27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hoa. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 13 electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2W)3 XXIV A (December 1969) declares that the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which Australis) has ratified, prohibits the the in international armed conflict of any chemical agents of warfare - chemical substances whether gaseous, liquid or solid - employed for (heir direct toxic effects on man. animals or plants;
that the World Health Organisation Report (January 1970) confirms the above definition of chemical agents of warfare;
that the Australian Government does not accept this definition, but holds that the Geneva Protocol does not prevent the use in war of certain toxic chemical substances in the form of herbicides, defoliants and ‘riotcon) tol’ agents.
You i petitioners therefore humbly pray:
(hat the Parliament take note of the consensus of international political, scientific and humanitarian opinion; and
that Honourable Senators urge upon the Government the desirability of revising its interpretation of the Geneva Protocol, and declaring that it regards all chemical substances employed for their toxic effects on man. animals or plants as being included in the prohibitions laid down by that Protocol.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 ask for leave to withdraw notice of motion No. 1, General Business, standing in my name.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate is of a mind that the Ministers of State sitting in another place should be invited to assist in person the deliberations of the Senate Estimates Committees relating to those departments of which they are the ministerial heads, rather than that the Committees be assisted by the Ministers representing them in the Senate. 1 give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall also move:
That the Hansard record of the debate, and the principles canvassed therein, in the Senate on Thursday, 26th August 1971. on the motion by Senator Byrne, namely,
That the Resolution of 13th May 1971. adopting the Report of the Committee of Privileges presented to the Senate on that day insofar as it adopted the recommendations of the Committee that, on attendance before the Senate. Mr J. R. Walsh and Mr H. B. Rothwell, on their own behalf and on behalf of their publishers, be reprimanded by the Presiding Officer, be rescinded.
That the reprimand administered by the Senate on 14th May 1971. to Mr J. R. Walsh and Mr H. 6. Rothwell, on their own behalf and on behalf of their publishers, by the Deputy President in pursuance of the aforesaid Resolution of the Senate be revoked - be referred to the Committee of Privileges for consideration and report in conjunction with the reference made to the Committee by Resolution of the Senate on 19 May 1971.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he can indicate what action is proposed to be taken by the Government in the light of the statements by the High Court on the scope of the Commonwealth’s power in relation to corporations which were made in the Court’s judgment invalidating part of the Trade Practices Act.
– Following upon the decision of the High Court last Friday intensive consideration has been given by myself and advisers within my Department to its implications and the necessary action which the Government should take. I can say that this morning the Government gave consideration to a variety of possible courses of action. I propose to make a statement to the Senate as soon as I am able after question time today. As a result of that statement it .will become apparent (hat the Government will, as soon as it can, give proper consideration to the issues, that it will introduce legislation which will strengthen the Trade Practices Act as it stood before it was declared invalid last Friday and that in the meantime in order to meet the necessities which have been created by the High Court’s decision it will introduce holding legislation. I hope that that will be done as an urgent matter as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Health read the sizzling comments of the retiring president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Sir Eric Scott, on relations between him and a long list of Commonwealth Ministers for Health, in particular the imputation by this knight of the realm that the Government is afraid to impose compulsory health warnings on packets of aspirin and APC powders for fear of antagonising the major drug companies?
– 1 do not know whether the honourable senator and 1 read the same article, but the one that I read was couched in terms associated with boxing.
– Boxing or foxing?
Boxing; that is, fighting. I must confess that insofar as the article, to put it in a low key, made disparaging comments about myself and my 2 predecessors as Minister for Health, I feel very sorry for the gentleman concerned - that is, if the article was an accurate report of what he had said. If I may use the same analogy as that contained in the article, one does not win fights by shadow sparring but rather by practising at the bag. I suggest that this gentleman should direct the attention of his group to the survey bag.
The article that I read - I do not know whether it was the one referred to by the honourable senator - was written in a semi-humorous style of journalism. The only thing that I understood from the article was that it purported to suggest that the 3 past Ministers for Health did not know their business and that the gentleman who made the comments knew all about the subject. I can only say that the Government’s view on pharmaceutical benefits is quite clear and has been quite clearly stated. It is based on the proposition that there should be a survey. That is the Government’s policy. Wc still maintain that if there are to be variations in relation to pharmaceutical benefits those variations should be based on a proper survey of all the known facts.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts been drawn to reports of a study made by the Chemistry Department of the University of Tasmania concerning pollution of marine life by metals, which suggests that mercury levels in sea food in some Australian waters are already much higher than is desirable? Has the Minister noted the alleged statement of Professor H. Bloom, head of the Chemistry Department of that University, that rain washes a lot of mercury compound into the sea but there is no doubt that the greater part comes from industries and that the Federal Government should learn from similar crises in other countries and take ‘urgent and drastic steps’ to arrest the pollution? What is the competency of the Commonwealth Government to act in cases such as these? When is it proposed that the Commonwealth Government will give effect within its own Territories to recommendations made in the Senate select committee reports on air and water pollution?
– An article that appeared in this morning’s ‘Australian* referred to a preliminary study which had been conducted by the Chemistry Department of the University of Tasmania on the pollution of marine life. I have been informed by the Minister whom I represent that he endeavoured to ascertain what that report actually said and he was informed that Professor Bloom, who is the person to whom the authorship of the report is attributed, had said that this was merely a preliminary report and that the complete report would not be available before the end of November, when he would forward a copy. So, it appears that the report which has appeared in the ‘Australian’ is a report of a preliminary study and that the basis upon which it is made is not available to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts to consider. 1 might add that there is a great deal of concern internationally about marine pollution. The preparatory committee of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment has established an intergovernmental working committee on which Australia is represented, and Australia proposes to continue its interest in that field. On the question of what is the competency of the Commonwealth Government in this field, it is a matter in which any activity by the Commonwealth Government outside its own Territories must be taken in coordination and co-operation with the State governments. Objectives to that end have been pursued and are continuing to be pursued. 1 will refer the honourable senator’s question as to action to be taken with regard to the Senate select committee reports on air pollution and water pollution to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts so that he can reply to the honourable senator direct.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Did the Government make any effort to prevent the beach sand mining companies Cudgen RZ Ltd and Consolidated Rutile Ltd and the tin producer Aberfoyle Ltd being sold out to foreign investors during the liquidation of Mineral Securities Australia Ltd?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not aware of the circumstances. I will seek to obtain the information for the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to the announcement concerning promotion of the wool synthetic blend material, ls the report which has been published correct, namely, that Commonwealth funds will be available for a promotion and research campaign in connection with this blend? ls the Minister aware that if funds are nol available the campaign will be on a reduced scale? Will the Minister urge the provision of money in the interests of the success of the wool-blend-mark campaign to ensure an extending support for the wool industry?
Australian Government does make money available, through the Australian Wool Board, to the International Wool Secretariat which is responsible for the promotion of wool throughout the consumer countries of the world. Recently .1 was in London and I paid a visit to the International Wool Secretariat and spent some time with the executive officers of that body discussing wool and wool promotion. The officers informed me at the time that as well as conducting a wool campaign they intended to conduct a blend campaign, and that they would be bringing out an emblem for blends as they had done for pure wool. So there is no doubt that funds made available by the Australian Government through the Australian Wool Bureau to the International Wool Secretariat will be used in the blend campaign. I shall have to seek some advice from the Minister for Primary Industry on the remainder of the question.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of recent criticism by a Hobart magistrate of the imposition of a minimum $40 fine for failure to register for national service as required by the National Service Act? Does the Minister realise that in the case referred to the defendant was serving a gaol sentence and, therefore, will be obliged to pay the fine after discharge from prison? Will the Minister consider seriously the magistrate’s suggestion that a court be empowered to use its discretion in cases where unreasonable hardship is imposed by virtue of the application of the Act?
– Yes, I have seen a reference to the decision of the magistrate - I think it was Mr H. J. Solomon - and 1 am grateful to the honourable senator for directing specific attention to it. 1 shall see that the matter is referred fully to the Minister for consideration.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it true that the recent repro.clamation and consequent reduction in size of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has been at the instigation of the Federal Government so that an Omega base may be constructed in the Mersey-Forth area of Tasmania without its being in a national park? Has the Federal Government had any secret dealings with the Tasmanian Government in this regard? ls it true that Tasmania has been chosen as the site for the Omega base because the Federal Government considers that it has only one Tasmanian seat in the House of Representatives to lose whereas if Victoria,
South Australia, or New South Wales were chosen the political effect would be much greater?
I would presume, in deference to the honourable senator who is relatively new here, that the last part of his question was posed in a humorous vein. Judging by the reaction of Opposition senators, there must have been some humour in it. As to the question of substance, I would have thought that matters relating to the Omega base would have come within the ambit of administration of the Minister for National Development whom I do not represent in this chamber. However, I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on the notice paper and I shall seek an answer for him.
– Would the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise consider a request to lay on the table of the Senate the information which is in the hands of the Government relating to the import price of petroleum which has led the Government to announce its intention to require cash securities from petroleum importing companies in Australia? How do import prices of crude oil compare with the prices obtained by Australian companies exporting crude oil from Australia? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government’s proposed action will not result in motor fuel being retailed at a price higher than that now being charged in the various Australian capital cities? Will the Minister further assure the Senate that no action will be taken which will weaken the present competitive structure of the petroleum retailing industry and so cause a reversion to the non-competitive situation which appeared to exist previously?
- Senator Cotton, before you answer are you clear as to the sequence of the questions?
– I have a reasonable memory but I have not been able to carry in my head all the questions asked by Senator Webster. Nonetheless I am prepared to make an attempt to answer them. First of all, I understand that the responsible Minister is to make a statement on this or some related matter this afternoon in another place. I have not had an opportunity to see the statement and consequently would not know whether it bears on the question the honourable senator has asked. He will appreciate that a great range of information is called for by him and this should properly come from the responsible Minister to whom I shall direct the questions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health and is very closely related to the question asked by Senator Laucke. The question relates to health risks. Is the Minister aware of a preliminary study by the chemistry department at the University of Tasmania of the pollution of marine life by metals, particularly mercury? Does this study show that the oyster industries in Tasmania and New South Wales are in danger of collapsing because of the growing mercury pollution of our waters? Did the head of the chemistry department, Professor Bloom, say that the Federal Government should learn from similar crises in other countries and take urgent and drastic steps? Will the Minister investigate Professor Bloom’s claim that the present level of mercury allowable in Australian foods - 0.5 parts per million - should be reviewed in the light of the statement by the World Health Organisation that the level should be reduced drastically to 0.05 parts per million? Will the Minister take all steps available to initiate urgent action against this major health hazard and report as quickly as possible the views of his departmental experts on the implications of this new Tasmanian study?
Apart altogether from the risk to the oyster industry, which I am sure we would all regret very much both from a commercial and a palatable point of view, I agree with Senator Poke that there is an element in this question which relates to the Department of Health. 1 will have the question referred for study so that I may make a report to the Senate on it. It is a very wide subject and certainly goes far beyond the risk to one particular food. I will have it studied and hope to make a report to the Senate at an early date on the issues raised.
– 1 ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, in view of the decision of the High Court in the concrete pipes case last Friday which held that Commonwealth power to control restrictive trade practices extends to intra-state agreements between companies but not to such restrictive trade agreements between individuals, will he consider the need for an amendment to the Australian Constitution to rectify such an anomalous situation and enable legislation against restrictive trade practices to have full impact over the whole of the economy?
– Consideration has been given to various courses of action which were open to the Government after the decision of the High Court last Friday. The Government has not given consideration to seeking an amendment to the Constitution because on the information available to me more than 99 per cent of the significant agreements which have been submitted to the Commissioner of Trade Practices have been connected with corporations. In at least the immediate short term the balance of less than 1 per cent of the agreements which might be caught up if the Government were to exercise legislation based upon its trade and commerce power need not be considered. As I said earlier in response to a question from Senator Murphy, the Government does have the objective of strengthening the trade practices legislation as soon as possible, but in the meantime it proposes to introduce remedial legislation, about which I propose to make a statement - with the leave of the Senate - as soon as I am able to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the concern of the export sheep skin industry about the Commonwealth Government’s wool price subsidy? I point out that primary producers shear all sheep before marketing them in order to obtain a maximum subsidy and that a skin with less than 2 inches of wool is of little value to a fellmonger because he must be able to market the fell wool as well as the pelt to make his operations successful financially. Is the Minister aware that if sufficient quantities of woolly sheep skins are unavailable Australian sheep skin exporters will find it difficult to continue? Because this industry earns approximately $50m a year in export income, will the Minister consult with the Minister for Primary Industry to ensure that everything possible is done to help this very important industry by way of a subsidy?
– During the course of a statement on wool deficiency payments the Minister for Primary Industry mentioned the sheep skin industry. If my memory is correct, the Minister said at that time that the Department of Primary Industry would keep a careful watch on the situation and that it would review the position at a later stage. That being the case, I am sure that the Department would be aware of the situation to which the honourable senator has referred. However, I will refer the particular point that the honourable senator has raised to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Works, relates to the works now in progress at Sydney international airport. I ask: In view of the fact that jumbo jets are already operating into Sydney international airport, will the Minister advise the Senate how the extension of the north-south runway is progressing and whether the work is on schedule?
– The Senate will be aware that the extension of this runway from 9,100 feet to, I think, 13,000 feet was the subject of a contract which was let some time ago for the sum of $ 19.5m and which is due for completion in January 1972. The first stage of the work, which was completed in May of this year, will enable the process to be carried on of extending this runway. It is expected that the contract will be completed by the time mentioned, namely, January 1972. Work is on schedule. This work will enable the runway to be fully operational by about March 1972.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can the Minister tell us now or endeavour to ascertain the historical background to the requirement in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act - 1 believe it is section 18 - relating to the need for a return on capital expenditure for the establishment of the Australian National Line? Is there a similar requirement for a return on capital expenditure on the Commonwealth Railways or on the beef roads, which serve a similar purpose? If there is no such requirement, will the Minister examine the need for amending the Act to delete that section as a means of relieving Tasmania of the serious financial burden which this requirement imposes at present?
– No, 1 am not aware of the details of this and the honourable senator would not expect me to be because I am not the responsible Minister - I only represent him. Yes, I shall direct the question to him. .
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Housing inform me whether the proposition embodying a new arrangement for housing, which is currently a matter of discussion between the Commonwealth and the States, will be advantageous to the States over a 5-year period?
– I feel that there has been some misunderstanding with regard to the proposal for a housing agreement following 30th June. For the 5 years preceding 30th June this matter was the subject of an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth which provided that loan money which the States earmarked for housing was lent by the Commonwealth at a discount of 1 per cent in interest for a term of 53 years. The value of that annual concession of 1 per cent over 53 years was of the order of $1.5m a year. The proposal being considered at present is for a loan not for a period of 53 years but a period of 30 years and the concession proposed - 1 per cent over that period - represents an average annual value of $2. 6m a year. The Commonwealth has offered the
States a discount value of not $2.6m but $2. 75m a year. In addition the Commonwealth proposes to add an entirely new item, amounting to SI. 25m a year, to enable a rental rebate or interest or servicing charge to be made for the housing beneficiary with an especially low income. So instead of a monetary benefit of $2. 6m a year under the old agreement the Commonwealth is offering $2. 75m plus $1.25m, or $4m a year, and it has been calculated that over the 30 years the value of the $2.75m a year represents a benefit to the States of no less than $4 12m.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that a considerable amount of land adjacent to Avalon Airport in Victoria has been subdivided for housing purposes? Was the Department of Civil Aviation aware that an application had been made for the subdivision of this land? If so, did the Department intervene and give any evidence to the effect that this area was subject to extreme aircraft noises? Is it a fact that the airport at Avalon has more aircraft movements - that is, take-offs and landings - than any other airport in Australia and that according to present plans it will be the training airport for pilots of Boeing 707s, Boeing 747s and Concordes in the forseeable future? Has the Department taken any steps to warn would-be purchasers of this land that the properties concerned will be subject to extreme aircraft noise problems.
– There is a Victorian Airfields Committee composed of members of the Department of Civil Aviation and various instrumentalities of the State Government. Some months ago I referred the question of land sub-division in the area of Avalon airport to those representatives because having been there I was concerned about the possibility that people would be encouraged to buy land close to the airport and might not have properly understood the difficulties facing them in later years as the airport is used more for training purposes for the aircraft which airlines of this country acquire. It is true that the airport will be used for Boeing 707 and Boeing 747 training. Any other aircraft which might possibly be used for training will be considered only at such time as it becomes available. As far as putting any notices on the boundaries of the airport to notify intending land purchasers is concerned, I am sure that has not been done. It is true that the Department adopted this method in the case of the Tullamarine Airport to bring to the notice of people the problem they would have in building close to an airport. I am grateful to the honourable senator for what he has told me. I. shall make inquiries about this matter immediately the Senate lets me out of question time.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the Parliament whether his Department is preparing for massive unemployment in Australia? Is he aware that food and work vouchers have been or will be printed for his Department in order to cope with the unexpected unemployment? I ask the Minister whether it is intended to institute a relief system similar to that which operated during the depression of the 1 930s?
– The question asked by the honourable senator is ridiculous.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for Health. Over I million gallons of raw sewage have poured into the rivers and sea around Sydney Harbour during the present strike by J 1.500 employees of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board. This has created a definite health hazard to thousands of people in the Sydney area and it could cause a national disaster. I ask the Minister: ls it not time that the Federal Government created a national emergency team which would be trained to take over and work such plant as may be necessary so that the public will not be faced with such a crisis again? Will the Minister investigate this matter and take action immediately in conjunction with the States?
The first part of the answer to the honourable senator’s question is that, consequent upon an industrial dispute in Sydney, there is an industrial stoppage and, at the present time, raw sewage is being emptied into the sea. This is a matter within the responsibility of one of the statutory bodies of New South Wales, namely, the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board. Perhaps Senator Negus will not appreciate this suggestion as much as some other honourable senators who have been here for a longer period but the States would not countenance any interference in their sovereignty whether the interference might represent a plus or a minus. Clearly this matter is within the responsibility of the statutory authority which, in turn, is answerable to the New South Wales Government. I understand that the relevant New South Wales Minister, Mr Beale, has made some statements in relation to what may or may not be done. But this is an industrial matter. It is not one which comes within the province or the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Apart altogether from the industrial side of the matter, I think that any proposed intervention by the Commonwealth at this time could aggravate the situation rather than help it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Government give favourable and urgent consideration to the need for financial aid to the State Shipping Service of Western Australia to enable it to continue providing a shipping service for the Port of Darwin which is outside the State? Also, will the Government reconsider its previous decision not to provide assistance for the purchase of a replacement ship for the State Shipping Service?
This question relates to another matter which is clearly a State responsibility. There is a shipping service from Western Australia to Darwin. 1 understand that it is owned by the Western Australian Government. There is industrial trouble in that area also.
– No, there is not.
I suppose it boils down to the interpretation of ‘industrial trouble in that area’. I know that there has been a long history of problems associated with the shipping service.
– They have not been industrial problems.
It is a matter of what emphasis one places on the word.
– If you substitute financial’ for ‘industrial’ you are right.
I think that if we had a lengthy debate on the matter I could demonstrate that there has been some industrial trouble. Perhaps during the Estimates debate we will come to that. There are real problems in Western Australia. That is my compromise. I must admit that recently I was in Darwin and there I was told certain things about the shipping service that may have coloured my judgment. The essence of the answer really is that the matter is for the Western Australian Government. If it wants to make certain representations to the Commonwealth, clearly they should be made at the Premier to Prime Minister level. Failing that, representations could be made to the Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate remember that during the 1970 Senate election campaign, 10 months ago, the then Prime Minister promised to establish child care centres for working mothers and suggested that between 500 and 750 centres were contemplated? Is the Leader of the Government aware that the then Prime Minister said that the Government would probably meet the full cost of these centres, which would be operated by State, municipal and voluntary agencies? Does the Government consider that child care centres are still necessary or has it repudiated the election promise? Will the Government re-examine the critical problem of child care centres with a view to subsidising fully their construction?
This Government has a long history of not repudiating its promises. Be that as it may, I would need to have some research done into the broader implications of the question posed by the honourable senator. I will have this done and I will inform him in due course.
– My question Is directed to the Minister for Health. What statutory body is responsible for past keepfit campaigns in Australia? Who are the present members of such body, and what are their normal occupations?
The Commonwealth makes available significant subsidies for national fitness campaigns. Details of the subsidies for this year appear in the Budget papers. As to the balance of the question, that is, about where full responsibility lies, I would need to have prepared a detailed answer because I understand the controlling body has both Commonwealth and State representatives on it. Tomorrow at question time I will respond in more detail. There is provision for a Commonwealth subvention in relation to national fitness campaigns.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that last week Community Aid Abroad could not locate in Australia a supply of skim milk powder for forwarding to India, can the Minister say whether any supplies are available in Australia? What supplies of the milk biscuit are available in Australia?
– When I have made inquiries from the Minister for Primary Industry I shall let the honourable senator know the result.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. As there has been a great deal of public interest in the recent Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme ‘Monday Conference’ in which Dr Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University appeared as guest, will the PostmasterGeneral ask the ABC to retain the video tape of this programme in case there is future demand for a further showing of this programme?
– I will convey the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Postmaster-General for his consideration.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate whether recent talks in Washington have been favourable to the Australian case in the matter of lifting the ban by the American Civil Aeronautics Board on Qantas Boeing 747B jumbo jets flying the Pacific route?
– The DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, who has been leading the negotiating team in Washington in the matter referred to by the honourable senator, arrived back in Australia at about 7.30 this morning. He came to Canberra, had a talk with me and left with me all the documents which came out of about 10 days continuous negotiations. I have a great deal of reading to do before I report to the Government on the matter, and I am sure the honourable senator will understand that it is early days for me to make a definite comment. All I can say in passing is that it has rather surprised me to find in following this matter through that not everybody has appreciated the principal Australian problem. That problem has been to get a very clear understanding that capacity must be related to the economic success or otherwise of the operators providing that capacity. I do not want to go beyond that now, except to say in general that 1 believe our group did a first class job in the United States of America and I am very proud of what they did.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer, as I believe he is the appropriate Minister. I ask: When a person refused on conscientious grounds to answer certain questions asked on the recent census paper, and in refusing was prepared to suffer any punishment inflicted for a breach of the law, was it lawful and in accordance with instructions for the census collector to fill in answers to those questions not answered?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not know that it is an appropriate question for the Treasurer. I would think it more appropriate for the AttorneyGeneral. However, if the Attorney-General does not respond I will put the question on the notice paper and get an answer for the honourable senator.
– There is no response from the Attorney-General.
– Has the Minister for Health noticed that when a contributor to a medical and hospital benefits fund fills in an application form for a refund he is required on every application to write in a considerable number of facts about himself and his family, every one of which is contained in the contributions book which must accompany the application? I refer to such details as the date of birth of the contributor, the age of each member of the family for whom benefits are claimed, date of joining the fund, date of transferring to a higher table, date to which contributions have been paid and method of payment. In this age of the computer, and in the interests of restraining Parkinson’s Law, will the Minister ascertain whether all unnecessary repetition can be eliminated and the application form simplified?
– I will direct the honourable senator’s question to the funds. Honourable senators will appreciate that there are many medical and hospital benefits funds. Perhaps it would be advisable for me to seek information from 2 of the major funds as to the necessity for providing information on rebate application forms. There is a fairly simple principle behind the questions asked on forms relating to the payment of money. In any system or business in which payments are made it is normal to get all the relevant information needed to justify the payments. Senator Carrick is suggesting that there is overlapping, a duplication in that answers that have previously been given must be repeated. Perhaps the computer system has not yet included the transfer of that information. I am a. little interested in what computers can do and what will happen if they provide wrong answers. However, I will have the matter referred to selected funds, obtain replies and put them down in the Senate in due course.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does the phasing of Boeing 727s into the
Australian airline scene provide that a smoke emission code similar to that imposed by the Department of Health in New Jersey, United States of America, on Eastern Airlines, which uses that type of aircraft extensively, will also apply in Australia?
– The JT8B engines on Australian operated Boeing 727 aircraft, and also on the DC9 aircraft made by Douglas, are at present being fitted with more efficient combustion chambers to reduce smoke emission. This is being done during the periods of major overhaul as the aircraft come in. It was expected that all Australian aircraft would be fitted with these new chambers by the end of 1972, but because all parts necessary have not arrived fom the United States of America it is now expected that the modifications will not be completed until about mid- 1973. However, I think that in general we should be satisfied with the programme as it is going fairly well.
– Can the Minister for Air inform the Parliament whether he delivered an address to an organisation in Perth on 31st August 1971, during the course of which he blamed parliamentarians and the Press for the inability of the Fill aircraft to get off the ground? Can he now advise the Parliament whether he has new and additional information indicating that the Fill is likely to fly and when this country may expect to take delivery of the first of the 21 aircraft on order?
– I did deliver an address, but 1 did not blame parliamentarians. I said that much of the propaganda and the bad odour associated with the Fill had been brought about by parliamentarians, the media and people who, for their own personal reasons, wanted to deride the aircraft.
– There is much money involved.
– Apparently the honourable senator does not want to hear an answer to his question. I remind him that there have been fewer crashes of Fill aircraft during their first 80,000 hours than of any other aircraft in the FI 00 series, which have given great service in the past. Also I point out to the honourable senator that apparently he is not aware that Fill aircraft do fly. At present 252 of these aircraft are in operation in America and 79 are in operation with the American squadrons in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts had his attention drawn to the widespread response to the television appearances and statements of Dr Paul Ehrlich of the United States of America culminating in a repeat screening of his television programme? Does the Minister agree that this reflects a growing awareness by the Australian community concerning the Australian environment? Can he advise when the Department will be appointing appropriate officers in the environment section? Will he ask the Minister to arrange for an examination of the script of Dr Ehrlich’s talks?
– I am sure that the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, whom I represent in this chamber, is conscious of the widespread and growing awareness of matters of the environment. I shall convey to him what the honourable senator has suggested with regard to the appointment of appropriate officers. I notice that the honourable senator referred to the widespread response to the television address and interview of Dr Ehrlich. Again, I am sure that the Minister is aware of the interest which that created. However, one must treat with caution repeat performances of television programmes, because they can be precipitated not by a widespread response but by the enthusiasm of those who actually see the programme though they be small in number.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Are there any plans to transfer the training of Qantas Airways Ltd pilots to any airport other than Avalon in the immediate or foreseeable future? If not, would statements to that effect to prospective buyers of land adjacent to the Avalon airport be untrue?
– There are no such plans that I know of and statements that are being made to prospective buyers of land near Avalon airport will be investigated by me.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that official figures for the past quarter show a 2.4 million gallon decrease in wine sales and that, coupled with the 3 previous years’ average growth of 2.5 million gallons, this shows an anticipated loss of 4.9 million gallons? Is the Minister also aware that the loss in sales is wholly proven to be attributable to the vicious wine tax? In view of this, will the Minister consult with the Treasurer for the purpose of lifting this tax, which is having such an adverse effect on the wine grape industry in South Australia?
The honourable senator’s question is directed to a matter that is part of the Budget debate; indeed, the Budget Speech which I read here makes reference to the wine industry. In those circumstances, I think any views the honourable senator wishes to express could be expressed more appropriately in the Budget debate, if he wishes to do so.
– I wish to follow up a question directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is he aware that there is grave concern in many areas around the city of Sydney about the intention of the Department of Civil Aviation to construct a second major airport? Could he advise the Senate of when the Government intends to announce the area selected for such airport and what steps the Commonwealth will take to ensure that land in close proximity will be zoned so as to avoid the problems of aircraft noise which are so paramount in the region of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport?
– I think any Minister for Civil Aviation would certainly become aware of this problem if he occupied this job for very long. The honourable senator can be assured that it is very much the concern of my Department that when air ports are established adequate protection should be provided around them. This is the function of State governments and local governments. In this connection the function of local governments would be well understood by the honourable senator. From time to time I have received certain disturbing reports about developments in this field. It is essential that the Commonwealth, in establishing an airport, receive the co-operation of the State government and local governments concerned. That is what we seek. The matter of a second airport for Sydney has now been presented to the Government, and I hope very much to be able to make a fairly comprehensive statement about it before very long.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the Parliament whether a sum in excess of $9,000 was spent without authority during the renovation and refurnishing of the official residence of the Australian Consul-General in New York? Will the Minister obtain for the Parliament a full and frank statement of all moneys improperly spent on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the United States of America during the last 5 years?
– With regard to the latter part of the question, the honourable senator will have the opportunity when the Estimates are being considered to examine them in detail. I think he referred to a sum of $9,000.
– That is right; approximately $9,000.
– Yes. It refers to the renovation and fitting out of a flat for the Consul-General. In a contract involving several thousand dollars - a 5-figure amount - it was found in regard to some work which had not been authorised that it was practicable to proceed with it without obtaining formal authority. The work done in anticipation of that authority was assessed by the valuers advising the Commonwealth and considered to be quite reasonable, and it was obviously the practicable thing to do. There was a disregard of formal authority in anticipation of practical work.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows that asked by Senator Townley regarding an Omega station in Australia. The Leader of the Government said that he would refer the question to the appropriate Minister.I ask: Will he also draw that Minister’s attention to an article in this month’s edition of Aircraft’ which states that the United States Navy has taken delivery from Litton Industries of the first of 8 Omega transmitters which are to be installed in 8 named countries including Australia? Will he ascertain from the Minister on what grounds the United States Navy assumes that a transmitter will be installed somewhere in Australia?
– I will add that question to the previous one, for reference.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate whether the VIK small ships communication station at Cairns, which previously operated through his Department, has been closed? Is the Minister aware that the substitute system of a frequency watch only being operated on 2182-6204 is unsatisfactory? Is the Minister aware also that in case of emergency the stations at Townsville and Thursday Island frequently cannot be raised during the afternoon? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of having the VIK station at Cairns reinstated as a continuous watch?
-I am always interested and concerned to receive a question such as this which indicates that some of the communication might not be - I emphasise ‘might not be’ - what is desired. All I can do in the circumstances is to find out the situation by telephone at the end of question time. If anything needs to be done and it can be done, it will be done. I cannot say any more than that because I am not aware of the circumstances.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell us what he is doing to see that air fares to and from Australia are lowered? Can he tell us what is hap pening, in particular, about the proposition which was put by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots on the reduction of fares by use of the charter method? Can he say whether it is correct that the break even point for fares on flights across the Pacific is on a passenger to seat ratio of about one-third?
-I think everyone will agree that that is a fairly long question. The last part of it is really not as simple to answer as it might appear to be. The break even factors fluctuate with the aircraft type, the frequency pattern that is being used within the system, the number of a given type of aircraft as against other types of aircraft in the hands of the carrier, the size of the airline involved and the overheads apportioned to the route. So these over-simplifications that are made from time to time - not by the honourable senator but by other people who are not so well informed as he is - need some testing.
I received the submission from the pilots. Indeed I talked to some of them about it only a couple of days ago. The submission has been handed to the Department for intense study. That study is going on now. It is also in the hands of Qantas Airways for study, and that study too is going on now. It will be understood that Qantas has permission from the Government to begin its own charter company. That may well overcome the problems with which the honourable senator is concerned. To return to the beginning of the question, Qantas has had permission to endeavour to establish lower fare levels not only across the Pacific but in other areas as well. From time to time it has exercised that permission in the Council of the International Air Transport Association which is known as IATA. In every one of those endeavours Qantas has had our support consistent, of course, with its being able to maintain a viable business.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. What has been the purpose behind the Government’s action in preventing charter flights to and from Australia? Has it been done, as appears to be the case, for the protection of Qantas Airways? Can the Government not see that many people, apart from Qantas, are concerned at the value of charter flights? Does the Minister not consider that a wider range of business people such as service transporters, hotel and motel proprietors and those concerned with catering and many other enterprises could benefit from charter business? Does he not consider that to allow charter flights to and from this country would benefit Australia far more than will purely the protection of Qantas?
– 1 am trying to remember all the questions but in reply to the last I would say not entirely. 1 do not think we can regard this entirely from the point of view of Qantas or from that of any other interest. It is a total position. The charter position in Australia is like it is in many other countries. Charter opportunities are available first of al] to the scheduled carriers. If one looks at the figures one will see a most dramatic expansion in charter flights to and from Australia. As I mentioned earlier to Senator Murphy, Qantas has permission to set up a charter company similar to that of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, Lufthansa and others and this should provide for further expansion. It must be remembered that Qantas has about 45 per cent of the Australian international flying business and that the remainder is in the hands of other carriers who have obvious opportunities to develop the market as the honourable senator has suggested. The Department is very concerned about the expansion of travel to and from Australia and is doing everything it can as a department to aid this process. But one has to take a total view of this.
I even talked to the Federation of Travel Agents about the whole matter last Friday. Like the honourable senator 1 am anxious to develop the business fully but in doing so I have to have regard to the interests of Qantas which is owned by the Australian people and one would want it to continue to be so and to be successful I also have to have regard to the total tourist situation, to the encouraging of more people to come to Australia and to the increasing of opportunities for people to travel at cheaper rates. The whole matter at the present time could be said to be in a state of change. Indeed it is in a state of ferment already and one is watching it very carefully in order to do whatever one can to aid the process. I do what others expect me to do; I try to watch the total Australian interests in all the areas as my first priority.
– Dealing with the same matter, 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is possible to obtain some information as to the voting at the International Air Transport Association conferences in order to dissipate the widespread impression that Qantas has been the organisation mainly responsible for maintaining the high air fare policy on journeys to and from Australia. Will the Minister tell the Senate specifically whether Qantas voted for the last increase in fares across the Pacific and whether the practice is for carriers in IATA to defer to the main carrier on the route, which in this case is Qantas? If this is so, how is it that this extraordinarily high air fare policy operates to and from Australia as far as the ordinary non-charter traveller is cencerned?
– I think it will be understood that the voting figures of the IATA conference would not be in my hands at the present time. Whether they can be obtained 1 do not know but 1 shall try to obtain them. I quite agree that there is a popular impression that Qantas is the principal block in stopping people travelling more cheaply. I do not think this is the case but I shall do some checking to see whether or not it is so and, if it is so, what the reasons are. I do not know the details of voting at IATA conferences but I will try to find out. I do not think it is necessarily correct that IATA defers to the main carrier on the route. I was in Vienna at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation at which all the IATA people were present. As I heard them speak from time to time it seemed to me that they had little deference for anybody. They had a very distinct and positive view of their own which they clearly expressed.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Health. By way of preface, I refer to an earlier answer that the Minister gave to a question I asked of him concerning certain comments that had been made by the former
President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Sir Eric Scott. I now ask: Will the Minister ignore the left hooks that were thrown by Sir Eric and say clearly whether he contemplates requiring appropriate tags to be placed on APC and Aspro packets about the dangers of the drugs contained therein?
– The honourable senator has raised another matter altogether. I will have inquiries made and inform the honourable senator of the result of those inquiries. I will have those inquiries made fairly promptly.
(Question No. 1087)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1118)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
At the present time no specific survey into the health problems of Aborigines either on an Australiawide basis or in Aboriginal communities and fringe settlements is under consideration by the Department of Health and Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
Much of the current thought on future planning stems from the many recommendations made at the Workshop on Health and Nutrition in Aboriginal children held in Sydney in December 1969 and which was attended by representatives of Universities, Public Health Departments and workers from welfare and social organisations.
Commonwealth interest in this matter involves the funding of a number of research studies approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council and conducted by medically trained research workers. It is expected that these and similar future projects will substantially increase existing knowledge of problems associated with Aboriginal health and will also be of early and direct benefit to the Aborigines themselves.
The more localised health problems of Aborigines are of course matters for the individual States and Territories. The Commonwealth provides funds each year to assist States to further their programmes for Aboriginal health through the Grants for Aboriginal advancement. Although there is at present no proposal for a wide-ranging survey, the Commonwealth Department of Health advises the Office of Aboriginal Affairs on matters relating to Aboriginal health and wherever possible implementation is advocated of the recommendations of the 1969 Workshop.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
With the further rise on 1 June 1971 and on the latest freight figures, the present landed cost of imported crude oil is estimated to average about $2.43 (AUST.)/bbl.
On the other hand in the six months from January to June 1971 the average into refinery cost of indigenous crude oils was $2.30 (AUST.)/bbl.
(Question No. 889)
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice:
Does Caltex Oil (Aust.) Pty, Ltd own any portion of any companies controlled by Ampol Petroleum Ltd: if so, what is the extent of ownership by Caltex.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The answer to the question depends on the meaning the honourable senator is attributing to the words ‘own’ and ‘controlled’. If he has in mind beneficial ownership through, for example, nominee companies, or control by any means irrespective of whether a majority of shares is held, available records do not enable an answer to be given. However, the accounts of Ampol Petroleum Ltd discloses thirty-five subsidiaries of that company, thirty-three of which are incorporated in Australia. Caltex Oil (Aust.) Pty Ltd is not a registered shareholder in any of the Australian subsidiaries.
(Question No. 1079)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environ ment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1132)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1134)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Through the$7m allocated through grants to the States;
In addition. $591.000 was spent on employment and other projects, and$2,527,500 was spent on Aboriginal Study Grants and Aboriginal SecondaryGrants.
(Question No. 1139)
asked the Minister for the Environment. Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Has Mr Ian Spalding prepared for the Federal Government a report on instances of racism in textbacks dealing with Aboriginal Affairs; if so, it is intendedthat the report shall (a) remain a secret document, (b) be available on request, or (c)be presented to the Parliament.
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the
Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. Mr Spalding made a survey of the treatment of Aboriginal topics in school syllabuses in the States and examined some of the published material available and used in schools. His report to the Council for Aboriginal Affairs outlines the ways in which school children may learn about Aboriginal topics and makes suggestions about a general programme of public information about Aboriginal life and culture. The report is not a secret document but was prepared for the information and advice of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs and not for publication. The report does not deal with ‘instances of racism in text books’.
(Question No. 1143)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The purpose of Air Navigation Order 126.96.36.199.1. is to ensure that the training programme and Bight proficiency test for the first class airline transport pilot licence is conducted in the Australian airline operating environment, both when the licence is initially issued and when it is renewed at 6 monthly periods.
The extent of the recognition granted to pilots who have obtained airline pilot licences in other commonwealth countries has depended upon the standards of theoretical knowledge and flight proficiency that the countries concerned have maintained, but in all cases, the Department of Civil Aviation has required that the applicant complete the flight proficiency test with an examiner or airmen or approved check pilot.
The majority of the flight proficiency tests for pilots employed by airline operators are conducted by specifically authorised airline check pilots who receive their authority only after satisfactorily passing searching oral and flight tests conducted by departmental examiners of airmen. In addition, to ensure that satisfactory flight crew standards are maintained by the airline companies and all of the airline pilots including the approved check captains, examiners of airmen conduct frequent checks on both revenue earning and training flights.
This procedure ensures an adequate surveillance of airline flight crew standards as demonstrated by the high reputation for safety that our airlines have established. The cost of providing sufficient examiners of airmen to undertake all flight proficiency checks would be of a magnitude that would impose an unwarranted burden on the Australian taxpayer.
(Question No. 1146)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
How many prisoners currently held in gaols in Papua New Guinea are (a) respectively 17, 16, 15, 14, 13 , 12, 11, 10 and 9 years of age, (b) in the age group 18 to 20 years and (c) above 20 years of age?
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The matter is one which falls within the authority of the Assistant Ministerial Member for Corrective Institutions in the House of Assembly for Papua New Guinea. The Administrator on the advice of the Assistant Ministerial Member for Corrective Institutions has provided the following information:
The numbers of prisoners in various age groups held in gaols in Papua New Guinea on 15th May 1971 were -
Age 13- 4
Age 12- 3
Age 10- Nil
Age 9- Nil
In the age group 18 to 20 yea rs - 549
Above 20 years of age - 3549.
(Question No. 1206)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following question to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1222)
asked the Minis ter for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1225)
asked the Minis ter 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. 1230)
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. 1231)
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. 1238)
asked the Minister 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. 1249)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
Some rehabilitation centres operated by the Department of Social Services, including the St Margaret’s Centre at Felixstow in Adelaide, have for many years made and fitted temporary prostheses as part of their amputee patients rehabilitation programme and pending the manufacture of the final limb. This practice has proved to be most successful in amputee management and there is no present intention to discontinue it.
Discussions in relation to the provisions of limbs have taken place regularly between the two Departments.
(Question No. 1264)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What has the Government done to enlist the support of State governments in forcing manufacturers to raise the impact absorption of car bumper bars from 2.8 mph to 10 mph.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are no standards in force in Australia- at present regarding impact absorption of bumper bars. The Australian Transport Advisory Council, through its Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design, is currently examining the matter of impact reducing bumper bars.
(Question No. 1270)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1284)
Senator POKE, on behalf of Senator Brown, asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will brokers and wool merchants receive commissions for the handling of wool deficiency payments on behalf of their clients; if so (a) what is the authority for such commissions; (b) how will commissions be calculated; and (c) will the commissions be uniform.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not intended that commission will be payable on wool deficiency payments whether these are handled by wool brokers or wool merchants.
(Question No. 1290)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the folowing answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1293)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Is a pension paid to a blind personsubject to a means test; if so, what is the reason for eroding the value of the blind person’s pension by rigidly applying the means test provisions of the Social Services Act when a non-blind partner ina marriage applies for, and is granted, an age pension even though that partner does not own property or cash.
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The means test does not apply to a pensioner who is permanently blind. However, where the pensioner has a husband or wife who is not blind the means test applies to that husband or wife in the normal way.
(Question No. 1087)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1118)
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
At the present time no specific survey Into the health problems of Aborigines either on an Australia-wide basis or in Aboriginal communities and fringe settlements is under consideration by the Department of Health and Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
Much of the current thought on future planning stems from the many recommendations made at the Workshop on Health and Nutrition in Aboriginal children held in Sydney in December 1969 and which was attended by representatives of Universities, Public Health Departmentsand workers from welfare and social organisations
Commonwealth interest in this matter involves the funding of a number of research studies approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council and conducted by medically trained research workers. It is expected that these and similar future projects will substantially increase existing knowledge of problems associated with Aboriginal health and will also be of early and direct benefit to the Aborigines themselves.
The more localised health problems of Aborigines are of course matters for the individual States and Territories. The Commonwealth provides funds each year to assist States to further their programmes for Aboriginal health through the Grants for Aboriginal advancement. Although there is at present no proposal for a wideranging survey, the Commonwealth Department of Health advises the Office of Aboriginal Affairs on matters relating to Aboriginal health and wherever possible implementation is advocated of the recommendations of the 1969 Workshop.
– On 23 rd February Senator Bishop asked me the following question without notice:
Are Australian companies registered in Norfolk Island using the Norfolk Island Ordinances to avoid paying taxation in Australia.
This is a matter for the Minister for External Territories who has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are approximately 1,550 companies incorporated on Norfolk Island. I am not able to specify the number of those which have substantial Australian connections but I believe that it is considerable.
The Commission of Taxation is continuing investigations begun some time ago into the extent to which these arrangements are designed to avoid Australian tax and are effective of this purpose.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn 14th May 1971 Senator Murphy asked me the following question without notice:
I refer to an article in the ‘National Times’ of 10th-15th May this year which stated that inquiries and reports had been made by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the private lives of at least one Minister and other members of the Parliament in matters quite unconnected with political affairs or the national security. The article suggested that such inquiries were continuing with some diligence and, apparently, inaccuracy. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate make some statement on this matter to allay public disquiet?
I gave the following reply:
Historically, since the creation of ASIO, there have never been responses to questions about its responsibilities directed at question time. For that reason I will refer the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition to the Attorney-General. I feel bound to say, however - speaking personally now - that it is inconceivable that the allegations which appeared in the ‘National Times’ could have any substance at all. I cannot accept that there is any substance in the article. For my own part, if there were any substance in the article I think it would be an intolerable situation.
The Attorney-General has now supplied the following answer:
At the outset, I wish to state that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation does not engage in the collection of information about the private lives of Members of Parliament. I also wish to re-affirm the assurance given on 11th September 1968 (Hansard 11 September 1968, page 951), by the then Attorney-General that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation closely observes the precise limits placed upon it by the Statute under which it was authorised by this Parliament to act.
– I advise the Senate that I have received the following communication from the President of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory:
President of the Senate, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T.
On Thursday 19th August the following resolution was passed by the Legislative Council:
That the President of the Australian Senate be requested to bring to the notice of the Senate the following resolution of this Council:
That the Council wishes to send a delegation of three elected members to appear before any committee of the Senate, to which grievances relating to the manner in which fees and allowances for members of the Council are determined and administered, might be addressed.
In conformity with the terms of the resolution I humbly request that the Council’s wish in this matter be conveyed to the Senate.
I lay the paper on the table of the Senate.
– I present the following paper:
Taxation- Taxation Statistics 1969-70, dated 1st September 1971, supplement to the Fortyninth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation.
– Pursuant to section 58 (1) (c) of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-1966, I present the annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Mr President, I lay on the table the texts of the undermentioned treaties to which Australia has become a party by signature:
Ilay on the table the text ofa Convention to which Australia has become a party by accession:
I lay on the table the text of a Convention to which Australia is considering becoming a party by accession:
I also lay on the table the texts of the following instruments of the Universal Postal Union drawn up at Tokyoon 14th November 1969 and signed by Australia on that date. Australia is now considering proceeding to ratification: 10. (1) Additional Protocol to the Constitution of the Universal Postal Union
Reports on Items
– I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Knitted shirts and outer garments and woven shirts etc.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Replacement of Accommodation (1971 Reference) at HMAS Albatross, Nowra, New South Wales.
President, before we come to ministerial statements, in order to facilitate the solution of my problems, I ask whether items 7 and 8 on the notice paper can be disposed of. They involve only mechanical procedures and their disposal would enable me to do other things. I do not want to rearrange business but I should like to have leave to speak on the business of the Senate before the ministerial statements are delivered.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It is anticipated that after we conclude this 2 weeks cycle and the week break the other place will revert to the 3 week sitting with the1 week break. At the appropriate time,I shall be moving in the Senate that we should follow that procedure of sitting for 3 days a week - that is, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - in the 3 week cycle to stay reasonably close to the sitting times of the other place. I want to make it clear that the probabilities are that the sittings for this Budget session will take the other place into December. Therefore it could be predicated that we in this place, our workload being largely influenced by what happens in the other place, will also go into the December period. This will necessitate some attempt at rearranging the programme of the Senate. At the appropriate time I will be having discussions with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) for the purpose of seeing whether we can work out a loosely knit timetable which will enable us to stay reasonably close to the other place. lt will be a matter of trying to time ourselves to the various legislative programmes. At this time I merely project this arrangement to create the understanding that as Leader of the Government in the Senate I shall be seeking co-operation through the various leaders to prepare a timetable which will enable us to stay in our workload reasonably close to the other place. This will impose some disciplines on us all, and not least on me as Leader of the Government in the Senate. I project this arrangement at this time because we need to have a timetable.
It is also my understanding - I am grateful to Senator Murphy for reminding me of this matter - that it is proposed in the other place that they will conclude the second reading debate on the Budget by Thursday week. With the co-operation of honourable senators J would want to conclude our taking note of the papers - the procedure we adopt - also by 6 o’clock on Thursday week. After 6 o’clock on a Thursday evening we deal with general business. If this happened we could come back after the next break and move into the Estimates Committees stage. Again, this would be done for the purpose of trying to keep us reasonably close to the work load in the other place. This is not to say that this is to be done to the exclusion of some urgent legislation which the Government may wish to interpose during the next fortnight. I hope that we will be able to dispose of taking note of the papers by Thursday week at 6 o’clock. Equally, I hope that on each Wednesday during the next 2 weeks we will give as much opportunity as we can to new honourable senators who may wish to make their maiden speech on the day we broadcast.
– by leave-Ir general, 1 agree with what has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) about endeavouring to have a timetable. To me, it seems to be reasonable that we should endeavour to complete the Budget debate by the end of next week. We would want to have the business of the Senate conducted according to a reasonable programme if it can be arrived at. I think the time has been reached when we should do as we did on 1 or 2 occasions before and that is setting a specific time for debates to make sure that we can get through them with reasonable efficiency without having to sit into late hours or for very extended periods which is not a good way of handling our affairs. We will endeavour to cooperate. We would like to enter into further discussions.
– by leave - These reports are in response to references to the Tariff Board following the adoption by the Government in 1967, 1968 and 1969 of recommendations by the Special Advisory Authority for temporary protection of some of these goods. The temporary protection took the form of quantitative restrictions on imports of certain knitted shirts and outer garments, and temporary duties on certain woven shirts. In the present reports the Tariff Board has recommended the removal of that temporary protection and generally lower levels of duty on both knitwear and woven shirts than existed before the temporary protection was imposed. In order to give the industries time to adjust to the recommended rates of duty, interim protection has been recommended by the Board.
In the case of knitted goods the recommended long term duties of 45 per cent, General, were to be supported by alternative assistance of §1.30 per lb., General, until December 1973. On woven shirts the Board recommended that in addition to a general rate of 40 per cent, there should be short term duties of $1-50 per dozen shirts until December 1973. The Board also recommended that for a 3 year period local weavers, who supply up to 20 per cent of demand for man made fibre shirting should be assisted by a bounty of 20 cents per square yard, with limitation on total payment of $300,000 per annum. Concurrently with this bounty the Board recommended that provision should be made for a by-law concession which would allow man made fibre shirting to be admitted duty free.
The Tariff Board’s view is that there is both scope and need for rationalisation and re-organisation of these 2 industries. It indicated that for both these industries the duties recommended were not intended to support the present level of production. The Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s conclusion on the need for reorganisation and rationalisation in these 2 industries and, having regard to negotiations which will be referred to later, also as to the level of protection recommended in the longer term. Furthermore, since these are substantial industries involving significant employment and activity in many areas throughout the country, the Government also endorses as the Board has done the concept of interim arrangements to ensure an orderly and successful transition to the new basis. It has noted that the problem of an established textile industry being unable to compete against low cost countries is not unique to Australia. A high proportion of Western countries have found it necessary to impose quota restrictions or to negotiate voluntary restraints with Asian countries to manage a sharing of their internal markets between imports and domestic production. It is not within the terms of reference or the responsibility of the Tariff Board to take up the possibility of such arrangements between countries and the report does not therefore bring them under reference. But having regard to the particular circumstances of this case and to the approaches which have been followed in other countries, the Government has felt that this alternative also should be explored as one of the possible means of moving to the longer term position which the Board has recommended.
In taking up and tabling the Board’s report, the Government therefore decided on the following courses of action:
Meanwhile the Government proposes to initiate negotiations with those low cost countries which are the major suppliers of the products covered by these reports. These negotiations will be aimed at arriving at mutually acceptable arrangements which will allow these countries both reasonable access and growth prospects for their exports but also enable the more efficient sectors of the Australian woven shirts and knitted outergarments industries to continue to operate on a viable basis. These negotiations are to be conducted in the general oversight of Ministers and will of course be considered by the Government before any final decision is taken.
In summary, the Government has decided that in order to achieve an orderly transition to the basis which the Tariff Board recommends, the levels of protection which have applied in recent years should be maintained for a further period of up to 18 months, during which period it will initiate negotiations for voluntary restraint arrangements with the principal low cost supplying countries. This is on the basis that the industries concerned will be expected within this period to take steps to adjust to the increased import competition which will follow the transitional period and the Government’s intention to reach a situation where the longer term levels of protection recommended by the Tariff Board can be phased in without disruption to the more efficient sectors of the industries concerned.
My colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), will formally introduce the Customs Tariff Proposal to formulate the necessary legislation.
– by leave - Mr President, last Friday the High Court of Australia gave its decision in the case of
Strickland v. Rocla Concrete Pipes Limited and others - commonly referred to as the concrete pipes case. This was a most important decision. The High Court held important provisions of the Trade Practices Act to be invalid. At the same time, the decision threw new light on the power that section 51 (xx) of the Constitution has conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to ‘foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth’.
I lake this opportunity to inform honourable senators of the principal conclusions reached by the High Court, to indicate the immediate implications of the decision and to outline the steps that the Government, as a matter of urgency, pro;poses to take to remedy the situation disclosed by the decision in regard to the operation of the Trade Practices Act. The concrete pipes case arose out of a prosecution in the Industrial Court of 3 manufacturers of concrete pipes for failing, contrary to section 43 of the Trade Practices Act, to register particulars of an agreement containing restrictive provisions. The agreement related to the supply of concrete pipes in Queensland by the 3 companies, and it regulated prices and other terms on which concrete pipes were to be supplied. Honourable senators will doubtless have read in the press that the High Court held, by a majority of 5 to 2, that the Trade Practices Act did not validly require the registration of the agreement. The concrete pipes agreement had a purely intrastate
Operation and the case against the companies relied entirely on the corporations power in section 51 (xx) of the Constitution. In order to succeed, the Commonwealth had to get the High Court to overrule an earlier decision in the case of Huddart Parker v. Moorhead given in 1909 in relation to the Australian Industries Preservation Act. The High Court did overrule that decision and made it clear that the corporations power can be used to support legislation dealing with restrictive trade practices of corporations. However, the Court held that, due to the way in which the Trade Practices Act sought to utilise all the powers believed to be available to sustain the legislation, it was open to legal objection.
The Government is concerned to strengthen the trade practices legislation and proposes to do so as soon as possible. In January of this year the former Prime Minister expressed the view of the Government that increased internal competition would help the economy. In April the Government introduced legislation to outlaw resale price maintenance, and on 17th August the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) informed the Parliament that the Government was reviewing the Trade Practices Act in order to strengthen it and to encourage much more vigorous competition. A considerable amount of work and attention has been given to this objective, lt is apparent that as a result of the decision of the High Court, the scope of the Commonwealth power to strengthen the legislation has been widened. The implications of the decision require consideration by the interdepartmental committee which the Government has established to carry out this investigation. The Government is committed to strengthening the legislation and it will do so after a full study and consideration has been accorded to the work of this committee. I assure the Senate that this objective will be actively pursued.
However, there are immediate consequences of the High Court’s decision which the Government cannot ignore. As a result of the decision the Commissioner of Trade Practices cannot at present take action under the Act in respect of examinable agreements or examinable practices. The legislative requirements in respect of certain examinable agreements are inoperative. Provisions relating to collusive tendering and collusive bidding are also inoperative. Proceedings presently on foot with respect to pharmaceutical wholesalers cannot continue and in a variety of ways there will be difficulties caused by the absence of valid provisions of the trade practices legislation. However, the Government, on the advice of the law officers, is proceeding upon the view that the parts of the Act dealing with resale price maintenance and overseas shipping are valid, and that the functions of the Commissioner of Trade Practices and of the Trade Practices Tribunal in relation to those provisions are not affected by the High Court’s decision.
As I mentioned, earlier, however, there are large gaps in the legislation’s effective operation. To fill these gaps, and as an interim or holding measure, the Government proposes to introduce legislation to overcome the constitutional defects that were found to exist in the present Act. This legislation is currently being drafted and will be introduced as a matter of urgency. This holding legislation will be substantially the same as the existing Trade Practices Act save for the amendments required by a consideration of the constitutional defects attributed to it by the High Court’s judgment and the availability of the corporations power contained in section 51 (xx) of the Constitution. In the light of the guidance that has been provided in the judgment as to the scope of the corporations power the Government has decided that the immediate remedial legislation should be founded on that corporations power alone. That is to say, the legislation will not, at this stage, draw upon the overseas and interstate trade and commerce power or the power to legislate with respect to the Commonwealth’s Territories. By relying on the corporations power alone the legislation will be able to avoid problems of the kind disclosed by the High Court’s judgment, and the drafting of a Bill will accordingly be facilitated. The Government is satisfied that legislation thus based entirely on the corporations power will cover the vast majority of significant restrictive practices that could be covered by Commonwealth legislation if reliance were placed on all available powers.
Apart from its effect on the Trade Practices Act, there has been a good deal of speculation about the implications of the concrete pipes case for other areas and for other purposes. It does appear that the High Court is prepared to give the corporations power a reasonably wide meaning and that the power may support legislation that has hitherto been thought to be beyond Commonwealth power. The Government has the judgments in the case under close study. The immediate objective, however, must be to make the trade practices legislation effective and it is to that task that the Government is giving its immediate, urgent attention.
– by leave - The Opposition welcomes the statement of principle by the High Court, which has indicated that not only in the field of trade practices but also in many other fields the Commonwealth has the power to legislate directly to achieve changes in the operation of the economy. In modern times the private sphere of the economy is largely conducted by trading and financial corporations, and to an increasing degree by foreign corporations. Although since the inception of the Constitution power has been granted to the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate with respect to trading and financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, the decision of the High Court in 1909 had the practical effect of deterring the Commonwealth Parliament from legislating in that respect because of the belief that the legislative power was virtually useless. That decision came under increasing criticism in recent years and we are glad to learn now that that criticism has been justified and that the scope of the Commonwealth power now appears to be very great.
Leaving aside the frills, the Court indicated that there were some drafting problems and in the course of overturning the old decision stated that an enactment in the form of the Australian Industries Preservation Act would have been and was within the scope of the Constitution. It is interesting to observe that when the Trade Practices Bill was before the Senate we of the Opposition contended that the Australian Industries Preservation Act ought not to have been repealed, that it was just starting to become effective and that such a simple type of enactment was required. I hope that when the permanent legislation is brought in, it will be along the lines of the old Australian Industries Preservation Act and will make the various injurious restrictive practices unlawful, perhaps with the exception that they would be permissible only with the approval of the Commissioner for Trade Practices. I suggest that that approval would be given only on such grounds as public interest or in defined circumstances if it were thought that the ground of public interest should be specified.
We have suffered in Australia from a lack of effective laws against restrictive trade practices since the beginning of the 1960s when it became apparent that legislation was urgently needed to cope with such practices. There has been a long history of delay, with the eventual introduction of legislation which, apart from its invalidation, was really unworkable. I think it is healthy for the community that the High Court has not only indicated the legislative power to deal with trade practices but also has incidentally said that the particular enactment is invalid for a drafting reason. An opportunity is given to the Government to introduce worthwhile legislaton which we hope will not be the administrative nightmare which was set up under the Trade Practices Act 1965.
The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) indicated in his statement not only that the judgment was relevant to trade practices. He said also: lt does appear that the High Court is prepared to give the corporations power a reasonably wide meaning and that the power may support legislation that has hitherto been thought to be beyond Commonwealth power. lt is generally accepted that the decision of the High Court has removed the main doubt about the legal feasibility of establishing a Commonwealth securities and exchange commission. On 19th March 1970 on my motion the Senate established a select committee to be called the Securities and Exchange Committee to inquire into and report upon the desirability and feasibility of establishing a securities and exchange commission. The work that has been done by that Committee, so far as we have observed through the Press and television media, has no doubt been extremely valuable in dealing with the desirability of such a commission. I have no doubt that the Committee was wise to await the judgment of the High Court in the concrete pipes case before reporting to the Senate. lt was generally anticipated, and has proved to be the case, that the judgment would be of very great significance on the question of the Commonwealth power in respect of corporations and the prospective establishment of a securities and exchange commission. It is generally agreed that the main doubt about that legal feasibility has been removed by the decision of the High Court and I believe it would be in the national interest for the Committee to bring down a prompt report to the Senate, even if only of an interim nature, giving its recommendations on the desirability and feasibility of establishing a securities and exchange commission.
I am concerned that, however valuable the work of the Committee may be, delay in submitting its report will mean delay in the introduction of legislation to establish a securities and exchange commission. Whatever might be the result of the Committee’s deliberations, I think we are now entitled at least to an interim report, which is open to be made by the Committee, as is clear from paragraph 4 of ils charter. The Committee was given leave to report its proceedings from time to time and the evidence taken and such recommendations as it deemed tit. 1 have no doubt that the work of the Committee has been and will continue to be extremely valuable to the community. The work remaining to be done could be done by the Committee or another committee. In the national interest a report should be made as promptly as possible by the Committee.
On the general question we look forward to legislation not only to correct the trade practices law, so far as it has been invalidated, on a holding basis, but also to an effective trade practices law on a permanent basis. We hope that the Government takes advantage of what has been said by the High Court to bring in measures relating to consumer protection, consumer credit and other spheres in which the public interest must be protected. For far too long there has been this no-man’s land in the law, in relation to which it has been said that however important legislation of an economic and social character might be, or however desirable it is in the public interest, it was not possible for it to be enacted by this Commonwealth Parliament because of constitutional difficulties. To a very great extent those constitutional difficulties have now been clarified and it is apparent that there is a great sphere for action by the Commonwealth Parliament. We urge the Government and particularly the Attorney-General to move with expedition to bring to Australia the protection which obtains in other countries, particularly in relation to corporations. It is important that, as quickly as possible, the morass which exists be cleaned up so that the errors of the past cannot be repeated for want of proper legisolation, which is now clearly within the power of this Parliament.
– by leave - This is, in a sense, an historic day following an equally historic judgment of the High Court. The judgment has opened up tremendous constitutional vistas which no doubt will be exploited - certainly explored - in the years that are to come. Firstly I should like to express my personal indebtedness to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) for making his statement to the Senate on a complex matter in such lucid terms and in such a timely fashion, informing more particularly those who are not professionally equipped as to the basis and implications of the judgment of the High Court. I think it is to the credit of the Attorney-General that he couched his statement in terms which could be followed by most of us. Even those of us who may be professionally equipped found difficulty in assessing the real meaning of this very big, complex and weighty judgment of the High Court which has just been circulated to some honourable senators.
This is an historic judgment - because it sets out the principle which is to be followed by courts in opening these new constitutional horizons. The Court said:
The method of constitutional interpretation is the same as that with which we have been long familiar with the common law. The law develops case by, case, the Court in each case deciding so much as is necessary to dispose of the case before it. The limits’ of the power can only be ascertained authoritatively by a course of decision in which the application of general statements is illustrated by example’ . . .
Of course frequently in order to dispose of a case the Court must state and discuss general principles or express concepts which are of value in subsequent cases. But that is a very different thing from setting out to decide at one blow the full ambit of a constitutional power. Indeed, to my mind one of the fundamental errors into which the Court was led by the reserved powers doctrine when deciding Huddart Parker v. Moorehead (supra) was the endeavour to do that very thing rather than merely to decide whether the law which it had before it was a law with respect to the topic of granted power.
In other words, although this judgment goes specifically to the determination of the issue before the Court, nevertheless the Court did advert to the latent authority and power that lie within the corporation head of power in the Constitution. How that will be used is now only a matter of speculation, but I do think that the Senate can come to the conclusion that the judgment opens a new era in Australian consti tutional history, perhaps-in Australian constitutional relations - between the Commonwealth and the States, and as to the possibilities that now present themselves for the development of this nation. 1 think one rather alarming fact emerges from this judgment and from the effect of this judgment: This judgment upset a decision of the Court which had stood among the stare decisus cases for 62 years. That in itself is something which does not happen frequently. One of the judicial concepts in upsetting an authority is the extent to which it has been judicially regarded and examined and withstood any alteration over a long period. But as we move further from the time of the actual setting down of the Constitution, and as there is a consistent and persistent refusal to re-look at the Constitution by way of referenda or constitutional amendment of some kind or another, more and more the area of power is moving from this Parliament into judicial tribunals, and it was left to the High Court to make this very big advance for Australia. This advance in the interpretation of power probably more properly should have been left to lie within the province of the legislature if the legislature, under the Constitution, had had the opportunity of so acting. Therefore in my view this highlights the need for the Constitutional Review Committee to be reactivated and for the recommendations of that Committee to find at least discussion and perhaps acceptance in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I do not think it is a good thing that such powers should be left to reside in the High Court due to the failure of the other constitutional processes to operate and give viability to the Constitution.
As I have said, the vistas that open up with this re-interpretation of sections of the Constitution are vast. The corporation power in modern life, with the proliferation of corporations and the increasing sophistication of the corporate concept, creates situations which at the moment we cannot altogether conceive, much less imagine, and how this increasing sophistication, married to this re-interpretation of power to deal with the corporation, will emerge in the coming life of Australia is very difficult even to conjecture. I can imagine that not only restrictive trade practices or control of consumer selling and things of that nature but also, for example, consumer credit, that is, hire purchase operated through corporations may well be an area in which the Commonwealth finds itself equipped with power and into which it may elect at some time to move, operating under this interpretation and re-interpretation of its power, to bring such operations within the ambit of the banking control of the Commonwealth. These are the types of speculation that are very pleasant for legal academics to indulge in.
I welcome the statement by the AttorneyGeneral and also the immediate reaction of the Government to the need to move to fill this vacuum which has been created by the interpretation, because the need for the legislation which has now been disallowed was very great. That need would become more compelling as day follows day. No doubt this poses a very big problem in drafting for the Government, the Attorney-General and officers of the drafting department. I have little doubt that a competent and viable Act will now emerge which will achieve what was set out to be achieved before but which has been declared to be impossible of achievement in its present form. We look forward to the early presentation of the legislation and, I hope, its early passage through the Parliament.
– by leave - Senator Murphy has indicated in relation to the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, of which I am the Chairman, that he believes that a prompt interim report on the desirability and feasibility of a securities and exchange commission should be given by that Committee to the Senate. In answer to what Senator Murphy has said 1 wish to explain that the Committee has followed a programme of inquiry to determine fully all aspects of the terms of reference. Many of the questions are interlinked and interrelated and their relative importance and overall importance can only be determined as a result of a full inquiry. Part of the problem which has existed in relation to the regulation of the securities industry, not only in Australia but also in other places, has arisen from the fact that steps have been taken in relation to it without full consideration of the interrelated effects of those steps.
I believe that steps have been taken by the stock exchanges and by the State Parliaments this year in relation to the overall problem to which Senator Murphy referred. The whole matter is extremely complex. It is a matter in which it is desirable that in relation to any recommendation there should be able to be a central theme and a reconciliation between the various interests - the individual interest and the public interest and the various sections of that. The Committee has considered and is still considering the possibility of bringing in an interim report, with the full substantiating evidence to be produced at a later date. I am certain that I can speak on behalf of the Committee in saying to the Senate that the Committee is fully aware of the importance of bringing in a report at the earliest possible date.
But whether there should be any form of national regulatory body and what form it should take if there is to be any such body is a matter as to which certain further important evidence has yet to be heard. I believe that it would be unfortunate if, after all the work that has been done by the Committee, precipitate action was to be taken by this chamber to endeavour to have the Committee bring in a report which proved to be an ill considered or hasty report or one which did not cover fully the various aspects of the terms of reference. Parts of the report are in the course of preparation at this stage. I can but indicate to the Senate that, having listened to what Senator Murphy said and in any event the Committee was fully conscious of it, giving all assiduous attention to it the Committee will proceed to bring in a report on this matter at the first possible time.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition a letter appointing Senator Brown to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare in place of Senator Mulvihill who has resigned from the Committee.
– I propose to withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, stand- ing in my name. I seek leave to make a statement on my reasons for withdrawing it.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When I placed on the notice paper this notice of motion to disallow the International Atomic Energy Agency (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations, I believed that they extended to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Therefore, I was much opposed to them. I have since found out that they apply to the International Atomic Energy Agency. 1 have found the articles constituting the agency and am now aware that it is under United Nations auspices and has admirable aims including the acceleration and enlargement of the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. I seek to do nothing to impede the efforts of this Agency. In fact, I seek to do everything to assist it with its commendable work.
However, I am still concerned about the need for the extension of diplomatic privileges and immunities to bodies operating in Australia, including those operating under international agreements. 1 believe that at some time we must consider how far we should go in extending these privileges and immunities and how many people in Australia should have these privileges and immunities which are now afforded to diplomats and members of international bodies. I believe that whether the operations of international bodies in Australia justify the giving of privileges and immunities, which immediately suggests the possibility of the commission of breaches of Australian law for which they need some protection, needs consideration. The immunity given to the Russian Embassy, which meant that recently a gardener was unable to take legal action for the recovery of what he thought was his entitlement to service payment, is something that I believe we should not extend too far. There should be some restriction.
Only today I received from the Minister concerned a letter enclosing a copy of an agreement about which I am most concerned. Although the letter was posted on 1st September, it was posted to me in Canberra and I did not receive it until just prior to lunch time today. The agreement is a trilateral agreement between the
United States of America, Australia and the International Atomic Energy Agency on safeguard officers visiting Australia. It is something that needs consideration. I have not yet had time to take note of it. But, in view of all the circumstances, I propose to withdraw the notice of motion standing in my name. I thank the Minister for his co-operation in sending me a copy of the agreement and for his assistance in informing me of the operations of the various international agencies in this field.
Debate resumed from 26 August (vide page 4.19), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1971-72.
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1971-72.
Estimates of receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1972.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1972.
Particulars of Proposed Provisions for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1972.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1971.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income Year 1968-69.
National Income and Expenditure, 1970-71.
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate condemns the Budget because -
it breaks the Prime Minister’s pledge to Parliament on taking office to bring into effect for 1971-72 a fundamental review of social services and of methods for adjusting them,
it contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government; and
it produces no programmes for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security.’
– Before this debate was interrupted on the last day we sat, which was Thursday of the week before last, I had dealt to some extent with the concern of the various State Ministers for Education at the lack of Commonwealth assistance to the States for education. I showed that this concern was consistent throughout all the States and that the plea was for greater financial assistance for education without strings attached to it as to how it had to be spent. I referred to one case of children being taught in a shed but using a high priced telescope or some other instrument in a science block. I referred to the need for unqualified assistance, not assistance which has to be matched by the States on a dollar for dollar basis that is beyond the capabilities of the States. 1 referred particularly to South Australia because 1 have been inundated with correspondence about the problems in the schools.
I wish to mention now the Angle Park Boys Technical High School where the education of individual children has had to be sacrificed because of the inability to provide the necessary facilities. I. have taken this matter up with the Minister of Education in South Australia, Hon. Hugh Hudson. I raised the following aspect:
Location of the school results in the enrolment of New Australian students unable to speak English who are therefore unable to profit by attendance at the school.
This school is near a migrant hostel. His letter states:
Migrant students living at the Pennington Migrant Hostel are zoned to Angle Park Boys Technical High School while living at the hostel. Finance that has been made available by the Commonwealth Government to help migrants to learn English is only sufficient to provide a limited number of classes in primary schools. Where possible, secondary migrant students needing special help are directed to these special migrant classes. The three or four students that may be enrolled at any one time at the Angle Park Technical High School do not form an economic unit for the establishment of a special language class at present.
The location of the school is such that it attracts migrant children unable to speak English and who, according to the Minister’s statement, are unable to profit by attendance at school. In other words, they might as well stay at home. Something could be done for them if finance were available but the Commonwealth Government has not provided the funds to meet requirements and to provide instructors to teach the English language to the migrant children. The whole question is wrapped up in finance. The problem is Australia wide. Let me turn now to the Premiers
Conference of June 1970. After Mr Dunstan had referred to the deficiencies of education in South Australia the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said:
Thank you, Mr Dunstan. The estimated total which is being provided to the States over the next 5 years is, if I have the correct figures, $8,384m. That ‘includes what we consider to be very considerable percentage increases which should go towards the recurrent expense and what have always been regarded as State responsibilities. I think you would agree - perhaps you would not - thai the .standard of the pupil/ teacher ratio and the standard of facilities for education have been improving over recent years. I am not arguing about the rate of improvement but merely the fact that there has been an improvement. I would hope that that improvement could be continued and accelerated by the increased amount of money made available to the States in the grants which we have proposed for the 5 years ahead. I expect that every Premier would agree with the proposition put forward that more funds should be provided by the Commonwealth. I do nol know whether we need to go round the table on this unless there happens to be a Premier who does not agree, which I think is highly unlikely, that more funds should be provided by the Commonwealth.
There the then Prime Minister said that there had been an improvement.
– The Budget is making provision for a 14 per cent increase this year. .
– 1 will come to the Budget in a moment. There was the then Prime Minister saying that there had been some improvement while at the same time recognising that the State Premiers believed that more finance should be made available. I am concerned, too, about a statement attributed to the present Prime Minister which appeared in the ‘Australian* of Monday, 6th September. Mr McMahon was replying to the chairman of the Parents and Friends Association at Brighton Boys Technical High School, Adelaide, Mr J. W. McAloney, who had asked that the needs of State schools be given a high priority in the Federal Budget. The report is in these terms:
The Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, has assured a South Australian school official the States are able to meet their financial responsibilities for education and other services.
So the Prime Minister believes that the States are able to do that. The report goes on:
He said new financial arrangements agreed to by the Federal Government at Premiers Conferences during the past year reflected its reaction to the country’s educational needs,
A survey, carried OUt by State education Ministers, showed that $ 1, 443m more than the Stales could afford should be spent on education between 1970 and 1975.
There we have the Prime Minister saying that the States now can meet their financial responsibilities, and we have heard the Minister tell us by way of interjection what is provided in the present Budget for education. In a Press release of 18th August Mr Hudson, the South Australian Minister for Education, bitterly attacked the Federal Budget for ignoring the plight of the State’s primary and secondary schools. The States have not changed their opinion as expressed at the Premiers Conference. Referring to the Federal Government, he said:
The Government found education sufficiently important to promise concerted action on a national survey before the last election. The result of the survey, indicated beyond any shadow of doubt that the State education systems were in dire need of massive financial assistance which could only come from the Commonwealth Government. lt is therefore extremely difficult to understand their total lack of response. We can only conclude that the States have been played for suckers over the survey.
He went on later: lt has neglected entirely the needs of the very great majority of children who attend State schools or the less wealthy independent s’chools and who have little prospects of tertiary education under present conditions.
– Can the honourable senator tell the Senate the sum by which Commonwealth grants for education have been increased in the last 2 years?
– No, not for the last 2 years. However I refer the Minister to Mr Gorton’s figures for the next 5 years. The needs of education for the next 5 years have been shown by the survey which was conducted in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government. Will the Minister claim that the Commonwealth has met the cost of those needs? That is the problem. Since I have been in this Senate I have heard the Government justifying its attitude of too little too late by comparing one year’s expenditure on education with the previous year’s expenditure, or by comparing what it has done with what the Government of the day did in 1949. The fact is the Commonwealth Government has not met the cost of education needs.
The Government has made its biggest impact on education by the taxation deduction which may be claimed for expenditure on education. The present Budget increases the allowance that may be claimed for a child from §300 to $400. If a man earning S2,000 a year spends $400 on the education of one child he will receive a taxation concession of S82. However, if a man earning $20,000 a year spends $400 on the education of one child his taxation concession will be $280. Compare that with the $82 received by the man on $2,000 a year. That is another point which proves that this is a wealthy man’s Budget which grants concessions to the privileged in our society. The only educational institutions today which charge $300 a year in fees are the prestige schools to which the less wealthy and less privileged man cannot send his child. He is subsidising the wealthy to send their children to the prestige schools. From time to time we have had demands from those undertaking part time tertiary education for taxation relief. These are people who are paying their own way through university or college of advanced education. As I stated in my opening remarks, the financial needs of this country over the 20 years that this Government has been in office have become so chaotic that one does not know where to start or what should be the priorities. I have made an appeal for priority to be given to education; I think education has been accepted as having one of the highest priorities. Despite increased expenditure the Commonwealth is not meeting its obligations to education, lt may be that there will be more to say on this subject during the Estimates debate.
I would be somewhat remiss if I did not pay a tribute to those in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority who last week made facilities available to my wife, my child and me to visit the project. They very proudly conducted us over the area, showed us their engineering achievements and what has been done in the generation of electricity to meet Australia’s requirements, in the storage of water and in the useful reticulation of that water to areas which most need it. It is a project which has received world acclaim as one of the great engineering achievements. 1 do not want to go into details but in possibly 1974 the Authority will wind up its activities following completion of the project. 1 believe that in October this year a further large number of men will have to be dismissed from the Authority as there is no further work available for them on the project. As experts in their fields they will be lost to Australia’s development. Some will go overseas while perhaps some will take employment in private enterprise. 1 would especially mention, as a result of discussions with Mr Dann, the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, that the Authority is now participating successfully. In competition with various tenderers in contracts for underground tunnelling and for water conservation projects and is successfully engaging in contracts throughout the world, particularly in developing countries. lt finds that it can successfully compete today for such projects although the present Act places some limitations on its ability to participate in normal competitive tendering for construction work which would keep its force intact for the whole of the period until it is needed on some other big project. This is one question which can perhaps be reviewed by the Estimates Committees at which time the Authority’s annual report will be available. We could review the activities and consider whether there may not be some restrictions in the present Act which the Government should reconsider. I want to express my appreciation to those who arranged the tour and the accommodation and for the information supplied by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and especially to Mr Dann, Mr Winchester, the Public Relations Officer, and Mr Allen Clarke who assisted us around the project. I want our appreciation recorded in Hansard.
– Before I say a few words about the Budget I would like to congratulate those new honourable senators who made their maiden speeches. I look forward to hearing other new senators speak for the first time tomorrow and next week. Referring to the Budget generally, I do not believe that there has been nearly as much criticism of this Budget as there usually is. Throughout Australia it seems to have had a reasonably good reception. We have to remember that the Budget is brought down against a background of a crisis in world finances and of the near certainty that Britain will join the European Economic Community.
With regard to the crisis in world finances we have the Australian dollar tied to sterling and already our currency and sterling have appreciated in relation to the United States dollar but depreciated a little in relation to the Japanese yen. This means that ordinarily we would lose a little on United States trade but would benefit from trade with Japan. That does not necessarily follow, however, as Japan exports a lot of goods made from our raw materials. I am told that many of our coal and iron contracts with Japan are written in United States currency.
This world monetary crisis has greatly affected our trade. We have only to look at the position of the wool industry and the wool sales to see how much it has created uncertainty in that area. The position of our trade with the United Kingdom also will alter considerably. For a long while it has been a case of speculation whether the United Kingdom might join or be allowed to join the European Economic Community but it seems now that it will be a fait accompli in the near future. It has been forcibly brought home to us that we must look for other markets and that the transition period is short - this is the period in which we can adjust our trade with the United Kingdom, the European Economic Community and other areas. The transition will have to be finalised by 1974. It is hard for us as a nation to realise that we have had duty free and unrestricted entry for all our products to the United Kingdom since we began exporting. Now we must take our place in the queue and be subject to quantitative restrictions and high duties along with a lot of other nations.
For about 150 years we have provided the United Kingdom with large quantities of cheap food of good quality - to our mutual benefit, I might mention - and at the same time we have enjoyed from the United Kingdom protection during our development period. We have enjoyed the protection of United Kingdom sea and land power in the period of her greatest glory. But that has changed and is now gone. We must look to our future trade relations and if possible use our position to bargain with other countries. We should endeavour more than we have done so far to build up markets in the Pacific and Asian areas. This leads me to another point: What of our future relations with the United Kingdom? The continuance of
British preferential tariffs after 1974 has to be considered. We will be almost completely shut out of the British markets by that date as a result of the duties, quantitative restrictions and high tariffs that will be imposed. Therefore we will have to give consideration to the continuance of our trade with the United Kingdom. 1 turn now to the subject of our own domestic affairs. Unfortunately we have a 2-levei economy in Australia today. We have unprecedented prosperity over a large area with over-full employment and high wages but a large part of our rural area is in a very depressed state. Mention is made in the Budget of the fact that farm income is down $265m on last year’s figure. The Budget seeks to rectify this position by, among other things, making deficiency payments to the wool industry, lt may be that more will have to be done. We cannot continue to exist as a community if the prosperous section of our community is not prepared to share some of its prosperity with the less fortunate section. For years Australia lived on the sheep’s back, but today many wool growers are in a desperate position. Whole areas, including country towns, are in a depressed state and people are leaving them. The Government has agreed to a deficiency payment on woo! to bring the average price of it to 36c a lb. However, even with this help the position is far from good. If there is no substantial rise in wool prices in the near future I believe that further action will have to be taken.
The Budget provides for the greatest increase ever in social services, especially in the age pension. There has been surprisingly little criticism of the Government’s social service proposals, including its child endowment proposal. The education allowance deduction from income tax for children has been increased from $300 to $400. The previous speaker, Senator Cavanagh, referred to this matter at some length. He tried to show that this increase would help only the people in receipt of large incomes. I do not think that his argument will hold water. The age in respect of which a deduction can be claimed for student children has been extended to 25 years. That is a big concession for the many people who have to keep students who are over 21 years of age at universities. The direct expenditure by the Commonwealth on education this year will be S346m. I point out that the total direct expenditure on education by the Commonwealth has increased in 10 years from S55m to $346m. 1 think that this is a great achievement. It gives the lie to some of the criticism expressed by Senator Cavanagh about the education system. In the same 10 years the total State expenditure on education has increased from $40 lm to $ 1,043m, which is a very substantial increase. 1 was sorry to hear the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), say in answer to a question I asked of him the other day that university students holding Commonwealth scholarships are not automatically deprived of their scholarships when they are expelled from a university. I think this matter should be looked at further. A person who is not fit to stay at a university should not be regarded as fit to continue to receive a Commonwealth scholarship.
The Budget provides for assistance to the extent of $8m a year to local government authorities as a result of the Commonwealth agreeing to meet the cost of exempting from paying payroll tax the non-business activities of such authorities. This provision will take effect from the time of the transfer of the imposition of a payroll tax to the States, which I understand will be 1st September 1971. This will be of great assistance to the local government authorities. The situation exists where the third tier of government is in financial trouble in nearly every State. In some areas of western Queensland which are experiencing problems with wool the local government authorities will not be able to collect much money in the way of rates. Therefore they will have great difficulty in continuing to provide the services that they do provide. The State government, which guarantees their loans, obviously will have to help them out in relation to the interest payments. I believe that we will soon have to make some provision for financing the third tier of government. It is no use saying that it is a State government responsibility and that the State governments are provided with the money to do this. The position is that as Australians wc are all in the one government business together. The local government authorities are closest to the people. 1 believe that they should receive greater consideration from the Commonwealth Government than they do. However the assistance is to be provided, I believe it it has to be borne in mind that assistance has to be provided to the local government authorities by the Commonwealth Government.
I would also like to mention that expenditure from the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account on housing, health and, in particular, education in Queensland is to be increased by 28 per cent. There are 1,250 Aboriginal children over 14 years of age in Queensland who are receiving education assistance. This is only the second year in which this assistance has been provided in Queensland. This figure represents an increase of 700 from the situation in the first year. A payment of $200 is made to parents who keep their children at home. An amount of $150 is also provided for uniforms and $50 for books. If the child goes to a boarding school the boarding fees are paid as well as the cost of the tuition. This has been a big help to Aboriginal children in many parts of Queensland.
I turn now to the position in the far northern part of Queensland - the Cape York Peninsula area. I have always advocated that there should be a good road right to the top of Australia. Some money has been provided under the beef roads scheme for a part of this road, but it has not been nearly enough. There are lots of cattle stations in that area and some notable development has taken place.
– Would the honourable senator take it across the Daintree?
– No, I would not worry too much about the Daintree area. I would start at Mareeba and go up through Cooktown. It would have the effect of serving the Weipa-Bamaga area. The possible provision in the future of a car ferry to Thursday Island would enable the people in this area to have road transport to the rest of their fellow Australians. I would point out that there are 10,000 Australians in the area from Weipa north who do not have any road transport, who have very little shipping and who have a very expensive air service to Cairns. When these people get to Cairns on their holidays they have still 1,000 miles to travel if they want to go to Brisbane and 2,000 miles to travel if they want to go to Melbourne. A road in this area would be a tremendous help to them. It would also greatly increase the tourist traffic and develop a new province in that part of Queensland.
I would like again to mention just briefly the question of the boundary between Queensland and the Territory of Papua New Guinea. At the beginning of this year the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) urged a reduction in the Queensland border. The Premier of Queensland replied to this suggestion by saying (hat, although he did not believe that Mr Whitlam had ever been to the islands concerned in the Torres Strait, he was advocating that we should give away half of our Torres Strait islands to a future independent territory of Papua New Guinea. The people of these islands are all good Queenslanders and Australians.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the Torres Strait Islands and the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition in another place that some of them should be ceded to a possible future independent Papua New Guinea. During his visit to the Territory in the early part of this year Mr Whitlam was reported as having said that the Queensland boundary was less than 3 miles from the Papuan coast. This report states: “The boundary should be put half way between Papua and Queensland,’ he said.
I do not think he understands the position and I do not think he has ever been to the islands in Torres Strait. He would not have said this if he had met the good Queenslanders, good Australians, who live there. I want to quote the remarks made by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, on 15th January, shortly after Mr Whitlam’s visit. This report referring to the Premier states:
He strongly criticised the Federal Opposition Leader for his statements during his Papua New Guinea visit that the proximity of Queensland’s border to the Territory was likely to cause future quarrels between future governments. Mr Whitlam suggested while in New Guinea that the boundary should be put half way between the Territory and Queensland.
The Premier, speaking al a Dalby function on the first day of an inland tour, said that the ALP was fond of complaining about giving away our heritage when they talked about coal negotiations. The Queensland islands also were part of that heritage. He said the Queensland Government would resist as strongly as it could any move to bring its northern maritime border closer to the Queensland mainland.
The Government and the island people involved in any such change are concerned with this Labor Party suggestion,’ he said. ‘I can’t understand the motive behind this ALP move. . . . Torres Strait islanders strongly resist the suggestion.’
The people living on these islands are good Queenslanders and good Australians and do not want in any circumstances to be pari of a possible independent Papua New Guinea. They run their islands extremely well. They have councils along the same lines as our shire councils and the islands are Aboriginal reserves by statute. These people look after the islands and are proud of them. We should do everything possible to resist any change in the Queensland boundary, which is the Australian boundary, lt has existed for many years; in fact it has remained unchanged since Queensland became a State.
– Surely Mr Whitlam would have discussed that with those people before making such a proposition.
– He has never discussed it with them, and 1 do not think he understood the position. I do not think he would know where some of these islands are, to tell the truth. That is the position. I ask this Parliament and all good Australians to do everything they can to resist any change in the Queensland boundary and to resist any suggestion to give to another government the islands on which these people live. 1 want to refer now to our airlines and our 2 airline policy. I believe there is a growing tendency for the 2 major airlines to get out of some of the feeder services, especially in inland Queensland. I have always understood that the airlines were given protection in the high density routes, the inter-capital routes and routes linking Launceston, Alice Springs, Darwin, Mt Isa, the Queensland coast and Moresby, so that they would be able to service other routes on which there is no profit and perhaps even a loss but which actually are feeder lines. There is a growing tendency for the airlines to get out of these services. Other companies take over for a while. Sometimes they continue and sometimes they do not. Owing to the uncertainty and infrequency of some services the smaller airlines lose business. Consequently many inland towns in Queensland are losing their air services and do not look like getting them back. Some local councils have spent a lol of money to bring their aerodromes up to standard. This situation should be investigated and action should be taken to see that the 2 major airlines at least continue the services they have contracted to provide.
I want to refer briefly now to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. One of the proposed increases in charges will fall particularly hard on country people. I refer to the proposed increase in trunk line telephone rates. People in rural areas and country towns have to make a great number of trunk line calls and the increase will fall more severely on them than on people in the big cities. It is interesting to note that in the last full year for which PMG accounts are available, that is the year ended June 1970, the mail section lost $21m and the telephone section made a profit of about $21 m and thus balanced the loss. The loss in the mail section was brought about partly because of the high labour content. Wage increases result in increased costs. On the other hand the telephone section is highly mechanised and works efficiently once the automatic systems are installed. It is interesting to note that Postal Department reports on the introduction of subscriber trunk dialing state that if all the STD calls made in the year ended June 1970 had had to be handled manually it would have cost the Department another $20m in telephonists’ wages and other labour costs associated with manual connection. This report reveals what a good business venture the automatic system is and why it should be expanded.
I know full well that about 92 per cent or 93 per cent of Australian telephone users now have automatic systems. It is the remaining 7 per cent or 8 per cent that matter. They live mainly in country areas and many of them have restricted hours of service. We have to provide for these people. The policy decision announced last year to build the first 15 miles of line for every rural subscriber free of charge and to maintain it in perpetuity has been a great success. I ask that a greater amount of money be voted for this system. The programme is only now getting under way, and the $5m allocated in the current Budget will not be nearly enough. At this rate it will take far too long to build these lines, or to rebuild them in many cases. The expenditure of more money is warranted to provide telephone systems for rural people and to provide a continuous automatic system for those who have restricted hours of use. For many years I have had only a restricted telephone service. It is very hard for a person with a continuous service to understand the problems associated with a silent telephone on Saturday afternoons, on Sundays and at night. Accidents and sickness seem to come upon us most when telephone services are not available. I think we should do all we can to provide a continuous service and an automatic system for the small part of the Australian population which does not now have them.
This Budget provides for an increase of $117m in the defence vote or an increase of 10 per cent. This is a very good thing because it will continue to keep our defences strong. The Budget also seeks to continue a stable economy in this country. Because of this position overseas investors are prepared to invest their money and help in our development. Over the last 20 years we have won the confidence of many overseas investors. They regard Australia as a country with a stable government and a safe place in which to invest their money. The Budget seeks to preserve this situation and to preserve our economy and way of life so that we, as a nation, can continue to prosper as we have prospered over the last 21 years. I support the Budget and oppose the amendment.
– Before going on to the main part of my speech I congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches in this debate on the Budget. Honourable senators who have just been elected to this Chamber have made excellent speeches. In fact, Senator Negus’s speech prompted me to make an extremely important decision. I have decided not to die because I feel that if I do the Government, with its sticky fingers, will get all of my $25.33. I am determined that this will not happen. Because of that speech by Senator Negus I have decided to become immortal. Actually, I suppose that someone else will determine whether I stay immortal.
This Budget was brought before Parliament on the basis that it would be deflationary. There is no question that it has deflated many people within the community. It has deflated those who believe that something should be done for the sick, the aged and the needy within the community. It has deflated their ambitions to do something which would help materially in making the latter years of aged persons’ lives a little more comfortable than they are today. At this level, the deflationary aspect of the Budget has been well achieved. Because the Government believes there is inflation in the community it has decided that the people who will pay and who will deflate our economy will be, not the people who have it, but the people who do not have it. This position applies throughout the whole strata of the community.
As an excuse for this Budget, the Government has blamed entirely the people on wages. All the problems which this Government has created over the last 20 years it has blamed on the workers of the community. They decide to win before the courts and the State and federal arbitration system of this country a just return for their labours. Every time this has happened the Government says: ‘These rises should never have occurred. The situation has now reached a peak and everyone has to work harder. Production has to increase because we cannot meet these commitments.’ In fact since 1949 the Government has not tackled the real problem which is costs. The trade union movement will never reach the situation where it will sit idly by and allow its membership throughout the community to absorb all the increased costs which are built up by a system which has allowed inflation into the economy. There is no curb at all at the level of prices and consumer goods. As a movement, we believe that, if there is to be a system whereby we are going even to consider the pegging of wages of ordinary people, equally there has to be a system which will peg the costs associated with living standards.
We can pick up the newspaper every day and see how the cost spiral is getting away from everybody. Young people have no possible hope in the future. Daily honourable senators can read of this situation in the capital city newspapers in relation to purchasing even a block of land for a home, let alone building a home on that land. In yesterday’s newspapers there was a statement that the cost of land in New South Wales, particularly in Sydney, would treble in the next 3 years. In Victoria where subdivisions are available for young people in the capital city of Melbourne and the provincial cities of Geelong, in particular, Bendigo and Ballarat - the major areas where there may be some possibility of an increase in the population - the prices that people are asked to pay for their blocks of land are prices which, under any normal system of costing, would cover the total price of a house and land. Today we have the silly situation where house blocks are going to cost ordinary people $8,000 to $10,000. This is the cost of a house block. It is not the cost of a house and the block. The Government has no plan to curb this type of situation. There is no planning by the Government to ensure’ that this type of cost structure can be brought back to a situation where the ordinary people in the community can look forward to some kind of future in relation to the purchasing and furnishing of a home.
As everybody in this chamber knows when a young couple marry they plan on the basis that both of them will work for many years in order to establish themselves in the home which they have or the home which they hope to buy. The fact that they are fearful of starting a family before they arc able to establish themselves at this level is creating a situation in the home which is dangerous for the future. I and everybody else believes that no wife should have to work if she does not want to. This did not happen in my day even though we went through the depression years. It was unthinkable that a wife who did not want to obtain a job would have to obtain one. But today young wives have to plan on the basis of working a number of years before they can consider giving away their job. This type of planning has gone on for 20 years. This situation has resulted from an election in 1949 when a Leader of the
Opposition became the Prime Minister. Basically he won the election on the promise to bring value back into the £1. Today as a society we have almost reached the stage - in country areas we have reached the stage - where severe depressions are operating within the economy. Honourable senators can go into country towns of any State and they will see empty houses and empty shops because we have not tackled this cost structure problem. One of the major reasons why the farming community is in trouble today is that it is a section of the community which has not been able to pass on costs which have continued to rise.
It is wrong and I think it is political hypocrisy for any government to blame this situation on to the fact that workers are receiving too much in their pay packet. I challenge anybody in this chamber to examine closely what the average worker earns. I am not talking about the average wage because 70 per cent of the people working for their living are not receiving anywhere near the average wage as it is classified today. At the level of wages today people are struggling to meet commitments and to carry out the functions that they have at the family level. The people who have been neglected most are those whom I mentioned earlier in my remarks - the aged, the sick and the widowed. Today their pension as a percentage of the average wage is the lowest that it ha? been in the history ot this country. No compassion is being shown towards these people. Many of them cannot exist on the income that they are receiving. Many are living on handouts and hand-downs. They are able to use the pittance that they receive to buy clothing at the opportunity shops of the Brotherhood of St Laurence or of the St Vincent de Paul Society. Often the suit that is bought has come from a dead person. That is the seriousness of the situation today. Many are able to clothe themselves only because they can buy from these organisations other people’s hand-downs.
This is not the type of dignity in which our aged should be living today. This is an affluent society. I defy anybody to establish clearly that Parliament could not afford to increase the pensions to a level at which these people could live in some dignity and peace. This year the Government is budgeting for a domestic surplus of S630m. The surplus is allegedly for the purpose of stopping inflation. Can anybody tell me that an extra $2 or S3 a week for the pensioner today would be inflationary? This would enable these people to buy a dress off the hook in a shop instead of buying a second hand dress in an opportunity shop. Can anybody tell me that this is inflationary? A man could buy a pair of trousers from Fletcher Jones instead of from the St Vincent De Paul Society. Can anybody tell me that this is inflationary expenditure? Of course it is not inflationary for people who need it to get it to be able to spend it.
The compassion that is not shown is admitted. It has been admitted by at least one honest member of the Liberal Party Who sits in another place. I refer to a Statement made on 22nd February - not 1871 but 1971 - by the honourable member for Holt, Mr Reid. In another place during an urgency debate on social services, he said:
The urgency discussion initialed by the Opposition is a purely materialistic one because an additional $1 or so is not the greatest need of our elderly citizens. Pensioners do not live by bread alone. They are human, and they need love and affection. 1 am sure that u visit from a relative, or better still from their own children, would mean far more to our elderly citizens than would an increase of $1 a week.
This is the kind of attitude that has grown among members of the Liberal Party - people who have never had to face the problems that exist at this level. One honest Liberal says: ‘Give them love and tenderness. They do not need money to live on. Let them live on love’. Elderly people are struggling to meet the rentals and all the other commitments that people on far higher salaries have to meet. There are no rebates for pensioners when they buy a pound of butter or when they pay their rates.
There is operating in Victoria a system which alleviates the full payment of rates to a municipal council, but the amounts not paid become a debt against the estate. Interest is charged on the outstanding amounts. A person who has paid off a home for about 40 years may suddently find herself unable to pay the colossal rating that is charged in some areas. I quoted some figures on this in this chamber last session. Elderly people who have taken 40 or more years to pay for their home suddenly find that they are in an area that has become very valuable because industrial enterprises have bought within the area and the land values have risen. Under the NAB system the land on which there are cottages that are 60 or 70 years old is being valued on the same basis as an industrial enterprise that has been built at the end of the street. The people who own those cottages arc in a fantastically impossible position. I spoke previously in this chamber about the situation. I got no result.
There has been no direct assistance to municipal councils to alleviate this problem. They are in a real dilemma in trying to meet the problem. They must provide the bread and butter issues for the ratepayers in their communities. They have to build streets, look after creches and establish libraries. They have to do a million and one things that in the early years of municipal government it was never thought that they would be doing. They cannot give any relief to these people. As the Act in our State applies, a place such as a pensioner’s home has to be rated not on the value of that property to that person but on the value of the land on which it stands or on the rental value of places in that area. People who have bought properties in the initial years of marriage and who have paid them off find that the town has grown out into the suburban areas. This has happened in Melbourne and Sydney. The inner parts of the city have become commercial areas. If they sell their property they have to spend more than they obtained for the property to build in another area. They are too old to shift. They do not desire to uproot themselves. They are in the fantastic situation that the rates are such that they are expected to find up to $4 or $5 a week in some cases out of their pension to meet their commitments. This is not an exaggeration. 1 can table figures to prove this beyond all doubt. Not only have they to meet their municipal rates, which in some cases are well over $100 a year, but they have to meet an almost equivalent amount for water and sewerage rates.
The Parliament is showing no compassion to the aged. We are not considering their problems at the level at which they should be considered. The Parliament is making a decision which says: ‘If we give them Si. 25 a week extra this will stall them off for another 12 months’. The Government has done even worse than that, lt has denied many thousands of pensioners an increase. Despite the fact that for many years the Liberal Party platform has been to lift the means test, the Government is now tightening the means test. It not only has done that; it has done something even worse. The Government, because of its decision to introduce a tapered means test, has taken from many aged persons the medical card that was their life blood. I have taken up this matter with successive Ministers for Health and I certainly will be taking it up with the new Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) to try to get some kind of common sense into the system so that a medical card will be made available to all pensioners. In 1969 the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), who was then the Treasurer, when introducing the tapered means test, said:
Persons who become pensioners because of the proposed increases in basic rates of pension will become members of the Pensioner Medical Service, giving them entitlement to free medical and hospital treatment and free pharmaceutical benefits. They will be entitled also to other subsidiary benefits provided by the Commonwealth, such as reduced radio and TV licence fees, telephone rentals, hearing aids and funeral benefits. Persons who become pensioners for the first time-
I emphasise the words ‘for the first time’ - because of the introduction of the ‘tapered means test’ - to which I shall now refer - will not. however, be eligible for membership of the Pensioner Medical Service or entitled to any other subsidiary fringe benefits.
I have taken up with the Minister 3 cases of medical cards being taken from persons who were pensioners prior to the introduction of the tapered means test. One case concerned a man on a very low income married to an invalid pensioner who was slowly dying from a disease certain to result in her death. At that time she was continuously in and out of hospital and that is still the position. Her husband needs additional assistance to look after her. He received an increase of $7 a week in his salary and because of it came within the terms of the tapered means test. His medical card was taken from him.
Another case in my experience concerned an 85-year-old man who was hospitalised and needed a tremendous amount of medical attention. He lost his wife and their joint assets passed to him. Because they had been pensioners for many years they had not subscribed to a health insurance fund. They believed that their pensioner medical cards would last them, as very old persons, for the rest of their lives. This case was submitted to the Minister but received very unsympathetic consideration. This 85-year-old man lost his pensioner medical card because the joint assets of himself and his wife passed to him on her death. If that is compassion for aged persons, 1 will go ‘he’. This action can be repeated many times through the system of the tapered means test. 1 discussed the matter with an officer of the Department of Social Services. I will not name him because he would get into trouble for talking about this matter with a member of Parliament. He said that it was the first time in his experience thai a fringe benefit had been taken from a pensioner after it had been granted to him. Even if decisions had been made by this Parliament in relation to the means test, a person who had received a pensioner medical card would keep it until he died. That is not so today. An 85-year-old man without the protection of a medical fund has had his card taken from him overnight after receiving a form letter from the Department of Social Services. He is faced with terrific hospital and medical costs that he sincerely believed he would never have to pay. As a pensioner he thought it was no longer necessary to remain or to become a member of a hospital benefits fund.
I turn now to consider the broken promises of the Government. This afternoon the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said that the Government never breaks its promises. Tonight I will show conclusively that if it has not actually broken a promise it is taking so long to implement it that it is causing untold tragedy amongst the aged people within our community. In 1969 Mr Gorton, when Prime Minister, made certain promises in his election policy speech. He said that only one problem of any significant size remained in relation to people with lengthy illnesses. I ask honourable senators to listen very carefully to the words of the then Prime Minister. He went on to say:
Some people after paying health insurance contributions for many y/ears find that they are obliged to spend long periods under intensive care in nursing homes as distinct from hospitals. We shall negotiate with the health insurance funds to arrange for the payment of increased benefits, properly related to reasonable nursing home fees, for persons who have been regular contributors to health insurance funds and who need intensive home nursing care.
Anybody reading that would judge that action would he taken almost immediately, but nothing in that direction has happened yet. During last year’s Senate election campaign Mr Gorton made a similar promise. He said that his Government would tackle the problem posed because many people after paying health insurance contributions for many years find that they are obliged to spend long periods under intensive care in nursing homes as distinct from hospitals and do not receive hospital benefits. Mr Gorton went on:
I renew those promises and reiterate that as promised we shall act on these matters during the life of the Parliament.
The life of the Parliament is almost finished. This Parliament has only about 12 months to run and no alleviation has been granted to aged persons who are confined to nursing homes, lt is bad enough for people who are in State aged persons nursing homes or hospitals, but at least in those circumstances the State contributes to the upkeep and maintenance of the home. The aged persons do not have to make up the difference between their pension and what they receive in addition to the pension by way of special grants, an-l the cost of keeping them in the hospital. 1 have no doubt that the position in Victoria is repeated in the other States. In Victoria hundreds of families with their own problems, including the purchase of a home and children to look after, are subsidising the costs of nursing homes in which their aged parents are being cared for. The charge for a patient in a private nursing home in Victoria is between $70 and $80 a week. In addition to the pension, which is to be $17.25 a week, the Government pays $2 a day for a patient who does not require intensive care. That makes a total income of $31.25 for an aged person in that situation. When the minimum charge by a private nursing home is $70 a week, and many charge S80 a week, the balance of almost $40 a week has to be found for these people who require the care and attention of a hospital.
– Many nursing homes charge less than $70 a week.
– How much less do they charge in a private nursing home?
– There are many of them.
– How much less do they charge? Put up or shut up. I have absolute proof of what I have said. Even if the charge by a private nursing home was only $50 a week, does Senator Greenwood believe that the balance of $20 should be found by a family that may be in circumstances making it impossible to meet its commitments? Does the Minister think that the Government should be generous enough to raise the payment of $2 a day to $5 or $6 a day, or even $8 a day? Onethird of the patients in these places on a strict rule require intensive care. Medical doctors from the Department of Health walk through aged persons nursing homes. On one occasion, upon seeing a 90-year- old woman reading a newspaper, a doctor from the Department said without conducting a medical examination: ‘Take that woman off the additional $3 a day.’ 1 have proof that that incident happened and I can produce it.
I am a member of the committee of an aged persons home in the city of Geelong. Over a year an average of one-third of the inmates receive intensive care payments. An application is sent with a doctor’s certificate to establish that a person requires intensive care. No doctor comes from the Department of Health to conduct an examination. A decision is made arbitrarily in an office in Melbourne as to whether the applicant is entitled to the additional $3 a day. We now have a situation in Which hospitals budget on the basis that I person of every 3 who apply will receive atd and 2 of the 3 will not receive aid. irrespective of their condition. This is the kind of treatment that these people are receiving from this Government. We have now reached the stage where many aged persons homes in Victoria which for many years have had help on a voluntary basis to raise funds and with assistance from the Commonwealth have been able to build accommodation have closed whole floors in their hospitals because they cannot get sufficient finance to keep them going.
The figures for Victoria, so far as I have been able to ascertain them - they are accurate enough for me to cite them - show that at present at least 5,000 aged persons are on a waiting list for entry into an aged persons home or hospital; that at least 7,000 persons have made application but, because of the time that they have been told they will have to wait, have not proceeded with their applications; and an estimated 7,000 other aged persons have made no application. The figures show conclusively that of the 5,000 persons on the waiting list for attention in a nursing home in Victoria, 2 out of every 3 will die before they gain entry.
– That is a great scheme, isn’t it?
– It is absolutely wonderful! Two out of every three applicants die before they can gain entry to a nursing home. There are 800 persons awaiting entry to the nursing home with which I am associated. That is more than the total number for which we can provide accommodation. Of the 800 who are waiting, 240 need urgent attention and should be in the home. Again, in relation to that number, the same proportion of deaths occur before they are able to gain entry to the home. We have endeavoured to overcome the situation by establishing a day hospital which will operate within the framework of our aged persons home. Our purpose was to treat these aged persons on a day basis, even though many of them should be inmates in the hospital. We have made representations to the Government to assist this organisation. We have asked that consideration be given at least to the $2 subsidy per day which is granted to persons who enter an approved hospital. This would enable us to treat these people on a day basis until such time as we would provide accommodation for them in the hospital. Although we asked only for the $2 per day that applies in the case of inmates of a hospital, our efforts in this regard proved to be in vain.
Consequently we in Victoria are in a desperate situation - no doubt this applies also to other parts of the Commonwealth - in relation to the treatment of aged persons whose only crime has been that they have grown old and become sick. They have committed no other crime, yet we continue with a system whereby if they are unable to fit into the accommodation which already exists they have to enter a private nursing home and become a charge upon their relatives who can ill afford to meet the cost. This year the Government is budgeting for a domestic surplus of $630m. Usually when we budget for a deficit the deficit at the end of the year is not as great as we budgeted for, and if we budget for a surplus the surplus at the end of the year is usually greater than anticipated. At a time when we are budgeting for a domestic surplus of $630m the Government allows a situation such as I have described to continue within our community. It is allowing old people who have become sick to be worried - in some cases worried to death - because they have nowhere to go. They have no-one to help them. They are in the situation where, unless they are on a waiting list for years or have a friend who can move them up the priority list, there is just no hope for them. If they do not have relatives able to afford hospital care and attention for them they are forced to lie at home with a day nurse attending them until such time as they die.
Associated with the planning at the nursing home with which I am associated we have been able to establish a rehabilitation system for aged people which is one of the most modern in the Southern Hemisphere. The geriatrics clinic at our establishment is second to none in the Southern Hemisphere and we are able to do a tremendous amount of work for aged persons who themselves believe and of whom one, by looking at them, may believe that they will never get to their feet again. We are providing this service for people for whom we can provide accommodation. Although we have a dedicated staff and dedicated medical officers, we are frustrated all along the line because we are not able to get sufficient finance to carry out the capital works that are absolutely necessary and we are unable to get enough money from the Commonwealth or the State to cope with maintenance of the hospital. In March this year we were advised by the Victorian Hospitals Commission that we were not to employ any more persons at our hospital, irrespective of whether somebody left, unless there was an extreme staff emergency. We had almost completed building 2 new wards, financed by the Commonwealth subsidy of $2 for Si, from bequests and the fund raising efforts of our committee, but we were told that we would not be able to staff the 2 wards when they were completed. Yet we have a waiting list of 800 aged people.
– For how many are you able to provide?
– In the vicinity of 500 at present, and we have 800 on the waiting list. We were told by the Commission that because it had run out of money we would nol be allowed to employ staff to enable us to open the 2 new wards. Then, because of a Press report of our committee meeting which appeared in the local newspaper, Mr Kopp, the Director of Social Services in Victoria, wrote to us and said that we could not receive any more of the Commonwealth subsidy to enable us to complete the wards which were being built with finance raised by the committee’s efforts and the Commonwealth subsidy of $2 for $1. Our committee was in a terrible situation for some weeks. Although we had received a subsidy from the Commonwealth to enable us to build additional accommodation for aged persons and although we had additional capacity for some of these people immediately the wards were finished, the State was denying us the right to employ staff and the Commonwealth told us that no more subsidy would be available until such time as we could guarantee that these wards would open. Although the building contractors had almost completed their work, the committee was left without money.
Finally the situation was resolved when the State relented in its attitude. The committee was without money and owed money to which it was entitled from the Commonwealth as a matter of right under the legislation. It seemed probable that we would be in a situation where we could not meet debts that had been incurred as a result of a grant that had already been given to us - not a grant which was tied to what might happen in the future. The position in relation to staff was a temporary measure and in my view a political stunt by Bolte to enable him to get more money from the Commonwealth, to enable him to come to Canberra and be able to show a shortage of funds in Victoria so that he could pressurise the Commonwealth for more funds for these purposes. Ours is a voluntary organisation which, as I said earlier, has built one of the finest places of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, yet we are completely frustrated all along the line by not being able to do something for the aged people who are most in need of aid.
Promises were made by a former Prime Minister, (t was my understanding that when promises are made at this level they must be honoured by a subsequent Prime Minister. But they have not been honoured up to date. The $2 a day subsidy, which was given years and years ago, is still only $2. The extra S3 a day subsidy is being handled on the basis of economics and not on the basis of need. Aged persons who are chronically ill, after a period of 3 months at the most, although they may have paid into a medical benefits organisation all their lives, are cut off completely from any further benefits and can no longer meet their commitments. These promises have been made by a government which, although it has $630m to spare, has done nothing whatever to honour the promises which it made and upon which it was elected.
I hope that some compassion will be shown by the Government. It is not too late for it to introduce amending legislation to increase the pensions that are made available to the normal pensioners. Also I make a very strong plea for direct assistance to persons who have grown old and become sick and who can do nothing for themselves. Let the Government give assistance where it is needed most, and I am certain that this country will not go broke because the Government has spent some of the $630m that it intends to hoard.
– 1 join with my friend Senator Poyser in congratulating Senator Negus and Senator McAuliffe, the 2 honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. I regret that Senator McAuliffe goes along with run and wrestle, as it is called. He is dedicated to it. It is a great pity that he is not dedicated to Australia’s national game. But I do not intend to hold anything against him on that account. I agree with Senator Poyser when he says that many old people’s homes in particular - 1 mention them because I have” had some first hand experience of them lately - are in an extremely embarrassed position financially. The Minister for Health (Senator Anderson) has said that their position is currently being examined. But the managements of both of the homes with which I have been connected have told me that their position is due almost entirely to the spiralling of costs. In that regard the position is changing continually. Institutions, firms and people - in fact everybody - must feel the stress of these continually increasing or spiralling costs.
I have seen a good many Budgets, first and last. 1 think it has been the experience of all of us that the Opposition’s attitude is that even worthwhile social service payments that are desirable are never great enough and that if taxation is increased either it should not have been increased at all or it has been increased in the wrong way. I have seldom heard any different story from that.
– Except mine - that you cannot get more than a pint out of a pint pot.
– That is right. Only a few days ago I picked up a newspaper at home and saw that the writer of a letter was drawing attention to the fact that in the last 2 years of the Chifley regime, in spite of increasing^ costs - and they were increasing - pensions remained static; in 2 successive Budgets they were not increased. Some people might say that that was at the conclusion of the war and that people were able to find millions of dollars to spend on the war and the government might well have increased pensions. I do not go along with that. Of course people will find millions of dollars when the very existence of the country is at stake. But it is a fact that m the last 2 years of the Chiflley Government, in spite of increasing costs, pensions remained static.
Let me say this in regard to social services: I go along entirely with what Professor Downing said. After dwelling at some length upon the half a million to one million poverty stricken people in the commu nity and the need, in his opinion, to increase age and other pensions, he said:
We are not going to get any significant improvement in these areas by redistributing our present national income. We have some hope of improvement if we try to do it out of the additional wealth created by growth.
Only in that way can we get down to the very basis from which all these things spring. I am one of those people who believe - I think everybody in this chamber goes along with this opinion - that this country should pay wages as great as it can possibly afford to pay. But I say that when those wages become fictitious, when all they represent is inflation and when they advance at a greater rate than production advances, then that does harm and damage to the whole of the community and the whole of the economy. Until we realise and understand, as Professor Downing has said, that from production and the development of latent resources by always increasing marketable production comes additional wealth, we will not break much ice towards further improvements in social services.
I am not one of those who blame the wage earner for all the trouble and the continuous pressure on the wages system for more, more and ever more. I look askance at a company that can pay its shareholders a dividend of 17 per cent from forwarding freight from the island State of Tasmania to the mainland. I do not doubt for a moment that there are errors in management and that, in some cases at least, profits are excessive. Nevertheless, I go along with this statement in the Budget Speech:
Even more than usually the Government has this year found it necessary to shape ils Budget to serve an overriding economic purpose. Australia is in the grip of inflationary pressures. The rate of increase in costs and prices is already fast and has tended to become faster. This is a serious condition. If allowed to develop unchecked it will cause increasing economic and social hardship to many people, add to the burdens of rural industries already depressed, disrupt developmental plans of great promise and undermine the rich possibilities of growth which our future unquestionably holds.
Later in his Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
In general, as we see the problem, there has been and still is a powerful upthrust of costs, stemming largely though not wholly from large wage claims relentlessly pursued.
I come back to a case in my own locality. There is a pocket of unemployment on the north west coast of Tasmania. Probably there are others throughout the Commonwealth but there certainly is one on the north west coast of Tasmania. I feel that unless the present cost spiral is halted the situation will become worse, as it has done in Great Britain where in a 12 months period there was a 3 per cent increase in production and a 14 per cent increase in wages and salaries. One needs to be fearful that the position will so deteriorate that unemployment will be widespread throughout the Commonwealth. The General Superintendent of the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills complex at Burnie which is the largest employer of labour in the north west of Tasmania is reported as saying:
Lack of regular shipping was a very real problem for the company’s Tasmanian operations. The APPM was losing overseas sales . . . In the 5 weeks since the end of the stewards’ strike 3,000 tons less than the output from the Burnie plant bad been shipped.
Production was gradually piling up. I repeat what 1 said in this House a week or so ago: Because the Waterside Workers Federation in Melbourne did not like the South African rugby tour, it called a further week’s strike and caused an additional pile up and loss of markets for the Burnie mill. A lot of men were put off because the mill had lost its overseas markets. 1 asked the manager a few days ago what had happened. He replied: ‘Costs are escalating so much that we are costed out of our overseas markets’. He went on to say that the Australian buyer of paper did not mind paying a little extra for the product because it was locally manufactured but when the supply was intermittent and when, for a good part of the time, he was unable to secure supplies he then turned to the imported article. So the mill has lost a big slice of its Australian market as well. That is a sorry commentary on Australia when one thinks that the Japanese can purchase at least a good part of their requirement of raw material from other countries - some of it from Australia - take it to Japan, process it into paper, send it back to Australia and still undersell us on our own Australian market.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting that the working conditions of Australians should be as low as those of the Japanese and the Formosans?
– The present situation is the result of the continuous escalation of costs which has gone on more or less all over Australia. What we need to be so afraid of is that unless it is halted we will be unable to cope with it. I turn to another aspect. Almost 300 timber workers in northern Tasmania could be out of a job by Friday week. The manager of the Burnie mill referred, in an interview, to intermittent shipping and hold ups in shipping which resulted in mainland buyers turning elsewhere. The manager of the Tasmanian Timber Association has said that purchasers in South Australia are now looking overseas for their supplies. What do we do about it? Do we adjust the situation by an increase in tariffs? Do we place a tariff on the article imported into Australia with a view to protecting the Australian manufacturer so that he can be reasonably certain of a big slice of his own local market? For how long do we go on chasing it? Must we not reach ‘he position where, in the matter of trade, Australia will be divorced from the rest of the world? There can be no other conclusion if we go on far enough.
I noted that when the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission handed out the 6 per cent increase in wages and salaries last December, after devoting pages of its determination to a justification for the increase, it pleaded to unions to be moderate in their demands in future. The Commission was stating very clearly that in spite of the justification it had advanced for what it had done, it was very afraid of the situation which could develop, lt entertained the pious hope that further demands would be restrained.
– This system has been in existence for 50 years.
– The position has become aggravated lately and will reach the stage where we will be unable to trade with the rest of the world if costs continue to escalate. When the workers were put off at the Burnie mill that I have mentioned the leaders of the union called a 24 hour strike in protest - an obviously futile action. What good could that do? To call a 24 hour strike is beyond the understanding of the average human being, ft is to the credit of the rank and file members of the union concerned that they themselves called a meeting and overruled the union leaders. They said: ‘No, we will not go out for 24 hours. What good will it do?’. It is a mighty pity that the ordinary rank and file unionists, who in my humble opinion do not want the present incessant industrial unrest, do not do the same as the Burnie mill workers did and say: ‘Enough of this. We will have no more of it’. I am afraid that the present practice could easily catch up with us. I believe it is unfortunate that the control of some unions is in the hands of people who have a vested interest in the breakdown of the Australian economy. I do not think there is any doubt about that.
I was reading about the friction that has developed between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union because of the embassies from Communist countries. Those countries use their embassies for industrial espionage. The writer of the article attributes a lot of the trouble on the Clydeside to agitation coming from embassies in the United Kingdom. I would not doubt it for a moment. But I go on from there and say, as I have said in this place before, that caught up in this position is the primary producer in this country. He is confronted with these ever spiralling costs. I do not believe it is the fault of the Government. I do not know what the Government could have done to halt inflation. If costs are continually increased through factors over which the Government has no control, surely we must get increased prices. I do not think the Government could have combated this inflation because there are so many matters that are outside its jurisdiction.
It is all very fine to push up costs, to make unreasonable demands, to have payments made far beyond the measure of production in this country and in that way cause inflation, and then say ‘Look, the Government is not doing anything about it; it is responsible’. I believe the value we get out of the pound is the value that the people as a whole put into it and 27 men who form the Government cannot by themselves and by their own efforts alone put value back into the pound. That is a job for the whole community. We have to get down to that basic fact and realise that we have to trade with the rest of the world on a basis that will enable us to compete well with our competitors. If costs keep on spiralling and if we are priced out of more and more markets, we will go the same way as the United Kingdom has gone because that is precisely what is wrong with the United Kingdom. It does not matter what ism one has: If Britain were a Communist country and if Australia were a Communist country both would still have to balance their overseas trading positions. This is a fact.
– Britain could not do it by knocking off Czechoslovakia either.
– No. It is a fact that the Soviet Union was compelled at one time to dispose of some of its art treasures to try to balance its overseas trading position. When one does the best one can one is not fattening the bloated capitalist. I saw a Communist on television in New Zealand and he was enunciating the theory that all we were doing was puffing up the profits of the capitalists and so on. T said to someone with me: “That is not right; in Australia I really believe we get more strikes, more hold-ups, more industrial unrest in State owned services and instrumentalities than anywhere else.’ This Ls in electricity and particularly in transport to Tasmania. There is no capitalist that I know of who is involved in those services. The President of the Commonwealth Concilation and Arbitration Commission in its fourteenth annual report said:
It has been often said and is often currently stated that if increases in salaries and wages are kept within increases in productivity the community in which this was done would have stable prices.
I believe that he also said that our inflation was not as bad as inflation in some other countries. That reminded me of a man who was sick unto death. That man would not find very much comfort in being able to say: ‘Well, I am not as sick as so and so.’ The President continued:
Therefore it is argued it should be obvious that the Commission should keep Australian salaries and wages within Australian productivity increases. This sounds a simple proposition but unfortunately (from the point of view of simplicity at any rate) no country with full employment or anything like full employment has yet managed to perform this feat in spite of valiant efforts to do so.
– Whom are you quoting?
– J am quoting the President of the Concilation and Arbitration Commission.
– From which year’s report?
– The latest report. The President continued:
This has occurred irrespective ot whether the country concerned has an arbitration sysc.cn! or not. Even the United Slates with unemployment up over five and a half per cent of the work force is now finding the task beyond her. Productivity in various ways has been studied and argued about at Commission hearings (and before the old Court) for many years but examples of full employment countries keeping salary and wage increases inside productivity increases have yet to be produced. Those who directly or indirectly seek to advise the Commission to perform this feat should send someone along to a hearing to advise how it could be done.
My only comment on that is that we did not need a formula to know that the 6 per cent increase last December would cause a terrific escalation in costs. The only other factor 1 want to speak about is the position of the primary producer. There has been an upsurge in primary production all over the world. Australia is threatened with Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. Many Ministers have gone to the United Kingdom in an attempt to ease the burden and to obtain some alleviation or some time for adjustment, but without success. I am one of those people who agree entirely with the statement of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) that it would he a bad thing for the rest of the world, particularly the developing countries, if that bloc of countries in western Europe were to seek to make themselves as self sufficient as possible and to trade as little as possible with the rest of the world.
I have had a lot to say in this chamber about the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. On a recent trip to New Zealand in a room full of people 1 said: The farmers are quiet. They are not growling as they usually do’. Somebody replied: ‘They have not got very much to growl about’. I really believe the farmers in New Zealand are in a better position today than the farmers in this country. I made a comparison of the prices they received for their beef, sheep and butter. I could not help thinking that the farmers in New Zealand are not as badly off as, for example, the farmers in Tasmania. I made a comparison of the position in New Zealand and the position in Tasmania because I am so familiar with the position in Tasmania. Do not misunderstand me; I am overjoyed to think that the farmers in New Zealand have been so well treated.
When Mr Marshall came home from his negotiations with the European Economic Community all the diplomats in New Zealand from the European Economic Community countries were in Wellington to meet him as well as several other Ministers. In relation to the agreement that New Zealand made with the 7 powers, as there are now, he said:
This is a unique and unprecedented agreement. It is unique and unprecedented for any country to have a guaranteed market for a guaranteed quantity of goods to be sold at a guaranteed minimum price.
The writer of the article from which I have quoted went on to say that ‘unique” and ‘unprecedented’ were words Mr Marshall used over and over again. I am glad New Zealand was able to obtain such conditions. I have heard the claim made that this agreement will put New Zealand in a better position for the next 5 years than it has been in and that this advantage will then taper off. I cannot help hut think that the producers in this country - the sugar and fruit growers and perhaps others - who are in danger of losing their markets altogether should this thing eventuate are in a very much worse position than the New Zealand producers are in. I do nol think thai on? can wipe off this fa- t by saying that Australia has such large mineral resources that it can look after itself. I do feel that some consideration should have been given to having a period of adjustment for the producers of this country who will be so hard hit by the entry of Britain into the European bloc. That brings me to this statement: lt is a matter of extreme regret that the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement precludes the lamb producers in this country from ever getting a payable price for their product and 1 believe it precludes the pea and bean growers in this country from ever getting a good price for their product. It does seem to me that there is a need for some adjustment insofar as that agreement is concerned in relation to the position of our own producers.
Let us examine the Figures in relation to trade between Australia and the United Kingdom. For many years we bought more goods from the United Kingdom than did any other country on earth. For several years past we have been running second. Our adverse balance of payments has been about 21 to I in the United Kingdom’s favour.
– How much did she buy from us?
– lt was about 2i to I in the United Kingdom’s favour. If the worse eventtuates - probably it will not - and Australian exports to the United Kingdom are cut off or drastically reduced we should seek our requirements somewhere else. We should luke our orders to countries that will trade with us on a reciprocal basis. The first thing that I would clamp down on is the importation of rubbishy British films. I would tender some encouragement to our own film industry to produce good Australian films for the people of this country to look at.
– Which ones does the honourable senator not like?
– Some of the British films that I have seen were so silly that I felt ashamed of myself for sitting up and looking at them. On many occasions I have said to people in my house that it is time the Government took action and did something to encourage the Australian film industry, if for no other reason than that it would save us from having to sit up and look at such rubbish as is to be seen in British films.
I have taken note of the fact that 2 prominent men - one was a man who last stood for the presidency of the United States and was defeated - have complained about the havoc that the EEC is playing in the agricultural markets of the world. We know that by very heavy subsidisation the EEC has increased production, but that did not seem to bring contentment to the farmers. The EEC dumped a lot of its increased production on the world market at half the normal price or at a very reduced price, which caused a lot of dislocation, lt is to be hoped that if the United Kingdom enters that federation some idea will be forthcoming which will prevent its entry from being a threat to the countries which most depend on trade for their survival.
Contrary to other budgets 1 have seen come and go I have the very distinct impression, although I may be quite wrong, that this Budget has caused much less upset and has been better received than any other budget for many years past. I believe that is a fair statement and I support the Budget.
– I am pleased to say that towards the end of Senator Lillico’s speech I was able to’ agree with him. At that stage I believe he struck for the first time a note of Australianism, even though he was referring to films. I would have thought that there was one English film which he would not have objected to, one starring Alf Garnett. I thought the honourable senator bore a tonsorial resemblance to that gentleman. As Alf Garnett is always abusing Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister, I thought the honourable senator might agree with him. We ought to be giving more encouragement to the Australian film industry. I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Lillico that the Government ought to be taking more interest in it, particularly since the advent of television. We could be producing many more Australian films. We were one of the first countries outside America to enter this field. Before World War II we were producing some very great actors and actresses and were making good films. We may laugh at them when we look at them today but when we compare them with the American and English films of those days they stand out quite well. But somehow we have lost the art of film making. Australia has the type of atmosphere in which to make films for many hours of the day. We have natural actors and actresses. Many of them are household words. 1 refer to people like Shirley Anne Richards, Cecil Kellaway, Chips Rafferty, Peter Finch and others. AH this talent was developed in the early period of the industry prior to 1939. I agree completely with what Senator Lillico said in the dying part of his speech.
I was surprised to hear the honourable senator say that he agreed with the Budget. I thought his speech was a condemnation of the Budget. If I analysed correctly what he said he believed that inflation was uncontrollable and that this Government ought not to be blamed for it. The very thing that this Budget aims to do - this was repeated several times in the Budget Speech - is to beat inflation. It seems to me that Senator Lillico was denying this precept and saying that it could not be controlled. Then he added that this was not the fault of the Government. I take issue with him over this, of course. Inflation is not exotic. It is not something which comes from overseas. It may be that the economists of the world have not yet done what Keynes did in the period of the depression. He came up with some sort of solution to the economic problems of those days. I agree with that. But the economists today have not yet found an easy solution to this thing we call inflation. We know all too well the symptoms of inflation and the responsibility of controlling it rests with the government of the day.
I do not think any honourable senator on the Government side should deny that for various reasons, political and otherwise - reasons which they may honestly have believed were for the best at the time - the Government has allowed inflation to continue for a long period of years. It is true to say that Government supporters are the architects of inflation in Australia. Prior to them becoming the Government they fought every weapon that the old Labor Government put through. They will never admit today that the Labor Government was correct in using economic controls in a wartime economy. Controls had to be used in those unusual economic times. When the Labor Government attempted to extend them for a reasonable period after the war the people who today are the Liberals - in those days they were transferring from the United Australia Party and the Nationalist Party and that sort of thing to the Liberal Party - fought tooth and nail against them for political reasons. The Government’s economic advisers could show it very clearly that that was the correct thing to do at that time.
Government supporters today must think about the early years of their government and wonder about what would have happened had they kept under control the tremendous inflation of the 1950s, even if they had had to institute unpalatable controls. I agree that nobody likes controls but in our lifetime in this modern society all of us will have to submit a lot more to them if we are to combat pollution and a lot of other things. Government supporters must realise that if they had kept the basic wage reasonably stable in the first 5 years of the 1950s we would have been able to compete much better on the overseas markets about which today Senator Lillico expressed regret. But during that period they operated under the banner of private enterprise. They said that private enterprise would control inflation. They said: ‘Let laissez-faire take over and all our problems arising with inflation, the problems of quality of life and all the rest will be cured.’ Of course Liberal Party supporters have learnt in their 2li years of government that nothing is further from the truth.
Senator Lillico said that this Budget has received less criticism than any other Budget has. All I can say to him is that none are so deaf as those who will not hear. The stupid thing about budgets is that we seem to think that everything has to be solved by the end of 365 days. We always take the 30th June which, if I remember correctly what I learned in my school years, has something to do with the solar system. We seem to think that everything has to be solved in that period. This reminds me of the Chinese New Year. Every debt has to be paid before the Chinese let off their crackers and in order to do so they will even burn their homes and collect the insurance. We think that that is economically stupid; yet we copy it ourselves in these days.
The Government made a great song and dance about the fact that in its last budget it granted tax rebates. The criticism by the Australian Labor Party was that the Government granted tax rebates to the wealthy but increased indirect taxes on all. In the previous Budget the Government put money in the hands of the people with the spending power, which was inflationary, and took money away from those who needed it most by increasing indirect taxation. By doing that the Government encouraged inflation. At Budget time everybody waits to see whether the light is green or red. On the last occasion the Government gave the green light. Not only where indirect taxes in the form of sales tax imposed by the Government but it gave the green light to manufacturers and sellers to add their percentage. The Government created increased liquidity for the wealthy but increased costs to all. This is to some degree what the Government has done in this Budget and 1 will deal with this point a little later, f repeat that the Government increased liquidity and provided more money to the wealthy people who could spend it and then increased costs to all. Apart from the economics of this, it is hardly social justice.
The Government has fooled around with restrictive trade practices which actually are anathema to it. The Government does not like them. It fiddled around with them and finally was rebuffed in the High Court. Today we heard it stated that something will be done about restrictive trade practices but the Government has been talking about this ever since it came to office. If the Government is going to increase the liquidity of wealthy people but do nothing to control prices, it is dishonest to the Australian people. Surely the situation of retail price maintenance shrieks aloud. Certain people heaped abuse on the Australian Council of Trade Unions but practically everybody has said that retail price maintenance is a form of price fixing aimed at the purchaser in Australia. It is a form of price fixing which is quite unlike wage fixing. Wage increases have to be proved to be necessary before an independent tribunal and the whole weight of the Commonwealth Government is thrown against the unions whenever they take action in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Yet the Government allows private people to meet in secret and agree to fix prices at a high artificial level for as long as the market can bear it. If they believe that the market can bear it they will push them a little higher still. I must give credit to at least one member of the Cabinet at the time that the original Trade Practices Bill was introduced because a provision to control this practice was included in it. But pressure was applied and the Cabinet wilted and took it out.
The Government has made a great song and dance about giving away the right to collect payroll tax but in fact that tax has been increased. Under Commonwealth control payroll tax was collected at the rate of 2i per cent. But the Government gave this power to the States knowing that it would not meet their need for a growth tax that would keep money flowing into their hands. The Government gave this power to the States knowing perfectly well that they would have to increase the rate. The Government increased that rate by another I per cent.
– Why? Did they have to?
-! will come to that. Senator. That is a very good interjection.
– I was a State Premier and State Treasurer then.
– That is right. A former State treasurer intervenes and asks: Why did they have to?’ He knows perfectly well why. It is because of the starvation that results from Commonwealth policy. I want to deal with that matter in a moment.
– They get a lot more money than we ever got.
– Of course they get more money today than the honourable senator ever got. They are doing a lot more than the honourable senator ever did, too. Last year’s Budget, however we might argue about it, put a dollar a week into the pay packet of ordinary working people - I am not talking about those on higher incomes - and it took $2 out of the purse of the wife who had to buy what the extra amount was required to do. The net effect of that Budget was that the family unit was worse off. Today it has been estimated that this Budget means another $1.50 a week decrease in the purchasing power of the ordinary working people of Australia. Every economist who has looked at this Budget has said that it is a Trojan horse. The real effect of the Budget is going to be felt in the new year. At the moment, people are receiving taxation cheques. We always have this inflationary period and a lot of liquidity in this period of the year, lt is after Christmas that we are going to be adversely affected. But already the vast majority of people who make up this nation of ours will bc $1.50 a week worse off.
Senator Gair has asked: ‘Why do States have to push up rates’? lt does not matter very much whether the workers have a wage cut taken directly out of their pay packets or we say to them: ‘You have to stretch that wage packet to pay all the bills which you cannot dodge in your day to day living in a family’. Every State budget which has been introduced recently has been a harsh one. The Western Australian budget is still to come but Premier Tonkin has said that at best it is not going to be as bad as the budget introduced by Sir Henry Bolte.
– They are only increasing their salaries.
– They are not only doing that. If the honourable senator was a State Treasurer - he seems to be concealing that fact very well tonight - he knows perfectly well that it is not true that they are increasing only salaries. They have increased municipal rates, payroll tax, fares, car registration fees and interest rates. This is what is happening. It does not matter whether it is a Commonwealth tax, a State tax or a local government tax, it still comes out of the pay packet of one person and one person only. I repeat that it does not matter whether we immediately reduce’ wages by a certain amount or say that certain bills have to be met. Some people say that a reduction hits equally the wage and salary earners and the pensioners. It does not. When such things as water rates, land rates or land taxes are increased the increase applies equally to the wealthy person and the poor person. This is why the incidence of indirect taxation is unfair.
It takes a courageous government to stand up and say that direct taxation is the fairest of all forms of taxation. Some people are obtaining great incomes because they are living in a great country. The Government spends money putting in roads and footpaths past blocks of land which people own. For this service they pay nothing. They obtain an unearned increment. They obtain this from the work and the produce of the people in the country. This Budget is supposed to be against inflation. Who is going to bear this cost? Senator Lillico was pointing all the time to one person only - the wage earner.
If one reads the policy speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) one sees the gratuitous remarks against those who have only their labour to sell. There is not one word against anybody who can manipulate the price of their goods or of their shares, salt their uranium mines or their nickel mines. There is not one word against these people. Without any analysis at all the Treasurer blames wages. I ask honourable senators to show me in the Treasurer’s speech one word of economic analysis to prove the bland saying that wages create prices. The fact is that there is no economic analysis of the position in the Budget. From a new Treasurer one would expect something a little better than that. The statement on wages is a political statement and nothing else. He makes the beautiful statement that wage increases are obtained under pressure. When in the history of the oldest honourable senator in this chamber were wage increases ever obtained by anything but pressure? Can honourable senators remember any time when employers went to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and said that wages ought to be increased? Of course they are obtained under pressure. They are under pressure in the Arbitration Commission, around the negotiating table, from day to day in the workshop and by all sorts of other means. Where will workers obtain wage increases if there is no pressure? An interesting statement is contained in the second last paragraph of the Budget Speech:
There is scope for a real lift in the standard of living which should be shared by many who would otherwise be the undefended victims of inflation and the self-seeking of stronger, more aggressive groups.
I wonder who the treasurer meant by more aggressive groups’. I thought that the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange which was under the chairmanship of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and which has now been taken over by our friend Senator Rae may have indicated where those more aggressive groups were. The Committee has been pointing a finger fairly and squarely at one of the most disgraceful set-ups in the Australian economic situation. At first the security industry would not have a bar of this suggestion. It said that the Senate was stepping outside its proper role - its terms of reference - and that there ought not be Commonwealth control of securities and exchange in Australia. The 5, 6 or 7 disgraceful episodes which have come before the Committee must make us look like a bunch of crooks overseas because these matters are hitting the headlines. Do not honourable senators think that this situation is adding to inflation in Australia? Do they not think that without control over this type of thing in Australia that will add to inflation? But according to the Treasurer the wage earners are the more aggressive group. 1 ask honourable senators not to fool themselves when they are talking about wage increases. When we talk about the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission wc are not talking about a few coal miners or a few fellows on the wharves. Arbitration tribunals in one form or another determine 95 per cent of incomes in Australia. These tribunals cover the Public Service, the universities, the white collar workers, the blue collar workers-
– That figure is a bit high.
– lt is not very high if the honourable senator looks at it.
– lt is very high.
-! shall give the honourable senator 1 per cent or 2 per cent and take the figure down to 93 per cent because of my great regard for him. Let us get on the same level. The figure is tremendously high. I repeat that 93 per cent or 95 per cent of people’s incomes are determined by the arbitration tribunals. I say to honourable senators: ‘Do not sit back on your pontifical heights and agree with the Treasurer when you are talking about wage increases’. Do not say that this does not affect you, because it does.
We look in vain for the identification of the groups of whom he speaks. 1 repeat that this gratuitous statement is a political statement. There is not an analytical, economic statement made throughout the Budget. It is supposed to be an attack on inflation. Professor Hall of the Austraiian National University said: ‘An attack on inflation? What a laugh. Wait until after Christmas. Wait until all this starts to get under way’. One feature of inflation which the Government talks about is increased costs. We clearly understand this situation. We call it inflation as costs increase. This Budget is going to increase costs. Whichever way we look at it, it will increase costs. As it increases costs, by the great magic of mathematics, manufacturers and sellers are going to add their part to costs. This is inflationary. It is not deflationary. When we come to the other side of the inflationary story, that is the question of demand and how much money we have in our pocket to meet the ever increasing costs, then the Government starts to look at the deflationary side of the story. There is a decrease in purchasing power; that is deflationary. In relation to profits and goods the Government is carrying out an inflationary policy. In relation to people, it is carrying out a deflationary policy.
The charge payable by patients for pharmaceuticals will be increased. The thing that appals me more than anything when dealing with health matters is that the Government always demands that sick people have to pay for pharmaceuticals. The whole health scheme is breaking down because of this. Instead of providing an increase in indirect taxation to cover the cost of these things, the Government is saying to the unfortunate wife or widow who has children and who has to buy pharmaceuticals: ‘Because you are unfortunate enough to have to go to a chemist shop to buy these things for the protection of your family, or because you arc silly enough to get sick, you will pay for them’. Surely the weak in the community should not have to pay for these goods.
The Government has again increased the customs duly on petrol. It airily waves its hands and says: ‘If people drive only a few miles at a weekend and if they can afford a car, good enough’. There is no analysis of the reason tor this increase. Virtually nothing in the home - foodstuffs, furniture or anything else - is nol transported at some time by a petrol driven vehicle. Therefore the increase will be not only on the couple of gallons a week that the ordinary motorist uses but also in practically everything that goes into the home. The radio and television licence is to be increased. That is getting pretty hot. Mum and dad sitting at home at night watching television are not great spendthrifts, but the Government pursues them into the home. The Government says that the normal healthy working family can carry the increases; but if there is a period of illness or some period of unemployment during the year, one of the things that people could well have to cut out would be television. Air fares have been increased already because of the increase in the duty on petrol. As Senator
Murphy tried to point out in a question today, Australia has the highest air fares in the world already, yet the Government is trying to push them up higher.
We have heard a lot about child endowment and how good the proposed increases will be. Let me pay my tribute immediately and say: ‘Thank goodness. At long last the Government has recognised that there is such a thing as child endowment’. Just as it has been revealed that the pension increase was not a full pension increase but a very partial one - that fact was concealed by the Government for quite a long time until finally the cat was let out of the bag - the proposed increases in child endowment are not quite as good as they sounded on Budget night because only 31.9 per cent of families will receive increased benefits. In other words, less than onethird of the families with children will receive increased benefits. Only 4.7 per cent of families will receive more than an additional $1 a week.
The Government has made an attack on wages and has talked about taxation, but if it looked at the figures it would find that each year the working class person pays a greater percentage of his earnings in taxation. In 1967 the average weekly earning was $60.70. We should not confuse average weekly earnings with the old basic wage. There is no longer a basic wage. The average weekly earnings include the salaries of all the large salary earners, not only the wages of those on low incomes. Most people do not get anything near the average weekly earnings. Because the old basic wage has gone by the board the formula that is talked about today is the average weekly earning. In 1967 the average weekly earning was 560.70. Of that 16.1 per cent was deducted as income tax. I do not want to bore the Senate with figures, but in 197 1 that figure has risen to 19.1 per cent. So in 4 short years it has risen from 16.1 per cent to 19.1 per cent. If we assume - and these are assumptions which, believe me, are not unreasonable - that there will be a 6 per cent increase in average weekly earnings next year, the proportion deducted for income tax will rise to 19.9 per cent. Should the average weekly earnings rise by 10 per cent - a lot of Liberal Party people are talking about this - the proportion will have risen from 16.1 per cent in 1967 to 21 per cent next year. The Government has been manoeuvring on this subject. It made a great splash last year under John Gorton. It said that at long last it intended to take a new approach to the matter. This promise came out of an election campaign. It has been dropped completely on this occasion. Again there is this stop-go situation. Always squeezed in the middle is the little man who has to pay more irrespective of how high sounding the Budget may have seemed on Budget night.
The Government has inflated prices and it has deflated people. The problem is cost. The Government admits that. The Budget does not pretend to attempt to deal with this side of the problem. AH it does is to talk about the cost push, so the Government says that it will deal with the push side of the problem. It attacks the demand, but it does not attack costs. I thought Senator Lillico used an unfortunate phrase tonight when he talked about putting value in the pound. I did not think that any Liberal, after 1949, would use that expression again.
Obviously to take one calendar year and to say that this is what the Government intends to do in one year is not good enough. Great Britain is one country which now plans a Budget over 3 years. It makes minor adjustments to that because of unforeseen circumstances. This Government is showing the need for adopting such a procedure by the last 2 Budgets because last year it set out to decrease taxation and this year it has increased taxation. Last year there was at least an inference - I am not quite sure whether there was a direct statement - that the matter would be looked at. A few years ago when Mr McMahon was the Treasurer I remember him saying that he deplored regressive taxation, what was happening to wage increases and the rest of it. Still nothing was done about it. There have to be forward estimates made. If the Government had planned honestly, without a political motive, and if it had looked ahead for 3 years, obviously it would not have reached this ridiculous situation in which it is making a great song and dance and a great furore in one year about reducing taxation and then having to increase it in the next year.
The Government has adopted the phoney approach, which it always loves to do, of talking about breaking down the government sector of spending. It is amazing how the Government never learns. In the early 1950s, Mr Menzies as he then was said: ‘We will sack 10,000 civil servants’. The joke used to be who would be the first to be sacked. Of course that scheme did not work. The Government sacked the wrong type of people. A couple of years ago the Government started this again by saying that no overtime was to be worked and that no excess travel was to take place. This year the Government has given its approach a nice little twist and has spoken about not allowing the Public Service to increase its staff by more than a certain percentage - I think it is 3.1 per cent. Does the Government know what it is doing when it says this? It is saying that it is completely inefficient in its running of the Public Service. Unnecessary extra staff should not have been put on in the first place. The Public Service should be run at such a level that a staff position authorised by the Public Service Board should be necessary. The travelling of a person around Australia should be necessary. Overtime to be worked should be necessary. I am not at all interested in what the government is putting forward. After 30th lune in the Taxation Office overtime is the cheapest way to get the job done. If it is said that no overtime is to be worked, in 6 months time the files will be stacked as high as the ceiling. Extra staff can be engaged then or overtime can be authorised and overtime will be payable at a much higher rate than is applicable today. So it is just a phoney. It just does not work unless the Government has been so lax as to allow the Public Service to boost its numbers by approving unnecessary appointments.
I should have mentioned another point when referring to extra taxation. The whole of Commonwealth taxation, municipal rates, tax increases now appearing in State Budgets and all the rest of it do not tell the whole story. The Federal Government is using the Postal Department as a taxing authority. This practice reverses the whole history of telecommunications. A government sets up a post office in a country in order to establish communication with the citizens. The whole history of telecommunications and the reason why some telecommunication authorities are private and some are governmental can be traced to that point. The Government has reversed the tradition. The Post Office is no longer simply a provider of services to the people.
The profit on telecommunications this year will be about S53m and the loss on the postal side will be about 517m. That profit of $53m is a direct tax on people who use the services of the Post Office. There has been a lot of talk about interest charged to the Post Office. Sir Robert Menzies once described as the most stupid suggestion he had ever heard the proposal of raising money from the taxpayers and then charging interest on it. He said that he could not think of anything more silly but that is what the Government is doing today. In the coming year the Post Office will pay interest charges” of about $14lm. Added to the profit of S53m, n makes a total of S194m. I will not’ explore the other charges which will bring the total to about 8200m to be extracted from the people over and above what they are required to pay for each of the service* of the Postal Department. Why the Country Party takes this lash is quite beyond me.
The technical section of the Post Office has done a tremendous job in spreading communications over a country of this size with so few people. Life has been made much easier for farmers, people working in outback mines and similar occupations. Nevertheless, the Government has nakedly and unashamedly turned the Post Office into a taxing authority. There is no reason why a profit of $53m should be made on telecommunications after interest charges of S141m are made on money originally taken from the pockets of the taxpayers and provided to the Post Office.
We have heard for years about the restructuring of the taxation schedules, but where does it appear in this Budget? After almost 22 years in office the Government is doing nothing about the restructuring of the taxation system. A ridiculous situation arises when a comparison is made between 2 people who are each paying SI 00 a year to hospital and medical benefit funds to protect their families. For the person paying taxation of 50c in the $1, that contribution to a fund is reduced to $50. The Government thus allows the wealthy man to pay only $50 a year for health insurance. A person paying taxation of 10c in the $1 will receive a reduction of only $10 in respect of the SI 00 he pays for health insurance. It is a ridiculous situation. Two persons each pay to a fund the same amount of money for the same protection for their families, but in the result a wealthy person pays after his taxation deduction only $50 a year and another person will pay, after allowing for the taxation deduction, S90 a year for the same protection.
When Mr McMahon was Treasurer he was quite vociferous about the taxation schedules, but nothing has been done about them. I have never heard from a member of the Liberal Party or the Country Party one word in defence of the situation. I have never heard them say that this is the type of taxation situation that ought to exist in Australia. It is hopelessly unfair. This afternoon Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said that the Government has a long record of keeping its promises. I would like him to discuss the rural finance corporation Which was mentioned in 1970. It is urgently required today. And what about the election promise of child minding centres? Nothing has been done about that. On 15th March 1971, at the advent of the McMahon Ministry, it was decided to increase pensions. Mr McMahon had this to say:
We will follow this immediate increase in pension rates with a fundamental review of social services and related pensions and also of methods of adjusting such benefits. This review, which has already been commenced, will be under consideration in the near future with the object of bringing emerging decisions into effect for the year 1971-72.
Although there is not one word about that in the Budget, we are told that the Government keeps its promises. This was supposed to be the new look Government which would sweep away the old order. Mr McMahon, an experienced politician, said clearly and definitely that the increase in pensions of 50c a week was a recognition that his predecessor had not done the right thing, and had not done his job. Mr McMahon’s immediate action and the words that he used then lifted the hearts of every Australian. But where is that promise reflected in the Budget? There is not one word about it. The Government has completely reversed what ought to be done.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has finally said that we are not to have a national superannuation scheme, I remember the late Senator Sir William Spooner saying as Minister for Social Services: ‘I will not rest until I bring down a national superannuation scheme.’ The Great White Master touched on this matter in the joint Opposition speech of 1949. I remember it well. 1 suffered all the lashes and indignities of being a candidate and coming to the Senate at that time. On the subject of social services Sir Robert Menzies said in 1949:
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance-
He could truthfully say that again today - against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and old age. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right and so get completely rid of the means test. During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval. Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will of course be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power. . . . There are also grave anomalies associated with the position of persons who have contributed for their own superannuation benefits. Without an all-round contribtory system, there are enormous financial barriers to an immediate abolition of the means test.
I ask honourable senators to match those words with those of Mr McMahon in discussing social services today. Yet Government supporters have the hide to say here that the Liberal Party has a long record of keeping its promises. I have referred to only 1 or 2 that come readily to mind.
We have had a period of comparative peace in Australia. We have had the Vietnam war and the Korean war but we have not had put on us the major economic problems that we knew and our fathers knew before us. Would not one think that there would be a philosophy, a vision of the future, that would stand out clearly today? We know that such problems as pollution and the overcrowding of cities have to be grappled with because we have seen those problems in other countries. In some overseas cities people are jammed in trains like sardines so that the railway system can work. That is not because there is no private transport but because the roads in such cities as Tokyo and Osaka are jammed to the absolute limit. Pollution is also a major problem in Los Angeles, New
York, Tokyo, Osaka and other places. Only a few days ago the Press reported that children in a school playground in Osaka were collapsing in hundreds, exhausted because the photo-chemical smog was getting into their bodies. In Australia we have a glorious opportunity to dodge pollution problems. In that respect our great spaces are in our favour and not to our disadvantage. I suppose Queensland, with its decentralisation and geographic situation is the best example of how we can avoid these problems. But there is not one word in the Budget about the problems of pollution.
What is the present situation of the rural crisis? It is true that the Government has produced palliatives. We have economic theories and political gimmicks, but is there any honest approach? Is there any standing up to be counted? Is there any standing up and saying: ‘This is the situation and this is what has to be done. Here are the resources of a government which is doing something about it.’
When we were hit the other day with the dollar-yen crisis the stunned silence of the Government was shocking. It was almost a monastic like silence. I should have thought that immediately there would have come into this Parliament to be broadcast to the people of Australia an announcement of the alternatives and the problems, telling us whether or not we should do all these various things that some people think we should do. I see that Senator Wright is smiling. If he wants me to repeat them I shall certainly do so. There was no analysis from the Government of the effect that we could expect if Japan, our greatest buyer of raw materials, started to reduce buying such things as minerals and wool. This is what the dollar crisis was aimed at. Minerals and wool are only 2 items that come readily to mind.
If that situation is going to hit Australia and have an effect on our rural industries we would be, on comparative grounds, in as bad a position as we were during the depression. Because of the situation in our rural industries, only our minerals have been maintaining us. But if our sales of raw materials were to be attacked it would be a very serious thing. In my view this is the most serious situation to strike Australia since the end of the war. In monastic like silence we waited for the bells to chime to tell us what the Government was doing, but we had deathly silence day after day from the Government. I repeat that this is probably the most important and serious thing to hit this and probably other countries since the end of the war. But from the Government we have heard of no alternatives and no analysis of what might be happening. There were no warnings to those people who might be affected. I read - true, it was a newspaper report - that already one of the coal contracts with northern New South Wales has been cut by 25 per cent from, I think, 160 million tons to 120 million tons in the first week of this crisis. This was not something new; it has been talked about for 6 months. We have heard references to America embarking on a de facto devaluation of its dollar. If honourable senators flick back through the financial pages they will read of this. Surely with its resources the Government should have been in a better situation to know what was happening.
This Budget can quite rightly be described in economic terms. It will have the effect of inflating prices and of deflating demand. It is a trojan horse Budget. Its hidden purpose is to increase unemployment drastically. In human terms - terms which the Government so frequently ignores - this Budget will cause suffering to every wage earner and, in line with consistent Government actions, it will bear most heavily on the sick, the aged and those on fixed incomes. Further, it will add 50,000 workers to the ranks of the unemployed. I know that honourable senators opposite have been bucking about this figure, but it is not my estimate; it is the estimate of Mr Donovan, the chief economist of W. D. Scott and Co. For these 50,000 workers and their families the Budget is a grim harbinger of poverty. Their livelihoods are being sacrificed to appease the Treasury devil of excess demand, a demand which many experts, including Professor Hall of the Austraiian National University, regard as already being overestimated.
– The speeches of Senators Negus and McAuliffe were of great interest. I congratulate them on making their maiden speeches during this Budget debate. The matters brought forward by Senator Negus in relation to probate were very close to my own heart and to my own Party. I think he can be assured that in bringing these matters forward he will find some support for his propositions from this corner of the chamber. Senator McAuliffe from Queensland spoke at length on those things which are close to his heart. I congratulate him on putting forward his proposition for a ministry of sport in the Federal sphere. That is one matter which should be considered and I congratulate him upon that aspect of his speech.
The Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) this year was prominent for the emphasis which it laid on the very serious problem of inflation, a trend which grips Autralia at present. The situation is not nt’w to Australia and it is not unique to th s part of the world. I believe that Australia has done very well in past years in containing the growth of inflation that we have experienced. I believe that this is of credit not only to the present Government but also to those past complexes of government which Australia has had. As the fiscal policies of this country are the responsibility of the Federal Government, it must at the present time take some responsibility for what can be suggested is an unacceptable rate of inflation which is posing a threat to our society at the moment. That is what 1 believe the vexed problem of inflation is doing. There are few in the community who would benefit from, and most industries and the average citizen are greatly disadvantaged by, rampant inflation. Individuals who are placed on fixed incomes must surely be the most hard hit in its community. We should have great consideration for them. In general, those who have retired on incomes which 10 years ago they thought would be sufficient find themselves in desperate straits today. The primary producer also is very seriously affected. The recent experiences of ever-increasing costs and. in many areas of primary production, a continued downward trend in prices has brought a situation which can only result in the most serious financial loss for the most frugal of farmers.
This has been the experience of the past few years. I wonder what is to be adjudged as the future from the Budget Papers which have been put before us. I believe that there must be much stronger Government action, however unpopular that action migh be, to right what at this moment is rampant inflation. The Treasurer has described the economic disease as pernicious. He asserts that the Government will slow it down and will hobble it. I think the aim of the Government should be to halt inflation, but it does appear that that is necessarily the aim of the Government at the moment. I believe that it should be its aim. If such a situation is uncontrollable and an even rate of growth with an even rate of price growth is unachievable, I ask that Cabinet and the Treasury advisers devise an economic policy to halt inflation completely. The experience of an ever-lowered value of the Australian dollar is unfavourable to morale and the economic stance of the Australian public. lt is harmful to those whom we would seek to encourage, that is, the thrifty in the community. Undoubtedly the international posture of Australia is not enhanced by an uncontrolled devaluation of our dollar.
– lt is not going to be devalued, lt is on its way up. We have allowed it to float and it is 4 per cent above its value at the moment.
– The honourable senator has a great knowledge of the economic situation at the moment. 1 realise the difficulty of the situation that faces this country. One can well argue that it is very nearly impossible in a world in which every country is involved in an inflationary trend to be isolated with our dollar left at an uncontrolled figure. At present we have an international monetary situation which is surely as serious as any situation that has existed, at least in my lifetime. The Government has taken steps which it feels are wise, and it has quite strong independent backing to suggest that what is planned by this Budget will be achieved. Let me quote one authority. The very important National Bank of Australasia Ltd stated in its latest ‘Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions’ that there can be little doubt that overall the impact of the Budget will be deflationary, ft went on to say: . . I he rate of inflation show-, no signs of diminishing at this juncture, and the expectation by the Commonwealth that average weekly earnings will rise by 9 per cent in 1971-72 would, if realised, mean another strong rise in prices.
There. I believe, is the main problem that we see in the inflationary trend in our community. 1 realise that honourable senators opposite have suggested that it is not wage rises that have created our problem. They are right to some extent. Price rises, the effects of tariffs and the costs of production in various areas certainly have contributed to the increased cost of goods. But. I doubt that anybody could question that we could have anything but an inflationary situation when over the 5 years previous to the last 2 years average weekly earnings increased by more than 6.6 per cent per annum and in the last 2 years they increased by approximately 8 per cent per annum whilst during that time prices rose by only 3.2 per cent per annum. So the increase in prices must surely be attributed to the increase in wages.
If we are to take notice of the comment made by the Treasurer in relation to the great loss that has occurred in the community as a result of strikes during that period - I recall that Mr Hawke denied that the Treasurer’s figures were correct, but I suggest that the Treasurer’s figures are correct when he says that in the past 3 years the annual losses of working days have been 1.1 million, 2 million and 2.4 million - we cannot be anything but gravely disheartened as to what the trend may be in the coming year. That represents an enormous loss of earnings to those involved in those strikes. It also represents an enormous loss of income and earning capacity to this country.
I noted the following comments in an article in the magazine ‘Impetus’ which discussed productivity and prices:
Wages costs and the apparent stagnation of productivity are specially disturbing. In fact wage escalations have been largely robbing productivity of all meaning for quite a long time. Wage costs were allowed to soar from an annual average of 6.5 per cent, as measured over the 5 years to June 1970, to 8.9 per cent in 1969-70, the biggest single annual increase since the Korean War boom of J 952. With this year’s national wage case decision and its seemingly endless flow-ons, the increase in wage costs this year would appear to be close to a perilous 10 per cent.
As to productivity, against an average rise in manufacturing productivity of 4 per cent a year over the period 1961-69, the rise in productivity in 1969 was down to 2.9 per cent. In the 12 months between March 1970 and March 1971 labour productivity in manufacturing would seem to have remained constant or even to have fallen a little.
Anybody in the Senate, whether he supports the labouring section or whether he supports any other sector of the community, cannot be anything but very concerned as to what that situation will bring about. If Mr Whitlam was trying to get in early and say that this Budget will produce unemployment within the coming year, I say that it will not be by the Budget that unemployment will be produced. One only has to have some recognition of our interest in the problems that are created for the employer section of the community today, in attempting to find productivity that will return to a business an average of $100 a week for each employee that business has on its staff at the present time, to realise that that is an impossible task. The only way to achieve some improvement in business these days is to try to prune to the very greatest extent the labour force that any business has on its payroll.
– Or to increase the profit margin by increasing prices.
– Senator Georges makes a particular point. He suggests that the matter of prices should be dealt with.
– Prices and profit margins.
– The prices and profit margins are not quite true in the context in which he tries to put them. 1 am very interested to hear his comment because that is a proposition which the Australian Council of Trade Unions advanced. Mr Hawke was involved in putting before the public the general proposition that pices were the problem and that what the unions should do was to get into that activity themselves by getting into the ACTU store. The proposition put to the public generally was that most businesses were making too high a percentage of profit or that they were adding too much margin in the prices of the goods they sold. Here was a leader with, I suggest, very little economic ability as far as business is concerned suggesting that he would run a business on no more than a 22± per cent mark-up. We heard that figure, and we hope that it is being adhered to because it must have encouraged many individuals within the labouring community to go along to the ACTU store where, they were led to believe, prices would be belter or cheaper than those they would find in the great stores that were grinding the poor worker into the ground.
On the 2nd and 3rd of this month - that is last Thursday and Friday - when I was not sitting in this chamber, I took some time to make a comparison of the prices advertised by the ACTU store and other stores in the area.
– Just be careful on that, because the ACTU has not yet taken full control of Burke’s store.
- Senator Poke wishes to interrupt me so that I cannot present this information. We all know that the ACTU has not taken full control of the store. But it is counting on making sufficient profit out of this venture, however high its prices may be, to purchase the store within 3 years. If anybody can imagine a situation in which capitalists could be worse than that, I would like to know about it.
I have mentioned that on the 2nd and 3rd of this month 1 took some time to make a comparison of prices. I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted?
– No. I want to hear it read out.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
– It might be better if I defer this matter until tomorrow. But I may say that I will be pleased to read out the prices in this table which I prepared personally by noting the prices of certain goods on a tour that I made of some of the stores in the area of the ACTU store. I am most anxious that this type of business should be in operation and that it should be competitive. But it is altogether wrong for anybody to set up business and say to people: ‘Come to us because we are going to do something wonderful for you’. I have here the prices of 7 or 8 items. I will read the first of them.
– It is too late tonight. Save them for tomorrow.
– I think they are sufficiently important to give tonight as well as tomorrow. I noted the prices of about half a dozen items which, I suggest, the average person interested in the ACTU store should be able to buy from the store with confidence, knowing that he is buying them at the cheapest price at which they can be bought.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710907_senate_27_s49/>.