27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigation. In view of the Prime Minister’s observations on our immigration policy and the moral values aspect, how do we justify restrictions on visits to Australia by New Zealand citizens of nonEuropean and non-Maori origin who are members of the British Commonwealth? Does the Minister still insist that the New Zealand Government is indifferent to this situation?
– 1 inform the honourable senator that the people to whom he has referred are not restricted from visiting Australia. They require prior permission to do so. but they can readily obtain that. The Minister has never said that the New Zealand Government is indifferent to this or other immigration matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and the Minister for Immigration. I refer to reports that foot and mouth disease is rampant in Lebanon. Do migrants from Lebanon enter Australia by air? If so, what special precautions are being taken to ensure that the disease is not brought into Australia? If the reports be true, has any consideration been given to bringing migrants from that area by sea?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honourable senator refers; but I appreciate the importance of the question he has asked. 1 believe that it could be referred not only to the Minister for Immigration but also to the Minister for Health. 1 will endeavour to do whatever I’ can to obtain this information for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
What are the qualifications required of a person seeking a position with the Department of Civil Aviation as a qualified radio telephone operator? Is there any age limit on persons who apply for such positions? If so, would that age limit apply to a former Royal Australian Air Force flight sergeant who could establish, by records and test, an efficiency in this field beyond the requirements of the Department of Civil Aviation?
– As a former RAAF sergeant myself, I have a great interest in the welfare of all former RAAF sergeants. I cannot give the honourable senator precise details of age limits or qualifications, but he may be assured that I will find out that information for him and let him have it.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Minister representing, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, concerns a statement that the Government has refused to accept an agreement between the Australian National Line and the waterside workers. Does the Government intend to persist with its objections to the agreement made between the industrial organisation covering waterside workers connected with the Australian National Line and the Australian National Line under which the hours are certainly not lower than those provided under the Stevedoring Industry Act? In view of the fact that the Government and. other organisations are urging upon the industrial community that there should be new industrial relations procedures and the consummation of agreements where possible, how does the Government justify its action in preventing the operation of an industrial agreement which has been approved by the operating body?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn truth, I believe that the question should be directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service because it deals with industrial relations. Having regard to the comprehensive nature of the number of points involved in the honourable senator’s question, I suggest that he so direct it. I can do it for him if he so desires. On the other hand, he may have it directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service by placing it on the notice paper.
– Perhaps Senator Wright could add to that.
– I respond to that suggestion and say to Senator Bishop that when the Australian Stevedoring Industry Conference, and later the Stevedoring Industry Council, as it became, were constituted to establish principles of employment on the waterfront, specific provision was made that special agreements when renewed should conform to the principles established in agreements reached by those bodies. Insofar as the special agreement to which Senator Bishop referred, as proposed by the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian National Line, conflicts with those principles, there is objection. If there were an agreement in conformity with those principles, it would be approved.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: What arrangements, if any, are being made by the Department of External Affairs for members of the Cambodian parliamentary delegation now visiting Australia to meet members of the Australian Parliament and, in particular, Party leaders to discuss the serious position in Cambodia?
As honourable senators are aware, the Cambodian parliamentary delegation was present here yesterday. I would like to have some notice in order to find out some particularity about discusions with Party leaders. I have assumed that that would be arranged.
– Not with our Leader.
If Senator McManus is referring to his own Party,I will make inquiries and provide him with an answer.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport been directed to an article in Monday’s Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ which claimed that the South Australian Government was ready to share with the Commonwealth Government the cost of sealing the remaining stretch of the Eyre Highway to the Western Australian border? Would consideration be given by the Commonwealth Government, through the Minister’s colleague, to a sharing of cost arrangement with South Australia on the basis of an outlay of one-third by the South Australian Government and twothirds by the Commonwealth Government?
– The Press article to which the honourable senator referred has been brought to the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The Government is always prepared to consider well based proposals for financial assistance placed before it by the States. It has been consistently the view of this Government that the Eyre Highway is a road of national importance and an important link in the Australian arterial road network. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has declared it to be a rural arterial road for the purposes of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969. Under that Act South Australia is receiving $120m for expenditure on roads up to June 1974. Of this amount $1 3.67m has been allocated for rural arterial roads, such as the Eyre Highway. There is provision in the Act also for a supplementary grant of $9m to South Australia, any part of which can be spent on the Eyre Highway. It is the view of the Minister for Shipping and Transport that the Eyre Highway should be sealed as soon as possible. It should be borne in mind, however, that the initiative in this regard rests with the South Australian Government.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government. In view of the Treasurer’s statement that the cost to the Commonwealth of paying pensioners an additional 50c a week would be an extra $30m a year and would plunge the economy into headlong inflation, can the Minister now advise what will be the effect upon the economy of the loss of $90m this financial year because of the Commonwealth being unable to collect the receipts duties tax? Further will the Minister give an assurance that after the Senate election no credit squeeze will be brought about by the banks or by the introduction of a supplementary budget because the economy has been affected by the loss of the $90m?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn the first place [ do not know how the honourable senator arrived at the figure of $90m, But putting that aside for the moment, the fact is that we are in the Budget session, during which we have debated the merits of the Budget and its structure.
– The demerits, loo.
– Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The fact is that what the honourable senator hypothesises in his question is related to decisions which will be taken after the Senate election in relation to the economy. The fact is that decisions were made in the Budget based on the state of the economy at a certain time. If at a certain time outside the Budget climate certain procedures are necessary to be put into effect to aid the economy, decisions on those matters will be taken in good faith having regard to the welfare of people in Australia.
– Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister agree that a judge hearing the gravamen of a complaint and all the circumstances surrounding the commission of an offence is in the best position to determine what penally should be imposed? Does the Minister agree that any criticism by a Government Minister of a penalty imposed is undesirable and expresses a lack of confidence in the presiding judge? Further, does the Minister agree that whether bail is granted or refused should be based on an opinion of what is necessary to ensure the attendance of a defendant at his trial? In the Minister’s opinion, would an expression of amazement by a Minister at a judge releasing a defendant on bail be inappropriate and express a lack of confidence in the judiciary?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not in a situation where ( should react to that question or express views about some hypothetical case to which the honourable senator might be referring. One would need to know all the circumstances associated with the incident. Any person at any time can have a personal view or reflect mentally on the justice of a conviction, the amount of a fine or the wisdom of granting bail. If it will help the honour able senator I inform him that when I was Minister for Customs and Excise, living as 1 was so very close to cases involving people bringing heavy drugs into this country-
– lt is not a hypothetical case.
I do not want to be cross-examined, Mr President, while I am answering the question. If the honourable senator does not want to hear what I am saying, that is all right. The fact is that while I was the Minister for Customs and Excise 1 had knowledge of people being caught and convicted for peddling heavy drugs. Frankly 1 was disappointed at the penalties imposed on them in view of the legislation relating to drug peddling that I had introduced and had carried through this Parliament.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs aware of the considerable opposition of India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Tanzania, and most of the other nations bordering the Indian Ocean to the proposed sale of arms by the British Government to the Republic of South Africa? Does the Minister not agree that (he implied support of the Australian Government for the proposed arms sales to South Africa is dangerous to Australia’s friendly relations with our Indian. Ocean neighbours and consequently to any role which this country may wish to play in safeguarding (he peace of the Indian Ocean area? Has the Australian Government had any discussions, or does it intend to have any discussions, with the governments of the countries in this area who are opposed to the arms sales with the purpose of ensuring that this Government’s solicitude for the South African Government does not imperil our relations with those countries, whose friendship is essential to Australia?
Some little lime ago the Prime Minister made a statement in another place in response to a question about Australia’s attitude to this matter. I add nothing to what he said. I suggest that the subsequent part of the honourable senator’s question should go on the notice paper.
– 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that an investigation is being carried out by his Department into the need for another international airport for New South Wales. In view of the fact that in 1969 domestic airlines logged 253,854 flying hours, our international airline, Qantas, totalled 70,770 flying hours, and by comparison general aviation services in Australia logged 1,151,666 flying hours, I ask the Minister whether the needs of general aviation services for airports are being considered as well! When can the results of these investigations be made available to the Senate?
– What is happening in respect of New South Wales is that a detailed examination is being made by an interdepartmental committee of the need for a second airport to serve the Sydney area. This does not involve a consideration of international services only; it also includes domestic requirements. The honourable senator referred to air movements and to general aviation movements within that pattern. I will arrange to have produced for her a statement of air movements showing that the situation is not quite as she imagines it to be. Genera] aviation services tend to use the genera] aviation airfield provided at all capital cities. In Brisbane it is Archerfield, in Sydney it is Bankstown, in Melbourne it is Moorabbin, in Adelaide it is Parafield, and in Perth it is Jandakot. These fields are specifically organised to cater for general aviation. In each case studies are going on all the time to determine the point of time at which general aviation will require extensions to or additional airfield facilities.
The other matter is the problem of international and trunk domestic services. This is also being studied all the time, particularly in Sydney. I have answered a number of questions on this. Consideration is still being given to a report on the future possibilities for Sydney. This matter is by no means as clear as people might imagine. It needs very detailed study, and in due course it will have to go to the responsible State authorities as well. It is a very complex matter and it involves tremendous sums of money. No-one is trying to withhold information; on-one is trying to bs difficult. What we are trying to do is to get the maximum information that can be obtained by all the people who have an opinion to offer and whose judgments on these matters need to be taken into account for the potential investment of huge sums of money. Therefore the future of Sydney airport is considered in relation to 2 areas - the domestic and international passenger carrying area and the general charter area. To help the honourable senator, I will obtain information about the matter she raised.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to a Press report of today’s date, stating that drivers, batmen and mess stewards, many of whom have had no real military training, will now be required for forward patrol work with the infantry in Vietnam. Is the report accurate? If it is, will the Minister for the Army take appropriate immediate measures to ensure that the order is cancelled in order to preserve the lives of untrained Army personnel?
– I am not aware of the Press report. I will make inquiries and let the honourable senator know.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister received from a group of Victorians who have initiated a pensioners’ little budget campaign correspondence in which they point out that, as a percentage of the average weekly wage, the new pension rate is the lowest it has been in the past 20 years? They seek an immediate increase in the pension rate of Si a week, to be financed by reducing the taxation cuts for middle income earners by $60m. Is the Prime Minister prepared to act in accordance with the terms of the correspondence and increase pensions, which are at their lowest rate for 20 years?
The honourable senator has asked me whether the Prime Minister has received a letter. I do not know. Therefore, I will need to make some inquiries about the question that he has asked.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to the fact that at present in Australia there is a visiting parliamentary delegation from Cambodia. What steps have been taken to enable these Cambodian politicians to tell the Australian people, via the media of radio and television, of the tragedies and loss of life that have befallen Cambodia since it was mercilessly invaded by North Vietnamese forces?
The honourable senator’s question follows somewhat the pattern of the question asked a short time ago by Senator McManus. This question is related to the normal media for publication of the tragic experiences that Cambodians have had to endure. Senator McManus’s question related to an opportunity being made available for the visiting politicians to discuss this matter with parliamentarians. I think I should take both questions together and endeavour to obtain information, which I hope will be available tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force fighter base at Butterworth, which accommodates a substantial part of the Australian fighter capacity, at present has no air defence system and the minimum airfield defence complement? If this is the position, are the Minister and the RAAF satisfied with the security of the Australian unit stationed there?
– I think the honourable senator is aware that a changeover is taking place at Butterworth. I was there 6 or 8 weeks ago and was able to inspect the area. I am not sure what the defence system is at the moment, but I will make it my business to find out and let the honourable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. It follows my previous question. I thank the Minister for his courteous answer on that occasion. He said that the investigation of opportunities for both domestic and general aviation services was very complex and involved the investment of large sums of money. In view of the fact that the general aviation operations are about 4 times as great as the domestic and international operations combined, is any consideration being given to the investment by local authorities or private individuals of sums of money for the opening up of further airstrips to encourage operations in the general aviation field?
– The future requirements of general aviation are continuously under review. The present indications are that the general aviation fields which serve the major capital cities of Australia are operating well within their capacity. The Senate can rest assured that this matter is under continuous study and if it is found that any needs are required to be met they will be met.
– I direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Can the Minister explain how, in the wake of a much tighter screening of migrants from the United Kingdom, Mrs Biggs appears to be receiving special solicitude when financially she is fairly affluent due to her proceeds from a syndicated article capitalising on the exploits of her husband which resulted in the death in a much less affluent state of a British locomotive engine driver? Why should the application of Mrs Biggs receive more sympathy from the Department of Immigration than another United Kingdom deportation dispute in which the Department is embroiled which is based on an affair of the heart’ issue?
– Mrs Biggs was allowed to stay in Australia on a temporary permit essentially out of consideration of the interest of her children. Her permit has not yet expired. Mrs Taylor is to leave Australia today to take her children back to Britain in accordance with a Supreme Court order.
(Question No.. 585)
asked the Minis ter representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Will the Attorney-General allay the fears of Sydney residents that the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Court seems to give to wealthy bookmakers dispensation from being called in cases under investigation, while people in less lucrative positions in the community would be subpoenaed to attend or risk possible contempt charges.
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Upon application by the trustee of a bankrupt estate or a creditor who has proved his debt, any person who is known or suspected to have in his possession any property of the bankrupt, or who is supposed to be indebted to the bankrupt or to be able to give information about the bankrupt or his trade dealings, properly or affairs, may be summoned to give evidence before the Bankruptcy Court or the Registrar. Persons from all sections of the community are summoned to appear before the Court or the Registrar and no exemption is granted on the basis of wealth or occupation. The most recent appearance of a bookmaker before the Bankruptcy Court in Sydney was on 28 September 1970.
(Question No. 606)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the total value of Australian military equipment forwarded to South Vietnam which has not reached its proper destination and has been subsequently sold on the blackmarket in that country.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In reply to a similar question in the Senate on 1 September 1970, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson pointed out the practical difficulties in answering your questions. I refer you to the record of that answer in Hansard. It is not possible to obtain information of the extent, if any, of blackmarketing of Australian goods and military equipment in South Vietnam.
However, Australian methods of control and the relative size of the Australian Force significantly reduce the possibilities of losses to the blackmarket.
Whilst it is not possible to determine the extent of such losses, I have not been advised of any evidence that a problem exists.
(Question No. 605)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What has been the total quantity of Australian goods, including military equipment, exported from Australia to South Vietnam and lost to the blackmarket in that country.
The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question, and it is in almost identical terms to the answer given to the previous question:
In reply to a similar question in the Senate on 1st September 1970, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson pointed out the practical difficulties in answering your questions. I refer you to the record of that answer in Hansard. It is not possible to obtain information of the extent, if any, of blackmarketing of Australian goods and military equipment in South Vietnam.
However, Australian methods of control and the relative size of the Australian Force significantly reduce the possibilities of losses to the blackmarket.
Whilst it is not possible to determine the extent of such losses. I have not been advised of any evidence that a problem exists.
(Question No. 719)
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
In view of the reply to question No. 463 in which the Minister informed me that an Aborigine at Yarrabah Reserve had been sentenced to 14 days imprisonment for consuming intoxicating liquor on thereserve, and that further charges had resulted in an additional 56 days imprisonment being imposed, can the Minister give details of the 6 additional charges, including the nature of the alleged offences, and the term of imprisonment imposed for each.
– The Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The additional charges are as follows:
Behave in a disorderly manner - 7 days
Behave in a riotous, violent and disorderly manner - 14 days
Behave in a violent and disorderly manner - 7 days
Use obscene language (2 charges) - 14 days
Use insulting words - 14 days.
(Question No. 749)
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
September have been held over and dated 2nd October, and have included the increased costs recently imposed.
-The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The increased telephone tariffs are operative from 1st October 1970, and payable in respect of ali services as from that date. Subscribers whose October accounts did not include the higher rental charge will receive their next bills in April 1971, and in addition to 6 months rental in advance at the higher rate, those bills will also include a rental adjustment from 1st October 1970.
Experience has shown that most telephone subscribers prefer to have any tariff adjustments included in their accounts at the earliest date so as to escape the cumulative effect of backdated adjustments in later accounts. Before a rental tariff adjustment can be included in telephone accounts a considerable amount of preliminary work is necessary on departmental records. On this occasion, Queensland and Western Australia were the only States in a position to adjust the October accounts and the increased tariff for the corresponding accounts in other States will be billed in April 1971.
In Queensland and Western Australia special efforts were made to include the increased rates in the October bills to avoid the effect on subscribers of adjusting the longer period in the April 1971. accounts. This caused the normal cycle of bill despatch to be extended by about 1 week and the October bills, which would normally have been despatched during September, could not be delivered before 2nd October. In order that subscribers would have a full 14 days in which to pay their accounts, the date was amended’ and the payment terms read ‘Payable within 14 days of 2nd October 1970’.
– I should like to say something about questions on notice. Several days ago I asked about answers to questions which I had placed on notice 4 months ago. I am especially concerned to obtain answers to the questions. 1 wonder whether some steps could fee taken to obtain the answers?
As the honourable senator will know, the Mow of work to the Printing Office throughout the year is not constant and depends upon the requirements of Parliament, which are given priority, and urgent printing required by the Government. In these circumstances resort to overtime is necessary. Since 1st July, 1970, departments have been required to arrange their printing requirements through the Publishing Branch of the Australian Government Publishing Service which is responsible, among other things, for, the allocation of work to the Government Printer and other printers. When the new procedures are in full operation it should be possible to arrange a more even flow of work through the Government Printing Office and this will assist in overcoming some of the current problems.
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral advise the Government’s intentions in regard to the former overseas telecommunications centre at Fiskville, near Ballan, Victoria, which was vacated recently? Will the centre be disposed of by auction or by some other method?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The Overseas Telecommunications Commission radio stations at Fiskville and Rockbank, both in Victoria, became redundant because of the development of high quality overseas telecommunications links via cable and satellite. Following usual practice the Commission asked the Department of the Interior to act as its agent in the disposal of these properties.
As a result the sale of the Rockbank property to the Department of Supply is expected to be finalised shortly while the current situation regarding disposal of the Fiskville property is that the Department of the Interior is still exploring requirements among Commonwealth departments, instrumentalities and State authorities.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Development of Avalon Airport (Victoria) to Boeing 747/Concord Standard.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act 1962-1970 to provide for the payment of an export bounty of $3,379,000 on skim milk powder, buttermilk powder and casein produced and exported in 1970-71. The decision to pay the bounty on non-fat milk products formed part of the arrangements agreed to by the Government for the Australian dairy industry for 1970-71 in response to undertakings by the industry to voluntarily’ restrain butter and cheese production during the year to 220,000 tons and 70,000 tons respectively. The returns from the sale of non-fat milk products represent an important part of producers’ returns and the bounty provisions will help to maintain the allowances made to pro ducers by butter factories for solids-not-fat in milk at the 1969-70 level which reflected the receipt of devaluation compensation payments. However, the bounty provisions will rule out any devaluation compensation being paid on the products in question ex 1970-71 production.
The Bill provides for an appropriation of $1,804,000 for the payment of bounty on skim milk powder and buttermilk powder and $1,575,000 on casein. As with the existing bounty on exports of processed milk products containing butterfat, the bounty will be paid to the producer of the product. There will be provision for interim rates of bounty to be fixed by the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Council. The final rates of bounty will be automatically determined by the quantity of product exported. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
– On behalf of Senator Murphy and at his request, I move:
To illustrate the incompetence of the Government in dealing with this problem, I refer to a motion for the appointment of a royal commission which was moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. On 14th May last the Senate was asked to debate the following motion:
That the Senate is of opinion that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the present condition and future prospects of primary industry in Australia.
The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, moved the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Senate, being aware of the economic position of primary producers and the problems associated therewith, knowing of the immediate need for analysis of industry problems to determine requirements of policy as affecting the different industries and’ believing that a Royal Commission would not meet such an immediate need, as it would involve too lengthy a period for investigation and report, is of the opinion that -
the most appropriate way of investigating the present problems of the primary industries would be to establish industrysponsored committees of enquiry, backed by the available resources of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, to establish lines of action in the light of a world-wide situation; and
these committees should be required to analyse the factors affecting the individual industries and report to the Government upon short-term policies to alleviate present difficulties and long-term policies for the guidance of both primary producers and the Government.’
That has been on the notice paper since 14th May. What has the Government done about establishing industry sponsored committees of inquiry? What has the Government done to analyse the factors affecting individual industries and to institute short term policies to alleviate their present difficulties? Words cannot describe how incompetent the Government has been in its approach to the rural industries. At no time since the depression of 40 years ago have the primary industries been in such a plight. No positive or courageous leadership has been shown by the Government. It seems that any initiative it had has disappeared. Although primary producers throughout the country are criticising the Government, it is failing dismally, in a shocking manner, to face up to the problems that are so critical at present. Yesterday’s Press carried this report:
Wool prices slump. Cheque dips 40 per cent for quarter. Australia’s beleaguered woolgrowers received another heavy blow in the September quarter - average wool prices fell 23 per cent This is shown in figures -released yesterday by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers. If this dump continues woolgrowers will have their most disastrous year for decades. The figures for the
September quarter disclose: a fall in the average price a lb from 83.79c to 29.74c; a 40 per cent decline in the wool cheque from $11 1.2m to $66.6m; and a fall of 156,078 bales in the wool clip. As an indication of the severity of the price slide, wool prices averaged 37.55c for the 1969-70 season. And that was the worst season since 1947-48.
This is a very servere blow to the primary industries on top of so many other difficulties they are facing. As I have said, the prices being received by woolgrowers are disastrous. They are unable to obtain finance to see them over the critical situation in which many of them are placed through the drought and bad seasonal conditions, combined with poor wool prices. The same could be said of the wheat industry. The whole of the industry needs reconstruction. I wish to refer to some figures supplied by Dr Patterson, the honourable member for Dawson. He said that the wheat industry has reached a position of overproduction and that for 3 years prior to the present crisis facing the wheat industry the rumblings were present, but the Government waited until the crisis occurred. At the end of this year Australia will have a carryover of about 280 million bushels of wheat. At the end of the next season the carryover, notwithstanding the drought, will be about 170 million bushels. What is the Government doing about this problem?
– It is selling 360 million bushels this year. What would the Opposition do about it?
– The Country Party is desperately kicking and bucking about what has happened. Senator Young, who has had some experience in primary industry, is an apologist for the poverty of ideas that the Government is showing in its approach to the tremendous crisis facing the primary industries. It is all very well for supporters of the Government to try to cover up by interjecting. Why do they not stand up and give to the Senate and to the people of Australia a positive view for the future?
– Some of us made a suggestion about probate a while ago and nobody on the Labor side would support us.
– Senator Young is talking about a completely different subject.
– Nc, I am not.
– The point is that because of the plight of primary industry today, hundreds of thousands of acres of land throughout Australia are on sale but people cannot get a buyer. It is not much good talking about probate because when the time comes, under this policy to which the Government is wedded, farmers will find that their properties will be practically unsaleable because no-one will pay big prices for land when they cannot get rid of the commodities they produce.
This red herring about probate does not carry any weight at al) at present. The situation remains that most country areas are facing their’ worst financial crisis since the depression of the 1930s. We know very well what the value of land was in those days. Reference has been made to various industries. In dairying, more than in any other primary industry, the Government has failed miserably to work out in the short term or long term a solution which will give some hope for people engaged in the industry.
– Will the honourable senator take a question on that point?
– No. I should like the honourable senator to stand up and express the Country Party’s view. In this motion we have asked for the Government and particularly members of the Country Party to state what they will do. It is not for us to provide a solution of this problem. It is the responsibility of honourable senators opposite. We are asking for a standing committee to investigate the problems of rural industries now and in the foreseeable future.
– How long do you think that will take?
– The honourable senator should be applying himself to providing information to the Senate on what his Party intends to do. People in primary industries need help immediately and are looking for help but no help has been forthcoming from the Government. The whole position, as we see it, is one verging on tragedy for so many people on the land. Another matter which should be mentioned is the sale of our wheat and the politics involved in the failure to give diplomatic recognition to people with whom we have been dealing at such a high level with regard to our surplus wheat. We see the outlet for our wheat in Mainland China being threatened now because the Canadian Government considers it practicable to recognise Mainland China. At present the Canadian Government is negotiating with China for an extension of the arrangements between the 2 countries for the sale of wheat.
We are now within 2 weeks of the end of this month, at which time the arrangments which enable us to sell 82 million tons of wheat to China are due to expire, yet nothing has been done. So far as I can gather from the Press and from statements that have been made we have done nothing at all to renew our contract with China. I understand that the Australian Wheat Board has made arrangement’s, acting on its own initiative. These are run of the mill haphazard arrangements which have been going on for a long time. The Wheat Board needs some assistance in these arrangements at the diplomatic level. It would not hurt the Government to give this assistance, but there are many people opposite whose political existence depends entirely on their being able to kick the Communist can. At election time they endeavour to stimulate a fear of China by issuing maps with red arrows coming down towards Australia and by speaking of the occupation of Australia by the Chinese. This is blatant hypocrisy on the part of the Government.
– Mao Tse-tung sucked the honourable senator in.
- Senator Sim and his Party are the greatest can kickers of all. That is their stock in trade. They do that to draw attention from the matters that really count, the troubles that face all those people who have borne the heat and burden of working on the land. The men on the land find that although the Government makes all these promises it lets them down badly. We of the Australian Labor Party believe that the Government has badly failed the men on the land. They need the assistance that only the Government can give. They need massive support. They need not only financial support but a renewal of their faith and their hope in this country. They should be able to feel assured and secure, now and in the future, as a result of the years of work they have put into their land to get it up to a high standard. Their equity in their holdings is being dissipated by the cost price squeeze and by inability to sell on profitable markets. The position is deteriorating, as I said before. This is a time for action, not for words.
The Government stands condemned by people on the land throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The Government and its supporters have revealed that they are entirely absorbed in remaining on the benches of power. They want to retain control of the treasury bench at all costs. They have been able to do this by means of the massive support they have had from the communication media - the Press, radio and television - plus the gimmicks that they have been able to bring out and sell to the people of Australia. But the farmers now know different. They have realised the incompetence of the Australian Country Party to represent them in this Parliament. I am certain that the farmers will deal with the Country Party as it richly deserves to be treated at the Senate election and the House of Representatives election following that.
-Tell us your rural representation policy. It is one vote, one value from the Australian Labor Party.
– Members of the Country Party continually interject when these matters are being discussed but they are noticeable by their absence from such debates. Only recently we were discussing the wine industry in South Australia - a very important industry. Senators representing that State said what a dreadful thing the Government was doing to that industry. But when the time came for a vote to be taken there was hardly one of them present in the chamber.
– Of course we were present.
– It was very convenient for them not to be here. The record shows that Senator Young was here but other South Australian senators were conveniently absent. Surely the South Australian people do not fall .for that sort of trick. One would have expected that the South Australians would have shown themselves to be counted when this matter was being debated but they were not here, purposely or coincidentally, as they should have been. They should have voted against that legislation affecting the wine industry, in accordance with what they said. In respect of practically every field of primary industry members of the Country Party will speak one way and vote the other. We are telling the primary producers that they are entitled to a better deal than they are getting. It is for that reason that we believe it is of the utmost importance to carry the motion now before the Senate. We have a Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade and no time need be wasted. It is ready to avail itself of the facilities we have provided. That Standing Committee can call for assistance from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. A motion moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party has been on the notice paper since 14th May but its members are still following along on the fringe of the marches and demonstrations and are not telling primary producers what they are going to do for the farmers. There has been no move by the Democratic Labor Party to consummate what it proposed that far back.
The trickery to which I referred is illustrated by the fact that the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry moved an amendment based on the view that the royal commission would not meet the immediate need of the industries and would involve too lengthy a period of sittings. In the time that has elapsed since 14th May a royal commission could have sat and could have presented a report on this critical problem. The time has come when we have to stand up to the Government and demand that it show its true colours. The voice of the farmers must be heard. Although the industry has dissipated, it has shown, in its own way, that it will be heard. It has taken the last resort and has had a demonstration in the streets. The demonstration which was supposed to have been held in Canberra was deliberately sabotaged because it would have shown the people what was in the hearts and minds of farmers. This is only bypassing the main problem. The fact is that farmers are discontented and frustrated. They feel that they have been badly let down by the Government’s policy in regard to rural industries. The best the
Opposition can do is to try to get the Government to stand up to its responsibilities so that it will have to face up to this crisis. That is what we are asking the Government to do. We are not asking for pious words, for amendments to resolutions or for royal commissions. We want the Government to get down to the big task of finding the solution and of trying to resolve the awful mess in which primary industries in Australia are today.
– J am somewhat surprised at the attitude adopted by Senator O’Byrne, the spokesman for the Australian Labor Party. He referred in scathing terms to the failure of the Government to do anything about the royal commission of inquiry by experts into rural problems. This proposal was put by me, as a representative of the Democratic Labor Parly, some time ago. He suggested that his Party has taken action as an alternative because nothing was done about that our proposal for a survey of the whole field of the rural crisis. T point out that the Australian Labor Party declared itself opposed to the proposal which I made on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. With the Government opposed to it also, it meant, in effect, that our proposal had no possibility of acceptance. T am surprised to know that the Australian Labor Party felt such admiration for our proposal.
– It moved an amendment.
– lt moved an amendment that the matter be referred to another body entirely. Whatever reason Labor Party senators may have for suggesting that this matter be now referred to one of the parliamentary committees, I do not think they are entitled to pin their action upon the rejection of the proposal for a royal commission or a survey of the whole field of rural industries by experts, which the Democratic Labor Party initiated. If they had been in favour of it, I could understand their disappointment and their moving now for an alternative. But they were against it. They intended to vote against it. They intended to help the Government to defeat the proposal. T cannot understand why they now express such disppointment that it was not carried by the Senate.
– They are crying crocodile tears; that is all.
– I do not know whether crocodile tears are being shed or whether the nearness of the election sponsored this proposal, but I am amazed that the Australian Labor Party, after declaring that it proposed to help the Government to kill the Democratic Labor Party’s proposal for a survey into the whole rural field, now states that because that proposal was not carried we ought to adopt some kind of alternative.
For several reasons I am not wedded to the idea of referring this matter to a committee of the Senate for inquiry. When I attended a meeting of farmers at Jerilderie the proposal was put forward for an investigation of the rural crisis by a committee of parliamentarians. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the New South Wales Parliament, Pat Hills, was present at the meeting. He stood up and said: ‘For God’s sake do not refer it to a committee of parliamentarians because that will be the end of it’. We have the position that the Australian Labor Party in the Federal Parliament is recommending what the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the New South Wales Parliament has said would be the worst thing to do. I appreciate that the Australian Labor Party is passing through a difficult period at the moment when its right hand often does not know what its left hand is doing.
– Where is your right hand this week?
– It is here. At least 1,000 farmers attended the meeting at Jerilderie. The vote was put to them as to whether they wanted an investigation of their problems by members of Parliament or an investigation and survey by experts in the rural industry. By 996 votes to 4 the farmers declared against having a parliamentary inquiry. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the New South Wales Parliament then stood up and congratulated the farmers and said that they had done the right thing. I want a survey to be conducted of the rural industry but I want it conducted in terms of the proposal put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I want a survey by experts in the field who will be able to lay down guidelines for Australia’s rural industries to follow in the next 10 years. The amount of publicity which an inquiry by experts would receive would be infinitely greater than the amount of publicity which an inquiry by a committee of the Senate would receive.
– ls the honourable senator looking for publicity?
– No, 1 am not seeking publicity for the Democratic Labor Party. However, I do want publicity for the problems of the industry. Nothing would suit the people who do not want publicity for the problems of rural industry better than to bury them in a parliamentary inquiry. If a royal commission were to be held it would receive 100 per Cent publicity. If the problems of the rural industry are buried in a parliamentary inquiry we are not going to get very far. The proposal is for the inquiry to be conducted by a committee consisting of only members of this chamber. Surely if a parliamentary inquiry is to be conducted it should be conducted by a committee which consists of representatives in the other chamber of rural areas. Surely they ought to be represented, t think that the proposal which has been put forward would only bury the desire for a complete survey of the rural field. I stand firmly by the proposition which was put forward for a royal commission. 1 believe that a royal commission would be the only effective means of inquiry and I stand by the proposal for one to be held.
– It would appear on the surface that Senator O’Byrne has chosen an unusual time to bring forward his motion. If I correctly remember the history of this matter his notice of motion has been on the notice paper for some time and debate on it has been adjourned from time to time. It would appear as though it has come forward for debate today because the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast.
At the beginning of his speech Senator O’Byrne referred to a proposal which was put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party early in May for a royal commission. He neglected to say that this proposal was fairly well debated in the Senate by a number of speakers on both sides of the chamber. / think the Democratic Labor
Party itself provided two or three speakers on that occasion. Senator O’Byrne said nothing of the urgency motion moved by the Australian Labor Party on the first day of this sessional period when honourable senators came into this House and moved it even before they had heard what was contained in the Budget for rural industry. Today Senator O’Byrne says that this Government has done nothing for the primary industries. He quotes statements out of newspapers and a speech out of Hansard by an honourable member in another place. Then he wanders off on to the subject of wheat sales to China and the dairying industry, saying nothing constructive whatsoever. Everyone in the rural industries and the rural areas generally knows that conditions are very hard. But Senator O’Byrne and those who sit behind him add nothing to those people’s problems by saying that they are going through a hard period. We in the Government are trying to do something to alleviate their problems.
– 1 ask honourable senators to listen to this. In the Budget the Government brought down certain provisions for direct payments totalling approximately $2 15m. This amount is 55 per cent higher than the payments provided for rural industries in the previous Budget. I believe one could find a lot more than the amount of $2 15m if one took into consideration funds which have been provided for agricultural research, drought relief extension services, rural roads and many other matters. If all those matters are taken into account the total provision to assist rural industries amounts to about $450m. Tn respect of the wool industry alone the Government has provided direct financial assistance amounting to almost $62m which comprises an emergency grant of $30m to help growers suffering from the effects of low prices and drought, $29m for wool promotion and research and $2.9m towards the cost associated with the price averaging plan which was operating at the time the Budget was introduced.
In addition, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in his Budget speech the question of debt reconstruction for those producers whose businesses are basically sound will be looked at. The need for reconstruction in the industry is being examined by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who will shortly submit a report to the Government on this matter. The Budget made further provisions for primary industries, including $30m for the wheat industry under the stabilisation plan, $45m for the dairying industry, $56.6m for fertiliser subsidies and bounties, $21m for devaluation compensation and $25m for petroleum price equalisation. Yet Senator O’Byrne says that this Government has done nothing to assist rural industries! That shows how little notice he has taken of the Budget or how little he worries about the assistance given to primary industries.
The Government’s decision to bear the cost of installing and maintaining rural telephone lines within 15 radial miles of an exchange and to exempt agricultural distillate from increased excise are further concessions provided in the Budget for primary producers. The 1970 Budget is clear evidence of the great concern the Australian Government has for the difficulties facing the rural sector. On top of what I have said the Government has made an announcement that it is going to introduce a reserve price scheme. This will be a further cost to the Government and will be of great benefit to the wool industry as a whole. These are the things that we have actually done in the past few months to assist the rural industries. Senator O’Byrne says we have done nothing. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted?
Government supporters - Aye.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Deputy President
– Why? What is going on?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There were no noes. Leave is granted.
– Mr Deputy President, I move-
– That is a contemptible trick.
– I object to the interjection that was made by Senator Devitt. He called me a contemptible pig.
– I did not.
– I apologise. I withdraw my remark. I misheard the honourable senator. I am sorry.
– On this matter-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Are you speaking by leave?
– I am speaking on the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no motion. I asked was there any objection to leave being granted, and there was no objection.
– Did the Minister not ask for leave to continue his remarks?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– You have ruled that leave was given. The Minister has now resumed his seat and I am on my feet. I propose to go on. There has been no motion seeking to adjourn the debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -I ruled that there were no objections and leave was granted.
-I am not disputing that. You made your ruling. The Minister asked for leave to continue his remarks.
– I rise to a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Murphy, you are out of order in speaking without leave.
– Mr Deputy President, may I point out that there has been no motion seeking to end this debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There must be a motion to follow this.
– There must not be anything. The Minister resumed his seat. I stood, as I am entitled to do, and commenced my speech.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order!
– There has been no motion or even any attempt to move one.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Murphy, you will resume your seat.
Motion (by Senator Wright) proposed:
That the debate be adjourned.
– I rise to a point of order. No senator can be interrupted when he is speaking to such a motion. The Minister must wait until I have concluded before he can move that motion. There was no motion, and I commenced to speak.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Murphy, you will resume yourseat. You are out of order.
– My motion was: That the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question is: That the motion be agreed to.
– Mr Deputy President
– Order! You will resume your seat, Senator Murphy.I have before me a motion to the effect that the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. This cannot be debated.
Senator Murphy -I am taking a point of order, the point of order being that Senator Drake-Brockman resumed his seat, that I then commenced to speak to the motion which was before the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Murphy, I rule that you are out of order. You will resume your seat. There was no motion for you to speak to.
– I am attempting to speak on a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- But not on that point.
- Mr Deputy President, I am entitled to take a point of order on the motion that the Minister has just moved.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order!
– I want to take the point that the Minister is out of order.
– The honourable senator is continually and defiantly refusing to obey the Chair. He is out of order. I ask you so to rule and to warn him that any continued defiance will be met with appropriate action.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! You will resume your seat, Senator Murphy.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the ruling be dissented from.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Murphy is taking a point of order first.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the motion that the ruling be dissented from requires immediate determination.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Your point of order, Senator Murphy, must be related to the motion proposed by Senator Wright which was: That the debate be now adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That is the question before the Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I rule that the vote must be taken on this question.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Murphy, you will resume your seat. The question is this: . That the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be an order of the day for the next dayof sitting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Which ruling?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You must state which ruling.
-I then moved the further motion: That the motion that the ruling be dissented from requires immediate determination. Otherwise the matter would not be dealt with immediately. The motion which should now be put to the Senate is this: That the motion that the ruling be dissented from requires immediate determination.
-I rise to a point of order. 1 submit that the motion of dissent is not properly before the Chair. It was not put in writing and no point of order has been expressed in the motion of dissent. It is only a subterfuge to prevent the original motion before the Chair being put, that is, that the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Not one tittle of evidence or basis or ground or suggestion has been advanced by Senator Murphy, and he has not put his motion in writing. The purpose of the requirement thatit should be expressed in writing is to challenge the mover to show that there is a basis for dissent.
– Speaking to the point of order, I understand the procedure to be that a motion that the ruling be dissented from is moved first and that unless there is a further motion to . the effect that the question of dissent requires immediate determination the first motion will not be dealt with. If it is carried, the mover proceeds to deal with the original motion and gives the reasons for the motion of dissent. That seems to me to be the correct procedure, with all due deference to what has been put by the Minister.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question before the Chair is: That the debate be adjourned and that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. What is your dissent?
– I objected to your holding that that was the proper course to follow. The point which I put was that you should rule that I was entitled to speak to the motion moved by Senator O’Byrne and that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) could not interrupt me at that stage to move his motion. You ruled against me, Mr Deputy President, and I moved that your ruling be dissented from. I did not give the reasons because in such a matter, unless a further motion is moved that the motion of dissent be determined immediately, the matter is not dealt with. The procedure that we have gone through dozens of times is exactly what I have done on this occasion. I have moved the further motion: ‘That thequestion requires immediate determination’. If that motion is disposed of - generally such motions are disposed of quite quickly - and disposed of in our favour, 1 will deal with the grounds for my dissent and the motion will be put to the Senate. Firstly there is this preliminary motion - ‘That the question requires immediate determination’ - and then I deal with my motion of dissent.
– Mr Deputy President, I rise to order. I submit that the motion is not competent until the honourable senator puts his grounds for dissent in writing. I refer to standing order 429, which reads:
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
I submit that until the honourable senator puts his objection in writing in compliance with the standing order we have no right to vote on this motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Senator Murphy has put it in writing. I am informed by the Clerk that it is in his hands.
That the motion of dissent requires immediate determination (Senator Murphy’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! The question is: ‘That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting’.
– Mr President, is this resolution-
– There can be no debate.
– As the resolution that is now before the Senate proposes 2 things - the adjournment and the resumption - 1 am asking whether it is in order to debate it.
– Order! There is a good deal of conversation going on in the chamber. I did not catch Senator Cavanagh’s point.
– As 1 understand it, Mr President, the resolution before the Senate is designed to do 2 things - to adjourn the debate and to make it an order of the day for either a later hour of the day or the next day of sitting. As the resolution is properly proposed, is it in order to debate it?
– Yes, it is open to debate.
– Before you decide on this point, Mr President, on a point of order, I call your attention-
– Order! 1 ask the Minister to wait until J can get a little quietness in the chamber. When the private meeting that is being held is finished, the Minister may proceed.
– 1 raise a point of order, Mr President. Before you make a final decision on this point. I call you attention to standing order 431, which reads:
The following Motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put by the President from the Chair, and the vote taken:
That the Question be now put- that is not relevant -
That this debate be now adjourned.
– That is not the question before the Senate.
– That is the point of order upon which 1 am seeking your consideration, Mr President. I suggest that the motion before the Chair is that the debate be now adjourned and that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. My first motion was that the debate be now adjourned, and that is the motion before the Chair.
– Speaking to the point of order, I respectfully submit that whilst I cannot contradict the Standing Orders the motion goes further than the question that the debate be now adjourned. It also stipulates the time al which the debate shall be resumed. Having concluded that the debate be now adjourned and that it be made an order of the day for another day of sitting, I submit thai there is brought in the controversial question of when it shall come up again for discussion. We are entitled to debate the composite motion moved by the Minister. We await your ruling on that point, Mr President.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Mr President, you have stated that the question before the Senate is whether the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Such a motion is not covered by standing order 431, nor is a motion of the kind which Senator Wright has just asserted he is putting, that is, a motion that the debate be now adjourned and that the resumption of the debate fee made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Either what you have stated is correct or what the Minister has stated is correct, and for reasons which may appear otherwise the appropriate form is in the way you have stated it. But whichever way it is put, the matter is not covered by standing order 431 and is subject to discussion by this place.
The reason for that is obvious An honourable senator may have wanted to move that ‘ the resumption of the debate be on another day, or at a later hour today. He would be entitled to move an amendment, and that would involve discussion. Standing order 43 1 deals with summary kinds of matters that can be simply cut off. whereas it is clear that there may be different views as to when resumption of the debate should take place - this afternoon, this evening, tomorrow or, as some may wish, never. I submit, Sir, that you are right as you indicated before, that this question is open to debate.
– The point of order is not upheld and the subject is open to debate.
– I desire to enter into a discussion on whether the debate on this notice of motion should be adjourned and made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. I take the liberty-
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, you have misunderstood the position. You should confine your remarks to whether the debate should be adjourned until tomorrow.
– I submit that the question is whether it be made an order of the day for tomorrow. On your ruling, Sir, the debate has now been adjourned. If the motion that I have moved is not carried the debate, having been adjourned, disappears from the notice paper. So the question that I put to the chamber that it should be an order of the day for -the next day of sitting was not intended to achieve the result that the debate should be finally disposed of, but that it should be carried forward on the notice paper. If my motion is carried the matter will remain on the notice paper for tomorrow. I have risen to point that out because I submit that the debate now is only on whether it should be an order of the day for the next day of sitting; in other words, whether it remains on the notice paper or whether the debate having now been adjourned- .
– It ‘ has not been adjourned.
– Your ruling is that it has been adjourned, Sfr. That is why T am addressing myself to you, but for the benefit of the chamber. Your ruling that standing order 431 does not apply was based upon the fact that the debate was adjourned. The additional part of the motion was not a motion for adjournment, but that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, which does not come within standing order 431. That is the motion for debate. If Senator Cavanagh if to affirm that the motion that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting should not be carried, I submit that the effect of that is that the matter disappears from the notice paper.
– Would I be in order in moving an amendment to the motion?
– Not at this moment. I am dealing with a point of order.
– With great respect to the Minister I want to argue the point of order because I feel that there is much logic in the ruling that has been given, attempts to distort which are now being made. As I see the position, the Minister moved a competent motion that the debate be now adjourned. A composite part of the motion is that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That part has not been voted upon, so that the Senate has not decided to adjourn it. As the motion has a component that permits debate. I say that I am opposing the motion moved by the Minister. I am opposing the motion that the debate be now adjourned and made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. I think you have ruled. Sir, in the light of standing order 431, that the part of the motion which asked that the debate be now adjourned should not be argued. Therefore I am not permitted to say now whether it should or should not be adjourned. I am limited to the question whether the debate should be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. I believe that it is in order to discuss the motion now before the Chair.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - I rise to the point of order. It is my understanding that Senator Drake-Brockman sought and was given leave to continue his remarks. If that is so, the debate is adjourned and the question is, as Senator Wright has pointed out, whether it should be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I am surprised that Senator Wright put the argument that he did. Had he thought a little more about it his legal training would have led him not to have put it. He referred to standing order 431. There is no argument about (a) which provides. ‘That the question be now put’. That was not under discussion. But (b) provides: ‘That this debate be now adjourned’. The Minister left out a point. It is a composite motion involving, firstly, that the debate be adjourned, and secondly., that it be resumed at the next day of sitting, or at some other time. With great respect to the Minister, he is not permitted to break a motion in half to suit his own case. It is all right if he can get away with it, but the fact is that he cannot. He is wrong and I believe he will see that he is wrong. We do not stop at the argument that the debate be adjourned, because that was not the whole matter, before the Chair. The matter before the Chair was that the debate be adjourned and that it be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. It is quite competent for any honourable senator to move that the debate be adjourned and made an order of the day for a later hour this day. Therefore, 1 say with great respect that the point of order raised by the Minister is not valid because he is arguing in respect of half only of the resolution that was submitted.
– Perhaps 1 could make a suggestion which might help to resolve this matter. One of the problems here is that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) continues to assert that he moved that the debate be adjourned and that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. As 1 understand it, Mr President, your ruling is that the first part of that motion was unnecessary because leave having been given for the Minister to continue his remarks, that would operate to cause an adjournment of the debate. What you have done, Mr President, is to treat the Minister’s motion as if it were only the latter part - that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. I do not know whether formal objection has been taken to that but 1 should think that the sensible way is to accept what you have suggested.
Although we do not agree with the course of events which led up to this, as you will be aware, and we have moved dissent which later will have to be dealt with, the sensible thing is to regard the motion as being as you have treated it - that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That motion would be open to opposition and to amendment. We intend to move an appropriate amendment to indicate that we want this debate to proceed today. It is clear that the subject matter of the Minister’s proposition and of ours will be open to discussion. If wc deal with the matter in this way there will be many other points which can be taken, but I think it would be convenient for the Senate, in order te- bring us to the real nub of what we want to do, to deal with it in this way - to decide whether we deal with it today or at some future time in accordance with the Minister’s proposition.
Senator Cant - Speaking to the point of order 1 say that it is necessary that the Senate conduct its business in an orderly manner. Briefly, the sequence of events was that the” Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) asked for leave to continue his remarks and the Chair ruled that he had been given leave. That was not the end of the proposition. If the Minister had then wanted to do anything about it he should have moved that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, but he did not do that. Asking for leave to continue his remarks had the effect of gagging himself but gagging no-one else. Senator Wright then moved that the debate be now adjourned - nothing else. Senator Murphy contested the ruling by the Chair and handed to the Clerk a motion in writing. The Senate then divided on whether the ruling should be upheld. After the vote on the motion determined that the President’s ruling would be upheld, Senator Wright moved as an amendment that the debate be adjourned and made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The Minister wanted to have 2 shots at the matter. His first motion was that the debate be now adjourned. That was carried. Then, without leave of the Senate, he moved an amendment to his original motion. So now we have before the Chair a composite motion, the propriety of which ( submit is debatable.
– I am in no doubt about what is before the Chair. Quite clearly the motion before the Chair is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next duy of sitting. The debate on that is limited to the words ‘the next day of sitting’. That motion is subject to amendment, if so desired. That is as simple as I can make it for honourable senators.
– I move: .
That the Minister’s motion be amended by deleting the words ‘the next day of sitting’ and by inserting instead the words ‘8 p.m. this day’.
There is about 1 hour and 40 minutes to discuss this question. I propose now to state the reasons for my proposal. This is a very important subject matter which ought to be dealt with now. It should not be shelved. The matter has been brought on today and one of the reasons why it should be proceeded with today appears from the action of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) who, in effect, has gagged the debate. The reason to which I refer is that this is a very important matter and yet the Minister has accused me of having had the matter on the notice paper for some time. If it were true in a matter such as this that I had not moved promptly on it, or had one of my colleagues do so, because it is an Opposition matter, there would be grounds for a legitimate complaint because this is a matter which is so important that it should be dealt with urgently. The fact is, that this matter appeared on the notice paper for the first time last Friday. Notice of the motion was given on Thursday and it appeared on the notice paper for the first time on Friday. If the Minister disputes what I am saying the record can be produced by the Clerk. On Monday of this week we were dealing with the Estimates. Yesterday, apart from question time and for a short time before we adjourned last night, we were dealing with the Estimates. This is the first real occasion on which this matter could have been proceeded with.
– It is the first occasion on which the proceedings have been broadcast, too.
– And this should be broadcast so that the people of Australia can hear what is being done by the Country Party Minister to have this debate gagged. Whether the Opposition is right or wrong in this context, we have a right to be heard on behalf of rural industries. Whether our proposition is in the interest of people in rural industries or not, they will have an opportunity to listen to the debate on the matter. Whether our proposition is right or wrong, surely it should be proceeded with today. From what the Minister has said, why should not people in this country, especially those engaged in rural industries, be entitled to have this Senate proceed today on one of the most important matters facing this country? Why should it be shoved off to the next day of sitting, which will mean that it will go on to the notice paper? Honourable senators know what happens when it is put on the notice paper. The idea is that it will not come on before the Senate rises for the Senate election and the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party will be able to hide away, dumping the rural industries as usual, not allowing this matter to be debated.
We think that honourable senators should have an opportunity to state their views. We think that we are right in what we proposed and that it is in the interests of the country, so surely our views should be heard. We have speakers on this side of the chamber who want to make their views known, to show reasons why our proposition should be adopted, and we want a decision. If honourable senators want to vote against the motion they may do so. If members of the Democratic Labor Party want to combine once again with the Liberal Party and the Country Party, let them do so. We want to see this matter debated to show the people of this country that what we are doing is in their interests. This is a legislative chamber and we have a responsibility in these matters. That responsibility should be discharged by a debate here on this topic. If other proposals are to be made, let them be made. We are not stopping the Government from continuing with its inquiries, getting its experts together or doing anything that it likes to do, but we think that there should be a hearing on these matters. Bring all the experts in Australia before this Committee; that is where they should speak. There should not be just two or three of them sitting as a tribunal. That is our proposition anyway, and it is an important one. It is an urgent proposition and it ought to be discussed by the Senate.
I think that the proposal by the Minister is simply aimed at dicing this proposal. What else can it be? Here we are on Wednesday afternoon. We have the Estimates before the Senate still. We know what will happen. Next week there will be a rush of legislation. The Government will be trying to push all sorts of important things through the Parliament. It will race them through the House of Representatives and through this chamber because the Democratic Labor Party once again will vote to gag debate in this chamber on things which embarrasses it. There will be no opportunity for these matters to be heard. That is what the Government is seeking to achieve.
Why can we not debate this matter here? What is the Government so afraid of that it will not allow this debate on this very important subject to proceed today? The Standing Committee has been set up and the simple proposition is to refer to it the problems of rural industries in Australia, now and in the foreseeable future. Combined with that is a request for the Committee to do two things. We ask it to make long term recommendations about which it can take its time. We also ask it to recommend as soon as possible what immediate action should be taken to meet the existing crises in rural industries. The long term measures would include restructuring to achieve the utmost efficiency of rural industries and to ensure, as far as possible, their prosperity as well as that of the communities based on them. 1 do not want to go into the arguments for that proposition because this is not the occasion on which to do so. What .1 want to say now is that this subject is important enough, and the arguments in favour of it and the arguments which might be advanced against it are important enough, to warrant the debate proceeding. Mr President, I suggest to the Senate that that is exactly what should be done. The amendment should be carried and the debate proceeded with, in any event, at 8 p.m. We hope that if the Senate takes that course the matter will be brought to a decision so that honourable senators can show by their votes in this chamber where they stand. They then can go out and justify their stand in the electorate.
Instead the Liberal, Country Party and Democratic Labor Party senators want at all costs to avoid discussion on these matters, as they did in respect of the other proposition. That is another important reason why we should proceed with this debate today. Look at what the Democratic Labor Party did. It came up with a proposition about a royal commission. Right or wrong, that proposition could have been brought to a vote. Instead the Democratic Labor Party has allowed the matter to remain on the notice paper since 14th May.
– How would you have voted?
– J do not mind indicating how we would vote on it. I am suggesting that because of the importance of the matters involved, the proposition should have been brought to a vote.
– I know how you would have assisted in bringing it to a vote.
– If the DemocraticLabor Party wants to have that discussion resumed or joined with this proposition, we have the numbers to do it. Let us join both these proposals and let us have a vote on them today. This would be in the interests of rural industry. That suggestion is open to the Democratic Labor Party. If they want an answer from the Labor Party on this proposition, then bring it on in this Senate. We will facilitate that course being taken. We can use the processes of this Senate to have the Democratic Labor Party proposition brought on for discussion simultaneously and brought to a vote.
I think that the Democratic Labor Party is putting up a smokescreen, lt wants to say that it moved for a royal commission but that the proposition did not come to a vote. Did its members want it to come to a vote? No. Did they take action to bring it to a vote? No. The Democratic Labor Party could amend our proposition if it wanted to. There is nothing preventing our proposal being amended by the Democratic Labor Party. It can move something else if it is not satisfied with the form of the motion. But what are members of the Democratic Labor Party doing? They want to run away from this chamber and to be able to say outside to people in rural industries: ‘We tried to help you.’ There is an opportunity to debate these matters in this chamber but I hazard a guess that once again they will cross the chamber and vote with the Country Party and the Liberal’ Party to ensure that this issue is not discussed further and is not brought to a vote. This is in line with their usual tactics. It is typical of them. I suggest, Mr President, that our amendment should be voted on by every honourable senator who is really interested in having debates on major matters in this Parliament, especially one which is so vital to Australia and which affects people in rural areas.
– To set up a committee?
– No. The Committee has been established. It was established to deal with the problems of primary and secondary industry. This is the very thing that it should be considering. The Minister wants to duck discussion and debate on this issue.I do not mind him saying that he does not agree with the proposition. He is entitled to say that. He is a senator and he represents a point of view. He is entitled to say that he believes the Senate should vote against the proposition, but let him continue his speech and put his point of view. The Minister represents the Minister for Primary Industry in this chamber and he has said to the Senate: ‘I want leave to continue my remarks’. We of the Opposition are saying that he has had time to consider the matter and that we should carry on with the debate and hear what he has to say. Is it to be said, Mr President, that the Minister is not ready to speak on such a matter, or is not fit or prepared to go on with this debate? Why is he afraid to go on with it and say what he thinks? He has said: ‘I cannot carry on with the debate and I want leave to continue my remarks.’ Then he got his colleague to say that the matter should be put over to some other day, which will mean that it will never come on for discussion and a vote before the end of the session.
There has been no assurance from the Government that it will insist that the matter come on for debate before the Senate rises. Is this what is in the minds of members of the Government? There can be no point in stopping this debate unless they are trying to pigeonhole it and get rid of it. This means that they are afraid to say their piece and are afraid to let this chamber vote on the proposition. It is as simple as that. They are running away from their responsibilities, and the chief offender is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I think those who adopt that attitude to a major matter affecting this country ought to be
– The matter before the Senate has a very long history. The first chapter was written, as were many other chapters of Australian political history, by the Australian Democratic Labor Party.It was our Party which first brought into this Parliament as a matter of very great urgency the condition of primary industry. When the session opened and the opportunity was given for all parties to introduce matters as private members’ propositions, the Democratic Labor Party put three propositions on the business sheet. One of them was of urgent priority. We proposed the establishment of a royal commission to look at the whole structure of primary industry in Australia.It now appears on the business sheet as Orders of the Day No. 2. When that proposition was put before the Senate it was opposed by the Australian Labor Party, which -indicated that it would put forward an amendment to refer the matter to the Australian Agricultural Council which, as everybody knows, is a body of State Ministers for Agriculture that has no executive authority. It would be a totally inappropriate body for this purpose. If ever anything was designed to bury this important proposal it was that amendment.
The Government, for its part, put up another proposition suggesting that there should be industry submissions. That proposition was formally put forward as an amendment and the debate was adjourned at that stage. The matter came up again when private members’ business was dealt with and it was debated.In other words this proposition put forward by the Democratic Labor Party has been before the Senate twice. As Senator McManus has said, at meetings of primary producers, particularly in Victoria but in other parts of Australia - in New South Wales and in Queensland - the proposition of the Democratic Labor Party has received overwhelming support. The farmers look to the creation of such a body to investigate the whole structure of rural industries. Belatedly today the Australian Labor Party - the official Opposition - rests the whole case it presents to the Senate on the validity of the proposition which we put forward, which at the time it opposed and which since then it has not been prepared to support in this chamber. Obviously the propounding of this proposition to refer the matter to a
Senate standing committee - one of the new committees - is merely a means at this stage of political time, on the eve of an election, to steal the thunder of the Democratic Labor Party and to try to capitalise on the heat which has been generated by the resentment of primary producers at the inactivity in respect of legislation and administration in this field. This is a belated attempt by the Australian Labor Party to do something.
The reason why it now propounds its proposition is that as yet the Government has not seen fit to support the proposition, originally put forward by us, for a royal commission. Senator O’Byrne, referring to our proposition and to the date on which it was first put forward - 14th May - deplored the fact that nothing had been done about it and then put the proposition that the matter be referred to a Senate standing committee, lt is only 48 hours ago that in this place genuine concern was expressed on both sides of the chamber, and more particularly by members of the official Opposition, about the difficulty facing the functioning of the many Senate committees, about the impossibility of senators giving their time to the proper performance of their duties on those committees and about the need for a review of the multiplication of these committees. Yet in spite of that concern expressed by both sides, today what the Opposition relies on in its attempt to have 1 of the Senate committees look at a matter of the greatest urgency is the rejection of the Democratic Labor Party proposal. The referral of the matter to a Senate committee would mean a further proliferation of the work . of those committees. That committee, illequipped as it might be to do this job .>f tremendous importance and national urgency, would have to deal with the matter.
– The committee is set up.
– The committee is set up to receive references, lt already has one reference before it. 1 do not know where this matter would stand in a queue. I would like to canvass honourable senators to ascertain who can give their unreserved time in the next 12 months to the deliberations of the Senate Standing Committee on Primary Industry if this matter is referred lo it. We could canvass all the members on the Opposition side and all would plead that they were tied up with this committee or with that committee and that they would not be able to give their time to it. Nothing is more likely to produce total cynicism in the primary producers than this attempt by the Opposition to refer this most important matter to a committee which in the circumstances must be substantially abortive.
– The committee would not meet until next March.
– It would not meet until at least next March. We have been challenged on this matter. Senator Murphy, as is not unusual for him, whatever may be the direction of his attack, directed his attack particularly upon the Democratic Labor Party. He said: ‘We know what the Democratic Labor Party will do about our proposal. It will vote with the members of the Country Party and with the members of the Liberal Party against our proposal.’ If the members of the official Opposition throw down the challenge to us that they rest their whole case for the referral of the matter to a parliamentary committee on the fact that our proposal for a royal commission has not received the attention of the Government, and if they think that is the best proposal. then we say that we are prepared to foreshadow a further amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. Subject to the amendment being a competent one, I, on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, will - be moving something to this effect: and that the debate be adjourned until after the decision of the Senate is taken on Order of the Day No. 2 standing in the name of Senator McManus.
That is. our proposal for a royal commission. Now f challenge the official Opposition to say where it stands on our proposal. It will be given the opportunity to vote on the proposal for a royal commission. That is what we intend to do.
– That is a typical DLP trick.
– Of course Senator Murphy would say that it is a trick. It is all right for the Opposition to throw around these challenges until they are met. We will move this amendment and we will see where the official Opposition stands now on the royal commission.
– No vote will ever be taken on it.
– Senator Murphy said that no vote will ever be taken. We want a vote taken. We always wanted one taken. We are asking the Opposition to vole with us on this proposition.
– ls the honourable senator prepared to have a vote on it?
– Yes. We will see where Senator Murphy stands today. 1 know it is very difficult for Senator Murphy. I know this is something that he did not envisage. We are giving the Opposition the opportunity to stand and be counted. The rural producers in all parts of Australia today and in the next week will be observing the political integrity and the level of political sincerity of the Opposition. It is not necessary for me to discuss this matter any longer. The Opposition now has the challenge before it. We will see whether it will accept the challenge. The Government may nol be prepared or able to support us. I think this is a fair proposition. If our proposition for a royal commission has validity - I think it has, and the farmers think it has and the Opposition thinks it has - the Opposition will have the opportunity, which it said has always been denied it, to support the proposition. Later today members of the Opposition can vote on the proposition. We will see where they stand. Subject to the amendment being a competent one, we will ask the Senate to vote on this proposition. I do not think it is necessary for me to say any more. At the appropriate time I will move the foreshadowed amendment which will be duly seconded, subject to its being within the Standing Orders. I will ask for a vote of the Senate to be taken on the matter.
– Today we have been treated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to a display which he thought would appeal to those people in the country interested in the rural industries who heard his speech. It was a most amateurish effort in politics. It underestimated completely the intelligence and the judgment of the farmers, who will well understand the political manoeuvres and the hypocrisy underlying this proposition. I shall support that statement by a few remarks. The Senate has to decide whether the subject matter of Senator Murphy’s motion, having been adjourned earlier in the day, shall be listed for debate tomorrow or at 8 o’clock tonight. What is the subject to be debated? It is that a certain subject should be referred to one of our standing committees. Any farmers listening to the broadcast of the proceedings should form a judgment as to the comprehension which the Leader of the Opposition has of the plight of the rural industries. He asked the Senate to refer to a standing committee the problems of the rural industries of Australia now or in the foreseeable future. In particular the committee is requested to recommend as soon as possible what immediate action should be taken to meet the existing crises in the rural industries, to recommend what long term measures should be taken to restructure and achieve the utmost efficiency in the rural industries and to ensure, as far as possible, the prosperity of the rural industries and the communities based on them. 1 do noi think Senator Murphy, who framed the motion, would regard it as unfair or offensive to him if I suggested that the motion does not indicate thai he has even the slightest understanding of what is involved in just one industry if he proposes that the committee should deal with the problems of the rural industries. To deal with the problems of the wool industry alone would be a mammoth task. But apparently Senator Murphy sees it as a matter that can be dealt with with some immediacy and that a Senate committee can take evidence with regard to the wool industry and bring up a report which will solve not only the immediate crises but also the long term problems in that industry. I have only to state this proposition lo show the poverty of outlook and ignorance of ils author of what is involved in the wool industry alone. He is completely remote from the problems of this industry. But one has also to take into consideration the ramifications of the international and national problems of the dairying industry at present. The dairying industry has marketing problems as well as problems in relation to the restructuring of dairy farms. I suggest thai to add to the labours of one committee of the Senate an inquiry into the problems of the dairying industry and the wool industry - a device which apparently commends itself to the Australian Labor Party - would be to put these problems into cold storage in order that au election can be held on purely political matters. But one has also to take into consideration the problems of the meat, fruit, wine, sugar, potato and pea and bean industries which this ignoramus has suggested a Senate committee could intelligently inquire into. No practical solution to the problems of these industries could be derived from an inquiry held in such a manner.
The next thing with which I wish to deal is when the proposal which has been put forward by Senator O’Byrne should come before the Senate for further debate. 1 have the following observation to make: This afternoon we have listened to a speech by Senator O’Byrne on the merits of his proposal. The Australian Democratic Labor Party then made its contribution to the debate per medium of its Acting Leader, Senator McManus. A Minister of the Crown, Senator Drake-Brockman, then spoke on behalf of the Government. All 3 sections of the Senate having been heard on the day on which the debate was initiated it was in conformity with the usual respect which is paid to other sections of the chamber to adjourn the debate in order to allow them to develop their arguments. However, objection was taken to this move by Senator Murphy, who originally gave notice of the motion which has been debated. Apparently Senator Murphy wishes to make himself known to some degree to the rural folk. He seeks to do so by taking advantage of the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Senate today and participating in this futile and purposeless debate.
I turn to the question of whether it is appropriate that the debate on Senator O’Byrne’s motion should be resumed at 8 o’clock tonight or tomorow or the next day of sitting. The Senate this year extended its system of committees in the hope that it would be effective in responding to the needs of the country. Originally the Senate had set up select committees to inquire into certain matters. The experience of the 7 or 8 Senate select committees which have been set up is that not one of them has been able to report to the Senate in under 6 months; most of them have not been able to report in under 12 months; and some of them have had subjects which have engaged their attention for as long as 3 years. I say this with great appreciation of the work which they are doing. The Senate then set up estimates committees, which are functioning at present. The estimates committees are a new procedure for the examination of the Estimates by the Senate. The Senate then decided to establish standing committees. One such committee is the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade.
On 3rd September a comparatively limited and very special subject was referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. It was the increase proposed by the Australian National Line in shipping freights. As far as I am aware it has made either no or very little progress because of the demands on members of the Standing Committee of other parliamentary duties. This is the Standing Committee to which Senator Murphy proposes to refer this huge subject of the problems of rural industries at present and in the foreseeable future, lt has been proposed that this Standing Committee should evolve the long-term measures which should be taken to restructure rural industry and provide measures of a practicable nature for rural industry. This proposition beggars description. In view of the work which has to be done by the Parliament during the remainder of this session it is just a piece of gross political pretence, on the part of the Opposition - because the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast this afternoon - to parade its interests in rural industry under the terms of Senator O’Byrne’s motion. There is no other reason for the motion which has been moved by Senator O’Byrne.
Does Senator Murphy seriously suggest that one of the major problems of rural industry is not the cost price squeeze? Does he suggest that the industrial disruption which has pervaded the country this year at the instance of the Australian Labor Party or with the support of the Australian Labor Party has not been a major factor in inflating the costs which are causing problems in the rural industry? Does he suggest that it would not be appropriate within the terms of Senator
O’Byrne’s morion to commit to a standing committee of the Senate the question of the system of wage fixation which- lies at the basis of and bedevils the cost price squeeze which has now almost prostrated every rural industry in Australia? 1 would urge those honourable senators who have an interest in the procedure of the Senate and respect for the judgment of the people who are interested in the rural industry to hearken to the judgment of these people. The real business of the Senate should be allowed to proceed. 1 believe that practical proposals should be put forward at a time when the Senate is better able to deal with the specific problems of the rural industry and is able to devote itself tq these problems in a practical and sensible way. f believe that honourable senators would be doing a disservice to this place as an institution if they were to take on board debate on a motion which is in such wide terms that it. is lacking in reality and was obviously proposed today as a political facade.
– Last Friday Senator Murphy gave notice that he would move the motion which was moved on his behalf today by Senator O’Byrne. This motion seeks the reference of a matter to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade for inquiry. By his actions Senator Murphy gave the Senate due notice that this matter would be debated today. The Opposition today proceeded with its intentions and Senator O’Byrne took over from Senator Murphy in the presentation of the Opposition’s case. Senator Wright has just completed arguing against the proposition that further debate on this motion should continue. He had a perfect right to do so. What beats me is why Senator Wright tried to gag the debate and not give anybody else the right to speak. Why did he not show to other honourable senators the respect - a word which drips off his tongue so frequently - to which they are entitled? Why did he seek to gag the debate?
In 2 months I will have been in this Parliament for 21 years. This is the first time I have ever seen any honourable senator, let alone a responsible Minister, ask for leave to continue his remarks without having first arranged with the other side to do so. Of course, it would have been Senator Wright who organised this move because Senator Drake-Brockman would not know what it was all about, lt would be very easy to arrange such a move outside of the chamber. I know a little about this. It was set up- a few weeks ago before you came into it. It was obvious by the behaviour of Senator Bull, who was in the Chair at the time, that this thing had been set up.
– That is a reflection on the Chair. I think Senator Willesee should be made to withdraw. I believe the Chair should be protected.
– What have I said?
– Senator Willesee has attempted to play the innocent before. There is no doubt in my mind that he was implying that Senator Bull while sitting in the Chair was party to some political trick organised by Senator Wright.
– I will not pursue that.
- Senator, I would like you to withdraw that remark.
– 1 withdraw it.The Democratic Labor Party and Senator Byrne seemed to get very excited about the situation. I do not think there is any doubt that when the Democratic Labor Party moved that a royal commission should be set up the discussion was developing into an excellent debate. We had reached the position where 3 propositions were before the Senate. I remember discussing them with Senator McManus who was, at that time, most anxious to bring the matter to a vote, as I was. At that time the Government said that it would not be fair to gag people from debating the matter - it seems to have changed its mind since then - and not allow it to proceed. Of course we were the innocents abroad. We swallowed that. The debate has never been brought on. I repeat that at that stage the Democratic Labor Party had moved that a royal commission be set up to look at the rural industries. The Government, quite rightly, said it did not think that that was the appropriate way to handle the matter and that industry-sponsored committees of inquiry should be set up.
On behalf of the Australia Labor Party I forecast that I would move yet a third proposition. All these propositions were being honestly debated. I do not attribute motives to any of the Parties in relation to these propositions. It may be that a royal commission might be the best way or it may be that industry-sponsored committees might be the best way to look into the rural industries. The Australian Labor Party felt that the urgent position of the industry required something else. We believed that if various industries which were already bedevilled could not show themselves or the Australian people the way out they obviously would be asking for Government assistance and the merrygoround would be started again. That was our belief. On the other hand the Democratic Labor Party said that the only way to handle the matter, even if it took some time, was to appoint a royal commission. Our proposition was that we would call an emergency meeting - not a normal meeting - of the Australian Agricultural Council to review the present crises in the countryside and to give proper national leadership to end without delay the present uncertainty and current hardship.
That Council consists of all the State Ministers and the Federal Minister concerned with primary industry. We did this because we believed here was the power of decision making. Today Senator McManus spoke derogatorily about politicians and said that this was the worst possible way to inquire into the rural industries. But members of this Council are not mere politicians. They ali hold very responsible positions in the States and the Commonwealth. Attached permanently to that Council is the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. It is the responsibility of the Committee to secure co-operation, coordination and agricultural research throughout the Commonwealth as well as three or four other things. In other words the Committee is standing permanently, waiting for requests or directions from the Minister for Primary Industry. He can draw on the resources of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Health, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Treasury which is the most important one, I suggest. As1 far as I can see there was a completely honest approach from 3 sections of the Parlia ment. One proposition would have had to be resolved. Senator McManus said it was no good going on if the Government and the Labor Party were going to jack up. This was not the situation at all. 1 repeat that I thought an honest attempt was being made to do something positive, to get out of the imbroglio in which we found ourselves in relation to rural industries and to do something about the problem.
We are coming to a Senate election and to a long parliamentary delay without a decision having been made. Since the night of the debate to which I have referred alteration has been made in the committee system of the Senate and in what we can do in this Parliament. We have set up permanent standing committees. 1 do not want to take honourable senators through that matter again. I think we have all had plenty of debate on that subject. But the Democratic Labor Party suggested that only 2 committees should be altered. Honourable senators will remember that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson moved to establish the committees which are now operating for this period of 3 or 4 weeks and which will operate each year at Budget time. We moved that 8 standing committees should be set up. The Democratic Labor Party thought that that was too many and that there ought to be two. Out of all that debate we have established 2 sets of committees. T think the resolution is that we look at the rest of the committees in 1 2 months time.
I heard somebody interject and say to Senator Byrne, to assist him, that the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade would not meet until next May, or it may have been next March. This Committee is permanently standing by. All we did was to try to get this proposition from the business paper where .it has been lying for months and put before a standing committee. Senator Wright, as he had ever)’ right to do, argued against this proposition. I do not know why he wanted to gag everybody else. We are willing to listen. Some of the remarks impressed me. There may be delays. All I say is that he is not attributing a great degree of competency to this Committee. When it meets it will have the benefit of the debate which took place, lt will have the benefit of the 3 propositions which have been put forward by the 3 sections of this House. The Committee can make up its mind, hi the job is too big it can come back to this Parliament and say so. That is the debate we wanted to have today. That is the debate we want to listen to. We want to hear the arguments against our proposition.
– What about the other matter which has already been referred to that Committee? ls that to go by the board?
– No. Senator Rae is interjecting on perfectly logical debate. 1 would like to hear him on the subject. Maybe we are wrong. This is why I want honourable senators to debate the matter. Senator Wright does not want it debated. He wants to prevent honourable senators from speaking. I want honourable senators to speak. I want to hear everybody on the matter. If we are wrong the matter will not be referred to the Committee. Maybe it has too much work. That is a perfectly valid proposition which the honourable senator is putting up and I would like to hear him further on it. I hope he gets a chance to speak.
– Does not the honourable senator think that the farmers ought to know we are interested?
– That is the point. This afternoon there was some unprecedented noise. In 21 years this is the first time I have ever seen anybody - particularly a Minister - ask for leave to continue his remarks without having let the Opposition know that he intended to do so. This is generally a device used to assist the Government to introduce urgent business, to make .statements at the same lime as they are made in the other place or generally to help in the running of this place. I do not remember a time when there have been any difficulties. But obviously this was the gag being applied in another manner. I remember how the last session of Parliament finished with Senator Wright gagging throughout the night. When I came into the chamber this afternoon I had some suspicions. At one stage the disorder was so great in this place that I appealed across the chamber to Senator Young who very decently listened to me and the noise quietened down. That is how bad it was.
When one is trying to listen to a debate the noise makes it a bit difficult. 1 do not mind clean-cut interjections but I dislike the person who keeps giggling or continually interjecting. Mr President, in your absence today that is how noisy this place became. Some honourable senators on the Government side responded to a request by me - not by the Chair - for some order. Senator Wright has put up a most amazing proposition. After we had heard from ‘one speaker from the Labor Party, from the Democratic Labor Party and from Senator Wright he said that the best thing to do would be to gag the debate.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable senator did. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet. The Minister says he was not gagging the debate. He arranged for the Minister-
– I suppose Senator Murphy gags a debate on occasions when he moves for ils adjournment.
– I am not talking about that. I am just talking about this particular case. Do not go back into history. Let us deal with what happened today. If Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, says to us: ‘We are going to gag this debate and we have the numbers to do it’, he generally has the decency to tell us. He may be ruthless and bring down the old tough boot, but at least he has the decency to tell us. What happened today was that the debate was gagged but it was not called a gag by Senator Wright. Honourable senators on the Government side shake their heads. I would like it explained to mc.
– I will respond to you later.
– Good. Three senators having spoken on the subject, Senator Wright said that the debate would be adjourned so that wc could proceed to another debate, to something else, so that other honourable senators could have a chance to speak. It appears that they are to have an equal chance to speak on topics of Senator Wright’s choosing rather than those chosen by this Parliament or in accordance with the usual arrangement. The debate was gagged, and they should not try to call it anything else. 1 have been here a few more minutes than some honourable senators opposite. Do not try to tell me that the debate was not gagged. What did they hope to achieve by it? Did they hope to achieve a saving of time? We have not done that. Did they hope to avoid debating the issues? They have noi achieved that; we have been debating them ali the afternoon. This action was a typical Senator Wright smart tactic that failed. We have been alerted because of his behaviour on past occasions. I will watch my language on this, but it is obvious to me - I have been here too long - that this move was set up outside this chamber, and no decency was shown to the Leader of the Opposition in telling him that this was to be done.
We are on the eve of an election. Apparently the Government intends to gag every debate in this place, because there are Opposition matters which it is no! game to discuss, lt is not game to debate what has flowed out of the Budget. The Government comes in here with this soft shoe sort of attitude, lt uses an iron fist and a velvet glove. Who does the Government think it is kidding? Of course what happened this afternoon was a gag and of course it was set up outside this place before we assembled. If this is the way the Government wants to act, whether it be in relation to rural industries or anything else, its action will be on its own head, lt talks about the dignity of the Parliament. Senator Wright talks about respect for other people. I say to the members of this Liberal-Country Party Government that the only way to give respect, the only way to show dignity, is by example and not by lecturing.
(5.8) - I enter into this debate because of some statements made by Senator Willesee. He accuses us of some Machiavellian plan to gag the debate. The fact of the matter, as has been stated by Senator Willesee himself and certainly by Senator Murphy, is that this motion was put down in this place on Friday last.
– lt was put down on Thursday and appeared on the notice paper on Friday.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNotice was given on Thursday and it appeared on Friday.
– I moved on Friday
Thank you. 1 am making the speech. I answered the interjection. The fact of the matter is that this debate came to a crisis today because Senator Drake-Brockman asked for leave to continue his remarks at a later stage, and that leave was given. Senator Willesee talks about how long he has been here. He has been here a long time, and I think he would agree that there is a tradition in relation to these things, that is, that debates can be adjourned. When we are dealing with a Bill it is quite normal for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) or his delegate to move that the debate be adjourned, and the motion is agreed to. In certain circumstances the debate is adjourned for a week to enable the Australian Labor Party to consider the matters in Caucus.
– That is in relation to Rills.
That is in relation to any subject. This is a tradition. Yet the Opposition talks about a gag, a deliberate machiavellian plot to gag the debate. We have before us a motion to set up a committee. This resolution was put down before the Senate adjourned at the end of last week, and the matter came on today in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– The motion that I moved on Friday was that the mailer bc brought on for debate today, and that motion was carried.
That is right. That was done completely in accordance with the practice and procedures that arc provided for here and also in the mother of Parliaments where there is a reasonable intention that a debate will bc adjourned. Senator Drake-Brockman leads for the Government in the Senate in debates concerned with primary industry matters. He sought leave to continue his remarks at a later stage, and leave was granted. To suggest that this amounts to a gag would mean that every time Senator
Murphy moved for the adjournment of a debate 1 or somebody who sits behind me could say: ‘Look, this is only an attempt to avoid a debate or an issue. Therefore we are going to put on a turn.’ And what a discreditable turn we saw this afternoon. I just make the point that what happened today was in the tradition of the Parliament.
Let us come to the second matter. I do not want to debate the subject matter of the motion. 1 have to be very careful here and to steer reasonably far away from it. This is a proposal to make a reference to a standing committee, which already has a reference on its plate pursuant to a resolution of this Senate. Whether we deal with this matter at 8 o’clock tonight or whether we deal with it at the next day of sitting is of no consequence. Senator Murphy, above all other people, knows that thai is so. Tonight we are to debate the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Bill, and the debate will be broadcast. It concerns the proposal to give taxation rebates to 4.9 million people. This is a most embarrassing situation for the Labor Party. If we do not proceed with that debate at 8 o’clock we will have to go on with some other matter. It is of no consequence whether the matter now before us is debated tonight or tomorrow or next week. Of course, it will have to be next week at the latest. I suggest with great respect that if there is any plan to be devious, it would be on the part of the Labor Party in seeking to avoid a debate on our taxation measure. Contrary to what has happened here today, when Senator Murphy moves for the adjournment of a debate on a Bill or some other matter after making his speech - he does this by virtue of his office - I will grant him leave to do so. I will not put on a performance the like of which we have seen here today.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) because it is quite obvious to all honourable senators that the reason why the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) curtailed his remarks and virtually moved a gag on the debate in progress at that time was to do what the Government does with most other Bills - that is, to put them at the bottom of the notice paper to ensure that the topic will not be discussed again before the end of the session. It means in effect that we will go to the Senate election and will wait until next February before anything whatever is done for the rural industries, either by way of debate or by way of action, which is far more important.
The fact is that the people within the rural industries are sick and tired of the Government’s attitude towards them. They are sick and tired of waiting for something to happen and they will finally have an opportunity, if this resolution is carried today, to put their grievances before a standing committee of this Parliament. What are the issues about which they are worried today? Every primary industry that I can think of, with the exception of two or three, is in dire trouble. But members of the Government parties do nothingabout it other than to wring their hands in horror and say: ‘We wish we could do something’.
One of the major things that are facing the people of this country and the whole economy of this country is something that does not ever receive any consideration at all from the Government side. No action is being taken to try to circumvent this happening. I refer to the entry of Britain into the European Economic Community. All that has happened in relation to this matter is that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has gone overseas and spent thousands of dollars of the Australian people’s money during the winter recess and come back to Australia and said: ‘Things could not be gloomier’. What has been done to try to overcome or to prevent the damage that will be done to Australia in many industries as a result of the inevitable entry of Britain into the European Economic Community? The Government is just fiddling while Rome burns, as far as the rural producers of this country are concerned.
So we want debated as a matter of urgency the motion which is before the Senate and which will give a committee constituted by the Senate the opportunity at least to start thinking about this matter, to get together its ideas and finally to be in a position to make recommendations to the Parliament on what should be done. Tt could b-j that the committee would recommend that certain types of action be taken at other levels in relation to a royal commission on some aspects. The committee might be able to make some immediate recommendations on short term cures for these industries. We are facing a real crisis, but nothing is being done about it. We will have to leave until the autumn session the opportunity for any further discussion of this matter if the amendment that is before the Chair at the present time is not carried. It is obvious that the Minister for Air, when he sought leave to continue his remarks later, did so deliberately so that this matter would disappear until after the end of this session.
The situation is that every major industry, perhaps with the exception of the wool industry in this instance, will face almost ruin overnight if we do not do something to combat the position of Britain when she becomes a member of the European Economic Community. The simple fact is that if she is accepted - there is no doubt that she will be - Norway and Denmark are more than certain to b’t accepted also at the same time. We will then be in the fantastic situation of losing overnight almost the whole of the. dairy industry preference that we have in the British Isles today.
In 1974, when the sugar agreement between Britain and Australia ceases, it will not be renewed. At present one-third of the total sugar production of this country is sold in the British Isles. The preference that will be given for sugar in the British Isles after Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community will be for European beet sugar. That is inevitable. We will throw one-third of our people to the wolves because the Government is not acting now in an endeavour to find other markets. The Minister for Trade and Industry wrings his hands and says that we are doomed, but he does nothing whatever about the situation. He wasted thousands of dollars on an overseas trip and came back with a sorry story and crying in his beard.
Today we are being asked to give away the opportunity to do something positive, rt is positive action that we are taking on this occasion, lt will give an opportunity for positive decisions to be made. It is quite obvious that such decisions will not be made at the level at which the matter is being dealt with at the present time. So, we virtually have to take out of the hands of the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) the task of rehabilitating Australia’s primary industries. Up to the present, every time an industry has become troubled the Minister for Trade and Industry has said: ‘I think the best thing you can do is diversify’. We had this problem of diversification when the wool industry first started to lose its buoyancy and wool prices started to drop. Wool growers were advised and encouraged to go into the wheat industry.
That was the attitude until there was overproduction in the wheat industry. At the present time we have the problems of quotas, overproduction and shortage of markets. When people diversified from the wheat industry they went into growing oats ami barley. The prices for both those commodities are the lowest for many years and they cannot be sold. So. where do people diversify to next? People on wheat farms in Victoria have diversified to the next obvious industry - beef production. In Victoria we have seen the crazy situation of wheat farmers paying $20, $30 and even $40 for any type of dairy calf with any type of colour al: all in it. Wheal farmers are paying S30 to $40 for a day-old or week-old calf of a dairy cow and a beef bull in order to diversify into the beef industry.
What will we see in 24 to 3 years time? We already have problems in relation to the American beef market. Within the next 2 to 2i years we will have a flood of beef from people who have endeavoured to earn a living from wool, then have endeavoured to earn a living from wheat and now are moving into the beef industry in an endeavour to earn a living from it. The situation will be that they will turn full circle. At the same time as they are doing this, members of the Government parties are sitting in this Parliament and saying: ‘It is an important matter but it should not be discussed today’. Tomorrow they will be saying: ‘lt cannot be discussed today. We will wait until next week’. Then, when next week comes the Parliament will rise and in February we will come back and go through all these processes again.
– I am almost crying.
– The honourable senator should cry. He should have some kind of conscience in relation to what he is doing against the interests of the primary producers. Being a farmer, he should be crying very hard. He is assisting to destroy them or to break them. We now have before us a motion that will give us an opportunity to really assist them.
We have been hearing for months and months about how the dairy industry will be reorganised to make it a viable proposition. What docs the Government propose to do? It proposes to say to all the smaller farmers: ‘You have to get out and give your farm to the big man’. That is the way the Government, is solving the problems. That is the way it is solving them in the Northern Territory. Whenever any leases are available there the people who get them are the big American ranchers - nol the Australian people who can do the job and who know the country. The Government is doing the same in the field of rice. Eventually the Americans will own as much of our primary industry as they do of our mineral resources. Then the Government will not have to worry about primary producers at all because they will all be in the cities looking for jobs that do not exist.
That is the situation that is developing in some of the smaller rural towns now. People are moving into the cities. They are certainly getting some type of work at the moment. But the day the farmer is not able to be productive and is not able to pay his way is the day when industries in the cities start to wind down. We saw a real example of that in 1961 when a city as large as Geelong, because of the effect of the drop in primary industry, had the highest ratio of unemployment in the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order, namely, that Senator Poyser has been speaking for quite some time to a motton which, as 1 understand it, is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, but for 10 minutes he has been discussing matters concerning rural industry without in any way relating them to the motion. My submission to you is that he is out of .order as he is speaking of matters not relevant to the motion.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, speaking on the point of order, let me say that Senator Poyser is discussing these matters as reason why the debate ought to proceed. He is saying that because of the importance and urgency of these matters the debate ought to proceed.
– He has not said so. That is why I took the point of order.
– He does not have to keep saying that every second. That is the basis of his argument. Interestingly enough, the contrary kind of thing was being put by Senator Wright, who dealt with objections to the motion moved by Senator O’Byrne in very great detail and with not only adjectives and adverbs but all sorts of things that he put forward as reasons why this motion is unimportant. He not only said that it is unimportant, but also that it is wrong. Senator Poyser is surely entitled to rebut the matters put by the Minister. He is entitled to say that the Minister is wrong in stating that it is unimportant, or that it -is a futile suggestion. He is entitled to proceed in that way. When the President was in the chamber he allowed Senator Wright to speak as he did. He permitted others to speak in similarly broad terms. If there is to be any equity in the debate, when such contingencies wre put by om- side surely they may be answered by the other side.
Senator Poyser is giving in the general context important and urgent reasons why actions should be taken now to set up a committee, rather than have the matter placed at the end of Orders of the Day. That, is what would happen if the Minister had his way. It. would never come on for discussion again, despite the use of the expression ‘adjourned to the next day of sitting’. We know that it would be listed at the end of Orders of the Day and that in practice it would never come up for discussion. I submit that Senator Poyser is in order and should be permitted to proceed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! I give my ruling. Quite a degree of latitude has been allowed in this debate this afternoon. 1 ask Senator Poyser to relate his remarks more closely to the immediate question before the Senate.
– I bow to your ruling in this matter, Sir, but my guidelines were set in the main by Senator Wright who argued right across the spectrum on the value of the proposed committee and on whether it would be worth while. Other speakers in this debate have done likewise. The relevance of my remarks to the matter before the Chair is based on the urgent need to establish the committee that we propose. The delay that is sought by Government supporters is not until tomorrow, as they would wish us to believe, but until after the Senate election. A delay of 4 months is involved, not a delay of 1 day as might appear to be the case from a reading of the motion.
Apart from the 7 Bills that arc to come before the Senate, 13 items are listed on the notice paper that have come up for discussion before and have been adjourned to the next clay of silling, in accordance with the terms of the motion that is formally required. After a Minister has made a statement, usually it is formally adjourned to the next day of sitting. Let us have a look at some of the items on the notice paper. The debate on a ministerial statement on Cambodia was adjourned on 5th May, on a formal motion to the next day of sitting. A ministerial statement on defence was adjourned on 10th March, in accordance with the formal motion that it be adjourned to the next day of sitting. We of the Opposition are under no illusions as to the effect of the motion we are debating. We have no doubt about whether we will be given an opportunity to vote on this matter tomorrow.
We know that the Country Party is completely dodging the issue. It is avoiding a debate on this matter because it is vulnerable, particularly in Western Australia, the State which the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) represents. He is fighting for his political life in an attempt to retain his seat, lt is obvious that the motion for adjournment is not really based on the purpose of adjourning the debate until tomorrow. Only 3 speeches have been made in this debate. Perhaps 1 should say that only 21 speeches have been made, because it appeared that the Minister was only half way through his speech. When 1 examined the list of speakers who were to take part in this debate in order to ascertain my position, I noticed that not one honourable senator opposite appeared on thai list.
The name of no member of the Liberal Party or Country Party was on the list at the time that f studied it. It was obvious that honourable senators opposite saw no necessity to put down their names to speak because they knew that the debate would nol be permitted to continue. Bui they did not have the courage to follow the practice that is usually followed when the gag is applied. No honourable senator opposite moved that the question be put. We are debating now whether this matter is to become item No. 21 on the notice paper, or be discussed and decided upon today. 1 apologise to some degree if I have wandered a little in my remarks, but I am very annoyed to see members of this House running away from an issue of such importance, not only to individuals in the community but also to the economy of this country generally.
– 1 move:
That the question be now pui.
– I rise to a point of order. I am being given a lot of advice on what I should say. Earlier in this debate when Senator Wright moved a motion on the-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Please state your point of order.
– I am stating it. I rose to oppose the motion. A point of order was raised on whether I had a right to oppose the motion. Several honourable senators participated in the discussion on that point of order. The President then ruled against the point of order and that I had the right to oppose Senator Wright’s motion. I rose for the purpose of opposing it. In my usual patient and courteous respect for the Chair I watched while the President called Senator Murphy. Senator Byrne, Senator Wright, Senator Poyser and almost everyone else, although I had won the right to oppose the motion, had risen at every opportunity to do so. and had not received the call. Surely every speaker since I won that point of order has been out of order and I have the floor. Although I have the floor, the motion has been moved that the question be put.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! The closure motion is in order, Senator Cavanagh.
– While I have the call can an honourable senator move the closure? I am getting a worse deal than the farmers, and that is saying a lot.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! There is no substance in your point of order, Senator Cavanagh.
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
Leave out ‘the next day of sitting’, insert ‘eight p.m. this day’.
That the words proposed to he left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move the following amendment which 1 foreshadowed:
That the following words be added after the words of the motion: ‘and that the matter be not dealt with until the decision of the Senate is taken on General Business, order of the day No. 2 standing in the name of Senator McManus’.
It is not necessary for me to canvass the substance of this amendment because it was discussed in my speech earlier in the day. Order of the day No. 2 in the name of Senator McManus is the following motion:
That the Senate is of opinion that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the present condition and future prospects of primary industry in Australia.
We of the Australian Democratic Labor Party feel, as we always have felt, that an inquiry of that nature would be the most appropriate type of inquiry to discover the fundamental problems in the structure of rural industry and that any other inquiry would be inadequate and would not have sufficient technical knowledge available to it. We are now giving an opportunity for those who favour the proposition today but who were against it on other occasions to indicate how they stand on this matter.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– An unusual proposition has been put forward by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We should recall how it has arisen. 1 spoke in favour of having the debate on the motion to refer the matter of rural industry problems to the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. We of the Australian Labor Party moved promptly and were entitled to have the matter dealt with by the Senate at an early stage. The Government has initiated a move which, despite the suggestions of the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) who represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in this place, would have the effect of burying this matter because the passage of a motion that a matter become an order of the day for the next day of sitting would put the proposition right at the end of the list. This would mean that it would never come on for discussion, if it were dealt with in the ordinary course of events it probably would not come on, not before this Christmas, but the Christmas after. We can see what happened in relation to the earlier proposal by the Democratic Labor Party for the appointment of a royal commission.
– It would have come on months ago if it had received your support.
– That is just what I had hoped the honourable senator would say. He said that his proposition would come on tomorrow if he had our support.
– The proposition for a royal commission would come on.
– Well, all honourable senators on this side of the chamber agree that these propositions about rural industry are so important that they should come on tomorrow. Senator Byrne is suggesting that it is unfair that our proposition should come on before that of the Democratic Labor Party and that his Party’s proposition should be dealt with first.
– Only because your proposition is totally inadequate.
– We are not discussing the merits of the proposals at the moment. We are discussing the importance of having these proposals debated. Senator Byrne says that his Party’s proposition could come on tomorrow if we gave our support. These are two motions of much the same nature. They suggest certain action but that the action be carried out in different ways. The commonsense thing to do is to bring on tomorrow, as suggested by Senator Byrne’s amendment, the Democratic Labor Party’s proposal, for the appointment of a royal commission as well as our proposition and that the two bc discussed together. If Senator Byrne wants the pleasure of having his discussed first then we will give him that little point. We of the Opposition are quite willing to support him in saying that the Democratic Labor Party motion be dealt with.
– You would support your amendment and our proposition, would you?
– Do noi change your ground, Senator Byrne. You made a suggestion and I am taking it up. If the Democratic Labor Party is sincere in its suggestion, let the propositions come on tomorrow and let them be dealt wilh. If the Democratic Labor Party wants its proposition dealt with first, we are prepared to give way.
– How magnanimous! We were first in the field.
– That is a little point. The fact is that from 14th May until now you have done nothing. You have made no moves in this chamber and you have not requested our support in bringing the matter up for discussion.
– You would not have supported us.
– The first suggestion about supporting a move to bring the matter on was the one made just now. If you want it brought on for discussion you can have it brought on. We will support you in moves to have it brought on. Let us decide this issue. Senator Byrne was nice enough to make that proposal; so let us take it up. Let us have both matters brought on tomorrow, let the Democratic Labor Party’s proposition be dealt with first, and then let us deal with our proposition. Both propositions cover much the same territory, so there is no need to have a great discussion. I suppose that most discussion would take place in respect of the first proposition Hi’ the s»n?;Wi” thin” >o do would be to deal with both concurrently. If the Democratic Labor Party wants the little point that its proposition be dealt with first, we will concede it to them. Therefore. Mr President. I suggest some alteration to the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. He referred to order of the day No. 2. He moved that the following words be added to the motion: and that the matter be not dealt with until the decision of the Senate is taken on order of the day No. 1 standing in the name of Senator McManus.
I suggest that that amendment be altered so that both matters come on for debate and decision tomorrow.
– You are taking things out of the hands of the Government.
– Oh. no.
– The motion before the Chair is that it be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– That is tomorrow.
– There is no need for the extra words you propose.
– Oh. Senator! ls the Minister for Works speaking to children? He may deceive people outside this chamber. He is suggesting that when he puts the proposition that the matter be made an order of the day for tomorrow, the matter then will come on tomorrow. He said that there is no need for my words, t think there is a need for them. He is conceding that the matters ought to come on. He is saying that he intended by his motion that the matter should come on tomorrow. Well, let us write it in. The truth is. Mr President - and anyone who knows the rules of this place is aware of this - that it would not come on for months.
– The Senate has decided that it should not come on.
– I am afraid. Mr President, that Senator Byrne has been a little precipitate. He has forgotten what we have been doing in this Senate. He is being nailed and he does not like it. The fact is that we have not made this decision yet. There is a motion that the matter be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Let us go a little further. Senator Wright has said that the additional words are not necessary, that that is what he intended. Well, let us just write them down because I think they are necessary. If Senator Wright is an honest man he will agree to what is being put: that is that both motions be debated and decided on the next day of sitting. If that is what he says he intended, how can he quarrel about it? If the Democratic Labor Party is sincere in its proposition, we will agree to it. We could simply add that both matters be dealt with and decided on the next clay of sitting.
If that is what they mean and if that is what they want, let us put it in writing. That way all of us would be happy. The decision would be unanimous. We could deal with the income tax legislation today and with the important problems facing primary industries tomorrow. I would think that is a reasonable proposition. Of course, the advantage to both the DLP arid the Government is that tomorrow they can say things which will nol be heard by primary producers because we will not bc on air. Nevertheless, the matters arc of sufficient importance to be dealt with promptly. They should be dealt with tomorrow if they cannot be dealt with tonight. I will move an amendment to Senator Byrne’s proposition.
– The honourable senator cannot do that. He is foreshadowing a further amendment.
– I will propose an amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. This would mean, if carried, that the Government’s original intention would be proceeded with. This matter would be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sittings. Senator Byrne moved that some words be added to the original motion. I move:
If carried, the motion would then read:
That the resumption of the debate be made art Order of the Day for the next day of sitting and that the matter be not dealt with until the decision of the Senate is taken on Order of the Day No. 2 standing in the name of Senator McManus and that both matters be dealt with and decided on the next day of sitting.
How can anyone, especially members of the DLP, if they are sincere, object to this?
– The honourable senator said that we are not sincere. He has hurt our feelings.
– Members of the DLP say that their feelings have been hurt. Primary producers could take the view that the hurt feelings of the DLP should not be preferred to the interests of the primary producers. Here is a simple proposition that will carry out what the Minister has been putting, what he has said and what he intended.
– lt is not necessary.
– He said it is not necessary. I do not think there will be any difficulty in ascertaining that it is necessary. He said that it would come on tomorrow. Let us have it that way. Members of the DLP say that they want their matter decided first. We will let them have that, but let us deal with both matters in such a way that they will bc dealt with and decided tomorrow. If those who have put their various points of view are sincere in this matter - and we will leave aside all the other incidents- they will support this amendment. We will support the DLP’s amendment. We can vote for the Government’s motion as amended.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) (5.58) - The motion, as I understand it, is that the debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting to which Senator Byrne has moved an amendment which suggests that in any event the matter raised by Senator Murphy should not be dealt with until the matter on the business paper in the name of Senator McManus is dealt with, to which Senator Murphy wants to add certain words. Government Business takes precedence over General Business, unless the Senate orders otherwise, until 8 p.m. tomorrow. I will resist any attempt to take over Government Business tomorrow. There is nothing odd about that. That is a reality of life. If it is the will of the Senate to have Genera] Business after 8 p.m. tomorrow, it will be called on in accordance with the General Business notice paper. I do not see any harm in Senator Byrne’s amendment. The practical application of it is that before Senator Murphy’s motion, which was debated, is dealt with the other matter must be dealt with. I can see nothing wrong with that. Certainly, as
Leader of the Government.. I will not agree to a further amendment which is an attempt to take the affairs of the Senate out of the hands of the Government. I will not support the further amendment.
– The Democratic Labor Party amendment is a simple one. I think the Opposition and the Government understand it. I do not propose to read it. If carried, it will mean that the matter on the notice paper in the name of Senator McManus, to which amendments have been moved, will be decided before the matter raised by Senator Murphy is decided.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– The issue which is before the Senate is a rather simple one, although the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) would wish to complicate it tremendously if he could get his way. I do not propose to speak at great length. The amendment which has been moved by Senator Byrne to the motion by Senator Wright that the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for the next day of sitting would, if passed by the Senate, result in the bringing on for debate of a matter which is already before the Senate. I refer to the motion which was moved at the beginning of this session of the Parliament by Senator McManus on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party that a royal commission be appointed to inquire into the present conditions and future prospects of primary industry in Australia.
In the debate which ensued .the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) on behalf of the Government, “ which has a different view about how to handle (he problems in our rural industries although it admits that they exist, moved an amendment to the proposition put forward by Senator McManus. The Australian Labor Party foreshadowed at that time that it would move a further amendment. If the proposition which Senator Byrne has put forward today were to be accepted by the Senate it would mean that continuation of the debate on the proposition put forward earlier in the session by Senator McManus would be given priority over any other General Business.
The Leader of ihe Opposition, in his enthusiasm, wants to do something which is entirely different. Of course, he is entitled to put forward any proposition he wants. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition has come to the same conclusion as the Democratic Labor Party, namely, that the proposition which the Opposition foreshadowed early in the session was futile and would not accomplish anything. He now wishes to abandon that proposition and substitute an entirely different one which he has thought about since.
– Is that the 8 o’clock thing? Tt was defeated.
– The proposition put forward by the Democratic Labor : Party early in the session was not defeated. It has not been voted upon, lt is still on the notice paper. I would point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian Labor Party’s foreshadowed amendment would be a part of the debate which would take place if Senator Byrne’s amendment were to be carried. However, the Labor Party can withdraw it if it is of the opinion, as it is now apparent, that its proposition is futile and would not accomplish anything. The Leader of the Opposition may think that he has a better proposition. He has a right to put it to the Senate. However, it must take its place in the order of business. The Leader of the Opposition wants his proposition given priority over the proposition of the Democratic Labor Party which has been before the Senate ever since the beginning of this session. The honourable senator is attempting to interject. We have listened to him all afternoon. It is a change for honourable senators to hear me speaking.
It is not the Senate’s fault if the Labor Party does not know where it is going on this issue. Regardless of what may have been said by the Leader of the Opposition about the Party to which I belong and the sensitivity of its members, at least I belong to a national party. I do not belong to a party - although the Leader of the Opposition does - which no longer has a branch in my own State of Victoira. I can understand how sensitive he is on this subject. I hope he will forgive me for saying that the proposal which was put forward by the Labor Party today was put forward with the imminent Senate election in mind. At least the Democratic Labor Party can say that its proposition was put forward long before it was known that an election was to be held. The people of Australia have had plenty of time to forget about its proposition. The Democratic Labor Parly’s proposition was put forward with a view to assisting the farmers. It is quite obvious that the Labor Party is trying to draw attention away from the obvious sorry state of its own party. I do not have any objection to it directing attention away from its private affairs. The Labor Party is entitled to do so. it is entitled to adopt these political tactics. But when it is in an embarrassing situation it should not interfere with what the Senate can constructively do. Tt should not interfere with the Senate’s attempt to help the farmers of our community.
The Democratic Labour Party’s proposition was put forward by Senator McManus, who is the only man in the State of Victoria to be recognised by the farmers as being really interested in their problems. He was present when the farmers conducted a protest march. Senator McManus is the man the farmers trust. He has won their admiration because of his genuine interest in their problems. They know that he is not interested only in making political capital out of the sufferings of people who live in rural areas.
– Why is the Democratic Labor Party afraid of having a vole on ils proposition?
– The Democratic Labor Party is not afraid, lt is quite happy to go ahead with its proposition.
– Then bring it on tomorrow.
– All the Labor Parly has to do is vote for the proposition which Senator Byrne has put forward. If it is carried it will mean that if there is General Business tomorrow the Democratic Labor Party will be in a position to control the business sheet. One of the items which it has for discussion during General Business relates to the defence of Australia. I give the Leader of the Opposition a guarantee now that the Democratic Labor Party will ask for this item to be removed from the top of the list in order to give priority to the proposition of Senator McManus.
– if you will-
– The Leader of the Opposition has, byhis interjections, helped me to make my speech. At least he is not at the back of the chamber at present, which is where heseems tobe when most of the critical matters are being considered.
– The Opposition will support the Democratic Labor Party if it will agree upon the matter which it has put forward being brought on and dealt with.
– The Leader of the Opposition is imposing conditions. My Party is concerned only with helping the farmers of Australia. It is not agreeable to the proposition which the Labor Party foreshadowed 3 or 4 months ago being replaced by the proposition it has put forward today and receiving priority over the DLP’s proposition. The Labor Party is still free to pursue the amendment which it foreshadowed. There is nothing to stop it doing so.
– It has 2 amendments now. Which one does it want?
– The Labor Party does not know where it is. I have tremendous sympathy for its supporters for the situation in which they find themselves at the moment. Why, their Leader in this chamber went to Victoria during the recent State election and committed himself to the people who are now on the outer in his Party. Is it any wonder he is trying so hard tonight to get back on the inner. He has already committed himself to people who no longer seem to be in favour in the Labor Party. In fact, some of them seem to be in doubt as to whether they are in the Labor Party at all. [ fail to understand how anybody in Victoria can claim to be in the Labor Party because there is no longer a Labor Party in Victoria. It has been destroyed. I do not think that it was much of a political party anyway. However, as I am outside of itI do not think that anybody will pay very much attention to my opinion. It now seems - most of the members of the Federal Executive of the Labor Party would appear to agree with me - that a few of the fellows in the Democratic Labor Party who have been telling them the facts of life for the last 15 years were right all the time.
– They have said we were right.
– Yes. The decision which was reached a few weeks ago would appear to indicate that these people now believe that the Democratic Labor Party was right all along. However, I am getting away from the issue which is before us. I would hate to drag in extraneous matters in discussing a matter as important as this one. The simple fact is that all the Senate has to do is vote for the proposition which has been put forward by Senator Byrne. This proposition would be carried if the Leader of the Opposition had the courage to put his vote where his mouth has been all afternoon. The amendment moved by Senator Byrne was that the resumption of the debate on the motion moved by Senator O’Byrne be not dealt with until the decision of the Senate is taken on Order of the Day No. 2 which stands in the name of Senator McManus. Order of the Day No. 2 is. of course, the proposition put forward by Senator McManus for a royal commission to examine all aspects of the rural industry. All the experts which the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else can think of could be called to give evidence.In this way we could get down to the solid core of how the nation can do its duty for its rural industries. All the honourable senator has to do is to vote for that proposition. I give him an unqualified guarantee that when general business comes on tomorrow night we will ask that our item which heads the list will be taken out of its sequence and this matter advanced to the head of the Notice Paper.
The honourable senator has only to support us to carry that. Then we will hear discussed not only the DL P proposition which may or may not be in the considered opinion of this House the better proposition but also the amendment which the Government moved at that time for the establishment of the committees which it thought could handle the situation better than a royal commission. An amendment to the amendment was foreshadowed by the Labor Party which since then has changed its mind. There is nothing wrong with honourable members opposite changing their minds. They saw that their original proposition was hopeless. They can bring their proposition forward as an amend- ment to the proposition which is before the Chair. We can obtain a decision from this Senate as to what it believes is the best way to help the rural community of this country.
Ibelieve Senator Byrne’s proposition is a simple one. 1 do not think it should be complicated by the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition in his enthusiasm moved. I am sure that if he had thought about the previous debate he would not have had the temerity even to suggest that this House should tack on to a proposition such as this the amendment which he has tried to tack on to it tonight. I suggest that he should abandon that course and support us in this vote. We will carry out the guarantees which we have given to him and give him the debate he desires. I commend Senator Byrne’s resolution to the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Withers) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be added by Senator Murphy’s amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Byrne be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Wright’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority … . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 October (vide page 1317), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before this debate was interrupted last night I had focussed attention on the serious financial situation of the agricultural tractor industry. I had drawn attention particularly to the position of ChamberlainIndustries Pty Ltd in Western Australia and the International Harvester Co. of Australia in Victoria. [ had pointed out that there were large scale sackings by those companies because of the serious decline in sales. The Government has presented us with a case that those companies are facing serious damage as a result of import competition. But I believe that the Government is evading the issue. Through its own incompetence, it has brought about the serious situation which exists in the primary industries and in which farmers are unable to find money to spend on the purchase of tractors. Also in the course of my remarks last night I drew attention to the fact that 14.000 employees could face dismissal in the coming year. This is a very real threat to the livelihood of many honest family men in this country.
The Bill will double the bounty that previously has been paid for a period into the future in the hope of bringing some stability to this industry. But this is only a short term palliative. We believe that a much more positive approach should be made in order to make certain that this important segment of our economy is given continuity for the purpose of planning for the future. Although we do not oppose this measure, we believe that the Government is deserving of very strong criticism.
– in reply - I appreciate the fact that members of the Opposition are not opposing this Bill, whilst desiring to make several comments on the situation. It is quite clear to us all that the tractor manufacturing industry in Australia is having some quite substantial problems and that these are due very largely to a reduced market which, in turn, is due quite largely to factors outside the control of this Government, the Opposition or any other human agency in this country. There has been a long run of bad seasons in Australia. That has had a marked effect. Also, we have had substantial problems with our markets for primary products overseas and with some of our price levels. In these circumstances it has been very difficult to sustain the demand for new equipment on the farm all the time.
Those of us who have been involved in primary industry -I have been, in one way or another all my life - know, from talking to our friends and from our own experience, just what is happening. Most of us and most of our friends just are not buying new equipment for the simple reason that at present we do not think it can really be justified. I hope that this situation will change. I hope that the seasons will return to normal. They appear to be doing so. 1 hope that we will obtain a better deal on the sale of some of our primary products overseas.In those circumstances we may see a better market.
– You have not really tried.
-I do not think that anybody, either in this place or outside it, can really rectify the situation by making noises - unless he has a proposition of forcing farmers to buy tractors against their will. That is something that we would not want to do.
Senator O’Byrne made some comments on this matter to which I have one or two brief replies. The figures on the employment and profit situations of Chamberlain Industries Pty Ltd and the International Harvester Co. are not disputed. They highlight the need for assistance such as that proposed in this Bill. This assistance, of course, is temporary, pending a Tariff Board review and report on the long term needs of the industry. The use of a temporary bounty payable on sales is preferable to the use of other measures such as increased duties on imports, which would increase the price to farmers across the board. I think that the Opposition, in not opposing this Bill whilst expressing its concern, shows that it appreciates the gravity of the situation. Accordingly, I do not think there is anything else for me to say. except to suggest that the motion for the second reading of the Bill be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Senator Cotton) proposed:
That the report be adopted.
Senaor MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) (8.41) - Perhaps the M inister could tell me-
– I rise to a point of order. The honourable senator is not speaking from his place.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Senator Murphy, will you please resume your place?
– That is a very important point. It no doubt helps the honourable senator to feel that he has made a contribution to law and order. Someone has suggested to me in the last few moments that no real investigation has been conducted into the cost structure of this industry. This matter was not raised at the Committee stage as it may not have been pertinent to some of the clauses. I wonder whether at this stage the Minister could indicate whether there has been such an investigation of the industry and, if so, the nature and extent of it.
– I would be glad to do that. The Tariff Board investigated the industry in 1966. Since that time it has been studied by an interdepartmental committee. The honourable senator will recall that it is proposed that the Tariff Board should again look at the industry.It seems to me that those are the appropriate bodies to do so. The Senate can be assured that the matter was reviewed not very long ago and will be reviewed again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) - by leave - agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
Debate resumed from 15 October (vide page 1164), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I consider this to be a most remarkable Bill. 1 say that advisedly and I will develop my point in what I have to say. The Bill is concerned with convertible notes. Convertible notes enable investors to invest capital in a concern without actually purchasing shares or taking up debentures. Debentures, of course, are covered by mortgage, whereas shares have to be paid for to the extent to which calls are made. Until 1960 the interest on convertible notes was tax deductible and many companies used them as a device to avoid taxation for some of their shareholders. Dividends on shares were taxable, but by issuing to shareholders convertible notes in lieu of dividends it ensured that the interest on the notes in future would be tax deductible.
These notes also were generally convertible to shares at a time to suit the people who held the notes. They were generally convertible at the value of the shares when the convertible notes were first taken over. The convertible notes could be redeemed at very short notice and were, therefore, a very valuable commodity in the hands of investors. The investors incurred very little risk and their capital was not tied up as it would be in shares. The investors could quickly realise on the convertible notes if they wished to do so. They could also take advantage of the opportunity to turn them into shares and thus do quite well because the value of the shares might have increased and holders of convertible notes could take them up at the previous value.
This situation obtained up to 1960 when the Government decided to withdraw the provision of lax deductibility to prevent companies and investors legally - 1 emphasise that it was legally - avoiding taxation which could be considered a moral responsibility. I wanted to find out what is involved in this issue. In his second read-, ing speech the Treasurer (Mr Bury) did not give us any idea of how much the Government would lose in revenue through the re-introduction of tax deductibility of convertible notes that is proposed in this measure. He seemed to present a fairly straightforward argument in introducing the Bill. I decided to explore [he position back to I960. I had some trouble locating the Bill because the name has be?n changed. In 1958 the name of the Act was changed from the Income Tax Assessment Act to the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act.
The suggestion has been made to me that perhaps we could take this Bill and the two related Bills together. However, this Bill differs from the other two, and in my opinion we should not confuse the convertible notes matter with the ordinary income tax matters covered by the other Bills. I think we can deal with this Bill quickly. I will not be long. I studied the second reading speech on the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill made in 1960 by the late Mr Harold Holt, who was then Treasurer. I shall quote a couple of extracts from his speech to show that even at that point the question of convertible notes was glossed over without any particular emphasis. Mr Holt said in his opening remarks:
These proposals relate respectively to the treatment for income tax purposes of interest on borrowings in general by certain classes of companies, and to interest on convertible notes.
At page 3583 of Hansard of 6th December 1 960 he is reported to have said: . . our broad aim will be to reduce as far as possible the advantages which deductibility of interest provides for companies which seek to borrow excessive amounts of money at excessive rates of interest - the accent here being very much on the term ‘excessive’.
I should like honourable senators to notice the emphasis that was placed by the Treasurer at that time on the situation of convertible notes. At the end of the same page he went on to say:
The Bill also deals with our proposal to disallow henceforth interest on convertible notes. Unlike the interim scheme on deductibility in general, which has application only to income tax assessed in respect of 1960-61, the provisions relating to convertible notes are intended to have effect indefinitely.
I should like to underline the word indefinitely’. A little later in his speech he said:
The purpose of the new provision is to ensure that deductions are not allowed for amounts raised by a company as borrowings but which are really designed to be a permanent investment in the company and ultimately converted into share capital. 1 should like to quote also another paragraph which puts the matter very strongly. lt reads:
There has recently been a strong trend for companies to issue convertible notes in lieu of shares, and by this means they have been obtaining a deduction for interest paid on the notes. If however, they had issued share capital, any dividends paid on that share capital would not have been allowed as a deduction in arriving at their taxable income. The notes have in substance more in common with the permanent capital of the company than they have with either short term or long term borrowings. Iiic holders of the notes are, very often if nol invariably, given rights correspondingly very closely with those of shareholders. lt is in these circumstances that the Government has decided-
I emphasise this because, at this time in 1960-61, this was the attitude. The report continues: that in arriving at the taxable incomes of companies that issue convertible notes in the future, the interest on the notes will not be deductible.
It will be seen from the Treasurer’s second reading speech at that time that no reference was made to the amount of money involved or to what extent Government revenue was being whittled away. For this reason I decided to look at the debate which ensued on this Bill in another place on that occasion, In the course of the remarks made by Mr Crean during that debate some very interesting facts came out. We find that in the Budget for 1953-54, total new capital raisings had fallen to $H6m. I have converted the amounts into dollars to conform to the present currency. Of that SI 16m, shares accounted for $85m and debentures for S3 1 m. So the ratio of shares to debentures was almost 2 to I. At that stage debentures would not have included convertible notes. If we move then to 1957-58 we find that the total raisings for development amounted to $234m, of which shares provided $70m only, and that the value of debentures had increased to $164m. This is an extremely significant change in the pattern of borrowing.
In 1959-60, which was just prior to this Act coming into force, the money available for investment in development had increased to $493m, of which $96m came from shares and S387m came from debentures. At this stage convertible notes had come into the picture. That was the situation in 1960 which disturbed the Government. I can quite understand it, because that was the amount of revenue that was being lost on convertible notes issued, which put the amount outside the Government’s taxation field. At that stage the Labor Party Opposition agreed with the limitation on this tax deductibility of convertible notes and voted in support of the measure. What sort of change has taken place since then? The Government now has had second thoughts on this question. All the arguments that were adduced by the Treasurer at that lime apparently are not now valid, lt has been decided to restore tax deductibility of the interest on convertible notes in certain circumstances. 1 agree that there are certain circumstances which now have to be met.
Up to this point, 1 have given the history of convertible notes and the broad principle of re-introducing tax deductibility on these notes. That is fairly straight-forward. But now the Bill starts to become quite complicated. When we examine the conditions that are imposed we find that it is quite difficult to determine whether the matter of the issue of convertible notes is straight-forward or not. I have tried to analyse the situation and to put it in terms as simple as possible. It seems to mc that a number of restrictions have been placed on the issue of convertible notes, but provided that these restrictions are met it is possible for a lender to take up convertible notes and to operate them very satisfactorily. But there are conditions which apply. First, a person cannot convert a convertible note into a share within less than 2 years after the note has been issued. He cannot hold a convertible note for longer than 10 years. If he wants to convert it to a share it must be done 1 2 months before the end of the 10 year period for it to qualify as a deductible concession in his income tax. Also, because he meets these requirements, he will be allowed to take up his note at the value of the share obtaining at that time, and at the time when he converts, no matter what has happened - even if the share value has skyrocketed - he can still take the share in lieu of his note at the price that it bore when he first took up the note. I should like now to refer to the remarks made by the Treasurer in introducing the Bill now before the Senate. He said:
The first test is that the option to take up shares - which may be shares in the capital of the borrowing company or another company - must rest solely with the lender and not with the company. A normal characteristic of fixed-interest finance is, of course, that a lender has the right to receive repayment in cash. This lest recognises this feature. At the same time, it will serve to impede legal lax avoidance by companies through their adoption of arrangements calculated to give a deferred share issue the semblance and guise of a fixed-interest borrowing. 1 want you to note this surprising feature, Mr Acting Deputy President:
The shares mat are the subject of this option may be fully paid shares of the company making the convertible issue or of an associated company, such as, for example, a subsidiary or parent company. lt will be of no significance whether the shares into which the securities may be converted are issued to, and owned by, a Third Party, or are to be specially allotted to satisfy the exercise of the option to convert.
This is a surprising thing. Cun you understand now, Mr Acting Deputy President, why I said at the beginning of my speech that I consider this to be a remarkable Bill? Although these features can be explained away, I suppose, to the ordinary person they would give the impression that the Government is providing to lenders an outlet which is full of opportunities that will be of considerable value to them if they meet their taxation requirements. 1 have mentioned the time limitations. They apply specifically to an Australian lender. An overseas lender will receive slightly better conditions. An Australian lender has to take up his note for at least 7 years whereas an overseas lender does not have to meet that requirement. The Minister, when presenting his second reading speech, felt that the Bill needed more explanation than he gave in his few words and he produced a supplementary document. This document is very valuable because it is full of information on the lines of what I have said already. I think 1 have said enough to show the reasons for the opposition of the Australian Labor Party to the reintroduction of this measure.
The Opposition opposes the Bill on the principle that -it allows tax deductibility to an area of investment which already is receiving interest on capital involved. In addition, by inviting capital for development in this way there is a distinct possibility of a further rise in interest rates. This is an extremely serious situation and I think we have to guard against it at this time when interest rates already are high because of increased capital demand. Finally, the Opposition has not heard any good reason advanced up to- this stage for the rcinlroduction of this tax deductibility on convertible notes. We consider that the Bill is unnecessary and unwarranted, and we oppose it.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, as you would imagine, this is a fairly complicated measure. Senator Wilkinson has explained some of the problems, as the Australian Labor Party sees them, and has made it clear to the Senate that the Opposition does not wish to support the Bill. The main purpose of the Bill is to provide that where an issue of convertible notes is in future made by a company on terms and conditions specified in the Bill, interest on the notes will not be subject to the provisions of the income tax law which exclude such interest as a deduction for income tax purposes.
The income tax law relating to convertible notes was amended in 1960 to withdraw deductibility in respect of interest on borrowings converted into share capital. This was done to protect the revenue against legal tax avoidance. In the majority of the pre- 1 960 issues, companies were, it was found, using convertible notes simply as a means of reducing their tax payment. On the terms on which convertible issues were commonly being made in Australia before deductability was withdrawn, they amounted to no more than deferred equity issues. Tax deductible interest payments in effect were being substituted for nondeductible dividend payments.
Last year the income tax law on convertible borrowings was reviewed by the Government with a view to restoring tax deductions for interest in certain circumstances. This principle has regard to a set of circumstances that could bc best explained briefly, I think, by referring to the second reading speech delivered by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). The Minister said:
During periods of development or expansion a company may not be in a position to declare attractive dividends and, although it may have undeniable prospects, it is at a disadvantage in seeking to raise equity capital and must, therefore, rely upon debt finance. If, by appropriate use of the convertible type of security, it. can lower the cost of servicing capital until profits are at a level where attractive dividends can be paid, it might be able to obtain its capital requirements more readily. Under this type of security. Australian investors would not be restricted to fixed interest investment but would have access to equity in the companies concerned. 1 think it is clear to all honourable senators that there is a substantial desire on the part of us all to see that Australian investors have the maximum opportunity to share, in the equity of Australian development. Australia just does not have the capital that it wants at this stage to do its total developmental work arid it has to get substantial quantities of capital from overseas. This is well known to us all. We know equally well that points have been raised in this chamber and in the other place about the wish of the Australian community to make perfectly sure that because it was short of capital at a particular stage it will not in effect lose its equity. This opportunity is now provided to the Australian community to a much greater degree. Convertible notes can be used for the time being to take, in effect, some of the Australian community’s savings out and in later days the community can. when it has received reasonable earnings on its notes, take them out in the form of equity capital.
All honourable senators are very well aware of the substantial capital inflow into Australia through the years and of the strong state of the Australian reserves because of this; but equally they all are well aware, I know, that Australia is a high saving country and that it does make a great contribution to its development from its own savings, it is most desirable that the Australian community should have thy opportunity to keep up this equity investment. If today, or for the next few years, peoples’ savings have to earn interest and those people cannot do without some form of income, then by taking convertible notes it will be possible for them to earn that interest and later on to pick up their equity capital in the form of shares when the company or development concerned is, perhaps, in a stronger position.
Small countries are disadvantaged alongside big and powerful countries which can stand - as big and powerful companies can stand against small companies! - the years of losses, of difficulty and development which very often provide no return for shareholders, lt has been said sometimes that one is lucky when developing a new enterprise or a new company if one can expect to have dividends within al least 5 or 6 years. Mostly one goes through a very hard time and loses a bit of money and it takes one time to recover. This is very hard for people who have only a limited amount of savings and who want to be able to gel interest on those savings for a variety of essential reasons and to maintain their living standards. This is why this measure is important to the Australian community.
Under legislation enacted in I960, deductions for interest on all forms of convertible notes were discontinued. Where certain tests are met, the 1960 prohibitions on deductibility will, by this Bill, be removed. The proposed tests are outlined in the explanatory memorandum. Broadly stated, interest paid on convertible notes will, subject to the general rules of the income tax law for determining whether expenses are an allowable deduction from assessable income, be deductible if the notes relate to a loan made after the date of royal assent to the Bill; the maturity date of the loan occurs no earlier than 7 years after the notes are offered for subscription; the notes are convertible into share capital only at the option of the note holder; the note holder’s option is exercisable throughout a period beginning no later than 24 months after the notes are offered for subscription and ending in the 12 months which terminates on the maturity date of the loan; the price to be paid for each share allotted or transferred in pursuance of the note holder’s exercise of his option to convert is not less than the greater of: the par value of the share or 90 per cent of the value of an equivalent share in the capital of the company when the notes are offered for subscription. Thus the equity is preserved. Today a person can take a note and in 7 years lime he can take the shares at their par value. If the venture is successful, the note may well have enhanced considerably in value in that time, lt is a good protection. The last, proviso is that the rate of interest and other terms of the loan and option to convert do not vary with time.
The general principle of the income tax law is that interest on borrowed money that is incurred by a company in producing its assessable income or is necessarily incurred by a company in carrying on business for the purpose of producing such income is an allowable deduction in arriving at the taxable income. By contrast, dividends paid by a company on its share capital are not an allowable deduction. The effect of these basic rules is that profits of a company that are used to pay dividends effectively bear tax in its hands; if used to pay interest, they do not. Substantially, that is the burden of the legislation and the reason why it was introduced.
I have a few extra notes which, in due courtesy to Senator Wilkinson, I think he is entitled to have. They are some of the views which have been taken into account by the Government in determining to introduce the legislation. I assure the honourable senator that the legislation has been introduced after very careful consideration. Both he and I were in the Senate during the period when convertibility and notes were not allowed for tax purposes. 1 think all of us have seen and heard comments from many people in that intervening period about the desirability of reintroducing this concession, for the reasons mentioned. The decision has not been arrived at lightly or quickly. The matter has been considered for quite some time. It was made quite clear at the time the relevant amending legislation was introduced that the withdrawal of the deduction was intended to operate as a permanent feature of the income tax law. At that time convertible notes - I think this has been acknowledged generally in business circles - were being used extensively by Australian companies for tax avoidance purposes by the techniques of floating convertible issues which were, in essence, third equity issues. The I960 amendments were designed to prevent and undoubtedly have had the effect- of preventing tax avoidance through the use of convertibles in this way.
The Government’s decision to relax the existing law by restoring to a limited extent deductibility of interest on convertible notes has been influenced by special considerations reflected in Ministerial statements made on behalf of the Government. Briefly these considerations are: In conjunction with the guidelines for overseas borrowing in Australia, the terms for deductibility of interest would provide Australian investors new opportunities to participate in the equities of overseas initited ventures in Australia. The object is to bring about a diversion of fixed interest borrowings by overseas enterprises operating in Australia to borrowings with a genuine chance of Australian equity involved. Deductions for interest on convertible notes would, if deductibility was to be restored in cases where the note issue would mean the bringing of fresh money into new and developing companies, dovetail with the Government’s aim to assist such companies as far as practicable during their development periods and would pay full regard to those 2 basic objectives.
The conditions proposed as a basis for restoring interest payments should guard effectively, as far as practicable, against a revival of the use of convertible notes for tax avoidance purposes. The basic conditions on which deductibility of interest on future convertible note issues is to depend are accordingly planned to promote the broad objectives just mentioned. The approved conditions are calculated to permit companies to issue convertible notes in circumstances where the use would serve the stated objectives for restoring deductibility. In other words, the aim is to permit the use of convertibles as a technique for financing companies in their developmental period without opening the way to large scale tax avoidance and, further more, to bring about a diversion of fixed interest borrowings by overseas enterprises operating in Australia into borrowings with a genuine chance of Australian equity participation. There has been a change of circumstances in the Australian financial scene. As honourable senators can see, it is now thought that tax avoidance in this area is not the problem it was. The circumstances have changed. We have a situation in which these financial devices could create a situation which would give Australian shareholders a chance in due course to acquire equity while at the same time earning something on their funds - and to acquire equity at par. So we are looking at a different set of circumstances.
The Government has stated categorically that it has no intention of returning to the I960 situation which permitted companies to get an unintended tax advantage through the use of convertible notes. In drawing up the series of approved conditions, it has been necessary to steer a course between the needs of protecting the revenue and the needs of producing a detailed scheme that will serve the Government’s objectives in amending the law and a scheme that will be found useful by the business community. In a real sense the legislation will establish a code for a completely new form of company security with practically no resemblance to the form of the pre-1960 convertible issue. A company can defer its option for 2 years, but it need not do so. The option may be exercisable at any time if the borrower wishes. Borrowing may be for more than 10 years, but option to convert cannot be exercised after that. At 10 years the person has to say that he wants to bc a shareholder and noi a lender.
– lt has to be 12 months before that time.
– Yes. The company can clear off the option up to 12 months before maturity date to give it time to arrange finance to pay out note holders who do not consent, but it can, if it wishes, have the option open right up to maturity, subject to the 10 years limit. To deny this would be to operate to inhibit legitimate use of convertible notes. It is not uncommon in overseas markets for convertible notes to give an option to take up shares in a company associated with the borrowing. This reflects not only a change in the Australian scene from that of over 10 years ago but also a change in the overseas scene. In order to maintain our development and living standards, we are a user of overseas funds in the borrowing sense. We certainly do this, but we provide a high proportion of our own investment pattern with our own savings - one of the highest in the world. We need to borrow overseas to get extra resources. This comes in in the form of equity capital, loan funds, retained profits, depreciation and similar things.
This measure should make it easier for the Australian investor or the Australian resident some years from now to be able to pick up some of that equity capital, whereas previously this was more difficult. Accordingly, I think that the Bill is a useful one from the point of view of the Australian people - both as Australians in their own investing right and as those who wish to borrow overseas to help their country’s development programme. I regret that the Labor Party cannot support the Bill. Nevertheless, the Government believes that it should proceed with the Bill. Accordingly, I suggest that we proceed to a vote.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 15 October (vide page 1166), on motion by Senator Sir kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On behalf of the Opposition. I move the following amendment to the Income Tax Bill 1970:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert - the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted because whilst it reduces rates of taxation it does so in a regressive manner.’
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes. I second the amendment.
– We have been looking forward to the introduction of this legislation for 3 years. In 1967 the then Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that he felt that the economy of the country was in such a buoyant condition that it would be advisable for the Government to look closely at the taxation schedules, particularly those covering the lower and middle income groups. He was acting on the advice of officials of the Department of the Treasury. The then Treasurer gave the impression that some measure of relief would be provided in the Budget the following year to these 2 groups of taxpayers. No legislation was presented in 1968 which would give effect to this desirable result, but again the then Treasurer indicated that this avenue should be investigated and some relief should be given. He gave those people who listened to his Budget Speech the impression that although it was not possible to provide relief at that time it would be provided in another 12 months.
A House of Representatives election was held in 1969. In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) also said that he believed that some relief should be given to the lower and middle income groups and that we could confidently look forward to this situation. It can be seen that on 3 occasions the suggestion has been made by responsible people that some relief should be given to taxpayers in these 2 groups. At last, in 1970, legislation has been introduced - in particular, the Income Tax Bill - which will give effect to the promises of the Government to reduce the difficulties and problems faced by taxpayers in the lower and middle income groups.
In introducing the Income Tax Bill in this chamber the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said:
By their nature, the proposed reductions - greater on a percentage basis at the lower end of the scale, tapering off to nil at the higher end of the scale - are aimed at a more equitable distribution of the burden of personal income tax.
I propose to examine this aspect. The Opposition is not concerned about percentage reductions; it is concerned about the. value of these reductions to the taxpayer in dollars and cents. 1 hope that I will be able to demonstrate this aspect in my remarks. Most of the information which has been made available is in regard to percentages. It is very easy to get a false picture of the situation by not translating the percentages into the actual monetary benefit to the taxpayer. The Leader of the Government went on to say:
By comparison with the present rates scale,the proposed general rates scale provides reductions of some 10 per cent intax payable on taxable incomes up to$1 0,000. On taxable income above $1 0,000 the percentage reductions in tax taper off, reaching 4.4 per cent at $20,000 and cutting out altogether at $32,000.
It was a surprise to me to learn that the Government regards a person who earns $32,000 a year as coming within the middle income group. I regard the maximum income of a person in this group as being $10,000 a year. Those who receive less than $10,000 a year are the ones who are really burdened under the present taxation schedules.
Let us examine a few facts and figures. In the year ended 30th June 1968, 71,000 taxpayers out of a total of 5 million, which represents 2 per cent of the taxpaying public, earned in excess of$1 0,000 a year. These people were responsible for 20 per cent of the income tax collected. I consider that those who earn less than $10,000 a year constitute the lower and middle income groups. An examination of the Budget Papers, which take into account the 1967-68 financial year, reveals that just over 4 million taxpayers or 80 per cent of the taxpaying public were earning between $417 and $4,000. One arrives at some interesting facts by further dividing these figures. Those people in the. §417 to $1,800 taxable income group - that is, those earning less than$35 a week - earn 10 per cent of the total income of taxpayers and pay 4 per cent of the total taxation. I am allowing for the normal taxation deductions which would bc claimed.
Those in the $1,801 to $2,400 income group - that is, those earning between $35 and $45 a week. - earn 10 per cent of the total income of taxpayers and pay 7 per cent of the total taxation. Those in the $2,40:1 to $2,800 income group - that is, those earning between $45 and $54 a week - earn 10 per cent of the total income and also pay 7 per cent of the total taxation. The next 10 per cent group is those earning $2,801 to $3,200 a year, which represents $54 to $62 a week. They pay 8 per cent of the taxation. The group earning from $3,201 to $3,600 - that is the group earning $62 to $69 a week - pays 6 per cent of the taxation. That is the last 10 per cent of the total income of taxpayers I am considering. Those groups account for 50 per cent of the taxpayers. On those figures it takes about three-quarters of the taxpayers who earn one half of the total income of taxpayers to pay some onethird of the tax which comes to revenue. The other half of the total income is earned by only one-quarter of the taxpayers who pay two-thirds of the tax. As I said earlier, of these taxpayers 2 per cent earn over $10,000 and they pay 20 per cent of the tax. lt is obvious that there is serious maldistribution of income. Progressive income schedules should act as a form of correcting this maldistribution. But the relief embodied in this Bill does little to achieve this, lt is relief in actual money but not in percentage that we have to think of. The situation becomes real in terms of human need when we consider that a person whose taxable income is $500 will receive 82c a year relief which is just over l-Vc a week. A person with a taxable income of $16,000 which the Government apparently considers to be in the middle income group - although 1 consider it is slightly outside that - will receive $500 a year or nearly $10 a week relief. I ask honourable senators to notice that the $500 which the second person receives in relief is the santa amount as the taxable income of the first person whom I used to illustrate my argument and he receives relief of 82c a week. Yet this tax is presented as being equitable.
An examination of the tax paid by anyone in the group with a taxable income of $4,000 will show how serious and unjust is the method which has been adopted by the Government. In considering the relief proposed in the schedule it is important to remember the 21 per cent increase in sales tax, the increase in the price of petrol and other increases brought about by this Budget, lt means that taxpayers in the low and middle income groups will finish up much worse than they were previously. I intended to mention a point when I was dealing with the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1970. I would like to know, but have been unable to find out, how much revenue the Government is going to lose by the introduction of tax deductibility on convertible notes, lt seems to me that here is the avenue of which we could have made some use in relieving extra costs which have been passed on to the public. I remember that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) who is at the table on 2 occasions in the last 2 days chided the Opposition for wanting to remove some extra taxes. I am thinking particularly of the 24 per cent sales tax. He said: You have to get the money from somewhere.’ I agree. The Government has to get the money from somewhere. I think this is one avenue. I would tike to know how much the Government is losing in revenue by adopting the principle in the Bill which has just been passed - the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1970.
Last week in the Budget session I drew attention to the fact that the taxation schedule had remained the same since 1954-55 except that a 2.5 per cent general levy has been added and the amount which can be earned before incurring income tax has been changed. But the schedule and the rates have remained the same. Wages have increased 100 per cent and wages and salary earners have therefore moved into higher tax brackets. Honourable senators can see that while in 1954-55 it took 5 weeks wages to pay income tax, last year - I do not have the figure for this year - it took 9.2 weeks work to pay for the income tax. This does not present an insurmountable problem to the higher income earners but it docs impose an intolerable burden on what I call the Mow and middle income group’. I reiterate that 1 consider this group to be those earning up to $10,000.
The Opposition is concerned with this situation. I believe I have shown that the way in which tax is being imposed on different stratas of society is inequitable. It is also regressive. I do not mean it is regressive in the normal term of just going back to something that was before. It is noi doing that. I am thinking of the economic sense of the word ‘regressive’ which means that it bears no relationship to the ability to pay. This is quite a different thing. This is- the interpretation of regressive as applied in the amendment which I have moved. The Opposition is very concerned about this Bill which we have looked forward to for 3 years. Now that it is presented it does not meet the case as we feel it should. We can find many anomalies in this legislation. We feel we are justified in moving this amendment. We think the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted. There would be no difficulty in considering this because Supply is available until the end of November.
– Nobody likes paying tax but we must pay taxes so that the business of the country can be carried on. In recent years there has been a lol of criticism to the effect that Australia is among the high taxation countries of the world. No doubt that is very true. A number of reasons can be given. First of all Australia is a developing country and that involves considerable expense which has to be recouped through taxation. We have a huge area and many of our services are more costly than in more compact countries. In recent years because of the departure of Great Britain from our area and the necessity for us to be more self-reliant in defence we have had to spend a lot more money on our security. Of. course that involves considerable sums of money which must come from taxation.
The demands which are made from time to time for reductions in taxation come up against the fact that large sections of the community are calling for increased Commonwealth assistance. For example, the farmers are calling for more assistance and that assistance could involve even more considerable sums of money than those now being made available. There is a demand for increased child endowment and for immense sums to be spent upon education. The pensioners have demanded increased sums because they believe that what they are receiving is not keeping pace with the increase in the cost of living. Demands are made for more money for decentralisation and for development in quite a number of areas.
In those circumstances it is very difficult to see avenues in which taxation can be reduced. However, a demand for a reduction of taxation was made on the Government prior to the bringing down of the Budget by three organisations. One was the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the other two were professional or white collar organisations. They declared that unless taxation was substantially decreased industrial trouble would follow. Whether it was because of this demand or whether the Government felt, as do some people, that it ought to do something for a section of the middle class who normally are Liberal voters and who felt that the Government had not been particularly helpful to them, the Government determined that there should be a reduction in taxation of over S200m. This figure will possibly rise in a year or two to about $280m.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party felt, first of all, that while these taxation reductions would amount to millions of dollars, spread over a considerable portion of the Australian taxpayers they would amount to very little for the individual. Our feeling was that since it was such a small amount there was a good case - we expressed that case - for leaving taxation as it was and for using the money to assist the farmers, for child endowment, for education, and to give the pensioners a fair deal. The amount of increase granted to the pensioners could easily have been doubled by taking only a small portion of that amount of $200m that was given in taxation reductions. As I said before, a considerable section of the community - the lower paid people - will derive a little or no benefit from these taxation concessions which have been handed out by the Government. 1 can only say that I think it is most regrettable that what we suggested was not carried out. If the average good hearted Australian were asked: ‘Do you want the few dollars that you are to get out of this or would you sooner see more money given to the pensioners and the farmers, for child endowment and education, and to other good causes?’ he would say: M would sooner see those good causes looked after than receive this reduction in taxation.’ f believe that instead of granting these concessions, which in some cases will benefit only the people who are fairly well off, the Government should have reviewed the scales of taxation. [ agree entirely with Senator Wilkinson that this avenue should have been explored first. I think there is every reason for a review of the scales of taxation to see that the burden is not imposed too heavily upon those least able to bear it.
The second point which I believe ought to be given a lot more consideration is catching up with the tax evaders. I do not necessarily mean just the people who try to dodge their tax commitments in an illegal way; I also mean the people who employ shrewd taxation consultants to think up all kinds of devices by which they can evade taxes and who when they evade them throw the burden largely upon other people. We have heard Senator Murphy refer to certain companies relocating themselves on Norfolk Island for tax evasion purposes. Obviously that is a subterfuge. The Government took action some time ago to close up some of the avenues by which companies were able to locate themselves in Canberra and dodge their taxation responsibilities. I can only say that f think the Government should have reviewed the scales of taxation and it should also have a look at these devices - I cannot call them tricks because apparently they are within the law - by which certain people, with the aid of shrewd taxation consultants and by locating themselves at certain places, are able to avoid the burden of taxation. When they do this, as I said earlier, the burden of that taxation is thrown upon other people.
I never like increases in indirect taxation. In my view, direct taxation is the fairest means of taxing people, particularly those who earn least in the community. I believe income tax is the most preferable form of taxation because some attempt is made to achieve justice between those with plenty and those with very little. In far too many cases the person who has a very small income pays as much in indirect taxation 011 certain goods as the person who has a very considerable income.
However, the Bill is before us. We have to carry on the business of the country. There is to be an election shortly. In those circumstances, it is our view that We have no alternative but to vote for the measure. The Democratic Labor Party will not vote for the amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party and which, seeks to withdraw the Bill and to have it redrafted. This would involve a cumbersome procedure. The Government has to have money. We propose in a short time to take measures which will result in depriving the Government of some $80m. To withdraw this Bill and hold it up while it is redrafted would appear to us to be impossible in the present circumstances. The Bill will have to be passed, but I still hope that the Government will take action to examine these rates of taxation. I conclude by saying that in my view - I know a few people might not agree - it would have been much better to leave the taxation rates as they were. The taxation cuts mean very little to a lot of people. It would have been better to give the money to help families through child endowment and education, to increase pensions and to help farmers in necessity.
– Senator McManus, on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, has stated that because of the demands of farmers, because of the demands for increased child endowment - there has been no increase for at least 15 years - because of the demands for increased amounts to be awarded to pensioners, because of the demands for larger amounts to be spent on education and because of the requirements for decentralisation, it is difficult to see avenues in which taxation can be reduced. It is true that there are many demands, but it is also true that they are just demands. In the overwhelming majority of cases they are demands made by those who are in the lower and middle income groups who for the past 14 or 15 years have been bearing an unfair proportion of the taxation burden imposed by this Government. In fact, as a result of the measure now before the
Senate, very little taxation benefit has been passed on to the worker, to the lower and middle income earner.
Until we get a government which is prepared to take some action to stop the expenditure of some S300m a year on a hopeless war in Vietnam, the shocking waste of expenditure on Fill aircraft, and all the other extravagant spending that is being indulged in by this Government, there can be no overall reduction of taxation imposed on the worker, the lower income earners and those in the middle income bracket, and there will be insufficient finance available to have the nation’s economic ills remedied and the great urgent social reform programmes carried out. Again tonight we see the Australian Democratic Labor Party supporting the Government which, by this very legislation, is still heavily discriminating against the worker, against the lower and middle income earners. Yet Senator McManus states on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party that in the present circumstances it would be impossible to support the Labor movement’s proposals. If there are injustices in legislation of this nature - obviously, there still appear to Senator McManus to be many injustices and anomalies - we say that it is the responsibility of governments and legislators to take some action to see that those injustices and anomalies are rectified.
These Bills give effect to the budgetary provisions of the Government in respect of income tax. In typical conservative fashion, the Government again has adopted the attitude of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I do not think anyone who is likely to gain from these proposals will be hoodwinked in any way at all. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) admitted during his Budget speech - this has also been admitted in the course of the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), who represents the Treasurer - that inequity has grown into the taxation system. Despite the very small benefit that will accrue to the ordinary Australian from this legislation, the great inequities and the great anomalies in the taxation system will still be there for him to bear. Therefore the Labor movement has moved - and moved correctly:
That the Income Tax Bill be withdrawn and redrafted because, whilst it reduces rates of taxation, it does so in a regressive manner.
It would appear to me that the greater are a man’s responsibilities to himself and his family the less he will be assisted by this legislation. The Miniter states that the legislation now before the chamber is expected to have a total value to the taxpayers concerned of $228m this financial year. On the other hand, the other charges that were imposed upon the ordinary man in the community, in the form of increased sales tax, increased customs and excise charges, increased postal charges, increased petrol charges and increased company taxation which, of course, will again be passed on to the consumer, will yield to this Government revenue totalling SI 96m, according to the Budget.
Comparing the amount by which the taxpayers benefit under these proposals - namely $228m - with the increase in the amount of revenue collected by the Government by way of indirect charges - namely SI 96m - the total saving will be a mere $32m per annum or about $6 per head per annum for taxpayers with incomes between $400 per annum and $32,000 per annum, which apparently is the Government’s standard for middle income earners. There are 5 million taxpayers in that category. When we consider that the great bulk of the Australian work force is in the lower bracket of taxation and that the return to it as a result of this legislation will be less than the return to those in higher brackets, we can see that there has been just another juggling of the taxation structure with deleterious effect on the ordinary Australian worker. Yet the Government says that there will be a substantial easing of taxation for the lower and middle income earners. Quite obviously, there will be very little saving for the ordinary man and woman in the work force of this country.
As I have said, the greater the number of dependants a worker has, the less he will be assisted under these proposals. A couple of days after the Federal - Budget was brought down in August the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ published a taxation scale compiled by Mr E. R. Risstrom, the Federal Secretary of the Federated Taxpayers Associations of Australia. The figures prepared by Mr Risstrom and published by the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ are quite illuminating. With the concurrence of honour- - able senators, I incorporate the table in Hansard.
Let me cite one or two examples from the table. These figures show up the absurdity of the Government’s claim that the hardest hit will be helped the most. A man earning $66 a week and with no dependents will receive a reduction in his tax of $55.89 a year or SI. 05 a week. A man on the same income but with a wife and 2 children dependent upon him will receive a reduction of only S39.44 a year or 70c a week. A man earning $100 a week and with no dependants will save $111.88 a year or $2.20 a week under the Government’s proposals. A man on the same income but with a wife and 2 children dependent upon him will make a saving of only $87.65 a year or $1.60 a week.
A man on the average weekly earnings - 1 understand that they are now of the order of $75 a week - and with no dependants will make a tax saving of $67.29 a year or $1.30 a week as a result of these proposals. A man on the average weekly earnings but with a wife and 2 children dependent upon him will make a saving of only $51.28 a year or $1 a week. The table gives the figures right through from Hie person on a very humble income of $25 a week to the person on $160 a week or $8,000 a year. So, in fact, the lower the income and the greater the number of people dependent on the taxpayer, the less is the easing of the burden upon him.
In contradistinction, as a result of the indirect taxation charges imposed by the Government in the recent Budget, the poorer man will have to pay the same rale as the wealthier man for his postage stamps - postage charges have been increased all round - his packet of cigarettes, his bottle- of wine for the family table at Christmas time, the petrol for his motor car, the additional sales lax charges imposed upon him by this Government and the additional charges that have been thrown immediately upon his shoulders as a result of the indirect taxation imposed on him in the Budget. The poorer man, the humble man, has had to face up to heavier medical insurance contributions. In future when medical fees rise, as they must because of the inflationary spiral that has been a regular feature of Conservative government’s, he will have to pay higher contributions and meet the greater difference between the rebate paid by the fund and the fee charged by his medical practitioner.
The Government has granted a niggardly handout of an extra 50c a week to the pensioners. Many men and women in the lower and middle income brackets who have been over burdened in trying to maintain their own families at a reasonable economic level will be digging deeper into their pockets in order to give some financial succour to their elderly parents. Where is the economic justice that is supposed to exist in the fiscal measures of the Government? Where is the substantial relief, to use the Treasurer’s term, that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) undertook in his policy speech before the last election to give to the people? The fact is that there is none. The burden has been thrown on to the lower income earner in a much more subtle and heavy way than previously.
Australians in the lower and middle income brackets have been paying a high price for this Government for far too long. Before the introduction of this Budget they were the workers hardest hit by direct taxation anywhere in the world. Notwithstanding this legislation and the Budget introduced by the Treasurer in August, the lower and middle income earners are still the highest taxed workers in the world. In a period of 13 years in which personal income in Australia has increased in money terms by 234 per cent the central Government has achieved a rise in revenue from pay as you earn taxation of not less than 370 per cent. As I have said, the lower and middle income earners have paid a very high price indeed for the negative policies being pursued by this Government. ls it any wonder that today, because of the economic circumstances in which many Australian live, 2 out of every 5 married women have joined the Australian work force? ls it any wonder that today for most families the 2 pay packet system has become not a luxury but a necessity? For many if has been a necessity to pay off their homes, cars and furniture, and a struggle to keep their children at school to obtain a better education. At the same time they have had to struggle to meet the heavy taxation commitments imposed upon them by this Government. Is it any wonder, in view of the burden of direct and indirect taxation falling so heavily on the shoulders of -lower and middle income earners, that last year about 24,000 migrants decided to return to their own countries?
– ls that the only reason they decided to return?
– lt surely must be one of the reasons. They came to Australia because, according to the Government’s story, this is a land of milk and honey. Why have they decided to go back to their old countries? Apparently they have gone back because they were dissatisfied with the economic circumstances existing in this country, one factor in which is the heavy direct and indirect taxation imposed upon them by this Government. While this type of taxation is imposed on the ordinary man, irrespective of whether he is a blue collar worker or a white collar worker, all the fringe benefits in the world through taxation deductions are allowed to wealthy businessmen. About 7,000 of them are in the income bracket of more than $32,000 a year. They can tak>: someone out for dinner and to a show and claim the cost as entertainment expenses incurred in the course of conducting their businesses. They can claim for motor car expenses used to get to and from their places of business. They can entertain people in. their own homes and claim that it was for the purpose of their businesses. They can charge the cost of their Christmas cards as a business expense. But the small man cannot: get away with a cent.
Last week I spoke to a young man who is earning about $4,000 a year. On his last income tax return he claimed a deduction of $55 for chemists expenses and he had been asked to prove every cent of that expenditure. I do not know for how much longer the ordinary man will be prepared to put up with the inequity imposed upon him by this Government. The Treasurer admitted in his Budget Speech the injustice of tha overall burden imposed upon the lower income workers. The Treasurer said that rising incomes were responsible for a rapid increase in personal income tax, and went on to say that the revenue thus obtained was needed for the Government’s commitments. Surely that goes without saying because no government, not even a government as incompetent as this one is, would tax people unnecessarily just for the sake of taking money from them. The Treasurer said that there is no doubt that inequity has crept into the system.
As 1 have indicated, about 5 million taxpayers are to get an overall benefit of a mere $32m a year. That ignores any increase in wages which must follow the increases in the cost of living that are. taking place. Workers will be placed into a higher tax bracket which in turn will mean additional revenue for. the Treasury. In real money terms the workers will be no better off at the end of this financial year than they were at the end of the last financial year, taking into account the increased costs that will be thrown upon their shoulders and the increased responsibilities they will have to bear. According to Mr Justice Nimmo about 1 million Australians are living in misery below the poverty line and some of their economic burdens will have to be eased, somehow or other.
Sooner or later the Government will have to face up to its responsibility in this regard. Therefore a greater financial burden will be placed on the shoulders of the lower and middle income earners. I am sure that the ordinary Australian would not have minded accepting the burden had he believed that his money was being spent wisely by this Government. He would not have minded had it seemed that the educational crisis to which Senator McManus referred was being overcome. He would not have minded had the standard of hospitals in this country been brought up to a reasonable level, or if steps were being taken in that direction. He would have been pleased that he had been able to help one of his fellows to get a home at a reasonable price. He would have been happy to pay a little more in order to give a fair sum to war pensioners who served this country when Australia needed them most. He would have been pleased to have taken out of his pocket a little more to pay into the Treasury coffers, knowing that by so doing he would be helping someone poorer than he - that he was enabling the elderly citizens of this country to enjoy the twilight of their lives with dignity and with a reasonable standard of living. But with the inequitable burdens being placed upon him, he has had to pay the high cost of conservative government. He has had to meet the high cost of the Vietnamese war. He has borne the scandals and shocking waste of millions of dollars on the purchase of Fills. He has seen his Government stand by while foreign companies have exploited his country and taken untold millions of wealth away from its shores.
Honourable senators opposite will laugh, but these are the things of concern to the ordinary, average Australian. These things will be reflected in the ballot box in a month’s time when the people go to the polls throughout the whole of Australia. The inequity will remain, notwithstanding this legislation. The only hope that people have is to ensure that this Government is thrown out of office and replaced by a government which has a full realisation and understanding of the tremendous burdens that they have had to bear and that they are bearing. They must ensure that it is replaced by a government that will do something tangible and constructive for the men and women who are entitled to real relief - not relief which is camouflaged, which is deceptive and which is a subterfuge measure of the type encompassed by this legislation. This Government, for its legislation, deserves the severest censure of the Australian people. As I have said, they have the weapon at their disposal on 21st November next. In the meantime, we believe that because the inequity and anomalies in the present taxation structure still exist, notwithstanding this legislation, the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to bring about reasonable rates of taxation to the lower and middle income earners.
– I want to make my contribution in support of the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Wilkinson. The wording of the amendment is as forceful politically as it can be made, that is, that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted. This is not to say that the Opposition maintains an attitude opposed to tax reductions. We have consistently in our policy speeches, in this chamber and in other places, said that there needs to be a complete restructuring of the whole of the taxation system. Whilst we concede that concessions are being made in this regard, we maintain that the way in which these concessions have been applied has not been in the interests of all Australians. If honourable senators want to examine details of Commonwealth income tax statistics I can refer them to a booklet, which I have here, which sets the statistics out adequately. I do not propose to bore the Senate by quoting from them in detail. I intend to refer to a number of problems as we see them, which, I believe, is the way in which Australians generally see them.
It is significant that when we went through a political exercise in this chamber today we saw the Government completely dedicated to the suppression of the right of free speech by its application of the gag. Today we had a situation in which a debate was initiated in this chamber by the Australian Labor Party for the purpose of assisting a sector of rural industry.
– To play politics.
– Senator Young, a farmer from South Australia, should have more compassion for those who have to earn their living from the land. It is all right for him; he can supplement his earnings from the land with his parliamentary income. But tens of thousands of people in this country in the rural industries are living on the breadline. Yet today, Senator Young with other Government supporters, used their force of numbers in order to suppress free discussion on a matter which would affect these people. So it ill becomes the honourable senator to make an interjection of the type that he is trying to make now. We are discussing the important aspects of the manner in which income tax has been redistributed by this Government and it is significant to note that in the discussion on this Bill we have heard not one Government supporter.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) will be put in the unfortunate situation later this evening of having to apologise for the ruthless policies of the Government in which this country no longer believes. It is no good the Minister shaking his head. I feel sorry for him because of the task which has been set for him by his colleagues in the Liberal and Country Party coalition. They have not the moral courage or the background to enable them to enter the debate in defence of their Government. It is significant also that
Ministers of this Government have not shown very great interest in this or any other debate since the Senate election date was announced. 1 should like to quote from a supplement to ‘The- Taxpayers’ Bulletin’ of 18th August 1970. Anybody who wants to describe the Taxpayers Association as a militant or Communist organisation will be on very shaky ground. The supplement states:
In his Budget speech tonight the Commonwealth Treasurer, Mr Leslie Bury– 1 think the pensioners described in very adequate words what ought to happen to Mr Bury. The supplement continues:
BUm the Government’s promise to give income tax relief to the lower and middle income tax groups - up to a taxable income of $10,000 a year the effective reduction is some 10 per cent, this tapering off to 4.4 per cent at $20,000 and cutting out altogether at $32,000.
Even to this class of taxpayer the Treasurer is not as generous as would at first sight appear, because despite the reduced rates PA YE taxpayers will pay in the aggregate $!90m more in 1970-71 than the)’ did in 1969-70.
These are ruthless figures, but nevertheless they highlight precisely what we are trying to bring out in this debate. The publication continues:
On the other side of the coin a variety of taxes and charges are to be increased.
This is what my colleague Senator McClelland said a few moments ago. It continues:
The rates of company taxes are to bc increased by an additional 2i per cent, making the top rate of company tax 474 per cent. Companies are expected to produce additional income tax revenue of $249m in the coming year.
We have continually warned Government supporters of the inflationary trend which no doubt will get completely out of control. The increase of 2i per cent in company tax will not hurt any company in this country because they will pass the increase on right down to the worker. This has happened before when companies have blatantly passed on the increase. In many instances it has not been 2i per cent which has been passed on; it has been 5 per cent or even more. The supplement continues:
Sales tax on a wide range of relatively essentials, including motor vehicles, is to be increased from 25 per cent to 27i per cent; this variation being expected to produce an additional $78r> in 1970-71. Increased customs and excise duties will apply to petroleum products, cigarettes and tobacco, and for the first time to locally produced wines. 1 think it should be placed on record that the people who fought most to have the tax placed on wine were the South Australian senators on the Government side of the chamber. They are the ones who continually have justified the imposition of this taxation on this relatively new industry. The document continues:
Increased postal, telegraph and telephone charges are proposed.
– This will not gel you votes. Dunstan has already fixed it for you.
– I suggest that if Senator Young wants to repudiate the position that he adopted the other night he will have his chance, if he has the courage to follow me in the debate. The document continues:
The general letter rate is increased by 20 per cent to 6c, telegrams by 33 per cent and telephone rentals by $7 per annum - arl of which is expected to raise additional revenue in a full year of $53m. ‘
Whilst it would be ungracious twu to express appreciation thai something has been done for the lower and middle income earners, the fuel probably emerges that what the average wage or salary earner saves in. income tax will be more than absorbed by the higher costs *e will carry because of the increases in sales tax, .petrol tax, telephone and postal charges, and the additional charges on bis modest luxuries in the way of additional duties on cigarettes and wine.
The additional burdens imposed «u companies in this period of seriously rising costs is to be regretted.
Not only will the increases iti company income tax (applied retrospectively to -the year ended June 30th, 1970) bear heavily on targe and small companies, but also the bulk of the additional postal, telegraph and telephone charges, sales tax on motor vehicles, air navigation charges and the like will all add significantly to die operating cost of companies.
To the extent that companies are able to pass on these charges, the ultimate consumer - the man in the street - will pay the piper.
This statement was prepared by a responsible body of people. One could not say, by any stretch of imagination, that they are opposed to the Government
We had the unsavoury spectacle today - 1. say this deliberately - of the Democratic Labor Party, the so called fighter for the underdog, working strenuously with the Government in this chamber to apply the gag to every move made by the Opposition.
I would like to quote from a country newspaper published in Innisfail in north Queensland. This article states:
Innisfail Trades and Labour council has sent a letter to the parliamentary leader of the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Vince Gair.
This followed upon Tuesday’s meeting of unionists protesting against the Federal Budget, which is now under consideration in Parliament.
It was stated during the protest meeting that the increase of50 cents weekly in pension payments was disguised to ‘keep in poverty’ that section of the population which received them.
Speakers claimed during the meeting that prices generally in Australia had increased by 3.7 per cent in 1968 whereas the pension had only been increased in the current budget by 3.3 per cent.
Taking a larger view’, one speaker declared, the pension in 1949 had been 26.3 per cent of the average male earnings–
This was the last year of office of a Labor Government - 20.9 per cent in 1968; and for 1970 it would be depressed even further.
The letter sent by theITLC bearing the signature of the secretary, Mr D. L. Parker, reads:
During your recent visit to Innisfail you strongly advocated–
The letter is addressed to the alleged Leader of the Democratic Labor Party in the parliamentary sphere. Senator Little, who is interjecting, has just had a world tour at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. The only contribution he has made in this chamber today has been to apply the gag in order to keep pensioners in subjection and to keep the little man in the street out of the money that he ought to be getting. I will start again. The letter states:
During your recent visit to Innisfail you strongly advocated and promised your assistance, as Leader of the DLP in the Senate to pensioners.
Today one hundred and eighty members of unions in theInnisfail area met to discuss the inequality of the budget, particularly with regard to pensioners.
The following resolution was passed:
We ask you, Senator Gair, to honour your statements in Innisfail to assist pensioners, by amending the budget in the senate so as to increase pensions by more than the paltry fifty cents offered by the government.
Sir, as you oppose the government,
What a big laugh - we would indeed appreciate your assistance, because, in your position holding the balance of power in the senate, you have the power to force the government to increase pensions to a fair and livable level, or resign.
We look forward to you for results, the letter concluded.
Well, they will be a lot of disappointed people. That was a challenge by a group of workers in the tropical city of Innisfail in north Queensland. They said: ‘Assist the pensioners and the workers or resign’. What did we see in this chamber today? We saw members of that little imbecile party crawling sometimes, running at others, and sometimes struggling across to vote with the Government because the moment it allows the Government to be defeated on issues of this nature it would be-
– I rise to a point of order. Standing order 413, adopted on 26th September 1969, states:
No Senator shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the same session unless such allusion be relevant to the matter under discussion.
I take the point that the proceedings this afternoon and the voting that took place have nothing whatever to do with the taxation Bill before this House at the present time. I believe the honourable senator is out of order in referring to what happened this afternoon.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Order! I do not uphold the point of order.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I will finalise my reference to this particular area by saying
– What is the use of having standing orders.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Marriott, I am willing to explain my ruling. I do not consider that the events that took place in the Senate this afternoon are irrelevant to the point being made by Senator Keeffe. It is on that basis that I did not uphold your point of order.
– -Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I conclude my remarks on this particular quarter by saying that the small people in the community, those who look to their parliamentary representatives to defend them, those who look to their parliamentary representatives to help them, have said in essence to Senator Gair: ‘See that the Government coughs up or get out.’ The Government has not coughed up and Senator Gair will be getting out.
To support the other part of my argument 1 want to quote some extracts from a letter 1 received from Mr Wallace, General Secretary of the Queensland State Service Union, at the time when emphasis was being placed on restructuring the Australian tax system. He wrote:
As you no doubt are aware the taxation scales have not been changed since 1954-55 and since that period concessional allowances have not increased relatively with upward movements of salaries and wages, nor cost of living.
These statements are very interesting and 1 am sure a lot of research went into preparing these figures:
In 1954-55 only 9.11 per cent of Australian taxpayers had incomes in excess of $2,800, but now 44.25 per cent of Australian taxpayers have incomes in excess of that amount. Consequently Income Tax paid by pay-as-you-earn employees has become an increasingly higher percentage of the total revenue received by the Commonwealth Government.
In the 13 year span from 1954-55 to 1.967-68 personal income has increased by 234 per cent whilst revenue collected by the Commonwealth Government from pay-as-you-earn income tax has increased by 370 per cent.
Actual Income Tax collected each year far exceeds the anticipated revenue from this source and last year this excess was $43m.
Ten years ago the average wage earner worked 5 weeks in every year to pay his Income Tax, now he must work 9i weeks to pay his Income Tax.
We contend that the manner in which the income tax scale has been fixed gives the greatest relief to the income earner, who least needs it. In other words, a politician on the base salary will receive considerable benefit but a man with a wife and two or three kiddies in receipt of a wage or salary a little in excess of the basic wage is the one who will get least. Yet Government supporters say that this is a fair way in which to set out taxation relief.
I want to refer to a lol of other people in the community who suffer and will continue to suffer as a result of the Government’s attitude to the Budget generally, to the fixing of the taxation rates and to making up lost revenue from other sources. There are a tremendous number of widows and deserted wives in this country who get no tax refund such as is received by the average wage earner when he submits his return each year. The average wage earner is able to get so much for Mary, who goes to a certain school, for school fees, books and uniforms, and so much for Johnny who probably goes to another school. This is some sort of relief for that wage earner. But the widow or deserted wife, who probably has four or five young kiddies at school, cannot claim this concession at the end of the financial year. She is not compelled to pay income tax and so docs not gel this refund. One would have thought that this point would have been looked into when this warm hearted and soft headed Government was framing social service payments.
My colleague, Senator McClelland, gave some details of the problems that have been brought about because of the increased sales tax on a number of commodities. On motor cars it has increased by 2i per cent to 271 per cent. I live outside the capital of Queensland. In the city in which I live the cost of freighting an ordinary family motor vehicle from the capital city is something in excess of §100. On top of this, the generous Government then includes the freight for sales tax purposes. Is it any wonder thai the young people are looking for somewhere to go? They find nothing on which they can pin their hopes or aspirations because of the general attitude adopted by the Government either in its approach to governmental problems or in relation to income tax.
I want to say a few words about the manner in which the Government fixes personal income tax. Recently when we were discussing the sales tax legislation, the Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said: ‘You can have it on this hand or you can have it on that hand. You can have it by way of increased sales tax or you can have it by way of increased personal income tax’. He quoted figures that indicated that sales tax had been reduced by his Government as compared with the previous Labor government, and that personal income tax had been increased. Taxation hits hardest that large group in the community which does not receive large incomes. In other words, the average tradesman, labourer, shop assistant and clerk are among those who are paying the most. They are paying it firstly by way of direct taxation. They are paying it, as members on this side have pointed out consistently, by way of increased payments to hospital benefit funds and by way of increased sales tax on most essential items. The Government has extended taxation by increasing the excise on petrol. That must be passed on to the consumer in some way. I believe that if one is prepared to examine courageously all aspects of what is happening in the community one will find that this is the basic cause of most of the problems being encountered today.
The Government plans to overcome any opposition by instituting a law and order programme. In future dissatisfied people will not have the right to protest. We will defend that right. Here and now I tell honourable senators opposite what we think about the Government’s plan. T will suggest what we think should be the Government’s altitude, which would be welcomed by the majority of people. The Government should redraft this Bill. I think it is significant that no Government supporter has attempted to defend the Government’s policy. T think this is a fairly strong point in favour of the amendment we have moved. J suggest and hope that it will be carried.
– I am prompted to rise at this late stage of the debate and of the day’s proceedings, after a very fuJI day of debate, not because the Bill requires any address from the Democratic Labor Party at this stage but because of observances made by Senator Keeffe. Senator McManus, the Deputy Leader of the Party, earlier in the debate explained the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party to the Bill. Senator Keeffe’s speech contained remarks which require comment. The attitude of the Democratic Labor Party in relation to its conduct in the Senate has been marked, as always, by a determination in all circumstances and, under the greatest provocation, to exercise a sense of responsibility. If the letter to which Senator Keeffe referred and to which I shall make reference later had any content of accuracy in it, it was when it stated that in this chamber the Democratic Labor Party was in a position of power. Nobody is more sensitive to that situation than are members of the Democratic Labor Party. It is because the Australian people elected 2 members of the Democratic Labor Party to the Senate almost 6 years ago and 2 further members almost 3 years ago, making the number 4 and giving it a decisive mathematical position in the Senate, that we come here very conscious of the trust that has been reposed in us by the Australian nation. We would hope that our conduct in the Senate and our voting record are reflections of an acceptance of that sense of responsibility and determination.
– I take a point of order. If Senator Byrne is making a personal explanation, I suggest that he may exercise that right under the Standing Orders when the debate is concluded. If he is speaking to the Bill, I suggest that he should contine his remarks to the Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Order! I do not uphold the point of order. Senator Byrne is entitled to make the remarks he made in the context of the Bill.
– .1 was indicating that our attitude in all matters coming before this chamber has been one of the acceptance and discharge of responsibility as it has been reposed in us by the Australian people. Out attitude to the Appropriation Bill presented to the Senate and under scrutiny by the Senate Estimates Committees, and of which this Bill is a manifestation, being one of the revenue Bills, has been marked by that approach. On occasions we have found it necessary, when discussing the Budget and the Bills that emerge from it, to scrutinise the expenditure and the revenue. As Senator Gair said, if my recollection is correct, when addressing himself initially to the Budget, we recognise that it is nol easy to frame a budget and that it is easy to destroy the whole structure of a budget. Any analysis of a budget and any interference with its provisions must be marked with a due regard for the burdens that rest upon the revenue and for the opportunities of raising the revenue.
The Australian Labor Party, in its attitude to discussions on the Budget and in its attitude to this Bill which is only another manifestation of that, has been marked by total political irresponsibility. Initially it moved an amendment to the Budget. The amendment did not include many of the matters which it subsequently opposed. If one looks through its voting records on .the Bills that have stemmed from the Budget, one finds an almost unbroken record of support for the expenditure proposals and of opposition to the revenue proposals. If one objects to the Budget in toto, one objects to it on the revenue and expenditure sides. Once one is prepared to accept the expenditure proposals and once one wants them extended, one is not entitled to destroy all the revenue proposals. The Opposition has opposed the proposed excise duty increase, the duties on diesel fuel and the provisions of this Bill relating to income tax. It is prepared to impose tremendous additional revenue demands on the Budget by virtue of its opposition to the receipts tax. We oppose the receipts tax. Correspondingly, we recognise the necessity for the Government to be able to obtain, from other resources, the revenue necessary to accommodate that and other demands upon the appropriation. In other words that sense of responsibility which we think should always be exhibited in this place has been divorced totally from the attitude of the Australian Labor Party.
When Senator Gair goes to the electors in a few weeks time, one thing he will be able to go on, backed by his Party, will be that this solemn trust which has been reposed in him and in his Party by the Australian people has not been misplaced. I was also concerned at the assault made on my colleague, Senator Little, who has just returned as a delegate- of- this Parliament to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference at The Hague. Senator Little was not the only member of the Parliament who attended that Conference. The parliamentary delegation comprised members of both Houses of the Parliament. Included in it were members of the official Opposition in this chamber. Senator Keeffe will be aware that one member of his own Party in this chamber was a co-delegate of Senator Little. It seems to me to be grossly unfair to suggest that Senator Little had some sort of a world junket and to that extent he was a burden on the taxpayers of Australia. The Inter-Parliamentary
Union is a union of non-ministerial members of the parliaments of the world, it meets annually and its meetings are most valuable. Members of all parties of the Parliament seek the opportunity to attend its meetings. Selection of delegates is not confined to any one political party or group of members of the Parliament. It seems to me to be a distortion that Senator Little should be picked out for criticism because he happened to be sitting in the chamber tonight. I do not intend to mention the names of the other members of this chamber who were in the delegation. They are known to Senator Keeffe and to other honourable senators. Senator Little has returned from the meeting pf the Inter-Parliamentary Union but 2 other honourable senators have not. To select Senator Little for this type of discriminatory and, I think, unfair attack is unworthy of Senator Keeffe.
I was not in the chamber at the time, but I heard Senator Keeffe’s comments over the address system. If my recollection is correct Senator Keeffe referred to a resolution carried by the Innisfail branch of the Trades and Labour Council directing Senator Gair to oppose the provisions of the Budget in relation to the payment of pensions. The attitude of the Democratic Labor Party on this matter was stated at the time the Budget was brought down. It was of the opinion that the proposed increase in pensions was inadequate. The Democratic Labor Party expressed its view in a formal manner. However, it was of the opinion that it could not vote to destroy the Budget because of the good provisions which were contained in it. The Democratic Labor Party has always taken the stand throughout its history - it owes its very genesis .to this point - that its elected members in the Parliament will not take directions from any outside body. Accordingly, my colleagues and I will not accept this type of direction from the Innisfail branch of the Trades and Labour Council or anybody else.
– Would Senator Gair have answered the letter?
– I do not know. I presume that Senator Gair would have answered it. If the resistance of the members of the Australian Labor Party to the pension provisions contained in the Budget was generated by that type of direction 1 believe that they have a totally incorrect appreciation of their responsibilities as elected members of the Parliament. It may have been this type of pressure which prompted the Labor Party’s resistance. I do not know. The members of my Party would resist this type of pressure! We deplored the pension increase because of its sheer inadequacy but we were prepared to accept it rather than perhaps destroy the whole Budget which did contain some worthwhile benefits. We were not prepared to throw out the baby with the bath water. ) rose only to make those remarks. I wished to express my concern at the type of observation which was made by the honourable senator who preceded me, namely, Senator Keeffe. In general terms, subject to the qualifications which were mentioned by Senator McManus in his major speech on this matter, the Democratic Labor Party supports this legislation.
– We have just heard an apology from Senator Byrne for the actions of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the name of responsibility. I would say that its actions were in the name of a deal which had been made between the Democratic Labor Party and the Government. I do not want to say any more about the activities of the Democratic Labor Party. The more I look at its members the more r am disgusted.
– I think the feeling i; fairly mutual.
– There is room on the list of speakers if Senator Sim wants to put his name down. Earlier this afternoon, in a debate on another matter, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson accused the Australian Labor Party of creating a disturbance within the Parliament because it was not prepared to face up to a debate on the Government’s income tax measures while the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast. I say to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson that my colleagues and 1 welcome this opportunity to discuss the Government’s taxation policies. If anyone is not prepared to face up to a debate on the Government’s taxation policies it is the supporters of the Government - both the members of the Australian Country Party and the members of the so-called Liberal Party of Australia. As far as 1 am concerned it is a conservative party. Not one member of those parties is listed to speak in this debate.
– Do not throw rubbish at the Country Party. The honourable senator has done fairly well so far.
– I do not want to throw any rubbish at the Country Party. ‘Hie people it represents have had enough rubbish thrown at them by *he Country Party itself. However, it is not -for me to throw rubbish at it. The Budget which was presented on 18th August last again depicted the battle which has. been going on between the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Department of the Treasury. A highly inflationary Budget was put down in 1969 because the Prime Minister insisted upon having his own way, despite the advice of the then Treasurer. The result was that the Treasury had to apply restrictive monetary measures in the last quarter of the fiscal year. This quarter generally generates its own restrictions, but these restrictions were generated as a result of the 1969 Budget.
The 1970 Budget imposes almost the same inflationary pressures on the economy. This is borne out by the warnings to the people of Australia and, in particular, to the industrial tribunals, of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) and the Treasurer (Mr Bury), that -the Australian economy cannot stand wage increases. I do not know what will happen now that a decision has been given -in the oil case to grant substantial increases. I believe that substantial increases will be granted as a result of the national wage case, too. The Budget is highly inflationary. Pressure will be applied for wage increases. Increases in taxation revenue will occur as a result of these wage increases. The Commonwealth Government is the main beneficiary of any increases in wage rates because of the income tax scale. When he became Prime Minister of Australia Mr Gorton made some enthusiastic statements about being the champion of the underdog, particularly of those people in our community who are in receipt of social services.
– And he has proved that up to the hilt by what he has done since. ‘
– The honourable senator is entitled to believe that the granting of a 50c a week increase in the age pension proves the Prime Minister’s claim up to the hilt.
– - It has increased by 19 per cent since he” took office, which is something which has not been equalled at any time in history.
– The honourable senator is entitled to believe that the granting of a 50c a week increase in the age pension proves the Prime Minister’s claim up to the hilt, but there are not many people in the community who will agree with him. The Government proposes this financial year to decrease the income tax derived from what is called the middle and lower income groups by $228m. In his policy speech last year during a House of Representatives election the Prime Minister agreed to reduce taxation by $200m over a period of 3 years. He excelled himself and in three-quarters of a year he gave middle and lower income groups $228m. In a whole year it will amount to $289m. It is interesting to note that having done this not by an equitable adjustment of the scales of taxation but by an across the board reduction he has found it necessary to increase other charges upon the people of Australia.
The increased customs and excise charges amount to $95m. They are paid equally by those who can afford to pay them and those who cannot afford to pay them. Sales tax has been increased by $23m. Even though the increases are on only a selected number of items they bear equally upon those who purchase goods irrespective of their rate of income. Company tax has been increased by $79m. Of course this cost will be passed on to the consumer. There is a miscellaneous item of SI. 79m. These amounts represent a total of $198.79m for recovery of revenue by the Government. In fact, the amount that will be made available to the people this year will be in the vicinity of $30m. That will be the amount of relief from taxation Australians will receive, and not $228m. If this is the way the Prime Minister wants to fulfill his policy of being the champion of the underdog, it is a pretty peculiar way to me.
I have had a look at some of the taxation scales that have been produced by the various media following the Budget on 18th August. I have noted an article in the Australian Financial Review’ of 19th August. If we look at the minimum wage of §42.50 which amounts roughly to $2,200 per annum we find that the saving for the worker on that wage is roughly 50c a week, being $26.64 a year. That is the saving that the minimum wage plug obtains. On the average weekly wage which is roughly $4,000 per annum or $77 a week the saving is $1.50 a week. In the income bracket of $10,000 which we come into as members of Parliament the saving is $6.70 a week. The top of the scale of this across the board 10 per cent reduction comes in at $16,000. The saving to the so called middle income earner on $16,000 a year is $9.61 a week. If this is an equitable way to distribute the tax burden within the community then I have still a lot to learn about it.
I would think that if the Government wanted to do something for the middle and lower income group within the community it would have revised the taxation scale by commencing at the lower level with a reduction of something like 20 per cent, with gradual decreases in the percentage of reduction, the reduction cutting out at about $20,000. If the Government wanted to do something to assist the family man it would have had a look at the taxation remissions which are allowed such as the amounts which one may claim for dependants. From a revision of the scale and of the allowable deductions for dependants the family man would have received considerable assistance. But the Government has not seen fit to do this. It has seen fit to bring down a taxation measure which greatly favours those on what would be termed ‘more than the middle class income’. It favours the single man as against the married man. Overall it provides little benefit for any. Yet when the Treasurer is questioned about greater reductions in taxation to assist those on lower incomes or about increases in benefits paid to those less fortunate within our community he says that the Budget is finely balanced and to do anything more with it would throw the economy into chaos. Once again the Prime
Minister does not agree with him. Over a period of 5 years the Prime Minister made a handout of S3 60m to buy off Sir Henry Bolte. Over $50m of this amount will be paid this year. This represents more than enough to have given the pensioners an increase of a further 50c a week. Anyone who has watched the performance of the conservative parties in this chamber over the period that they have been in Government - they are very fortunate to have been in Government for the period that they have-
– lt is fortunate for Australia.
– If the Government could pull another Petrov out of the high hat in 1972 it might be returned again but it will have to deceive the people to be able to do that.
– Will the Labor Party have a branch in Victoria by 1972?
– For 15 years now a lot of people including the ultra-conservatives of the Democratic Labor Party have been praying for the collapse of the Australian Labor Party. It is still here, of course. If the honourable senator wants some historical background 1 point out that the Australian Country Party which does not have an honourable senator present in this chamber at the moment was formed for the express purpose of taking over the role of the Australian Labor Party following the split in 1917. But that did not happen. The Australian Labor Party will survive. We still obtain more votes from the electors than any other political party in Australia. We are still the only party in Austrafia which is able to form a government in its own right. Liberal Party supporters sitting on the other side of the chamber are now supported by the Country Party and, in 33 seats, by DLP preferences. The honourable senators admire themselves for being on the Treasury benches. The sooner they get rid of these delusions and believe that the people do not want them the better. But they have things so rigged that the people cannot dispose of them. When honourable senators opposite have ruined the economy of this country the Australian Labor Party will be asked to take over and rectify the mess they have made. I support the amendment moved by Senator Wilkinson. I wish that it had been couched in other words and that it had expressed the inequity of the Government’s proposal.-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I will take only 5 or 6 minutes of the time of the Senate to refer briefly to what I believe are some approaching scandals, if they are not already scandals, in the administration of the Department of Immigration. I refer, first, to the case of Mr Ron Bould whose wife and two daughters went to England some considerable time ago for compassionate reasons and were unable to obtain any assistance whatsoever in obtaining a return passage to this country. We have plenty of examples, 3 think, of cases where people have received such assistance on the occasion of returning to Australia but Mr Bould, who was an ordinary worker in the community and a valuable’ asset to this country, has now placed himself §1,000 or more in debt in order to bring his family back to Australia. Recent figures issued by the Department of Immigration have disclosed that the best part of half a million dollars has been spent in sending people back to their home country from Australia because they did not like this country. Perhaps the most recent example of this was the Todman case.
I will read an extract from the letter received from Mr Bould in which he gives me permission to use his name in advocating on his behalf some sort of financial relief for the money that he has expended to bring his family home. The letter reads:
Incidentally who will pay back the $1,080 if anything happens to me. I’m sure the Immigration Department won’t, and my wife wouldn’t be able to.
This is a pathetic plea for financial relief from one of the people who was brought to this country to help us populate it. I sincerely request the Minister for. Immigration (Mr Lynch) to re-investigate this case in spite crf the fact that my representa-: tions on behalf of the Bould family have been rejected by the Department on several occasions. I am prepared to make the whole file available to the Department if it is prepared to re-examine it.
I refer, secondly, to the case of Mr A. J. Vorstman of 8 Pandora Street, Boondall. Queensland, who has been refused naturalisation. In about April of this year I asked in this chamber why Mr Vorstman had been refused naturalisation. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), on behalf of the Minister for Immigration, answered in these terms:
Mr Vorstman’s application has been carefully considered on previous occasions bur it has been decided that Australian citizenship by naturalisation should not be granted to him. It is a long standing rule to disclose the reason for the deferment or refusal of an application for citizenship only where the applicant is unable to show that he has an adequate knowledge of the English language or of the responsibilities and privileges nf citizenship, or where he is unable to comply with the residential requirements of the Citizenship Act. As Mr Vorstman’s case does not come within these categories the grounds on which his application for citizenship has been refused cannot be disclosed.
I do noi know this gentleman personally. Representations have been made to me by reputable people and organisations on his behalf. I think that what the Department has done is not a very good practice on its part. If a man is refused citizenship I think he ought: to be told, even if no-one else can have the information. The person concerned ought to be told. If he is refused citizenship because he is a member of the Fascist Party, the Communist Party or to some other organisation - none of these things are illegal in Australia - then he ought to be given the facts. He is a man who has lived in this country for many years, was married to a lady who was born in this country and whose children were brought up in this country. He ought to be told the reasons why he was refused citizenship so at least he might have the right of appeal.
The third case that I raise is appropriate to the statement made by no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) a few days ago that the white Australia policy cannot be justified on moral grounds. He went on to say much more but I will not bore the Senate with the full text of his statement because I think all of Aus- tralia and all of the non-white countries of the free world are familiar with what he said. A long time ago I made representations on behalf of Mr Douglas Lim who currently lives in Hong Kong. He was born in Indonesia of Chinese parents. In a letter addressed to me he said:
My present position here is Promotions and Public Relations Manager for Brunswick Far East Inc., but, if this position will not apply in the Immigration Laws, then, I would be very grateful if you would bring up the matter in the next reading of the Immigration Bill, bearing in mind that I spent a considerable time from the age of fourteen until I was twenty three in Brisbane, where ] completed my education.
I am word perfect in both spoken and written English and also, having been brought up in the Australian way of life, T am very sure that I will fit into the great Australian community. lt has always been my desire to live in Australia for the rest of my life and I am sure that I can contribute to the welfare of the country.
I am still holding my Indonesian passport and am presently a resident in Hong Kong.
In reply to a letter 1 wrote to the Minister on behalf of Mr Lim, the Minister wrote in a letter dated 12th June 1970:
In the absence overseas of my colleague, the Hon. Phillip Lynch, MP, I am writing further to your representations concerning the admission to Australia of Mr Douglas Soe Jen Lim from Hong Kong. 1 have, examined this matter very carefully in the light of your further representations and the additional information which has been made available to you. The position, however, is that Mr Soe. Jen Lim does not possess the qualifications or degree of relationship to an Australian resident which is required for admission to Australia under policy which has been determined by the Government.
In these circumstances I am obliged to say that the earlier decision of non-approval in respect of the admission of Mr Douglas Soe Jen Lim may not be varied.
That letter is signed by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. Mr Lim, as is mentioned in that particular communication - there are other communications in this file which I will make available to the Department of Immigration if it is anxious to look at it again - spent a number of years in this country, has reached a standard of education well in excess of matriculation standard, holds down a responsible job, has a brother in this country married to an Australian girl, has a home to which he can come, has a job to which he can come, and yet he is refused entry to Australia. I suggest with all due respect that if he were of British origin he would be able to obtain a visa to come into this country without any problem whatsoever. But because he is of Chinese descent, the white Australia policy and all the immigration bars that one could think of are applied to him.I respectfully request that each of these three cases be reviewed and justice granted to each of the three persons concerned.
(1 1.7) -I have listened with interest to the points raised by the honourable senator concerning these three cases. I shall see that they are placed before the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) for his consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19701021_senate_27_s46/>.