is nol al all intended lo imply thai they have been solely responsible for the price increases which have occurred, ll is nol so. A good many oilier factors have contributed, larger profit margins probably more than most. Also any tendency for demand lo run lo excess quickly reflects itself in the elements making up costs but the directly consequential rises in wages are the symptoms rather l11 un causes of the prevailing inflation.
From that statement one can see that inflation is not due entirely to increased wages. As f said previously, that is one of the factors, but inflation is not due entirely to rising wages. Honourable senators must always remember that most applications for a wage increase must go to arbitration. Anybody who has been connected with the trade union movement or who has put to arbitration a case on behalf of the wage earner knows that it is a very costly exercise. On the other hand, industry and commerce can increase the prices of their commodities any time they wish; they do not have to resort to arbitration, ls it any wonder that the wage earner today, who has only his labour to sell, takes advantage of every opportunity to try to improve his standard of living? In some instances he has had to adopt direct action before the claim is heard.
– Often he has had to take direct action to expedite the hearing of the case.
– This is true. Members of the Government have not been able to justify the Budget. They have failed to answer the criticisms levelled at it not only by the Labor Party but also by many people outside Parliament. Even the Press condemned the Budget. The Government is very concerned about the ALP image. I refer to an article in the Canberra Times* of 27th August of this year. The article is headed ‘Concern over ALP image by coalition*. It reads:
Concern about developments in the Labor Party and about the apparent improvement in Labor’s electoral prospects was discussed at a meeting of Parliamentary Liberal and Country Parties yesterday.
Backbenchers called for a vigorous campaign by the Government parties to counter the favourable publicity which, they said, the Labor Party was gaining unjustifiably by presenting a false image of moderation.
The article lists the names of the people who evidently participated in the debate. One of them was the honourable member for Ryan, Mr Drury, my namesake from Queensland, although he is on the opposite side of the fence to me.
– He is no relation? Senator DRURY- That is correct. Senator Wright - Did the contribution appeal to you because of the name?
– Nol really. The article continues:
Mr Drury (Lib, Qld) said Government Mi’s should undertake a public analysis of the Labor Party platform and point out to the electorate that the Labor Party was as socialistic as ever.
I do not remember the Labor Party denying that it was as Socialistic as ever. We still believe in democratic Socialism. That is contained in the Platform, Constitution and Rules brought down at the Commonwealth Conference of the Labor Party at Melbourne in 1969. The article continues:
Dr Mackay (Lib, NSW) said the Government Parties should make better use of Parliament as a forum for the exposure of the Labor Party, particularly in pointing up the co-operation between the Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, and the ACTU President, Mr. R. J. Hawke.
– What did Mr Holten have to say?
– His contribution must have been left out of the report. There must be co-operation between the political wing of the Labor Party and the industrial wing of the Labor Party. I do not know what Dr Mackay was trying to prove when he said that the public should be informed of the co-operation between the two - Mr Hawke and Mr Whitlam. The article continues:
Mr Cairns (Lib, Qld) said Mr Whitlam was getting too much electoral credit for the attempted reforms in the Victorian ALP branch. Liberals should point out that similar reforms were needed in other State branches of the Labor Party.
I can assure the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) that there is nothing wrong with the image of the ALP in South Australia. At present in South Australia the ALP has 6 out of the 10 senators and 8 out of the 12 members of the House of Representatives.
– ff we were gratuitous enough we could offer the Liberals some suggestions on reform.
– We could do this. The article continues:
The Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth, said that, contrary to the general impression, the Labor Party was going to the left. Mr Whitlam had unified the Labor Party by coming to terms with the left and by condoning strikes and disturbances.
I do not think that any member of the Labor Party condones disturbances that cause bother to people and interfere with their rights. We condemn any demonstrators who resort to violence. We believe in peaceful and well disciplined demonstrations. I, like Senator Toohey, have taken part in demonstrations. The most recent one was the demonstration in Adelaide by the rural movement. That was a very orderly demonstration. But we would have no part of any demonstration that resorted to violence or upset the rights of citizens. The article continued:
Mr Jess (Lib., Vic.) called on the AttorneyGeneral, Mr Hughes, to ‘make up his mind’ about the prosecution of protesters who invaded national service offices and other buildings.
We do not condone that sort of thing either. We believe that that sort of activity is outside the ambit of demonstrations. 1 believe that people who invade national service offices and other buildings should be brought to book for it. The article concluded:
The party-room debate on the Labor Party followed discussion about whether the Government Parties should have tighter discipline in Parliament.
I do not know whether a decision has been reached on that point. But despite the criticisms and abuse that are hurled against the Labor Party, the whole theme of this article proves that Government supporters are concerned about the image of the Australian Labor Party.
– They are a little scared.
– I would go so far as to say that they are scared. This will be proved in the very near future when the Australian people have to make up their minds as to which Party they support at the forthcoming Senate elections. I feel sure that they will give credit to the Australian Labor Party for what it is doing, and will vote accordingly.
Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) 1 10.42] - At the outset I would like to say that 1 cannot commend too strongly the maiden speech that was delivered in this chamber this evening by Senator Douglas Scott. In my view he gave expression to the very highest principles when he said that freedom is a disciplined way of life. I could not help but think just how true that was. As he pointed out, there is a danger even in this country of organised defiance of the law, when people in public places and when prominent men openly advocate defiance of the law. Even the Premier of a State went fairly close to advocating defiance of the law. That freedom has resulted from the evolution of several centuries. One can look further afield to the United States of America and even to Great Britain, which has always been looked upon as being amongst the most sedate and law abiding of all the democracies, and see this attitude towards the law appearing to grow. It fills people like Senator Douglas Sott with a certain amount of foreboding that this attitude can and has reached its present stage. We all remember what happened in Italy and Germany before the war when things became so chaotic that for the very sake of law and order in those 2 countries dictatorships were formed, and disastrous results followed.
I suppose that after a few years when one sees budgets, both State and Federal, come and go one becomes a little bit cynical. One newspaper summed it up very well, in my view, when it said that budgets have become a matter of universal execra tion. And that is true. One hardly ever hears anyone commend a budget. But, on the other hand, as the newspaper said, the mass of the Australian people demand endless benefits and they seem unaware that the taxpayer must pay for everything. In my time in Parliament, whenever a new tax has been mooted or an increase in taxation has been proposed, the Opposition, in particular, has branded it as being the most iniquitious, unfair and unjustifiable taxation yet devised by the wit of man. Of course, if social benefits are to be drastically increased, from where is the money to come to pay for them? It is to be noted that the Opposition has not advanced am proposal as to how taxation is to be increased commensurate with the benefits which it is always advocating in season and out of season. lt is true that there have been reductions in taxation for the middle and lower income tax groups. Of course, that has been branded as an inequitable proposition, that commensurately it takes too much from the lower wage earner and it does not take enough from those in the higher wage bracket. I believe that one could work out a dozen or 20 different ways to achieve just that end, but none of them would meet with universal approval. For my part I would sooner have seen more consideration given by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) when this Budget was framed to allowing larger taxation deductions for the dependants of the taxpayer who has the reponsibility to care for those who depend on him. 1 believe that he should have been among the first to be considered in any taxation relief proposal. I believe that there is ample scope for increasing the taxation deductions which are allowed to such persons.
I take note of the fact that the Australian Labor Party, in its amendment, stated that the Budget does not make any provision for the restructuring of stricken primary industries. That of course is true, because it cannot do that. Primary industries in this country find themselves in a difficult position, and I am in complete sympathy with them because I have been engaged in primary industry all my life. They are in this position because it is a world wide phenomenon, and there is no easy, ready-made cure to set the position right. It is all very well to refer to the restructuring of stricken primary industries, but it seems to me that that is something which is very difficult to achieve. This is something which must be approached after much consideration, and the Budget has set out in this direction. 1 should like to say of the Minister for Primary Industry that 1 believe that in Mr Anthony we have a man who is dedicated to his job, a man who is doing his utmost in an attempt to rectify the position of primary industries. The Budget contains some very clear cut provisions, including $29m for wool promotion and research, $2. 9m towards the costs associated with the price averaging plan which is now operating, $650,000 for research into presale, and so on. The Budget contains many things which in the aggregate will be of direct and special benefit to the primary producer.
The primary producer is in his present position because of world-wide conditions, plus the fact that in many cases he has been costed out of production. Speaking for my own State, Tasmania has lost its potato industry because it has been costed out of that industry. It is in danger of losing its pea industry because it is being costed out of that industry. In fact we have reached the stage in Tasmania where it is nearly impossible to think of any crop that can be grown at a profit because costs are so excessive. Senator Drury mentioned that rising wages had been blamed for the inflationary spiral and for the increasing costs incurred by primary producers and the whole of the community. His remarks bring to my mind the thought that we hear so much about the paucity of the increase in pensions. Mr Bury has put out a statement which indicates fairly clearly that the increase in pensions redresses the increases in costs to pensioners since the last Budget was brought down.
– Do you really think it does?
– I see no reason to doubt the statement that he made and I suppose the honourable senator has a copy of it. But the point I make is that not only is an increase in wages vain and useless without accompanying increases in productivity but also the spate and growing number of ruinous, wasteful, useless strikes which seem to have become the order of the day in the Australian community have done more to erode the value of pensions and people’s incomes than anything else that I can think of. 1 was interested to read that Great Britain, even under the administration of a Labour government, was faced with precisely the same position. A report on the situation in Britain stated, in referring to the situation this year:
In the first 7 months 6,054,000 days were lost compared with 3,101,000 in January to July last year. In the whole of last year, which was a very bad year for strikes, the total was only 6,846,000 days lost. During most of the 1950s the number of days .lost was significantly below 3 million a year, but in 1968 the figure rose to 4,690,000. lt has gone onwards and upwards since then.
– What did you say the figure was for last year?
– In the first 7 months of this year 6,054,000 days were lost compared with 3,101,000 in January to July last year. So the number doubled over the same period in the succeeding year. But I go on to say that we should take stock of our own position because the report states that the increase is a direct result of a surrender to the Trade Union Council of antistrike legislation by the previous Prime Minister, Mr Wilson. That is what happened in the United Kingdom.
When this Budget was first brought down it was reported in the Press and the Australian Council of Trade Unions called for at least a stoppage or a demonstration. Mr Hawke denied that the action was designated as a strike. I am not disputing that.
– What else could it have been? It was a strike.
– Then it was a strike. If it was in relation to this Budget and if those responsible called for the stoppage because they thought that John Citizen in Australia was getting a raw deal from the Budget, they were saying in effect: ‘We will bedevil him a bit more; we will cause him more inconvenience; we will dislocate his services and, furthermore, we will strike one more little blow towards the erosion of his pension.’ That is precisely what this action amounts to. Some time ago when Princess Anne visited a university in this city a demonstration was held. That was just about the most asinine thing I have ever heard of. This teenage girl went to the university and witnessed a demonstration about the treatment of our Aboriginals - something that she positively had nothing to do with. When she saw the demonstration she asked: ‘What has all this to do with me?’ I thought that the demonstration was the most imbecile proposition that I had ever read about. But when this man comes out in protest against a Budget of which he disapproves and says, in effect. We will make things just a little bit tougher for the people who we feel are injured by or have failed to get redress from the Budget’, that beats the demonstration about the Aboriginals which confronted Princess Anne when she went to the university. If the arbitration system as we know it in this country is to be bypassed and repeatedly is to give way to tactics adopted by the militant trade unions, I wonder what our ultimate future will be.
– Better than the days when they used the lash on the workers.
– The honourable senator should read the statement made by the Secretary of the builders labourers union.
– 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 resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700902_senate_27_s45/>.