27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the Senate that Senator Wright left Australia on Friday last to lead the Australian delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Kuala Lumpur. Senator Wright is expected to return to Australia on 24th September. During his absence, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) is Acting Minister for Works. I will represent Senator Wright in regard to his portfolio and also the portfolios he represents in this chamber.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Government aware of the general concern at the rapidly rising number of people unemployed and the falling number of job vacancies? Is it a fact that the figures released yesterday by the Minister for Labour and National Service showed that the number of people unemployed in Australia last month reached the highest August figure since 1963 - 1.4 per cent of the work force? What urgent action does the Government propose to take to reverse this dangerous trend towards massive unemployment?
I would say in response to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition that it is true that there has been an casing in the labour market during the last 12 to 15 months. It is true that the number of registered unemployed at the end of August 1971 - 61,848 - was the highest figure since August 1963 when it stood at 67,229. Some of the easing in the labour market has occurred in what were overheated areas of the economy. This is particularly true of the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne which were experiencing severe demand pressures and acute labour shortages some 15 months ago.
On the other hand, some easing in labour demand has also occurred in many country 18938/71- S-Wi areas where there was never excess demand. This is unfortunate, but it reflects the reduced employment opportunities arising from the current depressed condition of many sectors of Australian rural industry. For Australia as a whole the unemployment situation is not one for concern. When adjusted to remove the influence of seasonal factors, the number of registered unemployed at the end of August represented a little less than 1.4 per cent of the Australian work force. This is well within what is generally accepted as the full employment range in Australia. It represents a much fuller rate of employment than exists in most industrialised countries of the world. In the United States of America and Canada unemployment rates currently exceed 5 per cent. In the United Kingdom, France and Italy they exceed 3 per cent. Even allowing for differences in definition which affect comparability, there is no doubt that unemployment in Australia is extremely low by comparison with leading industrialised economies of the Western world.
– 1 direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, lt follows my question last Tuesday regarding the sell out of Cudgen RZ Ltd, Consolidated Rutile Ltd and Aberfoyle Ltd to foreign investors. Has the Government also refused to act to prevent the sale by the liquidator of Mineral Securities Australia Ltd of 4 million Robe River shares to an overseas buyer? Does the Government intend to remain inactive while Australian assets continue to pass into overseas hands? If not, what stage must this share sellout reach before the Government will step in?
I would need to direct the honourable senator’s question, which is supplementary to a question he asked last week, to the Treasurer and obtain a reply for the honourable senator as quickly as I can.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that many commercial and charitable nursing homes for the aged are at a stage of financial collapse due to the cost of present nurses’ salaries?
Has the Government any immediate plans to help these homes which do so much for our elderly people and which may be forced to close unless such help is given?
As I recall, I answered a question on this matter several weeks ago. It is a fact that because of significant awards made in relation to the staff of nursing homes a situation is emerging which affects the economics of nursing homes. This matter is currently before me and is one of the most important currently under examination within my Department. Further award variations are pending in some States and may make the situation even more difficult. There are 2 types of nursing home. Some nursing homes are run by voluntary organisations and others are run by private organisations or, to put it another way, are run for a profit. The problems of the 2 groups vary slightly. About 75 per cent of people in nursing homes are pensioners, as we understand that term. So it is a serious matter. Representations have been made to me and yesterday I had discussions with the Tasmanian Minister for Health in relation to problems arising in a particular area in Tasmania. I have the matter currently under examination for the consideration of the Government and I am treating it as very important.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Parliament of the total sum expended by the Australian Wool Commission since the commencement of the current series of wool sales?
– I ask the honourable senator to put this question on the notice paper. I cannot carry in my head the up to date figures he seeks.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts whether he has seen a report of a statement by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in Whyalla on Friday advocating a nation wide approach to protect the Australian coast from marine pollution? Is the Minister aware that this principle reflects much of what was included in the conclusions and recommendations in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution? Will the Minister ask his colleague to place those recommendations before the Commonwealth and State meeting on Friday with a view to working out a programme of complementary legislation as suggested in the Senate Committee’s report?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement referred to by the honourable senator. I have no doubt that Senator Davidson is aware of a detailed examination by Commonwealth and State officials of a national plan to combat oil spillage at sea. 1 understand that there is to be a meeting of the Federal and State Ministers in Perth in the near future and it is proposed that the results of the examination will be discussed at that meeting. I am quite sure that the Minister is well aware of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee, of which Senator Davidson was Chairman, and which dealt with water pollution in this area.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that medicines prescribed for pensioner patients in nursing homes do not come within the scope of the free pharmaceutical scheme for pensioners? Does this mean that if an indigent person requires extensive dressings and other pharmaceutical items whilst in a nursing home, he or she must meet the cost of those items? Will the Minister consider reviewing this unjust situation which is a source of great anxiety for many old and sick people in our affluent nation?
There is a very wide and comprehensive list of pharmaceutical benefits which doctors can prescribe. If they prescribe them for pensioners there is no charge. It is true - I think this is the burden of the question which the honourable senator asks - that certain items are not on the list. I would be happy if the honourable senator would let me have the name of the drugs to which he is referring so that 1 may have their position examined. Last week or the week before, in answer to a question, I said that a board had been set up to examine submissions as to various drugs which could or could not be put on the list. If I could obtain particulars of the drugs which the honourable senator or some of his constituents have in mind I would have them examined in detail and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– My question which relates to the recent High Court decision in the concrete pipes case is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask: Prior to the introduction of any future legislation which might be contemplated at any time, based on the apparently substantially increased powers now available to the Commonwealth, will the Government give earnest consideration to full consultation with the States so that the States can be fully informed and their advice sought in these matters and so that the full spirit of co-operative federalism will be implemented?
– It is difficult to give in absolute terms the assurance which the honourable senator seeks because he phrased his question in language which suggested that this consultation should take place at any time in relation to any future legislation. I assure the honourable senator that the Commonwealth will consult the States with regard to any future legislation resulting from an exercise of the powers which the High Court has declared the Commonwealth has and may exercise. The Government is committed in this Federation not to a policy of asserting Commonwealth power in concurrent areas to the complete exclusion of the States but to a policy of consulting the States. In the new area which has been opened up, consultation will be explored and utilised lo the full.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister received requests to make an appeal to the Government of Pakistan for clemency in the case of Sheik Mujibur Rahman? Has he made any appeal? If so, what has been the response?
– 1 have a reference here to Pakistan. 1 understand that there is an indication that this matter is being kept under constant review. There has been some correspondence in relation to the matter. I want to be careful as to how I answer the question. Perhaps I should reserve the right to enlarge on the matter later on.
The Prime Minister did send personal messages to the President of Pakistan on the situation in that country and mentioned, in particular, Australia’s concern about Sheik Rahman and Australia’s hope that, if possible, compassion would be exercised. The matter is still under constant review. That is all I can say.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether he is aware of the terms of a motion passed by the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia on Wednesday, 18th August which reads:
In the opinion of the House there should be a joint study by appropriate Commonwealth and State officials to report and recommend on the practicability of public access to parts of Garden Island for recreational purposes without security risk or inhibiting the development of the Stirling naval facilities.
Has any official approach been made by the Western Australian Government to the Commonwealth Government with a view to carrying out the terms of that resolution? Will the Commonwealth Government participate in the suggested joint study and, if so, will the joint study take place as soon as possible?
– I have seen the motion which was carried by the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. An official approach has been made by the Western Australian Government to the Commonwealth for a joint study in relation to the matter. I understand the matter is still under examination by the Commonwealth Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. I imagine that he is aware of Press reports that the Government is expected to decide before the Parliament rises on 10th December to take delivery of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 24 Fill aircraft. Is the Minister still studying the recommendation of an RAAF technical team which returned from the United States of America several weeks ago?
– Order! The Minister is quite capable of interpreting the question without the honourable senator having to make an elaborate explanation. Keep your question to a concise form, Senator Poke.
– In view of the astounding cost of these aircraft - the latest estimate is S241m - when will the Minister take the public into his confidence and state whether these Press reports are true? If the Cabinet has finally decided, after 8 years, to accept this flying fiasco, will the Minister now state: Firstly, what role the Government has in mind for these aircraft; secondly, in view of their limited range, where they will be stationed; thirdly, what will be the cost of ancillary equipment, such as tanker aircraft, to extend their range; fourthly, when will the taxpayers be told of the total cost, including spares, maintenance, delivery and leasing arrangements during the testing of these ill-fated machines; and, fifthly, what plans are envisaged for the reconnaissance aircraft that the Minister has said Australia will need, how will these aircraft be complementary to the Fill aircraft and what is their expected cost?
– At the beginning of his question the honourable senator informed the Senate that the Government would be making a decision before the Parliament rose in December. I think that the honourable senator has, in saying that, answered the latter part of his question. Surely those things will be told to the Parliament when the Government makes its decision in December. As far as some of the other points he raised are concerned, the Department of Air and the Department of Defence are still studying the technical questions involved in the report submitted by the technical officer of the RAAF who led the team to the United States of America. That report is being studied together with other technical matters in relation to the Fill aircraft so that a decision can be perhaps arrived at by the time to which the honourable senator referred. The bomber is a strike bomber. It has a range that more than meets the requirements of the RAAF. As there are 253 of these aircraft flying in America and 79 flying with the NATO forces in Europe, I cannot see how they could be described as fiasco aircraft. I think Mr Howson made the statement when he was Minister for Air that the cost of these aircraft would be $5.95m each, plus any modifications that Australia required over and above the safety requirements. In view of the fact that the Air Force has been offered a tighter replacement for the Mirage, which is still on the drawing board, at something like $10m each then the FI 11 is surely a good buy.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is k a fact that the Commonwealth Government has control over the rate of interest charged by Government and private trading banks? Does the Government fully recognise that a high rate of interest is a factor that is conducive to the high cost of manufacturing goods in this country and, in general, has the effect of increasing costs to all sectors of the community? Is it a fact that the rate of interest charged by Australian banks is marginally higher than the charge imposed in similar overseas economies? Will the Government review the rate of interest pronounced by the Reserve Bank of Australia with a view to its immediate and substantial reduction?
This series of questions asked by the honourable senator strikes a chord in my ear because 1 know that both he and the Leader of the Opposition in the past have posed this question of the application of the interest rate. I must come back to the answer that I have given in the past, that the movement of the interest rate is an instrument of government which is used because of its effect upon the economy. Senator Webster may have one point of view in relation to it; the Government may have a different point of view; Senator Murphy may have even a third point of view. I would not know. But the. fact is that the incidence and the effect upon the economy of the interest rate is a matter of Government policy.
It is not peculiar to Australia for interest rates to be used and varied to regulate the economy. I remind the Senate of the policy of the United Kingdom Government in particular. It has been known to vary the interest rate twice or even three times within a financial year because, in its judgment, the interest rate has a significant application on the state of the economy. I do not think that I can enter into a discussion during question time of the merits or demerits of this principle. We are currently in the course of debating the Budget, and if the honourable senator or any other honourable senator has a point of view as to the application of the interest rate, I think that would be the vehicle for them to express that view.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read in an Adelaide newspaper of last Friday a warning by the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board that there is a tremendous threat to animal meat production from a synthetic substitute? Does the Minister agree that if the dangerously high beef prices continue, coupled with a deficiency of production, we are inviting competition from synthetics? In order to avoid a repetition of the disastrous effect which synthetics have had on the wool industry, will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to arrange a conference with the States to consider the advisability of introducing legislation prohibiting the sale of synthetic meat for human consumption?
– ,1 have seen the report, although it did not originate in an Adelaide newspaper; it was a report of an address given by Mr McArthur, the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board at, 1 think, a Rotary Meeting. He did point out the dangers that synthetic meat could offer to the meat industry and went on to say that the producers must produce the right type of meat if they want to keep up the sales of their product. I will certainly take up the matter of the Commonwealth getting together with the States, as the honourable senator has requested. The food and drag regulations made under the Health Act in the States provide control over the inadequate and incorrect labelling and description of goods. Therefore this matter comes under State legislation. I will direct the Minister’s attention to the honourable senator’s question.
I have some further information for Senator Donald Cameron on his suggestion that the Commonwealth and the States should get together in regard to implementing legislation on synthetic meats. I would point out to the honourable senator that some 2 years ago the Ministers for Agriculture in the various States agreed to take action to ensure that synthetic meats are not described as meat. At the request of the Australian Agricultural Council, the Australian Meat Board and the Animal Protection Committee are keeping all aspects of the production and sale of synthetic meats under constant review. In April the Australian Meat Board came up with a report on the labelling of imitation meat sold in Australia. All States were requested to examine their existing legislation to ensure that the definition of meat clearly specifies that it is a product derived from animals.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration aware that a considerable number of migrants are deliberately using our immigration policy to obtain a free trip to Australia and a holiday? Is he aware that among these people have been at times people of considerable means who are quite capable of paying their own fares? Is he aware that 28,244 of these migrants left in 1971 to return to their own countries. Will the Minister advise approximately what it costs per migrant to bring 28,244 migrants to Australia? Will his Department conduct an inquiry into this matter and, if possible, ensure that only genuine migrants are accepted in the future so that Australia will not be giving holidays to many people at considerable expense to the Government and the Australian people?
– The honourable senator’s questions raise a number of matters. Because I act in a representative capacity I am not in a position to give him the full answers which undoubtedly he is seeking. I am not aware that the practice of using Australia’s immigration programme as a means of obtaining a holiday is widespread, though from time to time experience has indicated that persons have sought in a variety of ways to use the migration provisions in order to obtain benefits other than those which Australia hopes to receive from that programme. There are migration officers in various parts of the world whence Australia draws its migrants and all applications are carefully examined with a view to furthering the overall objectives of the scheme. I can only say to the honourable senator that I shall refer his question to the Minister for Immigration who, I am sure, will provide a full answer to the other points that I have not covered.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. Were the 24 F4E Phantom fighters and associated equipment delivered in accordance with the lease agreement, namely, between mid-September 1970 and January 1971? At what date do the leasing payments commence? Is it a fact that the lease will cost Australia $34m for the first 2 years? In the event of Australia actually taking delivery of the F111C fighter before the expiry of the first 2 years of the lease agreement will an adjustment be made to the leasing costs? For example, if the FI 1C aircraft were delivered within the first 12 months of the lease agreement would Australia be required to pay $17m only, or would it be obliged to pay the full $34m?
– To give the honourable senator the correct answer I would have to look at the lease agreement to see whether the figures that he has cited are correct. 1 shall do so and let the honourable senator have the information.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate whether any decision has been arrived at concerning the rebuilding of the Trans-Australia Airlines airport terminal at Eagle Farm, Brisbane, or is the present structure which was almost demolished by fire to be patched up for future use?
– I answered a question from Senator Lawrie on this subject last week and indicated that some of the terminal was still able to be used. I looked at the situation myself in Brisbane on Friday last. At present I am waiting for a proposal from TAA giving its ideas for covering the situation in the present site, temporarily, pending a new airport and terminal complex being built in Brisbane.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts seen a report from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries stating that Queensland’s kangaroo population was healthy and flourishing? Has the appropriate Commonwealth department any evidence that this is so? If so, does it apply to all mainland States? Finally, is there any evidence that the red kangaroo is rapidly becoming extinct in western Queensland as was claimed recently?
– 1 have not seen the report which has been referred to by Senator Bonner and I am unable to say whether the Minister whom I represent has seen it. On the general question of the conservation of the red kangaroo, the Senate will be- aware that the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation is completing its inquiries into this matter and expects to be reporting shortly. I can assure the honourable senator that the Government will give careful consideration to the report of that Committee. In view of the appointment of that Committee I should think that any comment I cared to make at this stage ought to be subordinate to what the Committee actually recommends in the light of the evidence it has taken.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise aware of allegations made in the Darwin Press by Mr Shigeo Kitano, the master of the Japanese vessel ‘Akitsushima’, that on 27th August 1971 a customs clearance was given at Darwin by the Department against the master’s wishes and this enabled the vessel to clear the port? Is he aware of the master’s claim that such removal of the vessel amounted to a theft which was aided and abetted by certain officers of the Department? Is he further aware that as a result of this action the vessel took to sea without a qualified master or crew and is subsequently reported to have gone ashore at Ambon in Indonesia? Should these allegations prove to be so, will the Minister indicate what steps the Department proposes to take to ensure that the vessel is returned to its rightful owner?
– Standing in my place on behalf of the Minister, I am aware of none of these things. What I shall do is see that the attention of the Minister is drawn to the question asked by the honourable senator and I shall ask the Minister, if any of these things are true, to say what is proposed to be done about the matter.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of concern being expressed among boards of management of many hospitals throughout Australia relating to the inability of patients to be reimbursed through hospital benefit organisations for post-operative and out-patient treatment at hospitals? Can the Minister say whether the Government has completed its examination of section 19 of the National Health Act following the recommendation of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance and if so what is the Government’s intention with regard to this matter?
I have received a communication from a hospital in South Australia - the Mannum District Hospital, as I understand it. The Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance which was known as the Nimmo Committee, recommended that the Commonwealth and State governments work towards the integration of out-patient service into health insurance schemes. This is one of the few remaining recommendations of the Nimmo Committee currently under consideration by the Covernment. To date the Government has not been in a position to make additional funds available to enable the implementation of the recommendation. The honourable senator will appreciate that this is not something which, in its entirety, is within the responsibility of government but is something which has to be negotiated in the context of the various hospital and medical schemes.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question about Pine Gap. He may recall that last week, on 8th September, 1 asked him a question about the publication in the United States of America of a book which set forth details of the operation of this installation. Is he aware that on Sunday last the publisher of that American book was interviewed on the ‘Four Corners’ programme and said that the manuscript, prior to publication, had been submitted to the United States Department of Defence, had come to the knowledge of the Secretary for Defence, and that the American Department of Defence had informed him that it proposed to take no steps to block publication of the information? In view of that can the Minister tell us why facts about Australia’s defences should be kept secret from Australians when the American Department of Defence is prepared to permit those facts to be released in this manner to the American public and to the world per medium of some journal? In the light of that, is it not proper now for some formal statement to be made by our Government so that we should not have to rely upon an American journal for information which is vital to Australians?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe question asked by the honourable senator is built around some programme that apparently appeared on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme. I think it would be more appropriate for the question to be directed to the Minister for Defence so that he could examine what was said on that programme, the background and how it was said.
– I heard it.
– 1 am not challenging that something was said and that Senator Murphy has interpreted it as fairly as he could.
– And accurately.
– 1 do not challenge his bona fides in relation to this at all. The question was directed not to me as representing another Minister but directly to me. I am not in a position to reply to it. Last week I gave an answer in good faith and in accordance with the brief I had. 1 have nothing to add to that brief. I am perfectly happy to have the question directed to the right person, who is the Minister for Defence.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. By way of preface I inform him that occupational therapy in convalescent homes has been projected by the Lions Club of Newmarket, Brisbane, and the activity has improved the general health and mental attitude of many inmates. Will the Minister investigate the possibility of this innovation becoming a permanent feature of our national health scheme?
I do not think any of us would challenge the efficacy, under certain conditions, of occupational therapy as a very .important contribution to health. 1 would need to direct the question to officers of my Department to get some information before I would make any committal in relation to it. I certainly will do that and will answer the question in due course.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As hundreds of Australian conscripts have been killed in South Vietnam while allegedly fighting to preserve democracy and as Air Vice-Marshal Ky was until recently held in high regard by the Australian Government, why has this Government done nothing about his allegations of a lack of democracy in the South Vietnam presidential election? Has the Government lost interest in South Vietnam or does it now have the same opinion of Air Vice-Marshal Ky as that which has been held for years by the Australian Labor Party?
– It would be hard to answer that part of the question which deals with the feelings of members of the Australian Labor Party. That is such a diverse group of people that it would be impossible to answer that part of the question. I think that the matter of substance contained in the rest of the question should go on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior in his capacity as the Designated Authority for the adjacent area of the Northern Territory. Was a strike of petroleum made in the adjacent area of the Northern Territory at Petrel No. 1 on 6th August 1969? Is Petrel No. 1 regarded as a commercial strike and has it been declared a commercial find? Does the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 provide that an operator, having made a find of commercial petroleum, has to declare the location within 2 years? Has a location been declared? Docs the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 provide that the Designated Authority may extend the period for declaration of a location by a further 2 years? Has an extension been granted? If a location has not been applied for, is the area open for other persons to make application for a location?
– There was a period in my life in this chamber when I knew a little about some of these things, but Senator Cant’s knowledge will have long since passed mine. Representing as I do the Minister for the Interior, I think the honourable senator will understand, in view of his reference to a series of technical matters relating to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, and to a certain lease, that I should properly direct the question to the responsible Minister. It would be a very brave thing indeed for me to take upon myself the risk of replying to his question off the top of my head, which may not be as fully occupied with this information as it should be.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Government consider that the interest rate which obtains on borrowed money in Australia is a factor which influences the high rate of overseas capital inflow into this country? Is the high rate of capital inflow into this country a very substantial factor in generating an increased rate of inflation here?
– Order! I regard that question, directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, as of a highly technical nature. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson may reply to it if he wishes to do so, but I do not favour a question of that, kind being asked without notice.
– I suggest that the question go on notice to the Treasurer.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. In the absence of a health insurance commission, does the Minister consider that he has ample top echelon officers to supervise adequately health and medical fund operations and to consider promptly innovations suggested by honourable senators? If the answer is in the affirmative, what is the reason for the delay in making an assessment of a document which I submitted to the Minister’s predecessor some months ago and which I received from the Belgian Embassy? The document indicated that in Belgium fund subscribers had more rights than have subscribers in New South Wales to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia?
– The answer to the first part of the question is yes. As to the second part, I would need to get the file, see what question was posed by Senator Mulvihill and ascertain why there has been delay in supplying an answer.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science seen a reported statement by Sir John Crawford, Vice-Chancel lor of the Australian National University, to the effect that he hopes that the ANU will start an inter-disciplinary degree in the science of man? Will the Government give the fullest possible encouragement to the establishment of such a vital study, not only at the ANU but also in every university in Australia? Will the Government consider initiating research into existing curricula in primary and secondary schools to establish what reforms in such curricula should be recommended towards equipping every young person with a better understanding of man?
– Order! That is a question of policy. It relates to a portfolio which is not under the control of the Minister to whom the question was directed. He may attempt to answer it if be wishes to do so.
All I can say is that I will have the question put to study by referring it to the Minister for Education and Science. The study of man is so far-reaching that it would nave ramifications beyond the ordinary understanding of most people. Nevertheless, I think it is something we all could contemplate.
– In the light of the answer given by the Leader of the Government to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition about employment, particularly the Minister’s comparison of unemployment levels in Australia with levels in other countries, does the Minister agree that present employment trends in Australia indicate the likelihood of a 2 per cent level of unemployment in the new year, or twice the present level of unemployment? Does the Minister regard such a percentage as an acceptable level of unemployment? Does the Government intend to wait until that level is reached before reversing the deflationary strategy of the Budget?
– Here we have a classic question. The honourable senator picks his own figure for what he expects unemployment to be next year and then asks me to answer a series of questions on, not the expectation - that would be an unkind word - but the proposition that the level of unemployment will be reached. I could not respond further to a question couched in those terms. I do know, of course, that traditionally the school leaving period of any financial year has a significant effect on the figures. School leavers entering the labour market cause an escalation of unemployment. But for the honourable senator merely to pick a figure of his own and then to build a question around that figure and expect me to answer that question to suit his convenience is an impossible proposition.
As to what action would be taken in relation to any significant movement in unemployment figures or job opportunity figures, I think we all recognise that in an economy, particularly an economy such as Australia’s where we have the ingredients of primary industry, industrialisation and a migration policy, this is not a precise science. But the Government has always maintained a degree of flexibility to meet situations. On the best advice available to the Government, a policy is pursued. But within that policy, as it is pursued, there is a degree of flexibility to meet a situation that may arise. .
– ls the Minister for Health aware of reports which have belatedly disclosed the dangers of the 1970 flu epidemic and the failure of antibiotics to cope with the plague? Can he explain why the extreme gravity of the situation was not revealed at the time? Will he now admit that the private doctor immunisation scheme was inadequate to cope with the situation? Will he undertake to have his Department commence a plan for a national mass immunisation programme in anticipation of the next epidemic?
– 1 did see a report a few days ago about the number of deaths registered in New South Wales as due to influenza. I saw also the reaction to that report by the Minister for Health in the State of New South Wales. While the efficacy of immunisation against influenza has not been completely evaluated, the National Health and Medical Research Council has considered the subject on several occasions. In April 1970, the Council at its seventieth session recommended that the following groups should be given priority for influenza vaccination: Firstly, persons with rheumatic heart disease and/or congestive cardiac failure, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic asthma, chronic hypostatic pulmonary congestion, chronic interstitial pulmonary fibrosis or mucoviscidosis; secondly, persons with other serious chronic debilitating diseases; and thirdly all. other persons aged 65 and over. That is a medical matter that the honourable senator and I would find difficult to comprehend at question time.
– Can we have some forward planning in anticipation of the next epidemic?
What the honourable senator is asking is that at question time on a medical question I, as a lay person, should indicate some procedures for the future. I do not think it is proper that I should. I will have the question, as the honourable senator posed it. put to study and obtain a reply for him.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I hope that it is not too technical. Is interest payable on borrowed money a factor in the cost price of goods sold in Australia? Has the Government control over the rate of interest charged by government and trading banks in Australia? Is the Government concerned to reduce the costs associated with the production of goods in all areas of primary and secondary industry?
– I indicated in an earlier answer my view that question time is not the proper vehicle for a discussion on matters of policy or questions of argument in that sense. 1 come back to that by suggesting to the honourable senator that his question should go on the notice paper. Otherwise he should discuss it during the Budget debate.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether a Royal Australian Air Force Dakota aircraft crashed on landing at Garbutt Airport on Monday, 6th September? Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the cause of the mishap? Were any crew members injured? What was the cost of the damage to the Dakota? Can the Minister also advise why he refrained from making a public statement at the time of the crash?
– When an RAAF aircraft crashes, an immediate inquiry is held to determine why the accident took place. It would be wrong for me to make a statement about an accident without knowing the full facts and the result of the inquiry.
– Will the Minister for Health examine the performance of a slow sodium pill that has been used successfully by British footballers to combat heat exhaustion on tours of South America? This treatment could be valuable for members of the Australian work force such as steel workers and .slaughtermen who operate under arduous conditions during the torrid Australian summer.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have heard of pills being used for many reasons, but I have not heard of the pill referred to by the honourable senator. However, 1 will have the matter examined.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate read an article appearing in the ‘National Times’ of 6th September drawing attention to the plight of John Nicholson, last year’s Commonwealth Games gold medallist, at the recent world cycling championships in Italy? The article points out the urgent necessity for the appointment of a Commonwealth Minister for Sport. Will the Minister use his good offices to help in this regard?
The question of mixing sport with politics has been currently before us at other levels. I am interested in the question because our Australian heritage gives us a very real interest in sport. I do not know that the creation of a new portfolio is warranted. Such a matter would have to be considered by the Prime Minister and the Government. I think a more likely proposition is that sport is in some ways included in the responsibilities of other portfolios. I will- have that point examined and a reply made available to the honourable senator in due course.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and remind the honourable gentleman about my questions last week which referred to the Government’s soaking the taxpayers to prop up a wool industry subsidy scheme. Is the Minister aware of the large difference which has developed between prices offered at the current auctions by the Australian Wool Commission and prices in other wool producing countries? Is it a fact that a survey by one of the leading continental wool buying brokers of prices in Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, Brazil and North America has shown that buyers could get their wool 10 per cent to 15 per cent cheaper overseas? Is it a fact that the stockpile of 539,000 bales held by the Commission is worth $54m? If so, when does the Commission expect to sell that wool and reimburse the taxpayers for such a massive outlay used to prop up a system which appears to be collapsing? Is it a fact that the Government’s wool buying through the Commission in effect creates an artificial price which implies price rigging, a practice, which is coming under severe criticism in the share market? Does this price rigging system by the Wool Commission grossly mislead the Australian public? ls it true that there is a vast international market rigging scheme instigated, conducted and condoned by a government which professes to believe in free enterprise?
– I would be glad of any information which the honourable senator has which shows that prices in Australia are so much more than the ruling prices in other countries. I shall answer only portion of the honourable senator’s question because it was long and too involved. The honourable senator talks about the stockpile of 500,000 bales. Surely he is not asking the Australian Wool Commission to put those bales on the market in the present situation. I am informed that at the present time prices for wool which is not under the control of the Commission - that is the 10 per cent - are from 14 per cent to 34 per cent below the closing rates of last season. Surely the honourable senator can draw the inference from that information that if that part of the clip under the control of the Wool Commission were to suffer an equivalent drastic fall in price the situation would be catastrophic. I do not think the honourable senator would want that to happen.
Senator- KEEFFE- Can the Minister for Health inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that only 25 per cent to 30 per cent of doctors are now charging the most common fee? Can he also advise what action he is taking to compel doctors who have abandoned the most common fee system to return to the scheme? Does the Government expect patients to carry the additional financial burden?
– Can the Attorney-
General inform the Parliament when his Government is likely to introduce amending legislation to strengthen the Trade Practices Act?
– Last Tuesday a statement was made by me in the. Senate. I am sure that a perusal of that statement will provide the answer to the honourable senator’s question.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of recent statements by the National Director of the Australian Council of Employers Federations, Mr George Polites, that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be torn up and completely rewritten? Did Mr Polites make the following statement?
We have reached a point where it is as much a psychological thing as a reality - it is just not working.
Did Mr Polites also accuse the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of ineptitude in handling some cases, quoting examples of the Commission actually causing strikes by refusing to listen to submissions by employers and unions? In the event of the Government’s amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will it pay due regard to Mr Polites criticism of the performance of the Arbitration Commission?
– I am not aware that a statement was made. As I am acting in this chamber for the Minister who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service I suggest that the question be put on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware of an editorial in the latest monthly journal of the Canberra Young Liberals which gravely criticises the leadership of the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon? Did this Liberal journal state that it was time the Government realised that it has only a slim chance of winning the next federal election and that the Liberal Party of Australia urgently needs some initiative at the helm? Does this criticism of the Leader of the Government, who is also the leader of the Liberal Party, constitute a grave warning to a public which is becoming daily more disillusioned with the lack of leadership in this country? Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate agree that the lack of initiative probably explains why a poll conducted by a leading newspaper last week found that only 34 per cent of the people of Australia support the LiberalCountry Party coalition while 48 per cent now support the Australian Labor Party?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have not indulged in reading the leading article to which the honourable senator referred.
(Question No. 1219)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1248)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1294)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Will the Minister participate in the discussions involving the Ministers for National Development and the Interior, concerning the development of uranium reserves at Nabarlek and the creation of a national park in Arnhem Land?
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In reply to a question without notice on 23rd August1971 the Minister for the Interior said that the Government is considering from a national point of view the importance of both the proposed national park and the mineral resources that are available in the area. I will consult my colleagues on this matter as necessary.
(Question No. 1311)
asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
No application has been received from Trans-
Australia Airlines to operate services to Warracknabeal and Horsham. Should an application be made the Government will, after examining the application and its implications in detail, decide whether it will support it or otherwise.
(Question No. 1340)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On the 17th August Senator Sim askedthe Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he could provide details of trade during the past 12 months between Australia and the People’s Republic of China, including if possible, in those details the recent purchase of merino rams. The
Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 26th August 1971 I was asked the following question by Senator Drury, relating to nuclear disarmament:
As there are signs that peace talks between Russia and the West may at last be regarded as possible in the not too distant future and in view of the Western response to the latest Soviet peace offensive, particularly Mr Brezhnev’s proposal for a 5-power conference on nuclear disarmament, can the Minister inform the Senate whether arrangements have been made by the parties concerned regarding this very important move? If so, is the Minister in a position to make a statement as to what stage negotiations have reached?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following answer:
In mid-June, 1971 the Soviet Union advised the other four nuclear weapon states - the United States, Britain, France and the People’s Republic of China - that it ‘proposed to convene at the earliest time a conference of the Five Powers possessing nuclear weapons.’
The text of the Soviet Note to the United States spoke of the need for ‘joint actions of all the states possessing nuclear weapons to arrive at their prohibition and destruction’, progress in which ‘would undoubtedly facilitate the solution of the problem of general and complete disarmament.’ Responses from the other four nuclear weapon states were as follows:
President Pompidou of France expressed willingness to join in such a conference, and to commence disarmament, though only if only nuclear weapon states did so first. Pending total disarmament, however, it was intended to pursue the French Nuclear Defence Programme.
On 30th July, the People’s Republic of China issued a statement that it would at no time agree to participate in nuclear disarmament talks which did not include all countries of the world. It called on the United States and the Soviet Union to issue undertakings, as China had repeatedly done, not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, and also to withdraw all nuclear arms resources to their own territories as a preliminary gesture.
The United States’ attitude is that Peking’s formal rejection had altered the situation. They expressed the view that the proposal would otherwise have merited serious consideration, but that such a conference would require the participation of all five nuclear powers to make it. worthwhile.
A British Note passed to the Soviet Union in mid-August declared interest in and support for the concept of nuclear disarmament, but suggested that the Chinese attitude did not make the proposed conference seem practicable at present.
– On 9th September, in reply to a question without notice by Senator Guilfoyle, I undertook to ascertain whether specific purpose payments for agricultural -extension assistance to the tobacco growing industry were applied only during the years 1962-63 and 1963-64 or whether this assistance is still a component of the present arrangement.
The following information has been provided by the Minister for Primary Industry:
Specific purpose payments by the Commonwealth to the States for assistance to the tobacco growing industry, in the form of the tobacco industry extension services grants, were made only during the years 1962-63 and 1963-64. With the re-organisation of the system of funding the Tobacco Industry Trust Account as from 1st July 1964, the tobacco industry extension services grant payments of $48,000 per annum to the States ceased and became part of the Commonwealth contribution to the Tobacco Industry Trust Account. By 1st July 1967 all projects previously supported from the tobacco extension grant had been merged into the overall research and extension programme financed from the Tobacco Industry Trust Account.
The payment by the Commonwealth to the States of up to $37m for agricultural extension services for the 5-year period 1971-72 to 1975-76 is distinct from the several industrytrust accounts. The Commonwealth extension services grant covers all agricultural production industries, including tobacco, as an integrated agricultural extension services grant to the States.
(Question No. 918)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 1211)
askedthe Minister for Health, upon notice:
Has any research been conducted by the Department of Health into the breakdown of costs of maintaining and servicing a bed in public hospitals and private hospitals in Australia? If so, what is the breakdown and what is the proportion of clerical costs to medical costs in the maintenance of such a bed?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
My Department has not undertaken research of the nature which would provide the proportion of clerical costs to medical costs in the maintenance and servicing of beds in public and private hospitals.
(Question No. 1232)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, upon notice:
Agents? If so, did he tell delegates that legislation in the course of preparation would be- shown to the Federation and other interested parties?
– The MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1244)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
During 1970-71 salaries of full time naval public relations personnel amounted to $107,500. Expenditure on film and photographic equipment, which includes film produced for use by recruiting officers, amounted to $66,400. The cost of other public relations activities, e.g., publication of pamphlets, was $19,539, making a total of $192,439.
On this basis expenditure on public relations between 1968-69 and 1971-72 is:
1969- 70- $195,766
1971- 72- $239,500
Director of Public Relations 4 Journalists 1 Clerk 1 Stenographer 2ClericalAssistants 1 Films Officer 1 Film Editor 1 Film Editing Assistant 2 Assistants (photography) 1 Illustrator
Sydney - 4 Journalists 2 Clerical Assistants 1 Stenographer 2 Photographers
Melbourne - 1 Journalist 1 Photographer 1 Clerical Assistant
Perth- 1 Journalist
PERTH 12th November 1970
Detailed list of all guests not held but the’ following numbers were embarked.
HMAS ‘Melbourne’- 11 Members of Parliament. 10 WA VIPs
HMAS ‘Brisbane’ - 3 Members of Parliament, 8 WA VIPs
HMAS ‘Swan’- 4 Members of Parliament, 8 WA VIPs
HMAS ‘Stalwart’- 20 WA VIPs.
The Parliamentary guests were:
Hon. D. J. Killen, Minister for the Navy,
Mr l. r. Johnson, M.P.
(Question No. 1255)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1262)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1287)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will a wool grower who receives 70c per lb for his wool receive a further payment if the average weekly auction selling price is calculatedat 30c per lb?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The intention is that if the average weekly auction price is less than the equivalent of 36c per lb average over the whole clip, a deficiency payment will be added to the proceeds from all wool sold during that week other than excluded types This would include eligible wool sold for 70c per lb.
(Question No. 1335)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– I wish to inform honourable senators that I instructed an officer of the Senate to visit Senator Fitzgerald and Mrs Fitzgerald iri the Canberra Hospital to convey the regards of all honourable senators. I am informed by the officer who visited both Senator Fitzgerald and Mrs Fitzgerald today that they appear to be making excellent progress, that Mrs Fitzgerald is due to leave the Hospital within a few weeks, and that Senator Fitzgerald is recovering rapidly.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Director-General of Health on the activities of the Commonwealth Department of Health for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– On 30th September 1970 Senator Byrne asked during question time whether the Treasury would consider the compilation of a handbook for the information and guidance of honourable senators on the operation of the various funds and the mode of presentation of the figures in the financial papers. I now inform honourable senators that officers of the Treasury have prepared a document on these lines entitled ‘Parliamentary Handbook on
Commonwealth Financial Affairs’ and that I have arranged for this to be distributed to all honourable senators.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-66, I present the sixth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-71 I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– by leave - The statement 1 am about to make has been distributed in the last few minutes. My purpose in this statement is to correct misleading statements in news reports suggesting that recommendations on smoking and health have been suppressed by the Government. Specifically it has been alleged that the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, Sir William Refshauge, has reported to the Government recommendations of the World Health Organisation on smoking and health and that he and his Department have been ‘muzzled’ on this matter.
This is nonsensical. The recommendations of the World Health Organisation on smoking and health have been widely published, and so too have been the recommendations of Australia’s own National Health and Medical Research Council. Sir William Refshauge did attend the 24th Assembly of the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May of this year and was, incidentally, elected President of the Assembly. The World Health Assembly did discuss the matter of smoking and health. It did endorse the recommendations of a report on the subject made by the DirectorGeneral of WHO, Dr Candau. This report, which I emphasise was prepared by Dr Candau, in his capacity of DirectorGeneral of WHO, was published, as was the fact that the World Health Assembly had endorsed its recommendations. Sir William Refshauge did, as a matter of routine on his return to Australia, report to the then Minister on the World Health Assembly. But it is ridiculous for anybody to claim that there was some sort of suppression by the Government of Sir William’s report on the WHO recommendations when these had already been published to the world in a WHO Press release dated 19th May 1971.
I would also emphasise that there is no secrecy about recommendations on smoking and health made by the National Health and Medical Research Council, whose role is to advise the Commonwealth and State governments on public health matters. Sir William Refshauge is Chairman of that Council and its recommendations are published to all who may be interested in them. In fact if honourable senators care to look at pages 116 and 117 of the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health tabled here today a few moments ago they will see recorded there the views of the NHMRC on smoking and health.
To put this whole matter in perspective it should be understood that various recommendations on smoking and health have been made from time to time by both the World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council. The recommendations by both of these advisory bodies are widely published and are generally in accord. As the President of the 24th World Health Assembly and as the Chairman since 1960 of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Sir William Refshauge is associated with those recommendations. Sir William is, of course, also the permanent head of the Commonwealth Department of Health and, as is the situation with all senior public servants who advise Ministers, he acts in that capacity as a confidential adviser.
I trust honourable senators will understand from what I have said the position of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health and that there has been no suppression by the Government of recommendations by public health advisory bodies. With the permission of the Senate I would now table the report of the DirectorGeneral of the World Health Organisation on the consequences of smoking, a WHO Press release reporting the resolutions of the 24th World Health Assembly on the matter of smoking and the report of the 68th Session of the National Health and Medical Research Council together with extracts of NHMRC recommendations.
– by leave- I think this matter has concerned all honourable senators on both sides of the chamber since 1963 or 1964 when the late Senator Wade was Minister for Health. Honourable senators were pressing for an educational campaign against smoking. It was said then by the late Minister, and it has been said by others since, that they would speak to the States, that they were speaking with the States, and that they had spoken with the States. There was talk of a co-operative venture to enter into a campaign against smoking but very little, if anything, has come of it. It is most disquieting. The Australian Labor Party has had as its policy for some time that there should be complete prohibition of cigarettes and tobacco advertising on television and radio and also has made statements to the effect that there should be a prohibition of cigarette and tobacco advertising in all forms, coupled with a vigorous campaign to educate the public, especially young people, on the serious health hazards associated with cigarette and tobacco smoking.
I think that what the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said about Sir William Refshauge should be accepted. He is an eminent public servant. I think a majority of honourable senators and educated, members of the public expect some action on this matter. If the efforts to have a combined campaign with the States fail, the Commonwealth should act on the recommendations which have been made. It is open to the Commonwealth to see that there is no cigarette advertising on television and radio; it is open to the Commonwealth to take a great number of other steps in relation to its employees, the armed Services and other Commonwealth places. The Government should well consider that it is the failure to take action in regard to an educational campaign or prohibition of advertising which has led no doubt to the suggestions of suppression and so forth. Everyone knows that the tobacco monopolies are very powerful. Everyone knows that they are using every endeavour to prevent an educational campaign against smoking. It is quite clear that there will be no cooperation from them in this regard. That is the natural tendency of anyone engaged in selling a commodity. They are not going, to encourage endeavours to see that those sales are ended.
But the function of Government surely is to take action when it is overwhelmingly in the public interest that such action be taken. There is no point in anyone being in government or being in Parliament if in such a case as this, where there is an overwhelming case for action in the interests of the public, so little is being done. I do not suggest that there is any suppression on the part of the Government but J make a plea to the new Minister for Health to act in accordance with the recommendations made by our National Health and Medical Research Council and by the World Health Organisation. Whatever the errors of omission in the past by the Commonwealth Government, all will be forgiven if there is some vigorous and speedy action on the part of the Minister to carry out those recommendations.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill gives effect to the social services proposals announced in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). Its main provisions are as follows:
It is estimated that the pension and allied increases will benefit over 1 million persons, at an annual cost of some $66m. The details are contained in a table which with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard.
The increase in child endowment will cost about $26.5m per year, and will benefit about 1,020,000 children in about 610,000 families. The total annual cost of the benefits included in the present Bill is thus about $92m.
The new benefits, of course, will operate only from the date of the passage of this Bill, so that the extra expenditure for 1971-72 will not reach the full annual figure. On the other hand, the present Budget will bear the full weight of last year’s concessions, which similarly did not operate for all of last year. There has also been a growth in the number of recipients of social service benefits, as well as the extra age and invalid pension pay day this year. In total, our social services outlay, excluding administrative expenses and capital grants for aged persons homes, etc., will be $l,182m for 1971-72, as against $ 1.035m for 1970-71. The expenditure for this financial year represents therefore an increase of $147m or 14i per cent over the expenditure last year.
Let me now deal with some of these matters in greater detail. Standard rate pensioners whose means as assessed range up to $10 per week and who thus receive full pensions will get the full increase of $1.25 per week, bringing their rate of pension up to $17.25 per week, exclusive of any supplementary assistance for which they are eligible. The full increase of $1.25 per week will also be payable to standard rate pensioners who qualified for part of the interim 50c increase given last April. That is, it will be payable to those with means as assessed between $10 and $11 per week. Standard rate pensioners with means as assessed between $11 and $13.50 per week . will receive graduated increases calculated in such a way that the pension and means as assessed will total $27.25 per week plus, of course, any extra payments for dependent children.
Similarly, married rate pensioners whose means as assessed range up to $8.50 per week, and who thus receive full pensions, will get the full increase of $1 per week, bringing their rate up to $15.25 per week each. A married pensioner couple will therefore receive $30.50 per week if their combined means as assessed do not exceed $17 per week. The full increase of $1 per week will also be payable to married rate pensioners who qualified for any part of the interim 50c increase given last April, that is, to those with means as assessed between $8.50 per week and $9.50 per week. Married rate pensioners with means as assessed between $9.50 and $11.50 per week will receive graduated increases calculated to ensure that the pension and means as assessed will total $23.75 per week - $47.50 per week for a married couple - plus, of course, any extra payments for dependent children.
A similar position will apply in the case of class B widows who also receive the married rate. Those with means as assessed ranging up to $10 per week or between $10 and $11 per week will receive an increase of $1 per week. Class B widows with means as assessed between $ 1 1 and $13 per week will receive graduated increases calculated in such a way that the pension and means as assessed will total $25.25 per week. There is a real need to avoid any Budget policy which would add to the tendency of prices to rise. Accordingly in this year it has been thought desirable to direct the increased rate to those who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pension. It is worth noting that the increases in the base rate are cumulative upon the interim 50c increase given last April. Measured from Budget to Budget the standard rate pension has been increased by $1.75 per week, and the married rate pension by $1.50 per week. This is by a considerable margin the greatest rise in a similar period in the whole history of Australian pensions. In terms of buying power, the basic pension is now considerably higher than it was at the time of the last Budget, and is in fact higher than it has ever been in the whole history of Australian pensions.
Relevant figures are as follows:
Thus, between the last Budget and this, pension rates have risen over twice as fast as prices. Obviously, therefore, the pensions provided in this Budget will have an increased purchasing power. In fact if in this Budget we had adjusted pensions strictly in accordance with prices, the standard rate pension would now be only $16.34 per week and the married rate pension $14.49 per week.
Even since 1949, when Labor lost office, the trend has been to increase pension rates faster than prices, so that the real value of the pension continues to rise. If the 1949 Chifley pension had been adjusted strictly in accordance with movements in the consumer price index, it would today be only $10.80 per week. The difference between that figure and the rates now proposed is one measure of the increase in the real value of the pension during this period. It does not, of course, measure the whole of the improvement, since in addition we have brought in supplementary assistance and extra allowances for children, besides introducing new fringe benefits whose average value is of the order of $5 per week. Another provision of the Bill is to increase the wife’s allowance which is paid in certain cases to wives of age and invalid pensioners, who are themselves ineligible for the pension, from its present level of $7 per week to $8 per week. This increase will apply also to the additional benefits for wives of recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits.
I now come to the provisions of the Bill which are specifically oriented towards the family and the welfare of children. First let me deal with the child endowment provisions in this Bill. At present child endowment is payable at the rate of 50c per week for the first child under 16 years in a family, $1 per week for the second child, and $1.50 for the third child, with cumulative increases of 25c per week for each subsequent child. Endowment in respect of children in institutions is paid at a flat rate of $1.50 per week. Child endowment is now an accepted feature of family income and for some time the Government has been concerned that the larger family has been more adversely affected by wage and price increases than the smaller family with, say, one or two children. Wage increases which have to be spread over a greater number of dependants reduce the relative improvement in the position of the whole family.
This Government believes that at the present time an effective way of providing real benefits to the larger family is by way of increased child endowment payments. Accordingly, the proposal in the Bill before the Senate is to increase endowment for the third and each subsequent child in a family by 50c per week. This will mean that the rate- of endowment in respect of the third child in a family will become §2 per week, in respect of the fourth child $2.25 per week and so on, increasing by 25c for each additional child. The weekly rates that will be payable for families of different sizes are as set out in the following table which, with the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard:
The rate of endowment payable in respect of the 20,000 children under 16 years of age in approved institutions will be increased by 50c to $2 per week.
The child endowment increases in the Bill will, as 1 have said, benefit over 1,000,000 children, spread in more than 600,000 families. The increases I have just outlined will help ease the financial stress facing many families. It must be remembered also that there are many other benefits and concessions provided by the Commonwealth that tend to offset the cost to parents of maintaining children. The cost to revenue of providing income tax concessional deductions for children, including deductions in respect of education, exceeds some $250m per year. Through its various scholarship schemes the Commonwealth expends some $40m per year. Assistance is given to families through the National Health Act where the family insurance rates for a family with children - however many children - are pegged at the rate applicable to a married couple without children; special assistance is also provided for handicapped children and children of pensioners - the latter being a matter which I shall deal with more fully in a moment. All these exemplify the attitude of a responsible government, which is to provide benefits in respect of children in a way which will render positive assistance to the family.
Now let me come to a most significant part of the Bill - a massive increase in the additional payments for children of all pensioners - age, invalid and widow - and of recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits. Many social workers have drawn attention to the special hardship suffered by what are called ‘one parent families’ and by families where the breadwinner is incapacitated. The Government has examined their representations very carefully, and now proposes to increase the payment for the first child, which at present is $2.50 per week by $2 per week, making it $4.50 per week. The payment for children other than the first, which is at present $3.50 per week, will be increased to the same uniform level of $4.50 per week.
Since this is a key feature of our social services structure, perhaps the Senate will allow me to say something of the history of these allowances. A child’s allowance was introduced in 1943, and at the time the Chifley Government went out of office in 1949 it was payable only in respect of the first child of invalid pensioners, and age pensioners who were invalids, and then only at the rate of 90c per week - equal to about $2.25 per week at today’s prices. Widows received no child’s allowance at all, except for the 50c per week difference between the class A widow’s pension and the age and invalid pension rates then current. The 90c per week payable for the first or only child of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners was increased to $1.15 in 1951. In 1956, additional pension at the rate of $1 per week was introduced for the second and each subsequent child of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners, and for the second and each subsequent child of widows.
In 1961 the child’s allowance payable for the first child of invalid pensioners and age pensioners who were invalids was increased to $1.50 per week, as also was the payment for the second and subsequent children of widows. In 1963 payments for the second and subsequent children of invalid pensioners and age pensioners who were invalids, were increased to $1.50 per week and a payment of $1.50 per week was introduced for the first child of widows. Widows with dependent children received a mother’s allowance of $4 per week. In 1965 the children of all age pensioners were included, and a guardian’s allowance of $4 per week was introduced for single pensioners who had the custody of a child.
In 1968, the rate of payment for all children was increased to $2.50 per week. At the same time, the reference to the payment for the first child of age and invalid pensioners as ‘child’s allowance’ was dropped. In 1969 the rate for the second and subsequent children was increased to $3.50 per week, and mothers’ and guardians’ allowances were increased to $6 per week where there was a child under 6 or an invalid child. Now, in this present Budget, it is proposed to increase the payment for the first child from $2.50 per week to $4.50 per week, and the payment for the second and subsequent children from $3.50 per week to the same level of $4.50 per week.
I have set out this history in some detail, because it shows the development of provisions under which entirely new treatment of children in bereaved or deprived circumstances has been given. From the position under the Chifley Government, where a widow received nothing extra for her children beyond her 50c per week, and invalid pensioners got only 90c per week allowance, however many children they had, we have now progressed to the point where all children of pensioners - age, invalid and widow - attract $4.50 per week each; where all widows- with dependent children are entitled to a mother’s allowance of $4 per week; where some widows are also entitled to an extra mother’s allowance of $2 per week, and where some invalid and age pensioners are entitled to a guardian’s allowance of $4 per week or $6 per week. All these child-oriented allowances are, of course, additional to the very substantial increases in the real value of the base pensions which have been made since the time of the Chifley regime, and additional to the fringe benefits which have been introduced since that time. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the position of a widow with dependent children, under the provisions of this Bill:
Each Budget brought in by our LiberalCountry Party Government has brought some real improvement in social services. It is right and proper that this should be so. The living standards of the Australian community as a whole have risen, and pension recipients should share in that rise. In recent years, each Budget has laid special emphasis upon one aspect, in accordance with an overall plan. This Budget, as I have said, is especially oriented towards the needs of dependent children, particularly towards the needs of children in deprived families, where there is bereavement or invalidity. I am confident that the Senate and the country will recognise the tremendous value and benefit of what has been done.
In accordance with established practice, it is proposed that the pension increases provided under the Bill will operate from and including the pay days following royal assent. The increase in endowment will operate in respect of the endowment period commencing immediately after royal assent and the increases in unemployment and sickness benefit rates will become payable from the first weekly payment falling due following royal assent. The Bill before the Senate is another practical demonstration of the Government’s policy of assisting first those in the greatest need - pensioners with little or no other financial means. In addition, as I have said, our social services programme for this year is child-oriented. Recent Liberal-
Country Party governments have pioneered several new fields such as aid to handicapped children, subsidies to meals on wheels and voluntary bodies; a greater programme of decentralisation of operations; a new approach to rehabilitation services; an expanded programme of aged persons housing, and a complete overhaul of the scheme of Commonwealth employees’ compensation.
While we now see all social service payments at a record level, we still have a long way to go. No worthwhile government will ever feel that it has solved all the social welfare problems which confront it, but it will always seek to deal with them as best as it can within available resources. This Government places the greatest emphasis upon improvements in social welfare. Under previous LiberalCountry Party governments we have made great strides, and under future LiberalCountry Party governments will make even greater advances. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Brown) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Reprepresentatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Drake-Brock* man) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s proposals in the repatriation war compensation field. The various improvements to existing pensions and allowances which were foreshadowed in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) are incorporated in the Bill now before the Senate. These will benefit the more seriously disabled ex-servicemen and the widows and children of deceased exservicemen whose death was related to war service. Specifically the Bill provides for increased payments to ex-servicemen who are totally incapacitated from war-related disabilities or tuberculosis; to those whose incapacity allows them to work only part time or intermittently; to those who need the assistance of an attendant; to those who have lost one or more limbs or an eye; and to war widows and the children of ex-servicemen whose death was related to war service. The Schedules to the Repatriation Act express pension rates in fortnightly amounts, but it has long been the practice for honourable senators to refer to weekly amounts. I shall continue that practice.
I shall now proceed to explain the proposed changes in more detail. The special (TPI) rate, which is payable not only to the totally and permanently disabled, but also to the war blinded and the temporarily totally incapacitated, will be increased by $3.50 to $42.50 a week. The intermediate rate of pension, which is payable to those whose incapacity from war related disabilities or tuberculosis enables them to work only part time or intermittently, and who are consequently unable to earn a living wage, will be increased by $1.75 to $30.25 a week. Attendants’ allowances payable in addition to war pension to the most severely disabled ex-servicemen are to be increased. The higher rate of $14, payable to the war blinded who are also afflicted with total loss of speech or total deafness, and to those who have had both arms amputated, is to be increased by $2 to Si 6 a week. The lower rate of $8.50, which is payable to those who are blind or paralysed or have suffered severe amputations, is to be increased by $1 to $9.50 a week.
In keeping with the tenor of the foregoing proposals, which provide improved benefits for the more seriously incapacitated, increased payments are also proposed for all those who have lost one or more limbs or an eye. Those amputees who have always been paid the equivalent of the special (TPI) rate will receive an increase of $3.50 a week. Amounts which are, in addition to pension, payable in respect of other amputations or the loss of an eye will be increased by various amounts according to the degree of incapacity suffered. The new amounts payable will range from $1.70 to $11.20 a week. Increases are also proposed in rates payable to war widows, to their children, and to those children who have lost both parents. For war widows themselves, the Bill provides on increase of $1.25, raising the rate to $17.25 a week. For the first child of an ex-serviceman whose death was. related to war service, an increase of $1 a week will be payable, while the rate payable in respect of second and subsequent children will be increased by $2 a week. The new rates for all these children will be $7 a week. For a child who has lost both parents, the increase will be $2 and the new rate will be $14 a week.
As in the past, service pensioners are to receive the benefit of increases in age and invalid pension rates. This Bill contains a minor amendment necessary this year to incorporate into repatriation legislation those increases which do not apply automatically. Honourable senators will no doubt appreciate that, although all the war compensation increases proposed in this Bill will be paid in full, the consequent increase in income may affect those also in receipt of means test pensions. For those whose means test pensions are reduced because of their war pension increases, the reduction will vary between 10c and $1, giving an overall result of an increase. For example, a single TPI pensioner in receipt of a service pension will receive an aggregate increase of between $2.50 and $3.40 a week. On the other hand, a TPI pensioner with a wife and 2 children, who also receives a service pension, but with no other means, will receive a total family increase of $5.12 a week. This is because of various liberalisations introduced into the means test pension provisions by this Government in recent years which allow some means test pensioners to receive increases in those pensions as well as the full amount of their war pension increases.
The Bill also appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to provide during the current year the additional payments to which the Bill gives effect. The foregoing amendments will come into force on the date on which the amending Act receives royal assent and the pension increases will be paid on and from the first pension payday thereafter. A table which sets out the repatriation budget details in respect of war pensions and allowances has been prepared and, for the conveniience of honourable senators, is being circulated with copies of this speech. The measures I have outlined, together with increases granted last April, represent further significant advances in repatriation measures this year. T commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is the usual practice of the Government to keep the rates of pensions and allowances payable to seaman war pensioners under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act in line with the rales of pensions and allowances payable to other war pensioners under the Repatriation Act. The purpose of the Bill before the Senate is to raise, in relation to seamen, various rates of pensions and allowances in line with the increases of corresponding rates being made in the Repatriation Bill just introduced. These increases are in accordance with the higher rates announced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in his Budget Speech. Clause 3 of the Bill increases the intermediate rate of war pension by$1. 75 per week to $30.25. The intermediate pension is paid to seriously disabled persons whose war caused incapacities render them incapable of working other than on a parttime basis, or intermittently. Clause 3 also increases the pension rates in respect of the children of deceased seamen coming under the Act. The weekly rate for the first child rises by$1 to$7, and the rate for each other child rises by $2 to $7, thus bringing the weekly rate of pension for each child of a deceased seaman to a uniform amount. Where the mother is dead also, the rate rises by $2 to $14 for each child.
Clause 4 substitutes a new First Schedule to the Act to provide for an increase of $1.25 in the weekly rate of pension payable to widows of Australian mariners. The Second Schedule to the Act prescribes allowances for attendants for specially handicapped seaman pensioners. The weekly rate of $8.50 is increased to $9.50 and the $14 rate, payable where both arms have been lost, is increased to $16. The Bill does not have to provide for the increase of $3.50 to $42.50 per week in the rate of TPI pension or for various increases in the weekly amounts payable in respect of the disabilities described in the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act, as the increased rates under that Act will apply automatically to seaman pensioners by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. As usual, the increases in pensions and allowances will be payable on the first pension pay day afterthe date on which the Bill receives the royal assent. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
Mr Deputy President, in his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) referred to new postal and telephone charges to be introduced during the financial year 1971- 72. This Bill amends certain of the rates and there will be another Bill to take account of other charges. At the same time, some miscellaneous charges will be adjusted by administrative action. I shall now outline for the information of honourable senators the reasons for the adjustments and the main variations proposed. A detailed schedule of the proposed changes was circulated some time ago and has been incorporated in Hansard. The increases in charges will, for the most part, take effect from 1st October 1971.
By the end of the financial year 1970-71 the overall trading loss of the Post Office was estimated to be approximately S2.5m, comprised of a loss on postal operations of about $25.5m offset against a profit on telecommunications operations of about $23m. This compares with an overall profit estimate at the beginning of the year of $30m. The current forecast for 1971-72, given no adjustment of charges, is a loss of $36m - S35m on postal and Sim on the telecommunications side. The principal cause of the deterioration in the financial position is new wage awards. Direct costs of the 50 new awards affecting Post Office staff in 1970-71 will add $77m to Post Office expenditure this year. The 5-year average increase is $40m. The prices of materials and services used by the Post Office have also increased as a result of arbitration awards to industry generally, and this will add a further $10m to Post Office expenditure in 1971-72.
The total result of awards and determinations, Mr Deputy President, will be an increase in Post Office expenditure of $87m in the current financial year. This represents an increase of 8.7 per cent over 1970-71 compared with an increase in the consumer price index of 4.8 per cent in the same period. The main problems confronting the Post Office in 1971-72 which have necessitated the proposed increase in charges can be summarised as follows: Abnormal increases in labour and other costs; serious deterioration in financial prospects; the level of demand for services and the excessive pressures thus placed on available resources. It is expected that the current proposals will produce $50m in the current financial year and $90m in a full year. This should produce a $3 6m profit for 1971-72 as a result of a $53m profit on telecommunications and a $17m loss on postal operations.
At this stage I should point out that, in an endeavour to assist the overall reduction in government expenditure, the Post Office in 1970-71 achieved a reduction in expenditure of SI 5m in total. To contain cost, staff recruitment was restricted to a growth of 2.3 per cent in 1970-71 as against 3.7 per cent in 1969-70. It will continue to be limited during 1971-72 to less than 2 per cent.
Telecommunications is a capital intensive growth service and failure to maintain a reasonable level of capital investment would in the short term cause congestion within the telephone network and increase the number of deferred applicants for telephone services. In the longer term, it would result in an accumulating problem requiring still greater investment. A telephone, a line to the exchange and a small amount of equipment in the exchange makes up the total of plant provided in a telephone network for the exclusive use of each subscriber. Less than half of the expenditure on the whole of the network represents the provision of exclusive equipment. The remainder of the plant necessary for the 2.8 million subscribers’ services is common to all subscribers and includes exchange switching equipment, cable between exchanges and trunk lines connecting places throughout Australia. If the provision of the common plant is permitted to lag seriously in a system incorporating national dialling, the inadequacies may not become apparent until the problem has assumed serious proportions. The network would become congested by repeated but ineffective calls and the result would be a reduction in the volume of calls connected, an overloading of complaints operators and the likelihood of a catastrophic breakdown in service.
Such a situation did occur in the New York network in 1969, involving a heavy loss to the community and massive restoration problems. A similar problem developed in the Perth network in 1970 with the rapid growth associated with the mining boom. When such a situation arises, considerable time is required to effect a restoration of normal service because of the long lead times for equipment. Costly and inefficient rearrangements of resources become necessary. The proposed programme intends to secure a balance between connecting new subscribers and maintaining a satisfactory service to the users of the whole system.
Mr Deputy President, 1 would now like to briefly outline the main telecommunications adjustments. The Government proposes to increase the 3 basic telephone rentals of $47, $31 and $23 by $8, $6 and $4 respectively. The one-third reduction in rentals which is given to blind persons and certain classes of pensioners will be maintained. The service connection fee is to rise by $10 to $50. Local telephone calls will increase from 4c to 4.75c with a corresponding increase in trunk line charges. Increased charges are proposed for the installation or renewal of miscellaneous items of telecommunications equipment. Telex call charges will increase from 5c to 6c for each meter registration. These variations are estimated to bring in additional revenue of $35m in 1971-72 and $69m in 1972-73.
With the very high rate of growth in trunk calls generally and the extension of automatic service and subscriber trunk dialling facilities, the telecommunications service will continue to be a capital intensive undertaking. The need to meet demand for basic services and the continued development and restructuring of the telecommunications network to ensure satisfactory service to customers must inevitably mean that Post Office needs for additional capital will continue to rise. The Government must expect the Post Office to finance more of its own growth through revenue in view of the demands being made on the nation’s resources for education and other works.
I turn now to the postal service. Although the basic postal rate was increased last year, wage rates payable to postal staff have been increased since then by an average of 16 per cent. In the postal service, with 70 per cent of its costs associated with labour, these increases have had a particularly adverse effect. Postal wage rates have risen m the last 3 years by almost 40 per cent. With estimated postal losses at current tariffs of $25.5m in 1970- 71 and $35m in 1971-72, a general increase in rates is unavoidable if rising costs are to be recovered. The increased charges are expected to bring in $15m in 1971-72 and $21 m in a full year. The estimated postal loss in 1971-72 should be reduced to $17m. The more important of the proposed increased postal charges are that the basic letter rate will be increased from 6c to 7c for the first ounce. Parcel rates on the average will be increased by 10 per cent for domestic and 20 per cent for overseas services. Overseas airmail letter rates will rise by 5c per half ounce and 2c in the case of New Zealand. Aerogrammes will increase by 2c. Increased charges are proposed for registered post and certified mail but at the same time compensation on registered mail will be increased to $150 and a compensation nf up to $20 for loss or damage in respect of certified mail will be introduced.
Mr Deputy President, changes are proposed in the rates and conditions for registered publications under categories A and B. The only variation in category A is an increase in the tariff from 6c to 7c for each 12 ounces assessed on total consignment weight, with a minimum of He per article. Category B publications will still enjoy a substantial concession but increased rates will be applied on a sliding scale. No further registrations will be permitted in this category after 31st December 1971 because of the need to contain increases in the loss in this concession area. Existing publications already registered in this category will retain their registration as long as they continue to comply with the eligibility conditions. Increased charges on bulk postings in both categories A and B will be effective from 1st March 1972 in order to give publishers and organisations time to adjust subscription rates. Controlled circulation publication sent on request by publishers to defined customer groups not previously eligible for registration will be catered for in a new category C. This category will offer economic postage rates in return for compliance with conditions designed to reduce postal costs. The publications concerned, which are mainly heavy business magazines, are at present at a great disadvantage in relation to other comparable registered publications. From 1st January 1972, all publications which would have been eligible for registration in category B may be registered under the new category C.
At this point, Mr Deputy President, I think it is appropriate to compare costs for postal services in Australia with those in other countries, bearing in mind the relative areas and densities of population. As a general rule concentration of population results in reduced distribution costs. Against this background our proposed basic postage rate of 7c compares favourably. Some overseas rates, expressed in Australian currency are, Britain, 6.4c; Germany, 7.3c; Canada, 5.8c (6.6c from 1st January 1972); United States of America, 7.1c; France, 6.4c; and Sweden, 9.5c.
It is interesting to note that most of these overseas countries are experiencing the same problems as the Australian Post Office - a rapid increase in wage rates in a highly labour intensive operation. In the United States, the Post Office deficit last year was $A 1,300m while the British Postal Service, notwithstanding the change to statutory corporation status, sustained a loss of $A53m. The Canada Post Office lost $ A 100m.
The postal service is vital to government, to business efficiency and to community life, but service cannot be provided irrespective of cost and it is the Government’s responsibility to see that reasonable balance between usage and costs is maintained. To contain costs, staff increases have been restricted to a minimum but, with the rapid growth in wage rates in recent years, it has been impossible to offset these by greater productivity. Where a need can be seen and costs can be covered, efforts are made to introduce new services such as priority paid, air parcels and the surface air lifted service to overseas. There are services, however, where the costs are disproportionately high. In recent times a number of small non-official post offices have been closed in cases where the volume of business was low or declining and, for similar reasons, some small official post offices have been converted to the non-official method of operation. Where usage was low, and alternative facilities were located nearby, official post offices have been closed on Saturdays.
In each of these instances careful examination has been made of the effect of the change on the local community. In some cases it has been found that rural residents have, in fact, gained a better service from extended mail deliveries. To meet changing community needs and habits, continuing adjustments are necessary. People are increasingly patronising larger shopping centres in this motor car age and this is resulting in changed patterns of postal business. The usage of many street letter receivers is declining in metropolitan residential areas. We cannot ignore these changing patterns and the Post Office must look for cheaper alternatives which meet customer needs in a reasonable fashion. The Post Office must continue to study ways and means of providing quality service in an economic fashion. This is essential and will have implications for customers, management and staff, if the postal service is to become a viable enterprise without making disproportionate demands on national resources. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act to adjust basic postal charges. The reasons underlying the decision to increase charges for Post Office services were dealt with when I spoke to the Post and Telegraph Bill. I outlined for honourable senators the more significant of the changes, including those dealt with by this Bill. I will not take up further time by amplifying on these matters. I merely commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) 5.17) - 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the fees payable for broadcast listeners’ and television viewers’ licences. The licences for blind persons and for schools will continue to be free and there will be no increase in the fees for pensioner licences. It is proposed that the fees be- increased from $6.50 to $8 in respect of broadcast listeners’ licences, including hirer’s and lodging house licences in Zone 1, while the fees for the same licences in Zone 2 will increase from $3.30 to $4.25. Television viewers’ licences, including those for hirer’s and lodging houses, are to attract a higher fee of $19 in lieu of the existing $14. The fee for a combined receiving licence will be increased from $20 to $26.50. It is expected that these proposals will provide $11. lm in 1971-72 and $15.5m in a full year. The new fees will operate from 1st October 1971.
While the overall financial position of the national broadcasting and television service has deteriorated, this will be the first rise in licence fees since October 1968. Total expenditure on the national service has risen from $60m in 1.968 to $82m. At the same time gross licence receipts have increased only from $46m to $51m, so that the excess of expenditure over receipts has risen from $ 14m in 1968 to an estimated almost $31m in 1971-72. The proposed licence fees will do no more than restore the relativity of expenditure and receipts to the previously existing level. The deterioration’ has been due to mounting wage costs from arbitration awards, the development of the radio broadcasting services and the extension of television and television translator services ‘to the lesser populated country areas. With the further expansion of the national television service cost increases can be expected to continue. Rising wages will also contribute to this trend. The television development, bringing service to a further 38 remote areas, is already under way and will be spread over a number of years. The capita! cost of these 38 stations will be almost $5m.
The adjustment of fees for licences is considered necessary if we are to reduce the gap between expenditure and receipts to a reasonable level, in view of the substantial amounts of capital required and the inherent increase in total operating expenditure involved in the opening of each new station. Finally, a new type of licence is being introduced. It is common these days for both television and broadcast receivers to be provided in hotels and other premises where accommodation is provided and, in recognition of this, a combined lodging house licence will be made available. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9 September (vide page 630), 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 Est im:,ted 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.’
– When the debate was adjourned last Thursday I was making reference to the plight of the wool industry and offering some suggestions that I believe could assist the industry. Before continuing along those lines I would like to reply to some of the allegations that have been made in this chamber and outside of it regarding the cost-price squeeze that is so often spoken of. Attacks have been made on the trade union movement regarding the high wages sought by workers in the industry. The increased costs incurred by the industry have been related to these wage demands. I would like to enlighten the Senate on the high wages referred to by honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber as being paid in the pastoral industry.
The wool industry in Australia comes under a federal pastoral industry award in every State except Queensland; which has a State award. There is a provision in that federal award for station employees, who are referred to in it as station hands. Only recently these station hands were granted a wage increase which brought their weekly earnings to $46.40 a week. The employer - that is, the wool grower - is allowed to deduct from this amount of $46.40 a week the sum of $10.18 for board and lodging, leaving the employee $36.22 a week. This industry is one of the very few industries that are still working on a 44-hour week basis. Repeated efforts by the Australian Workers Union through the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have not yet succeeded in reducing these working hours. Not only does a station hand have to work 44 hours a week before he can claim overtime but also if he works in excess of 44 hours in a week - regardless of whether it is 54 hours or 64 hours - and he does not claim that overtime within 3 weeks of working it he loses all entitlement he has to it. In otherwords, any overtime which is not paid within 3 weeks is forfeited and the wool grower has the benefit of the services of those employees for nothing. ft is not the wages that are paid in the rural industry that has caused the present crisis; it is, I believe, the attitude of the Government in not seeking alternative markets. The attitude adopted by the Government over the years, which has resulted in substantial losses in our wheat exports, has been one of the main reasons why. we have lost markets for our wool in Socialist countries. The attitude of the Government is not to import anything from Socialist countries. Because of this attitude these countries have not been in a position to buy our wool. For instance, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which is a country in the coldest part of the world and which has a population of 241 million, would buy much more of our wool if we bought something from it in return, but we have never done so. We refuse to do so. We have adopted this attitude despite the fact that we have to pay far higher prices elsewhere for some commodities. For instance, we pay for the petroleum products that we import far in excess of what we would have to pay if we obtained them from the Soviet Union, but we are not allowed to import anything from that country because the Australian Government disagrees with the ideology of the Soviet Union.
The wool industry has suffered to the extent that it is facing the worst crisis that it has faced over the last 20 years. A lot has been written and submitted about the wool industry. All sorts of reasons have been given as to why the industry has reached its present state. No worthwhile solutions have been put up by the Government to overcome this situation, other than to give a deficiency payment which is only a temporary arrangement and which will benefit only the very wealthy wool growers. Wool growers such as the Falkiners who have estates running 65,000 to 70.000 sheep will benefit from these deficiency payments. The McBrides, the McTaggarts, the Macfarlanes and all of these big wool growers who have huge properties and run enormous numbers of sheep will benefit considerably from these deficiency payments for which provision has been made in the Budget.
I would like to refer to an article that was written by a very eminent economist in Melbourne in which he makes reference to a reform of the wool industry. I believe that he gives some hope when he suggests that the Government should note that there are other means of disposing of our wool than to our regular customers. I believe that because countries are buying in a cartel they are deliberately keeping the price of wool down. But, of course, while our wool is sold under an auction system they will continue to be successful in keeping the price of wool down to an amount which is well below production costs. In his article this Melbourne economist states:
The price of wool is determined by the interaction of supply and demand. Low wool prices may be due to:
An excess supply of wool relative to the demand for wool, or similarly, a lack of demand relative to supply; or
A marketing system, which contains imperfections, such that the price of wool is not a true reflection of the stale of demand and supply.
In the long term, wool’s future can be sound only if demand and supply are kept at a level which will result in an adequate price.
In managing the wool industry, first priority must be given to measures which will facilitate a continually expanding demand for wool relative to movements in the supply of wool.
Institutional factors may be a major element in preventing an expansion in the demand for wool. They prevent potential demand from developing into effective demand.
Institutional factors may represent a greater threat to wool prices than the relative price of synthetics. Such influences make it possible to sell an identical product at different price levels. Even
If wool and synthetics were perfect substitutes they could still be sold at different prices.
One of the major problems in managing the wool industry is to identify and exploit institutional factors which will encourage wool consumption relative to other fibres.
The wool industry must look to expanding market outlets to ensure its future. New and growing markets must be developed.
The level of demand for wool appears- to be subject to two main factors.
The climatic factor: The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has indicated the importance of climatic conditions as a major factor stimulating Japanese demand for wool.
The level of economic development in market outlets: FAO reports that per capita consumption of wool in the developed countries declined between 1961 and 1969, and that it rose in the developing and centrally planned economies. Wool consumption is low in the economies of impoverished countries, as clothing is based on the cheaptest of fibres, traditionally cotton.
Wool consumption also appears to stagnate, relative to the consumption of other fibres, as societies become affluent. Warm clothing substitutes such as heating, good housing, air conditioning and a greater use of private transport reduce the need for wool. As incomes rise beyond a certain level, a lower proportion of income is devoted to clothing so the demand for textiles does not maintain pace with the level of economic growth.
Affluent societies also have the resources to channel into synthetic fibre production. Resource scarcity in less developed regions results in a greater proportion of resources being channelled into heavy industry at the expense of consumer goods production.
The potential growth markets for wool are liable to lie in cold climatic regions with semi-developed economices. Such market outlets lie almost uniquely within the Communist/Socialist Bloc.
Effective buying activity by the Communist Bloc in western markets is hampered almost without exception, by a shortage of convertible currency. This shortage occurs due to their inability to export to the west. As a result, foreign purchases are based on a rationing procedure giving priority to most urgent requirements. Services should be considered to assist the Communist Bloc in purchasing more wool by:
Implementing such measures would make Australia a relatively favourable area from which to purchase wool and wool would thus become a favoured fibre to import.
Economic planning in the USSR indicates the need for greater supplies of wool in this region. Currently merino type wools are priced at $2.26 per lb and crossbred wools at 75c per lb. Russian wool production is planned to inceased from 372,000 tons in 1967 to 1,100,000 in 1980. However there are indicates that Russian wool production will not reach this target. Should the wool production target not be met, it is likely that local synthetic production will bc further encouraged due to the currency problems associated with importing large quantities of wool.
The article goes on to give proposals to which some consideration could be given. I believe that these proposals have some merit and that the Government should look into them. We should not wait until some other country has won the markets, as happened when Canada got a big slice of wheat sales to China.- 1 believe that this Government should follow the example set by the Australian Labor Party when lt sent a delegation to China. I am very confident, although the Government is not, that wheat sales will result from that delegation’s visit to China. Nobody would expect that we will get wheat sales this year because China has already purchased its requirements for the current year. It has purchased ample supplies from Canada, which adopted a different attitude to that of Australia so far as the recognition of China is concerned.
Before I conclude I would like to make some reference to the wine industry because I believe that wine growers in Australia will be exceedingly disappointed that this Government has not removed the iniquitous wine tax of 50c a gallon that was imposed by last year’s Budget. This tax was felt particularly in South Australia where 70 per cent of Australia’s total production of beverage wine is grown and produced. Surplus crops are of vital concern to every person in the wine industry, particularly the thousands of growers who have to rely on wineries to process their products. Many representations were made when the Budget introducing this 50c excise on wine was brought down. Questions were asked in this chamber about this measure, and even Government supporters spoke during the Budget debate on the effect that this excise would have on the industry. Although some Government supporters were very vocal in their opposition to the excise duty, when it came to the critical vote on whether the excise would be imposed, unfortunately they supported the’ measure. I believe that unless this tax is removed in the near future we could find that one of the few viable rural industries in the Commonwealth could be facing a situation similar to that of other rural industries.
The industry in South Australia which, as I mentioned previously, produces about 70 per cent of our beverage wines has been viable for the last 5 or 6 years only. Prior to 1965 wine grape growers could not dispose of their surplus crop. It was only through the efforts of the State Labor Government at that time, with the introduction of a price fixing scheme, that some viability has been given to the growers of wine grapes in South Australia. If honourable senators consider the present average price of about $65 a ton for wine grapes in Australia and bear in mind that 1 ton of grapes produces about 140 gallons of wine they will realise that the Government receives $70 from each ton of grapes by way of excise and the grower receives an average of $65 a ton.
Prior to the imposition of this excise, wholesale wine sales in Australia were increasing at a fairly substantial rate. In 1966 there was a 10.79 per cent increase in wholesale wine sales, in 1967 there was a 14.42 per cent increase, in 1968 a 12.93 per cent increase, in 1969 an 11.16 per cent increase and in 1970 a 10.65 per cent increase. However, since the imposition of the excise duty on wine-, wholesale sales have been reduced drastically, particularly over the last two quarters. Figures published in the ‘Advertiser’ of 10th August 1971 showed that the industry suffered a sales loss of 8.8 per cent for the quarter ended 31st March 1971. This downward trend accelerated to a 14.2 per cent or 2.4 million gallons reduction at the end of the June quarter. If these drastic reductions are added to the average growth rate of 12 per cent over the preceding 5 years, therehas been a total loss of about 21 per cent for the March quarter and 26 per cent for. the June quarter, representing approximately 9 million gallons of wine. This disastrous loss can only be attributed to the vicious wine tax imposed in the 1970-71 Budget.
For the 1970 vintage the Australian wine industry processed -350,000 tons of grapes. Unfortunately, because of adverse’ seasonal conditions the vintage for 1971 saw an intake of only 280,000 tons; but it is expected that the forthcoming vintage could well see the availability of 350,000 tons. The position in the industry will be further aggravated when the 20,000 acres of vines recently planted come into bearing. When in full production these areas could produce a further 15 million gallons of wine yearly. It is expected that when the recent plantings are in full production the total wine production in Australia will reach approximately 75 million gallons a year. There is every indication that unless the wine excise is removed immediately there will be huge surpluses of wine and. thousands of tons of grapes will be left’ on the vines to rot. The irresponsibility of the Government in imposing an excise duty before the industry had fully recovered from a recession is indicative of the Government’s complete disregard for this important industry. Practically all other primary industries receive financial support from the Government and it is regrettable that the only primary industry which is self-supporting has been singled out and subjected to a tax which already had caused great concern to growers of wine grapes and the wineries.
I should like to correct a remark that was made during the debate on the Budget last Thursday during your address to the Senate, Mr Acting- Deputy President (Senator Laucke). First I should like to commend you for your speech on the wine industry. We know that you have a vast knowledge of this industry, living as you do in one of the most affluent wine making areas of Austrafia, the Barossa Valley. During your remarks, Mr Acting Deputy President, you cited figures which showed the per capita consumption of wine in other wine producing countries. You mentioned Italy, France, the Argentine, Spain and Germany. Then there was an interjection by Senator Little who asked: ‘How much are the people allowed to drink in Russia?’ You replied that on the list of 45 countries there was- no figure for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Democratic Republic of East Germany Later in the debate you sought leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the consumption of wine by various countries. In that table in fifth position is the USSR which is shown . as having a consumption of 330 million gallons of wine. I know that you did not intend deliberately to mislead the Senate in this regard and that your remark was probably prompted by the interjection by Senator Little. I should like also to enlighten Senator Little in this regard. The honourable senator asked what I regard as a ridiculous question when he asked how much wine people were allowed to drink in Russia. He will know now that in Russia they are allowed to drink and do drink 330 million gallons a year, whereas the people of Australia are allowed to drink only 17,160,000 gallons a year.
– There would be a few more people in Russia, would there not?
– I am aware of that and that is why I thought the honourable senator’s question was so ridiculous, especially when it is borne in mind the people of Russia drink other types of liquor, the same as people in other countries drink a different type of liquor. Nevertheless, I believe that the reply that you gave, Mr Acting Deputy President, should be corrected. People who read Hansard should not be of the opinion that the people of Russia are kept down to such an extent that they drink only what they are allowed to drink and are told to drink. The true picture is that they drink considerably more in that country than is consumed in Australia. The other country to which you referred as not appearing in the schedule was the Democratic Republic of East Germany. Its total consumption of wine is 14,300,000 gallons a year. 1 believe that the Government, by its failure to remove the excise of 50c a gallon on wine, has placed an imposition on an industry which has taken many years to recover from years of depression. Particularly is this so in South Australia where many grape growers are returned soldiers from not only the First World War- but also the Second World War. They have been struggling for many years and have never seen in the wine or grape growing industry a buoyancy such as has been enjoyed in the wool industry. With record prices for wool, wool growers were able to drive about in Jaguar cars and enjoy all the luxuries available at the time, but the grape growers throughout Australia have never been able to enjoy that luxury.
I hope that the Government will take heed of not only what honourable senators on this side of the chamber have said but also what you, Mr Acting Deputy President, said during your contribution to the debate last Thursday. I believe that Senator Jessop also made some reference to the impost of the excise on the wine industry. I believe that the figures which have been produced in the debate in the Senate are factual. I have been very disappointed to hear the Minister’s continued repetition that the Government is keeping a close watch on this industry and that it will take action if necessary. I believe that the time is long overdue when action is necessary, and that unless action is taken the industry will meet the same fate as has been suffered by other rural industries.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Deputy President, one appreciates the opportunity of taking part in this Budget debate although one realises that the Budget was introduced on 17th August and it is now the middle of September. One of the facets of making a Budget speech towards what may be called the close of the debate is the fact that in the intervening period of time since the introduction of the measures by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) developments have influenced public opinion on the Budget papers and have cast new reactions to the Budget itself. Of course this is ever so because a budget is introduced after a considerable amount of preparation which takes a considerable period of time. Events at the time of the introduction and those events which follow, during the course of a parliamentarydebate, change and have their influence on the Budget’s repercussions.
I want to indicate my support for the measure now before the Senate and to express my appreciation to Mr Snedden on introducing his first Budget since his appointment to the office of Treasurer. I want to reflect the many opinions around the country relating to the area of responsibility that he and the Government have shown in regard to the measures which the Budget has personified.
The Budget, as you know, Mr Deputy President, is a stocktaking, a time when we find out how much we have spent. We assess, as a people, how much we need for our economic growth. We assess the stability not only of our economy but of our social structure and also how much we need for our social development and the wellbeing of our people. In a budget the Government tries to guard and guide people’s activities for the ensuing year. The Government must assess taxation with which to pay for the things it wants to do. After all it can only spend money which it obtains from the people of the country and any government today is faced with enormous demands. Whether it meets those demands satisfactorily, according to the wishes of the people it endeavours to serve, always, is a matter of discussion. As every honourable senator knows, there are so many needs on the part of so many segments of our community that the Budget, as I said, makes enormous demands upon’ the Government and the skills of its Ministers and officers.
In addition to providing facilities for the ongoing work of the nation a government also is required to provide incentives. After all, a nation can grow only according to the amount of endeavour which its people, whether they be in companies, in groups or acting individually, put into it. It is an old rule that to obtain results you must provide incentives of one sort or another for people, for groups or for society generally. Government today is the nation’s biggest business and we have reached a stage in our history, as have many other countries, where people have adopted a philosophy of government interest, government assistance and government co-operation. Every honourable senator knows that there is in every State- in this country and in every community a group that feels it has particular needs. There are individuals who feel they have a particular need. There are groups in society, whether they be in the field of social welfare, education, industry or anywhere else, that are pressing for Government assistance, Government incentive, Government encouragement and Government co-operation. To meet some of these needs at some level is the judgment that the Government of the day must make. To raise the money to fulfil these demands is another judgment it must make. So I suppose it is true to say that all budgets contain their measure of encouragement but no budget is totally popular to all people.
At the best of limes the preparation of the Budget is a highly complex task. An enormous range of activities and interests has to be taken into consideration. Even today, allowing for the fact that we have a greatly improved range of techniques for the storage and retrieval of information, calculations and future projections, it is still difficult and complex to forecast with accuracy the long range results which might flow from Budget decisions. Within our country unpredictable seasonal conditions have to be taken into reckoning. As the nation grows there are also important regional divisions of interest, or of development which simply cannot be ignored. There are matters which relate to such items as foreign trade, to shipping, to overseas investment - all these- things - and the
Budget we have been discussing today and for past weeks bears particular relationship to the opinion of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, an independent organisation whose wage awards and decisions have far reaching implications.
I submit that the present Budget has presented the Government with exceptional problems. Without making any excuse or qualification 1 submit that these problems are beyond those of ordinary times, if there is such a period as ordinary times. Who could have possibly foreseen the external changes which have happened between the completion of the work on this Budget and the present time? The changes and influences confront us with a factor which will have even greater significance in the future because we now have entered an era in which, it seems, each nation’s economic affairs become interdependent and intertwined, one with the other, in a way which we have never quite seen before. We are confronted with the necessity to consider global strategy no longer in the area of defence only. The economic affairs of a country in a remote part of the world can have a profound influence on the welfare of a great number of Australian people. The Government must constantly endeavour to preserve their interests as it seeks to work out its economic, social and growth programme.
Every honourable senator who has spoken in this Budget debate has referred to the very pleasant experience of the maiden speeches made by new senators. I join with those who already have offered congratulations to them. 1 suppose we do this, firstly, as a matter of form, both to Government supporters and to Opposition supporters, personally, warmly and pleasantly because every honourable senator and every member of Parliament has known what I call the perils and pleasures of the maiden speech. Today, the Government, the Opposition, the Democratic Labor Party and the Independent senators have brought to the Senate a variety of people with different skills, backgrounds, opportunities and vocations. One would like to mention them all personally1 for their contribution. To all newcomers we offer our congratulations - to those who have spoken and those yet to speak. We extend our very best wishes to them because the new senators are part of what some people have described as the new Senate.
There is a new Senate for this Budget session. Everyone is aware of the numerical arrangement of the new Senate and I suppose everyone is aware of the new arrangement of power within this new Senate. I suggest that after 65 or 70 years the Senate is becoming the kind of influence that the founding fathers may have wished. It has become a State’s House in a way that perhaps the founding fathers may not originally have intended. A voting system which has enabled the inclusion within the Senate of groups described as independents and small political groups has provided for a newly arranged Senate.
I am not saying anything new when I acknowledge that this would make problems for any government in office, but this also provides opportunities for senators to express themselves in a way that was not considered previously. This has made possible the introduction and the continued work of the committee system. The values of the committee system have been canvassed widely. The system has brought quite a wide variety of response both from within Parliament and from the public generally. The Senate standing committee system, to which I refer particularly, provides the opportunity for involvement of the community in that it provides the opportunity for the community to place matters before the Parliament generally. The system enables the Parliament to hear and to reflect public opinion. It enables the community to be heard on a wide range of subjects.
A quick glance at the references to the standing committees of the Senate would indicate the wide variety of subjects which are currently before the standing committees and which will receive the attention not only of senators but ultimately of the’ Senate itself and also, one hopes, of the Government. Before that these matters will receive the attention of the people involved. This is one of the reasons for my moving a notice of motion in these terms:
That, as soon as possible after the appointment of the members of the Committee, there be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations the following matters:
The effects of Estate, Succession, Probate, Death and like duties, imposed by both Commonwealth and State Govern ments. . . . Economic circumstances of individuals and communities.
The social consequences of levying such duties and taxes.
This notice of motion has not yet been considered by the Senate. I shall leave further comment on the substance of the notice of motion until such time as we have the opportunity to debate it. Senate committees have a different role to that of committees of the House of Representatives. Members of the House of Representatives have to give priority to what I will call a limited and defined area known as their electorate, whereas senators have a responsibility to a State. What is more, they share it with 9 others. Therefore, the Senate’s new role as a States house is a good one and the committees that are involved in the system have to face a new challenge.
This Budget, while it is not all things to all men, plays a very important role in the total economy and has become a regulator of the economy. It has been presented against a background of inflationary pressures and trends, but inflationary trends are nothing new. From my researches, I understand that retail prices have been rising at an average rate of 2.8 per cent for a good many years. From 1963 to 1970 the increases averaged around 2.5 per cent. I suppose this is one of the facts of life and the community accepts this situation. It is also acknowledged that this is a difficult area in which to break through. Now we are talking in terms of an increase of 6 per cent or thereabouts. That must be regarded as quite unacceptable. It is urgent to break this pattern before it gains a degree of acceptance which the other figures have achieved. In the last 2 years the average weekly earnings rose by 8.9 per cent or 9 per cent in the one year and then by 10 per cent in the other. The consumer price index rose by 3.2 per cent in 1970 and then by 4.8 per cent. Now the figure is higher again. 1 suppose we could have a good deal of discussion as to what causes this kind of increase. It would be difficult to pin accurately and singly the causes because each is interwoven with the other. Undoubtedly - and I make this claim - the wage increase in its various forms has been part of the process. In part it is reflected in the level of demand and by the fact that employers are able to pay more and have been prepared to pay more. I turn to an extract from the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. He said:
Apparently it has been possible to pass on increased costs wholly or partly, in higher prices. . . But it is important to appreciate that a cost-price sequence can become a self activating force so that cost increases lead to price increases and these to further cost increases.
Generally speaking, the problem stems from large wage claims that have been pursued relentlessly. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is usually described as the villain in the piece. Certainly I would describe last year’s decision as not a good decision. I hope that in the next national wage case there will be what 1 would describe as a wiser decision. I would suggest that the Commission should make decisions which reflect the needs of the economy.
The Budget has been framed in this context and against the background of a relatively tight labour market and the prospect of increased pressures on our present resources. Australia is in the grip of these pressures and the rate of increase in our costs and prices is fast. It tends to become faster. I suggest that this was one of the reasons why the Treasurer, in introducing his Budget Speech, took an early opportunity - in almost the first paragraph - to say:
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. So far as lies in our power as a government we arc determined to combat this pernicious trend, slow it down and hobble it.
The Budget strategy becomes critically important in the Government’s policy to combat the inflationary forces that are now running in the economy. In these circumstances I suggest that the Commonwealth Government appears to have made and indeed has made a welcome and, having regard to the many difficulties, a commendable attempt to limit during the coming year the growth in its own outlays. The total expenditure during 1971-72 is expected to rise by $728m or 9 per cent to $8, 833m. This figure does not allow for the effect of the transfer of the payroll tax to the States. After adjustment for this change, the increase in expenditure will be of the order of 12 per cent which, I would like to point out to the Senate, compares favourably with the increase of 14 per cent in the previous year. Of much greater significance, I think, from the economic point of view is the sharp reduction in the Commonwealth’s domestic outlay - that is, those expenditures that are made more or less completely within Australia. Total domestic outlays, adjusted to take account of quite a number of special factors, are estimated to increase by 10.4 per cent in the 1971-72 period, compared with 15.2 per cent during the past year. This welcome decrease should ease, relative to the last financial year, pressures arising from the Commonwealth Government’s spending on the nation’s resources and it may be accepted as having a considerably less inflationary impact than that resulting from this source in the year 1970-71.
It is interesting to look at this for just a moment and to contrast State and local government outlays during the coming year. As I understand it from my researches and readings, tentative estimates suggest that, far from there being any reduction, the total spending by these authorities, aided by increased revenues from payroll tax and other measures, may rise even more rapidly than the 12 per cent recorded during the 1970-71 period. It is of considerable significance that the lion’s share of government spending on goods and services is by State and local governments and not by the Commonwealth. In the last financial year, as I read the figures, 62 per cent of this expenditure was in the hands of State and local government authorities and 37 per cent was in the hands of the Commonwealth. In the current financial year I would expect this figure to decline even further. That is the overall pattern of the current Commonwealth Budget in relation to its dealing with inflationary pressures and the inflationary spiral, and its endeavours to stem growth in this sphere.
I want to spend a few minutes now referring to one or two items in the
Budget. I shall mention these not necessarily in any ‘order of priority or importance. They simply occur to me as being items of some interest. I turn, firstly, to the area of social welfare. In his Budget Speech, the Treasurer when dealing with this aspect said:
Expenditure on social welfare and repatriation constitutes the largest single item of the Commonwealth’s own expenditure. Social services, repatriation benefits, health services, housing and other welfare activities will involve this year an expenditure of S2,095m. This is $268-, more than last year. Of this increase, $78m represents the cost in 1971-72 of current proposals for improvements in social welfare. The full year cost is $108m.
As honourable senators are aware, and as we heard today when the relevant legislation was introduced into this place - that legislation will be the subject of debate later - increases in many spheres and in various rates of social welfare payments are proposed. I am somewhat disappointed, however, that no provision has been made for increased funds for frail aged and sick aged persons. I suppose i have it in common with other honourable senators that we have received representations from institutions which care for those people. One establishment in South Australia estimates that for the first 6 months of this year wages for the nursing staff increased by, I think, nearly 40 per cent by comparison with the increases granted in 1970, while the cost of food in the same period increased by some 13 per cent. Another non-profit organisation with which I am closely associated and with which I have a close working relation is also facing huge deficits. Unfortunately, these are characteristics of many institutions.
These problems arise in spite of all that is being done to run the institutions efficiently and to secure for them generous support by voluntary assistance and by the activities of auxiliaries, committees and individuals. True, there are daily bed subsidies but unfortunately they are now inadequate. The fact is that the programme of care which has been initiated by this Government, and which has been extended year by year, is facing one of its most severe areas of difficulty and, as a result, the humanities and the economics of the situation are suffering. I recall that during question time today the Minister gave some indication that this matter is under consideration. I am sure that he has a sympathetic understading of the problem, and I hope that that will find effect in the provision of some assistance.
I make the observation that perhaps the solution, is not as simple as merely recommending an increase here or an increase there. It is very easy to ask the Government to fill in the gaps - and there are gaps in the social services programme. There are still some pockets of poverty and areas, of hardship.
– And many anomalies.
– It is well argued that the pockets of poverty, the areas of hardship and the anomalies are different from those which existed, say, 5 or even 10 years ago. I suggest that many of the gaps have been filled and many of the anomalies have been corrected over a period of time, but as the Government fills a gap and corrects an anomaly it also develops a new perspective. As the urgent widespread national problems relating to care have been dealt with, so the opportunity has been taken to widen the benefit and to extend the service. The gap now is in the area of upgrading services and extending facilities to an even greater number and an even wider range of people within the community. Over a period the Government has provided a greater number of services, increased funds, and an enormous range of institutions and establishments, all operating in the field of general welfare and care. But, as I have said, as each phase develops, new and different phases call out for attention. A larger section of our community has a new need which it expects the Government to meet. 1 know that this does not provide the answer to the problem of providing help for the frail aged. The provision of an increased amount of money does not necessarily provide the long term answer. The attitude of the community to these problems is significant. In an age of some affluence these questions might well be asked: Is the community prepared to pay for the extension of these services? How would the community respond to the imposition of a special social or welfare tax? The number of aged and frail aged people grows every year and their needs increase. Research into their situation is required. While accepting with much appreciation the extension of the social welfare programme that has been provided for in the Budget this year, I hope that the aspect to which I have referred, which is a cause of some degree of distress and is a matter of urgency, will receive attention before too long.
Flowing from that, 1 speak now in a personal vein in expressing my appreciation of the provision in the Budget for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. As a former president of the South Australian section and a member of the federal body of the Service for a period - its federal executive met in Melbourne today - I acknowledge the amount of money that has been allocated and the reference in the Budget Speech to this historic organisation which is carying out a form of social welfare unlike that of any other organisation within Australia. Most honourable senators will be aware of its founding back in 1928 by the Australian Inland Mission, and will recall its founder, Dr John Flynn. It was interesting to learn in the past week or so that a new suburb in the Australian Capital Territory has been named ‘Flynn’. The prefix ‘Royal’ to the Royal Flying Doctor Service was granted in 1 955.
Earlier this year it was reported that the Service was again experiencing some financial difficulty. I think that was due to a number of causes, not the least of which was the drought in Queensland and northern New South Wales, together with the increasing demands and the diversity of services that the Royal Flying Doctor Service is expected to carry out. The cost of operating the Service increased by more than $60,000 in 1970. I understand that the Service, at the national level, receives one-third of its revenue from contributions, one-third from Commonwealth and State grants and one-third from ordinary operating receipts of which the telegram traffic has formed a major part although, as technological developments take place and new equipment comes into the sphere of operations, this area is declining both in importance and in its provision of revenue to the Service. The increase in the operational subsidy from $180,000 per annum for the triennium just completed to a new yearly rate of $350,000 for the triennium 1971- 74 is welcome. In addition, as honourable senators will recall reading in the Budget Speech, there was a capital grant of, I think, $170,000 per annum. These provisions are not only for a social service but also for the treatment of patients, the provision of aircraft, the training of pilots, the employment of doctors and medical officers and a wide range of other ancillary services.
In the year ended 30th June 1971 more than 53,000 patients were treated. An additional 2,200 were transferred to hospitals. During the year the Royal Flying Doctor Service- aircraft Hew no less than 1,635,000 miles and handled well over half a million radiograms. It has 2,000 radio sets in regular use. As an adjunct to its ordinary medical service, it handles approximately 2,400 dental patients in a year. I think the service has gone beyond the stage of being a mantle of safety over the great lonely areas of the outback. Lonely they may still be, but the growth of the population and the development of mining and other communities place an extra load on the service which, of course, has to bear the same salary increases as every other section of the community and also the flow-through from certain inflationary spirals that are part of our total economic development.
Honourable senators may be interested to know that this amount of money is paid to the Federal Council of this organisation and is divided among the different sections. I think it should be said in support of this provision in the Budget that the Royal Flying Doctor Service is moving into new spheres. It is taking cognisance of new demands. The whole sphere of medical and other operational activities is changing into modern, sophisticated and contemporary styles just as any other section of the community is changing. I have no need to remind honourable senators that this makes increased economic demands upon the service and the people who run it.
I turn with interest to the reference in the Budget Speech to local government and the exemption of non-business activities of local government authorities from payroll tax. I understand that this exemption was included in the agreement made in June 1971 whereby the payroll tax was transferred from Commonwealth jurisdiction to State jurisdiction. Local government authorities will benefit considerably during the ensuing year - to the extent of approximately $6m in 1971-72 .and $8m a full year. Many questions have been asked in the Senate in relation to local government. Many honourable senators have been concerned and had a connection with local government. The Commonwealth’s general attitude is that local authorities are constituted and function under State laws and that broadly speaking it is the responsibility of State governments to assess the needs of local authorities in the light of their responsibilities and the funds available. For this reason, the Commonwealth Government has not normally provided financial assistance directly to local authorities.
The time might well have come when this matter should be reviewed. I do not know whether it would be the wisest system to have a direct relationship between the Commonwealth financial authorities and the local government financial authorities. But, in view of the enormous demands that are made on the 900 or more local government authorities in Australia today, I think that cognisance should be taken of the responsibilities they carry, the demands made upon them and, indeed, the new and changing roles they are called upon to play. They are now working in the sphere of a wide variety, of social welfare programmes in addition to carrying out the accepted roles which, it is understood from long years of service and activity they have to carry out. I applaud the fact that this opportunity has been provided for local government authorities to express themselves, to provide services for their people, who are very closely associated with them, and to operate in a situation of perhaps not quite so acute financial embarrassment.
Very few speakers in the Budget debate have not made some reference to the wine industry. All South Australian senators who have spoken in the Budget debate have made reference to the sentence in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) which referred to the wine industry. It is a matter of concern and disappointment to all honourable senators who represent States of which wine is a major product that the Treasurer has taken the decision not to remove the excise which was imposed last year. The main objections to the excise by the industry and. by people who have studied this matter are that it tends to upset the stability of the industry, leads to a reduction of sales, and imposes a hardship upon an industry which has done particularly well and which has not had to call upon government assistance to maintain itself.
Special difficulties relate to smaller growers, and particularly to co-operatives. This applies particularly to the fact that payments for wine are rarely made within a period of about 3 months and cooperatives have to pay a considerable amount of tax on each 1,000 gallons of wine sold. This has caused difficulties. Figures have been put forward by my colleagues. All of us are concerned about the stability of the industry. I hope that there will be a continuing inquiry into this segment of Australian industry, particularly in South Australia, so that this industry may take its place with the other industries in the Australian community, particularly the rural industries, and continue its growth and contribution to the economy. 1 do not propose to go through the Budget line by line because many of the areas in which moneys have been made available will be the subject of legislative measures as time goes on. I refer no more than briefly to the expenditure on education which has been increased by 14 per cent in the present Budget. Commonwealth expenditure on education now totals $346m. Education is a sphere which the Commonwealth has entered in comparatively recent years. Commonwealth activity has been of the greatest possible assistance not only in the development of education but also in promoting diversity of opportunities for education. But an education programme, at any level and at any time, will always be a programme which must constantly be upgraded, revised and reformed. It is not without significance that one of the Senate standing committees deals with this area of our society almost exclusively and that it is presently considering a matter of particular significance to the Commonwealth’s role in education. The Government has responded to all these factors in providing $346m for expenditure on education in the ensuing year.
In addition, a wide range of assistance to industry is provided. It includes S53m for assistance to exporters, $113m for research and development, $10m for shipbuilding, $8m for oil search, $40m for State governments for debt reconstruction.
Slim for dairy industry reconstruction and $60m for the wool price support scheme. A total of S275m will be provided for Australia’s rural industries. As you, Sir, are very well aware, in the rural industries it is not only a matter of providing finance, although that is the most important need in order to meet some of the difficulties which they are facing today; it is also a social and national problem. The Government means well in making this Budget provision for rural industries. It means well not only for the ongoing development of this segment of our industry and the exports it produces, but also for the interdependence of our rural industries and the rest of our industry and society.
The Government has expressed its concern in practical financial terms for the wool industry, particularly in respect of wool deficiency payments. There has been a difference of opinion because it seems that a notion is abroad that the greatest amount of financial assistance will go to the larger holdings, the bigger producers of wool. It may be argued that way, but at the same time it should be acknowledged that the people with the larger holdings produce a greater quantity of wool, run the greatest risks and carry the greatest responsibilities. Possibly they must also bear the greatest financial involvement. They undertake the greatest development, in every sense of the word, and place greater emphasis on quality. The programme set out for wool deficiency payments provides for assistance to people who have produced the best quality wool and they will be enabled to continue.
I wish to dispute, if I may, the point of view put forward by the Opposition on this matter. I have been interested to note the complaints of honourable senators opposite about the wool deficiency payments scheme. My friend Senator Donald Cameron dropped names like MacBride and MacTaggart, but a few minutes later he strongly supported the same kind of people in the wine industry. Where is the genuineness of this support? Are these people concerned for the wool industry or the wine industry or are they just taking 2 sets of circumstances and making a political issue out of them?
The debate on the Budget is set against the background of such problems and difficulties. The Budget comes to us with a degree of responsibility. I hope that as the demands and the pressures are applied to the Commonwealth, whether in payments to the States, demands for increased welfare payments, or greater expenditure on defence or repatriation, consideration will be given to those demands but at the same time the restraints and the restrictions that have been placed upon the economy against the background of a world situation that is particularly difficult to comprehend, or even to judge, will be understood. I hope that the Budget will provide for the people not only a period of growth but also a period of quite solid development and expansion, while proceeding with it side by side and hand in hand will be a concern for the wide variety of. needs of the people who are expecting the Government to encourage and help them. I support the Budget.
– As previous speakers in this debate have done I offer my congratulations to the hew senators who have made their maiden speeches. I believe that it is always interesting to listen to new thoughts and fresh ideas. I offer my sincere congratulations to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber who have recently joined us. It is obvious that I do not have to offer congratulations on this score to the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
– But we are staying here to listen to you.
– If the rabble on my left will keep quiet I may be able to explain something of importance to them. New thoughts have been expressed in the maiden speeches made in this debate. I say particularly to the new honourable senators opposite that I . hope their stay in this Parliament will be short, but fruitful and refreshing. I am a little surprised that no supporter of the Government has taken advantage of the Budget debate to refer to what I regard as a most scurrilous statement that has been written about an exPrime Minister, a member of the Liberal Party. I refer to the book ‘The Gorton Experiment’ written by a prominent journalist. In the book the ex-Prime Minister is referred to in most uncharitable terms. As young people are listening here in the Senate tonight - and I am not looking at honourable senators opposite when I say that - I will use a word different from that chosen by the author when I quote from his book.
– Where are all your mates, Bert?
– You are too infantile and too old to understand. The author of the book wrote:
Illegitimate by birth, gregarious by habit, distrustful by nature and wilful by temperament. Gorton was Prime Minister by accident.
I am amazed that no supporter of the Government has’ taken up the cudgels on behalf of the ex-Prime Minister, as one would expect them to defend any member of - society against statements of that nature. I repeat that it is a most scurrilous statement and I record my keen disappointment that anyone present in Parliament House should have had the temerity to write in such a way about an ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in my humble opinion-
– Where oh where are the boys of the ALP?
– Of course, people . who get full at dinner and come in here at night and start to raise their voices and grunt and squeal must have allowances made for. them. In my humble opinion Alan Reid’s expression is contemptible and borders on the reprehensible. Again 1 record my deep sense of disappointment that anyone should have written in such terms. I believe that- there -will be serious repercussions for Parliament from the way that journalists are carrying on today. Almost daily serious attacks are made on members of Parliament, including sometimes attacks on their private lives. Suggestions, are made that they are not acting strictly in conformity with the requirements of the Commonwealth Parliament. I believe that it is to the credit of a vast majority of parliamentarians in both the Commonwealth and State spheres that they accept their responsibilities in a proper manner.: The history of parliaments in Australia shows that only on rare occasions do parliamentarians succumb to temptation by accepting bribes or inducements of that nature.
I believe it is wrong for journalists and authors of books to suggest that parliamentarians act dishonourably. I am concerned because owners of the mass media are going further afield, prompted by the profit motive. I suppose that it is their responsibility to endeavour to gather profits, but I do not think it should be done by sacrificing the good names of people. The same owners control the newspapers, radio stations and television stations. I am sure that it is not to the advantage of the people of Australia that the mass media are owned and controlled by individuals who are presenting such biased views. As a matter of fact, they are now going into the provincial areas, particularly of Queensland, and buying provincial newspapers. We will find that a common policy of presentation of news will be a feature of our way of life. Owners of the mass media talk of freedom of the Press. I believe that they take freedom of the Press as licence for the Press. I do not know how we are going to prevent these trends but I believe they are serious matters for the concern of Parliament.
Another matter of concern is leaks from Party rooms, from Cabinet and from anywhere else where such individuals can obtain those leaks. They are a disturbing influence on the life of the Parliament. It is not correct that matters should be leaked from Cabinet. I am sure we all agree with that. Unfortunately, we have had some allegations of recent origin that this has happened. An ex-member of the Cabinet has said that Cabinet leaks like a sieve. This is not good for democracy, for Parliament or, most certainly, for stability of government. In the 1 960s there was a fairly famous pop group called ‘The Seekers’. Today we have an infamous group which could be quite aptly termed The Leakers’. It is quite easily understood why leaks of this nature occur. I say tha! there is not the stability of government in Australia today that there should- be. If honourable senators opposite dispute my word I refer them to one of their colleagues, the honourable Sir Gordon Chalk who is Treasurer of Queensland. Recently he returned from overseas and said in an interview that investors from Great Britain were very concerned about the instability of government in Australia today. Of course that instability has been worsened by recent events. I repeat that those events are noi in the interest of Australia. Only today I read that the President of a Vic torian Branch of the Liberal Party said that Mr McMahon must go and that Mr Snedden should replace him.
– It almost sounds like the Victorian Labor Party.
– What proposition have we that will do away with that type of activity? Senator Little is constantly interrupting with interjections about the Australian Labor Party. There could not be any leaks from his Party because members have their party meetings in a telephone booth and it is pretty hard to get anything out of that. I repeat that the instability of government today must be of concern to all. If we do not take heed of that proposition then I believe we are asking for trouble from the Australian people. Recently in another place we saw an episode which appeared to me to have the hallmarks of a situation which should not be countenanced. I refer to the activities of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who telephoned the Japanese Embassy to ascertain whether anything had been said by the Embassy to Mr Whitlam about his trip overseas. Surely it is not the responsibility of a very junior member of the Government to do anything of that nature. We then had the repercussions: The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) eventually tabled in the other place a confidential document from a foreign power. What is that going to do to relations between the Government of Japan and the Government of Australia? When confidential papers which pass between 2 government representatives are tabled in Parliament is that not going to destroy confidence between the 2 governments?
– What did Gough say when he went to Japan?
– Again Senator Little interrupts with some ratbag interjection. But 1 am not prepared to deviate in the slightest from what I say and that is that this type of activity is not in the interests of the people of Australia nor. indeed, can it be in the interests of fostering world peace. I believe it is entirely wrong for the Government to act as it has been acting. I believe it is entirely wrong for confidential papers which pass between the Japanese Embassy and the Australian Government to be tabled iri Parliament. Ifanybody wishes to dispute that matter then
I ask him to examine his conscience. Would he like to see any private communications which pass between the Australian Government and the Japanese Government tabled in the Japanese Parliament? But the matter goes further than that.
Today in Australia the Government is passing favours to some of its own supporters. People might say: ‘What is it to you that members should be discharged from Cabinet’. I hope I am sufficiently fair to say that I do not believe that any member should be discarded from Cabinet if he has been doing his job correctly. Could anybody suggest to me that Mr Killen failed in his position as Minister for the Navy? All I have heard is that Mr Killen has been congratulated on the work he had done. Yet because he happened to be a friend of the ex-Prime Minister he was dumped. Then we have the other serious situation in which Mr Bury was reduced from Cabinet rank. This self-same Mr Bury was hailed as a Messiah by some members of the Government. People spoke in glowing terms of his work as Treasurer. We also have Mr Hughes who was the exAttorneyGeneral. What did Mr Hughes do wrong other than be a friend of the ex-Prime Minister? Could the Government point to any action by Mr Hughes which would justify his being dropped from Cabinet, except perhaps the minor exception when he waved a cricket bat around?
Cabinet members are in the position of looking at each other and saying: ‘Who is next to be dropped from Cabinet?’ When people are looking over their shoulders to see who is going to be given their jobs surely that indicates to the Government that there is instability. The. change of Ministers from position to position is providing Australia with a far from balanced government. 1 criticise the Government for its actions in this direction. On Thursday night last Senator Marriott spoke in this chamber. At the time I would have taken exception to his remarks but I was unable to be sure of what he said. I believe that Senator Marriott should be asked whether he really meant what he said. I personally take umbrage at what he said. I am certainly not joyful when anybody is killed or suffers an accident or when we lose an aeroplane or anything of that nature. Let us examine what Senator Marriott said. He said:
I hope 1 will be fair. But I say from my heart that I have a fear that a tragedy, a collision, more deaths, more wounded, a crashed aircraft, a delayed defence order brings joy to some people who are opposed to the politics df this Government, when in reality for the good of this country and for the people who serve in our defence forces they should share with us the sincere regret that something has happened that has harmed a person, equipment, the stature, the morale or any other aspect of the defence forces of this Government.
Let me repeat the words to which I personally take exception. Senator Marriott said:
But 1 say from my heart that I have a fear that a tragedy, a collision, more deaths, more wounded, a crashed aircraft, a delayed defence order brings joy to some people who are opposed to the politics of this country.
I defy Senator Marriott to name any occasion when the death or injury of a person has brought joy to the heart of any honourable senator on. either side of the chamber. I know that he was speaking in very wide terms. At the same time, 1 believe that his choice of words was most unwise. I trust that if any of his colleagues tell Senator Marriott, who is a prospective Assistant Minister, what I have said tonight he will be big enough to get up in this chamber and withdraw those series of accusations.
Another matter that must concern the people of Australia is the inability of the Prime Minister to make up his mind about what should be done in a crisis. We had the recent example of exception being taken to what Mr Gorton was writing in a newspaper. It took the Prime Minister about a week to make up his mind whether Mr Gorton should be discharged from the Ministry. Any member of a Cabinet who made the disclosures that Mr Gorton made should have been automatically dismissed from the Ministry; but it took the Prime Minister at least a week, after making telephone calls throughout Australia, to determine what’ his attitude would be. The Prime Minister left a political decision regarding the proposed tour of Australia by a South African cricket team to a sporting organisation. It may be disputed whether it was a political decision, but if we are to be a member of the United Nations and believe in it and if we are to teach in our schools that the United Nations should be respected - I believe the vast majority of Australians think thatthe decisions of the United Nations should be observed - then why did we not observe the decision of the United Nations on the question of a tour of Australia by a South African sporting team?
Let me raise some matters connected with the United Nations and the question of apartheid. I wish to refer to resolutions carried by the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Teheran in 1968 and a. General Assembly resolution later the same year. The first mentioned conference, at which most of the nations of the world were represented, carried a resolution heartily endorsing the decision of the International Olympic Committee not to allow South Africa to participate in the Mexico. Olympic Games. The resolution expressed alarm that, in spite of recommendations and appeals, various international sports federations and associations, in particular the International Lawn Tennis Association, still allow South Africa to take part in their competitions. The resolution strongly recommended that these international federations and associations exclude South Africa from their membership until such time as the policy of apartheid is ended in that country.
What I believe to be one of the most important sections of that resolution was the request to governments to take appropriate measures to influence their national sports federations and associations towards acceptance of that recommendation. Did the Australian Government observe the decision of the United Nations in this regard? No, it did not. It left the sporting organisation to make a decision. In December 1965, the 23rd General Assembly of the United Nations carried a resolution from the special political committee which declared that all states and organisations should suspend cultural, educational, sporting and other exchanges with the racist regime and other institutions and organisations in South Africa which practised apartheid. Those strong resolutions came from an organisation to which we subscribe and to which we have pledged ourselves to try to observe its decisions.
It may be of interest to honourable senators to know that Mr N. H. Bowen,
M.P.. represented the Australian Government at the 23rd General Assembly conference and that Mr Andrew Peacock, M.P. was also present at the conference. My information is that Mr N. H. Bowen abstained from casting a vote, which was his right under the charter of. the United Nations. But a decision having been carried and he having been there to offer at least opposition - which he did not offer - I believe it was the bounden duty of the Government of Australia to observe the decision of the United Nations and give the lead to Australia that it should have done.
The Prime Minister, trenchantly criticised Mr Whitlam for suggesting that there would be 1.00,000 people or more unemployed in a very short space of time. He said that Mr Whitlam was a Jeremiah of gloom. But a few days later the Prime Minister had to come out and admit that there would be 100,000 people unemployed in the near future. Although the Budget has not yet been passed by the Parliament the Prime Minister has had to say that if the unemployment situation gets worse the Government will have to act to correct it. The Government will in fact have to correct a situation caused by its own maladministration.. Those honourable senators who dispute that our difficulties are due to the Government’s maladministration should examine last year’s Budget.
Government supporters are prone to criticise the 6 per cent wage increase awarded by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Do they know that by offering such criticism they are in effect saying that they have no confidence in the Arbitration Commission? That is precisely what they are saying. Do the Government supporters know that the people of Australia respect the decisions of any judicial body and that they are saying to the Government: ‘Why is the Government now criticising that judicial decision when, it had every opportunity to put its views before the judicial body and it exercised its right to do so’? The Government did in fact exercise its right and put submissions before the Arbitration Commission and the Arbitration Commission took those submissions into consideration. Notwithstanding that, the Commission awarded a 6 per cent across the board increase in wages and salaries.
What caused the Commission to make such a decision? A situation of rising prices throughout Australia forced the Commission to give a 6 per cent increase to the workers of Australia. Unless this Government - I am fearful that it will - interferes with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission I would say that an even more substantial increase will be awarded at the end of this year when the annual review takes place. Of course, the increase has to be more because the Commission must take into consideration the way that prices have risen, and it is its responsibility to ensure that the workers in some way keep up with this higher cost of living. But we hear Government supporters criticising the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission for awarding a 6 per cent increase. Senator Davidson said that in his opinion the decision was wrong. On what basis does he say that the decision was wrong? Has he analysed all the evidence that was presented to the Commission? Has he done anything at all to satisfy himself or any other supporter of the Government that the decision was unfair or unjust? Would he or any other supporter of the Government put their thoughts ahead of those of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? Who would be the most capable person of determining what wage increase should - be awarded - a supporter of the Government or the President and his colleagues of the Arbitration Commission who sat and heard all the evidence in the case? It is just stupidity to talk about the Commission awarding the 6 per cent increase in wages. lt could do nothing else but award that increase in order to try to compensate me worker for the increased cost of living ;hat he was called upon to meet.
This Budget does very little to correct the inconsistencies that are apparent. It is a Budget of inconsistencies. It is a Budget of indecision. It is a Budget that will increase the incidence of inflation. Do not accept my word for that, Mr President. Almost every government supporter who has spoken in this debate has criticised the Budget in some way. They say: ‘Yes, we support the Budget but - ‘ and then come the criticisms. Almost every supporter of the Government who has spoken in this debate has criticised some section of the
Budget. Whether this has been done for some political advantage they can gain in their own State, the fact remains that they have criticised the Budget. If honourable senators look at Hansard they will see that that is so. Let us have a look at what one honourable senator on the Government side said about the Budget. At page 482 of Hansard he said:
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.
Senator Greenwood nods in agreement. What more criticism does he want? The trade unions have condemned the Budget; employers’ organisations have condemned the Budget; and, what is more, the Associated Chambers of Commerce has made remarks about it. What did it have to say? A newspaper article I have here reports in the following terms:
The Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia yesterday warned of a severe credit squeeze later this financial year:
The chambers said this would be caused by an excessively large Budget surplus combined with maintenance of restrictive monetary policies foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden).
The Chambers of Commerce issued a special statement through their Canberra secretariat.
They said: ‘The Treasury has shown an undue preoccupation with excess liquidity In ‘ the economy as a result of capital inflow, the high level of savings bank deposits and the flow-back of tax refunds.
As a consequence, the Government has been persuaded to budget for a domestic surplus of S630 million knowing that this will result in a substantial withdrawal of liquidity from the economy and act as a strong restraining factor on expenditure by the private sector.
Under such conditions, the impact of monetary restraints will fall hardest on the small and medium sized businesses which do not have the capacity to borrow overseas. ‘While the Treasurer is to be commended for his efforts to reduce Government spending, it is questionable whether the pruning of administrative expenditure will be as ‘ruthless’ as promised, especially when departmental running costs are expected to increase by 15 per cent. .’Admittedly, a review of the existing functions and activities of government departments will be undertaken with a view to making economies, but this would be much more effective if it were an independent inquiry instead of an internal investigation as at present planned.’
The statement said: ‘In the present economic climate and in looking at the immediate prospects ahead, the Budget will be judged as unnecessarily severe and its strategy wrongly, oriented.’
Does the Government say that that is not a criticism of the Budget from its own friends? It was also criticised by the trade unions, Surely no supporter of the Government would dispute that the trade unions are an important part of the society of Australia. If anyone disputes that, let him get to his feet and say that the trade unions are not an important segment of the community. But when I refer to criticisms by the trade union movement some Government supporters are inclined to ridicule such a statement. There has been criticism. It is wrong to say that there has not been criticism. It has been levelled in several directions. I have always believed that a Government should carry out its promises to the people. An article in today’s ‘Courier-Mail’ reads:
The key promises of the Gorton Government - the establishment of a national health insurance ‘commission and a national film and television school - have been shelved.
Who said that they have been shelved? It was none other than the Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. The article continues:
The Health Minister (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) announced yesterday that the decision to set up the health insurance commission was under consideration’.
He made this statement notwithstanding the fact that it had been promised by a previous Prime Minister. Is this the way we are to treat the people of Australia? Are we to give a promise and then some 18 months later say that it is under consideration? That article is well worth reading.
I spoke earlier about the cricket tour. Again honourable senators might feel that I am prejudiced because of what I said, but let us see what the President of Victoria’s largest Liberal branch said last night. Another newspaper article reports this gentleman as saying: . . that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) should have given decisive leadership’ over the Springbok cricket tour. Mr C. H. Francis, QC, a Melbourne barrister and Stonnington Liberal branch president, said: ‘1 don’t think important political decisions involving Australia’s international reputation should be left to a cricket board.’
What does the Liberal Party make of criticism of that nature when it comes from one of its own branch presidents? Does it accept the criticism? If it does not accept the criticism then it should not criticise me for what I have urged regarding United Nations decisions. I remind honourable senators opposite that the President of a Liberal Party branch in Victoria was saying, in slightly different words, what I have said tonight and what the United Nations has said.
– Does the honourable senator know Charlie Francis?
– Now we have young Senator Webster interjecting. Like Senator Marriott, I do not wish to be provocative, so I shall not reply to that interjection. Perhaps I could say to honourable senators opposite that the Government will not need any more of its supporters to be provocative while it has Senator Marriott. I repeat that I shall not reply to Senator Webster’s interjection, although I could do so. Early in the Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said: . . it is in these 2 years that cost and price inflation has gathered pace. . . . Undoubtedly, a significant part of the impetus has come from wage increases in various forms. These increases have reflected the level of demand and a willingness on the part of employers, under pressure, to pay more for labour.
Was the Government under pressure when it awarded wage and salary increases to members of organisations, associations or trade unions in its employ? Has it not granted substantial increases to these classes of people since the last Budget? I can inform the Senate of one group of employees who are working for the Government who have a 37 hour week, who are paid overtime after 32 hours a week and who can earn as much as $200 a week. Good luck to the workers. But let us not have the Government complaining about trade unions putting pressure on employers. I know for a positive fact that no pressure was put on the Government when the increased figure to which I have referred was arrived at during a conference between representatives of the Government and the unions.
– What union was this? “ Senator MILLINER- -I prefer not to use the name of the union. I shall tell the honourable senator later.
– Be fair.
– I am fair.. I am so fair that I would not stand up in this Senate, as Senator Webster did, and say that I would be quite happy to be a hangman, that I would be quite happy to hang a fellow citizen. I would not do a thing like that. However, if Senator Webster wants to do that and that is his idea of fairness; it is not mine.
– I think the honourable senator should stick to the Budget.
– I shall stick to the subject. The paragraph in the Budget continued:
Apparently it has been possible to pass on increased costs, wholly or partly, in higher prices. lt is probably more ‘ helpful to think of an interacting set of conditions than to look for a single dominating cause. But it is important to appreciate that a cost-price sequence can become a self.activating force so that cost increases lead to price increases and these to further cost increases.
Whose responsibility is it to look after these factors? Surely the Government should have some policy on price fixation, but it has taken no action in that regard. Yet it complains about the situation and justifies some of its actions and its own neglect. Let us consider what was said in the Budget about the defence vole. This is an amazing part of the Budget Speech. The Treasurer said:
The Defence Vole proposed is $I,252.-Jm. This is S I 1 7m, or 10.3 per cent, more than last year.
Anyone reading that would think that the money available for Australia’s defence requirements would be increased by 10.3 per cent, but if we read a little further we find that such is not the case. The Treasurer continued:
Some ?66m of the increase is for pay and salaries. New rates recommended by the Kerr Committee for other ranks will apply as from the beginning of the next pay period, and actual payment will be made as soon as regulations are promulgated. The Minister for Defence will make a statement on the new pay structure.
The final sentence in that section of the Budget Speech states:
There will be a small increase in expenditure on defence aid programmes.
Notwithstanding the great build-up given to this subject when we are told that there is to be a 10.3 per cent increase in defence spending, we’ find when we analyse the situation that there’ is to be a small increase in expenditure on defence aid programmes. 1 come now to child endowment. We are told in the Budget Speech that the Government will introduce legislation to increase child endowment by 50c a week for each child under the age of 16 years in excess of 2 in a family. Why should the increase be restricted to children in excess of 2 in a family? Are families with 1 or 2 children not required to meet the high costs of living that are with us today? Why should they be penalised by having their child endowment restricted while others are receiving an increase? I do not think the Government could have been serious when, having said that the first child should receive endowment, it says at this late stage that only families with more than 2 children shall receive an increased rate of child endowment.
– The Chifley Government did not recognise the first child at all.
– I repeat that it was a Liberal government which decided that the first child should receive child endowment. I have said that already; so it is of no use for the honourable senator to interject. I gave credit for what the Government has done. I am saying now that the Government has now departed from its original decision. I repeat that this makes the Budget a Budget of inconsistencies. In the section on assistance to industry the Treasurer said:
The Government has given particular consideration to the position of those farmers substantially dependent on their income from wool.
That is a very wide statement. I expect that we will be given some indication of what it means when the legislation comes before the Senate, but at this stage I suggest that there is a wide area which must be investigated. A means test should be associated with this scheme. I believe that people who are in urgent need of assistance should be given more than is proposed in this Budget. On the other hand, those wo do not require additional finance should not receive the assistance proposed. .
It is all very well for Government supporters to talk about the wool subsidy scheme, but 1 suggest to them that there are people other than wool growers living in the depressed country areas of Queensland. What will other people in the outback areas of Queensland receive from this subsidy? It might be said that the wool ‘ growers will now be able to pay their bills. Honourable senators opposite know as well, as I do that in a substantial . number of cases the wool growers are in so much financial stress that the banks and other
Institutions will take the money that the wool growers receive as assistance to pay off some of the debts which have accrued over the years. Practically none of that money will come into the country towns. Yet some means could have been found to achieve that situation. The Government has been asked about this on several occasions, but always we have heard the stereotype reply that this matter would be considered at Budget time. If it has been considered, it has been forgotten very quickly. There is a positive way to assist the little people, the shopkeepers and the workers in these areas, lt can be done by giving a better zone allowance for taxation purposes. The Government said that it would look at that matter. If it did then it looked away mighty quickly because nothing has been done notwithstanding the promises that have been made that these zone allowances would be reviewed from time to time.
On page 10 of the Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
The Government has decided that producers of wool should be given additional assistance this year, and will introduce a 1-year scheme of deficiency payments in respect of the 1971-72 wool clip. Deficiency payments will be a percentage of market realisation, calculated from ‘ time to time so as to ensure that, on average, growers receive for shorn wool - other than specified inferior types accounting for about 10 per cent of shorn wool - a return corresponding to a price for the whole clip of 36c a pound greasy.
In short, it is a guaranteed price of 36c a lb. I put quite seriously to the Government: Could this decision affect the sale of wool at the respective wool sales? I cannot get out of my mind the idea that there is some collusion on the part of overseas buyers. I believe that there can be collusion by them. If it appears that the wool grower is going to get 36c a lb, would not overseas buyers be tempted to put themselves into a favourable position by saying that they will offer no more than 30c a lb, shall we say? The wool grower will not lose because the Commonwealth Government will have to foot the bill. I put quite seriously to the Government that it could have -made that decision. I repeat too that .1 believe some criticism can be levelled at the Government for the way this assistance was canvassed. It was reported and never denied that this matter was discussed at Cabinet level and that
Cabinet could not agree. It was then revealed that there were private talks between, the Prime Minister and the Dep-uty Prime Minister,, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and that that figure of 36c was agreed upon at those private talks and taken back to Cabinet for confirmation. If that story is correct - I emphasise the word ‘if - then I do not believe that that is the way that the Government of Australia, should be run. I believe it is entirely wrong for 2 people to be able to get away on their own, determine something which Cabinet has not been able to determine and then to take it back to Cabinet and obtain almost complete agreement on it.
– In the : argument you put forward are you not overlooking one important aspect, and that is the Australian Wool Commission?
– No, I had not overlooked the Australian Wool Commission. The way that the Commission is spending so much money on wool and stockpiling wool must be a matter of .concern for the Government. I had not overlooked the Commission at all. I believe the Commission will be faced with the same 1 proposition; if wool ‘ is passed in and the Commission buys it at 30c a lb because it does not believe a fair price is offered, the Government still will be up for that 30c and the deficiency payment of 6c. In addition, the private buyer can then negotiate with the Commission. 1 submit with re”spect that I do not think a private buyer will pay 36c a lb - nowhere near it. I think the honourable senator will agree that this will provide an avenue for collusion among foreign buyers on the wool market. 1 submit that quite seriously to the Government although it may be too late to do anything about it now.
I turn now to personal income tax. This is referred to at page 15 of the Budget Speech! Again, do we find an inconsistency? Twelve months ago the Government said that the incidence of taxation on the people of Australia was too high, particu- - larly those in the middle income bracket. The Government, in its wisdom, granted a . tax concession right across the board. Now it has increased taxation again. Surely this is a denial of a set of conditions in a , period of 12 months. Surely the Government .cannot ask the people of Australia to have confidence in it when it acts in such a topsy turvey way. Within a matter of 12 months it says that the incidence of taxation is too high and will reduce it and then increases it again.
– It reduced the tax by 10 per cent and gave the pensioners 50c.
– That is true but 1 am not arguing on that principle at present. I am referring to the complete inconsistencies. Twelve months ago the Government said that taxation was too high and it reduced it. Then 12 months later up goes the taxation again. Surely this does not indicate stability on the part of the Government. I now refer to the concluding remarks made by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech. He said:
I might mention, in this budget context, that the Government is considering what might be done by way of strengthening the arbitration system and, in particular, bringing more to the forefront the economic consequences of decisions which are taken within that system. When these studies have been completed, we will consider whether further measures should be taken to cope with the problem of excessive cost and price increases.
I must refer to the escalating level of industrial unrest. Working days lost through industrial disputes in the first five months of 1971 topped the high rate of last year by nearly 25 per cent.
I want to deal first with that second aspect because what the Treasurer said is a distortion of the real facts in the industrial world. The Government knows that during that 5 months period there were, prolonged stoppages in New South Wales not over wages but over working conditions. Could any Government supporter stand in his place and say it is just that a worker injured on the job, particularly in the building industry, should have a reduced earning capacity while he is on workers’ compensation? If he does then again he denies the decision of the New South Wales Industrial Commission which has decided that an injured worker shall be paid his usual weekly wage when he is in receipt of workers’ compensation.
The situation is that for its own political purposes the Government has stressed a point of time which it knows is unrealistic. If that is not a fallacy, if that is not mischievous, if that is not - in the words of one of its Ministers - a mean, contemptible thing to do, then I have yet to see it. Why does the Government not be honest about these things? It is always trying to pick on the trade unions and the workers of this country. They have done more for Australia than a lot of us here today - and I do not exclude myself. Yet throughout the whole of this Budget is the fact that the Government is going to try to do something to the workers. It is going to try to interfere with the arbitration system. I shall read that paragraph again. The Treasurer said:
I might mention, in this budget context, that the Government is considering what might be done by way of strengthening the arbitration system and, in particular, bringing more to the forefront the economic consequences of decisions which are taken within that system. When these studies have been completed, we will consider whether further measures should be taken to cope with the problem of excessive cost and price increases.
It is in the Government’s hands to rectify these problems by introducing legislation, for example, to stop the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd increasing by an outrageous amount the prices that it charges for its steel. But the Government will not do that. It will try to hide behind the back door and try to ringbark the arbitration system. It is apparent from the Budget Speech that that is what the Government proposes to do. In the past other governments have tried to do this very thing and the people have revolted. On this occasion they will revolt again. I support the amendment moved by Senator Murphy.
– There are advantages, and disadvantages I suppose, in speaking relatively late in a budget debate. I believe that one of the advantages in speaking relatively late in this debate is that I had had the opportunity of hearing the maiden speeches of our new senators. I was delighted at the standard of those speeches. It would be invidious of me to mention particular names, but I must refer to one of the speakers. Neville Bonner, in his speech, introduced a new era in the Senate and in the parliaments of Australia. I feel that the Press did not give justice to this great occasion. I was proud that Queensland, which has been rather villified because of its attitude to his race, selected Neville Bonner to represent not only his people but the people of Queensland. The State Government did that of its own choosing. After hearing and seeing him and after observing his conduct, I believe that he will be a wonderful representative of the people of Queensland. I was thrilled to welcome him to the Senate. I look forward to his contributions to debates in which no doubt he will make us aware of the needs of his people. We have long needed somebody to interpret for us the needs of his people and in turn to take to them the ideas and the aspirations of the rest of the community. i think this was a great day for the Parliament and for his people. I join with the other senators who have welcomed him to the Senate.
Coming in late in the debate, I have had the advantage or disadvantage of listening to what was said from the Opposition benches. I cannot help referring to some of the many foolish things that were said by Senator Milliner who preceded me in the debate. I hope he takes no offence at what I have just said. He stated that on the Government side there were critics of the Budget and added: ‘fancy daring to criticise their own Budget!’ He could not understand that. He would not be allowed to do that if he were in a similar position. I think the healthiest sign of any group is that it can exercise some self criticism. Provided it is constructive criticism, it helps to build the strength of the organisation concerned. When we become so subdued that we cannot express a point of view - be it as a result of a decision of a caucus, a government leader or a Party leader - we reduce democracy to a miserable farce. I believe that, instead of criticising Government members for daring to express some self criticism, in reality he was expressing some suppressed envy because he would not dare to criticise the Budget if he were on this side of the chamber.
On 25th August last I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) explain to us and to Australia at large - the proceedings were being broadcast as is the custom on Wednesdays - why he thought the Budget should be condemned. I listened carefully, as i generally do, to Senator Murphy, and since then i have read with some care the report of his speech in Hansard. As I read his speech and thought about what he said, one thing came vividly to my mind. His speech reminded me of one of Aesop’s Fables - the story about the wolf and the lamb. The wolf, anxious to devour the Iamb, accused it, although it was drinking lower down the stream than the wolf, of muddying the water from which the wolf had to drink. When the lamb replied that that was impossible the wolf said: ‘Anyhow, last year you insulted my father’. The lamb said: That is impossible I was not born last year’. Having failed, by force of argument, to subdue the lamb, the wolf pounced on it and devoured it. It seemed to me that running through the whole of Senator Murphy’s criticism of the Budget was this attitude of deliberately putting things the wrong way and of attributing to the Government, through the Budget, the things that I believe should be attributed rightfully to the political Party to which he belongs and to the leadership of the trade union movement.
He set out, as his main complaint, that the Budget would continue inflation. Then he said that it was a depressive Budget. I find it difficult to reconcile those 2 statements - that it was an inflationary and a depressive Budget. Senator Murphy did not get around to reconciling those 2 statements. He did not tell us very much about the Budget. He certainly did not attempt to justify his statement, in which he followed statements made by Mr Hawke and Mr Whitlam, that the Budget would produce unemployment. He made this bland statement, without any evidence from the Budget, to support the statement that the Budget would produce unemployment. Like the wolf, he growled a lot.
I had a look at one of his complaints. He said that in the case of the average income earner the 21 per cent increase in income tax more than takes away - note those words - the benefit of the child endowment increase of 50c a week for the third and successive children. I took the trouble to check the figures. I found that if the average income earner with 3 children is on an income of $80 a week he would have a taxable income of $60 a week. The increase in his tax would be $7.84 and the increase is child endowment would be $26. In the case of the man who has 4 children and a taxable income of. $80, the increase in tax would be $5.43 but the benefit gained by the increase in child endowment would be $52. Senator Murphy said that the average income earner would more than lose the benefit of the increase in child endowment, but the cases I have just cited indicate that in fact there would be a rather substantial gain. Either the honourable senator was short of a valid argument or he was putting up a case in which his accuracy or his credibility are suspect.
The honourable senator also criticised the wool subsidy by saying:
The wealthy wool grower receives a heavy subsidy - the rural battler gets a handout.
His use of those emotive expressions could bepardonedbuthisneglecttotellus where he would find a wealthy wool grower could not. A wealthy man may also be a wool grower but he would not . be wealthy today from wool. Of course, the fact that if that man did receive a subsidy in respect of the wool grown by him and that he, on his marginal tax rate, would pay back over 60c in every $1, escaped Senator Murphy’s honest evaluation of the situation. Surely the Commissioner of Taxation would see that the proceeds of the wool subsidy were distributed fairly.
Other Opposition senators advanced the phoney suggestion that we should turn the wool subsidy into some kind of social benefit scheme. Last year when the Government attempted to do something along those lines by allocating $30m for this purpose - only $21m was spent - we were subjected to tremendous criticism. The Government attempted to assist financially the people whom it thought would be in the greatest need. lt was a tragedy that the step was ever taken. There has been further criticism of the anomalies that that kind of proposal perpetuates. Even economists have joined in the criticism of a subsidy scheme based on price. Of course, everyone agrees that the trouble with the wool industry today is that the price of wool is too low. The Government’s proposal simply attempts to rectify the situation. If we fiddle with the proposal and turn what is a price subsidy into some kind of glorified social welfare scheme we will run into economic anomalies of unknown magnitude; we will be faced with distortions in thevalue ofland and property, and we will create 100 problems instead of curing one. If the- industry is to survive we need a fair price for our wool or, failing that, a fair scheme by which the price can be subsidised. The industry cannot carry on without that assistance.
In an attempt to cover cases outside the general economic deficiency caused by low prices the Government introduced legislation in the last sessional period. The proposal covered by that legislation will run into difficulties and in many cases will be ineffective, but we must try to do something to assist or even reconstruct the industry. The Government’s scheme is simply an attempt to return the price of wool to some semblance of relativity to the increases in our cost structure. This is the only way in which that can be done. Senator Murphy also said:
The average worker will see his real wages again eroded while prices continue to rise. . . Wage increases are chasing price increases, not the reverse.
There is an example of the lupine trick of a person blaming someone else for something of which he is guilty. The true position is reflected in the percentage increase in the average weekly earnings compared with the percentage increase in the consumer price index. That information appears on page 16 of the White Paper on the Australian economy. We have been told ad nauseam by honourable senators on the Opposition side that prices are forcing up wages. It would be just as sensible to say that water runs up hill, in view of the facts of the situation. I think that Senator Davidson and other honourable senators have cited the facts in part, but I should like to turn to the details relating to the years from 1965 to 1970. In 1965 average weekly earnings increased by 6.1 per cent whereas the consumer price index rose by 4 per cent. In 1966 average weekly earnings increased by 4.8 per cent whereas the consumer price index rose by 3 per cent. In 1967 there was a rise of 6.7 per cent in average weekly earnings but a rise of only 3.2 per cent in the consumer price index. There was an increase of 6 per cent in average weekly earnings in 1968 and the consumer price index rose by 2.7 per cent, while in 1969 average weekly earnings increased by 9 per cent and the consumer price by 2.9 per cent. In 1970, the final year for which figures are availr able, average weekly earnings increased by 8.2 per cent but the consumer price index rose by only 3.9 per cent. In each of those years, especially the last 4, the increase iti average weekly earnings Has been 2 or 3 times as great as the rise in the consumer price index. We could start arguing about the chicken and the egg and which came first, but the facts are that the consumer price index has risen by very much less than average weekly earnings.
– What are the average weekly earnings in the years the honourable senator mentioned?
– That is a reasonable and proper question and I could reply to it in full, but I would have to look up the figures and I do not want to delay the Senate unduly. I have cited percentages for the sake of clarity. To support his argument that wage increases are chasing price increases, Senator Murphy has stated a phoney case. True, we will continue to have price increases. The private sector of the economy over the years has absorbed a great deal of the wage increases by giving more attention to management, increased efficiency and greater use of capital. This has kept the increase in prices down to about the same rate as the increase in wages. The private sector is able to do this.
But the public sector is a different kettle of fish. In the public sector, the proportion of direct wages/ cost is much higher. We see Government charges in such fields as health, education, defence and administration generally increasing at a very much faster rate than the rate of increase in costs in the private sector. Although it is hoped that increased productivity exists in the public sector, it is fairly difficult to measure and very difficult to define. Sometimes I am dubious whether such a thing exists. But while it would be reasonable to assume that some increase in productivity occurs, it certainly is not of the order of the wage increases. Without doubt, when we have wage increases exceeding the increase of productivity we must have increases in costs. This, of course, gives a further kick along to the inflationary spiral.
Inflation benefits some people, but it is harmful to many people. It is harmful to those who are dependent upon export income. It is harmful to those who are on fixed incomes. It is harmful to those who are dependent upon investment. I was interested to hear Senator Murphy refer to and join in the popular attack on the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, partly because it is big, partly because it is successful and partly because there is an element of jea-lousy of the success of an Australian company of this sort. He cited the rise of 8 per cent in steel prices. But he completely omitted to acknowledge that the rise in the price of steel followed by 6 months the 6 per cent rise granted in the national wage case. He failed to recognise the fact that income from steel manufacturing was well down; that it was not up.
Then, as did the last speaker Senator Milliner, he played with the fact that the Government was increasing personal income tax by 2i per cent. He referred to the fact that the taxpayer in receipt of $9,000 per annum received a tax cut of $300 last year whilst the taxpayer in receipt of $3,000 per annum received a tax cut of only $50. Then he said that because the Government has now increased income tax by 21 per cent it has perpetuated the injustice on the man on the lower income. I do not know how on earth he could justify a statement of that sort when, in fact, the man in receipt of a $3,000 income will have to pay an extra $10.16 while the man in receipt of a $9,000 income will have to pay an extra $65. I cannot see the injustice ing with the tax scale which demands that in this. Senator Murphy was simply playthe man in receipt of $9,000 per annum pays 30c in the $1 tax while, quite rightly, the man on $3,000 per annum pays only 14c in the $1 tax. I do not know whether the honourable senator disagreed with that, but he tried to make some sort of criticism out of it. I fail to see any point at all in his criticism.
While I disagree with the honourable senator’s conclusions in this regard, 1 agree that an urgent case exists for a complete review of our tax scales. I do not believe that we could ever introduce anything approaching a perfect Budget, even if it were possible for any government ever to bring in a perfect Budget. But I believe that our ability to introduce a sound Budget is being increasingly hampered and stultified by our adherence to a tax scale which is in shreds and tatters. It is out of date; it has been built on by bits and pieces; and it has been amended for various political reasons. I think that today the tax scale fails to give expression to either equity or economic sense. Canada tackled this job - I think it was in 1964 - by bringing into the area of public debate a survey of the tax structure. The position is not yet resolved, but the Canadian public has had its attention drawn to the problems of budgeting and the problems of taxation.
I think that we could very well reexamine our tax structure and our tax scales. We have adopted policies which give to the Commissioner of Taxation a tremendous area of discretion. I feel that it would be better to have all Australians more aware, through the legislation itself, of what is required of them in the form of their duty in regard to tax. I believe that we have to look at the question of tax rebates. Tax rebates have been used as an instrument of economic policy. 1 believe that in almost every case these policies have broken down because they are regressive. They give benefit to people who need it least and little or no benefit to people who need it most. If we are to have policies to assist industries or a particular class of people, much better and more positive ways are available to us than by trying to do this by tax concessions.
Some obsession exists in regard to tax concessions. This was manifested by the last speaker, Senator Milliner, who suggested that small business men in the country towns of Queensland, because of the recession in the primary industries, would be benefited by tax concessions. What benefit would accrue by granting a tax concession to a small shopkeeper who was virtually broke and had no income? There is muddled thinking or an obsession about tax concessions.
– He would not be paying any income tax.
– -He would not be paying any income tax and he would not be receiving any concession.
– If you gave it to him soon enough there would be some advantage.
– But the honourable senator was putting this proposition forward in relation to the position that obtains today. Of course, when the small business man had a big income he did not need the tax concession. This whole theory of using income tax as a means of carrying out economic policies is unsound and should be scrapped. I believe that we should look at what we are doing with regard to concessions with respect to a married man who has, as we say, a dependent wife. I think it is a horrible term to use. Here we have 2 people sharing an income. I believe that if there is one wage earner the income for those 2 people should be attributed to 2 people. If the wife is earning an income the combined wages should be averaged for tax purposes.
I believe that Canada has proposed a special tax rate but I would prefer that 2 people living on one income have the family income regarded as 2 separate incomes for taxation purposes. At present a concession is granted to people in primary industry and owners of small businesses in that they are allowed to treat their wives as business partners for taxation purposes. A great number of people receive this benefit and I think it is grossly unfair that a lawyer, a doctor or a worker in industry who shares his income with his wife should be deprived of access to a means of lowering the incidence of tax on a family in that way.
That is only one of the anomalies that exist in our tax structure. Another is associated with home ownership. A person who owns his home has no notional tax attributed to his home ownership; but should he sell his home and be forced to live in a rented house he will receive no tax deduction for the rent paid. On the other hand, if be invested the money from the sale of his home the income he gained in that way would be taxable. We have to study these matters in relation to our tax plans. I have suggested that one of the anomalies in the present situation is the absence of a capital gains tax. I think we should very soon set about replacing death duties with a capital gains tax. I have some support for that idea from no less a person than Sir Cecil Looker and others who have given thought to this matter.
Death duties are simply a deferred capital gains tax, in most instances. They are levied in the most adverse circumstances and perpetrate harshness and cruelty on families. Death duties bring about enormous economic cost for accounting devices aimed at avoiding the tax. The present reluctance of the Commissioner of Taxation to place realistic values on farming properties particularly is a national scandal. I have seen assessments of farming properties which are completely and utterly ridiculous. I think it is about time that we asked the Commissioner of Taxation to put up or shut up.
– You are in a position to do so.
– I wish I was.
– You have a more advantageous position than we have.
– 1 grant that, but the Opposition opposed the proposal on death duties that 1 and others in the Senate supported. To use a colloquialism I think the Commissioner of Taxation would quickly pull his head in if he was required to buy a property, his valuation of which was disputed. He would quickly see that his valuations are not realistic and are unrelated to the price that could be obtained in the market place.
– What about the case when the State wants to acquire a property from a farmer? In those circumstances the position seems to be reversed.
– There could be an argument between valuations.
– I was wondering whether you believe that different valuation scales should apply in different circumstances.
– I think the valuation in any case should be the true market value of the property. I think it is wrong for an individual to try to extort an unreal value. I think it is very much more in the province of the Commissioner of Taxation not to demand payments of tax which are completely and utterly unrealistic. That is what is happening. In some cases today if properties were sold up to meet the death duties it is doubtful that the price realised would meet the tax being demanded. The matter is completely out of hand.
I turn now in a general way to the farming situation, and particularly to the wool industry. In the light of purchasing power the present prices for wool are lower than at any time in the history of the industry. They are not merely, as has been suggested, the lowest since 1947, but in terms of purchasing power they are the lowest prices in the history of the industry. We have been told that the proposal in the Budget is that $275m out of a Budget of $8,833m is to assist the primary industries of this country. I have studied the composition of that figure of $275m and I do not think lt is a very accurate assessment. Included in that total is an amount of $9,800,000 for the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. This amount is correctly attributable to the fertiliser industry and not to the farming community because the prices charged to the farmer are on a scale equal to imported nitrogenous fertiliser costs. The subsidy is provided to enable the manufacturers to carry on in this situation and not with a view to assisting farmers.
The petroleum products subsidy for the inland cost of petrol, amounting to $25m, is included in the total of $275m, but that subsidy is not directed to the farming industry. Any city tourist who visits Alice Springs or anywhere in the interior benefits from the subsidy which is paid to keep down the price of fuel inland. It is not particularly attributable to the rural industry. In fact, it is probable that the tourist industry benefits more than anybody else.
A sum of $40m is attributed to rural reconstruction. I have been trying to find out what is happening about rural reconstruction moneys and the likelihood of that amount being spent. It is hardly likely that much more than half of it will be spent, because in the first year we have hypothecated about half of it to farm build up. Experience shows that there is very little demand for farm build up, so I think that an amount of about $S4m has wrongly been included in the figure of $275m said to be devoted to assisting the primary industries. On the other hand, the figure attributed as assistance to manufacturing industries is $82m. To that amount we need to add $9. 8m which is going to the nitrogenous fertiliser industry. The actual split up of the total amount provided in the Budget for assistance to industry is $220m for primary industry and $92m to assist the manufacturing industry. I have seen pages of criticism and crocodile tears about how much this assistance will cost the taxpayers. The taxpayer will be asked to subsidise the wool grower. The total amount of this alleged subsidy is $220m. In the same Budget $92m is being found for manufacturing industries. Did anyone see any complaint in the newspapers about the taxpayers being asked to subsidise the manufacturing industries? ‘ Proportionately, a greater amount is being found in the Budget for manufacturing industry than is being found to assist primary industry.
– Proportionate to what?
– I would say proportionate to their export value. We have figures here showing that last year our manufacturing industries accounted for 20.5 per cent of our total exports. This figure has risen over the years. It has been 14 per cent, 15 per cent, 16 per cent, 17.8 per cent, 18.2 per cent and for the last year the figure was 20 per cent. Agricultural exports represent 20.9 per cent of the total amount. Despite the depression in the pastoral industry that industry was responsible for 26.3 per cent of our exports. If we add all primary industries - which includes the mining industry - we find that they accounted for 76 per cent of our exports as against 20.5 per cent for our manufacturing industries.
As expressed through the newspapers of Australia we see that the community at large has some idea that the taxpayer is being required to provide some fantastic amount of money as assistance. It is $202m out of a budget of $8,833m. That is the amount that the taxpayer is finding. The figures should be put in their proper perspective. Primary industry has produced up to 80 per cent of the total exports of this country. Our manufacturing industry has been built on primary industry, as has the complex of our city life. Yet we find this miserable attitude when circumstances throughout the world are such that the industry is in real trouble. Primary industry is still vitally important to the economic well being of Australia. As far as wool is concerned the assistance is provided on a temporary basis because it is a proposal for one year only although we may have to continue the assistance. We are trying to cushion the blow against the industry which, without a doubt, has contributed enormously to the well being of every man, woman and child in Australia. We hear squeals and whines.
– From where?
– From virtually every newspaper in Australia. We hear criticism from honourable senators opposite. This afternoon we heard Senator Poke criticising the Australian Wool Commission because it is trying to stabilise the price of wool. I think this is a miserable and contemptible attitude from people who have benefitted enormously because people have taken the risk to develop Australia to the stage where there is a measure of prosperity in the general community.
– It is the method we object to.
– It is fine to criticise methods, but we have to have some method and no alternative method has been suggested. An honourable senator suggested that the answer was to look at tha markets om-t tn -.-I– what «n hap-HJW markets ana IU VAU1III1IW v* lt CI I la u ap” pen ing with regard to Russia and its potential as a market. I have here figures which show that last year we exported 40 million kilograms of raw wool to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. That equals the amount which we exported to the United Kingdom which is traditionally one of our biggest markets. We are exporting and we are trying to find markets. We have not received any worthwhile alternative suggestion. I believe in the present policy whereby we protect an industry which has done so much for the wellbeing of this country.
– As usual I am last in to bat. I make no criticism of Senator Prowse because 1 found his contribution interesting.
– Interesting. Since I have two or three minutes left before the Senate adjourns I can afford to be kind. In being kind I express my congratulations to those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches. I look forward to hearing from those who, have yet to. speak. The continual shuffle which has taken place in the Government parties as Minister moves from responsibility to responsibility is puzzling to honourable senators on this side of the chamber. We have noticed that in this chamber the portfolio of Health has moved from the control of Senator Greenwood to the’ control of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I could not escape the impression that the, quick transition of Senator Greenwood was in some way caused by pressure applied by the great medical benefit funds of Australia which, in some way,, resented his youthful aggressiveness. Some of us -hoped that under his responsibility the funds which one suspects have influenced the policies of this Government may have been brought somewhat into line.
In some way 1 feel sorry and sympathetic for Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson now that he has become Minister for Health. I hope that he will soon be able to see the Assistant Minister whom you, Mr President, could not see the other day. I admit that I was at fault. I was not aware that he had not been sworn in. I cannot understand this situation. There must be some breakdown in communications. In any case, when he is seen I trust that we will take some of the responsibility off the Minister for Health and place it on the shoulders of the Assistant Minister for Health. I knew the Government tactic and manoeuvre was to take the Minister for Health out of the other place where he would face the criticism, the skill and searching inquiry of the 5 doctors who sit on the Australian Labor Party benches.
The tactic was to remove the portfolio of Health from the other place .and bring it here because that would, in some way, protect the Minister from such searching criticism. However, we intend to take up the cudgels on behalf of the people of this nation to see that they receive better treatment, better health facilities and cheaper and much more sophisicated treatment. I shall launch into some criticism of the Government.
– 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, 14 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710914_senate_27_s49/>.