27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr President, T give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts the following matter:
What should be the role of the Commonwealth in regard to teacher education throughout Australia. The Committee is directed to make its report and recommendations as soon as possible and not later than 31st August 1971.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - Mr President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment the following matters:
The continuing oversight of the problems of pollution, including ways and means of preserving the environment from pollution.
The Committee is also directed to recommend as soon as possible what further measures might be taken to overcome the problems revealed by the reports of the Senate Select Committees on Air Pollution and Water Pollution, and which measures, if any, should be taken urgently.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it now confirmed that the Australian National Line will not be required to repay $1.5m to other members of the Japan-Australia shipping conference as was recently announced by the Minister? Does the Minister recall that the Chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission said in his 1970 report:
The Commission is called upon to pay back a very substantial sum to the pool . . . transforming what should have been a profit into a loss for the year’s work.
If the Australian National Line no longer has to bear this amount, does the Minister agree that that alters dramatically the Line’s trading results for the year? As a result, will he immediately review the recent freight increases imposed by the Line, especially on its Tasmanian services?
– I think the honourable senator will agree that all the questions he has asked involve elements of policy and decisions by the Minister whom I represent. To some extent they relate to reports of what is claimed has happened. All that I can properly do for the honourable senator is to see that the responsible Minister receives his queries and try to obtain answers covering the three areas the honourable senator has mentioned.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that inflation has caused, and is causing, intense distress to those on small fixed incomes, which have been obtained through the exercise of thrift in their earlier years, and also to those on superannuation? Will the assistance for pensioners just announced by the Government be supplemented by some form of assistance to the equally deserving fixed income and superannuation groups?
– I remind the honourable senator that the point made yesterday by the Prime Minister in relation to this matter was that the proposed increase for persons receiving the maximum rate of age, invalid, widow and service pensions would be $1 for pensioner couples and 50c for single persons.
– That does not answer the question which was asked.
– I will continue, if I may, without the honourable senator’s help. Senator McManus referred to this matter and I have repeated the proposal for his information. He then asked whether further assistance would be given to those on fixed incomes. I remind the honourable senator that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services have said that this immediate increase of pension rates will be followed by a fundamental review of social services and related pensions and that all these matters concerning social service benefits will be considered when the Budget for the next financial year comes up for review. I can assure Senator McManus that the points he raised will be placed before the Minister for Social Services.
– By way of preface to my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Works, I point out that last year plans were announced for the building of new studios for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Launceston to replace the ancient and inadequate premises at present occupied by it. Have tenders yet been called for the building construction upon the land which has already been acquired? If not, when will tenders be called? If they are not to be called, what is the reason for the delay?
– The honourable senator brought this matter under my notice last week. Therefore I made inquiries and ascertained that in respect of this project tenders have not been called. Actually the project is in the list of works which have been curtailed; it was in the category not covered in expenditure for this year and for which tenders have not been called. However, I have discussed the matter with my colleague the Postmaster-General, Sir Alan Hulme, who is the sponsor of the project, it being within his Department. I understand that he is actively engaged in discussion with the Treasurer. When a decision is made as to whether this project can receive special approval it will be made known to the honourable senator by either myself or the Postmaster-General’s representative in the Senate.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Supply as such and as the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, refers to reports about civilian staff at the Department of Defence. The Minister may have seen a statement yesterday that staff who were recruited as part of the reorganisation of the Department of Defence commenced during the term of service of Sir Henry Bland are apprehensive about their future as a result of the appointment of a new Minister for Defence. I ask the Minister: Is there likely to be any modification of the existing long term planning for defence? If these changes take place are they likely to affect procurement policy and/ or recruitment? Are staff likely to be displaced through any such reorganisation? Are any - changes likely to take place in respect of the Department of Supply in the near future?
The question asked by the honourable senator is predicated on the basis that there has been a change in the Defence portfolio and that therefore there may be some difference of emphasis which will have some effect upon civilian staff. I am answering the question in good faith when I say that my own view would toe that the change will not have any significant influence upon the programme of the Department of Defence as suggested by the honourable senator. The defence programme, which affects the Service departments and my own Department, is a long term programme. Indeed, on the defence side, we talk in terms of a 5-year programme. I cannot imagine why the circumstances should cause apprehension to some people but obviously they have prompted some comment in the Press. If there is some change of emphasis somewhere I will be informed of it and as the Minister representing the Minister for Defence I would be happy to provide the information at question time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that tests carried out in New South Wales and Victoria have found that higher concentrations of the pesticide DDT exist in human mothers’ milk than dairy marketing authorities accept in cows’ milk? Is it a fact that more detailed tests just completed by the Victorian Department of Health are understood to confirm these tests and that the concentration of DDT in mothers’ milk could be up to 20 times more than the acceptable amount in cows’ milk? If this information is factual will the Minister advise the Senate of what action is contemplated by the Commonwealth Government to place a complete ban on the use of DDT in Australia as has happened in some other countries, including the United States of America?
– I have seen Press reports concerning the points raised by the honourable senator. I shall endeavour to get for him from the
Minister for Health an accurate statement of the amount of DDT which has been detected in the milk mentioned by him. Also I shall inquire whether any action is contemplated by the Government in respect of this matter. As soon as I have this information I shall supply it to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Because of the unprofitability, deep concern and lack of confidence about the future among wool growers and those dependent on a prosperous wool industry, will the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, instruct officers of his Department to bring together representatives of the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Trade and Industry, the International Wool Secretariat and other competent authorities, in an effort to ascertain the reasons for the marked decline in wool prices, and report to the Prime Minister and later to Parliament?
The honourable senator suggests that having regard to the present state of the wool industry and the low price for wool I make representations to the Prime Minister to bring together representatives of the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Wool Secretariat to study the situation. I shall make representations to the Prime Minister on the basis of this question. I would add for my own part that I believe there is a ready acceptance all over Australia and throughout the world that the price of wool is very low and represents a very serious threat to our wool industry and to the whole of our economy which has a relationship with that industry. I should think that at all levels of the various departments and organisations mentioned by the honourable senator there would be in process a continuing study of the problems mentioned by him. I presume that the implication in his question is that by coming together in conclave representatives of those bodies could evolve some new situation. I shall refer this question to the Prime Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government. In view of the fact that the former Prime Minister who is now Minister for Defence is leaving this week for a 4-day visit to Vietnam and that the publicly stated reason for this visit is to assess the military position in Vietnam, I ask: Is it fair to expect a freshly appointed Minister for Defence who is racked by the humiliation of his recent fall from high office and who has only a hastily acquired concept of his new Department to be able to sum up the critical situation in Vietnam? Can the people of Australia be assured that with the security of our men in Vietnam becoming more in jeopardy each week Mr Gorton will use his visit to make arrangements for all our troops to be withdrawn from Vietnam as soon as possible?
The honourable senator has mentioned that the Minister for Defence is going to Vietnam to assess the military situation, but having said that he suggests that the issue should be decided now during question time before the Minister makes his visit. That is an unusual suggestion to make by way of question. As to the honourable senator’s statement about the Minister for Defence not having an appreciation of the defence position - and I think he used the words ‘hasty concept’ - I say that the Minister for Defence has always had a very clear understanding of Australia’s defence both in his earlier portfolio as a Minister of one of the Services and then as Prime Minister. Obviously, in the final analysis the Prime Minister has to have a complete understanding of defence policies and organisation.
I pass over the gratuitous hurt that was implied in the question. There comes a time to all men when circumstances change. The test of a man is whether he can put past events behind him. Senator O’Byrne is a man who once had it tough. He is putting the boot into another man who has had it tough. This is contrary to my code and I know that it is contrary to the code of all men who think about it for a moment or two. I am sure that Senator O’Byrne has not thought about the matter, otherwise he would not have couched the question in the language that he did. What
I say to the honourable senators is that they can safely leave the mission that the Minister for Defence is undertaking to Vietnam to the Minister for Defence.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that certain research studies in the Bureau of Census and Statistics on the basis of collecting wholesale meat prices have been postponed because of the current economic policies? In view of public interest in this matter, and because of the importance of meat as an alternative to the present depressed wool prices, will the Government restore such studies and give high priority to them, especially as there is considerable dissatisfaction with the present basis of price assessment?
I am not aware of the circumstances that the honourable senator speaks about. Perhaps it would be best for the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper so I can obtain for him a considered reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is the Minister still confident that the Australian Wheat Board will increase its wheat sales to China over last year’s sales as he predicted in reply to a question from Senator O’Byrne on 16th October 1970? What evidence does the Minister have, if any, of China resuming imports of Australian wheat?
– It is true that at this stage China has not renewed the contract for wheat purchases that it has made normally about this time over many years past. However, I still believe that China will come to Australia looking for wheat. China knows, as do other nations, that there is a big surplus of wheat in the world. It is quite obvious that the Chinese will be looking for the best possible market situation that they can obtain.
– Do they not find that in Canada?
– I point out to the honourable senator that China has carried out wheat negotiations with and made wheat purchases from Canada for many years past. The recent sale by Canada is nothing above the normal. I still hope that China will come into the market.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry I ask: Is it a fact that one of the guidelines for the quota scheme for wheat deliveries adopted by the wheat industry in March 1969 provided that the scheme should not curtail the production of any type of wheat that is readily saleable? Is it a fact that certain areas of South Australia which are subject to low average rainfall and the incidence of drought, such as the Murray, Mallee, Murray Plains and parts of the Eyre Peninsula, are eminently suitable for the production of hard wheats for which there is a ready sale on both local and overseas markets? In view of this situation will South Australia be considered for allocation of a special hard wheat quota, as applies to New South Wales and Queensland? Further, as the areas particularly referred to are subject to extremely difficult seasonal conditions, with spasmodic good seasons, could they be permitted to have no restriction on the production of approved varieties of hard wheats?
– Yesterday in answer to a question about quotas for hard wheats asked by Senator Sim I said that guidelines had been set by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation in March 1969 and that they indicated that delivery quotas should not curtail the production of wheat which is readily saleable. The honourable senator, being a good South Australian-
– Are you suggesting that there are some bad South Australians?
– Just say: ‘Being a South Australian’.
Would you like me to say: ‘Being a good South Australian representative in this place’? The honourable senator made the point that South Australia also grows hard wheat, and then he said that he would be asking me a series of questions. So I sought some information for him. I am advised that the Federation recommended delivery quotas for each State in March 1969, in January 1970 and in January 1971, and that these recommendations subsequently were accepted by the State and Commonwealth governments. The recommendations included supplementary quotas for prime hard wheats produced in New South Wales and Queensland and, for the 1971-72 season, Durum wheat produced in New South Wales.
In arriving at its quota proposals the Federation, on which grower organisations in each mainland State are represented, is understood to have taken into account all relevant factors including stocks and prospective outlets for various types and descriptions of wheat. It can be expected that the Federation will follow what is now established practice and will meet early in 1972 and will draw up quota proposals for the following season in the light of circumstances encountered this year and future sales prospects as they then appear. The allocation of quotas within a State is a matter for the State authorities. Whether the difficulties of seasonal conditions or the spasmodic production results in a region of a State are grounds for special consideration is a matter for the State concerned, having regard no doubt to any views which may be expressed by the industry.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Has the Government taken any steps to clarify the position of a person who becomes eligible for service under the National Service Act, who refuses to register, whose position in terms of conscientious objection is before a court on other than his own initiative, and who declines to attend the hearing? At this point a magistrate in the State of Victoria determined that there was no hearing, yet in similar circumstances in the State of Western Australia a magistrate proceeded to find that the person was not a conscientious objector - in other words that there was a hearing, and court records testify to this. Are there circumstances which would justify different standards of judgment or varying interpretations of the law from State to State? Can persons be prejudiced by such apparent inconsistencies in the approach of courts in the several States? What action has the Government taken in respect of this Commonwealth law to establish the correct procedure in future cases of this kind? What has been done to correct a miscarriage of justice in at least one of the two instances quoted?
– The honourable senator refers to 2 cases which have been determined by magistrates under the National Service Act, one of which was in Victoria and the other in Western Australia. It would be quite misleading for me to comment upon those 2 cases without refreshing my mind as to the circumstances of each case and ascertaining with accuracy the criteria upon which the magistrates’ decisions depended. I shall refer the matter to the Attorney-General and ensure that a considered answer is given. That will take note of the other matters to which the honourable senator referred. It would be of no use for me to comment hypothetically upon those matters without consideration of whether the provisions of the statute or the factual circumstances of each case led to different decisions by the 2 magistrates.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say what length of time elapses after the completion of the 6-month period of the price averaging plan before the final payment on wool sold in that period is made to the woolgrower?
– Earlier in the sessional period I answered a question asked by Senator Bull about the closing dates of the price averaging plan. Senator Young has now asked me to give a more detailed answer. I have the following information for him: Price averaging periods vary somewhat from State to State. In the first pool period closing dates were: New South Wales, 10th December 1970; Victoria, 28th January 1971; Queensland, 17th November 1970; South Australia, 3rd December 1970; Western Australia, 4th February 1971; and Tasmania, 3rd December 1970. When wool is received by a selling broker or nominated classing house it is appraised for the purpose of calculating the 60 per cent advance. This advance is paid to the grower within 10 working days of the wool being identified as eligible for admission to the price averaging plan. The second and final payment to growers is calculated after the pool has closed on the basis of the pool average price for each particular type of wool. This payment represents the difference between the 60 per cent advance payment and the pool average price, less handling and selling costs.
All pools in the first pool period have now closed. However, as some brokers in some States were unable to meet the Australian Wool Industry Commission’s schedule for the provision of details of price averaging plan wool, finalisation of some pools has been later than planned. Final payments for the following pools were made: Queensland, 22nd January; Tasmania, 29th January; South Australia, 5th March; and New South Wales, 16th March. The planned payout dates for the remaining States are: Western Australia, 22nd April, and Victoria, 27th April. The period which elapsed between the closing date of the first pool period and the payout date for the period ranged from 8 to 13 weeks or an average of 11 weeks. Delays in payment for the first pools have been due, in the main, to teething problems experienced by brokers in the operation of the averaging scheme. The experience gained by the brokers will enable future pools to be settled more promptly. Recently the Commission had discussions with brokers in order to achieve this end.
– Can the Minister for Air inform the Parliament of the total amount spent to date on repairs to Royal Australian Air Force Phantom fighter bombers on lease from the United States of America?
– I cannot inform the Parliament and I will not be in a position to inform the Parliament of that amount until the repairs to the Phantom are completed.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inquire from the Minister for Primary Industry and make available to honourable senators details of the progress, if any, which has been made in relation to a scheme supposedly before the Australian Meat Board to stabilise the price of lambs in Australia?
– Last week or the week before I answered a question from Senator Lillico on this matter. At that time I indicated that the Australian Meat Board’s marketing investigation committee was looking at a number of submissions that had been made to it. I do not know what further information is available, but I shall seek it for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. In view of the resurrection of plans to create a major sports centre in Sydney in the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sports Ground region, which depend to a large degree on the vacation of the Moore Park engineers’ depot by the Army, can the Minister for the Army give any further information following our joint inspection of the area last spring?
– As the honourable senator indicated in his question, the Minister for the Army, in company with him, visited this area and inspected it to see what could be done. I have now been asked by the Minister to convey the following information to him: From the Army point of view there has been no change in the situation as it existed last spring. At that time the position was that the Prime Minister was awaiting a reply from the Premier to an invitation made in July 1970 ‘to provide details of the requirements and the development proposed by the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust’. The Prime Minister gave an undertaking that following receipt of such advice arrangements would be made for ‘a careful review to be made by the appropriate Commonwealth authorities so that’ advice might be given of what can be done after taking into account the essential needs of the Army’. This invitation was acknowledged by the Premier who advised that when in a position to do so he would provide ‘details of the requirements and the development proposed by the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust’.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it correct that, after increasing liner cargo shipping freight rates from Britain and Europe to Australia by 12 per cent on the first of this month, the Australia to Europe shipping conference has now served on Austraiian exporters a demand for a return voyage surcharge of 5i per cent? What is the Government doing to protect Australia’s interests in this important matter of a completely dishonest demand by the shipping companies?
– I also saw the item to which the honourable senator refers. I imagine that what the Government is doing is what it always does; that is. to fight in the best interests of the Australian people, including primary producers and exporters, in an attempt to keep these rates at the lowest possible level. I do not have any further information than that. I know that this is the practice. I know that this is the habit. I know that this is what the Government tries to do. But it has problems in this regard because, after all, it is up against a situation in which the world traffic is carried by the people who own the ships. Nevertheless, I shall do what I can to find out this information for the honourable senator. At the same time I will add my own request and hope that we would fight against this increase as strongly as we possibly could.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Works. What has been the actual situation in relation to the letting of contracts for Commonwealth public works since the introduction of what has become known as the economy drive to reduce the incidence of inflationary tendencies in the economy? Have contracts continued to be entered into where tenders had already been called prior to the introduction of the economy drive? If so, what is the value of such contracts?
– The position is that jobs for which tenders had already been called have been proceeding. The curtailment operated only in respect of jobs for which tenders had not been called. My recollection is that in the case of the
Department of Works such jobs represented something like $2m in expenditure to June. I was looking at the matter only yesterday. The fact is that, in respect of jobs costing $400,000 or more in each instance, since 1st February I have announced jobs representing almost Si Om worth of work in Darwin, Port Moresby, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and elsewhere. In addition the usual run of jobs which cost less than $400,000 have been proceeding if the tenders were invited before the curtailment.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Can he inform the Senate whether the whole of the $30m subsidy which was made available by the Commonwealth Government to supplement the incomes of wool producers who experienced a disastrous fall in their net returns for the financial year been taken up by those producers? If the subsidy has not been fully taken up will the Minister consider advocating to the Government that the unused portion of that subsidy be made available on a similar basis to producers of other primary products who have likewise experienced a significant drop in net returns from the sale of their goods and who are adversely affected in some instances to as great an extent as those for whom the subsidy was originally provided?
I am not aware of the basis of the mathematics of the $30m subsidy in relation to the wool industry. I imagine that the situation in the wool industry has not shown any significant variation which would justify a redirection of some of those funds to other primary producing industries. In truth, I think I need to obtain the facts. When I have those facts Senator Webster may wish to direct another question.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the announcement yesterday of the intention of the Government led by the new Prime Minister to review and raise pension rates - a matter which was the subject of a resolution in the Senate on 16th February 1971 when we recommended that course of action to the
Government - I ask the Minister whether he will request the Government to give similar consideration to the resolution moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party on the occasion of the presentation of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which stated: . . and refers it to the Government for immediate consideration and urgent action in view of the recommendations of the Committee that there should be a national approach to the matter.
We ask for a similar adoption and consideration by the Government of this Senate resolution.
I cannot readily see the analogy which the honourable senator has drawn between the Prime Minister’s statement last night about the social service problem and the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. To the extent that the honourable senator has put the question I shall see what information I can obtain.
In view of a motion which I hope to move a little later today, I hope that we can bring question time to a conclusion reasonably soon.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a Press statement attributed to Mr H. D. Evans, the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture that funds for the implementation of a rural reconstruction scheme would not be put in the hands of the Western Australian Government until Commonwealth legislation had been enacted to validate the proposals? When will such legislation be brought forward? In consideration of the Minister’s reply to Senator Byrne’s question No. 211 on 3rd August 1970, has the Western Australian Government access to any other Commonwealth fund which could be used to commence a programme of reconstruction?
– I saw the statement by the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia in regard to the introduction of legislation into this Parliament. I understand that at the present time a draft agreement beween the Commonwealth and the State is currently under consideration by the relevant Government Department. As soon as the terms of the agreement have been accepted by the Commonwealth and State governments legislation will be introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament to provide authority for the execution of the agreement and for the financial grants to the States. The honourable senator asked whether funds are available to the States. The answer is yes. In answers to Senator O’Byrne’s questions on two occasions last year I made the point that funds were already available to most States under the Commonwealth Loan (Fanners Debt Adjustment) Act of 1935. I understand that in Western Australia the sum of $430,000 is available to that State.
It has always been the intention of the Commonwealth Government that these unexpended balances should be used where possible before additional funds available under the rural reconstruction scheme are made available by the Commonwealth. I understand from the Minister for Primary Industry that if there is any unforeseen delay in the passage of this legislation through this Parliament he will have discussions with the Treasurer to see whether there is a possibility of providing advances to the States on the signing of the agreement.
– Can the Minister for Air inform the Parliament of the action taken to secure a tanker or tankers for inair refuelling of the Royal Australian Air Force Phantom fighter bombers? Is it a fact that the Phantom bombers currently are restricted to an area within 200 miles of Amberley base because of lack of tanker support? If tankers are purchased, will they cost about SI Om each as previously stated by the Minister?
– We are having a look at requirements and determining whether it is necessary for the RAAF to buy a tanker. I understand that the particular type of tanker we are looking at costs about $10m. Other than what I have said, I cannot answer the honourable senator’s question off the cuff. If he likes to put his question on the notice paper I will have a look -at it.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Works, follows the question addressed to him by
Senator Rae concerning a reduction in public works expenditure in certain capital cities consequent upon the economy drive. Can the Minister indicate the specific works in the various capital cities to which the reduction will apply?
– I would be very willing to do that if it were usefully possible. From time to time projects such as that referred to by Senator Rae in his question - studios in Launceston for the Australian Broadcasting Commission - come within the category for curtailment but are considered again in the light of particular circumstances. They may subsequently be given the OK to go ahead. That may lead to the further deferment of a tender for another project. So we work within my Department below the ceiling of S2m or thereabouts for capital works. Identification of the particular projects affected may differ from month to month according to the circumstances I have outlined. If the honourable senator has a project in mind, particularly in Adelaide, I will ascertain for him the circumstances relating to it. I think that course would be of more value than an attempt to compile a comprehensive list which would vary from time to time.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Will the AttorneyGeneral seek to influence judges of the High Court of Australia to hand down separate decisions or judgments in cases decided by the Court, thus permitting interested parties to be informed on the value and importance that each judge places on different facts and opinions given, and on case law in relation to previous decisions?
– The answer is a definite no. It would be both improper and impertinent for me or for any Minister to seek to influence the judges of the High Court of Australia, or of any other court, on the methods by which they should express the reasons for their judgments. The matters before them will always be considered carefully by the judges, and each judge will adopt the form of expression of his judgment which he considers appropriate in the particular case.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation explain the effect of the new affinity 40 rule to operate in April following the conference of international airline operators held recently in Singapore?
– I have some information on this subject which may help the honourable senator. For a number of years the international airlines have offered a 30 per cent rebate on the normal economy class fare to bona fide groups of 15 persons, all members of the one organisation, satisfying the eligibility and affinity conditions laid down by the International Air Transport Association - IATA, as it is known - travelling together on scheduled services between Australia, on the one hand, and Europe via Asia or North America and the Middle East on the other hand.
At its traffic conference in Geneva in November-December 1970 IATA - the honourable senator may know that it represents the majority of the world’s air carriers, including Commonwealth carriers - agreed at the instigation of Australia’s carrier, Qantas Airways, to extend the above scheme by offering a 44 per cent rebate for affinity groups of at least 40 persons satisfying the same prescribed conditions for travel on scheduled services in either direction between Australian and Europe and the Middle East. Subject to the approval of all governments concerned, this extension of the affinity group scheme will come into effect on 1st April and will provide for eligible passengers, for example, a Sydney to London return fare of $730.70 compared with the full economy rate of $1,304.80. The establishment of a 44 per cent rebate for affinity groups of 40 passengers represents an important addition to the range of low cost promotional fares available on scheduled air services between Australia and Europe. In particular it should prove attractive to clubs and societies whose membership is not large enough for them to consider chartering a whole aircraft.
I am glad the honourable senator asked me this question because I have had the information here for quite a while awaiting a question on the subject.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Air I refer to the incident yesterday near Newcastle when a pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force ejected from a Sabre jet aircraft and was forced to remain in a leaky dinghy for 2 hours. Was this due to the accident, faulty equipment or poor inspection at the base?
– As this matter is the subject of a court inquiry I do not think the information is available at present. When the court has concluded its inquiry and the report has been furnished to me I hope to be able to answer the honourable senator’s question.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform honourable senators of the exact nature of the brief that will be taken to South Vietnam by the Minister for Defence? Will the Minister travel to South Vietnam by a commercial flight, by the ferry service of the Royal Australian Air Force or by VIP plane? How many advisers will travel with him? Will the advisers include a member of the Prime Minister’s staff? Will the Minister visit any other country during his absence from Australia?
As to the request for information about the Minister’s brief, I can inform the honourable senator that no information will be made available. It is not in the nature of things and the way in which things happen for that to be done. As to the subsequent questions asked by the honourable senator, I do not know how the Minister is travelling or the arrangements made but I will seek to get some information.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has any provision been made at the Enterprise Migrant Hostel at Springvale, in Victoria, for teaching migrants English? If so, why must teachers teaching advanced students in one section of the gymnasium have to compete with a junior grade in another section? Why must classes and teachers be constantly inconvenienced by having to move all their gear and equipment so that the gymnasium may be used for the purpose for which it was built?
– I think the honourable senator is taxing his expectations of my knowledge of the Department of Labour and National Service a little too much if he expects me to be in touch with the bounce of every ball in a certain gymnasium in Melbourne. With regard to migrant education in general, I remind the honourable senator that the Senate passed a Bill in recent days which made very ample provision, in my view, for this subject. As to any criticism that might be directed to the particular arrangements referred to by the honourable senator, I will have to get the information from the Minister and supply it to him.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health refers to a question asked earlier about DDT. Is there any medical evidence to prove any harmful effects to infants because of the presence of DDT in mothers’ milk? If there is no such evidence, why is there such concern?
– When I replied to the earlier question it was my intention to indicate, if I did not do so, that I would inquire from the Minister for Health whether the report in the Press was correct and whether the position was as suggested. I will do this and get what information I can for the honourable senator and the previous questioner.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether he can inform the Senate of the stage that has been reached in the investigations of the Administrative Review Committee. When is it likely that the report will be available?
-The honourable senator has referred to a long standing committee. A statement as to its progress has been made here within the last half year. In order to be useful to the honourable senator I should check the files before purporting to give information. This I will do and I will inform the honourable senator as early as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether he has received a request from the Minister for Defence or the Department of Defence for a VIP aircraft to be made available to take the Minister for Defence to South Vietnam this week. If he has received such a request, has it been granted?
– I have not received a request from the Minister for Defence for a VIP flight to take him to South Vietnam. I have one or two requests from him for internal flights on ministerial duties.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware of the decision of the new Western Australian Government to abandon plans to introduce the LASH system - that is, lighter aboard ships - in the coastal trade of Western Australia? Is he aware also that overseas shipping companies are going ahead with the introduction of such ships as being more efficient and more economical for general shipping use? Has the Department of Shipping and Transport made a study of these ships and, if so, does it regard them as suitable for introduction to the Australian coastal shipping trade?
– Within my limited knowledge the Department of Shipping and Transport has made a study of these ships. I believe that they are regarded by many authorities as vessels which are suitable for the Australian coastal trade. It would therefore come as a matter of some interest and perhaps apprehension that the Western Australian Government has decided to abandon the proposal. No doubt there are good reasons for its decision. I shall try to find out more for the honourable senator because, having been to Tasmania recently, I am well aware of the importance of this matter to his State. Shipping is a matter of very great consequence to Tasmania, and the efficiency of shipping is perhaps of even greater consequence.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that every pensioner in Australia who has no supplementary income is forced to live at a level below subsistence? Will the Minister take appropriate steps to initiate action within the Government parties to ensure that the proposed increase in pensions is raised to$5 in lieu of the 50c now proposed?
– I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Social Services.
(Question No. 859)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 818)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 819)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What progress has been made since testimony was given by departmental officers at Estimates Committee hearings in regard to the proclamation of national parks in the Australian Capital Territory at (a) Mount Kelly and (b) Jervis Bay.
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Work is proceeding towards the reservation of appropriate areas.
(Question No. 860)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is a Coroner’s inquest in progress at the present time and I am not prepared to make any comment at this stage.
(Question No. 867)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Senator COTTON: The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2), (3) and (4) The programme for cutting lawns in front of Parliament House has not been changed. Irrigated lawns in the area are cut by tractor drawn mower on an average of once weekly subject to the seasonal rate of growth of the grass.
Men with small motor mowers cut grass around trees and edges.
When the grass has become overgrown between cuttings it is often necessary to rake up surplus grass clippings and remove them for composting.
Savings are mainly evident in the reduced frequency of mowing unwatered grasslands where overgrown grass does not cause such a problem of removal to avoid the permanent deterioration of better quality irrigated lawns.
(Question No. 875)
asked the Minis ter for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 880)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 893)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 898)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Director-General may if he considers that the particular circumstances of the case so warrant, exempt a person who holds a charter licence and who proposes to operate a service which would constitute a regular public transport service from the necessity of obtaining an airline licence, and may approve of the operation of the service for such period and subject to such conditions as the Director-General considers necessary.
Charter operators who hold exemptions of this nature are known as commuter operators in this country and there are currently 26 holders of charter licences operating services in Australia and Papua-New Guinea under exemptions of this nature.
The Company’s pilots held licences appropriate to the class of operations for which the Company was authorised to operate.
– Yesterday, Senator Willesee asked me as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry:
Is the prawn trawler ‘Mutiara I’ being held under orders by fisheries officers in Darwin? Is this the same trawler which was seized by fisheries officers for three days in Karumba in February without any reason being stated? Will the Minister now state the reasons for these two seizures?
I can now inform the honourable senator that the prawn trawler ‘Mutiara I’ is not being held by fisheries officers in Darwin. This vessel was built in Western Australia last year, and it was subsequently reported to the Department of Primary Industry and in the Press that it was being handed over to an Indonesian naval co-operative to operate as an Australian/Indonesian joint venture from Indonesia. As a result of this, on its arrival in Karumba, it was regarded as a foreign fishing vessel, and the skipper was requested to remain in charge of the vessel in port whilst an investigation was made into its ownership. This revealed that the ownership had not, in fact, been transferred to the Indonesian co-operative. When the Department of Primary Industry was informed that the Australian owners were proceedingto license the vessel under the Fisheries Act. the restraint order was lifted.
On arrival in Darwin, the local fisheries officers, in accordance with the Fisheries Act, required the skipper to produce evidence that the vessel was licensed. The person in charge of the boat was unable to produce such a licence, and inquiries were initiated. When evidence that a licence had been issued in Fremantle was received, the skipper was advised to ensure that the Australian members of the crew were currently licensed. At no time was the vessel seized’. On both occasions, the officer responsible was exercising his power under the Fisheries Act to require a person in charge of a fishing boat to remain at a specified place while investigations concerning suspected offences against the Act were made.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the Thirty-third General Report of the Committee.
– I present the fifth report from the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
(4.3) - Mr Deputy President, I move:
I point out that it is anticipated that, this afternoon and this evening, we will dispose of a number of small Bills. The only reason why I have included a qualification in the motion concerning the next meeting on 30th March is that it may be necessary for the Senate to return to pass legislation dealing with social services pursuant to a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in his speech yesterday afternoon. So, I have included the precaution but, under normal circumstances, we will rise tonight on the assumption that we will be able to deal with these various matters today and that we will lift until 30th March.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the petitions relating to crime in Australia presented to the Senate on 28th October 1970 and 2nd November 1970 by Senator Cavanagh and referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on 3rd November 1970 be now transferred from the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare to the Standing Committee on Social Environment and that the latter Committee be empowered to take into consideration and further pursue any inquiries or actions already initiated by the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare in regard to the petitions.
May I indicate that the members of the Committee concerned have been consulted in regard to this notice of motion.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence Pay Bill 1971
Immigration (Education) Bill 1971
Bills of Exchange Bill 1971.
Consideration resumed from 24 February (vide page 328), on motion by Senator Murphy:
After clause 4, insert the following clause: “4a. Section 1 1 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (I.) A member of the Board shall be paid such remuneration, and such annual allowance (if any), as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-two, that remuneration and that allowance (if any) shall be as prescribed. (2.) A member of the Board shall be paid such other allowances as are prescribed.’.”.
After clause 6, insert the following clause: “6a. Section 33 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (1.) A Commissioner shall be paid such remuneration, and such annual allowance Of any), as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-two, that remuneration and that allowance (if any) shall be as are prescribed. (2.) A Commissioner shall be paid such other allowances as are prescribed.’.”.
At the end of clause 8, add the following sub-clause: “(2.) Section 43 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (8.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - (7.) The general manager shall be paid such salary, and such annual allowance (if any), as the
Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventytwo, that salary and that allowance (if any) shall be as are prescribed. (8.) The general manager shall be paid such other allowances as are prescribed.’.”.
– On the last occasion when this Bill was being considered at the Committee stage I put forward a proposal that certain amendments be made. These amendments dealt with remuneration and allowances of members, commissioners and the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Parliamentary Counsel, at my request, has made a slight change in one of these proposals. The proposed change has been circulated.
– Is this in relation to clause 8?
– Yes. As I understand it, this amendment, together with a proposed amendment which is to be moved by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents in this place the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), will achieve the desired effect. I think this will have the effect of carrying out a principle which the Senate has adopted previously and which is now being accepted or, at any rate, not resisted.
– Is Senator Murphy seeking leave?
– I seek leave to delete the previous amendment and to substitute amendment No. 3, which has been circulated. The amendment now reads:
At the end of clause 4, add the following subclause: (2.) Section 43 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “sub-section (8.) of this section” and inserting in their stead the words “sub-sections (7.) and (8.) of this section”; and
by omitting sub-section (8.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: “(7.) The general manager shall be paid such salary, and such annual allowance (if any), as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-two, that salary and that allowance (if any) shall be as are prescribed. “(8.) The general manager shall be paid such other allowances as are prescribed.”.’.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
(4.8) - Following on the comments that he made when this Bill was last discussed at the Committee stage, Senator Murphy has moved a slightly altered amendment which we have approved. The Government does not oppose this amendment, as it embodies a principle which has already been accepted by the Senate in relation to this type of matter. 1 also inform the Senate that I propose to move a further amendment in relation to salaries and remuneration after Senator Murphy’s amendment has been dealt with.
– Can the honourable senator indicate the effect of her amendment?
– I foreshadow the following amendment to clause 2:
After sub-clause (1.), insert the following subclause: (1a.) The amendments of the Principal Act effected by sections 4a and 6a, and by sub-section (2.) of section 8, of this Act shall take effect on the twenty-eighth day after this Act receives the Royal Assent.
– What is the effect of that?
– This will give the officers time to look at these matters so that the regulations can be made. As the regulations cannot be made until after the amendments come into force, there could be a substantial period in which the remuneration, salary and allowances could not validly be paid. It would therefore be desirable to postpone the commencement of the amendments to obtain sufficient breathing space to enable the regulations to be drafted. This means that the area which would otherwise be not covered will be covered.
– The Democratic Labor Party does not oppose Senator Murphy’s amendment. I take this opportunity to indicate again the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party to the fixing of salaries by statute where formerly they were fixed by regulation or by ministerial order. In general terms, the principle of fixation by parliament is a good one, but we object to the casual approach to the fixation of salaries that, as a Bill into which this principle could be injected is introduced, it is introduced while the host of other offices which do not come before the parliament remain not dealt with.
– Do you not think there is an obligation on us to ensure that all the others are dealt with?
– Yes.I was under the impression, when the Bill was debated on a previous occasion, that the Ministry gave some indication that similar types of offices would be the subject of a compendious review so that one embracing statute might be presented and so that all offices considered appropriate for this type of salary determination might be dealt with and subsequently reviewed periodically. For that reason I ask whether, if my recollection is correct, any progress has been made in this direction.If no progress has been made, I, am not in favour of prejudicing, if it is a prejudice, certain offices of the Government by requiring that their salaries come under close parliamentary scrutiny while other offices do not have the disability of that type of inspection.
– We will get around to doing them all.
– We will get around to doing them only when a Bill appropriate to the office comes before the Senate. I want to see all these offices reviewed. That was the idea behind a compendious statute.
– We are doing the best we can.
– Yes. I am not opposing the amendment. I take the opportunity to ask the Minister what progress, if any, has been made in relationto the projection of the general principle to all offices of this character covered by many statutes.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (4.12) - A general review of this matter has been going on. I cannot give the honourable senator any more information at this point of time. I can also assure him that I will make certain that the points he raised today will be communicated to the Minister concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (4.13) - In relation to clause 2, which reads:
– (1.) Subject to this section, this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. (2.) The amendments of the Principal Act effected by section 16 of this Act apply in relation to -
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25th February (vide page 352), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill will not take very much time at all. But I wish to make a few comments on it. Never before have we had a situation such as this, in which the first part of an Income Tax Assessment Bill has been passed by the Lower House and then, before it is passed by the Upper House, there is a change of Prime Minister and possibly a change of policy with regard to inflation. No statement has been made by the new Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) as to whether he accepts what was put forward by the former Prime Minister in this Bill.
It is rather interesting to note that the amendment which was made to the Principal Act in 1962 and brought up to date in 1970 was for the purpose of stimulating production in both manufacturing and primary industry. At the present time we are finding that there is more money in the economy than there was intended to be. Apparently consideration was given to this situation by the previous Prime Minister. But I am not sure that the present Prime Minister has agreed to accept the previous Prime Minister’s statement on this matter. The previous Prime Minister, through his Treasurer, decided to remove the 20 per cent depreciation allowance that applies to all plant for industry, but not to remove it from plant that is purchased for primary production. That means that, although we are producing more than we need - the position on the world’s markets indicates that - we will still allow primary producers, whether they are living on their farms or are absentee landloards, to avail themselves of the additional 20 per cent depreciation allowance.
This was all right when we were trying to encourage production. But is it all right to leave this in existence in the case of primary producers now and to encourage further production of primary products? This is what gives us some cause for concern. We have heard nothing at all from the present Prime Minister with regard to this Bill, which was brought down by the previous Cabinet. Maybe the Treasurer of that time is still the Treasurer. At the moment he is. But whether he will be the Treasurer next week I would not know, and whether this will be the policy of the Treasurer next week I would not know. This Income Tax Assessment Bill has been introduced between the falling of one Prime Minister and the raising of another. However, the Opposition has no wish to oppose the Bill. I make these few comments, but the Opposition accedes to the passage of the Bill.
– 1 rise to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is in support of this legislation. For the life of me, I cannot understand Senator Wilkinson’s concern about the effect of a change in the leadership of the Government. His concern merely reveals a lack of understanding of the Cabinet system of government. It presupposes that the leader of a government is the man who is responsible for policy. If that happens to be the case, that is something to which we object. The Cabinet determines policy.
I am prepared to accept that the decision of the Government under the leadership of John Grey Gorton that the concession given to manufacturers and others in respect of plant and machinery purchased for their industries is to cease as from 1st February 1971 was the decision not of John Grey Gorton but of the Cabinet. If someone else is selected to take over the leadership of the Government, whether because of death or some other reason, I accept that this is the policy of the Government and not of an individual member.
– They might change their opinion.
– This is the decision of the Cabinet. I do not accept that this is the decision of John Grey Gorton. This is the decision of his Cabinet. He submitted this to Cabinet - if it emanated from him. lt might have emanated from any other member of his team.
– From Bury. He was his Treasurer.
– As my colleague Senator McManus says, it might have emanated from the Treasurer. He might have said: We gave this concession in 1962 when we had unemployment and industry was staggering a bit. We did that to stimulate industry and particularly to encourage it to introduce new plant, to bring itself up to date, to modernise its plant and to build up a high degree of efficiency. Those circumstances do not obtain today. Things have changed. There is no justifiable reason for continuing this at the present time; so we will suspend it.’
With my years of experience in Cabinet, I cannot imagine that these things are oneman decisions. Someone initiates them. It is not always the leader. A departmental Minister can initiate legislation. But finally it is discussed and determined by Cabinet, and every Minister of that Cabinet is bound by the decision of that Cabinet. That is my understanding of the position. The proposition that every decision that emanates from Cabinet is merely that of the Prime Minister is too fallacious to be bothered with. I accept this as a Cabinet decision or a Government decision. This legislation is based on a Cabinet decision.
– If we had changed the Government last week, this would not have gone on.
– A change of Government is altogether different from a change in the leader of a government. If you change the government you change the whole structure.
– What does it matter? You are all in favour of the Bill anyway.
– I am just trying to educate some members of the Opposition. If Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson does not want me to do that, that is all right with me. Why should I put myself out to do the job he should be doing?
– Fair enough.
– That is what 1 want to know.
– If I may be allowed to continue, I wish to point out that, for the life of me. I do not see any ground for straw-splitting in this instance. I accept this as a Cabinet decision. The Cabinet has made a decision and the legislation has come down. I believe that it is timely. I do not think anyone will be hurt by it. People have had the benefit of this 20 per cent tax concession since 1962.
– Why do you not chop out the absentee landlords?
– This will chop them all out. The allowance is to be suspended from 1st February this year. All I want to say is that we members of the Democratic Labor Party go along with this legislation. We believe that it is all right. We are always prepared to help manufacturing industries. Of course, this allowance has benefited other industries. We have a similar concession lor primary producers which is not being disturbed. At this time when the Government is striving to conserve funds and arrest inflation T think it it timely that it should decide to introduce this legislation. The Bill has our approval.
– I rise to support the amended Income Tas Assessment Bill. I want to draw attention to something which the Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth
Anderson) who in this chamber represents the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said in his second reading speech. The reasons given for reversing a decision which was made in 1962 are that the economic conditions of 1962 are not the economic conditions of 1971. It is pleasing that a government has enough flexibility to adopt policies suitable for the occasion. 1 supported the Bill when it was introduced in 1962 believing it was a measure which would promote industrial activity in this country. But having looked at the effects of this legislation and examined the principle of this taxation concession in the generality and in its effect on the economy I am highly doubtful whether we should have contemplated the legislation in the first place. This sort of taxation concession is regressive in its effect, ft gives the greatest benefit to the people least in need. It gives great concessions to people and companies with large incomes. To that extent it is not needed.
If the investment of a certain amount of money in some machinery or equipment is desirable, in a purely economic sense that investment will pay for the money invested. A greater profit will be returned to the person investing the money. Therefore no encouragement such as this is needed for that investment to take place. On the other hand if the investment is not an economic investment a taxation concession does nol make it economic. It simply transfers the cost of an uneconomic transaction from the individual or company concerned to the taxpayer. In no sense does it make an uneconomic activity an economic one. I have grave doubts whether in any circumstances this sort of taxation concession should be contemplated by a government seeking to allocate the resources of the country to the best advantage. Here we see a great opportunity for a misallocation of resources.
– Should not such a tax be discriminatory?
– I think the taxation system is the wrong process to use in these circumstances. If the achievement of this objective is desirable for some other economic reason then a more direct and more selective approach should be used. This is a wasteful process, lt is a sort of shot gun approach which misses the target every time. I draw to the attention of the Senate the financial statistical record of Imperial
Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited for the 10 years ending 30th September 1970. My figures show the ICIANZ consolidated cash flow and dividends. I have no doubt that many honourable senators have seen the document. It sets out tax savings on investment allowances. It gives the amount of tax saving in regard to investment allowance over the 9 years during which this legislation has been in effect. In the first year in which the legislation was passed there was a tax saving of some $55,000; for the next year the saving was $440,000; the next year, $1,520,000; the next year, $1,191,000; the next year, $2,860,000; the next year, $2,209,000; the next year, $553,000; for 1969 it was $691,000 and in 1970 the saving was $970,000. We see that there has been a total tax saving to ICI of some $10,490,000. This figure represents 6 per cent of the company’s total profit before tax or 15.5 per cent of its profit after tax. I think this highlights the point I have made.
During that period the Government has failed to collect the sum of nearly $10,500,000 from a company which by no stretch of the imagination could be said to need this sort of assistance. Could it be said that a. company which last year made a profit before tax of $32,826,000 and a profit after tax of $15,196,000 requires assistance by a tax saving of nearly $lm? I use this illustration to point out that the tax concession as an instrument of economic policy needs to be looked at very carefully. I regret that section 62ab of the Income Tax Assessment Act which extended the concession to rural industries has not been included in this amending legislation. In regard to this I find myself in agreement with my friend, Senator Wilkinson. I fail to see that the argument that there are changed economic circumstances in regard to the investment allowance in industry does not apply to primary industries. There are certainly changed circumstances. If it were necessary to encourage production in 1963 is it necessary to retain the measures today when we see wheat quotas, restrictions on the production of butter and other restrictions of one sort and another, when we talk about farm amalgamation in order to preserve primary industry and when we have a problem of income, not of taxation? How stupid it is to maintain a policy which, today has no application to people in the farming industries except those with non-rural incomes. I refer to people who invest in the industry for capital gain. This process is distorting the whole economy of farming industries.
– They are Collins Street farmers.
– I do not particularly like that expression. I have in mind the type of person who uses this legislation, which was intended originally to help farmers to develop their properties, in a manner which may not have been foreseen. I think to a great extent it has misfired. It brought about some very undesirable consequences in rural industries, notably a rise in capital values that was never justified. It aggravated the probate problems of farmers. I am fortified in my opinion because for once the economists and I are in agreement.
– They have to be right sometimes.
– I must be right sometimes. Mrs Hylda Rolfe is employed by the rural organisations. ‘ She said that special taxation concessions . would have to go and that the economic difficulties of many farmers were due to taking on in better days debts they could not now service with reduced prices for products. She added that in this respect they had been encouraged by taxation concessions and preferred finance which had been available. Professor Lloyd wrote a very forthright article which appeared in the Melbourne Age’ of Friday, 1st January last. He wrote:
The concessions also encourage economic waste and inefficiency.
I maintain that that point has relevance to industries other than rural industries. He went on:
There is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality about a policy which, through subsidised investment, diverts resources into producing extra farm output which, facing already glutted markets, often must be subsidised a second time.
– We are dealing with a type of bonus rebate. What about the ordinary rebate?
– Ordinary depreciation is a business matter. I objected strongly some years ago to the amendment to the taxation legislation which compelled a farmer to depreciate his machinery over 5 years, instead of having the option of writing it down over a 10-year period. That amendment could have. had no other effect than to benefit the farm machinery manufacturers. Professor Lloyd wrote that to subsidise rural expansion was quite lunatic. I am not saying anything now that I have not said before in the Senate. I am sure thai no honourable senator remembers what I said 1b the debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill in 1968. That would be altogether too much to expect. On that occasion I quoted from a book titled Taxation in Australia; Agenda for Reform’. Messrs Downing, Arndt, Boxer and Matthews, the authors of the book, opposed the introduction of special concessions, particularly those related to income derived from non-farm sources. I will not quote again from that publication. The relevant extract appears in Hansard and I will not again inflict it upon the Senate. In that speech I also quoted from an article entitled ‘The Effect of Australian Income Tax on Initiative’ by Dr J. K. Connor. I have failed to discover one economist who supports this kind of taxation incentive.
– You do not think that in any circumstance this is a legitimate economic weapon?
– I think that using taxation for this purpose is a mistake economically because it is regressive in nature. It assists most those people who do not need assistance, lt does not assist at all the people most i» need of assistance. Therefore socially and economically it is an undesirable use of the taxation system. I am now in support of the measure before us. I regret that it is not wider in its effect. I trust that the Senate will give a speedy passage to the Bil), such as it is.
– This Bill repeals section 62aa of the Income Assessment Act. That section, which occupies 5£ printed pages of the Act, is summed up basically in sub-section 5 which provides for an initial 20 per cent depreciation allowance for manufacturing industries. That allowance is to be withdrawn. Apparently this Bill has the support of the McMahon Government although it may have had little time to consider it. I believe that the Government would have been wise to withdraw this Bill. a move 1 advocated in a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). In the telegram I said:
Advocate your Government withdraw Income Tax Assessment Bill now before Senate and advise Australian industry forthwith that the 20 per cent initial depreciation on new plant installed as an aid to manufacture will continue to be a deduction in the assessment of income tax.
I set out in that telegram the reasons for my view. Undoubtedly this has not been among the important matters considered by the McMahon Government in its few days of office. However, I believe it to be an important matter which needs careful consideration by the community. Undoubtedly this Bill came into effect as a result of the Government’s desire to relieve inflationary pressure on the Australian dollar. Without doubt inflation is a disease and it can be appropriately likened to the common cold. We have it in the community. Its effect is to a lesser or greater degree dependent upon the economic health or health of the community, lt undermines the working efficiency of the community. It must cause untold losses in adding to the effect of inflation, lt has a neutralising effect on the progress made by any conscientious management team. There are indeed many likenesses between inflation and the common cold, but the most notable similarity is that nobody in the community can be sure of immunity from detrimental effects. There is no known cure. No overseas researchers, economists, business doctors or governments have discovered a cure for inflation. Suffice to say that in offering congratulations to the Gorton Government I point out that inflation has had a lesser effect in this country than in any comparable country.
– Did you offer congratulations to the Gorton Government?
– I congratulate the Gorton Government and previous governments for the moderate rate of inflation that the Australian community has experienced under their management. I refer now to the annual movements in consumer prices in Australia and selected overseas countries for the period I960 to 1970. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table of those movements.
One of the most significant factors affecting inflation, and this has been agreed by the Government, was the introduction of certain tax proposals in the last Budget. They added to the effect of the supposed 6 per cent wage rise incurred in December last year. In the early part of January it led to a wage rise of from 15 per cent to I7i per cent in the community generally. In past months, and certainly in this quarter of this year, it has had quite a disastrous effect on the inflationary rate. Although the problem is particularly deep, I do not doubt that the Australian community by its own enterprise and with the help of the Government will reduce the incidence of inflation in the community. Honourable senators may recall that for some years there has been advocacy in the Senate and indeed a demand for the Government to reduce the competition between Government and private enterprise for funds, manpower and materials which are used by both sectors. 1 acknowledge the difficulty in attempting to adjust this situation prior to the problem being demonstrated physically in the community.
– But the Government always adjusts it against the public sector.
– It is regrettable as Senator Murphy has said, that it always has been adjusted in relation to the public sector. But private industry cannot work in that way. Private industry has to take its action before the effect is felt by its business. The Government, in introducing this measure designed to reduce a $60m allowance to industry by eliminating the tax benefit previously granted has sought to dampen inflation in the community. The statement announcing the removal of the concession as the Government’s view of one of the solutions to inflation, and the action which followed that statement, are things which give rise to criticism of the Government. I hope that the Government continues to wet - that is meant to be the superlative of dampen - Government expenditure and to reduce competition between Government and industry. I offer my hearty congratulations tq. the Government for that decision. I sincerely hope that the new McMahon-Anthony Government will not be dissuaded from adhering to such a course.
There is only one sector in Government and private industry where significant use of money, men and materials is demanded. There is only one sector which provides the funds for the administration of this country. 1 believe that that sector needs the closest attention and the every ready assistance of Government to see that it remains profitable. The housewife who depends on a breadwinner for a week’s income does not knowingly put that breadwinner out of action. He must be looked after. The association between Government and private industry is necessarily based on that concept. A similar concept must be impressed on the Government in relation to private industry.
The Bill before the House represents a decision which, like other human decisions, perhaps was taken in haste. 1 believe that it will be repented at leisure. The decision was not made by Mr Gorton. It was made by a variety of people. Whilst I cannot adhere to the comments made by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) relating to the difference between the attitude of the Gorton Government and that of the new administration, I acknowledge that the honourable senator’s experience may indicate that what be said is correct. However, this does nol hold good in relation to the Gorton Government’s attitude to pensions last Wednesday and the attitude of the McMahon Government on Monday of this week.
Rates of company tax in Australia are extremely high. Public company tax of 47i per cent plus the incidence of payroll tax and other Commonwealth charges, together with the duties which are required of business bv way of State taxes, the cost of keeping accounting and other records for the service of government is abhorrent to most people who provide the real impetus to Austraiian progress and development. Whilst the Incidence of private company tax is slightly less than that which applies to public companies, private companies find that the incidence of taxation is heartbreaking for those who attempt strong growth to meet the economic problems of our time. The undistributed profits tax effectively harnesses t ‘he honest private company in its growth.
Over many years industry has enjoyed the ability to depreciate items of plant which are subject to wear and tear and to becoming uneconomic. When better and more advanced equipment is offered on the market it is imperative that private industry and public companies should have access to it. To suggest that the economy of this country will be improved by the elimination of the allowance for depreciation in calculating assessable income is, in my view, to advocate the ridiculous. The Government and equally the community at large would be aware of what the allowance for depreciation really means to industry. We find statements in the Minister’s second reading speech which suggest that industry is allowed to write off 100 per cent of its manufacturing equipment. That is an entirely untrue statement but it is a statement which is accepted generally in the community today as being correct. It is misleading. No industry writes ofl 100 per cent of its production equipment and no industry, under section 62aa of the legislation which existed, ever wrote off 120 per cent of its equipment.
– In any event, having regard to inflation it would be writing it off in bad money, would it not?
– I do not mean that. I know of a recent Minister who was not aware of what it meant. Let me explain what is meant by allowing 100 per cent depreciation which is what we are coming back to. If you buy a piece of equipment and you wear it out in 12 months you are entitled lo say that that piece of equipment is used in the production of your assessable income so you are permitted to write it off and to replace it. That is a valuable concession to industry. But you do not write off 100 per cent of your equipment and, under section 62aa of the legislation, you never wrote off 120 per cent of your equipment. When 100 per cent of a piece of equipment has been written off the public company concerned would not have paid the Government 471 per cent of the net cost of the item.
An item costing $1,000 would cause, when fully written off, a non-payment of income tax by a profitable company of $475. Whilst some taxation experts might say that the wording of the second reading speech is correct, it is in fact incorrect to convey the view that 120 per cent of the capital cost of a piece of equipment can be written off. An item casting $1,000, when fully written off, would cause, by taking into account section 62aa, a non-payment of income tax by a profitable company of $570. That is the amount which you are entitled to retain within your company for the provision of new equipment to replace equipment which has been worn out by wear and tear.
The investment allowance was valuable to manufacturers. It encouraged management to re-equip. Although it was never a deciding factor the encouragement was important. Companies were prompted by this simple measure to upgrade their equipment and thus to become more efficient in competition with their business opposition. I am confident that that simple measure had considerable effect in raising the standards of efficiency of manufacturing output. Of course for those who were the original providers of the income earning gear, that is, the manufacturers of the heavy equipment, the ability to sell on the basis of the tax concession was particularly important. I have noted some of the comments from sources of importance in the community, including the Chamber of Commerce in my own State of Victoria. I should like to quote the comments made by the Chamber. The journal of the Taxpayers Association of Victoria described this as an economic blunder. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures also indicated that it was not in favour of this proposal.
I was pleased to note that the repeal of section 62aa has no effect on primary producers or those who manufacture plant and equipment used in primary production. Both ends of production in many areas of primary industry have found little joy in business in the last few years. Certainly there is little joy at this stage. However there are pressures within the Government which indicate that a careful consideration of the introduction of this measure may have extended even to primary industry. On this point I noted the attitude of a number of primary industry bodies. They urgently contacted the Government and requested that primary industry be not included in the withdrawal of this tax allowance. One such body, with which I am concerned, was the Australian Dairy Industry Council, lt urgently requested that the Government continue this investment allowance on new plant installed for use in the manufacture and packing of dairy products. The request went on to explain the importance of this allowance to that industry.
A decision has been made, the effect of which will be evident in the ensuing period. I believe an opportunity was presented to review this decision and to withdraw it, to the benefit of the taxpaying sector of the community. Not only the users of the equipment but certainly the manufacturers of the equipment in Australia need some consideration in this respect. I listened to question time in the other place today and a Government supporter suggested to the Prime Minister that he should withdraw this particular measure forthwith. I noted with some disappointment that the Prime Minister’s comment was that the honourable member concerned could be assured that this decision would continue to operate for the time being but it was not impossible that it would be reviewed for the forthcoming Budget. I plead with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) for a review of this matter. It is a most important matter. If he has listened to the debate he will realise that industry never receives a write-off allowance of 120 per cent and so gains some great benefit from the taxation law that has applied since 1962. I hope that the Minister, in replying to the second reading debate, will state that the Government will review this matter and will reinstate this lost benefit at the very earliest opportunity.
– I appreciate that this Income Tax Assessment Bill is an anti-inflationary measure, but I am dismayed that it has been introduced. The 20 per cent investment allowance for manufacturing plant and equipment has been of real value in maintaining productivity in industry. I am pleased to note that the suspension of the allowance is not to apply to plant and machinery required for primary industry. I believe that the need for this special tax deduction of 20 per cent of capital expenditure is as present today for efficiency in production as it was when the concession was first allowed in 1962. Back in 1962 when the then Treasurer, Mr Harold Holt, introduced this new idea he said:
In proposing the allowance the Government aims to encourage greater investment in our manufacturing industries and thus ensure, in both the short and the long term, a greater volume of both output and employment. It seeks also to promote greater efficiency in manufacturing production from which should flow the advantages of lower costs which will benefit the Australian consumer and help our industries to seek export opportunities in markets overseas.
The employment situation thai obtained in 1962 is not present with us today. We have a temporary incidence of a high degree of inflation in Australia today but this does not call for any inhibition to be placed on efficiency. Yet such an inhibition wm follow the withdrawal of this concession. Whether we think of a big industrial complex or small privately conducted organisation, this allowance has meant greater liquidity for the organisation that has required machinery to keep abreast of the times and to produce the lowest unit figure possible. In my opinion it is a retrograde step to get away from this basic ability to keep productivity reasonably in line with costs.
I have a very keen awareness of the need for small industrial organisations in Australia to be given all the encouragement possible. A huge sector of our manufacturing interests is in the hands of the comparatively small man and he is the one who at all times is short of capital to do the things that are necessary to enable him to grow and to compete in both the local and the overseas markets. Those of us who have had practical experience in running a business know that the depreciation allowance and the investment allowance have been of real assistance in enabling us to keep abreast: of those things which we regard as - vital to maintaining an efficient industry.
Finance always is the limiting factor with many of our industries. This is the case even if we look at the largest complexes in Australia, even the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. How often that organisation has been maligned because in the minds of those who have condemned it there has been no appreciation of the relationship between capital investment and the return on it. But to that organisation, as well as to the small organisation, the depreciation and investment allowances are very important. The chairman of directors of BHP, Sir Colin Syme, said in his half yearly report on 23rd February this year.
The suspension of the investment allowance has important consequences for BHP. These allowances have been a valuable source of cash flow when it was most needed - at the beginning of operations of qualifying new projects. 1 do not regard that statement as having been made by Sir Colin Syme with his tongue in his cheek. The big organisations in Australia have expended huge amounts of money for the benefit of our nation. When we hear references such as that to the need for the continuation of these allowances in that sector, and in the sector which I know more about personally, I say that the word suspend’, which was used in the second reading speech when this Bill was introduced, becomes very important. I hope that the suspension will not be of long duration. 1 hope the concessions will not be eliminated altogether. In the last 12 months investment in manufacturing plant and equipment in Australia has advanced by only 10 per cent. That is not a big advance at all. There has been huge capital investment in mining but in the manufacturing sector it has only represented 10 per cent, which actually was a decrease on that in the previous 12 months up to February this year. If we are to keep a buoyant economy and to give encouragement to those who are prepared to lay out capital in order to keep modern and competitive I hope that the word ‘suspension’ is real when it is applied to this legislation.
– We have heard a number of very constructive speeches on this matter this afternoon. 1 hope that the Senate will find time on some occasion to discuss the issues which have been touched upon by honourable senators who have spoken because these issues are some of the most important of matters which affect our country. The problems of increasing the wealth of Australia, of improving the standard of living of Australians and of providing a basis for the proper defence and security of this country in very large measure depend upon the questions of productivity and industrial efficiency, which have been touched on this afternoon. 1. for one, am quite dubious about the value of the measure with which we are dealing. My Party opposed the taxation investment allowance when it was originally introduced. The basis for our opposition and on which we now accept the suspension of the allowance which is in question was that it was not well designed to increase the productivity and industrial efficiency of the nation as a whole. This is because it is not discriminating, because it is directed to the whole of industry instead of being directed to those parts where it could help to improve industrial efficiency as a whole and to forward the nation.
If the Government wants to see something done about these matters of increasing productivity and improving industrial efficiency it should pay attention to some of the matters which have been raised in this debate. It is not enough to speak about inflation as if one could wave a magic wand or find a solution simply by cutting back on lawn mowing or expenditure on other things, some of which steps are extremely worth while and other perhaps not so worth while. Obviously our country suffers from some grave deficiencies. One of those is our lack of managerial skill. This was pointed to by the exPrime Minister, the Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton), in a debate early last year or the year before. It is well recognised that in Australia we are extemely deficient in managerial skills and that something ought to be done about education in management. Our technology is not as good as it ought to be and there should be every endeavour to improve it by government encouragement, by extension in manufacturing industries in the same way as we have seenit applied in the rural industries, and by various financial inducements. These could be in the form of taxation concessions or direct payments to the industries concerned, perhaps by directing moneys through the banking system towards those industries which are using up-to-date technologies.
We should endeavour to improve ourselves in these directions. This does not mean that in every industry one must have the most up-to-date plant. It would be a mistake tothink that was so. One might have more efficiency sometimes in the economic sense by not having that. It is my belief that Australia is lagging very badly in some areas, and certainly in the field of electronics.In areas such as those involving the use of computers we could do a great deal more than we are doing. In many other areas of industry we should be seeing to it that the utmost advantage is taken not only of the machinery but also of the techniques which are available to others. In this way only will we be able to increase the wealth of the nation and contribute to its security. I should think that an emphasis on those matters and a discussion of them would be extremely valuable.
I think - it is my thought alone - that if, for example, one were to look at the defence of this country, one might find that it would be far more important to attend properly to industrial efficiency and productivity than it would be to purchase, say, another half a dozen frigates or concern ourselves with the purchase of some military hardware from elsewhere. It is not the purchase of military hardware that makes a country strong; it is industrial efficiency and productivity, together with the population, all of which build up to an industrial strength which lays the basis not only for one’s military potential but also for raising the standard of living of the people and giving them the ability to contribute to the uplift of peoples elsewhere. Whilst this Bill ought to be allowed to pass because the existing provision in the Act is not good enough to deal with these extremely important problems which quite properly have been raised by honourable senators this afternoon, let it not be thought that the Opposition, in agreeing to the Bill, thinks there should not be financial and other inducements for regulating and encouraging the best use of technology and the introduction of the most uptodate machinery where it can be best used to advance the interests of our country.
(5.12) - in reply -I thank the Senate for giving the Bill a speedy passage.I have listened with considerable interest to the points that have been raised. One critical question about the duration of the Bill was directed to me by Senator Webster. All I can say about that is that both in the speech by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in the other place and in my second reading speech the word ‘suspend’ was used.I shall not go beyond that. I am sure that the honourable senator would not want me to go beyond that because the second reading speech reveals that the purpose is to suspend the taxation investment allowance. The purpose of the Bill is to amend section 62aa ofthe Income Tax Assessment Act, and any explanation that I could add is contained already in the second reading speech. In the course of Senator Webster’s remarks we embarked upon a discussion on semantics relating to a passage in my second reading speech. 1 invite the honourable senator to read the second paragraph of that speech with precision, and perhaps he and I can discuss the matter later. I thank the Senate for a speedy passage for the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I shall not detain the Committee for long, but I should mention that I have received a copy of a letter from an industrial undertaking of considerable size in which concern is expressed about the fact that clause 3 of the Bill contains this statement:
A deduction is not allowable under this section in respect of expenditure incurred by a taxpayer after the third day of February, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, unless the expenditure was incurred in pursuance of a contract made on or before that date, being a contract under which goods were to be acquired by, or work was to be performed for, the taxpayer.
This is a fairly considerable organisation. It states in the letter that some time ago it determined on a fairly considerable expansion >n the form of an investment in manufacturing plant. Naturally, because it was a fairly considerable expansion the company proposed to spread the money over about 3 years. Now it has been caught in this respect, It will receive the benefit of the deduction on the earlier portion. But, on the expansion of plant which it has undertaken under the impression that it would receive the benefit of the deduction and which might commence within the next year or two, it will not receive any assistance.
The expansion was conceived as one operation which, because of its size, would have to be carried out in 2, 3 or 4 stages. 1 realise that the Bill will be passed. 1 am not going to hold up its passage through the Senate. I simply ask Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson: Am I correct in imagining that if a firm had conceived a considerable investment in a manufacturing plant over a number of years and if this expansion is only partly completed, does this mean that the firm will receive no more help? If this is so, 1 merely ask that perhaps some consideration will be given by the Treasurer to a plea by such a firm.
(5.1.7) - I accept the comment made by Senator McManus. If he refers to the speech that I delivered, he will find that in substance the point that I made with respect to this matter was:
While that is the effect of the Bill, :i number of submissions have been made by industry that the investment allowance should continue to be available under transitional arrangements covering a variety of other circumstances.
The honourable senator has talked in terms of a circumstance. My speech continued:
These representations, which cover a complex field, are receiving careful consideration. If the Government wishes to adopt any of the proposals that have been made, it will ask the Parliament to give effect to ils decisions by further amending legislation.
I well remember that when this legislation was being considered the point now raised by Senator McManus was brought to our attention. There is a transitional problem in the case he mentioned. In the second reading speeches by the Treasurer and myself reference has been made to this.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a third time.
CELLULOSE ACETATE FLAKE BOUNTY BILL 1 97 1
Debate resumed from 9 March (vide page 434), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, the Bill before the Senate proposes alterations to the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act to provide for the payment of a bounty at the rate of 4c per lb with a maximum payment in any 1 year of $200,000 on cellulose acetate flake produced at registered premises and’ sold for use in the manufacture of cellulose acetate rayon yarn on and after 1st December 1 970. While we do not oppose this measure, 1 feel that the background of this assistance to the industry is of sufficient interest for us to have a closer look at it than has been given in the past. 1 say this in view of the reports of the Tariff Board and because of the fact that the industry itself, although many of its submissions have been presented to the Tariff Board on a confidential basis, seems to be reaching the stage where, as a monopoly in this country, it is showing signs that it can face the future with perhaps quite a lot of confidence.
Tariff and bounty assistance on vinyl and cellulose acetate was recommended originally in a report and recommendations from the Tariff Board in 1964. in a report in 1966, the Board recommended that vinyl acetate and other chemicals for which it was proposing a general rate of 60 per cent should have their protective needs reviewed within a reasonable period with an aim of reducing the protection to a more acceptable level. A review of cellulose acetate flake also was recommended in that report. This is actually the substance of the Bill that we are debating now.
CSR Chemicals Ltd is the only acetate manufacturer in Australia. Besides cellulose acetate flake, it is producing vinyl acetate and a number of other acetatal products. They are being produced in an integrated factory complex at Rhodes in New South Wales, lt also produces other materials at Lane Cove. These raw materials are available then for sale for acetate rayon yarn. This company has plans which it expected to bring to fruition about this time, lt will change the process of production from ethyl alcohol to ethylene, and this I understand will bring more efficiency into the production of this commodity.
Details of funds that have been available were supplied confidentially to the Tariff Board. The value of the funds that are employed will increase with the installation of the new plants expected to cost about $6m. In its ‘Vinyl Acetate: Cellulose Acetate Flake (Interim Report: Industrial Chemicals and Synthetic Resins - Review)’, the Board states:
However, the Board noted, in this connection, that the bounty has provided more than half the profits made on C.A. flake and that, for all acetyl products, the rate of profit is heavily influenced also by the effect on funds of the extent to which plant has already been depreciated. For certain major items of plant, this latter situation will be reversed when the new acetaldehyde and V.A.AI. plants are brought into production.
The Board drew attention to the fact that 288 persons were employed in the production and sale of acetyl products at the time of the interim inquiry. During the course of the investigation the Board found that the 1968 estimate of existing and future demand for vinyl acetate, confidentially supplied by CSR Chemicals Ltd and Monsanto Australia Ltd, was about 6,000 tons, lt expected an annual growth rate of 4 per cent over the next 4 years. That brings us up to the present time. It is in this respect that I believe the bounty pay able should be reassessed. Possibly this is the last occasion on which the Parliament will be asked to subsidise this industry at such a substantial level. The Board also drew attention to this fact:
The company was reluctant to supply costs at most economical levels of output, apparently on the assumption that the Board would calculate price disadvantages direct from these costs without considering other relevant factor!.
The Board said also:
No specific evidence relating (o the local industry’s cost disabilities was available, but differences in scales of production, high distribution costs and high labour costs were stated to be factors causing cost disabilities. The available price information suggests a relatively high level of disability.
Nevertheless, it is evident that the alterations that have been made in the production techniques will overcome many of these disabilities. The Board went on lo say:
The Board considers, for reasons outlined in earlier reports, that if assistance is to be accorded C.A. flake the most appropriate method would be by bounty, lt considers that a bounty of 4c per lb would accord adequate assistance to the local production. . . .
The Board’s calculations indicate that assistance at these levels would, in conjunction with profits from sales of other acetyl products, result in a reasonable return on funds for the whole complex.
The Board then recommended that the bounty should be payable until 31st December 1973.
Possibly this will be one of a great number of Tariff Board reports that will come before the Parliament and that will bc given more scrutiny in view of the growth occurring in recent times in many of these companies where the demand has grown and where the technique has improved. However, it is now March 1971, and the recommendation is for the period to December 1973. I am hoping that in this period this company which has control of practically all the sales of this commodity in this country will be able to claim that through the assistance the Government has given it in the past it is possible for the company lo produce competitively a commodity which contributes to the economy of the country without the assistance of bounty. For that reason we believe that we can recommend the adoption of this measure and that the company itself will realise that it has to be able to produce evidence for future bounties that will be under greater scrutiny in the next 2 or 3 years. We support the measure.
– in reply - As Senator O’Byrne said, the passage of this measure will not take very long. I understand that there is no opposition to its passage. The matter is therefore fairly straightforward. However, one might make a couple of observations about this matter. Substantially this measure flows from a decision taken, I think, in wartime in order to produce in Australia cellulose acetate flake primarily for rayon yarn for the manufacture of motor vehicle tyres for defence purposes, lt is still imported to produce this material in this country for defence purposes. The company concerned had a very chequered career after the war because of difficulty in meeting price competition in the market. It is very true of the chemical industry, but I think it is even more true of the rayon industry, that a great deal depends on scale of manufacture, and that depends to a large extent upon scale of market. But the Australian market as such is not big enough for production to be conducted at the most efficient level when judged by world standards. This is part of the problem. In Australia there is only one manufacturer, that is CSR Chemicals Limited, but that company is substantially bound to Courtaulds in the supply situation.
These bounty payments first began in 1956. If honourable senators look through the records they will find that the Courtaulds organisation has a fairly unsatisfactory financial record in the post-war years. Many people who were involved were perhaps rather sorry that they got themselves into such a difficult situation. It has been quite important to maintain the production of that company, both in terms of having an Australian source for normal use and to have an import alternative, and to have a defence position in reserve. At the Tariff Board hearings, to which Senator O’Byrne has referred, the Board agreed with the request of CSR Chemicals Ltd for a bounty until December 1973 at 4 cents per lb, but it is equally to be observed that that was a request reduction from 5 cents to 4 cents which was willingly put up by the company in its own interests. I think this is a fair indication of its bona fides.
The total annual payment is $179,000. The Bill provides a machinery clause, which is clause 6. We are giving a maximum payment of S200.000. That is adequately covered in the Bill. In the eyes of the Tariff Board and the Government the bounty is the most effective, form of protection because in the final analysis rayon yarn is subject to very great price fluctuations. It is- a sensitive, difficult area because of the need to have a very big market and therefore a very big production, neither of Which conditions exist totally in the Australian scene. CSR Chemicals Ltd employs 288 people, and without this bounty it would be unable to support die price level to Courtaulds. Therefore’ Courtaulds, which employs a lot of people, would be placed in some hazard.
So looking at the scene totally I think one would be justified in saying that the company is doing a fairly essential thing; it does support an essential rayon yarn industry. That industry is a quite important employer of labour. Without this bounty both these companies would have some problems; they could suffer a loss of profits and even have to stand down employees. We would not want any of these things. The cost of supporting this programme, as I have said, is approximately SI 79,000, which is a lower level than previously. The bounty will expire in December 1973, which will allow adequate time for the matter to be reviewed. The records show that if it were possible to operate at a lower level of bounty those involved in these companies would willingly agree to do this. AH in all. I feel that the Senate is justified m passing the measure. Accordingly I recommend that the Bill be now disposed of.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 9 March (vide page 455), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party supports this Bill, the purpose of which is to make some amendments to the Overseas Telecommunications Act. In 1946 all overseas telecommunications throughout the British Commonwealth were nationalised. They remain nationalised. It is a very profitable, and very efficient operation. Apart from a minor amendment, the Bill brings the financial arrangements between the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Government into line with those which operate in relation to similar bodies such as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and others. The commission’s fixed assets are about $50m. Capital will be set up by transferring some accumulated profits into the capital fond. That will leave a balance of about $rOm. At the same time the Government will pay in an amount to bring up the capital to what is thought to be the required amount at the moment. The Bill provides that a dividend be paid each year on capital. The intended commencing rate is H per cent, although the PostmasterGeneral, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, may alter the rate from time to time. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), in her second reading speech, stated that initially the rate will be 71 per cent. It seems desirable that the financial relations between the Commission and the Government be regularised.
A minor .amendment deals with personnel. This amendment will bring certain conditions of employment into conformity with conditions of employment in the Public Service. For the first time women will be able to be employed up to the age of 65. This provision operates already in the Public Service. The Commission will also be given the right to extend the service of an officer, male or female, who has attained the age of 65 years, for another year, taking the officer to the age of 66 years. 1 intend to move at the Committee stage an amendment similar to other amendments which have been accepted by the Senate. My proposed amendment deals with clause 7 which amends section 52 (3.). At the moment clause 7 reads:
The Minister may declare, by instrument in writing under his hand . . .
We intend to move that those words be deleted and that the following words be inserted in lieu thereof:
The regulations may provide . . .
This in no way is meant to denigrate the proposed section. It reads:
If our amendment is carried, subsection (3.) will read:
The regulations may provide that the last preceding sub-section does nol apply in relation to taxation under a specified law of a State or of a territory of the Commonwealth.
We must realise that the Commission deals not with internal telecommunications but with external telecommunications and that circumstances in many overseas countries are changing. One such country that comes readily to mind is Papua and New Guinea. Already the Government is heavily subsidising the Territory. The Commission is probably making a lot of money there. If the Territory decided that some kind of taxation should be imposed on the Commission, under the Bill the GovernorGeneral would have power to waive the provision that the Commission does not have to pay taxation. He could make it possible for the Commission to pay taxation. The rates of taxation imposed there are low. I think that it is desirable that that power be included, but undesirable that it be exercised by an ‘instrument in writing’. If it is intended that this power be given, it should be under the scrutiny of parliament. This would be by way of regulation which would give the power of scrutiny to parliament. In the past similar amendments have met with general favour in the Senate. I suggest that the Senate may well adopt the amendment when we come to the Committee stage. Apart from those comments, we have no objections to the proposals put forward by the Government. lt is interesting to note the amazing difference that modern technology has made to the Commission. For the first few years it battled along making small profits. With the advent of modern technological advances such as the coaxial submarine cables and with the magic of satellites coming to the Commission’s aid, its profits increased tremendously. That made it possible to make financial arrangements of the kind contemplated in the Bill much more easily than otherwise would have been the case. We support the Bill. In Committee I shall move the amendment that I have foreshadowed.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill and endorses the principles embodied in the proposed legislation. It will support the amendment to be moved by Senator Willesee on behalf of the Opposition. In relation to the latter I comment again that piecemeal dealing with this principle is regrettable. I reiterate the hope that the whole matter will come under total scrutiny from the Senate. I ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to answer one or two questions about the new terms of capitalisation of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. As I understand the situation, the Commission will be capitalised at $35m. Of that, $ 17.5m will come from the conversion of existing Treasury advances. That will be convened to capital investment by the Australian Government in the Commission. A portion of the additional $ 1 7.5m will be provided from the undistributed profits of the Commission. I ask the Minister: What is the principle behind the method of allocation of the capital contributions and why should the revenue be called on to provide this amount when, after the contribution in capital from the undistributed profits is made, there is still a very substantial residue of profit in the accounts of the Commission? That is how I read the Minister’s second reading speech. I think I have assessed it correctly. It would appear to me that, if substantial profits are withheld and if it is decided to put the Commission on a new basis, in large measure those profits should be called upon to provide the bulk of the capitalisation. The revenue should be called on only in the last resort or at least not to the extent of 50 per cent as seems to be contemplated by the legislation. The Minister, in her second reading speech, said:
There is provision in the Bill that the PostmasterGeneral, with concurrence of the Treasurer, may direct the Commission to transfer further amounts to the capital account from retained profits.
I wonder why that is not being done to a greater degree at this time if the power is there to do it in future. It could well be that further capitalisation will be provided from the Treasury from time to time. I think that was also mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech. I think the principle of putting the Commission on the same basis as similar corporations is a salutary one. Strange as it may seem, independent corporations are not subjected to the parliamentary scrutiny to which ordinary departments can be subjected. I know that it is not considered the province of the Parliament to sit in judgment upon or to scrutinise the day to day operations of public corporations. It could well be that corporations of this and other characters could find themselves under the new arc light of scrutiny with the emergence of standing committees of this chamber.
In Great Britain there is a select committee or a standing committee that deals particularly with public corporations. We have no such committee here or in contemplation, but no doubt we have an appropriate committee which could receive references in relation to public corporations and perhaps pertinent to the area of their operation if not to (he type of their structure. I have little doubt that from time to time public corporations will come under the scrutiny of a standing committee of the Senate. It is not improbable that, if a committee had been available for a referral previously, the capital reconstruction which comes in this year 1971 might well have been considered and embarked upon years earlier as the position which is now before us was seen to develop and as heavy accumulation of profits was evident in the accounts of the Commission. I would like the Minister to answer my queries. We support the Bill and we will support the amendment to be moved by Senator Willesee.
(5.44) - in reply - I thank the 2 honourable senators for the support which they indicated for the legislation. Senator Willesee foreshadowed an amendment which he will move in the Committee stage. 1 will reply to the proposed amendment at that stage. Senator Byrne inquired about the Treasury advances of $ 17.5m and the S 17.5m from general revenue reserves, which total S35m. He was concerned about the balance of SI2m in the general reserves. 1 inform him that this balance is to be used for future developments, the cost of which could be quite heavy over the next few years as developments in cables and satellites are extended. That is the reason for keeping these reserves. I think that covers all the points that we noted.
The honourable senator also referred to the possibility of more consideration of this kind of business taking place. He suggested that the Senate committees which have been set up and are now in operation could be interested in this matter. 1 shall make certain that the points raised are conveyed to the Minister who administers this legislation. I thank honourable senators for the passage they have given to the legislation. When points are raised in Committee, I. shall reply to them al that stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– 1 refer to clause 7 and proposed new section 52 (3.), which reads:
The Minister may declare, by instrument in writing under his hand, that the last preceding sub-section docs not apply in relation to taxation under a specified law of a Stale or of a Territory of the Commonwealth. 1 move the following amendment:
In proposed new section 52 (J.), leave out Minister may declare, by instrument in writing uncle i his hand,’, insert ‘regulations may provide’.
If the amendment is agreed to, proposed new section 52 (3.) will read as follows:
The regulations may provide that thi last preceding sub-section does not apply in relation to taxation under a specified law of a State or of a Territory of the Commonwealth.
(5.47) - I have listened to the amendment moved by Senator Willesee for the alteration of certain words in proposed new section 52 (3.). I inform the Committee that the Government does not oppose the amendment.
– I simply take the opportunity provided by the passage of this Bil) to raise in this chamber a matter that relates generally to the sub ject matter of the Bill, namely, the operalions of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. The problem with which J am concerned, if it has to be appropriate to any particular clause, is appropriate to clause 5, which relates to section 24, which in turn deals with the retirement of officers.
The Hobart Radio service has been conducted for many years as an extremely important service from the standpoint of the safety of persons at sea. lt has been conducted with a considerable degree of success. There are now ugly rumours circulating in the Press and among fishermen and other persons concerned with the sea and shipping in the Tasmanian area to the effect that Hobart Radio is to close. Assurances have been given that no decision has yet been taken in relation to that matter and that any alternative would be just as satisfactory.
I simply take this opportunity to remind the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) and the Minister she represents- that, as far as I know, this matter is still up in the air. Apparently no decision has been made. This is causing considerable concern to many people who are involved in the use of Hobart Radio. I do not take the matter any further than that. I simply take the opportunity to remind honourable senators that that is the situation.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (5.50) - I have some, information concerning the point thai has been raised by Senator Rae. But before I give it I thank him for bringing this matter forward, lt is a matter of very real importance to the people concerned. Senator Rae referred mainly to people at sea. I think we appreciate the position. The .information I have been given concerning Hobart Radio is that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission has announced publicly that a decision has not been taken, the location in the centre of Hobart presents problems and the Commission is looking at the matter as a whole. Whilst the Commission is considering the matter, I- believe it is very fitting that Senator Rae should raise it. I shall personally express his opinions to the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) so that when the matter is being considered note will bc taken of the honourable senator’s views.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment: report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
– I inform the Senate that I have received through His Excellency the Governor-General a telegram certifying the choice of James Robert McClelland as a senator to iIi the vacancy in the representation of New South Wales caused by the death of James Patrick Ormonde. The telegram will be read by the Clerk. (The telegram having been read by the Clerk)
Senator James Robert McClelland made and subscribed an affirmation of allegiance.
Debate resumed from 15 March (vide page 497). on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I be granted the privilege before commencing my speech of congratulating Senator J. R. McClelland whom I have known for a number of years on his appointment lo the Senate. He will certainly make a great contribution to this Parliament.
Honourable senators - Hear! hear!
– The New
South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill is designed to grant financial assistance of up to S9m to the State of New South Wales for the purpose of flood mitigation works on certain rivers. Under the new national water resources development programme this money will be made available to assist with flood mitigation work on 1 1 coastal rivers in New South Wales. This programme was announced in October 1969. Under it the Commonwealth proposes allotting to the States SI 00m over a period of 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works, flood mitigation and water measurement over and above the States’ own programme for this purpose. In June 1969 the Commonwealth Government provided assistance of S8m to New South Wales towards the cost of flood mitigation works on 6 coastal rivers. Those rivers have been announced and are known to this Parliament. They are the Tweed. Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Hunter and Shoalhaven rivers. The new programme involves additional works on rivers included in the original programme but it has been expanded to include 5 further rivers. These are the Bellinger. Hastings, Manning, Hawkesbury and Moruya rivers.
At the present moment the shire council of the area in which the Bellinger river is located is not terribly desirous of accepting this scheme. I mention that because there is another river which the Australian Labor Party would like to have included in the scheme. The area served by these 1 1 rivers is about I million acres and it has a population of approximately 500,000 people who will be affected in one way or another by the proposed programme. I am certain that all honourable senators will agree that money spent properly in this direction is a sound investment for Australia. We must do everything . possible to overcome the problems of flood and drought. This will be one of the greatest achievements our Parliament could strive to attain for the people, of. this nation. Whilst in another place we have expressed our full support for the Bill ss far as it goes we ask the Government to give serious consideration to expanding this work to include other rivers and areas throughout Australia. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
Mr President, you might recall that on 16th February 1971, the first night of this sessional period on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn, I drew attention to the flood difficulties and problems that existed in the north west of New South Wales and to the tremendous flood devastation in the area of the towns of Wee Waa and Narrabri. At that period the estimated cost of repairing flood damage was in the vicinity of $40m. I believe that a much greater and a more comprehensive programme must be undertaken than is contemplated in this legislation which will embrace the Namoi River at Narrabri and the rivers which flow into that system, namely, the Peel River at Tamworth and the Mooki at Gunnedah and further extensions to the Keepit Dam. The Darling River is the key to the flood dangers that presently face Tibooburra, White Cliffs, Wilcannia and the Broken Hill area. Probably some honourable senators present have visited flooded areas. I have here a copy of the ‘Courier’ published at Narrabri on 6th February last. It reported that flood waters had swamped north western New South Wales and 5 people had lost their lives. Damage to property estimated at tens of millions of dollars had been caused. Tibooburra, Wilcannia and sections of Broken Hill were flooded. I have no doubt that those areas will be mentioned again tonight.
This Bill does not go far enough and that is why the Labor Party would like the Senate to consider the amendment I have moved. We do not wish to delay the passage of the Bill but we think it most important that its provisions be extended. It would be absurd to say that our proposal would take extra time to finalise. More is written in Australia about floods and droughts than about any other major matter of which I am aware. The National Library and almost every other library in Australia hold information published by world authorities on those subjects. Flood mitigation and water conservation go hand in hand. Are not some of the great men associated with the Snowy Mountains Authority still available to us to plan the future safety and security of this nation by avoiding national disasters?
In the last few days I heard a radio report that an appeal is being conducted in the United Nations on the question of a world wide disaster plan. We are suggesting a national plan in our amendment, through the establishment of a national disaster organisation. Such an organisation would be invaluable in insuring against the effects of floods, droughts, fires and tidal waves. These disasters face Australia and the Labor Party in its amendment is anxious to take a positive step for the future. As a member of this Parliament in 1951 I was invited to join a party to visit the electorate of the late Sir Earle Page. While we flew over the area Sir Earle Page outlined his scheme to harness the rivers centring on Nymboida in the Grafton area. He had a great deal of knowledge of that locality. He issued a great number of pamphlets and plans about his scheme. At the time he was Minister for Health. Unfortunately, we did not hear htm enlarge on his scheme in the Parliament. I always wondered why his scheme, in which he so strongly believed, was not put into effect whilst he was Treasurer, in the tragic days of the depression.1 It was left to Frank McGuren, the honourable member for Cowper from 1961 to 1963, to advocate unceasingly Hood mitigation works in that area.
In May 1963 1 and a party of parliamentarians travelled with Frank McGuren - a truly honourable and dedicated man - to talk with officers of the Macleay River County Council, the Tweed Shire Council and the Richmond River County Council about the effects of floods in that area. It is very pleasing to know that the work of Frank McGuren is bearing fruit. Damage costing untold millions of dollars has been caused through disasters such as the fires in Tasmania in 1967. Today I spoke to the Mayor of Grafton about flooding. In 1963 Frank McGuren said that in the preceding 18 years there had been 20 major floods in the Clarence River area alone. He detailed in many of his speeches in this Parliament how great had been the devastation of floods since 1931. In 1967 one of the biggest floods occurred in the history of flooding in the Macleay River and Clarence River areas. Fortunately flood mitigation works helped considerably to offset its effects.
Whilst the measures to be financed by this legislation will have a great effect on flooding of the New South Wales coastal rivers, it does not go far enough for the rest of Australia. It would be remiss of me tonight if I were not to speak of the situation that faces this, nation. The Press has recently carried reports of flood crises in isolated country . towns. I have in mind Tibooburra. White Cliffs and the Broken Hill area, lt would be unjust and completely immoral not to consider the problems facing the .people of those areas. Honourable senators who have visited flooded areas appreciate the trials, tribulations, dangers and difficulties that these people encounter, lt is of no use to say that nothing can be done. Men can be sent to the moon. Great scientific advances have been made but. whenever we speak of doing something practical on behalf of our own people all the difficulties in the world are raised. 1 appeal to honourable senators not to be satisfied with the flood mitigation works planned for the coastal rivers of northern New South Wales. Such works are regarded as very important by my Party but I ask .the Senate to consider the advantages which would accrue from acceptance of our proposed amendment.
– ls New South Wales the only State affected by Hoods?
– No, it is not. I have mentioned flooding of the Burdekin River and other Queensland rivers. We are not suggesting for one moment that flood problems are associated only with New South Wales. I am aware that Queensland also has flood problems
– There were floods in Gippsland, Victoria, only last week.
– That is right. We are talking about the whole of Australia. We want flood problems solved right throughout the nation. 1 am not making out a case only for New South Wales although I am fully conscious of the flood problems that exist in my State. I am making out a case for New South Wales but I also recognise the need for flood mitigation works in’ other States. I remind honourable senators that my proposed amendment does not specify New South Wales. It slaves, in part:
Such an organisation would be involved throughout the length, and breadth of Aus tralia. In 1931 in a flood in Tasmania 14 lives were lost. In 1934 New South Wales had floods in various parts of the State almost continuously for 9 months. In that year Victoria had a flood in which 35 lives were lost and Queensland also was flooded. So was South Australia, where 2 lives were lost. In New South Wales in 1954 floods were again experienced, causing the loss of 22 lives and rendering about 10,000 people homeless. We ask that more be done than is being done at present. I referred earlier to tremendous losses in human lives, property and stock caused by floods. Serious production losses are also involved, the nature of which depends upon the type of area which is flooded. Floods result in the loss of employment in the towns and surrounding districts. I saw the aftermath of the recent flood in the Narrabri district. I have mentioned this matter in the Senate on several occasions. Disease is rampant following a flood. Rotting carcases come floating down the streams and the sewerage systems break down. It is almost unbelievable what happens, lt is almost impossible to describe the situation; one has to witness the actual happenings to realise this great tragedy. I wish to pay a tribute to the civil defence organisations in the various towns in which floods occur. No words or sentiments of mine would be able to express the full credit which is due to the men and women of the civil defence organisations. I also wish to express my thanks and appreciation to the Mayor of Narrabri, Alderman Heath, for the part that he and his assistants played during the recent flood in that area.
The Australian Labor Party believes that support for its amendment will not hold up proceedings, although this is the argument which was used by the Government in the other place. The Australian Labor Party wants money to be made available without delay to the local government bodies that are in control of flood mitigation works. It is important that money be made available, lt is not the function of the Senate to hold up this work because unemployment exists in these towns and it is important that this money be made available to create the employment which is so necessary at the present time. During the Committee stage of the Bill the Australian Labor Party will move an amendment to clause 3 of the Bill to include the
Nambucca River in the definition of prescribed areas. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) in the other place has given me a letter from the Shire Clerk of the Nambucca Shire Council expressing the Council’s desire to be included in this scheme. In view of the importance of the Nambucca River and the danger of siltation affecting other rivers if it is not included in the scheme, I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in this chamber, will appreciate the need, sense and justice of this request and will include this river in the proposal. I have been advised that there is no wish for the Bellinger River to be included in the scheme. The Minister may put forward the linethat inclusion of the Nambucca River would hold up the work, but this would have no greater effect than dropping the Bellinger River from the scheme.
I was pleased to learn that the Minister for National Development intends tabling in the Parliament annually a report on the expenditure on flood mitigation and water conservation works and matters of this nature which are handled by his Department. If the Parliament had such information it would be in a better position to analyse what has been done and determine of what benefit these investments have been to the well-being of all Australians. I repeat that the Australian Labor Party supports the legislation so far as it goes. It commends what has been done up to the present moment, but it appeals to the Minister not to just let the matter go as it is at this stage but to investigate further the need for and the importance of this work in not only the north-west of New South Wales but also right throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The Minister sometimes shows a little bit of humanity in his makeup. 1 hope that he will accede to the request the Australian Labor Party has made in the form of an amendment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– I hope I can take it that the fact that this measure refers to the mitigation of flood damage only in New South Wales does not mean that the Government is closing its eyes to the necessity for assistance to Victoria in regard to flood damage. We have had in my own State of Victoria in the last month what could be equal to the most serious floods in the history of the State. A very fertile area of our State in Gippsland has been devastated by. floods. There was a period when one of the main highways - the Princes Highway to Sydney - was closed. The situation has become so serious in my State that I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in this Chamber, will be able to tell me something about what is going on in regard to the State of Victoria. I repeat my earnest hope that the fact that this Bill refers only to flood mitigation work in New South Wales does not mean that .the Government will shut its eyes to the serious situation in Victoria. The Gippsland floods have devastated a wide area and have been a serious obstacle to transport. It is inevitable that heavy losses will be entailed, particularly by municipal and local government bodies, and a considerable sum of money will be needed to alleviate the situation. As the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) has pointed out, there have also been serious floods in Queensland. Therefore I hope that this matter will be dealt with on a national basis. I appreciate Senator Fitzgerald’s insistence in his speech that it should be dealt with on a national basis.
Senator Fitzgerald claims in his amendment that the amount of assistance being offered is inadequate. I suppose that any amount of assistance would, be inadequate in view of the tremendous damage which has occurred. Therefore I am not concerned about that . part of his amendment although I agree that .a lot more assistance would be desirable. However, J am concerned about the second part of his amendment, which seeks to have a joint select committee of the Parliament inquire into the practicability of establishing a national disaster organisation. This matter was raised in the Senate in 1968 and on that occasion my Party’ voted against it. It did so not because it was opposed to the principle of having such a committee but because, as I pointed out in my speech, at that time the Senate was in a state of transition in that the establishment of a large number of new committees had been recommended and my Party felt that the Senate should proceed slowly. I said:
I have a feeling of some regret that this committee on natural disasters was not preferred to, for example, the committee on air pollution and the committee on water pollution which ave very important but which in my view are not so important as one on natural disasters. Consequently my Parly has decided that we cannot vote to increase the number of committees. However, if this proposal is revived next year and the terms of the resolution are satisfactory our altitude will be different.
The matter has been revived by Senator Fitzgerald and my Party will live up to its pledge. The attitude of my Party will be different in that it will vote for the amendment. I and other members of my Party are strengthened’ in our personal views by the fact that Senator Gair included such a proposal in his policy speech. In the circumstances we feel bound, apart from anything else, to support the appointment of such a committee. In his policy speech Senator Gair said: . . we are now positive that only an investigation carried out by a joint parliamentary committee will produce the degree of attention and examination which this problem now warrants - . .
He went on to say:
I am disturbed’ at the way in which various emergency situations - requiring both Slate and Commonwealth liaison and action - have been badly handled in recent years.
Drought relief is a current example of the confusion and lime wasting which often occurs.
What Australia needs is a permanent secretariat, consisting of State and federal officials, ready to anticipate and study natural disasters, evolve contingency plans, and act as the co-ordinating body when asked to.
I congratulate Senator Fitzgerald on having proposed the amendment. Having pledged ourselves in the discussion on this matter last year and in view of the remarks made by my leader in his policy speech, we of the Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the amendment.
– 1 support the Bill which is now before the Senate believing that the questions of flood mitigation and soil conservation, which must be considered together, are of great importance. 1 accept what certain scientists have said to the effect that the 7 inches to 9 inches top soil of any country might be regarded as the capital of that country because if we were to lose it by not looking after it as we should, by not playing our part as primary producers and by not caring for those people who live in the towns who also are affected by floods, we would not be playing our part in making this country great. Perhaps in a small way we are playing our part by concerning ourselves with the conservation of soil and by helping those producers who from time to time might be affected by floods. I regard it as an obligation on each generation to do likewise to ensure that this part of our national heritage is safeguarded.
I believe that the Bill demonstrates all that is good in our 3 tiers of government. Here we have the local authority, the State government and the Commonwealth Government working together in the interests of the community, in the interests of our national heritage and for the preservation of the soil which is of tremendous importance to any country which is so largely dependent on agriculture as is Australia. As I understand it. the local authority carried out its job in the first instance by directing attention to the need for flood mitigation measures to be taken on the rivers concerned. The State Government has directed attention to this need. It does the survey work and later carries out. or assists in carrying out, the work that is necessary. Then the Commonwealth comes in with financial assistance varying from a $1 for $1 basis to a $3 for Si basis as the case may be. In this instance there is a total involvement of, I understand, about $22m of which the State will find S9m and the Commonwealth S9m.
Before coming into the chamber I heard in my room Senator Fitzgerald’s statement that the former honourable member for Cowper, Mr McGuren, played a prominent part in bringing before the Parliament or the relevant authorities of the day the need for the work in question. Being fairminded, f acknowledge thai he played a part in seeing that this was done, but 1 think that we must be fair and remember that others were involved in this work too. I should like to mention particularly the present honourable member for Cowper, Mr Ian Robinson, because it must not be forgotten that he was the State member for the area from 1953 to, 1 think, 1963 and was largely instrumental in establishing the flood mitigation councils. In other words, he was associated with the first steps to be taken to direct attention to the need for flood mitigation and for the preparation of plans covering work carried out at a later stage in which Mr McGuren played a part, lt was Mr Robinson who was largely instrumental in bring together the councils concerned, particularly on the coast, so that, as a concerted body, they could make their submissions to the State Government with a view not only to having this work carried out but also to making representations to the Commonwealth Government which, as I have mentioned, was interested in this project and in looking after something of such tremendous importance to our agricultural and other industries. As I have mentioned, the Commonwealth has helped to provide the necessary finance.
It must not be forgotten also that the former Minister for Conservation in New South Wales, Mr Beale, took a tremendous interest in conservation, not only because he was the Minister for Conservation but also because he had such a high regard for the need for flood mitigation and, of course, water conservation which I believe go hand in hand to a degree because sometimes, by providing for water conservation, we thereby unconsciously contribute to flood mitigation. Therefore I pay my tribute to Mr Robinson and to Mr Beale for the part they have played in this field.
Unfortunately I did not see Senator Fitzgerald’s proposed amendment until I came into the chamber and heard Senator McManus refer to it and say that the Australian Democratic Labor Party would support it. The project covered by the Bill is a separate project and we should get on with it. I do not know whether it is proposed to delay that work.
– I was not sure. I did not hear that part.
– lt has to be proceeded with once this is carried.
– That could well be so. The Bill before us has a specific object in view. Therefore I think that we should get on with the job. What will happen if this amendment is carried? It could have the effect at least of delaying the work. I think that this matter is of such importance that we should get on with the job and have the flood mitigation work commenced. I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– in reply - I have a few notes here, some of which came from the Department of National Development and some of which emanated from my own experience and background. There is a very good book on conservation which I recommend to those honourable senators who tonight evinced an interest in the subject. It was written by David E. Lilienthal and is called ‘A Region Begins to Live’. It refers to the Tennessee Valley Authority and highlights the interaction in a region between the problems of soil, the problems of forests and the problems of water. The problems of water and its influence on a region in a river valley are problems of lesser characteristic and importance than are the problems of soil and forests. The problems of water are the problems of the denuded water shed, the neglect of forest cover on a water shed and neglect of the soil problem.
A region which is subject to flood is subject to the total influence of the valley system. I accept that honourable senators, particularly my friend and colleague Senator Fitzgerald, have a genuine concern for the problems that a flood will bring to a region, but a flood is a problem of a valley and a valley’s problems in a flood come from the water shed in that there is a lack of forest cover and of soil cover. So we must look at this in the first instance as a total problem and not merely as a problem of a flood in a valley and the city in the valley. After all, this is a national problem, not a problem of a region or a problem of a town or a problem of a State.
In the consideration before us tonight we are looking at a total conservation complex. One of the great people in this country who had this total image in his mind was a former Governor-General who retired some years ago. I refer to Sir William McKell who, as Premier of New South Wales - a Labor Premier - was the first person to establish a conservation portfolio following his studies in the Tennessee Valley, the Mississippi Valley and the Missouri Valley in the United States of America. He saw then that the real truth of this matter is that the water problem is the lesser problem’. It flows out of other problems. It is the total conservation complex which matters because it is from there that the water problem comes.
I pay tribute to Sir William McKell the Labor Premier of New South Wales, not the Governor-General of Australia, who in the years that t remember was so farsighted that he established a conservation department in New South Wales. If was the first such department in the Commonwealth. He saw the problem in its fullest sense and in total. This enabled people later who did not understand the problem to capitalise on it politically. Conservation is a State matter, not a Commonwealth matter, lt is not a matter in relation to which we in the Commonwealth Parliament should take a grandstand position. We should understand the factors and all the complications involved. These essentially are matters within the province of a State parliament.
An amendment has been moved to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I have some official notes about the amendment to which I wish to refer before returning to my own theme because this matter is close te all of us. The amendment is not really applicable to the Bill. The setting up of a disaster fund, or a committee to investigate the establishment of such a fund, has no direct relationship to the measure before the Senate. It is something which could be brought up in some other context, in some other place and at some other time. It certainly has no direct relationship to this Bill. It has been made clear that specific proposals under the national water resources development programme are not initiated by the Commonwealth. We are not the initiators. We join in helping to overcome the problem, which is the responsibility of other levels of government. These proposals are submitted by the State parliaments, according to their evaluation of priorities, for consideration and assessment by the Commonwealth. There is a total body of thinking involved. The Commonwealth and the States join together in a true co-operative federalist attitude and embark upon a national water resources programme.
Only one State other than New South Wales, that is Western Australia, has submitted a proposal. Victoria has not done so, although I freely admit that a problem has existed and does exist there. Queensland, where the same thing occurs, has not submitted a proposal. No doubt in the fullness of time Victoria will submit a programme. However the only issue before the joint study team, the joint financial team, is a programme from Western Australia.
The problem of flood mitigation is one which we understand but about which we do nol always agree. I spent part of my life as a young man in the flood plain country of Cooper’s Creek and I understand what is meant when people talk about a river 1.6 miles wide. I have seen such a thing and I know what it is all about. I am not talking idly because I have lived in that part of the world. I expect that in due course Queensland and Victoria will submit their own programmes, and this would be wise and sensible. When they do that honourable senators from those States might consider whether this should be a State function, whether it should be undertaken by the States assisted by the Commonwealth, or whether the Commonwealth ought to usurp all their powers. 1 do not think they would agree with the latter course.
– When were invitations called for the submission of these programmes?
– The matter is open to each State.
– When were they called?
– It is not a matter of calling for invitations. I am talking about the national water resources development programme in which the States join with the Commonwealth in a cooperative federalist position, which 1 think Senator Webster would understand very well.
– When were the Slates advised of this programme?
– They have known of it since 1969. This help has been available to any Slate. The other Slates may do what New South Wales and Western Australia have done, that is, apply for assistance under this programme. It is not a matter of calling for applications; it is a question involving the finding of finance to do the job. It is open for the States to apply for assistance.
– Is this for water resources?
– Yes, and for flood mitigation.
– Victoria has put in a claim for water resources’ money and the Commonwealth Government has rejected the schemes that it has put forward. We are both arguing against a Liberal Government.
– If Victoria had a flood mitigation problem to put under the water resources programme, it is equally as entitled as Western Australia and New South Wales1 to make application for assistance. If Victoria does not do so, then 1 assume it does not have a problem or it feels that the problem is not big enough to be included in this programme. But Victoria has the same opportunity to ask for money for water resources development and flood mitigation under this same aegis. If 1 am wrong I will join with Senator Webster in seeing the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz).
The Nambucca River has been mentioned in this debate. The Minister said in the House of Representatives that if any proposals- regarding the Nambucca River are submitted by the New South Wales Government they will be considered. Under this scheme proposals would be considered also from Victoria and Queensland. The Nambucca River is not part of the present scheme which now covers 1 1 rivers in New South Wales, 5 more than previously. No proposals for flood mitigation have been submitted by Victoria or Queensland but they have been submitted by Western Australia. In the total field, payments to the States by the Commonwealth for natural disasters in the period from 1949-50 to 1969-70 totalled Si 10m. So the Commonwealth, as a partner in the Federal system, in a co-operative federalist spirit, has assisted in overcoming national disasters to the tune of Si 10m. Senator Fitzgerald referred to the problems of flood mitigation and flood damage in Tibooburra and White Cliffs.
– Before you get off that point could you help me? You said that the Commonwealth has assisted in flood mitigation programmes to the extent of $11 Om.
– I said natural disasters.
– I thought that $110* was directed towards water resources programmes.
– I did not say that. If you read Hansard you will find I said that Commonwealth payments to the States for natural disasters - the term ‘natural disaster’ covers quite a wide area - totalled $110m for the period from 1949-50 to 1969-70. It is my understanding - if I am wrong the honourable senator may correct me and I will buy him a lunch at a reasonably priced restaurant - that if Victoria or Queensland or any other State has a flood mitigation problem it has the same entitlement to put up a case, as Western Australia and New South Wales have done, under the water resources development programme.
Senator Fitzgerald referred to the problems of Tibooburra and White Cliffs. In passing 1 point out that I spent half my life in that part of the world. The problem there is one of rainfall and not of flooding rivers. It is an area of Australia which, although the average rainfall is 7 inches, it occasionally gets a massive rainfall and has a problem of total flooding. That is not a flood mitigation problem; it is a disaster problem. I imagine those needing help would go to the New South Wales Government for assistance and if that Government thought that it did not have the capacity to finance the assistance it would then seek help from the Commonwealth. I am not unfamiliar with the region of Tibooburra, White Cliffs, Wilcannia and Bourke in the West Darling area; so honourable senators should not try to tell me too much about what goes on out there. I spent a lot of my time in the area.
There is a point I want to make in fairness to all honourable senators. It is claimed by many in thus chamber that this is a States House. I do not make that claim. I claim that the Senate is part of the national Parliament and deals with national problems. I have heard it said regularly by honourable senators . on both sides of the chamber that this is a States House. If that is. the case - I do not concede that it is necessarily, although that is part of its responsibility - then conservation and flood mitigation and the problems of floods and river valleys are State matters to be solved by State parliaments. If it is the view of honourable senators here that they are primarily responsible to their State areas - a view I do not concede by any means in a. total sense but only in a partial sense- then they are in no way able to support an amendment which seeks to bring to the Commonwealth total responsibility for a State matter.
I say with some pride that my own State of New South Wales has initiated a study of the river valley systems. This study has been published by the Minister for Conservation in New South Wales. I think New South Wales has now completed a total study of every river valley system in the State. 1 believe it has done this in the fullest possible sense. It includes floods, surface water resources. underground water resources and forests, and it is an admirable piece of work, ft flowed out of the early work done by the New South Wales Conservation Department which began as a result of the efforts of a former Governor-General. This is an example of looking at the total problem and this can be done with advantage in other parts of Australia, despite the comments made by some of my colleagues.
In October 1969 the Commonwealth said that the States had the total problem in a water resources, flood mitigation sense and that it would make $100m available for improvement in this area at the request of the States. That is what is being done and this measure is part of that programme. The Government has agreed to a request from New South Wales for $9m for flood mitigation works on 11 New South Wales coastal rivers. Assistance was provided previously in respect of flood mitigation works on ‘6 coastal rivers - Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Hunter and Shoalhaven. Under the new programme 5 further rivers have been added - Bellinger, Hastings, Manning, Hawkesbury and Moruya. This programme has been a joint
Commonwealth, State and local government activity. If we are fair minded as senators and look at the 3 tiers of government in Australia we should be impressed by this as a very good way to handle the Australian governmental scene. In the second reading speech which 1 delivered in this place on behalf of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) I said:
A fundamental feature of the arrangements is that the level of assistance to be provided to the local government authorities, which, of course, are representative of the landowners and other people most intimately affected by floodings, will depend on the amounts provided by the authorities themselves from their own resources towards the cost of flood mitigation works. The State is to subsidise local authority expenditure at the rate of S3 for SI in the case of the Hunter River and $2 for $1 in other cases. The Commonwealth assistance will match the State contribution.
That is an admirable way to meet a total problem in which the States, local government and the Commonwealth have some degree of common responsibility. Consequently, I do not find myself at odds with this measure. In fact, if one is fair minded, one might say that this is an admirable way to approach a national problem. Equally I find myself unable to accept the proposition that another joint select committee might engage itself in further work. We have had much conversation in the last few days about the problems of senators who are engaged in work on committees, about the problem of the Senate itself and the work that it has to have done by committees. I think I can say fairly that I have taken my share of work on committees. I deplore the proposition that every problem that comes off the top of someones head must be solved by the appointment of a committee. Flood mitigation is fundamentally a State problem and it should reside in the State area. The Commonwealth should assist the States in a problem which they have jointly with local government. In my view the amendment proposed is an intrusion into an area of State responsibility by what is said by some to be a States House. Although 1 admire the sentiment and understand the emotion, I cannot appreciate the reality of what is proposed and, accordingly, on behalf of the Minister I am not able to accept the amendment which states as a first proposition that the assistance offered is inadequate and as a second proposition that a joint select committee of the Parliament should engage in an operation which is properly the function of some other governmental authority.
That lie words proposed to he added (Senator
Fitzgerald’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second lime.
– I do not want to delay the passage of the Bill, but 1 feel that I must refer to one matter which affects northern Victoria. I do this particularly in view of the strong contention by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) that in the event of a disaster such as we have seen recently the matter has to come forward from the State before the Commonwealth can act. The Minister spoke of the 3 tiers of government and said that we should not take things out of the hands of the States. We have had a disaster in northern Victoria in regard to the pear industry. I went to that area with Senator Little. We were informed that the way in which to deal with it would be to deliver a hardship plea to the Commonwealth through the Victorian Government. The amount which they mentioned as being needed to pull them through was $400,000. Senator Webster has mentioned this matter repeatedly, Senator Little has mentioned it and 1 have mentioned it.
– That is not a natural disaster.
– It is a disaster. We have asked repeatedly whether the Victorian Government has made any submission on the matter. If it had we would be following what Senator Cotton said should be done. But we are unable even to find out whether the Victorian Government has submitted a plea to the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government has now stepped in over the head of the State and one week before the Murray by-election has promised or said it is considering a stabilisation scheme for the pear industry which will cost $10m over the next 5 years. We have listened to the Minister say that it is for the States to bring these things before the Commonwealth. We cannot even ascertain from any Commonwealth Minister whether the State of Victoria has submitted the plea on behalf of the growers. But what we have been told is that the Commonwealth has taken the matter over. All 1 can say is that that appears to be an indication that in this case the Commonwealth hits done exactly what it says ought not to be done.
– I must say that it is a fascinating exercise. We are considering the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill, but the apple and pear industry has been brought into the discussion. I have a great sympathy for the people engaged in the apple and pear industry. I fully understand their problems and the problems of Senator McManus. If he cannot find out from the Victorian Government what it has done about this matter, this is no place for him to complain.
– We cannot find out from the Ministers in this chamber
– How can the honourable senator ask Ministers in this chamber to answer on behalf of the Victorian Government?
– We are asking whether the Ministers in this place have received a plea from the Victorian Government. They know whether they have received a claim or not.
– I am not unaware of what lies behind all this. But what lies behind all that are the problems of people who are in difficulty. I understand that that problem will be solved by the Commonwealth taking the initiative in establishing a stabilisation scheme. Good for the Commonwealth.
– J mentioned earlier in the debate that 1 had received a letter from the Nambucca Shire Council which intimated its eagerness to enter into the scheme. The letter I have was sent by the Shire Clerk to the Secretary of the Department of Public Works, Sydney. It reads:
Council understands that Commonwealth legislation is being introduced to provide funds for flood mitigation programmes on coastal rivers and the Nambucca River has been excluded at this stage. It is understood that investigation of the valley is to be undertaken this year. Council seeks clarification on whether it will be eligible for capital works if the investigation reveals thai this is desirable, and of course, if the works as suggested are within Council’s capacity to meet by way of its share of contribution.
Your advices in this regard will be appreciated.
I would like the Minister to inform me of the situation in relation to the Nambucca River because, as I mentioned earlier, siltation is one of the issues which concerns the whole of this area. If the Nambucca River is excluded it could have an effect on this plan. We are not pushing this. In a sense we are wanting advice. We want it placed on record that we are cognisant of the fact that the Nambucca Shire Council is anxious to know whether it can come into the scheme. It is of no good the Minister to say: ‘If this is carried it will hold up the whole of the works.’ All these things could hold up the whole of the works if the Minister for National Development or the Government itself got the sulks about the adoption of the amendment moved by the Opposition tonight.
We want to see this work go on. We want to see progress. We want to see the
Nambucca River involved in the way that the people desire. The minister says that the inclusion of the Bellinger River in the scheme could hold up the whole works and the scheme could go astray. This will not happen because at the present moment the Bellinger Shire Council feels that it cannot afford the money that would be involved. But 1 do want to place on record our desire to see the inclusion of the Nambucca River in the scheme. 1’ therefore ask the Minister for his opinion on our desire to see that river included.
– Just as the honourable senator wants to place on record his consideration of the problems of the Nambucca River and the lesser problems of the Bellinger River, I want to place on record again and again and again that this is a problem and an issue upon which the sovereign State of New South Wales has to make its own decisions. The proper course of action for the people of the Nambucca area is to apply to the sovereign State of New South Wales which in turn would apply to the Commonwealth. If the Bellinger Shire Council wants to abdicate from the scheme it ought to say lo the sovereign State of New South Wales: :We abdicate.’ It is not a matter for the Minister for National Development or for the Commonwealth Parliament to say to the Parliament of New South Wales: We arrogate to ourselves the right to say that the Nambucca scheme be included and the Bellinger scheme be excluded.’ That is no way to behave. As a Commonwealth Parliament, as a group of people, we assist the sovereign States with their problems. We do not take decisions out of their hands. [ know and understand and sympathise with the problems associated with the Nambucca River. An application from the municipality, properly presented to the Government of New South Wales, will be entertained by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The comments made by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) force me to make one or two remarks relating to this problem of flood mitigation. 1 was distressed when the Minister indicated that there has been no application to the Commonwealth Government by the State of Victoria for financial support for any system of flood mitigation. I believe that that in general is what the Minister indicated. The Minister also suggested that approximately $ 1 1 Om had been contributed by the Commonwealth to the various States for a particular purpose and 1 thought that he indicated that that sum was for disaster purposes, which is generally in line with this flood mitigation problem. 1 had in mind that this water resources proposition was one which involved Si 10m of Commonwealth funds and that this has been devoted to providing dams on appropriate rivers where a proper evaluation had been made of the benefits that would flow from the water stored, and that in some’ instances some flood mitigation would result from the building of such dams by the States with the use of Commonwealth funds.
That may not be the situation but it does direct my attention to the fact that Victoria. I know for certain, provided to the Commonwealth a list of water resources work for which it desired Commonwealth assistance. To the best of my knowledge, the Commonwealth, having viewed the short list of dams put forward by the Victorian Government, decided that it would allocate money for one particular dam. and that happened to be the Buffalo River dam. My interest both at that time and at the present time is that the second proposition put forward by the Victorian Government related to a water resources work in the form of the Thompson River dam. The building of this dam has not been assisted by Commonwealth funds. I even know confidentially, supposedly, that within this last week the Commonwealth Water Resources Council has been looking at this proposition to decide whether Commonwealth assistance should flow for this work.
In the Gippsland area, which is where the Thompson River dam is sought to be located, flood mitigration work is most urgently needed. As Senator McManus indicated, we have seen probably the greatest flood on record occurring in the Snowy River area. The farms in the Marlo valley had their fences washed away, 3-ton and 4-ton concrete tanks implanted in the ground were washed out to sea, and complete farms were buried in silt. The then
Minister for the Interior, the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon), lost at least 60 dairy cows. They were last seen swimming in the ocean. They have not been found yet, as far as I know. The damage in that area was immense. The Avon Shire, which takes in some of this area, has indicated already, as I have indicated in the Senate, that the loss in bridge works, road works and other municipal works was about $250,000.
The Minister has indicated that the Victorian Government has made no application for flood mitigation relief. 1 am appalled that this should be the position. I shall report back to my State because, as far as I am concerned, this is not the way to work. In the Senate .1 read a letter from the Avon Shire advocating that, if not the State, the Commonwealth should supply funds so that there would be flood warning systems at the headwaters of some of these rivers which are subject to flooding. I suggest that that could be a major way in which the Commonwealth could assist.
Party to which you belong voted against that proposition in the Victorian House of Assembly 10 years ago when an attempt was made to introduce total control of rivers from headwaters to outlets.
– Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has made a comment about what happened 10 years ago. That was during a period when Sir Henry Bolte was well in control of the Victorian Parliament. Undoubtedly he has failed to act since then. Undoubtedly Sir Magnus is as amazed as 1 am that the Victorian Government has made no application to the Commonwealth Government for this type of assistance. We are appalled to find that situation existing today. If the Victorian Government has rendered to the Commonwealth a list of dam works and other works which are required for flood mitigation or for water resources, I ask that that list be investigated. If a request for funds for water resources work, which the Commonwealth has not filled out of its $100m water resources programme, has been made I ask that the dam that appeared No. 2 on the short list previously and undoubtedly is heading the short list today, that is, the Thompson River dam, be given immediate consideration and that the Victorian Government be notified that funds will flow immediately for that project.
– It is not so long ago that I was in the Thomson valley. I could see how the problems mentioned by Senator Webster this evening could occur in the Thomson valley. It is a tremendous watershed with high country around it. This tends to concentrate the flood waters into the Thomson valley. That is apparent. I am assured by my advisers, who are members of a department which is the province of another Minister, that there are no flood mitigation relief applications from Victoria in the Department of National Development at present. We are dealing with a flood mitigation Bill. In my second reading speech I said:
The new national water resources development programme was announced by the former Prime Minister in October 1969. Under the programme, the Commonwealth proposes to allocate to the Slates $ 10Om over 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement over and above the States’ own programmes for these purposes. The new programme follows the original national water programme which provided over $50m in grants to the Slates.
In 5 years the amount of the grant has been doubled. It is quite clear that the purposes for which assistance can be given are as I stated - rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement.
– 1 prompt you by saying that it is just not for flood mitigation. The Victorian Government supplied a list for rural water storage.
– I put it to Senator Webster that a Senate Minister has quite a number of problems. As well as his own portfolio he has 4 others to handle. He is asked 8 or 9 questions a day when his colleagues in another place are asked 2 or 3 in a year. No doubt his ability to handle a vast range of problems is enhanced by the fact that he is a senator. He does his best, but there are limitations. I, as Minister representing the Minister for National Development, clearly stated the purposes for which assistance can be given - rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement over and above the States’ own pro grammes. It is equally clear, from my advisers from the Department of National Development, that no applications from Victoria for flood mitigation are on the file. That is not to say that there ought not to be any applications, but it is equally not to say that I should make them. I stand ready to help the Committee in any area in which I can help properly,- either directly or on behalf of any of the Ministers that I represent. Honourable senators know that. Tonight I cannot take upon myself the responsibility of the Victorian Parliament.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (9.15) - I rise in my . customary role of trying to pour oil on troubled waters. In that role I would like to correct the record so that the Committee will be quite clear that the Victorian Government has not applied for flood mitigation loans, advances, grants or assistance in relation to the Thompson River because that operation is not a rural flood control operation, lt is being conducted by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works lo provide a water supply to the metropolitan area of Melbourne.
– I ask the Minister to ascertain from his advisers whether the Victorian Government has applied to the Commonwealth for assistance for the building of a rural water storage on the Thompson River?
– Within the limits of the knowledge of my advisers this evening, who’ as I said earlier are members of another department, no such application exists, but that is not to say that we will not make inquiries on behalf of the honourable senator. The current state of knowledge is that no application exists. We will find out what is happening about this matter. Nothing that has been said detracts from the original proposition that the proper origin of such applications is a State parliament and it is not the initiative of a representative Minister in a Commonwealth parliament.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bil! (on motton by Senator Cotton) read a third rime-.
– by leave - With the concurrence of honourable senators i incorporate in Hansard the following statement.
When the criteria for devaluation compensation to rural industries were first established it was decided that it would not be unreasonable in the short run to attribute to devaluation the whole of (he fall in export returns where it appeared that devaluation hail been an important factor and that the losses were demonstrable and unavoidable. The payment of compensation has been based on the difference between returns in Australian currency predevaluation and post-devaluation, with payments limited in most cases to 15 per cent of pre-devaluation values. Tt has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between the effects of other forces in the market and the residual of Sterling devaluation. Compensation cannot, of course, be continued indefinitely.
The Government has now decided that devaluation compensation will be continued for 1971, but that payments will then be terminated. The Government considers that where losses can still be demonstrated on exports in 1971 it would be undesirable to conclude compensation payments without some warning to the industries concerned. The period of grace now proposed will allow for possible adjustments to be made. For some commodities action has been taken already to replace devaluation compensation with other measures. For instance, in the case of dairy products, in June 1970 the Government made a special grant, for distribution as a bounty, of $15.9m on J970-71 butter and cheese production and $3.4m on exports from the 1970-71 production of skim milk powder, casein and other non-fat products. These grants ruled out any devaluation assistance in 1970-71 for these products. As condenserv milk products were not covered by these grants, devaluation compensation will be paid on exports of these products from 1970-71 production.
In regard to apples and pears, the Government’s decision to establish a stabilisation scheme for these fruits will’ obviate any need for payment of devaluation compensation for 1971. With regard to sugar, devaluation compensation will be paid on sales from the 1971 season’s production made to the United Kingdom as negotiated price sugar under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. No compensation will be payable on exports of sugar to the United Kingdom and to New Zealand ‘free’ market or on the preference element of such exports from 1971 season’s production unless these ‘free’ market returns as a whole are below pre-devaluation levels.
So far as fruits are concerned payments will be made for devaluation losses on exports of canned fruits, including canned pineapple products, canned solid pack apples and fresh grapes exported and sold up to 3 1st December 1971. The rates of compensation will, as usual, be determined in the light of marketing experience during the year. Payments will be made on exports of dried vine fruits and fresh citrus fruit exported and sold in 1971. Such payments will be extended to any of these fruits from the 1971 season’s production exported and sold in 1972. Compensation for exports of dried vine fruits will be subject to any alternative arrangements which may be made if a stabilisation plan for the industry were adopted for the 1971 season. In addition, compensation will be paid on exports of currants exported from Western Australia to the United Kingdom in 1968.
Devaluation compensation will be paid, if necessary, on exports of shell eggs and egg pulp to the United Kingdom and on egg pulp to Japan from 1970-71 production. Similarly compensation payments will be made, if necessary, on exports of honey to the United Kingdom and other devalued markets in 1971 on the basts of approved pre-devaluation values and the c.i.f. price of each sale. However, overseas prices for eggs and honey have risen to the point where exporter returns are above predevaluation levels. Accordingly, it does not appear likely that devaluation compensation will prove necessary in these cases.
On present indications no devaluation compensation will be payable, as such, on dairy products except condensery milk products, on honey, on eggs or, because of the stabilisation scheme, on apples and pears. Of the remaining products substantial compensation will be payable for sugar, dried vine fruits and condensery products and may be involved for canned pears. Small amounts only will be required for canned pineapple products, canned apples, fresh citrus and grapes. The total amount of compensation which may be payable for 1971 exports must be very tentative at this stage, but may be’ between S7m and 39m. The total of compensation payments to all rural industries now amounts to over $100m.
Senate adjourned at 9.20 p.m. till Tuesday, 30 March at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 March 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710316_senate_27_s47/>.