27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senatorthe Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
Tothe Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Thai the Australian Post Office proposes to construct a 640-foot high solid concrete tower. housing radiotelephony/television transmission facilities, on Black Mountain in Canberra.
That in the opinion of many responsible cit izens such a tower would seriously impair the beauty of this city and is likely to lessen the value ofthe BlackMountain Flora and Fauna Reserve.
That requests from residents of Canberra, and their Parliamentary representative, for information on the technical considerations supposedly favouring a solid tower have been refused by the Australian Post Office.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, In Parliament assembled, should, through its Standing Committee on the Social Environment, examine whether construction of a tower of this nature on Black Mountain is in the public interest, having particular regard to the need to preserve the beauty and environmental quality of the national capital.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directedto the Minister for Health and relates to a specificcase which has been brought to my notice as a matter of extreme urgency concerning the person involved but similar circumstances no doubt apply to many other people. I ask the Minister: What Commonwealth benefit is availableto a pensioner widow recently discharged from a public hospital after undergoing an operation, now unable to walk and needing to have physiotherapy treatment 6 days a week at considerable expense which she is unable to meet? This person is not a member of a medical benefit fund. If there are no Common wealth benefits payable to persons in these circumstances, can the Minister make arrangements to ease their financial burden?
– I will have examined not the specific case but the circumstance to which the honourable senator has referred. If I do not reply to his question before the end of question time today I will certainly do so later today or at question time tomorrow. The matter of what other benefits a person may receive would be outside the responsibility of: the Department of Health. It would be clearly within the field of the Department of Social Services. The only matter at issue so far as the Department of Health is concerned is whether this is within the provisions of the Commonwealth Health Act on theone hand or whether it is a State responsibility. I will respond to that, I hope, later on in question time today.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the continuing chaos in the wool industry and of a growing swing towards acquisition of wool, will the Government give serious consideration to the setting up of a statutory authority to acquire and dispose of the total Australian clip?
– I understand that the federal bodies of the wool industry are meeting this week in Sydney where this matter will be discussed, and that the Australian Wool Industry Conference will be meeting later in the week. No doubt this matter will be discussed there loo.If representations are made by the Australian Wool Industry Conference to the Government along these lines the Government will give every consideration to the views expressed by that federal body.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Government aware that the ruling of the Commissioner of Taxation on profits from share trading is preventing many potential Australian investors from buying shares in exploratory Australian companies, some of which are now facing a great deal of trouble in raising local finance and so are not able to offer employment that they might otherwise be able to offer? Does the Government realise that another result of Australians not being game to invest in these companies is ‘that overseas investors are being enabled more easily to buy up Australian companies? Finally, has the Government any plans to enact a fairer method of share taxation at a lower rate so that Australians will again be prepared to invest in exploration companies in Australia?
The honourable senator’s suggestion that a fairer method of share taxation would involve taxation at a lower rate is arguable. It might even be questionable but perhaps arguable is the better word. The principle behind section 26A of the Income Tax Assessment Act is simply that income from share transactions should be brought to assessment and taxed on the same basis as any other form of income. It seems a fair and reasonable principle. A distinction between what is income and what is not in connection with share transactions has come in for a good deal of comment lately, but I think .that the uncertainty in the minds of the taxpayers concerned is generally much less than recent comment has suggested. The present provision has been in the law for a very long time. I think the consequences suggested by the honourable senator could be, as I said, arguable. Let us say they are debatable.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, concerns the projected entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community and its consequential effects on our rural exports. 1 ask: Are negotiations between Australia and Great Britain on individual commodities proceeding as a continuous undertaking on the official to official basis? Is the Government contemplating sending any specialist delegations in the near future?
– The discussions are being conducted on an official level on what might be called a fairly continuous basis, because obviously it means that people come and people go in these affairs. That does not necessarily mean that they work continuously week after week, but generally speaking they are operating all the time. The British Government has given an undertaking to hold commoditybycommodity discussions with Australia about the problems likely to arise in relation to Australian trade during the transitional period. These will be held in the light of the undertaking given by the Community to take action to deal with any abrupt dislocation of trade in agricultural products in the transitional period. The consultations are primarily between officials. They take the specialist character of the discussions into account and bring to bear their specialist knowledge of the industry where and when they require it.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that Australia is the only country which levies a sales tax on contraceptives? Was this deplorable situation revealed yesterday by the Acting Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Reverend Peter Hollingsworth, at a seminar in Melbourne? What reply does the Government make to his criticism that it is actively discouraging family planning by levying this tax at the rate of 274 per cent as a luxury item under the amusement tax? ls it not true that this tax hits hardest at the lower income groups who need contraceptives most? Will the Government adopt a more rational viewpoint on this subject and either remove or substantially reduce this iniquitous levy?
I am noi aware that sales tax on contraceptives is peculiar to Australia. Obviously somebody has stated that. 1 would need to have research done into it. While no doubt it would have been stated in good faith, nevertheless the world is a big place and I would have to check that statement. I come now to the substance of the question. The honourable senator referred to the imposition of ‘he sales tax at 27i per cent. He also made reference to the reason for the impostion of the sales tax. I would not comment on that matter. The matter is clearly a Treasury mat’er. Any Treasury matter has to be referred to the Treasurer for consideration. As I have said many times here over a good many years, at Budget time the Treasury and the
Treasurer have to look, in the Budget context, at a wide range of applications for exemption from sales tax and at the incidence of sales tax. Sales tax on this item would be one of the matters that they examine.
– I direct this question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. The telephone directory in Western Australia has this year been divided into city and country directories for the first time. Was this really necessary? Does the Minister know that city people are supplied with country directories only if they apply by letter giving reasons why the country directory is required? Does the Minister know that country directories are provided only if the reasons given in writing are acceptable to the superintendent of the telephone directory section? Is it not possible to provide business firms with all directories on each new issue? Why was the directory divided in the first place? Does the Minister know that the Western Australia directory was not over-large and that it could easily have accommodated all the Western Australia telephone numbers without being divided?
– I am sure that the Postmaster-General is aware of the factual matters to which the honourable senator has referred. I am unable to give an answer about the reasons for the various steps which have been taken or about the possible alternative courses of action which have been canvassed. I think, because of the comprehensive nature of the question, the best course would be for the honourable senator to place it on notice. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral will arrange for an adequate reply to be furnished.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that 5 farmers on Kangaroo Island in South Australia have been black listed, with a ban placed on their wool, by trade unions because non-union shearers and shed hands were employed during shearing? ls the Minister also aware that these shearers and shed hands were either farmers or farmers’ sons trying to earn extra money to assist them in their financial plight? Is the Minister aware that the majority of the 5 property owners involved are returned soldiers who are battling to make a living on Kangaroo Island? As this black ban is a clear case of compulsory unionism by threat and virtual blackmail, will the Minister point out to the trade unions the financial harm that they are doing to these people on Kangaroo Island who are already under great financial stress, in the hope that some semblance of decency and respect for the rights ot the individual might be shown by the trade unions lifting this most undemocratic black ban?
President, you would be one of the first to agree that animal husbandry can be a rewarding way of life and yet a discouraging way of life because of many factors, not the least of which are finance and climatic conditions, which tend to make stock management rather difficult. 1 am disappointed indeed to hear that the unions should see fit on this occasion, particularly when primary industries are going through a period of such low returns for their produce, when some farmers band together to do each other’s shearing -
– That is not happening. That is not true and Senator Young knows it.
– Order! Senator Cavanagh will cease interjecting.
– I was asked a question and I am answering it.
– These are not the facts.
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, are you defying me?
- Senator Cavanagh will cease interjecting.
– I would think that on an island such as Kangaroo Island where there are a number of small holdings and where the return is mainly from livestock, the possibility of getting shearing teams in from the mainland would be rather difficult, particularly if there were a period of fly strike there or something like this and then the farmers could band together and do their own shearing and handling of the wool. The action of the union is disgraceful in my book and I would hope that it does not spread throughout the rural communities. I have heard Opposition senators support some of the legislation that the Government has brought in lately to try to assist the rural industries and I cannot see what use it is supporting such legislation and then supporting situations such as the honourable senator has questioned me about.
– 4 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether he is aware that many divorce and social groups allege that a cause of the alarmingly high level of divorce is financial hardship due to crippling interest rates on hire purchase agreements. Will the Minister, therefore, introduce along lines similar to citizenship instruction, education in domestic economics and family budgeting for students in their last year of schooling?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for consideration.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether his attention has been drawn to the statement made yesterday by the General Manager of General Motors- Holdens Pty Ltd that sales of medium priced cars in Australia have dropped from 24,180 in July this year to 18,900 in October, that in New South Wales the percentage of medium priced cars in October was the lowest since October 1970 and that as a result of this 290 production workers would be dismissed in Victoria and New South Wales. As these retrenchments in the motor car industry follow the retrenchment of 600 workers from South Australian factories in September this year, will the Government take such action as is possible to assist the Australian motor car manufacturing industry to sustain its capacity and work force, including any rearrangement in respect of the importation of cars or by stimulating the Australian economy?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not have the advantage of knowledge of the statement to which Senator Bishop refers, but I am aware of the generality of what he has said in some contexts. This is a matter of economic policy and for that reason I very properly will refer the question to the Treasurer.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am now in a position to respond to a question asked of me by Senator McLaren when we commenced question time. The honourable senator asked me about physiotherapy treatment for persons who had been discharged from hospital. As 1 understand the situation, outpatients departments of State hospitals will provide physiotherapy treatment for pensioners and their dependants. In any event.,there is the States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act under which the Commonwealth provides grants to the States for the purpose of assisting with the provision of paramedical services such as physiotherapy for aged persons, mainly pensioners. If what 1 suggest does not prove to be efficacious in the particular case referred to by the hon. ourable senator I should be happy for him to talk to me about it. The case to which he referred related to a person who had been discharged from a public hospital. I suggest that the person should make contact with the outpatients department of that hospital to arrange for physiotherapy treatment as an outpatient.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the pharmaceuticals and toilet preparations industry, which has 68 per cent tariff protection, been revealed by a Tariff Board report to have the highest operating profit on capital funds employed of any industry? Are most of the companies in this industry fully overseas owned? If so, should the Government continue to provide high tariff protection to guarantee excessive profits for overseas companies?
– The honourable senator has asked me a question which is based on a number of propositions for which I really cannot vouch. First he has suggested that the companies to which he has referred have the highest rates of profit in Australia. I do no? know whether they do enjoy that profit rate. I do know that there is some content of overseas ownership in pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, but how widespread that is I cannot say. The effect that this situation should have on Government policy is not a matter for me to determine. Consequently, I shall have to refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry, as I am sure the honourable senator would understand.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer, noted the statement by Sir Henry Bolte, Premier of Victoria, in an Australian Broadcasting Commission telecast last night that the measure which would do more to stimulate our flagging economy than any other measure would be a reduction in interest rates to about 5 per cent? If this is so, why does our bank rate remain at the present inflated level of about 8 per cent?
– The fact that a person, whether he is a Minister or a Premier of a State, expresses a view does not, ipso facto, make it true in terms of economic policy. He is stating a point of view, which he is entitled to state. I did not see the telecast, nor have I seen a report of it. This, again, is a matter of fiscal policy. It is true that there has been a slight variation in the interest rate since, as I recall it, the last time that the honourable senator asked me a question on this subject. However, there is a vast difference between an interest rate of 5i per cent or 5i per cent and a rate of 8 per cent. I suggest that this matter needs to be looked at in the light of Government policy and the advice that the Government has from the Treasury.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question. Is it a fact that both Hawker Siddeley and the British Aircraft Corporation have proposed to the Royal Australian Air Force a co-production scheme involving a common choice with the Royal Air Force on a new advanced trainer? If either of these proposals is accepted, will it mean a significant boost to the Australian aircraft industry? Is it true that Canada is interested in the same proposition and may accept the proposal before Australia does so? Will the Minister assure the Senate that an early decision will be made in order that this potential stimulus to the Australian aircraft industry is not lost?
– There is a continual flow of aircraft manufacturers’ representatives who come to Australia to discuss with the Department of Air the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force. In each case the RAAF carries out an evaluation of the manufacturers’ aircraft. It is true that towards the end of the 1970s or later the Macchi jet trainer will have to be replaced. Knowing this, many of the manufacturers’ representatives make continuous representations to the Department of Air. In due course an air force staff requirement will be issued in the same way as one was issued the other day for the Mirage replacement. Until that time arrives no final discussion can take place.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service may recall that at approximately midnight last night he informed the Senate that if he had an hour’s notice he would be able to answer the question which was asked by Senator Cavanagh as to whether there were some 11,000 persons in breach of the National Service Act who had not been prosecuted: As some 15 hours have elapsed since this undertaking was given by the Minister is he now in a position to answer the question?
– I am sure that the honourable senator has a purblind recollection of the discussion parts of which he has quoted. I referred to an hour but not in the sense attributed to me by the honourable senator. Some hours have intervened. For some of those hours I have slept and for many of them I have been working on other things. But I assure the honourable senator that his request for statistics has not been forgotten. In my own due time consideration will be given to his requirements and those statistics will be supplied, but only after there has been an opportunity for accurate checking.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. In the light of recent Newcastle steel industry dismissals has the Government taken any action to direct Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd to curb its private migrant recruitment planning intake pending the provision of fuli job opportunity for any of its current workforce which, at the present time is threatened with dismissal?
– I understand thai a recent announcement by the Prime Minister indicated that action had been taken to defer the arrival of some 3,000 mi gian I workers over the ensuing two or three months. The reduction would involve workers who would have proceeded to Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd as well as other large migrant employers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether he is aware that almost every major country except the United States of America has converted to the metric system of weights and measures. As the metric system will provide greater general efficiency and create a better understanding of international standards once it is introduced is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate what stage metric conversion has reached in Australia?
– I recall that this was a matter of elaborate statement within recent times. For the information of the honourable senator I mention briefly that the Metric Conversion Board has been constituted. I think that 12 major subcommittees have been established on a national basis; they do not specifically represent the particular fields such as trade, education, engineering or what you will from which the members have been appointed. Under these sub-committees advisory subcommittees with specialised functions have been set up and a number of regional, State and Territory committees have been set up under them. The Board, with the help of the specialised committees, is examining the application of the metric system to the whole field of our activity. It is getting proposals for the way in which metric conversion should be applied in various industries. In some industries it will be done in a short lime and in other industries it will take a comparatively long time. Of course, the period is being considered in relation to the natural obsolescence of plant that will be superseded when the imperial system is replaced by the metric system. I believe that ii is anticipated, given the cooperation which is forthcoming from industry and 1 hope also from State governments, that the main thrust of the metric changeover can be achieved by about the middle of this decade.
When the Act was introduced the whole of the decade was envisaged as the period of changeover but consideration leads us to believe that it will be achieved in the main by 1976, with the changeover in other industries shading off into the latter part of the decade. I refer the honourable senator to the report of the Metric Conversion Board further to amplify what I have said. If there is a particular aspect of the programme about which he would like information, I would be pleased on request to obtain it for him.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the representative of the Prime Minister, aware that large surpluses of egg powder have accumulated with State egg boards? Does the Federal Government recognise the suitability of this product, being light in weight and of high protein and nutritional value, for shipment to assist in relieving the starvation of Pakistani refugees in India? Will the Government take positive steps to acquire portion of these surpluses as part of our assistance programme and arrange with the Indian Government for acceptance of this form of aid? If, as rumoured, this form of aid is not acceptable to India, will the Government explain the reasons to the Senate?
The normal procedure when considering the supply of aid to another country in the form of a particular commodity is to seek the advice of the recipient country. Normally this is done at ambassadorial level to ascertain the urgent need of a country requiring aid. It might require clothing, medicine, food or a variety of commodities. In a consideration of additional aid to be furnished the first thing to be determined is whether the commodity referred to by the honourable senator is acceptable to the country concerned. I will have that aspect referred to the Prime Minister’s Department and no doubt a response will be forthcoming. Supplementary information may be given as to the aid now being supplied, and that will be of interest to the Senate. The critical point is to determine the special need of a country. As we know, in Pakistan and India there was a threat of cholera, involving special requirements for medicine, clothing, blankets and goods of that nature.I will get the information sought by the honourable senator and make it available to the Senate.
– I ask the Minis ter representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: How many persons are known by the Department of Labour and National Service to have been in breach of the National Service Act for (I) failure to register at the proper time; (2) failure to attend formedical examination; and (3) failure to obey a callup notice and render national service?
-I would be most obliged if the honourable senator would put that statistical question on the notice paper.
– Can the Minister for Health advise the Senate how far his investigations have proceeded in relation to the payment of Commonwealth subsidies to organisations which are conducting day hospitals? He will recall that he indicated to me during the recent debate on the National Health Bill that he would examine that proposal.
– Yes. J am not in a position to answer at the present time. I think the question was posed in a different way on the previous occasion and asked whether there had been any Commonwealth subvention or intervention in this field. However, 1 will pick up the previous question and reference and I will examine it at an early dale and respond to the question.
-I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for
Primary Industry: What funds were made available in the year 1970-71 for war service land settlement carry-on finance? How much of this is being used for legitimate settler assistance and is any being used for other purposes? What funds have been made available in the Budget this year for war service land settlement carry-on finance?
– As the honourable senator indicated, the Commonwealth Government still has a financial responsibility to some of the States under the Commonwealth war service land settlement scheme. He will recall that at the beginning of the scheme Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria supplied the capital and the Commonwealth shared the losses with those States. There was a different set-up in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania under which the Commonwealth supplied the capital and the States shared some of the losses. Because of our responsibilities under this scheme money is made available each year. Last year, according to the records I have here, $3,360,000 was made available and $2,973,000 was spent. The balance of the money allocated was not spent. The honourable senator asked what is to be spent in the coming year. The figureI have is $3,483,000.
– I remind the Minister for Health that the week before last I asked him whether he would give consideration to requesting hospital and medical contribution funds to accept aseligible dependants of contributors full time students under the age of 25 years, bearing in mind amendments recently made to the taxation law which extended allowable deductions to include full time students under that age. As the Minister told me the week before last that he hoped to have additional information for me this week, I ask him whether he can provide me with any further details at this time.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes. lt is true that on 9th November Senator Douglas McClelland asked me whether consideration would be given to extending the terms of membership of health insurance funds to include as dependants of contributors full time students up to the age of 25 years. On 10th November I advised the honourable senator and other honourable senators that already the age limit was 24 years and that the question of extending this limit would receive full consideration at the next meeting of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council. I am happy to say that the Council discussed this matter at its meeting on 1 7th and 1 8th November and agreement was reached in principle that extension of benefits to student children should be brought into line with the age level for student children for deductions allowable in the Income Tax Assessment Act. As honourable senators are aware, the Income Tax Assessment Act was amended and the amending Bill received Royal assent on 12th November. The amending Act included, inter aiia, provision that the maximum age of students receiving full time education at a school, college or university for whom a deduction is allowable from taxable income be extended to 25 years. In accordance with the resolution carried, as I mentioned a moment ago. action will be taken by my Depart ment to instruct all health insurance funds to take the necessary action to amend their rules accordingly so that full time students up to the age of 25 years will be in the dependant category.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation tell us whether all soldiers and other military personnel who have served in Vietnam are emit led to all repatriation benefits, covering particularly such matters as rehabilitation training, war service homes and total and permanent incapacity benefits? If not, can he te.II us in what way the position of those who served there is different from that of others who served in previous wars?
– I will have to obtain the details because, as the honourable senator will understand, ‘service’ does not mean for one day or one week. Under the Repatriation Act a certain time is required for a person to be eligible, first of all-
– Could you tell us, in general, in what way their position puts them at a disadvantage?
– No; I would much rather seek the information.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, is supplementary to one asked previously by my colleague Senator Poke. Will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, acknowledge that the land in the Northern Territory which the Gurindjis propose to fence and use for grazing is, in fact, tribal land taken without treaty, compensation or even consultation and leased to a foreign based company? Will the Government now make a formal declaration that the area referred to belongs to the Gurindjis and neighbouring tribes?
– I think the honourable senator and. indeed, the Senate will understand and agree that this is properly a question to be referred to the Minister who holds the principal responsibility for the Department of the Interior, and not one to be answered by me. ft relates to a policy matter that properly belongs to him. I suggest that it be put on the notice paper.
– Does the Leader or the Government in the Senate recall that the Victa aircraft industry was compelled to cease operations in Australia and move to New Zealand because of lack of Government support? ls he aware that recent sales of this aircraft have been said to be quite dramatic? ls it not a fact thai the Victa is now being evaluated for use by the Australian armed Services because of its suitability for their purposes? Does not the whole course of the history of the Victa aircraft industry in Australia indicate a serious shortcoming on the part of the Australian Government, especially in such a viral and militarily significant industry? Because of the developments 1 have mentioned and the likely future need for this aircraft, can any action now be taken to encourage the re-establishment of this industry in Australia?
In my recollection the Victa aircraft industry is linked to a Tariff Board report which was adopted by the Government and which suggested that certain protective procedures which were sought or which had been operating should not be continued. My recollection is that it was a consequence of that Tariff Board report which was the dominating factor in the transfer of the industry from Australia to New Zealand. We all appreciate that a Tariff Board report is not a matter that is taken lightly. Nol only is evidence given on all the known factors associated with the industry or type of industry concerned, but the evidence is subject to crossexamination and is weighed for the merits and so on.
The honourable senator went on to say that he understood that the Victa type of aircraft was being evaluated by the Australian Services for a particular role. I would not put that under challenge at all. On the question of evaluation, as I learnt from experience when I was Minister for Supply, the evaluation of an aircraft by the Services does not necessarily signify that that aircraft will be chosen. Our own Project N was the subject of an evaluation - presumably that evaluation is continuing - as to its capabilities in terms of particular requirements. Nevertheless, I accept Senator Devitt’s statement that an evaluation of the Victa aircraft industry by the Services is taking place. As it is a New Zealand industry, there would be certain advantages because of the trade relations between Australia and New Zealand. 1 do not know anything further than that. I would need to obtain soma information. I think the question would be best directed to the Minister for Defence in the first instance, and I will arrange for that to be done.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air, who represents the Minister for the Army in this chamber. I ask: If he cannot, as the representative of the Minister for Repatriation, give any details of entitlements available to ex-ser vicemen, can he, as the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, give some indication of the entitlement available to men who come directly under the responsibility of the Department of the Army? Is it not a fact that repatriation benefits available to members of the Army serving in Vietnam are severely limited and is not the Minister’s hesitation in answering the previous question asked by Senator Murphy because of his embarrassment in having to reveal the true situation?
– I do not have any embarrassment in answering a question on repatriation in a general manner. But the honourable senator is asking me for details of repatriation benefits applying to a special area where the limiting factor to the entitlement is the period of service.
– Tell us what that is.
– No, I am not going to. I am not embarrassed about answering this question. If a serviceman serves in a special area for more than the specified period he is entitled lo a full repatriation benefits. Senator Murphy asked me a question and I said that T would get the information for him. I will do so because I believe that this can be a tricky question in regard -
– It is a tricky question.
– As I was saying, this can be a tricky question in regard to how long a member has served. Every time Senator Georges asks a question he tries to embarrass someone. He does not seek information as he should do.
– What am I supposed to be doing?
– The honourable senator has asked me a question in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Army. I shall seek the information for Senator Murphy and I shall see that Senator Georges receives a copy of it.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to an address given yesterday in Canberra at the Royal
Institute of Public Administration conference at which a speaker called lor a reassessment of what he described as the archaic’ distribution of local and Stale powers and further suggested a compulsory periodical review of fundamental components of administration which take into account changes in hoth urban and rural growth. I a?k: In view of the many changed demands made on local authorities and the changes in urban and rural growth, will the Minister give consideration to initiating some inquiry at Commonwealth and State levels into the distribution of local and State powers so that local authorities upon which increasing demands are being made will be able to function more effectively?
I would not question the statement that a lecture was given at the conference of the Royal Institute of Public Administration yesterday. I would not suggest that the topic discussed yesterday had any hitherto unheard of element because the matter of the various influences and the status of the various tiers of government is not a new one. lt is a long while since I served in local government, but this was a burning question when I was there. Senator Gietzelt has been in local government in more recent times than I have and he posed a question to me on this subject some time ago. Senator Davidson also has raised this question on a number of occasions in his own right.
We are living in a changing world which is changing the structure of government in Australia. It is to the credit of this Government, of which I am the Leader in the Senate, that we have made in recent times some move in relation to the variation of the financial structure of the third tier of government. So I have some reservations regarding a request that some new authority be set up within the confines of Parliament to look at the subject again. I think that there would not be a local government conference held each year - and a conference is held every year in every Stale, both at a municipal and shire level - at which this very issue is not raised. There would hardly be a symposium on government or similar forum at which this question is not raised. I am not trying to depreciate the significance and the importance of the question. The function that was held yesterday wa> a cla.*ic example of conferences at which the matter is raised. I really do not feel at this lime that we in the Senate, at any rate, should embrace any more responsibilities in relation 10 an examination of this matter is raised. 1 really do not feel at this present time.
Mr MICHAEL MATTESON
– Has the AttorneyGeneral knowledge of the truth of the report thai one Michael Matteson, a draft resister, while wearing a draft resisters button sat last evening in the public gallery of this chamber to listen to the adjournment debate?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no.
– Has the Attorney-General seen a report that 43 present and former employees of a company which uses pyramid selling have lost an amount of almost §100,000? Was the Attorney-General correctly quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 18th November as saying that he did nol know whether the Commonwealth Government could do anything about pyramid selling?
– I would ask the honourable senator to put the latter part of his question on the notice paper. As far as the first part of the question is concerned. I have seen reports to the general effect to which the honourable senator has referred, lt is a matter, of course, which is being investigated by the State Attorney-General’s Department and also the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. In view of the reported criticism of mass chest X-rays by Mr J. C. Villforth, Director of the United States Federal Bureau of Radiological Health. I ask: What research into the dangers of such X-rays has the Commonwealth Department of Health carried out? Has any Commonwealth department set any standards for microwave ovens which, according to Mr Villforth car. have a tendency to leak radiation via the door?
In relation to mass chest X-rays, if honourable senators think back to a little before contemporary times they will recall that Commonwealth legislation was brought in in relation to tuberculosis. I think it was introduced during the time of the Chifley Government. Under that Act we provided capital funds and management funds to every State for the purpose of arresting the incidence of tuberculosis in Australia. That scheme, to a high degree, was built on chest X-rays on a compulsory basis. Perhaps to its everlasting credit Tasmania was the State to seize the nettle first and the incidence of tuberculosis in Tasmania fell dramatically, as it has in every other State. Tuberculosis has practically been eradicated, so much so that many of the hospitals that were built for the purpose of treating tuberculosis are now being handed back to the States to be used for other purposes. However, I rather suspect that the question is directed to the more modern methods of mass X-ray. This is a medical question and I think I should very properly have it processed through my Department and supply an answer lo the honourable senator.
– J ask the Minister for Air: ls it a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force and the Government have abandoned the earlier commitment for the purchase of 8 Boeing 707/302C tanker transports or similar aircraft for refuelling purposes which were considered necessary at the lime? If so, what new situation or changes in aircraft requirements occasioned the altered view of aircraft refuelling capacity?
– There is to he a replacement for our C130A aircraft in the next 5 years or perhaps even less. A study is being conducted at the present time by my Department and the Department of Defence as to whether the aircraft about which the honourable senator speaks would be a suitable replacement, bearing in mind that it could be used as a transport tanker aircraft. This study is still continuing. It will continue for .some time. The honourable senator asked what happened to cause the order to be abandoned. The order has not been abandoned; there was no order. Until I see a report of the examination being carried out by the 2 departments I cannot add anything further.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface my question by informing him that I will use the figure of S30m that the Minister gave me yesterday instead of the S300,n that I mentioned. I will accept his correction of my figure. Following last Friday’s Cabinet decision to provide another S30m of taxpayers’ money to the Australian Wool Commission, will the Government tell the people who are being slugged for this money what proportion of wool deficiency payments is going into the pockets of wealthy brokers and wool firms and to banks instead of to the struggling rural producers who really need the money? How much longer will the Government continue to pour money down the drain of an open ended deficiency scheme which means that taxpayers are subsidising these wealthy people and large companies while a severe depression blights the rural areas of Australia?
– Senator Poke, when you are drafting these questions I think that you could eliminate a great number of the rhetorical phrases and terms that you embed in them.
– I think that the question which the honourable senator asked shows that he does not understand the situation.
– I think I must understand it.
– I do not know. Recently he quoted to me a report by Sir Norman Giles. He quoted only the portion that suited his point of view. He did not quote what Sir Norman said about those who criticise the Australian Wool Commission and how they base their criticism on uninformed premises. Sir Norman Giles is a member of the Wool Production Research Advisory Committee.
– Do not hold us in suspense. Read the report and get it over with.
– I would rather hold the honourable senator in suspense. The Government has made its decision, having been furnished with information from the International Wool Secretariat, from the Australian Wool Board and from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Surely that advice is more substantial than the advice that Senator Poke is trying to give the Senate at present.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Yesterday in reply to my question about a review of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act the Attorney-General said that a member of the House of Representatives ‘chose, as I understand from reading a Press report yesterday, to convey that letter to the journalist in question’. The letter referred to was one sent to the member by the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General made that remark in a disapproving way. Does not the AttorneyGeneral know what is going on in his Department? Is it not a fact that the member, Mr Donald Cameron, revealed the contents of this letter to the House of Representatives during the debate on the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department on 1 1th November? Will the AttorneyGeneral indicate whether what Mr Donald Cameron said at that time is correct - that in effect the provisions of the Act are ineffective in prohibiting the tapping of conversations if one hooks on to the end of the system rather than intercepting the conversation?
– The honourable senator’s question contained a number of parts. I have spoken to Mr Donald Cameron since I answered the question yesterday. He has pointed out to me that he read into the Hansard of the House of Representatives nearly two weeks ago the greater part of that letter.
– Why did you not know that yesterday?
- Mr President, I am endeavouring to answer a question and it is difficult.
– You have my protection, Senator Greenwood.
– I had spoken to Mr Donald Cameron who informed me he had read into Hansard the greater part of the letter which I had sent to him. I had read the Press report on Monday and assumed at the time I was answering the question that there was more of the letter contained in the Press report than was cotained in Hansard. I am now assured that I am in error as to that fact. As to the substance of the question asked by the honourable senator, the matter that was referred to in my reply to Mr Donald Cameron was that the offence contained in the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act is the offence of intercepting a communication in its passage over the telephone system. Unless that is shown there is no offence.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry refers to an announcement made by the Commonwealth Government some months ago that it was prepared to give war service settlers first preference to purchase surrendered holdings which were established under the war service land settlement scheme. Is the Minister aware of the keen disappointment and concern of war service settlers at the alleged inordinately high reserve prices set on the surrendered holdings in the Upper Murray district of South Australia considering the run down condition of the holdings? Will the Minister reconsider these reserve prices with a view to reducing those levels to be more economic and attractive to the interested settlers?
– I recall giving the honourable senator that information and I think at the time I said that this was a matter which had to be discussed between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, with the emphasis on the State governments. However, I am not aware of the continued situation of which the honourable senator speaks. I shall make some inquiries of the Minister for Primary Industry and when I have some information I shall convey it to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Pending the outcome of investigations by the joint Commonwealth-State committee of inquiry into the location of Sydney’s second airport, has the Minister’s Department taken any action to acquire land adjacent to the 136 acres at Duffy’s Forest which has been sought by light aircraft interests? Furthermore, what avenue of appeal or submission to this joint committee have citizens opposed to any type of airport in the Duffy’s Forest area?
– No action to acquire extra land has been taken. The people who are concerned about this have a place lo which they can come to talk, and that is to my office. They have done so in the past and 1 am sure they will do so in the future.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Yesterday in answer lo a question of mine on notice the Minister informed me thai the Murray Bridge telephone exchange was tentatively planned for connection to the national subscriber trunk dialling network during 1975. As Murray Bridge has a modern automatic exchange with STD facilities to Adelaide, what is the reason for Murray Bridge having to wait until 1975 for connection to the national network?
– I am unable to add anything to what I said yesterday by way of a formal answer to a question on notice. I would suggest that the honourable senator put his question on the notice paper and I shall get the reasons for the statement that was given yesterday in answer to his earlier question.
My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation follows on the questions asked of him by Senators Murphy and Georges. Can the Minister say whether full time educational training is available to servicemen returning Iron
Vietnam, should they desire it, to enable them to qualify completely for a trade or profession in the same way as servicemen from the Second World War when not only those who served abroad but also those who served within Australia were able to receive such educational training and assistance? If not. what type of educational training will be made available to servicemen returning from Vietnam? Will the Minister include that material also in the information which he has undertaken to make available to the Senate?
– Since being asked the 2 previous questions-
– lt did not lake long, did it?
– No. [ have found in my files an answer to a question on notice asked by Senator Cavanagh some time ago in which the Minister for Repatriation states:
Both discharged national servicemen and members of the Regular Army are eligible for repatriation benefits under the same conditions, provided they served on special service in a special area as defined by the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act.
asked me for further detailed information as to what these benefits were and 1 said that I would s.;et that information for him. I have given that information. I said thai I would give the honourable senator a copy of it.
– That is not very clear. It is just as obscure as your previous answer.
– Order! Senator Georges should allow the Minister 10 struggle on as best he can.
– I would not expect Senator Georges to understand it. As to Senator Douglas McClelland’s question, there are certain vocational training and re-establishment loans available to all national servicemen, irrespective of where they served, and lo certain Regular Army servicemen. Again, f. would have to seek details of where and how the special vocational training operates and to whom it applies. This is why I did not want to answer the question, because it takes us into special areas on which I am not so fully informed as the Minister is. I shall obtain a detailed reply for the honourable senator also.
– In addressing a ques tion to the Attorney-General I refer to my question yesterday regarding the statement by the President of the Australian Union of Students and, in particular, to the list in that statement of 7 student leaders whom the Government is unwilling to prosecute, namely, Messrs Yates, Zerman, McLean, Marginson, Varley, Joyce and McDougal. In the Minister’s reply he dealt with these 7 cases without specifying which names applied to the case histories that he purported to outline. I refer to the single case which the Minister said had been subject to prosecution for failure to register and attend a medical. Is it a fact that this student. John Varley, received a call-up notice dated 8th April 1971 and that no attempt has since been made to enforce that notice? Further, will the Minister specify which other names apply to the case histories he quoted in his answer so that it may be determined whether this information accords with the documents in the possession of the 7 young men whom I have mentioned?
– The honourable senator’s question is based on an assumption which is wrong. The assumption upon which it is based is that the Government is unwilling to prosecute persons who commit offences against the National Service Act. That is untrue. It has been stated to be untrue on so many occasions in this Senate that it is surprising that the honourable senator continues to repeat it. I mentioned yesterday with regard to the 7 names which had been contained in the Press release of the Australian Union of Students that inquiries were being undertaken with regard to 3 of them and, on initial appearances, it did not appear that any offence had been committed. With regard to the others I set out what the position was and I said ‘hat the statement of the Australian Union of Students that these people were wanted was not accurate. With regard to Mr Varley, he is a person who has been fined for failing to register fornational! service. He has been fined for failure to attend a national service medical examination. Additionally he has been sentenced to 7 days imprisonment. Subsequently he has been served with a call-up notice, and following his failure to adhere to that a summons was issued. I am informed that (hat summons has not been served and that a further call-up notice has now been received by the Commonwealth police for service on Mr Varley. But we are unable to ascertain where Mr Varley is. If the honourable senator has any information about the situation possibly he will facilitate the working of the system so that he can be personally satisfied that if there is a . failure to comply with this call-up notice- (Opposition senators interjecting)
– Order! Honourable senators on my left seek to prevent the Attorney-General from continuing. He answers the question and they do notlike The answer. I shall not tolerate that situation.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities inform the Parliament why his Government recognises - even if only partially - land rights for some persons in Papua New Guinea but consistently refuses the same recognition of tribal land rights to Australian Aborigines and islanders?
– In answer-
– Senator Cotton, was not the question addressed to Senator Greenwood?
– It is a question which is directed to 2 Ministers because I represent the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. I cannot find anything in the question with which I can really help. 1 would like to do so.
– You have always staled that you do not volunteer. But I recognise you as a volunteer now.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister able to confirm that Mainland China has recently conducted nuclear tests? Can the Minister say whether the Australian Labor Party has raised any protest concerning this matter? If not, is the Minister able to say why the Australian Labor Partyraised protests against similar tests carried outby the French?
– 1 think it would be accepted as general knowledge that nuclear tests have been carried out by Mainland China. This matter has been a feature of the news in more recent times, as everybody would be aware. I have not had the experience of responding to any questions in the Senate in which anybody has protested about nuclear tests carried out by Mainland China. As to the attitude of the Australian Labor Party, I am only a humble senator and it is very difficult to follow the logic of the Labor Party in these matters.
-] ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: ls it a fact that this Government - the LiberalCountry Party Government of which he is a member - has on 2 occasions made protests to the French about the exploding of nuclear weapons in the Pacific?
Yes, it has.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the brochure explaining the working of wool deficiency payments been distributed to wool growers as was promised by the Acting Minister for Primary Industry in a Press statement dated 15th November 1971? If so, when will the brochure be available to honourable senators?
– I shall have to make some inquiries and obtain the information for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is it possible for the Government to take any steps to persuade more medical students to become general practitioners, rather than research scientists and specialists? Is the Minister aware of the views of Professor Wilfred Mommaerts, Professor of Physiology and Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who recently told a seminar in Melbourne that a quiet revolution in medical education is occurring in the United States of America, created by students concerned with the needs of the under-privileged and who desire to create a modern variation of the old style family doctor?
Yes, I saw the reference. I was very impressed with the comments which were made. The honourable senator’s question is based on the significance of the movement away from general practice into specialty in medicine, lt is not peculiar te this country, ft is happening in most countries in the free world. It is refreshing to see a suggestion of movement in the reverse direction because I believe everybody would agree that whilst we need the particular knowledge and know-how of specialists there will always remain a significant role for general practitioners to fill. They really become more than medical practitioners. They become almost father confessors, guides, philosophers and friends, particularly in homes where there are children. Some general practitioners care for children right through into their adulthood.
I cannot say with precision what is happening in this respect in Australia at present. Certain factors mitigate against general practitioners. There is the developing method of joint practices; there is the natural instinct for medicos to go overseas in search of higher degrees and to become Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons in the United Kingdom. Having acquired special knowledge they become specialists. In district hospitals the practice is developing of specialist systems whereby honorary medical services are all directed to the various specialists in the hospital itself. I would like to reflect upon the honourable senator’s question and probe within my own Department to get further information so that T might put down in the Senate a paper on this very important question.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I propose to couch it in terms identical to those used in the question 1 asked on 11th November. I ask the Minister: When am I likely to receive answers to questions Nos. 1301 and 1302 standing in my name on the notice paper? They were asked on Thursday, 26th August and seek information about the Port Augusta-Whyalla railway line.
– That information should be on its way now to the honourable senator. Specific answers have been cleared bv the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Last night in the sitting of Estimates Committee D we directed our attention specifically to some of these matters. I should imagine that the information is very close to the honourable senator now.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that earlier this year his colleague indicated that water would be piped from a bore which had been placed near Wattie Creek to supply the Wave Hill settlement and the homes at Wattie Creek? I now ask the Minister whether the pipeline has been constructed and whether water from the bore is now available for people living at Wattie Creek.
– I remember the question referred to by the honourable senator and I remember the answer, but not in detail. I shall need to find out whether water is now available in that area.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that Hookers Homes Pty Ltd purchased building lots at Holder in the Australian Capital Territory on 23rd November for $66,000, while the reserve price of that land was $34,640? Will the Minister place before the Parliament the name and address of every person, company or organisation, together with details of the reserve prices and actual prices paid, who purchased more than one building allotment at the land sales held in (he Australian Capital Territory on 23 rd and 24th November, that is, yesterday and today?
– I was not aware of purchases of blocks of land in the Australian Capital Territory referred to by the honourable senator. He has asked for information to be made available to the Parliament as to people who have bought more than one block, the prices paid and the reserve prices. I shall direct that question to the Minister responsible.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that at land sales in Canberra today the prices paid by large developers reached near scandal heights so that young couples seeking to purchase homes here will be priced out of the market? Will the Minister again note my question No. 1614 which I placed on the notice paper on 9th November last and arrange for the release of sufficient land for local home builders, or alternatively place the whole problem of land availability and home ownership in the Australian Capital Territory before the scrutiny of a royal commission or other form of public inquiry?
– I have written down what the honourable senator has said and I shall direct his remarks to the Minister responsible.
(Question No. 1447)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many prospective Spanish immigrants have had their applications for entry to Australia rejected during the past 5 years due to the refusal of the Spanish Government to permit their departure?
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am not aware of any cases of prospective migrants having had their applications for entry to Australia rejected due to the refusal of the Spanish Government to permit their departure. Applications are, however, made in the first instance to the Spanish Labour Delegate where the applicant resides, and I am not able to provide any information about any controls tha may be exercised by Spanish authorities before applications are submitted to the Australian Migration Office in Madrid.
The statistics available do not suggest that subsequent to Spanish migrants being interviewed and approved by the Australian Migration Office, permission to leave the country has been refused by the Spanish authorities. For example, in 1970- 71 approvals were given for 1,302 Spanish applicants and departures in the period were 1,149 Allowing for time lag between approval and movement and normal ‘wastage’, these figures are consistent with there being no refusal to approved migrants of permission to leave Spain.
(Question No. 1538)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
and (2) There was an article in Janes All the World’s Aircraftto which the honourable Senator refers. This article contains statements which stimulated speculation in the Australian Press and questions in Parliament about the purpose of joint United States-Australian installations in this country.
(Question No. 1542)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Australia during the period from 1st January to 30th September 1971 and, during the same period, how many successful applications for the Commonwealth Home Savings Grant were made.
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1552)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How will the reduction of 3,000 in the intake of migrants over the Christmas period, announced on 26th October 1971 by the Prime Minister, affect intending migrants from countries where there is a backlog of applications for migration to Australia.
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
During the next few months emphasis in movement will be on those people, from all sources, who are most likely to have little difficulty in obtaining employment, e.g. certain skilled tradesmen. Priority is also being given to family reunion and the movement of personal nominees.In particular, priority will be given to wives and dependent children of breadwinnerswho are already in Australia.
(Question No. 1557)
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. 1588)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. . 1600)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
How many lifts service the Commonwealth Bank Building in Martin Place, Sydney, and do they operate to full capacity between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.; if not, why.
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1617)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Since United States aid is largely tied to purchases in that country a decrease in US economic aid would have little direct effect on Australia’s exports. It would be speculative to attempt lo assess any indirect effects on Australia’s trade of a reduction in US aid. The matter will be kept under reveiw as further developments occur.
– Yesterday Senator Kane asked me the following question: 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry why 8,000 bales of wool were offered for sale by tender in the week ending 12th November L97 1 . Why were they nol offered for sale by public auction? Why were not th:se offerings guaranteed by the Australian Wool Commission as to type and micron? What quantity was sold and by whom? 1 gave him some information and promised him that I would get more details. I now inform him that the Australian Wool Commission offered S.600 bales of wool for sale by tender in Brisbane during the wed ended 12 th November. The wool auction sale scheduled for Brisbane in that week had been cancelled as a result of industrial unrest. At the request of woolbuyers, the Commission therefore decided to offer some of its Brisbane wool out of stock to assist buyers who were short in their buying orders of particular types as a result of the cancellation of the Brisbane auction sale. All the wools offered were guaranteed as to type and micron. Only about 1,200 bales of wool were sold in this instance but it should be borne in mind that some of it may have filled orders that otherwise could have gone to competitive fibres.
The Treasurer has advised that the Government has received many requests that deductions be allowed in respect of gifts lo organisations which provide help for the relief of suffering or distress overseas, lt has. however, consistently taken the view that this taxation concession should be limited, as far as possible, lo institutions or organisations which carry on their activities in Australia (including, for this purpose, the Territory of
Papua New Guinea). This policy was confirmed when the question came up again recently in relation to requests for the allowance of gifts to appeals on behalf of the East Pakistani refugees in India, the Government concluding that the most effective help it could give was further direct assistance.
Among the considerations which the Government has taken into account in determining its policy on this question is the fact that it must have regard to its commitments to provide economic assistance to developing countries and certain international organisations and emergency assistance such as that given to alleviate the plight of Hast Pakistani refugees in India. Financial assistance provided through taxation concessions to private aid appeals in Australia would detract from its capacity to provide such assistance. As il is, the Commonwealth is already, contributing, or is committed to contribute, very large sums for external economic assistance; the budgetary provision in 1971-72 for official development assistance is $186m (this figure does not include some additional relief to East Pakistan and lo East Pakistani refugees in India, nor does it include increases in calls that international development organisations will make on the Australian Government). In this connection, Statement No. 8 attached to the 1971-72 Budget Speech refers.
Nevertheless, the gift provisions of the income tax jaw are reviewed from time to time and Senator McLaren may bc assured thai the question of extending them to cover organisations engaged in programmes of overseas aid will be considered on the next such occasion.
On 14th October 1971, Senator Webster addressed a question without notice to me as Minister representing the Treasurer, concerning the suspension of the investment allowance. Senator Webster in particular was seeking the lifting of the suspension. The following information is now provided:
The Treasurer advised that the announcement that the investment allowance was to bc suspended and the introduction of the suspending legislation Icd to the receipt of a large number of representations covering a wide range of aspects. The Government, of course, carefully examined these representations, and their implications, against the background of the reasons which underlay the decision on suspension. As you know, however, we have decided that the legislation suspending the operation of the investment allowance will remain unamended.
Among the broader considerations which influenced the Government’s decision to suspend the operation of the investment allowance was the fact that the allowance represented a subsidy, albeit by way of a lax concession. That is to say, it reduced the cost of investment to the business concerned, but did not reduce the cost to the nation as a whole. At present rates of company tax, it was a subsidy to public companies at the rate of 9.5 per cent of the installed capital cost of eligible plant. Subsidies to encourage investment might, of course, be justified in particular circumstances, such as those which existed when the allowance was introduced, but it is quite another matter to suggest that they, remain a permanent feature of the tax law.
Genuinely’ economic investment will not be stopped by the suspension of the concession and the only effects of the suspension are likely to fall on investments which would be economic only after a subsidy from general revenue. There are, no doubt, likely to be some projects which are so marginal that the return from customers would not enable the investment to break even without the help of the allowance. But to give the allowance in those cases would involve encouragement of uneconomic projects and would not assist productivity. Except in such marginal cases, the suspension of the allowance will not do anything to reduce the relative attractiveness of new equipment which is more efficient than that which it supersedes.
– On 26th October,
asked me a question without notice about housing shortages in the Northern Territ ory.I undertook to provide the honourable senator with further information. The Minister for the Interior has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is aware of the need to provide housingto meet demands generated by a rapidly increasing population and the steady growth in economic development in the Territory.
The 1971-72 Civil Works Programme, of the Northern Territory Administration injuries$5.4m for 325 houses at various centres inthe Territory. $6.9m has been provided for the Northern Territory Housing Commission for the same period.
With a view to increasing the number of houses comingonto the market in Darwin, the Government has also called applications from private developers for the subdivision of theBrinkin neighbourhood to provide land for private housing development. This will be additional to the land which is continually becoming available from the Government’s own development programmes.
Housing provided by the Administration and the Mousing Commission in recent years has been as follows:
By comparison wailing times in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne (at 30th Jure 1971) were as follows -
Canberra (Government Housing) - 32 and 34 months for 3 b/r and 4 b/r houses respectively. 21 and 80 months for 2 b/r and1 b/r flats respectively.
Sydney (NewSouth Wales Housing Commission) - 31 to 43 months for houses. 28 months for flats.
Melbourne (Victoria State Housing Commission) - 20 months for houses. 12 to 18 months forflats.
– On 28th October Senator Gietzelt asked the following question of the Leader of the Government in my absence:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– Mr President, I seek leave of the Senate to move a motion expressing the Senate’s gratitude and appreciation to the personnel of the Australian forces who served in Vietnam and who are now returning to Australia.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Mr President, I move:
– Mr President, we of the Opposition share the view that the nation’s gratitude should be extended to the persons who have been involved in this undeclared war in Vietnam, some of them against their will. All of them have carried out their duties, whether they disapproved of them or not, in the manner that would be expected of them by the nation. We have no hesitation in agreeing to the proposition so far as it says that. Many lives have been lost in this conflict. We have lost at least 473 men killed and at least 2,980 more have been wounded and maimed. We have divided our society. We have stained our reputation throughout the world but especially in our region, Asia. We have played our part in devastating a small peasant country in the name of democracy. Our efforts have been effectively negated by what has happened in Vietnam.
Back in 1965 when the Vietnam proposition came before this Senate I recall speaking in the debate and saying that the Australian Labor Party was unanimous in its disapproval of the Liberal-Country Party’s military intervention in Vietnam. It was against the United Nation’s chaner. It was against the wishes of practically all the Commonwealth nations; only a token force from New Zealand took part. It has been one of the most discreditable parts of our nation’s history. With the ending of it, along with what is said in gratitude to those who served, some of whom were forced to serve - we are grateful to them for the way they carried out this distasteful duty - we should not fail to pass our verdict upon this dreadful adventure which was indulged in mostly for political purposes.
This Liberal and Country Party Government went into a country where the troubles were a legacy of history, where the solutions were to have reforms, to have democracy, to have land reform, and to have equalisation of wealth. Bui what did the Government do? lt supported regimes which became the scandal of the world. One after another the regimes were pushed in and out. Corruption was rife. This was stated not only by those outside that country. I remember, when Diem was assassinated how the South Vietnam Embassy itself set out to attack his character and attack the corruption of the regime which our Government sent our young men to that country to support. Then we saw a continuance of a farce of democracy which did not last for too long because we have seen the fraud that has been perpetrated in recent times. That is the government that we recognise and are still supporting.
– lt is no worse than Red China, surely. There is a great democracy there!
– Senator Gair uses the words ‘no worse’. In his view the People’s Republic of China, or Red China as he calls it, stands for everything that is abhorrent. What he is really saying is: All right; 1 agree that they are rotten, they are corrupt, they are worthless and they are not worth supporting; but there are others who are worse than they are’. 1 do noi share his views about China; but let us stick to the point. We are involved in Vietnam. The Liberal and Country Parties involved us. At no time did we on this side share in that involvement. At no time have we accepted any responsibility for it. From the beginning we asserted our disapproval of what they were doing. They divided this nation on this question. We predicted what would happen, and it has happened. Their policies failed and they had to pull out of Vietnam discredited not only in the Commonwealth of Nations but in the eyes of the whole world for supporting these corrupt and rotten regimes. What has happened has been the sacrifice of our young men in an illegal, immoral, unjust and undeclared war. The Liberal and Country Parties were not even prepared to declare war. 1 have heard young men of this nation - some in uniform - expressing their concern that they were involved in this kind of war. The Liberal and Country Parties were too ashamed to declare war, because of the disgraceful position in which we in Australia were and which would have been revealed, it would have been revealed that we were breaking the United Nations Charter.
I suppose that one of the fortunate features of this involvement - there is not much fortune in it - is that our military personnel have not been involved in the dreadful devastation of the Vietnamese people. The dropping on them of more bombs than were dropped in the Second World War has meant the devastation of large areas of the country and of the small people. What harm did they do to us? They did no harm at all to us. Yet our troops were there supporting this attack upon the people. This is one of the most shameful periods in our history. In other times people went along with wars because they did not know what was happening. Now, for the first time in history we have had a change. With modem technology, the television set has been able to bring into every home around the world what has been really happening.
The disgust of the people of the United States and of this nation has meant, I hope, that there will not be any repetition of this kind of thing, where our young people can be sent to other countries to be sacrified in this way. Not only has there been a dreadful sacrifice of our young people in those killed and wounded and a dreadful amount of suffering by their dependants, but there has been an enormous amount of distress and damage to the lives of the people of Vietnam. There has been an enormous economic cost to those people and also to our people. The estimates that were made have never been repudiated. This war has been costing us not the $40m that has been staled at times but something, like $400m a year - thus doing relatively the same damage to our country as has been done to the United States.
This having occurred - our young people having been sacrificed in a futile and wrong war - what, is to happen in regard to them? This afternoon I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation about their repatriation entitlements. He has been asked this question for months and months - in fact, for more than months. For years he has been asked what is to happen in regard to the entitlement of these people. But even this afternoon he was not able to tell us that they and their dependants will receive full repatriation entitlements. This is not good enough.
– He is only a Minister representing another Minister.
– It does not matter to Senator Gair if there is a repetition of what has happened in previous times. It does not matter to him if people might have to sell their Victoria Crosses or if they might be abandoned after the military adventure is over. We believe that, along with this expression of gratitude to those young men who have served in Vietnam, the Senate should express - members of the Opposition want to express this, whatever the rest of the Senate might wish to do - its disapproval of what the Liberal and Country Parties have done in this military intervention, and also should express its opinion that those who have been maimed or injured as a result of their war service, and their dependants, should be given repatriation entitlements that will compensate them adequately for their sacrifices. Therefore I move the following amendment:
At the beginning ofthe motion, insert the words: ‘While disapproving of the Liberal-Country Party Government’s military intervention in Vietnam’, and at the end of the motion add the words: ‘And we express the opinion that those who have been maimed or injured as a result of their war service, and their dependants, should be given repatriation entitlements that will compensatethem adequately for their sacrifices’.
We members of the Opposition believe that, along with the expression of gratitude - which we support - to those who have served in this undeclared war of which many of them disapproved, should go an expression of disapproval of what the Liberal and Country Parly Government has done to divide the nation and an expression of opinion that those who have suffered should receive adequate compensation.
– Order! I have received a copy of the motion moved by Senator Gair.I have not received a copy of the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. I wish a signed copy of it to be delivered to the table so that copies can be circulated.
– The amendment has been handed to the Clerk.
- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, have you a copy?
– I have a copy. It has just been handed to me.
-I call Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.
(4.13) - My Party and I support 100 per cent, the motion moved by Senator Gair. I will refer to the amendment a little later. I say with all the depth of feeling I can bring into this Parliament - I regret that I have to say it to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) - that in allThe time I have been here I have never heard anything so disgraceful come from the Leader of the Opposition as what 1 have just heard. We have before us a motion which I will read again:
That this Senate of the Australian Parliament places on record its appreciation and gratitude to the personnel of all Australian forces who served in the Vietnam conflict for their courage, dedication and sense of duty. Particularly dowe express our sympathy to the relatives of those Australians who gave their lives during this conflict.
What have we heard from the Leader of the Opposition? We have heard a tirade of political abuse and adjectives hurled indiscriminately without any regard at all for the motion. As 1 understood it, the motion was to be moved by leave; Senator Murphy was to grant leave. The Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, Senator Gair, who moved the motion, did not speak to it because, as I understood the position, there was an understanding that we would unanimously express our accord with the motion. But what have we heard? We have heard a statement dripping with insolence, assault and all sorts of things not associated with the men who served Australia and who died for Australia. His speech was not associated with the men who served Australia and died for Australia but was dripping lousy with politics. I am not going to degrade those men who served Australia or degrade thosemen who fought for their country and gave their lives in fighting for this country by replying with the kind of tirade of abuse and politics that we heard from Senator Murphy. I think that he made a most disgraceful contribution. I hope he will reflect upon what he said and when he does, withdraw it.
I repeat that here is a motion in which we express as human beings - and this is particularly expressed by some of us who made our contribution in other times - our sympathy to the people who have served and our regard for those who have defended us. What have we got? We have got only politics. If that is politics, my God, 1 do not want to be associated with it. However, I do want to be associated, as we all do, with the motion moved by Senator Gair. I do not think the motion needs any more words than the feelingthat we can put in to our expression of it. I completely disregardthe amendment.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– I propose to put the question. I call Senator Georges.
– Mr President,-
– Mr President, excuse me.
– No, I am on my feet, Mr President.
– Mr President, it is very difficult-
– No, wait a moment, Mr President.
– Order! Sit down, Senator Georges. I ask Senator Byrne whether he is rising on a point of order.
– It is rather difficult to hear what you were saying Mr President. We were not aware of the conversation that went on and what exactly was the position. Therefore we did not know what was going to be the procedure from then on. In view of this, I think it would be appropriate if members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party be heard again on this matter either after Senator Georges has spoken or after another Government speaker has concluded his speech.
– Before I called the Clerk to the chair I looked around the Senate 10 see whether there were any honourable senators standing in their places who were indicating in any way that they wished lo support the motion or the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. There not being any senator standing I had no recourse than to decide that I would put the question. I was going to put the question and Senator Georges now has stood in his place and attracted my attention. I call Senator Georges.
– 1 rose to my fee’. Mr President, because of your intention to put the question. So virtually I was rising to a point of order. It was my impression that the amendment would be seconded and that the Opposition would make a further contribution. I did receive some indication from Senator Willesee that he intended to speak. If that is the case I do not wish to contribute at this stage, but I merely-
– You will not get another chance to speak.
– lt has been indicated to me that I will not get another chance to speak. Therefore, 1 will now speak to the resolution. I want to complain, as many honouraNc senators on this side of the chamber and in this place will complain, that suddenly a very important resolution was put down, by leave, in the Senate and we had very little prior notice of it. During the emotional-
– Of course you were given notice of it.
– We were given very little notice of ii.
– What do yOU mean by: Very little’?
– It was placed on the Table a very few moments ago. As I said it is a, very important resolution.
– The honourable senator did not have any time to send it to the federal Executive and back.
- Senator Gair has contributed very poorly to this debate by way of interjection. If he intended to present this resolution to the Senate with sincerity. I think his behaviour since he moved the resolution is questionable.
– I was never found sitting on a road near (he gutter.
– Perhaps 1 have sat on a road in support of a very strong cause.
Let me proceed to the resolution which ought to be supported; the resolution that places on record ‘appreciation and gratitude to the personnel of ail Australian forces who served in the Vietnam conflict for their courage, dedication and sense of duty’. But the Opposition wishes to add the rider that we regret that this courage, this dedication and this sense of duty had to support a cause which was not a just cause and which has been indicated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) to have been an immoral cause. One wonders at the state of frenzy into which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) worked himself because the Leader of the Opposition stated clearly that we consider the sacrifice these men made was a sacrifice that ought not to have been asked of them. Nevertheless the Opposition gives them its full appreciation and supports the resolution.
Bui 1 could not allow this matter to pass without referring to the second part of the resolution. Particularly do we express our sympathy to the relatives of those Australians who gave their lives during this conflict. We express our sympathy to those who were injured, who were hurt and who were maimed. Let it be known clearly by the Government that if the Opposition’s advice had been supported in the early stages of this war these men would not have been killed, injured or maimed and it would not have been necessary for this Senate to place on record its sympathy to the relatives of those men.
It sticks very much in my throat to say that it was the Australian Democratic Labor Parly which brought forward this resolution. What a pious and hypocritical resolution it is coming from the members of that Party because they more so than the Government are responsible for the deaths of these men and the position in which the relatives find themselves. If it had not been for the support of the Party which they represent in this place there would not have been a commitment in Vietnam. If men have died or have been maimed in Vietnam then those honourable senators must accept the responsibility. Yet, they come here and move a resolution of sympathy to the relatives. Mark you, if this Government stays in office much longe with the support of this crew of unmitigated humbugs, then further men will die. I say that further men will be sent to fight wars that we ought not to support. For that reason I point out that the DLP is misguided in moving such a resolution of sympathy because the resolution exposes the DLP’s hypocrisy to its full depth.
– 1 think it is a great shame that this debate has got out of hand this afternoon due to the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). When I first heard about this motion which was to be moved by leave by Senator Gair, the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party 1 thought that he should be thanked for initiating such a move. There has been a fair amount of historical precedent for Parliament thanking the armed Services when they have ceased to be in an engagement, and I thought that this was the purpose of the motion. But the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate introduces politics into the Parliament’s thanks to the armed Services. I have always felt that it was one of the fundamentals of our type of parliamentary democracy that we should at no stage involve the armed Services in politics. Lord knows we have seen enough of this, curse in other parts of the wor’d where the armed Services have been involved in politics. And this afternoon we have the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate doing so here.
What interests me, of course, is that this involvement of the armed Services in politics was first brought about by the communists with commissars in the regiments and battalions. We saw it with the nazis and the fascists who put political agents into the armed Services. How much further do we move in our present situation in involving the armed Services in politics? That is why I have risen to express my g cat regret that the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Senate, when the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party requests the Senate to give its thank, to the armed Services, does nothing but attempt to involve the armed Service:-, in politics.
– But you have already involved them in politics by your very decision.
- Senator Georges, the Senate has heard you; now you hear Senator Withers.
– This is the problem of Senator Georges: He does not like the truth. In this whole Vietnam conflict fo- a long time the Opposition has been indulging in a fair amount of abuse but an enormous amount of running away from the facts. When I state a few facts here this afternoon honourable senators opposite do not like it. I think that this whole matter is a great tragedy, and I would hope that the Opposition will reflect upon it and have enough regard for parliamentary representative government in this country to te i ise the fact that the armed Services should r.ot be involved in politics and that party politics should not be linked with the thanks to the armed Services. I hope that the Opposition will have sufficient courage to withdraw its amendment to the mot on
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). Let me refresh the memory of honourable senators in this chamber and those who may bc listening outside on the terms of Senator Murphy’s amendment. It reads:
After ‘That’ insert the following words: While disapproving of the Liberal-Country Party Government’s military intervention in Vietnam,’ and at end of motion -
That is the motion moved by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) - add the following words: and we express the opinion that those who have been maimed or injured as a result of their war service, and their dependants, should be given repatriation entitlements that will compensate them adequately for their sacrifices’. 1 venture to say that everybody has introduced politics into this debate this afternoon. The Leader of the DLP has done so and so have those who stand behind him. So did the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) who left immediately after his outburst a few moments ago.
– I rise to a point of order. Insinuations are being cast about the Leader of the Government, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who has gone down to a Cabinet meeting at the other end of the building. He made his speech and expressed his views on this matter before he left.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The hysterical outburst, that was made in this chamber by the Leader of the Government in the Senate was quite disgraceful. This is a legitimate amendment to possibly an illegitimate motion because it was born of politics. Because the DLP and the Government are not able to turn this debate into a political propaganda fight they now feel aggrieved about it and want to turn their ire on the Opposition. Let us look at what happened at question time this afternoon. Two or three honourable senators on the Opposition side asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber what benefits Vietnam veterans were entitled to receive. The Minister was unable to tell us. After an involvement in the Vietnam conflict over a period of 5 or 6 years the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation does not know what Australian dead are entitled to, what their widows are entitled to, what their orphans are entitled to or what those who are maimed are entitled to. I think it was my colleague Senator Georges who said at some stage that the Minister was not prepared to admit the true position because it was a disgrace to the Government. Only a fraction of the people who have been involved in the Vietnam conflict are entitled to any repatriation benefits at all. That is the sum total, and yet we have a hypocritical sort of resolution like this in relation to which a senior Government Minister bursts into tears and runs from the chamber.
– Order! 1 am a patient man but just do not stretch mv patience too far.
– I think it would be appropriate if Senator Keeffe withdrew those remarks. 1 think it would be better for everybody if he did. This debate will go on for a long time, and I can assure many honourable senators opposite that if Senator Keeffe does not withdraw those remarks it will get a great deal more difficult yet.
– It is a matter for Senator Keeffe. I do not ask him to withdraw them. It is a question of how he wants to deal with it himself. I warned Senator Keeffe that he was beginning to stretch my tolerance. However, an appeal has been made to you, Senator Keeffe, and you may or may not consider it.
– Thank you, Mr President. If Senator Cotton feels aggrieved by my remarks I will withdraw them.
– I do nol want a qualification like that. I think it was an unfortunate expression. The Leader of the Government, without any doubt at all, was very heavily upset. I understood this and so should all honourable senators. He has reasons to be upset. He has very good reasons not to want the Australian fighting man’s memory to be derided. So I think in fairness to him Senator Keeffe ought not to describe his reactions as tearful. They were nothing of the kind and Senator Keeffe knows that.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you have displayed to me on occasions a great deal of generosity and I am sure you will display it again today.
- Mr President, I humbly withdraw what I said, and I think that if Senator Cotton withdrew some of the caustic remarks he has just passed it would help the whole atmosphere of the Senate.
– I am sure he does, and he signifies it by nodding.
– Thank you. I will now get back to the crux of the question. I do not change my opinion that this motion was introduced into this chamber by the small crew on my left, as a I think they were aptly described by Senator Georges a few moments ago, as a political gimmick. As Senator Georges said, it is true that had it nol been for the support of the four or five members of the DLP with their long records of non-war service in any war at any time in the history of this country, 500 Australian soldiers would be alive today, because DLP numbers were needed to prop up this Government in order to give it the authority to commit Australian troops in Vietnam. So rather than be very proud of what they are doing by this measly little motion which they are using for the express purpose of political propaganda they should go and hide somewhere behind the hedges around Parliament House.
The motion as amended is the only reasonable way in which a discussion of this nature can take place in this chamber. I again respectfully suggest that if there is an attempt to vote against the rights of people who have been committed in this war then it is an act of utter hypocrisy on behalf of the splinter group and on behalf of the supporters of the Government parties, because they would be denying publicly the right of these people to receive proper repatriation benefits, the right to receive a war service home, the right of the widows to be properly compensated and, worst of all, the rights of the hundreds of kids in this country who will not have fathers because they were killed by this Government in an illegal war. I commend the amendment to the Senate. I hope that if any motion is carried in this chamber at all today it will be in the form of the motion as amended.
– 1 regret that it is necessary for me to speak in this debate. It was anticipated that the motion would be carried unanimously by the Senate without debate. 1 think it should have been.
– Senator Keeffe is interjecting. He has made a statement that the Democratic Labor Party, in introducing the motion played politics. In actual fact the Democratic Labor Party, by leave of the Senate, moved the motion and had not. until I rose to speak, spoken to it. Senator Gair merely placed before the Senate his motion because he thought that this was the appropriate time for the Parliament to express one thing and one thing only - its appreciation to :he men who had carried out in a very wonderful manner a responsibility on behalf of this country. Because most of them have returned home and because others are now returning home, it seemed ro be the appropriate time to express the appreciation of this country, without indulging in the politics in which all of us have indulged on many occasions. We have different points of view. We have put them and defended them. 1 think we have that right. But this is hardly the time or place to re-hash the opinions that we may have had about the degree of responsibility resting in the Government that may have caused these men about whom the motion speaks to do the job that they have done.
Because of the trend that the debate has taken it is necessary to review what those men have done. Tn the main they were members of the permanent armed forces of this country who volunteered to serve in a military capacity wherever the elected government thought that it was necessary that they should serve. Others were young men who were conscripted into national service when the defence structure of this country was threatened, because of a lack of manpower, with being unable to remain a viable force. They, too, had a measure of choice. Many national servicemen who fought in the area believed that the cause for which they were fighting was right and just. I have no doubt that others did nol believe that. Men from both groups who have been there have expressed their opinions to me. The great majority accepted the role that they played there. They were proud of the contribution they made to try to preserve the democratic freedom of a small country. Others had doubts. It would not be life if that were not so. No-one more than I recognises that the men of our armed services are made up of average Australians who have different points of view. Whatever their points of view, they did the job that had to be done in a manner of which Australia can feel justly proud.
– That is your opinion.
- Senator Georges’s opinion may be that they should not have been sent.
– That is my opinion.
– That may be the opinion of Senator Keeffe or others both inside and outside Parliament, That has nothing to do with the Parliament expressing its appreciation to the armed services for the job done. This is hardly the time, in fairness to those men, to seek to divide the responsible Parliament of this country by our using vicious words against each other. 1 would not try to respond to the attitude that Senator Keeffe adopted to members of this Party. We do .not agree with him politically. That is well known. I did not know him when I was in the Party to which he belongs - it was not my privilege - and I do not think I missed very much, but I do not wish to answer his arguments. If he desires to hold the opinions that he does of the Democratic Labor Party we concede to him in this democracy the right to do so. On an appropriate and proper occasion I would welcome the opportunity to discuss our opinions of each other and of each other’s politics. But is this the proper occasion when we are speaking about men who gave their lives, about men who were prepared and who did day by day, hour by hour and moment by moment risk their lives, and about men who were injured and maimed? We are totally indebted to them. When we are talking about them is that the appropriate time for us, as fellow Australian, to divert the attention of the people of this nation to the fact that some thought it was right and some thought it was wrong that they should be there? I do not think it is the appropriate time.
– We do not want a similar thing to happen again.
– Senator Georges considers that any time is the right time for a dog fight.
– A similar thing should not happen again.
– I do not mind dog fights. I have been in many in my day. 1 can fight them on the footpaths, I can fight them on the streets. I suppose that ! have a reputation of being able to hold my own when my opponents drag me down into the sewers. But this is not the occasion for a clog fight. 1 do not propose to be drawn into one. The motion is a simple one. The Democratic Labor Party, on whose behalf I now speak, accepts no amendment to the proposition that it has placed before the Senate. We cannot agree with the early part of the amendment. The second part expresses an opinion that could well be dealt with on some other occasion - and on that occasion there may be the same unanimity among members of the Senate that 1 hope this motion will have when it is put to the vote. These are matters for another occasion. T do not think that when we express the appreciation of the Parliament we should go into the more contentious issues involved in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I believe that his good sense and the good sense which I know exists in many members of the Opposition should prevail. I believe that they should recognise that this is not the time to express whatever opinions they may hold on the justification or otherwise for the struggle that has taken place in Vietnam or on the reasons and necessities for. and the manner in which that struggle has taken place.
Let us place on record the unanimous appreciation of the Senate for the sacrifices that these men who served Australia in Vietnam made, and at this point of time let us leave it at that. I would welcome the opportunity to engage in any kind of a dog fight on the other issues at. some other time. In discussing this motion, I refuse to discuss those issues. I have not discussed them nor have I alluded to them other than in advancing my argument to reject the amendment. That is the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party. If it is said to be political we will even accept that it is, for the purpose of gaining unanimity of the Senate. We are expressing in terms that only a parliament can express our appreciation of the men who gave all that they had to give because their country asked them to - and their country is represented by the Government.
– -Order! As there are 2 honourable senators on their feet, Senator Cotton, will you yield to Senator Douglas McClelland?
– I will yield to Senator Douglas McClelland in order to allow the debate to proceed.
– Senator Little staled that he understood that the motion moved by Senator Gair would be carried unanimously, but Senator Little and the members of the Democratic Labor Party have been in the Senate long enough and have been involved in the political working ofthe nation long enough to appreciate andto understand that the Labor movement in this country has consistently been opposed to Australian involvement in Vietnam. It is our responsibility to the Labor movement, to the people whom we represent andto the majority of Australians who oppose Australian involvement in Vietnam to continue to express, in accordance with our consistency to dale, the attitude of disapproval of thepresent Liberal-Country Party Government’s military intervention in Vietnam. In addition to expressing our disapproval of the Government’s involvement of young Australians in this war - kids who have been pulled out of their jobs against their will and sent to this horrible, filthy, dirty war - we have consistently deplored in this Parliament and elsewhere the paucity of repatriation payments made to young men, and in some cases to their dependants, who have been called upon to make the supreme sacrifice or who have been maimed, wounded or whose health has been impaired for the rest of their days because of the demands placed upon them by this conservative Government.
For those reasons and having regard to the attitude consistently adopted by the Labor movement over the years, and expressing the point of view of the millions of Australians who support us in this altitude, the Opposition has moved its amendment to Senator Gair’s motion. Of course, members of the Labor movement are prepared to place on record their appreciation of and gratitude to the personnel of all Australian forces wherever they might have served; they served because their services were demanded by this Government.
At the same time we would be betraying the faith that has been reposed in us if we did not continue to express our opposition to the use of Australian armed forces in this horrible war and to the paucity of repatriation payments made to servicemen and their dependents. Let us compare one or two of the repatriation benefits which were made available to servicemen discharged after the Second World War and those which are made available to those discharged now after their national service training, particularly if they had service in Vietnam.
Any man who served in the armed forces during the Second World War, be it outside or inside Australia, was entitled to Commonwealth rehabilitation training and he could choose any trade course or any professional course that he desired. And the Government, appreciative of the services that those men gave to their country, paid for and accepted responsibility for ensuring that they received complete training to make them skilled tradesmen or to equip them for professional life in this country. As a result of the Commonwealth rehabilitation training services which were available to men discharged after the Second World War and because of a government that was grateful to them and appreciated the services they performed there are today many lawyers, doctors, scientists, dentists and veterinary scientists carrying out their professions. Compare that sort of training which was given by a grateful government after the Second World War with the miserly educational training given by this Government to men who have been called up for national service today.
Today the educational training is very limited indeed. Training is available to those national servicemen who are able to resume their employment but who need training in order to avoid being placed at a disadvantage in their employment because of their absence during national service. Training is available to those national servicemen who had completed their education and training before call-up but who require a refresher course. Training is available to national servicemen who have acquired during their national service experience and skills which would be wasted or not fully used in civilian life without additional training. But how much of this training is given to them? Training is available for one year only on a full-time basis or for a niggardly 2 years on a part-time basis.
– If they apply for it within 6 months.
– As Senator Brown reminds me, it has to be applied for within 6 months of the serviceman’s discharge. What educational assistance is the Government giving to these young boys who just shortly after they leave school are grabbed out of their jobs, shoved into the Army and sent to Vietnam? Is it not the responsibility of honourable senators on this side of the chamber who have expressed their opposition to these boys being sent away to raise their voices in opposition at this stage to the niggardly repatriation benefits made available to them? These young men are entitled to more than a mouthed expression of appreciation. They are entitled to more tangible assistance from this Government and from those who support it.
What is the situation in regard to repatriation payments? The poverty line in the Government’s subsidised health services scheme is $42.50 a week. If any man is receiving a mere $42.50 a week he is considered to be on the poverty line and is entitled under this Government’s health legislation to receive completely subsidised medical services. What is the total and permanently incapacity rate that the Government has provided in its current Budget? A mere $42.50 a week. How much is paid to a man who has both his arms amputated? He is paid $30.50 a week. How much is paidto a man who has both his legs and one arm amputated? He receives $30.50 a week, $12 a week less than the poverty line that the Government fixes in its legislation. How much is paid to the war widow? A mere $17.25 a week. How much is paid to the first child of a war widow by way of pension? A mere $7 a week. One could go on citing the figures provided in the Government’s Budget which was introduced in this chamber in August this year.
No matter which figure one picks out. one must say that the Government,far from being generous to these young boys who have been called upon to serve their country, has adopted a most niggardly and mean attitude having regard to the services they have been called upon to render and the sacrifices they have made at thedirec? tion and behest of this Government. It is the responsibility not only of , the Opposition but also of all members and senators of this Parliament to see that men who have served their country, wherever they have served and whether it was voluntary or conscripted service, are repatriated at a reasonable rate and compensated for the great disabilities with which they have been afflicted. If the Opposition did not express such an opinion now in support of its amendment it would not be fair dinkum to any of these men. We ask honourable senators in the Australian Democratic Labor Party and in the Government parties to think wisely when they vote on this issue.
– They will.
Senator Cotton says that they will. If they are sincere and if they are not merely mouthing appreciative words but have something more tangible which will assist in the formulation of a constructive rehabilitation policy, then the Government and DLP senators will support the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– I bad hoped to have an opportunity to speak on the statement relating to theVietnam withdrawals which is still on the notice paper. 1 would have dealt with 2 aspects, one of which is covered by the motion moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which I applaud and I rejectthe suggestion of the Opposition that it is in any way a gimmick. The other aspect is to set right in this context the job done in Vietnam. But first let me deal with the motion. We should extend our gratitude and show our pride not only to the personnel of the armed Services but also to those civilians and womenfolk who throughout our involvement in Vietnam performed such remarkable work. 1 am thinking here of the medical teams, the teams 1 have seen in Vietnam doingwonderful work amongst the civilians and particularly among the children. I am thinking of the people who gave civil aid and. of course, I am thinking of the members of our 3 armed Services. I am sure that everyone would want placed on record his tribute to the dedication, great courage and unsurpassed skill and professionalism a: arms displayed by the Australian soldier. The reputation of Australian servicemen in Vietnam and the Far East has done very great honour to this country. They have been magnificent ambassadors. I have been privileged to see them in the field and to experience the reaction of the Vietnamese to them. They have done this country great credit indeed.
My second point is to reject what I would call the meanness of mind - I am not one to use harsh words - that sought this afternoon to so modify this resolution as to emasculate it. Whatever the views of the Opposition as to the Tightness or wrongness of the war, the tribute to Australian soldiers should have been allowed to stand on its own.
– Why did you not move it?
– I would have been proud to move it, had I had an opportunity to do so.
– It would have been more readily acceptable.
– I would have been proud to move it. I accept Senator George’s suggestion. I am sure that my Party along with the Democratic Labor Party would go along with me, in my moving with the utmost pride this resolution. 1 do it without qualification because I say that it is meanness of mind to try to score some cheap political advantage by allying a lot of emotionalism to the resolution. lt is not so much the written words that Senator Murphy sought to add that I reject; it is the emotional words and, if 1 may say so, it is the corruption of the facts of history that I deplore. I should like to place on record not only our tribute to these people who have served but also our belief that the war in which they served was a just war, a war fought to assist a free and independent country to remain free and to assist countries of South East Asia to remain free. I should like to place on record that within the limits of the goals that were set militarily when we went into that war, our soldiers, in conjunction with our allies, have achieved those goals. Rather than have them come out with the whimper of defeat which has been described by the Opposition, they come out with great credit and great success. They have accomplished their goals.
I should have liked at a given time to recite the reason why 1 say this was a just war, a war to keep free people free. But since the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has said that it was a crime against the United Nations - 1 think those were his words - I remind the Senate of 2 main things: Firstly, that the United Nations Security Council voted 10 to 1 in favour of the proposition that South Vietnam was a free and independent sovereign nation. Had it not been for the Soviet veto that would have been accepted. Secondly that the General Assembly of the United Nations did the same and, had it not been for the Soviet Union, this would have been accepted. Presumably only the Soviet Union and the Opposition line up on the proposition that this was not a free and independent nation. Since it has not been said 1 want to say emphatically, because it goes with the tribute to our servicemen, that throughout the whole of recorded history, apart from the intervention on the colonial level by the French and the military adventure by the Japanese, South Vietnam has been an entirely free and independent state, in no way ever linked with North Vietnam. This must be said because the Opposition has fed on the misery of their propaganda for 6 years in alleging that this was one nation that we were trying to separate. Let me take just 2 or 3 minutes to say, because I think it ought to be recorded coolly in the history at this great stage of a successful military end of the war–
– I can understand the perturbation of the Opposition and its not wishing to hear the history stated. If honourable senators opposite wish to reject the history as I state it, let them say so, but let me remind the Senate that for more than a thousand years from 227 B.C. until 939 A.D., what is now North Vietnam was in fact a province of southern China.
– No-one questions that.
– That is good. 1 hope that we may be able, step by step, to be unquestioned on these things. In the time to which I have referred 2 entirely different cultures grew up - a Confucianist culture in the north and a Hinduist culture in the south. As the Hindu influence took over in the south, I remind the Senate - 1 hope Senator Georges will agree, since we are walking together in history - that from then on, right through until the French colonialism, they were 2 separate states. Indeed, in the 1630s 2 walls were built across the seventeenth parallel - Senator Georges acknowledges this - to acknowledge that they were 2 independent and separate states. They were never in history linked except by the military colonialism of the French and Japanese. So this country, which our people have served in arms to keep free, has always, for 2,000 years, fought to remain free. It has been different in identity from the north. It has always asserted its right to be free. The United Nations said that it was an independent country, and so did every other country of South East Asia which accepted it as such. So that by every test the proposition I put, that it was a war fought to assist a free and independent country to remain free and to assist the countries of South East Asia to remain free, and that this contribution has succeeded, is a statement of history and a statement of truth.
– No. we separated about 10 years ago.
– 1 am delighted that Senator Georges and I have found a point of separation, but in walking the ladder of history we have found complete concord. I do not wish to pursue this, except to say that on every test that the Opposition has advanced over the years to deny the war in Vietnam, those tests have proven wrong. 1 remind the Senate that the Opposition warned us that if we went into Asia we would make bad friends and provoke a world war. In fact, every country in South East Asia today is a better and stronger friend of Australia. Because of our commitment we are today highly respected in South East Asia.
I pay tribute to our soldiers, not only for what they did in South Vietnam but also because, by buying time over the last precious 6 years south of the seventeenth parallel it enabled those nations - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia: - to understand the threat, to take internal steps and measures, to form great alliances, even if those alliances are rejected by the Opposition, and today to become far more secure and far better friends and allies of Australia than ever could have occurred. Therefore, in welcoming and indeed joining in moving this resolution, without qualification 1 add to it our congratulations on the success of a very great and dedicated undertaking.
– I do not want to follow Senator Carrick down the ladder of history about which he was speaking. I find it interesting that he says that as an historical fact the war in Vietnam has been successful. I think that it would be a very brave man indeed who would make a judgment as to how the patient would progress. I hope that he is right. I hope that the poor, wartorn country does not nave to suffer a one millionth part of what it has suffered over the last few years. But this, is not the matter which is before us today. Honourable senators on both sides of the .chamber have talked about people becoming emotional. I think that the Australian Democratic Labor Party must have expected this situation when it introduced this motion, because whenever one touches- on the Vietnam war one touches on the most emotive issue which has faced the world over the last few years. Probably this is the most divisive issue of its kind in history. Never has there been such great debate over anywar. Probably this is because of the modern telecommunications available to mankind today. But whenever this matter is raised in a political chamber such as this one must expect emotion.
I am not condemning this. Emotion has been shown by more than one honourable senator this afternoon. This sort of thing is built into each man. But what has happened? A motion has been put forward by the Democratic Labor Party, a motion which the Australian Labor Party supports. But we ask that the Senate add 2 amendments to the motion. We ask that at the beginning there be added words showing that we dissociate ourselves from the decision to send Australian troops into Vietnam. Surely this is acceptable if honourable senators want to remove this matter from the political field? I keep my tongue in my cheek a bit about this matter. Most people in this chamber are pretty hardened politicians now. The DLP likes to tell us what tough politicians they’ are. They are forever telling us this. When they come up with something and say: ‘Let us wash our hands of politics in this manner’ - well, be that as it may. Certainly there is nothing offensive in the motion which has been put forward by the DLP. One cannot disagree with it. We willingly associate ourselves with it. At the same time, the moment this highly emotive and wholly divisive issue is brought into a political chamber I do not think one can blame the Australian Labor Party for asking to be disassociated from the whole argument which has been presented here today. Quite contrary to saying that by adding the words suggested by the ALP we are going to make this a gimmick or drag it into the mire of politics, I ask honourable senators to accept the amendment in the spirit in which the Australian Labor Party puts it. Honourable senators would thereby lift the motion out of the mire because they would be saying: ‘There is to be no argument about this. We still take the line which we have taken over all the years in our attitude towards the Vietnam war but in spite of this we go ahead with the motion’.
But what have we added to the motion? As Senator Douglas McClelland has pointed out we have merely added words to say that full repatriation benefits and that type of thing should be available to people because there is no difference between people who have fought in the Vietnam war and people who have fought in other wars. I agree completely with Senator Carrick that this matter is not specifically stated. But 1 sum it up by saying that the great servicemen from Vietnam have proved lo be as good as their fathers and grandfathers. 1 think that is all one ever has lo say about the Australian fighting man. But one can become quite emotional. I do nol want to repeal what Senator Douglas McClelland said, but I ask honourable senators to look at some of the benefits which will go to repatriated people. If an arm is amputated and an eye is destroyed - these are pretty terrible sorts of things - the repatriated man will receive $6.50 a week. He will receive $1.70 if a leg is amputated below the knee. I do not want to go on with these things, but is it not reasonable that this pious motion - I do not use the word ‘pious’ in a nasty way, but I cannot think of a better word at the moment - should express something? lt is doing nothing. What is wrong with saying that now that the fighting man is coming back from Vietnam, with the war as good as over, we want to do something about the situation?
I want to mention one or two other things because earlier in the debate Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - I am sure he would be the first to acknowledge it - said that he thought this motion was to go through unanimously and without amendment. Senator Murphy assures me that that is not so - that, in fact, he told Senator Byrne that there would be an amendment. Senator Murphy was unable to give Senator Byrne a copy of the amendment because he did not have time to write it out. Indeed, when they both rose Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said: ‘1 will wait to see what you are doing’. This is probably not important, but I am sure that in a situation such as this Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson would be the first to acknowledge the correctness of what I am saying if he knew exactly what the story was. Some harsh things have been said. 1. could not quite follow Senator Withers when he dealt with the Communist armies and the Fascist armies where their governments put political agents into the armies as spies or police pimps. In some way the honourable senator suggested that the ALP wanted a system of pimping for the Government in our armed forces. These sorts of charges do nol stick, because we are the people who are worried about telephone tapping and civil liberties much more than anybody in this Parliament. We are forever talking about these matters. Even today we questioned the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) whether there had been an extension of telephone tapping in Australia or whether the telephone tapping has been there all the time and we had not understood. This mailer is worrying us. These are some of the things which have nothing to do with this motion but which we are entitled to reject completely. They are emotional and unfair things. They are without any basis at all.
Senator Carrick is wrong when he says that we set out to emasculate this motion. We have not done this. I have explained to honourable senators the 2 things we have done. There is emotion in this issue. Over all the years we have taken a definite stand. I cannot count the number of times I have taken part in debates in this place on the question of Vietnam. Always there has been a vigorous debate; always the lines have been drawn very clearly. Surely honourable senators do not deny that the ALP wants to make itself completely clear while, at the same time, supporting the sentiments which have been put forward by the DLP.
– Does the honourable senator expect us to support the amendment?
– I think honourable senators ought to.
– We would be condemning our own government which, for some 6 years, we have been supporting.
– You would not be condemning the Government.
– We would be disapproving our government’s action.
– Yes, the honourable senator would disapprove of the Liberal-Country Party Government. That is what we are asking honourable senators to do, because this is our belief.
– Will the honourable senator not admit that the Labor Party has moved the amendments in those terms so that we cannot possibly support it?
– No. I did not know that this matter was going to be introduced until I came in today. I discussed it with Senator Murphy. Maybe the honourable senator finds the amendments difficult. If so, why not support the second half? Surely the honourable senator does not disagree with that? Senator Little takes the attitude that he does not disagree with the amendment in principle. He feels that somehow the timing is wrong and that it ought to be done at a later date.
– The honourable senator does not. consider it as a point of time at all. That is not necessary.
– Senator Little says that it is not necessary. J hope he is not approving of the repatriation benefits which are available? I elevated the honourable senator above that position. I thought that he agreed with that part of our amendment. But I do not know. That is his business and not mine. These are matters which have been raised here today and this is why we have moved this amendment. The attitude of the ALP has always been that we condemn the fact that there has been conscription. We do not believe that it is necessary. We have condemned the fact that we got involved in the Vietnam war. 1 am not as confident as Senator Carrick that all this has been of so much good and that no repercussions have come from it. We are concerned about the repatriation benefits and the deal which soldiers will get when they come back, because these things could easily be forgotten once this war is over. I commend both the amendments. 1 think honourable senators should understand the whole emotive situation which we are in. The emotive situation has exercised everybody’s mind today, even towards the fag end of this war Surely honourable senators cannot say that this is a non-political type matter. lt has been brought into a political chamber. As f say it is the most emotive issue which has been in the world over the last 10 years, yet honourable senators opposite expect us to say that there are no politics in the matter at all and say that we should let it go. I commend the amendments to the Senate.
– I have been a member of the Senate for only a short while. I hope that no honourable senator will misunderstand me when 1 express the opinion that we have ahead of us too many important matters to allow us to make a big issue of the motion put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, obviously with good intentions, and with which I thoroughly agree. 1 do not see why it is necessary to amend the motion in any shape or form. I do not disagree with the claim of the Australian Labor Party that the benefits payable to people who have been hurt in wars are not sufficient, but there is a time for that matter to be discussed and 1 do not think it is now. In the past the Labor Party has sufficiently expressed its disapproval of the Vietnam war. Every member of this Parliament has a right to feel that way. but I honestly believe that there are more important issues for the Senate to discuss. We should not have a lengthy debate on this motion.
I repeat that I thoroughly agree with the motion but we should not debate it at great length. We should have been able to conduct a quick and unanimous vote on the motion as we have many more important things to do. I have been waiting to talk to my motion already before the Senate butI have been told that the Government has more important matters to bring forward. It annoys me to sit here and listen to the remarks that have been made in this debate when I cannot get my motion before the Senate.
Far more people have been hurt through the imposition of death taxes in Australia than have been killed in the war in Vietnam. Every year more people are hurt in Australia by the imposition of death taxes. Deaths on the roads are raising far greater problems now and the Vietnam war is as good as over for Australia. Why should we discuss these things time and time again when we have heard them so many times? 1 do not want to take up any more of the time of the Senate. We have more important issues to discuss. I thoroughly commend and agree with the motion moved by the Democratic Labor Party.
– I shall be brief. The motion and the proposed amendment have been referred to so often in this debate that I do not need to refer to them again. I wish to say several things, some of which are factual and one or two of which are emotional. As Senator Willesee has properly said, this is an issue on which people’s emotions are involved. The story that Senator Murphy bellowed out about our bad reputation in South East Asia is just not true. Those of us who have visited South East Asia - I am one of them - recognise that Australia’s presence there, in both the military and civil areas, has done this country great honour. Our people who have served there in both the military and civil fields should be commended and thanked. We should be proud of them. Australia is now a nation and they are the sort of people who have made it a nation. 1 hope it will be understood that the relatives of the men who served and died in Vietnam - I am one - will receive no comfort or help from the remarks of Senator Murphy or the amendment proposed by the Labor Party. Honourable senators opposite have referred to repatriation benefits. This subject has been introduced as a device to cover up the principal fact of the amendment. Repatriationbenefits should be discussed and debated at the proper time and in a suitable atmosphere. The fighting men of this country served Australia and deserve the total support and respect that can be expressed through the national Parliament. My feeling is clear and I do not want to say any more. The motion should be carried unanimously. It is the least we can do out of the respect that we owe to the men who have made this country safe and great.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Byrne) agreed to:
That the resolution adopted by the Senate be transmitted tothe House of Representatives for its information.
– I have received the following letter from Senator Murphy. Mr President
In accordance with Standing Order No. 64, I intend to move on Wednesday, 24th November 1971- That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.29 a.m. - for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely,:
The promotion of the economy and the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in unemployment benefits and other social services.’
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
– I move:
That the. Senate, at. its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 10.29 a.m. 1 do so for the purpose of enabling a debate on a matter of urgency, namely:
The promotion of the economy and the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in unemployment benefits and other social services.
Mr President, the purpose of this urgency motion is to draw attention to the unnecessary man-made misery flowing from this Government’s disastrous economic policies and to suggest measures which can have an immediate palliative effect on the illness these policies have inflicted upon our society. We of the Australian Labor Party believe that thousands of people should not be compelled to live at near starvation level merely because this Government is loo stubborn to admit that its recent Budget was based on grievous economic miscalculations. While the Government, despite all the evidence, persists in defending its Budget strategy, most competent observers agree that it was mistaken, quite apart from any added difficulties flowing from the international monetary crisis which could not have been wholly anticipated. There is near unanimity among economists, the financial editors of the major newspapers and leaders of industry that the difficulties which bedevilled the economy before August last have now been compounded by the Government’s Budget.
With industry slowing down, unemployment mounting, the rural sector in a desperate plight and confidence ebbing away, this was no time for a Prime Minister who prides himself on his economic expertise to take off on a pointless jaunt overseas. He left the country for no discernible reason except to be seen hobnobbing with the great for political advantage. He has come home, as most of us could have told him he would, empty handed. Now he is back the Opposition wants to confront him with the mess which he and his advisers created, to remind him that he did not make the problem go away just by going away himself. We want to put to him and his Government serious suggestions for immediate measures to relieve the hardship of growing numbers of the community and at the same time give a much needed fillip to the economy.
The source of our present difficulties is that the Government became so mesmerised by the problems of inflation that it ignored the economic indices that the rate of growth of employment and productivity would be depressed in the year 1971-72 and that unemployment would rise steadily if the then existing fiscal and monetary policies were maintained. What was required to stimulate the economy and the growth of employment and productivity was that last August’s Budget should have been at least mildly expansionary. Instead the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), muttering a lot of jeremiads about the alleged threat of a great outburst of demand inflation based on record savings in the banks, opted for a budget which provided no direct stimulus by way of expenditure to the level of activity in the economy. It was a budget which further dampened down demand by increasing the levy on personal income taxes from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent. The result has been that Australia has joined the stagflation club; that is, it has addedto the evils of inflation the stagnation of its economy and mounting unemployment.
It is with the unemployment problem that I am particularly concerned today, and I think the Senate should be concerned, as all Australia is concerned. When I quote the disheartening figures of present and projected unemployed I remind honourable senators that I am talking of human beings, not just of statistics or an economic graph. I. would remind them also that if the experience of the major industrial countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, which preceded Australia into the stagflation club, are any guide, this type of unemployment, unless tackled quickly and thoroughly, tends to become chronic and permanent.
Just before he left Australia .in his recent trip the Prime Minister indicated that the October employment figures would be a ‘pleasant surprise’. If he finds any pleasure in these figures he is unfit for his high office. What do the October figures show? They show that 62,000 men and women were unemployed compared with 44,000 for the same month last year. The reason for the so called ‘pleasant surprise’ was that the rate of decline shown in the previous 2 months figures was not repeated in October and there was actually a slight drop in registered unemployed. But as the financial editor of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ stated on 16th November:
The financial editor, Mr Alan Wood, went on to state:
The issue of real interest is whether the downturn in the labour market is continuing if at a slower rate-. The October figures suggest that it is on closer analysis. The key forward indicator, the rate at which vacancies are being notified, continues to be significantly- below the levels of a year ago. In fact for the first time in 4 years it failed to record a significant increase in October (a rather important qualification to Mr Lynch’s statement that: ‘The main indicators for the month showed movements which were normal for October.)’ This suggests a continuing downturn in the labour market. In any case the Federal Treasurer has told us that his own departmental experts forecast higher unemployment after seasonal adjustment in January and February.
This is a time when seasonal adjustment factors operate to substantially moderate the actual unemployment figures, another reason for believing October is not representative.
And it is important to remember that these adverse trends in the labour market are operating at a time when the Budget is in its seasonal expansionary phase.
So, we see what is happening with the Budget. Mr Wood continued:
The Budget will not start to bite until the new year, when present trends will presumably be exacerbated. if the Budget was intended to be expansive we will strike the expansion early next year. If it was intended to be one which would contract the economy we will strike that contraction next year. There is no doubt that this Budget was intended to contract the economy and that we will suffer from this miscalculation that has been made by the Federal Treasurer. In short, there is no comfort to be derived from the October figures, especially by the 62,000 unemployed. The figures show an extremely unpleasant and dangerous trend in the economy.
The latest summary of the economic situation carried out by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne is published in the ‘Australian Economic Review’ ot October this year. Each year this Institute, which has as its members some of Australia’s most distinguished economists and has a most capable research staff, publishes in April and October short term forecasts of the Australian economy which have come to be accepted as among the most authoritative in the country. The latest conclusions of the Institute are:
The current situation of stagflation will not remedy itself. Some Government action will be necessary to correct it. However, even if economic policies were reversed immediately, little effect on the economy could be expected in. 1971-72.
That means that little effect could be expected before 30th June 1972 even if the economic policies were’ reversed immediately. The Institute points out that a slackening of business demand is now evident. It says that the September survey by the Bank of New South Wales and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia revealed that a majority of these manufacturers were no longer working at a satisfactorily full rate of operation. It added that few of them expected an improvement in general business conditions in the next 6 months, and therefore few planned to increase their , rate of capital expenditure, while many expected to reduce it.
The Institute’s economists : predict that there will be 5,400 fewer . employees in manufacturing’ in 1971-72- than- there were in 1970-71. This would be the- first such decline since 1961-62. Of ! course, with thousands of school leavers about to enter the work force and with migrants continuing to arrive, even though in somewhat reduced numbers, it is an alarming prognosis that industry will absorb fewer rather than more of these job seekers. The Treasurer himself already has forecast a higher level of unemployed in January and February, although he would not name a figure. How has the Government reacted to this situation? The only positive step it has taken has been an insignificant monetary measure that was announced by the Treasurer on 12th November. The Government has reduced interest rates on short to medium long term bonds, in order to reduce the relative attractiveness of government bonds to investors in the hope of easing the availability and cost of finance to the private sector. This action is like applying a Band-Aid when a blood transfusion is required.
Apart from this, ali we have had from the Treasurer has been a waffling lecture on the difficulties of implementing an incomes policy, which is one of the suggested cures of the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to which 1 have been referring. I acknowledge that an incomes policy is a complex and difficult matter, as overseas experience has shown. However, there is one immediate and simple step which the Government could take, and I strongly urge it to do so. The source of this suggestion is the same Institute. In case honourable senators on the Government side should feel inclined to ridicule this suggestion as coming from ‘just another bunch of academic economists’, let me remind them that it was just this bunch of academic economists which warned before the Budget of the dangers of an unduly restrictive Budget strategy; it was they who pointed to the signs of a downturn in the economy which evidently escaped the attention of the Government and its Treasury advisers in shaping this disastrous Budget.
The Opposition suggestion is that the Government should immediately take steps to raise unemployment benefits and pensions. This step is justified on 2 grounds: Firstly, it would immediately inject more purchasing power into the hands of the unemployed and those on pensions at a time of prospective rapid growth in unemployment. It could not have any cost-push inflationary effect as increases in unemployment benefits and pensions do not add to the cost of production, lt would increase the flow of money in the economy and therefore stimulate demand. That applies equally whether it is unemployment benefits in particular or social services in general. But an even greater justification is the humanitarian ground. With inflation expected to continue at least at an annual rate of 6 per cent, all social service benefits are being eroded. A further rise is urgently needed to cope with this inflation.
The present and anticipated increase in unemployment is either the intended or the unintended result of Government policy. Why should those thrown out of work by such a policy have to bear the burden of the Government’s miscalculation, to put it at its best, or deliberate callousness, to put it at its worst? A married couple of age or invalid pensioners are eligible for a weekly pension of $30.50. This is miserable enough, and should immediately be increased heavily. In contrast, an unemployed couple, possibly only a year or so away from eligibility for the age pension, qualify for only $18 a week. The benefit rates for the unemployed should be lifted to at least the rates for those who are aged or invalid. The rates that we pay to those who have fallen away in our economic system - those who are too aged to work, those who are invalid and those who have been thrown out of work either by some circumstance of their own or, as in the case of the tens of thousands who will be thrown out of work through no fault of their own, by deliberate Government policy - are such that they have to live in circumstances which are below the minimum necessary for reasonable comfort and dignity in a civilised society. Why should that be so in a country as rich as Australia?
Economists speak glibly about an acceptable level of unemployment. Unfortunately, temporary unemployment lasting for a few weeks is inevitable for some as a result of technological change or shifts in employment patterns. While they are between jobs these victims of industrial society must not be depressed below the poverty line. This kind of unemployment is bad enough. But it is intolerable to the civilised conscience that the morale of a large number of our people should be broken by their being forced to live in a state of penury and hopelessness for a lengthy period. Then they are faced with the problem of debt which will dog them for a long time even if they manage to gain reemployment. The Opposition urges the Government to take immediate steps to see that every citizen receives a weekly sustenance which is commensurate with human dignity. Our people have the right to live at a proper standard, not merely to exist. Other steps will have to be taken to reverse the totally unnecessary, man-made recession which has overtaken us and which threatens to deepen still further. In the meantime it is good economics, as well as basic humanity, to lift social service payments to at least the level of a modest living wage.
It seems that since the Prime Minister has returned from his overseas jaunt the harsh reality Of life in Australia today has been brought home to him. In the “Sunday Australian’ of 21st November he has apparently had a change of heart. He is quoted as saying:
I would like to see demand increase somewhat. In recent weeks we have decided [hat interest on Commonwealth securities would he lowered, and I did announce thai wc would reduce the number of migrant workers coming in over the Christmas period. In other words, the whole position has been looked at now by us. If we feel that action -has to be taken to stimulate demand, and consequently have its impact on unemployment, you can rest assured that we will take action.
They are the words of the Prime Minister. It is obvious to anyone that demand needs to be stimulated in this country. Apart from the statistics that I have quoted and the words of the economists, is not what is happening every day convincing enough? The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd ls shutting down furnaces and its plants all over the country are not placing the orders they were. It is obvious that we are faced with a crisis of confidence and unless something is done to increase demand in this country there will be a terrible economic period reminiscent of but worse than what took place in 1961-62.
What will be the position if the economists are right, and there seems to be a certain consensus even spreading through the Government on this? The suggestion is: If we have to increase demand let us do it in such a way that we do. not increase the cost structure’. The Government says it wants to hold down wages. I will not enter into that argument with the Government. We do not agree with .this. But if we leave that one aside, there can be no possible economic objection to increasing the demand in areas such as social services where it will not increase the cost structure. Is it not common sense, then, that this should be done before it is too late? Other proposals have been made by Mr Dunstan which are sensible. He said that we should cut not only the interest rates but also sales tax and other matters which affect the cost structure. That is sensible and we would agree with it. Every one takes the view that there ought to be an increase in demand in areas where such a moye will not affect the cost structure.
If, as the Prime Minister says, his Government is committed to a policy of full employment, what is he doing to ensure that over 100,000 Australians will nol be unemployed in the new year? The Opposition challenges the Government to do more than pay lip service to this policy of full employment. Since the Prime Minister’s return there have been further pessimistic forecasts of the economic future. The Australian and New Zealand banking group on 22nd November released the results of a survey which is decidedly pessimistic about the business outlook in Australia and predicts a deteriorating labour situation. The bank in i”.s November publication of “Business Indicators’ shows a disheartening reflection of the widespread pessimism afflicting our economy- today.
The survey carried out by the bank analysed the positions vacant advertisements iri 2 leading classified advertising newspapers, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the ‘Age’ in Melbourne. By doing this the bank is able to predict the behaviour of the most importan of the official statistics - the rale of notification of vacancies to the Commonwealth Employment Office, lt showed that the employment series fell substantially in October after adjustment for seasonal influences. The series had risen by 1.5 per cent in September after falling in all the earlier months of this year. The bank says the October fall probably points to a further decline in unfilled vacancies notified :o the Commonweatlh Employment Service and a simultaneous rise in the number registered as unemployed. The employment advertisement series showed similar movement in both Sydney and Melbourne after adjustment for seasonal influences. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ series fell by 3.8 per cent in October, while the ‘Age’ fell by 6.1 per cent, together giving a fall of 4.5 per cent. How much more evidence does the Government require before it moves to prevent wholesale economic disaster for Australia?
I have been quoting sources which presumably would appeal to honourable senators on the Government side. I have quoted business sources, newspaper editors, bankers and economists which presumably honourable senators opposite believe. We on this side know from what trade union leaders say. from what local government leaders say. from what people in country towns throughout New South Wales, Victoria and all of the other States say as well as from what is happening in the mining fields, in the workshops and in the factories that these statistics are bearing out what is the true position and that the future position will be much worse than is shown.
It is no use someone saying: ‘Look, it is no use talking about things; it will cause them to get worse’. We have had enough of that nonsense in here. Some people seem to think that because one gets up and speaks the truth about what is happening thereby one is causing it. There is no doubt that if something drastic is not done by this Government, and done immediately, we arc in for the most serious trouble in Australia. Even if the economists are right and even starting now, it will be extremely difficult, well-nigh impossible, to affect the deterioration that is going to occur up to the end of this financial year.
If that is right, the obvious measure should be taken. That measure has been pointed out to the Government. There are many things that should be done. One of them not only has good economic sense but is humanitarian. We should increase heavily the assistance given to those people who are already suffering unnecessary distress. We should put the money into the area where we can do something that is humanitarian, that is decent and that will also help the economy. If the Government is worth its salt at all why will it resist doin>> this?
We join the great many other sectors of this country seeking a new and productive approach by the Government to this question which is now uppermost in the minds of all Australians. I ask the Senate to support this motion as an indication of the concern which the Senate feels and 1 ask also that action be taken in the areas I have indicated in order to assist the economy of this country and to avoid unnecessary distress to those who are already affected and to those many thousands who are bound to be affected by the results of the Government’s economic policies.
– We have once again the weekly event, what I call the Murphy syndrome - the weekly urgency motion designed for what particular purpose I do not know. This matter of urgency today as I read it, has 3 elements: The promotion of the economy; the relief of what Senator Murphy described as unnecessary distress; and a proposal for the immediate increase in the unemployment benefit and other social services. This is an omnibus matter really; it allows people to talk about practically anything they want to talk about. They can talk about, the visit by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) overseas, what someone is supposed to have said about it or what someone thinks about it. ft is a bit of an Atlantean bus type or one-man motion. One can do anything one wants to do within the terms of the motion. Obviously it is a political exercise. Whether it is a good exercise is a matter for the Senate to judge. I do not think it does anything for anybody, really.
What are we talking about? What does promotion of the economy mean really? I think what some of us might do in this debate is to direct our attention to the economy of this country in general. Other honourable senators can pick up more particular points because lime permits only a certain amount of discussion of these things. 1 was interested to hear Senator Murphy give many, many quotations from a great number of economists. I do not want to be unkind to economists. Many people amongst my best friends are economists. However, having said these things to them in the past, I do not mind saying them to the Senate now.
One is reminded of the remarks in the depression years about J. M. Keynes, the great economist. This was a time during which everybody had a theory about fixing problems. Someone said that if the 12 leading economists in the world were put in a room with J. M. Keynes and they discussed all of the difficult problems - very real and really substantial problems - and tried to work out solutions wilh the help of J. M. Keynes, they would come out with 12 solutions, all of them from J. M. Keynes. That is one of the problems in this business because it is easy to pontificate. In isolation it is easy for economist A, economist B, banker C or somebody else D to say: This is what I would do if I were there’. But he is not there. Such people say: ‘This is what they ought to do*.
One of the things that can be well worth doing if one only has the time - time is the problem here - is to go back to the prognostications of past years in the Senate chamber, in the House of Representatives, and in learned journals, those of authoritative economists, public commentators, newspaper editors and chairmen when giving their annual addresses. It is interesting to see the comments on how to run the country and on what ought to be done. But nobody takes the time to go back and see how accurate their comments were. I have done a little of this in my time, although not recently. Most of these people are proved to be wrong. If one examines the position mostly one finds that in the end the Government’s own expectations based upon an intimate knowledge of Treasury and all the Departments tend to be a fairly valid exercise in thinking and decision making. I can assure honourable senators that this is not always popular. There are plenty of occasions when it is quite unpopular, but that is the fate of governments.
The fate of governments is to take the responsibility for doing what appears to be the right thing based on the best combination of advice available. Now we are told that all these opinions are offering and we are not taking any notice of them. PreBudget every year there is a long round of discussions with people of ability in all areas of the market economy. Both preBudget and post-Budget - particularly preBudget - the Government has carefully to analyse the considered opinion of every government department and all the economic advice it can get. It receives a tremendous body of information compiled by a great many very dedicated and most competent men. It has information coming in from overseas from its reporting posts and embassies. It has information from banking people, including those in the Reserve Bank, and Treasury people. It has a tremendous body of information coming in on the international side,, on its own governmental side, on the agency side, and from everybody with whom it is jointed .in the world secne. So it is not lacking information as to what governments are thinking and what its own Public Service and experts are thinking.
To that body of information must be added the ability of the Australian community and its leaders, which embraces an extremely wide range of people, lt includes the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Employers Federation, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the Wool and Meat Producers Federation, the bankers, chambers of commerce, and chambers of manufactures. The total body of opinion is marshalled pre-Budget to make an assessment of the Australian problem. The Budget Speech states that Australia’s principal problem when the Budget was formulated was inflation. This would call for difficult measures and some severity if it were to be’ contained or attempted to be contained. Immediately the Budget Speech is brought down a great number of people in the ‘ communityeconomists, newspaper editors, newspaper article writers, specialist writers and, as I said before, various people who have views - express either agreement or disagreement with the Budget. They have their views and they are entitled to express them. That is fair enough. But they do nol end up with the job of having to carry the problem through. This is what the Government has to do.
– You seem very proud of the unemployed.
– No, that is not true. I was unemployed myself once and I am not proud of it, and I never was proud of it. But there are some of us who are unemployable, and we should remember it. The situation is that at Budget time the
Government made a very thorough and serious analysis of the national economic problem, lt took into account the full body of opinion that it could possibly obtain and ii brought down a Budget which is now criticised by a lot of people, not all of whom are well informed but who have opinions to which the Government listens in debates like this, in Cabinet discussions and in communications. The Government still takes notice of, still takes into account and still listens to these opinions. Honourable senators should be in no doubt that that is what happens. But in the end decisions have to be made, and they are made each year in a Budget which is the Budget strategy of this country. I do not want to refer to it again. It has been outlined in the Budget Speech. It is a very well put together speech. It contains all the supporting documentation of what the Government’s position is and what it bases its decisions upon. It contains calculations, figures, etc., and that is the situation that you talk about when you talk about managing or promoting an economy.
What does ‘promotion of the economy’ really mean? In the motion proposed by Senator Murphy he puts forward a proposition regarding the way to promote the economy of this country.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was talking about the matter of urgency. It contains 2 essential components. One is that the economy should be promoted by an increase in unemployment benefits. I hope that as the debate proceeds speakers who have more time than I have left at my disposal will be able to examine just how unreal this proposition is, what little money it would inject into the system and how little it would really do.
– There are social services, too.
– This is a different matter, for those who are responsible for raising the money but not for spending it. I think I should talk a little about the economy in general because that is what the matter of urgency deals with, among other things. I think we should agree, with out rancour, that this is not an easy economy to manage. A lot of people think they know how to manage it, but it is not an easy economy to manage. It is a difficult economy, lt has been managed extremely well for quite a period. Anybody who undertakes the job of managing this economy or who has aspirations to do so should understand that it is, as I saY, not an economy that is easy to manage. I think anybody should concede, fairly, £hat it has been managed remarkably well.
There are 3 basic aims which I think the economy always seeks to achieve in a managerial sense: Firstly, a high level of employment within the general concept of a full employment policy, which everybody espouses and which nobody should try to inherit for himself. Australians have always desired high levels of growth, in nil senses and, al the same time, price stability. I believe this has been, wise and sensible of them. Those are 3 difficult aims to achieve at the one time. This is a threelegged stool which is not easy to keep in balance. Other economies are not looking for the growth rates for which we are looking. Some are looking for high growth rates with low price stability. Some are looking for growth and stability without regard to employment. We are looking for all three. To manage all 3 at the one lime has called for considerable discipline and understanding and for substantial economic management.
What is the problem with the Austraiian economy? Firstly, there ‘ is a tremendous dependence on overseas trade and the vagaries of the world markets. Then there is the problem that a tremendous part of our production passes into overseas trade. This has posed a greater economic management problem for a country such as Australia than is faced by many other countries. The problems are our tremendous dependence on economic trade overseas and the fact that a great part of our production passes into the international market. That of itself is a difficult situation within which to operate an economic management scene. Then there is the great sensitivity to overseas trade patterns and overseas trade policies, our having to seek alternative markets quickly, having to adapt ourselves to change, living in a world which is developing into trading blocs, having to try to manage those trading blocs to our advantage, living within the changing patterns of world trade and having to realise that we are very much dependent upon the trade triangulation of Australia-Japan-United States-Australia in which all 3 sides of the triangle are out of balance. Perhaps the Australia-Japanese trade is out of balance., or the United States-Australian trade is out of balance, or the Japanese-United States trade is out of balance. But when those 3 trades are put together in a triangulation - nol a bilateral arrangement - they are found io be in balance. We have a great dependence upon the sensitivity of that trading triangle.
As time passes we are developing other trading operations, but that trading triangle means a great deal to us. Therefore we are extremely sensitive to the problems of the United Stales which is seeking, by monetary means, to overcome its adverse balance of payments problems. As somebody has well said, for one country to overcome its balance of . payments problems another country has to inherit some of those problems. In that sense we have a difficult monetary scene within which to live. In the monetary scene within which we live al present there is a remarkable stability of our currency within that scone. Despite what people here might choose to say, despite what economists in the market place might say and despite what people might write to newspapers, the real test is the total world opinion of the Australian economy unci of economic management as demonstrated by the strength of the Australian currency, and by the movement of capital toward Australia. One might not like to acknowledge that, but one cannot deny what it really means. What it really means is a high estimation of Australian economic management in the world monetary scene where capital flow is very sensitive. Overseas countries are probably more competent to judge good economic management than are some of the people who have been called up in the defence of what is said to be a bad economic position.
This country has immense problems associated with seasonal change and drought. It passes quickly from having a surplus of water in time of flood to having insufficient water. The country has years of drought in some parts while floods ravage other areas. This has always been the pattern of Australian life. It is a difficult country, in a seasonal sense, in which to manage stability of production. The changing base of Australia should be noted by those who are serious students of its future and its affairs. Essentially it began as a primary industry country, lt was almost totally a primary industry country. There was a quick change to mining. That produced a population growth. Out of this there was a gradual transfer to increased manufacturing, sustained and aided by 2 wars. Out of that there was a definite and significant transfer to a tertiary sector in the economy, produced by the higher living standards and the greater opportunities which arose out of the economic growth of the earlier phases. In latter years there has been a distinct transfer of resources and a distinct improvement in the- next development of the country, which is in the mining sector. During the years a much better balance in the Australian, economy has grown out of all this. The economy is much less susceptible to the problems of the world, to the vagaries ‘of the world, to the problems of the country’s seasons and the vagaries of those seasons.-
Once upon a time - most of us have lived through this time - -the vagaries of world monetary adjustment and world change in economic policy could have brought, and almost did bring, this country to its knees economically. We have lived through times much more critical than that and through much greater changes than that in the world scene. We. have managed to hold ourselves up quite, well in the process. I do not want to be part of a process that denigrates the economic management of this country through time. 1 do not think 1 am entitled to make that criticism. I do not think anybody else is entitled to make it. I think those who criticise, those who comment and those who make suggestions are not charged with the responsibility of managing the economy. Those who have been so charged for many years - I say “many years’ advisedly because the process has been going on for quite some time, before the advent of myself and others on the scene - have shown a remarkable capacity for discipline, restraint, control, management, use of resources and maintenance of a good Australian growth pattern, high employment rates, high growth rates and price stability, which has earned the admiration of many countries which, I think, are qualified to judge. I think that we have a country of which we can be quite proud economically. We should sustain that pride if we want lo sustain our country’s good fortunes. 1 have quoted certain figures on previous occasions. They are available for those who wish to study them. For those who may wish to involve themselves in this debate later I shall inform the Senate where they can be found. The latest Reserve Bank bulletin of October 1971 contains a lot of information which is helpful to those who are interested in this matter. To digress a little, I . am always quite delighted at the high rate of attendance in the Senate when there are debates and discussions which involve matters of economic and monetary policy. For a brief interval T shall engage upon an exercise involving a hobby horse of mine. I believe that economic policy and long term monetary considerations are fundamentally proper issues for the Senate. I think they move through a long period of years. It is my belief that the long term interest of the Australian people properly resides in the Senate. The examination of issues such as foreign policy, defence and economic policy, in my opinion, is very properly one to be conducted seriously, exhaustively and thoughtfully in the Senate. I will be quite happy if at the end of it all we emerge with a bipartisan view because what matters here is an understanding of the real issues that concern the Australian people, what 1 call the long term issues - the foreign policy issues, the defence issues and the economic policy issues. This is a proper chamber to think sensibly about these things with some degree of careful thought of the consequences. 1 am always very pleased to be involved.
– Do you believe in the principle of the Government issuing a White Paper on the economy?
– Speaking for myself, 1 am a great believer in the White Paper principle. Speaking for myself again, the problem I have is the limitation of time but in general I am a believer in that principle. In the October 1971 ‘Stastical Bulletin’ of the Reserve Bank of Australia at page 103 an article on international liquidity gives a table showing Australia’s reserve position. What is really interesting in this table is that within 3 years the Australian overseas reserve has doubled. The doubling of an international reserve within 3 years is quite a remarkable achievement. .
– Does it say where those build-ups come from?
– It . quotes the increase in gold, special drawing rights, gold tranche, US dollars, sterling and other foreign assets. It gives the tabulation and 1 will pass it on to Senator Byrne when I have finished with it.
– Are they export earnings or inflow of capital?
– They are export earnings in credit, inflow of capital equally, reinvestment of locally earned profits, depreciations retained and items of that character. It is not right to assume, as some commentators are assuming, that this is a content of what is called portfolio investment. There is no evidence to support that view at all; rather the contrary. 1 can produce these figures for honourable senators. In the sense that I engage in this debate, as I said earlier, I regard this as a very proper place, in view of the long term occupancy of members of the Senate, to think about these matters.
I refer again to the very notable expansion in the overall Commonwealth scene. In 1949-50 total Commonwealth receipts were $ 1,104m while this year they are $8,800m, a multiplication of 8 times. This is reflected in increased strength, stability, growth, opportunity and living standards of the Australian people. So the proposition that the promotion of ;the economy by an increase in the unemployment benefit and, as Senator Murphy adds, some social services, is a consequential factor to be considered. We have to analyse the expression ‘promotion of the economy’. What does it mean? And what would additional social services and unemployment benefit do to promote the economy, if it needs to be promoted, which I doubt? First of all, there is the issue of whether the economy needs promotion and whether this can be done appropriately by an increase in unemployment benefit, and other social services. 1 have some notes on the condition of the economy. Our gross national product has increased in current prices by 12 per cent since October 1970. There is continued strong growth in total private investment spending; it is up by 14 ner cent ia the year. There is a sharp recovery in public spending; there is a reduced rate of growth in wages, salaries and supplements; there is a recovery in the gross operating surplus of companies; there is a moderated and continued upward growth in consumer spending of 9i per cent in the year. With personal incomes running very high, the moderate trend in consumer spending has been reflected in very high personal savings. For example, savings bank deposits increased by S265m in the September quarter of 1971 compared with $l62m in the same quarter last year. This country is notable for financing its development from its own savings and we ought to acknowledge that. We should be proud of our people for they have done a remarkable job. Private investment spending continues to run very high. Building approvals sugget thai thi trend will continue for some time, while private housing approvals have been increasing. Non-residential approvals have been increasing also but costs and prices continue to rise very strongly. The present annual rate of price increase is 7 per cent per annum.
There are some hopeful signs developing but nonetheless, on a total volume of advice including both local advice from the Public Service, from advisers in banks, from a wide range of opinion in the private sector and from the information available from overseas, a considered Budget was brought down, lt was designed to keep the growth rate up, to maintain employment and at the same time to do something about price stability without which this country could find itself in really serious trouble. These are disciplines which arc upon the whole of the Austraiian people and hey should be properly led in these disciplines by an understanding in parliaments and this is what we are seeking to achieve in this debate. The labour movement did ease in September but the movement was not repeated in October. The October figures show an improvement. Very briefly 1 would like to quote the figures. Dealing with the recipients of unemployment benefit, in October last year there were 10,282 while this year in October there were 18,171. So we are discussing at present 8,000 people, because last year nobody complained’ about the position: We arc complaining now about S.000 people. 1 suggest that somebody who has more time later could work out what 8,000 people getting some extra income would do to an economy if that economy needed to be promoted, as is suggested, but which in the year of present examination is running at a figure for total Commonwealth receipts of $8,800m.
So while we are concerned about this we must talk in reality of what the real issues are. The number of registered unemployed which I have given to honourable senators is equivalent to 1.1 per cent of the estimated work force. I suppose this is one of the lowest figures available anywhere in the free world. Equally we should concede the problems of the rural industries, the problems of droughts in some areas. 1 attended a 4-day seminar on the economy recently and it was said by one of the people there: ‘Really and truly, if you analyse these figures you will find the unemployment problem this .vear as against last year can be the compound of the difficulties of drought in some rural areas’. And that is where it has occurred; the increase in unemployment can be isolated to those areas. I cannot quote the figures because this was a private seminar and, therefore, they were not available. But this was the calculation of a man of some skill in this field. We look at these problems as a government and say to ourselves: ‘In the present Australian context of independence and with a tough world marketing scene, price and cost inflation are the problems with which the Government must grapple. lt must be brave and strong enough to tackle them and do something about them’. That is what we have sought to do.
I will not take a lot more time in this debate. I understand the meaning of the motion. If it is any help to honourable senators, 1 refer them to pages 114 and 115 of the Reserve Bank’s ‘Statistical Bulletin’ which contain a table headed ‘Indicators of Economic Activity’ covering the whole of the Australian scene back to 1968-69, which is a short span of time. It will be seen that there is quite a remarkable expansion in our country. That expansion can only be sustained by sound economic policy, by wise actions and, when time calls for it, by the Government taking such action as the total volume of information available to the Government dictates is in the public interest even if al that time it might not be as popular as some people would like. An exercise in Government responsibility is not an exercise in popularity, lt is an exercise in responsibility. When 1 look at the total scene I say to myself, with respect to Sena’ or Murphy, that Senator Murphy seems to be looking for an economic calamity. He is a bit like a professional political mourner.
– As 1 listened to Senator Cotton I was reminded of Voltaire’s immortal character Pangloss whose slogan was: ‘All is for the best in the best of possible worlds’, lt is obvious that the Government remains unmoved by Senator Murphy’s eloquent plea for a reasonable standard of subsistence for the victims of the Government’s misguided economic policies. Apart from blaming our problems oh the seasons and on imponderable international occurrences, by way of reply to Senator Murphy’s carefully reasoned argument, we have had very little from Senator Cotton except a rather- philistine denigration of economists as such. Rather than attacking all economists he should have been honest enough to admit that in framing its Budget the Government had listened to the wrong economists.
How is the public to judge a government which says that $10 a week, eroded by a 6 per cent inflation, is sufficient unemployment benefit for a single man, or $18 a week is sufficient for a married couple, but which is prepared to pay out $300m in one year to prop up a dying industry merely to remain in office? It is estimated that $300m will be directed to the wool industry in this financial year in outright grants, loans, research allocations and promotion expenses. Yet it is the Australian Labor Party which is consistently accused by the Government and its spokesmen of being the spendthrifts of the public purse. But that is because instead of wanting to throw money away we advocate spending greater amounts of Government money on things such as health, education and, as we were advocating today, social services.
The Government says: This is unjustified and it will have no effect on the wellbeing of the economy because, after all, there will be only 100,000 or so persons unemployed in Australia in the next couple of months. So what is all the excitement about?’ That is also roughly the number of wool growers who are sharing the $300m to which I just referred. Many of them, such as the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), not to mention Goldsbrough Mort and Co. Ltd or Dalgety Australia Ltd,, are very far from the breadline, lt will, be interesting to observe the speed with which the legislation is introduced into this Parliament for the additional $30m wor.h of assistance for the Australian Wool Commission, an amount which the Leader of the Australian Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), was able to extract from the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) almost before he had time to unpack his squash racquets. This will be in striking contrast to the pleas of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) throughout the sittings, that legislation which he admits to be urgent is delayed by difficulties of draftsmanship. These difficulties apparently disappear when the Government dances to the tune of its coalition partner.
In allowing the County Party its head in squandering public money by refusing the eminently reasonable and economically sound and humanitarian proposals that have been put to the Senate by Senator Murphy, the Government stands exposed as a cynical sectional government which is using the public purse as a bribe, regardless of the consequences , for the nation. We are not debating the’ wool industry today, but t have cited the Government’s reaction in this regard merely by way of contrast with its inaction and its determination to perpetuate its inaction in the matter of unemployment benefits and pensions. lt illustrates also the hollowness of this Government’s claim that it is a responsible party when it comes to spending money while Labor is the party which would throw away the public’s money. Because it depends on the Country Party to stay in office, this Government will not face the fact that the only responsible way to spend money on the wool growers is in moving people out of the industry or into other forms of rural production.
But let me return to the matter of unemployment. No matter what Senator Cotton may say, all the signs are that the Government, in framing its Budget, was. badly advised and misread the economic indicators. Lt is generally agreed that the
Budget has not had time to bite yet and that the present drift in the employment situation is due to factors which were present when the Budget was being framed but which the Government chose to ignore. In short, if I may use a well worn phrase, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait till the deflationary Budget, which should have been expansionary, really takes effect. It is not necessary to rely on us for these dire predictions. The suggestion by Senator Cotton that Senator Murphy is a prophet of gloom who extracts these dire predictions from the top of his head, regardless of facts, just will not hold water. The Prime Minister himself, a couple of months ago, admitted that we could expect about 100,000 unemployed in January or February. Mr Snedden, the architect of this Budget, or rather the economic babe in the woods who put his signature to the documents that were put before him by his economic advisers, also admitted on the Australian Broadcasting Commission programme ‘Monday Conference’ on 1st November that the Treasury predicted higher and higher unemployment figures within the next couple of months.
The really disturbing aspect of recent unemployment figures is the ratio of vacancies notified in job applicants in each State. The economic writer, Christopher Jay. writing in yesterday’s ‘Financial Review’ estimated that as a rough rule of thumb an area where the vacancies-job applicant ratio is not below 0.80 has a reasonable employment situation, and concludes from the October statistics that none of the 6 Australian States is in a satisfactory employment position right now, quite apart from any possibility of matters worsening early next year’.
There are certain danger signals in the Australian economy and when Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shares drop below $10 and that giant corporation begins to curtail production, the danger bell is ringing loud and clear, even though this Government refuses to harken to it. The economic authorities who were cited by Senator Murphy are not to be sneered out of court by the Government or by the Treasury. As Senator Murphy pointed out, they should be listened to if only because, so far as the Budget is concerned, they have been proved right and the Treasury has been proved wrong. It is not sufficient, as Senator Cotton has attempted to suggest in what I described earlier as a rather Philistine approach, to cater to the feelings of some people by suggesting that all economists are some sort of joke and that to quote one set of economists against another is to engage in some sort of gimmickry. After all, who are the people down at the Treasury whom the Government listen to in framing its Budget? Are they not economists? I repeat that it is not enough to denigrate all economists. Let the Government frankly admit what has become clear to the financial writers in the daily Press and to many industrialists - and if Senator Webster insists upon my naming one of them 1 shall name Sir Ian McLennan, the general manager of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. There are many others if he chooses to look at the financial Press.
– What did he say, senator?
– I have not the quotation, but I can assure the honourable senator that he is just not reading the Press if he believes that there are no industrialists sounding a warning about the state of the economy. I should have thought that any honourable senator who would come into this chamber and suggest that there is an absence of warnings from industrialists would be admitting that he just does not read the newspapers. I do not need to labour that point because any honest man in this chamber would realise that the disquite about the economy is not confined to this side of the chamber and is not confined to financial writers but is spread right throughout the community.
The Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research, from whose publication Senator Murphy quoted at length, is the only body outside the Government that is producing a detailed regular survey of the economy. The Institute warned, prior to the Budget, of the signs of a downturn in the Australian economy. I commend its latest publication, the ‘Australian Economic Review’ of October 1971 to honourable senators who really want to know what is happening in the Australian economy, instead of being lulled into the false Panglossian optimism which we have had from the Prime Minister, the Treasury and, tonight, Senator Cotton. This document contains tables setting out actual figures from 1969 to today and projected into 1972. Some of its conclusions are very chastening. For example it states:
Real household demand grew by only 2.3 per cent in 1970-71, the lowest rate of growth since the 2.2 per cent growth of 1965-66. In 1970-71 the low real growth rate was accompanied by a 6.1 per cent rise in the implicit price index for household demand. This very low rise in real expenditure is expected to be repeated in 1971-72, allied with another very, high rise in prices of 6.5 per cent.
I do not need to remind honourable senators that with the natural increase in the working population and with the intake of migrants which, though reduced, will continue, the. drop in the absorption of new employees which is evident in the economy carries with it an ominous threat of increased unemployment. I ‘have already said that this threat has been acknowledged and predicted by this Government’s Prime Minister and Treasurer. It has become part of the conventional wisdom in this country that a major cause of inflationary problems is an excessive rate of growth of expenditure by governments. This precept, which is parroted in newspaper editorials - of course that means most editorials - is echoed by those who believe that all problems will be solved by sacking a few thousand public servants and cutting back on government expenditure. This belief is furthered by the spectacle of the Government throwing away money on sections such as the wool industry just to stay in office. The Labor Party does not believe in feather-bedding in the public service or in the subsidisation of uneconomic industries, no matter how hallowed by time and tradition.
– Is the honourable senator opposed to helping the wool industry?
– I am opposed to throwing the public’s money away. I want to know the reasons before $300m of public money is spent. Those reasons have not been given to me by the Government. We agree with Dr P. J. Sheehan of the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University who stated:
Nothing seems more obvious in Australia at present than that there is a great demand and need for sharply growing expenditures by both State and Federal Governments. The plight’ of many pensioners and others depending on welfare payments, the continuance of poverty on a disturbingly wide scale, the apparently . perpetual crisis in the schools and hospitals, the need for reconstruction in the farm sector- not hand-outs -
. these and many other facts show beyond doubt that Australia, like most other Western countries, urgently needs large outlays by the public sector.
In support of his theory that it is a deficiency rather than an excess of government spending which contributes to the low demand and therefore to recession, Dr Sheehan points out that in the years 1959 to 1971 there have been only 3 years in which the Commonwealth Budget approached surplus. The first year was 1960-71 which was the financial year which ushered in the recession of 1961 and which almost cost the Government its office. The last 2 financial years - 1969-70 and 1970-71- are the other 2 years. We are now witnessing a substantial slowdown. I respectfully commend to honourable senators the conclusion . drawn by Dr Sheehan. He stated:
It is a mistake, I maintain,, .to think that there is a clash between the requirements of economic responsibility and the social need for increased public sector spending on such’ things as schools, hospitals and the alleviation of poverty. Not only is there no clash, but an analysis on purely economic grounds suggests mat a short-fall in real government expenditure relative to the level of receipts is pushing the economy into recession, and so an increase in real government expenditure or a cut in taxation is required. It is rare, and fortunate, that economic and social, imperatives .so coincide.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The debate on this urgency motion has been something of a very real revelation to me. The Leader of: the Opposition (Senator Murphy) saw fit to bring forward an urgency motion. One would think therefore that as a matter of some great urgency the motion, would suggest in its wording, however ambiguous, that it should relate to all the factors in the postBudget economy and contain some suggestions as to the factors concerned and some suggestions as to their cures. In fact what we have before us tonight is a statement which does not in any way attempt to define the factors operating in the economy, either internally or externally. The Leader of the Opposition did not seek to introduce any range of suggested policies or reforms, other than a social service or unemployment benefit reform. There was a casual glance at the fact that we might consult Mr Dunstan of South Australia if we wanted a bag of tricks to help the economy. Mr Dunstan needs to do some consulting at the moment because the 2 Labor States of Western Australia and South Australia have far heavier unemployment rates than the east coast States. It looks as though the Opposition needs some help in this regard.
– What about Tasmania?
– -1 am sorry. Tasmania, because of its isolation, has singular problems, as Senator Murphy knows. But I am delighted that Senator Murphy acknowledges that, in fact, Western Australia has a 1.7 per cent unemployment rate compared with the New South Wales rate of 1 per cent. The Labor Party puts forward an urgency motion which one would expect would contain some analysis of the economy. Indeed, it has only a soup kitchen answer for the economy, and it is calamity howling at that. One was minded to wonder whether the notes to which the honourable senator referred were not exactly the same as the basic notes for the speech made for 21 years by the Labor Party in this place. I do not think that Senator James McClelland quite finished the book by Voltaire, because my recollection is that in the end the optimists prove right and the pessimists prove wrong. Indeed, for over 21 years the optimists have been right. I am not suggesting for one moment that there are not elements in the economy which do not need attention but 1 think the calamity howlers should be put in perspective al this moment. Another revelation tonight was the very remarkable division between the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber and the Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr Whitlam) on Mr McMahon’s visit overseas. I do not think that Mr Whitlam saw the journey as a pointless jaunt overseas.
If the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber believes that an invitation properly and urgently issued by the President of the United States should have been rejected and the resultant: journey be described as a pointless jaunt overseas, then he is entitled to use that definition. He is entitled: to that point entirely, but it is his definition. Equally if he warns to say that we find pleasure in the unemployment figures of today and so are not fit to lead, then he is condemning the Labor governments of the past, because proportionately the Labor governments of the past did far worse than we are doing now. His statement seemed something of a selfcondemnation. But what is the picture? The important point to remember is that in the last 4 years the percentage change in unemployment in Australia has been 0.2 per cent. It has varied between 1.1 per cent which is the figure now, 0.82 per cent in 1970, 0.78 per cent in 1969 and 0.91 per cent in 1 968. We are talking of a variation of 0.2 per cent and we are talking calamity! Incidentally we are talking of an unemployment rate of 1.1 per cent which compares with the United States, 5.8 per cent, Great Britain, 5.2 per cent, Canada, 7.1 per cent, Italy, 3.3 per cent and Sweden, 2.7 per cent. I notice that the Socialist States do not do so well in these matters.
I think it is important, particularly because of Senator James McClelland’s reference tonight to the wool industry, to remind this House that the composition of unemployment in this country today is 0.95 per cent in the capital cities and 1.5 per cent in rural areas, and that basically the unemployment is caused by the depression in the rural industries, particularly the wool industry. I hope that every wool farmer in Australia in his plight tonight, every member of their families, every person in a country town, every storekeeper and every farm worker has made a mental note that in the Labor Party’s terms the Government in injecting valuable credit for the wool industry is squandering money which should have been used for social services. I think it is quite important to note that.
– I did not convey that.
– 1 point out to Senator James McClelland that he adopts a nihilist approach to almost everything. Knowing what is wrong the only solution he could offer was social services. The real problem lies in the rural sector, as I have described. The Government has taken emergency measures to inject credit and that credit will not go to the wealthy wool growers. If it does go to a few of them it will go on to the stores, to the garages and the people in the country towns, and to the farm workers. In so doing, because of the velocity of the circulation of money, it will help to regenerate employment.
– For how many years will you continue to hand out this money?
– That is a typical side issue. Let honourable senators opposite come in on this matter. We are dealing with a work force in Australia of 5.62 million people and we have 62,330 unemployed. I wish the unemployment figure were half that size, but in any event, it is the best level in the world. If members of the Labor Party are genuine and want to reduce unemployment, and want to increase the real purchasing power of the Australian people’s money, while they cannot put forward a blueprint of policies to be helpful perhaps they could listen while we do so.
The very first thing that the Labor Party must do is to understand that in this community full employment will come when we reduce costs and increase productivity, lt will come when the Labor Party stops peddling class conflict and stops trying to make political capital by driving a wedge between management and employees. Employment will increase when the Labor Party attempts to reduce industrial unrest. One of the greatest factors today in unemployment has been caused structurally by the fact that in the last 3 years the rate of loss of days by strikes has trebled. I have not heard one member of the Labor Party speak of attempts to reduce the level of unrest, but by doing so the Labor Party could increase the purchasing power of the ordinary working person. I am not referring to the purchasing power of the manager or the boss but of the ordinary working person.
If the Labor Party really wants full employment in this country its first move should be to put on ice any action to gain a 35-hour week, which would destroy rural industries. If the Labor Party wants to help it will stop promoting and inciting political strikes. It will enter with the community into an attempt to increase productivity. Unless we reduce costs and increase productivity there will be unemployment in the community.
– Would you agree that price control would help in the moves that you say the Labor Party should take?
– As honourable senators know, but apparently Senator McLaren does not know, the Commonwealth Constitution does not permit price control. It would be necessary to hold a referendum. Secondly, in the countries in which price control has been tried it has failed. 1 suggest that Senator McLaren should invite Mr Dunstan and Mr Tonkin to go ahead and try price control.
– In South Australia there is a form of price control.
– That is so. and in South Australia and Western Australia there is a higher rate of unemployment than in the eastern States.
– You cannot fairly blame price control for unemployment in Western Australia as there is no price control there.
– But there is a Labor Government in Western Australia and it does not have the panaceas. We are facing at this moment a series of crises on the international level but this has not been referred to tonight. It is hard to believe that the Leader of a responsible Labor Party would speak in this debate without a major reference io the currency crisis.
– I did refer to it.
– I said ‘a major reference’. 1 would have expected the Leader of a responsible Labor Party to describe the impact that that currency crisis has bad on the United States of America and Japan and the effect it has had in producing a lack of confidence overseas in investments. It is a miracle that despite these things the inflow of capital into Australia is at a record high level, as is the level of our overseas balances. Until recently the rise in industrial costs in this country was the lowest in the industrial world. If we are to produce a blueprint for success, if we want to help the wage and salary earners to get larger pay packets, greater purchasing power and to share in a genuine way in the profits, our task is to work together on a plan that will reduce industrial unrest to a minimum and expose class conflict as an ugly and fallacious thing.
We need a plan for increased productivity, a plan that will preach to the trade unionists and everybody in Australia that we are a team, on the farms and in the cities. We would not have the abhorrent spectacle we have had tonight of attacks on the farming community. Let me make it abundantly clear that no person can be safely employed in secondary industries in our cities unless the farming community, including the wicked farmers and the big wool growers, is prosperous. Unless they continue to earn 50 per cent of our export earnings the money will not be available to buy the goods, services, machinery and plant that serve to employ the people in the cities and there will be no employment in the cities.
The greatest display of ignorance of the Labor Party on this issue is in the fact that even as between city and country the Labor Party is almost incredibly divisive. It regards country people as a lol of wealthy wool growers, lt is an almost incredible situation. Today the farmers are struggling and they and the people in the towns depend entirely upon the margin on costs. I believe it is sad that the motion was nol wider and was not developed in a more thoughtful way in terms of the ingredients and pressures on us, both internally and externally, lt is almost unbelievable that the Labor Party has adopted a soup kitchen approach as a solution. I invite the Senate to look to the constructive elements of teamwork in the community, particularly in increased productivity. Unless we do so we will suffer unemployment. If productivity is increased, pay packets will be bigger and employment will be increased.
– We of the Australian Democratic Labor Party would have preferred to discuss this proposition couched in a more worthwhile motion, but that is not our prerogative because a motion has been placed before us as a matter of urgency here tonight. The ambit of the motion, of course, allows for little concentration on some of the major problems of the economy because of the broad terms in which it has been cast. The motion refers to the promotion of the economy and the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in the unemployment benefit. Achieving the 3 ret part of the proposition may render the second part unnecessary. If we attempt to say that we are competent politicians at least we ought to tackle the first part of the proposition and promote the economy and therefore prevent action on the second part of it becoming necessary. There has been no major increase in the unemployment figures in this country at this time although there seem to be clear indications that this could happen if steps are not taken to prevent it.
The matter of social services is attached to the motion. Everybody knows the points of view of the Democratic Labor Party and other parties in this House about this subject because we have discussed them throughout the Budget debate. Why social services should become an urgent .natter again a couple of weeks later, and why the subject is tied to the economy in general and to unemployment benefits, makes one wonder whether this matter has been brought before the Senate for the purpose of achieving something or for the purpose of again highlighting the divisions in the Labor Party.
I must make reference to the two entirely contradictory statements I have heard the two Labor Party leaders make in the last 2 days when opening a debate on the same subject. I refer firstly to the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam. He opened the Opposition’s case in a debate on a visit abroad by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) by saying:
I agree with the Prime Minister that it -vas valuable for Australia that he and so many senior Australian officials should have had the opportunity for talks with persons, and at places, and in times so close to these commanding events. I am not among those who criticise the Prime Minister either for his timing, his itineray cr his entourage.
The Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Murphy, when introducing his proposition, said that it was the height of folly for the Prime Minister to leave this country at this time; that he should not have left the shores of Australia but should have stayed here in Canberra and devoted all his attention to the economy of the nation and thus prevented the development of the tragic events that Senator Murphy envisages. I think it would be to the benefit of everybody if there was a little more consultation between the two Leaders of the Opposition before wc <* rc asked to debate particular propositions. If there was disunity on the simple question of whether the Prime Minister should or should not have gone abroad there could not be a good deal of unity on other propositions. We are not too certain whether this proposition we are debating would be supported by the Opposition in the other place.
In an analysis of the economy of this nation by the Leader of the Opposition and in his criticism of the Government 1 would have expected to receive from him more worthwhile information to add to the criticisms already offered very strongly by honourable senators silting in this corner of the chamber about the management of our economy in the last few years in particular. I would like to have heard him concentrate more on what we consider is one of the major causes of economic problems. I refer to the unbridled way in which the Government has promoted the increase in the interest rate, lt was interesting to find that only 2 nights ago the Liberal Premier of Victoria put his finger on exactly the same cause. 1 agree with the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Colton, that people involved with economics certainly disagree with many of the causes of inflation and depressions. But at least, apparently, we have unanimity of economic thinking on the part of the Democratic Labor Party and one of the hardpressed Premiers because the Victorian Premier was honest enough to say that if the Government could get the interest rate back to 5 per cent - and it was the Government which deliberately promoted its increase beyond that point - many of the problems flowing from this aspect would be solved and this would make a major contribution to the alleviation of the other problems in the Australian economy today. I wholeheartedly agree with him and 1 think economic history agrees with him. Today’s economic thinking and, I am sure, economic thinking in the future will prove that he is right, that a lot of our problems today arise from the fact that the Government has falsely tried to control an inflationary spiral in this country by the deliberate application of gradual increases in interest rates.
By that 1 do not mean that there should be a sudden reversal of this particular programme and that a huge margin should be slashed off the interest rate overnight. This is one thing that economists, amateurs or professionals, politicians or others, would agree on that you cannot make two rapid changes of a major nature in any economy, without suffering severe repercussions that are of no use to anybody at all. We are pleased to see that the Government has begun to turn the wheel the other way so far as interest rates are concerned and is gradually reducing them. We commend that idea. We hope that as a major measure in the balancing of the Australian economy that procedure will be gradually followed until interest rates are reduced to a more reasonable figure so that they will cease to place pressure on the price levels as they have been doing in the last 3, 4 or 5 years.
Many things have contributed to the economic problem of inflation that we have known up to date. Many of them are hidden and there is no one simple cure. One of the things that promotes an inflationary spiral is the application of the means test to pensions. Application of a means test forces the spending of a lifetime’s savings by people who have been hard working and reasonably well to do. Such people are faced with a basic injustice with the approach of old age because they have priced themselves out of receiving the benefits that are available to others. Therefore they rapidly spend in a short period of time an accumulation of savings that represents the work of a lifetime. That contributes to inflation. Honourable senators can produce the best economists in the world if they like to argue with me on this point but that is a businessman’s approach to inflation. Any sudden demand - and demand can be expressed only by money - that is pushed on to the market to buy the goods available is an inflationary pressure.
If the means test were alleviated this would do more to assist in controlling inflation than a sudden infusion of increased purchasing power amongst other pensioners. I am not suggesting that I am against giving pensioners more purchasing power at this time; I am merely drawing the comparison to show that one course can be far more inflationary than the other. Alleviation of the means test would persuade many people to hold on to their savings rather than to rush in and spend them, often on unnecessary things, merely to get rid of them in order to be eligible, for the pension. Action along these lines would be a slightly deflationary’ measure. We commend this sort of thinking to the Government and ask it to be positive on the question of inflation.
Undoubtedly strikes, particularly industrially useless political strikes, contribute to inflation. Some people may favour strikes for industrial purposes, as I do. Some may favour them for political purposes, but I do not. But whatever the purposes of a strike and no matter who favours them or does not favour them, this has nothing to do with the fact that they are inflationary. Anything that causes a cessation of the flow of goods to the market to meet the money and credit that is there waiting to buy them causes price increases and a tendency to inflation. That is another aspect that everybody should recognise as factual. If people want strikes, particularly if they want unnecessary political strikes, if they want to close down the big cities of this country for one day moratoriums and thereby reduce the number of working days in a year, they have to be prepared to pay in terms of increased prices and an inflationary spiral. Nothing will change that, no words of mine or any high sounding phrases uttered by any honourable senators in this place. That is an economic fact of life.
– Your audience is going home.
– That does not concern me at all. It may concern Senator Wheeldon that there is no audience here. I imagine there are hundreds of thousands of people listening tonight to the radio and they will be able to judge what I say and what the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy, said on the question of inflation. I leave it to them to judge who is talking commonsense and who is indulging in a lot of political ballyhoo. If Senator Wheeldon has no worthwhile contribution, other than to draw my attention to the gallery,, let me say that galleries may concern members of the Labor Party but we of the Democratic Labor Party are here to do a job for- Australia. That is all we are concerned about doing at the moment.
On the question of the alleviation of the suffering that is caused by unemployment, I wish to place before the Senate some figures on a comparison between the unemployment benefits and minimum wages paid in the last 10 years. I did a little research on this matter. I found that in 1960 the minimum wage, based on the figures for the 6 State capitals which give an average throughout Australia, was S27.60 a week. In 1971 the minimum wage, based on an average of the figures for the 8 capital cities in Australia, is $46.60 a week. Those figures show an increase of $19 a week in the minimum wage. One could suggest for the purposes of the argument that the minimum wage is supposed to keep a man, his wife and one child. In 1960 a married man with one child received $12.25 a week in unemployment benefits. In 1971 the figure has climbed to $19.50 a week. So the increase in unemployment benefits is $7:25 as opposed to the increase of $19 in the minimum wage.
I suggest that there would not be anybody in this chamber who would not’ say that a genuinely unemployed person who wants to work - noi a person who is permanently unemployable or deliberately unemployable because he is attending demonstrations half the time and is on employment relief - needs to receive about the minimum wage in order to keep his wife, his child and himself decently. In view of the fact that the minimum wage has increased by $19 a week and the unemployment benefits for a man, his wife and one child have increased by only $7.25 a week, we members of the Democratic Labor Party suggest that, if there i to be any increase at all - or even if there is not to be any increase - in the numbers of genuinely unemployed people who want to work and who are desirous of keeping themselves and not becoming a drain on the community, that increase of $7.25 a week over the last 10 years should be looked at very seriously by the Government. The present rate is not enough -o keep a family that finds itself in the situation of temporary unemployment on the standard on which we all would expect an honest, hard working family to be kept in this community. lt is obvious that the inflation, that has bedevilled our economy in the last 10 years has not been kind at all to the person who is genuinely unemployed for a period of time. It may be argued that this is one of the inflationary tendencies in the community and that the matter cannot be dealt with on the basis of a comparison between unemployment benefits and wages. It is a fact that today more than ever before there are 2 incomes going into many families because wives work. That in itself, without judging the rights or wrongs of whether wives should work - that is their own business - gives a family in which both the husband and the wife work much more money to spend and therefore much more money with which to contribute to an inflationary tendency.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senators time has expired.
– When the leader of one of Australia’s great political parties brings a matter of urgency to the Senate, I think members of the public are entitled to believe that he will be able to present that matter of urgency in terms that they can understand, that he will be capable of instancing the problems that exist in the community and certainly that he will be able to state those measures which he regards as solutions to the problems that he says beset the community. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has brought before the Senate a matter of urgency which commences with these words: “The promotion of the economy’. When one reflects on those words one wonders what a man with a legally trained mind really means in using them. I think Senator Murphy may have some regrets in that respect. We imagine that what he means is that at the present time the economy needs some fillip and he hopes that that will be provided in such a way that both business and labour forces will see a much brighter future for the Australian economy than members of the public in general are seeing at the present time.
Senator Murphy went on to make a purely political point in his speech by stating that an unnecessary amount of misery was created by processes of this Government. Again one can only wonder whether he was genuine in what he was saying and has a true sympathy for those who are unemployed at the present time or whether he was attempting to make a political point. Those who have spoken for the Opposition on this matter certainly fall into the latter category. Senator James
McClelland spoke of ‘victims of the Government’s misguided economic management’.
- Senator Cavanagh says: ‘Shocking’. Of course, we see an Opposition which has had no power in this country for more than 20 years. In the years I have been in this place members of the Opposition have never on any previous occasion - 1 challenge any member of the Opposition to say to the contrary - pleaded for the payment of higher unemployment benefits to the unemployed in the community.
– It has been mentioned on numerous occasions in Budget debates. I have raised it myself. Probably you were not here. You have been here for only 24 hours.
- Senator Poke is attempting to make a speech. He is quite right in that he has been here for many years. He knows what it is to be in Opposition because he has been there for 22 years. When he speaks he is able to refer to all the words he has ever spoken about unemployment benefits. The reason is that there has not been any unemployment in the Australian community in 22 years. In fact the management of the Australian economy has been such that those who have been anxious to work have been able to find employment in this community.
Today the Opposition brings forward a matter of urgency and says that its solution to the current problems is ‘the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in unemployment benefits’.
– And other social services.
– Let me say for Senator Murphy’s benefit that he made the only positive contribution by saying that he would support a policy of higher unemployment benefits, without stating exactly what that meant. He said that the unemployment benefits should be lifted to the level of a modest living wage. That is the Australian Labor Party’s basic contribution to the solution of the difficult situation that confronts us today.
The Opposition - perhaps correctly for an Opposition - has made no reference to the international situations which affect the
Australian economy today and which also affect every other country. I did not hear Senator Murphy mention the situation that exists in any other like country. Perhaps it is a matter for congratulation of the Australian Government or perhaps this community is very lucky, but certainly we have noi the unemployment rate that exists in any other like economy. The United States of America, as has been mentioned, has an unemployment rate of very nearly 6 per cent. In Britain the position is similar. 1 wonder what the Socialists did when they were in power in Britain not so long ago. They had an unemployment rate of approximately 5 per cent. What were the comments at that time from the members of a Socialist government? They maintained during the whole of their power in Britain an unemployment pool of something in the vicinity of that figure. That is something which this anti-Socialist Government would not stand for in the Australian community. Indeed, this Government has demonstrated for 22 years that it will pursue a policy of maintaining as full a position of employment as is possible in this community.
The cry wolf situation which the Opposition put forward is in relation to the present unemployment rate of 1.1 per cent in respect of which some 18,000 individuals are drawing the unemployment benefit. To me that is a serious situation. I would like everybody to be fully employed. 1 have some experience of the attitudes of the business sector and the labour force. This labour force is well supported by the altitudes of the official Labor Party in this place. Business is faced today, as it has been during the last 3 or 4 years, with a progressively increasing strike attitude, in order to advance the demands of what the labour forces require in the community.
One of the bases of the problem which we see in the Australian community today, and indeed one of the points which are conducive to unemployment, is the enormous escalation in wage rates which has occurred within the last 15 to 18 months. As has been mentioned by many senators, during the period from September 1970 to February last there was a wage rise of from 21 per cent to 24 per cent in various classifications of employment. No business can stand such a. rise for very long. Business must be able to gain increased productivity - extra output - in order to be able to cope with the huge wage demands that have been imposed on it. Senator Murphy kindly referred to the ANZ Quarterly Review and took from it some points he described as relating to advertisements which appeared for those- positions which may be available in the labour market. I quote from the ANZ Quarterly Review for July 1971 which refers to labour costs. The document states:
Rising wages are an obvious cause of concern, as they have a direct and immediate impact on costs and are a large proportion of total costs in all economic activities. While prices continue to rise as a result of increased labour costs, there will be a vicious circle. Higher wages result in higher costs, which must be passed ‘ on in higher prices to the extent that they cannot be absorbed by greater efficiency.
Perhaps we have heard over the period criticism of some of our great organisations. 1 instance the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd as one example of this. The Australian Labor Party had a great run on BHP not so long ago. The fact that BHP has had to suggest that there will be stand-downs has prompted the Labor Party to give some thought to this matter. If one looks at the average wage rises or the average increase in wages paid by BHP to its employees over the last 10 years, one can see that the annual increase is by 6.4 per cent.
– Not enough.
– From that comment we get an idea of the attitude of the alternative government. The consumer price index during that period rose by 3 per cent per annum. The price of BHP steel in the same period increased by 1.4 per cent.
– What about the surcharge the company put on?
– It put up the price by 6 per cent in one hit.
– I have just indicated that wages had risen by 23 per cent. I think that the facts are clear. Perhaps it is the Labor Party’s wish that there should be total socialisation in this community. I would be one who would see us benefiting by private enterprise. But here we see an instance where a great industry has been able to increase wages by approximately 6 per cent over the last 10 years whilst the price of its products have only increased by a little over 1 per cent over that period.
We should be greatly pleased when we compare our society with those of overseas countries. The Leader of the Opposition has criticised the overseas mission of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). The benefits derived from tours such as this are impossible to evaluate. But I hope that whoever happens to be in power in this country will take the opportunity to see that he makes himself well known to other countries, particularly those which have an association with our economy. I believe that tours such as the one just undertaken by the Prime Minister are most important. The Leader of the Opposition in another place toured China not long ago. We heard no comment or criticism of the expenditure on or the benefit that was obtained from that venture. It is interesting to note, as I point out for the benefit of the Opposition, that the average worker in China earns approximately 12c for each hour of the day he works. In Japan which has a private enterprise system, the income is 80c per hour. In Australia a worker receives an average $1.80 an hour. He is certainly much better off living in the political climate brought about by this type of government than under conditions which members of the Opposition claim they could offer.
We have in Australia a particularly fine society and during the time this Government has been in office we have had very little reason to be alerted to the problems of unemployment. This is because we have had a government which is ever alert to see that the unemployment situation is held in control. But not one mention was made by Senator Murphy or by Senator James McClelland, who was the second speaker for the Opposition, about the problem of inflation in the community. As I read th. problems of the economy of Australia it is more important that we should control inflation for the benefit of the worker, for the benefit of business and for the benefit of the individual living in retirement on a fixed income while the value of our dollar decreases. Certainly another important consideration is our primary industries. The most wonderful congratulations are due to the Government for the assistance which it has given during the last few years to that section of society. We have heard tonight, and we hear in Senator Poke’s questions every day in this place, criticism of the wool industry, criticism of the rural industries and criticism of this Government for the assistance that it has given the rural industries. I sincerely hope that those who are involved in a rural industry - those who live beyond the great metropolitan areas of this country - will see that they have a government that is interested in their problem compared with what we have heard from Senator Murphy and Senator James McClelland today. I think that such a comparison is beyond description.
I feel that an industry such as the wool industry should not have the finger pointed at it because it is able to obtain some S80m of support from the Federal Government and at the same time gain support from private industry. If there were $S00m available from this Government to the wool industry within the next year it certainly would not bc sufficiently large. But I put this proposition to the Senate-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable member’s lime has expired.
– I enter this debate because of the seriousness with which I look at the Australian economy. I want to make some short replies to some of the speakers who have taken part in this debate. As usual, Government speakers constantly attack the workers. They say that the workers are to blame for everything that happens in this country. Senator Webster rounded off his speech by saying that Labor Party senators constantly criticise the wool industry.
– Hear, hear!
– Labor senators have not on one occasion, Senator Webster, criticised the wool industry. We have criticised the policy of the Government towards the wool industry. We say frankly now that the Government is throwing dough down the drain every day with its policies. Its policies are not the cure for the industry at all. Senator Webster talked about the high percentage of employment over the 22 years that the Government has been in office. He is a bit wet behind the cars because he forgets what happened in 1961-62 when 3.5 per cent of the work force was unemployed as the result, and a direct result, of Government policies. In order to cure the economy the Government deliberately set out to create unemployment, just as it is setting out to create unemployment today, lt is not doing it on such a large scale as in 1960-61 because it was nearly defeated in the 1961 election. It is a little more cautious now. If Senator Webster wants to examine the record of unemployment let him do so, because that is what he will find.
– You should examine it under the Labour Government in Britain. I hope you will say something about that.
– I would tell Senator Webster a little about that if I had time but all I will say to him in the first instance is that Mr Wilson was not in government more than 6 weeks before the international banks had to finance him to the extent of £3,000m in order to get him out of the debt created by the financiers who tried to destroy the socialist government in England. Within 6 weeks they tried to destroy the Government. There are more ways than the ballot box of destroying a government.
Senator Carrick spoke about 1.5 per cent unemployment in Western Australia where there is a Labor Government and only 1 per cent in New South Wales. He said also that the Western Australian Government and the South Australian Government should be asked to implement price control. Senator Carrick is an old stager in the Liberal Party. He well knows that the conservative parties and their supporters in 1949 spent £2m on propaganda to defeat a prices referendum. They told the people of that day that the States would be able to control prices. The States today cannot even agree on the time of day let alone conduct a proper price control policy. If a price control policy is to be conducted it must be conducted from the Federal sphere, but this Government, while it allies itself to everything that will cost money along with the American policy, is not. prepared to adopt President Nixon’s policy of placing a freeze on wages and prices. That is out of order because it would hit the people who pay the bills.
– Do you advocate wage control?
– I advocate price control, yes. We have always had price control. In 1904 a non-Labor government passed an arbitration Act to control wages, and there has always been control. Do not talk to me about the fact that there is greater unemployment in Western Australia than there is in New South Wales. It is a direct result of policies adopted by this Government. Unemployment is not the responsibility of the Western Australian Government at al! but the responsibility of the Federal Liberal-Country Party Government. 1 invite the attention of honourable senators to the’ great primary industries party, the little hillbilly corner, that supports primary industries in the areas where its candidates get the value of 2 votes for one in the city. That is why they are able to come back to this Parliament with 20 members on 10 per cent of the votes. But when it comes to the primary industry of gold mining where do they stand? Are they interested in it at all? Of course they are not. Everyone knows about the S300m for the wool industry, the millions that we pour into the wheat industry and the millions that we will have to pour into the fruit industry. For the sake of $2. 5m per year the gold mines in Kalgoorlie could be kept open. But Country Party supporters will not support that proposition because it does not return a hillbilly to hillbilly corner.
I do not know whether there are other people in this community who have driven through the desolation of closed down mining towns, but I was in Wittenoom Gorge 2 days before the announcement of the close down of the blue asbestos mine. The day that I was in Wittenoom Gorge the homes of the workers we’re valued at $3,000; 2 days after I left they could not get $50 for them. I was in Wiluna when the Wiluna mine closed down. At that time houses that were valued at $6,000 could not be sold for $50. Through its policy of refusing to support the gold mining industry the Country Party is deliberately creating an unemployment situation in Kalgoorlie. It is not only creating an unemployment situation but also destroying a city. It will create an unemployment pool of 1,500 skilled miners plus all those people in the associated service industries. Where will these people go? They will have to go to the metropolitan area to get employment. There is no alternative employment in the Kalgoorlie district. lt is not a bit of use the Government talking about the nickel industry being able to take up the slack. There are only about 2 nickel mines working, and only one of these, the Western Mining Corporation Ltd, is operating on a large scale. Great Boulder is purchasing some nickel front Scotia and another company is producing some from Napier on a small scale. But there is only one big mine, and it is unlikely that another big mine capable of absorbing a number of workers will be opened up within the next 5 years. Yet this Government will allow those mines to be closed down for the sake of $2.5m a year. lt pours money into the rural industries. 1 do not object to the rural people getting assistance. 1 think that they have earned some assistance, but 1 think that they have earned some assistance based on properly directed policies and not the policies that are being pursued by the Government. As 1 have said before, the Australian Wool Commission is an absolute failure. I do not know what it will cost in the long run. The rural reconstruction scheme is an absolute failure. The Government’s wool deficiency payments scheme will never benefit the small grower but, in the main, only the big grower and the broker. The leader of the Country Party frankly admits that subsidies usually go to the people who least need them. So with the policies that the Government is pursuing with respect to the rural industries, particularly the wool industry, I say that there is a deliberate attempt by this Government to create unemployment. 1 refer in particular to the gold mining industry. I have had experience of mining towns closing down. There is no warning and the mines do not open again. Once a mine gets flooded that is the end of it. It is not opened up again. The owners can, if they like, open up very costly new shafts and leave barriers between them and the water, but it is a very difficult and expensive job to reopen any mine. Is it expected that the mine owners will keep on a caretaker shift in order to keep the mines ready to be opened? Because of the miserable policy of the United States, with its fictitious price of gold at SUS35 per ounce, are the mine owners to be left in the position of having to have caretakers in their mines until the American Government settles its monetary differences with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics so that any increase in the price of gold will not boost the economy of the USSR? This is the thinking behind the strangulation of the price of gold. Until such time as the Government looks at what effect that policy is having in Western Australia it ill behoves a senator from New South Wales to say that because there is a Labor government in Western Australia there is greater unemployment in that State. I think the senator should apologise for having made that statement. A similar statement was used by Sir David Brand and Mr Charles Court iti the Ascot by-election, but it did not get them anywhere.
Western Australian merchants and traders have a trade of SI Om with the Northern Territory, particularly with Darwin. For a number of years they have serviced the port of Darwin through the State shipping service. The Western Australian Government finds that it is unable to continue the service through to Darwin and, for economic reasons, it must cease running that part of the service from 31st December. The State Government has repeatedly asked the Commonwealth for assistance to continue that service. TheCommonwealth Government has repeatedly refused to give that assistance. Only last night I learned that the Australian National Line has a ship that it can operate from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to Darwin. That Si Om trade from Western Australia will be transferred to the eastern seaboard. When it is transferred another large group of workers in Western Australia will be out of employment. The unemployment being created is being created deliberately by this Government.
– This matter of urgency is not a subject for heated debate but one for calm consideration and assessment. Let us keep our feet on the ground and keep values in right and reasonable perspective. The matter of urgency raised by Senator Murphy - namely, the promotion of the economy and the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in unemployment benefits and other social services - is one that I think we have to look at calmly, coolly and constructively. Basic to the whole matter is the state of our economy. All forms of social service provisions are related directly to the capability of the economy to provide them. Currently approximately one-third of our national budget is devoted to social welfare in some form or other. The economy has to have the ability to provide better conditions. We should pull together to ensure a greater bowl from which we may draw. Do not let us get the idea that suddenly we have before us an insuperable situation which we have to take panic station action to meet. That is not so. Australia has progressed remarkably. Today the figures, which I will quote in a moment, show that we have not the situation which calls for the urgency indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). Let us look firstly at the situation in regard to present unemployment in Australia. Currently 1.7 per cent of our work force is unemployed. In the United States the figure is 6.2 per cent. In the Federal Republic of Germany it is 1 per cent, which is the lowest in the world. In Japan it is 1.3 per cent. Let me compare the situation in Australia.
– Will you be in employment on Christmas Day and will you be happy?
– I have every respect and sympathy for those who are in distress. What hurts me is this: This matter of urgency contains a suggestion that our economy is in a bad way.
– Of course it is, and you know it.
– It is not. It is one of the best economies in the world, and the honourable senator knows that. Our living standards-
– You had a 3-course meal tonight. People are starving tonight. Are you happy about that?
– Senator Keeffe knows that I would not grind people into the ground - on the contrary. I am endeavouring to say that Australia has an economy of which we should be proud. If we apply ourselves assiduously and correctly to our task we can work our way out of any difficulty which may be with us at present.
– What about the people without a job? What about the people who are starving?
– People in Australia are not starving, nor are they cold through lack of clothing. It is a matter of pulling together to ensure a better situation for everybody. Only by the combined effort of all can we achieve this. We are achieving this.
– You caused it, and you know it.
– I am proud of the situation that has been caused by 25 years of Liberal-Country Party Government in Australia. As a nation we have advanced as no other nation has advanced in the history of modern, progressive societies, and the honourable senator knows that.
– You said that you are proud of people being without a job.
– I understand that a member of the Australian Labor Party once said that 5 per cent unemployment is full employment. Our policy is full employment in the true meaning of the term. I will quote to my friend Senator Keeffe the figures on unemployment in Australia since 1964. In 1964, the figure was 1.4 per cent. In 1965 it was 1.3 per cent. In 1966 it was 1.5 per cent. In 1967 is was 1.6 per cent. In 1968 and 1969 it was 1.5 per cent. In 1970 it was 1.4 per cent. In 1971 it was 1.7 per cent. Can the honourable senator say that the Government goes out of its way to create unemployment? It has maintained one of the best levels of employment in the world. If he were honest he would admit that. At present 62,330 of the Australian work force are unemployed. This figure is as at October. The figure is less than it was in June. We are moving into a full employment situation again. Nobody can deny this. In my opinion, the attitude of the Opposition, as shown in this matter of urgency, is a most negative one. Here are the seeds of philosophy which, if allowed to germinate and grow, would ruin all that we as an aggressive individualistic people have attained through our rather brief history. We have achieved things. We have worked our way out of difficulties We can continue to do so in future if we are prepared to be honest in our attitudes.
– Why don’t you be honest?
– I am horrified that in the situation in which Australia is - the best country in the world, with one of the strongest economies in the world - 1 hear these prophets of gloom suggesting that we are not progressing as we should and that there is a fantastic chasm in front of us. In my opinion, such suggestions are irresponsible, totally undesirable and dangerous because they are destroying confidence. Who was seeking to destroy confidence? Senator Keeffe was. He is doing a great disservice to our nation when he adopts this attitude.
– You sound like John the Baptist.
– I am speaking the truth as I see it. I hate the decrying of our national effort which has achieved such great and good things up till now, and this effort can continue. But if honourable senators opposite begin to sow seeds of doubt we will go down the drain, very quickly. Confidence is vital to our economy and Senator Keeffe knows it. Senator Keeffe, who has been calling across to me a lot tonight, knows that at the present time there is intense international competition for the provision of goods and services for markets for which we have to compete in other countries. Yet he advocates a 35- hour week. I wonder whether he considered the cost to our economy of this proposal and how it would be detrimental to our ability ‘o provide for those who are recipients of social services. He glibly espouses the 35-hour week as the wonderful situation to which we are aspiring at tha present time. The cost of a 35-hour week in Australia would be $l,500m to $2,000m.
– What has that to do with the motion before the Senate tonight? Nothing.
– The whole proposition is that the state of the economy is basic to our ability to do the things that we desire and that Senator Brown desires to do for the recients of government assistance. The whole range of assistance is based on the economy and the Opposition would ruin the economy with its attitudes in regard to shorter working hours. The cost per unit of production is vital to our welfare and any action which would be detrimental to our ability to keep our costs down and retain our competitive position on overseas markets would undoubtedly in my opinion destroy what the Opposition seeks to achieve for the betterment of our social services. Here are a few of the economic indicators at the present time. Our gross national product in current prices increased by 12 per cent since the September quarter of 1970. Is that retrogression? Are things becoming bad when we see the gross national product increasing to this extent at a time when we all know that our rural industries generally, and particularly wool, are involved in a difficult situation? There is a continued strong growth in total private investment spending of up to 14 per cent in the year. There has been a sharp recovery in public spending, both capital and current, after the restraints of June. Finance is extremely finely balanced. I would hate to see the bull in a china shop attitude towards financial direction which would prevail if honourable senators opposite were on the treasury bench. It would be a shocking situation.
There has been a reduced rate of growth in wages, salaries and supplements. It is up 15 per cent compared with 16i per cent for the June quarter last year. There has been a recovery in the gross operating surplus of companies. It is up 6 per cent before the June and September quarters of this year. There has been a continued moderate growth in consumer spending. It is up 9i per cent. We find that our savings bank deposits are at an all time record level which indicates that there is an ability in the community to put money aside tor a rainy day. I hope that principle, that responsibility and preparedness to do that continues because it is basic thrift and care which has been the background to our ability to have a stable society and a responsible attitude towards life in general. All these matters do not add up to a situation which requires, as Senator Murphy suggests, panic action at this stage to remedy our economic position. We have now some 8,000 more recipients of unemployment benefits than last year. I wonder how genuine the Leader of the Opposition is when he suggests that the economy and our ability to provide for our people would be affected by any increased payment to the 18,171 recipients of unemployment benefits. In our whole attitude towards the economy we have to be prepared to put value into our work. A small increase in productivity would do much more for the economy than can be done by a hand-out to any part of our society.
I have no doubt that we can work our way out of any problems we have in Australia if we base our approach on sound foundations, such as we now have. These are the result of firm and sound policies through the years and are based on the assessment that there is no stationary situation but, only one of progress. If the bowl is enlarged all of us may benefit and it will allow us to do what the Leader of the Opposition suggests should be done in social services.
– It is important to remind the Senate of the motion that is before it for consideration this evening. It is essential for me to do this because of the display of semantics and the balderdash I have listened to from honourable senators on the Government side and on the cross benches since this debate commenced. The motion seeks the promotion of the economy and the relief of unnecessary distress by the immediate increase in unemployment benefits and other social services. This motion is timely, appropriate and justified because I doubt very much whether any responsible person, even on the Government side of this chamber, would not be prepared to concede that the current state of the economy gives rise to grave concern. During the debate on the Budget members of the Australian Labor Party were charged with being prophets of doom because of this assessment of the Budget. We expressed the view that amongst other things unemployment would rise to and remain at a high level. The Opposition also pointed out that because of the Government’s failure to deal with profit inflation the social service payments which were being increased by the Budget would be literally valueless in a short space of time. There is no doubt that events since that time bestow a judgment on our prediction that cannot be refuted.
I was amazed to listen to honourable senators on the Government side refer to unemployment in purely statistical terms.
They had the temerity to compare Australia’s unemployment figure as a proportion of the total work force with that of some other nation. We are not dealing with statistics; we are dealing with people. I am sure that honourable senators opposite do not understand what happens to an individual when he is dispossessed of his employment. In that situation a man suffers degradation, a loss of dignity and a sense of frustration. The loss of a man’s sense of being able to provide for his family is something to be witnessed and observed at first hand. Obviously that is something which honourable senators opposite have never done.
Let us examine the statistics. This is a serious matter which is not to be fobbed off in the way that honourable senators opposite have attempted this evening. The figures for August, which already have been referred to, show that there were 61,848 registered unemployed, which was 14,591 more than in August last year. According to the adjustments made to reflect the seasonally adjusted figures for those out of work, the figure was 75,000 unemployed. I make the point very firmly that those figures reflect only the number of people who go to the trouble of registering for employment. I am aware from first hand knowledge that for every person who goes to the employment bureau to register for employment there would be at least one or two others who do not do so. So the figures I have cited are a conservative estimate of the number who are unemployed. The number of job vacancies at that time in August was 34,673. That shows that there were 2 people looking for every job that was available. In the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of Wednesday, 8th September 1971, the following headline appeared:
The article by Vincent Matthews under a Canberra dateline, shortly after the Budget had been introduced and at a time when we were still debating the Budget, stated:
The Labor and National Service Minister, Mi Lynch, warned Australians today against being alarmist’ over unemployment.
Mr Lynch said there was an urgent need to stop trying to generate this psychology of gloom’ about Australia’s economic position. “The economy is sound. Our low unemployment levels, even assuming they reached 100,000 next January, are the envy of most industrialised countries in the world,’ he said.
That, in my view, is the height of callous ^difference on the part of the Government in its attitude to unemployment. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) is reported in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 22nd October as attempting to allay our fears. The article states:
Confidence was all Australia needed to beat its economic problems, the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, said last night.
If this confidence was there then I am sure the economy could be brought quickly to a pretty healthy stage. . . .
A little later he said:
We are watching the economy very carefully. We have plenty of scope for resilience and we could act quickly should we feel the time was ripe to do so.
It should be remembered that this article appeared in October, at which time the figures for September were available. It should be remembered also that the Prime Minister said that we could receive a pleasant surprise when the next unemployment figures were published. The next unemployment figures happened to be those for September when the registered number of unemployed was no less than 63,679, which was an increase on the previous month. At that time the number of job vacancies was 35,764. At that time we were still living in hopes. Today I obtained from the statistical service of the Legislative Research Section of the Parliamentary Library, which I understand received the figures from the Department of Labour and National Service, information to show that for October the number of registered unemployed was 62,330 and that the number of job vacancies was 40,534. It is interesting to note that the figure for October at 62,330 was higher than the figure for August and that between those times we had been told by the Prime Minister that all we needed to have was hope. Perhaps we need also faith and charity on the part of the Government - particularly charity. We were told also that we could expect some pleasant surprises from future employment figures.
It is interesting to note that the Government in the course of presenting the Budget argued very strongly against advice from leading economists and from sources which could never be said to be supporters of the Australian Labor Party. I refer particularly to the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. In a report which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 10th September 1971 under a heading ‘100 per cent drop in new money for industry’, we were told that a survey by the Bank of New South Wales and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures said that only 38 per cent of manufacturers were operating at a satisfactory full rate of operation. This meant that 62 per cent of our industrial capacity was under utilised at that time. This was about the time of the Budget debate. Since then there has been a further decline in the steel industry, which is a basic industry, and in recent times there has been a decline in the motor car industry. Notwithstanding what the Government said as justification for the nature of the Budget and notwithstanding the results that we predicted would flow from it, we read in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 15th September, under the banner headline ‘We were wrong, PM admits’, the following report:
He said, ‘We will take action on the economy if necessary’.
The Prime Minister is reported as saying that he admitted to a serious defect in the strategy of the previous month’s Budget and that an inflationary increase in demand that the Budget had been calculated to counter had not developed. This only serves to prove conclusively that the Government just does not know where it is going. I am mindful of the fact that the Budget was designed to provide for a domestic surplus of $630m. I do not begrudge rural industries one cent of the money that has been made available to tide them over a difficult period. However, in my view the Government’s method of applying relief measures to resolve the problems of the rural industries are misguided. Nevertheless, the measures adopted by the Government have provided at least some relief.
In the short time available to me I want to point out that we do not believe for one moment that our proposal is the panacea for all the manifest ills of the national economy. However, we do believe that the people who are the victims of the Government’s mismanagement are entitled to special consideration. In addition to the proposal that we present to the Senate this evening I should like to refer briefly to the final remarks that I made in my speech on the Budget 4 weeks and 1 day after the Budget had been introduced. At that time I said:
I understand that the Prime Minister has indicated that the position is not beyond reversal. I believe that one of two things should happen. If the Government does not see fit to reverse the trend now, in due course it should consider the introduction of a supplementary Budget. Serious consideration should be given to the reduction of bank interest charges and an injection of finance into the public sector of the economy to help stimulate and revive a flagging economy.
I do not suggest that the Government took note of my wise words, but fortunately it has begun some measures to correct the obvious deficiencies in our national economy. I remind honourable senators again that, based on a domestic surplus of $630m and an average increase in Consolidated Revenue of between $400m and $500m, without the necessity to alter by one iota the incidence of taxation, we have at our disposal an amount in the vicinity of $ 1,000m. In view of this situation, is it too much to ask that the people who are the victims of the Budget, which the Prime Minister has admitted was wrong, should receive an increase, particularly in the case of recipients of an unemployment benefit, to allow them to live with some sense of dignity? I just say in passing that I recently watched a public affairs programme on television when the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was being interviewed. The final question put by the interviewer to Mr Wentworth was: Mr Wentworth, could you as a single unemployed adult male worker live on $10 a week?’. I give Mr Wentworth credit. He said quite frankly. ‘No, of course I could not’. Do honourable senators realise how much $10 a week amounts to? Someone referred to the difference between standards of living. The matter cannot be looked at in the way Senator Webster looked at it. He referred to Japan where I understand workers receive something like 80c an hour compared with the X number of cents an hour we receive in Australia. The $10 paid to an unmarried adult male recipient of unemployment benefit amounts to no less and no more than 25c an hour on a 40-hour week basis.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Many statements have been made by honourable senators on both sides of this chamber in this debate today about our economy and unemployment statistics. Before quoting some further figures may I say that since this Government’s inception for a record term of office one of its greatest achievements has been the maintenance of a full employment situation in Australia, unparalleled in any comparable country. It has been stated more than once today that we are dealing with people and not statistics. Here again there is a cardinal philosophy of the Liberal Party that there is a basic dignity required for each individual person. He is never a statistic; he is always an individual with needs, and the measures of the Government are based on that philosophy. The registered unemployed at the end of October are acknowledged to number 62,333. This is equivalent to 1.1 per cent of the estimated work force. The number of persons on unemployment benefits is currently 18,171. Therefore an increase in benefits would have a very small effect on overall spending in the economy. Those figures have been supplied to me for the purpose of this discussion.
I wish to relate the increases in the consumer price index since the date of the previous increase to the benefits which are paid as unemployment benefits at the present time. It is acknowledged that if the rates of benefit had moved in accordance with the consumer price index since the last change in June 1970 the present rate of $10 would be appropriately $10.72. The rate which is paid for a minor at the age of 16 to 17 would be $4.82 instead of the present rate of $4.50. Similarly, for a minor in the age group 18 to 20 the benefit would be $6.43 as against $6 which is currently paid. It is acknowledged that the benefit has not kept pace with the slight increase in the consumer price index.
Some other important figures perhaps have application to the discussion which we are undertaking in relation to unemployment benefits. In this connection I draw attention to a survey of the characteristics of recipients of unemployment benefit as at 27th February 1971. A table shows the classification of male beneficiaries in our population. I find that of the unemployment benefits which were paid 40.3 per cent were paid for a period of under one month. This is quite an important statistic. Similarly, 22.6 per cent of the benefits were paid for a period of one month and under 2 months. So twothirds of the benefits which were paid to males in Australia were paid for a period of under 2 months. A similar situation applies to unemployed women. For under one month 42.9 per cent were paid benefits and for one month and under 2 months there is a comparable figure of 22.2 per cent
These figures show the relativity of the term of unemployment to the total work force situation. They show that the degree of unemployment is of a short term nature for over two-thirds of the unemployed who receive these benefits. Other interesting statistics have been quoted in part by other honourable senators but not related directly to the countries to which I shall refer. Statistics show that in 1971 the rate of unemployment in Australia of 1.7 per cent compared more than favourably with that of the United Kingdom at 3.1 per cent, the United States at 6.2 per cent, New Zealand - with a record employment situation - showing only 0.2 per cent unemployed and Canada with 7.1 per cent unemployed. This figure of 1.7 per cent when compared with other comparable countries surely shows it is the policy of the Government to maintain full employment. Even in the situation of a world currency crisis, as at the present time, there is no marked deterioration in the policy followed by this present Government. We acknowledge that there could be long term effects of the world currency crisis at the present time. Surely the statements made by various speakers supporting the Government and by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) with regard to the economy in the most recent weeks show that there is Government concern and Government action - if it is required in any way - to preserve the policy which is fundamental to this Government.
I draw attention to the fact that the work test for entitlement to unemployment benefit as it applies under our present legislation is that a person must be unemployed, must show that the unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike, must be capable of undertaking and must be willing to undertake suitable work and that he has taken reasonable steps to obtain it. It is hoped that the facilities of the Department of Labour und National Service in obtaining employment for those people temporarily displaced by movements in industry - particularly with regard to rural problems - will be used to the benefit of any person temporarily unemployed because it must be acknowledged that the present rural situation has increased the number which is given of those presently unemployed in Australia. In this regard we hope that the policies of the Government and its increasing concern for the rural sector of our economy will have the effect in the near future of lessening some of these problems, and of improving the employment situation of those who have been employed by the rural sector. I wish to read from a statement which will support Government policy. It was released by the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia and the Institute of Public Affairs. The heading on this quotation which appeared in the Australian’ stated:
An average family now is better off than in 1951.
Some interesting relative points were made in this article. In relation to an average factory employee it states:
In 1951 he had to work 3200 hours to earn enough money to buy a car. Today, he needs to work 1500 hours. A basket of groceries cost 4i hours 20 years ago, but today it is only three hours. To pay for 100 units of electricity then he had to work 2i hours, but in 1971 it takes one hour’s work.
A man’s suit was worth 90 hours in 1951 and 43 today.
So we go through the relative hours of work required to earn the consumer products which the average employee would seek to buy for himself or his family. In the 10 years from 1960 the average yearly increase in output per head in Australia has been 2.5 per cent which places this country twenty-second among international growth states. Figures have been quoted variously throughout this debate and references made to the policies of the Government which have been evident and accepted by the people of Australia continuously for a record term. We feel that the urgent nature of the motion which has been presented does not warrant the attitude which has been expressed by some speakers who stated that it would require a motion of this type to ensure that the Government would consider either the promotion of the economy or the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in unemployment benefit and other social services.
The record of this Government shows that social service benefits have been increased and developed to assist in areas of social distress in Australia to the degree that the economy can stand such new policies. I believe that in the Government’s present assessment of the economy should any social distress be occasioned the Government will be acting to ensure that the individual Australian employee and his family will not be suffering unnecessary social distress through temporary economic difficulties. With the statistics I have cited and the remarks I have made I conclude by saying that the Government has ensured continuous employment for the increasing work force we have developed and improved. I hope that the people of Australia will place on record the fine achievement of this Government throughout its term of office and the superb employment situation it has ensured.
– I do not think the purpose of an urgency motion has been understood in this debate, especially by Senator Webster. He particularly by his remarks showed a lack of understanding of the intention of an urgency motion. The first factor in moving an urgency motion is that certain things arc urgent and should be discussed. In this instance the Opposition has referred to the promotion of the economy and the relief of unnecessary distress by an immediate increase in the unemployment benefit and other social services. Each speaker in this debate has agreed that promotion of the economy is necessary. Our unemployment figures may be small in comparison with those of other countries but I do not think that we should complacently rest on that record in the belief that we should wait until our unemployment situation reaches that of other countries before we express concern or take steps to promote the economy and reduce unemployment.
Whether our percentage of unemployment is 1.5 or only 0.5, there must be some concern at the distress caused through unemployment and the resultant poverty. Senator Laucke has said that noone could fairly accuse him of being callous and unconcerned about present unemployment. Senator Guilfoyle pointed out that if the unemployment benefit had moved with the consumer price index the benefit for a single man would have increased by only 72c a week since 1970. I do not think Senator Guilfoyle would disagree that it is wrong in 1971 to expect a single man to live on $10 a week, no matter for how short a time he is unemployed.
I believe that expenditure on the unemployment benefit is not a true measure of the extent of unemployment. In present circumstances the greatest areas of unemployment are amongst young people in country areas and they do not all seek payment of unemployment benefit. At one time we expected a great deal from Senator Carrick but tonight he played the traditional role of members of the Liberal Party by claiming that everything wrong with the economy is caused by the workers and the trade union movement. That is nothing new. We expected better from Senator Carrick. He has simply repeated in parrot fashion the phrases of his predecessors.
– I do not think he said that.
– He repeated the old cries that to reduce unemployment we must keep costs down and increase production. The workers are pressing for increased wages. I was born in a depressed area of South Australia and left school in 1930 during a period of depression. At that time about one-third of the population was out of work.
– I was in the same position.
– Yes. I have since seen periods of unemployment. In Australia we did not have anywhere near full employment until after World War II. We had become so accustomed to unemployment that perhaps Mr Les Haylen was justified at that time in saying that 5 per cent of the work force could reasonably be expected to be unemployed. That was not Labor Party policy. It was the opinion of one man. He may have been justified in making that statement because of the history of unemployment in this country. Since World War II, as so often the boast has been made in the Senate, there have been few periods of unemployment. In this era workers have taken industrial action to force up award wages and to improve conditions of employment. We did not achieve full employment until we had prosperity and then the workers demanded improved conditions.
– Despite the Government.
– Yes, despite the Government. The workers who create the prosperity are entitled to a proper return for their efforts. We have relied on our exports but depression has hit our export industries. The slack should be taken up by increasing wages so that home consumption will be stimulated to absorb the goods now in surplus through loss of export markets. It has been said that the highest rates of unemployment are in South Australia and Western Australia where there are Labor governments. Tasmania has the biggest rate of unemployment and it is not under a Labor government.
– Yes, but we had 35 years of Labor Government to try to get over. The shock waves have not finished yet.
– But Labor was not in office in Tasmania for as long as the Liberal Party was in office in South Australia. However, irrespective of whether a Labor or a Liberal Party government is in office, South Australia is more subject to unemployment than any other State because of its reliance on the motor car and electrical appliance industries. In times of recession the sales of motor cars and electrical appliances are the first to suffer in all the States, but employment is hardest hit in South Australia. There is a lack of confidence in the future. Money is being hoarded instead of spent because people do not know whether they will be in or out of work next month. Just as South Australia is the first to suffer employment difficulties, it is the last to recover from those difficulties. It is not a question of which party is in government. It is a question of building up industries in a State which does not have the raw materials necessary for heavy industries. General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd has had to put off some men at its Elizabeth plant in South Australia because of a demarcation dispute, but its main difficulty comes from the fact that a slowing down in sales of its line of cars has occurred and it is permanently reducing its employment force in South Australia. Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is completely closing down one of its plants at Whyalla and this will result in anything up to 160 personnel being dismissed from employment. What is going to happen to such men who live 250 miles away from other employment in Adelaide and who have settled in homes in Whyalla and possibly have their wives working there? This unemployment is not the result of the activities of the Labor Government in South Australia but, in the words of BHP, is the result of a falling off in steel orders placed with that company.
In the electrical goods industry a tendency has been developing to amalgamate operations in order to reduce labour. We see that Philips Industries Ltd is threatening the dismissal of 300 people in South Australia because it is combining its activities in that State with its activities in Victoria.
– You mean they are transferring to Victoria because costs are too high in South Australia.
– We hear so many false statements from Senator Young, such as the untrue one he made this morning about Kangaroo Island, that I do not think I should reply to his interjection. Hawker Siddeley Electronics Ltd at Salisbury is threatening the displacement of 200 people because of the relocation of its industry with its other activities in Sydney. So we see the repurcussions of these moves throughout South Australian industry. If there is some recession facing the wool growers, who replace their cars every year, and if there is a recession for the wheat growers, South Australia is the State that is hit by the resultant unemployment. This matter is very important to South Australia.
Senator Murphy said in his address to the Senate that we should make money available to those sections of the community which of necessity must spend their money to purchase the goods that are being stockpiled in the factories. We had the Gorton government which believed in prosperity by means of reduced income tax. Then the new Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) increased income tax in the last
Budget and the reimposition reduced the spending capability of the workers. Senator Murphy suggested that we should provide more money for unemployment benefits and social service benefits. There are impoverished sections in all States and in all capital cities and Christmas is approaching. If the Government gave anything to those people it would do so in the knowledge that they would have to spend it. No-one who has spoken in this debate has suggested that he is satisfied with the unemployment benefits paid today. Some people may say that we have to face up to economic circumstances but the Government budgeted for a surplus and therefore budgeted for unemployment. The question is: In what way is the money to be allocated? Senator James McClelland pointed out that the Government is providing $300m - about $5m a week - for the wool growers of Australia. If that money were to go to the impoverished wool growers who would have to spend it for their livelihood it may have the effect on the general economy that everyone hopes it would have. But, for example, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who does not need it, and organisations like Dalgety’s and Elder Smith who do not need it are getting a chop out of it. The impoverished farmers will get an allocation from this money but they are mortgaged to Dalgety’s and Elder Smith. How can this help the economy when the money goes into the hands of a section of the community which does not spend it?
I believe that only 4 minutes remain of the time allowed for this debate. As in recent days we have developed the practice of trying to get a decision on debates on matters of urgency in order to get an expression of the opinion of the Senate, I now move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! The time allowed for the debate on the motion having expired, the Senate will proceed to the business of the day.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received from the Leader of the Government a letter notifying the appointment of Senator Durack to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a Tariff Board report on shot and grit of chilled cast iron (Dumping and Subsidies Act) dated 30th September 1971.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Police for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– -Pursuant to section 84 of the Wool Industry Act 1962-1970, I present the annual report of the Australian Wool Board for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements. An interim report of the Board was presented to the Senate on 6th October 1971.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969, I present the second annual report on the operation of the Act during the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956, I present the fifteenth annual report on the operation of the Act during the year ended 30th June 1971.
– by leave - The statement I am about to make concerns the recent visit to the United States of America and Great Britain by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and was made by him yesterday in another place. Honourable senators will understand that when the first personal pronoun is used it relates to the Prime Minister.
I think most people in this House would agree that Australia stands on the threshold of a transitional period in its development as a nation. We are living in a world in which relationswith our traditional allies and friends and with the nations of the Asian and Pacific region are changing significantly. And so, having received invitations from both President Nixon and Prime Minister Heath, I believed it was wise to go to Washington and London. As honourable members know, I left Australia on 27 th October and returned last Thursday, 18th November. I believe this visit was timely, successful and to Australia’s advantage.
It was natural that as the head of a recently formed government 1 should welcome the opportunity for discussions with the leaders of 2 major powers who are traditionally close friends and allies of this country. With the passage of time there is inevitably a risk that changing circumstances might erode the understandings and contractual arrangements of long standing between us and put under strain the commitments embodied in them. Moreover, changes are taking place in the world strategic balance of power which are of fundamental importance to us. A new balance is emerging which includes the United States, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the European community, including Britain. In this situation the voice and influence of a medium power such as Australia is becoming increasingly significant. On behalf of the Government of this country, I wanted to establish close personal contact with leaders in the United States and Britain and to explore their thinking on major international issues, their attitudes to which are of importance to us. I also wanted to put at the highest level our own views on some of these bilateral and international questions.
My visit to America followed closely the United Nations vote on the admission of the People’s Republic of China which created a new situation in the world body and in the Asian region. It followed Dr Kissinger’s return from his second visit to Peking. And, as it happend, it occurred at the same time as the defeat of the foreign aid Bill in the United States Senate. It came shortly before Mr Laird’s visit to Vietnam and President Nixon’s planned announcement of further American troop withdrawals from that country. It also preceded the President’s planned visits to Peking and Moscow. My visit to the United Kingdom followed immediately after the House of Commons had voted in favour of British entry into the European Economic Community. It also preceded Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s present attempt to find a solution of the Rhodesian problem. In the international economic field the world’s currency arrangements are in disorder and the stability and growth of international trade are threatened.
In the United States, I had lengthy and very frank discussions with President Nixon, Secretary of State Rogers, Defence Secretary Laird, Deputy Secretary Packard, Dr Kissinger, Under Secretary of the Treasury Volcker, Chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality Russell Train, and Senator Fulbright, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I also had discussions with many others including the Republican Leader in the Senate, Senator Scott, the Secretary for Commerce, Mr Morris Stans, who is to visit Australia shortly, the ManagingDirector of the International Monetary Fund and the chairman of the ExportImport Bank. All of these talks were very frank and friendly. I have returned with the firm impression that the American Administration is well disposed towards Australia. This reinforcement of our relationship at the personal level is worth while in itself.
An important result of my visit was the public reaffirmation by President Nixon of the continuing strength and validity of the ANZUS Treaty. President Nixon gave me an unconditional and unqualified assurance that ANZUS is as valid today as it was when it was signed 20 years ago. The ANZUS Treaty, as honourable members will know, provides that in the event of an armed attack on any one of them or on their forces in the Pacific area, the United States, Australia and New Zealand would each act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. The reaffirmation is important for 3 reasons: Firstly, it was described by the President as ‘one of the fundamental pillars of American policy in the Pacific’, giving it a special emphasis at a time when a new balance of forces is emerging throughout the world; secondly, it was a most positive public affirmation of the Treaty following the announcement of the Nixon Doctrine which outlined new American attitudes in the Asian and Pacific region; and thirdly, it came at a time when a minority in Australia was doubting its worth and others were downgrading its importance. I should add that, in all my discussions on this subject, it was clear that we shared the view that ANZUS is more than a treaty. It is the symbol of the close co-operation which exists between Australia, the United States and New Zea land. But more than that, in addition to providing for the annual meeting of Ministers, it furnishes a framework of practical co-operation under which there is constant exchange of information and views of the greatest importance to Australia. Senator Fulbright, who has been critical of many of America’s involvements beyond its shores, also said - to use his own words - ANZUS was different’ and was a commitment of indefinite duration. None of this must suggest any easing off in our determination to strengthen and enlarge our defence capacity. We are a nation of increasing influence in the world with a fundamental responsibility for our internal and external affairs. This responsibility is ours and ours alone. But if circumstances beyond our capability arise, we know we have reliable allies.
On my way home I discussed defence strategy in the Pacific with the United States Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, in Honolulu. We spoke of the continuing danger of Communist subversive and insurgent activities throughout the region. I also remind the House of the uncompromising speech by the Chinese delegate to the United Nations on his first appearance at that forum earlier this month. We have no hostility to the great Chinese people who have contributed so much to the culture and history of mankind and we favour an accommodation with them. But we should not forget that this great revolutionary power in Asia still holds fast publicly to its policies, including its support of national liberation movements. We will seek to advance our own dialogue but we will proceed with caution.
In my talks with the Secretary for Defence, and Deputy Secretary Packard, who has recently visited this country, I raised the question of the security of the Indian Ocean. It was agreed that the increased Soviet naval presence does not constitute a serious threat at present to the vital sea lanes across the Southern Indian Ocean, but it was also agreed that the situation needs to be watched with care. The Soviet presence, of course, could be built up and sustained, especially if the Suez Canal were to be re-opened. I am satisfied the United States is fully aware of the political and strategic importance of the Indian Ocean and agrees that a careful watch should be continued in this area.
The United States will continue visits and transits by its naval ships and naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. They have welcomed the possibility of using facilities at Cockburn Sound and are, with the United Kingdom, maintaining a communication station at Diego Garcia.
During my talks with President Nixon and Mr Laird we exchanged assessments on the situation and the future in IndoChina. The view, which I questioned closely, was put forward that Vietnamisation in both the military and the economic sense was making very good progress and that the situation in South Vietnam was much more stable and promising than seemed likely 9 months ago. I was also informed of American intentions regarding troops to remain after the withdrawal of American combat forces and on the maintenance of air and naval support for the Vietnamese forces for some time to come. I informed the President of our decision in principle to assist in the training of Cambodian troops in South Vietnam after our own combat forces are withdrawn if practicable arrangements can be made in conjunction with the other countries concerned. The President and other members of the Administration expressed their appreciation in the warmest terms of our constant support and help in Indo-China. If I might digress for a moment, our hope in Vietnam and indeed in Cambodia and Laos is simply that these countries will have the opportunity to live in peace and to determine their own futures, rather than have imposed upon them, by force, unwanted Communist regimes. Can anyone in this House seriously contest the sense and propriety of this objective? In essence our policy towards Cambodia, which attracted so much public interest while I was overseas, is to play a modest part through aid and training programmes in helping to give that country a chance to survive as an independent non-Communist state. As I have emphasised before, there is no question of sending Australian military advisers or instructors to Cambodia.
The Australian Government has been giving much thought to the question of the environment. I took the opportunity while in Washington to have discussions with Mr Russell Train and other members of the council on environmental quality. From these discussions I gained valuable insights into American experience of the problems of dealing with pollution and environmental protection measures, especially in the context of a federal-state relationship. They are willing to assist and advise in this field where they have already made some notable advances. In Washington, I took advantage of the presence of the Prime Minister of India, Mrs Gandhi, to have a full discussion with her on the situation in the east of the sub-continent. After this meeting I sent another message to President Yahya Khan urging upon him once again the need to deal with the elected representatives of East Pakistan and with Sheikh Mujibur Raman. During the discussion, Mrs Gandhi said she would welcome a visit by Australian members of Parliament to see for themselves conditions in the refugee areas. During my discussions I invited President Nixon to visit Australia at a time when it would be possible for him to do so.
I turn now to my visit to Britain. In London I had detailed discussions with the Prime Minister, Mr Heath; the Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home; the Minister for Defence, Lord Carrington; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Barber; the Minister responsible for British relations with the European Economic Community, Mr Rippon; and the Governor of the Bank of England. I also addressed the Cook Society, the Confederation of British Industries and the Australian- British Trade Association. Naturally, I spent a great deal of time discussing the British entry into the European Economic Community. I started from the point that while we had been disappointed at the terms agreed upon for British entry, these terms were now a fact and we should look towards the best arrangements we could make for the future.
Generally, I expressed the hope that Britain, having made its decision, would now use its influence to ensure that the community was outward-looking and international in its approach; that it should be flexible in its approach to world trade, rather than regionally exclusive in its attitude. And I also pressed strongly for assurances that during the transitional period, the British would adopt as helpful an attitude as possible to Australian commodities affected by the British entry. I was assured by Mr Heath, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Mr
Rippon that Britain would use its influence to see that the European Economic Community adopted an outward-looking policy. The point was made to me that Britain depended heavily on its trade and, consequently, the widest area of multi-lateral trade and payments was a source of strength. The point was made to me also that a weak Britain would be of little use to its old Commonwealth friends. A strong Britain within the EEC would be of value to countries like Australia. Mr Rippon also explained fully the inclusion of a clause in the entry agreement that if imports of an agricultural commodity subject to import levies were seriously affected or likely to be affected by British entry, either Australia or Britain would have the right to raise the matter before the commission.
Assurances - the value of which admittedly can only be fully tested in time - that Britain would, during the transitional period be ready to discuss on a commodity basis those commodities likely to be affected by British entry into the Common Market, were reaffirmed to me. The point was also made to me that it would be desirable for the industries concerned to be active in presenting thencases themselves. I urged upon British Ministers the need for the EEC to adopt measures to ensure that the exports of tropical produce from Papua New Guinea are in a no less favourable position than those from other developing countries which are to receive special treatment. Notwithstanding that Papua New Guinea is still a trust territory, the British are hopeful for early progress towards agreement on this matter. I should tell the House that I questioned repeated assertions that although the United Kingdom is to enter the Common Market its bilateral relationship with Australia would not change. I can report that I was assured by Britain’s Ministers that there was a pervasive desire to maintain the closest possible co-operation with Australia.
During my talk with the Chancellor, I raised with him my concern that the voluntary restraint on the movement of British capital to Australia should not be maintained, while, at the same time, movements of capital were liberalised in respect of the EEC countries with consequent disadvantage to the traditional flow to Aus tralia. Honourable members will be glad to learn that I received an assurance of the fullest consultation and co-operation before any decisions are made. When Britain enters the EEC she will be creating a situation in which her long standing trading preferences in the Australian market will come to an end. Our policy in any negotiaton of new arrangements will be based on recognition of the principle that trade, to be successful in the world of today, needs to be multilateral. In my discussions with persons involved in commerce and industry, I repeatedly emphasised the point that despite some problems, our economy was fundamentally sound and that we could look to a long term annual growth rate of around 5 per cent or more. These views were generally well received and British interests with whom I discussed the matter continue to regard Australia as a country of promise and a suitable place for British investment. Mr Heath and I agreed - and this was followed up later in my talks with the Minister for Defence and the Foreign Secretary - that even closer consultation and communication should be effected between the two Governments. This included strong confirmation of the policy that the British and Australian High Commissioners should have, when needed, immediate direct access to the respective Prime Ministers. At the same time, we would take the opportunity to step up our direct contact with other EEC members and strengthen our representation in Brussels.
I had useful and wide-ranging discussions on defence matters with the British Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence and the Foreign Secretary. I was assured that the Heath Government intends to maintain its political interests and defence commitments in South East Asia. We reviewed the five-power defence arrangements for assistance in the defence of Singapore and Malaysia. The signature of the new arrangements on 1st November reflects the readiness of the Heath Government to make a contribution to the security and stability of our region which is both welcome and timely. I am aware that the British Government is actively considering, with other Governments in the five-power arrangement, further areas of co-operation in the defence field. There was a close identity of views on the security of the
Indian Ocean. I was left in no doubt about British concern for the implications of the Soviet naval influence in the area.
Mr Heath indicated to me that his Government intends to maintain a naval presence in the Indian Ocean. This reaffirms his statement to the conference of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Singapore last January. We has useful opening discussions directed to increasing defence co-operation in the Indian Ocean area. Work is proceeding on proposals about improved procedures for coordinating resources and surveillance. I was given a survey of the situation in Western Europe, including NATO. I was also informed that Britain would maintain its commitments to SEATO, in which it still sees itself as a ‘full partner’.
I want to turn now to some of the matters which are common to my visits to America and Britain. As a result of my visit, the Australian Government now has a deeper appreciation of American and British thinking on a wide range of international issues of impor lance to us, such as: The British entry into the EEC; the future of China and Taiwan; the future for Vietnam and Cambodia; the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean; overseas trade; President Nixon’s forthcoming visits to Moscow and Peking the international monetary situation; and the Rhodesian situation. For our part, I was able to give American and British leaders a clearer picture of our Govenment’s thinking on the role we expect to play in the Asian and Pacific region. And to emphasise that, while we are a dependable friend, we shall make our own independent judgments based upon our national interests.
I took the opportunities available to me in my discussions to emphasise our changing role in a changing world. I emphasised the need to take full account of Japan in the emerging balance between the United States, China and the Soviet Union in North Asia. I emphasised the role we are seeking to play in regional economic cooperation and regional defence cooperation in South East Asia. I emphasised the importance of a stable and peaceful Indonesia in South East Asia and the weight we gave to our relations with that country. I believe the administration in the United States, the Government in Britain and leading representatives of the media in both countries now have a greater awareness of Australia - as a country of stability and increasing influence in the South East Asian region. I believe, too, that they may now be more conscious of the importance and vitality of Japan and Indonesia in the Asian region.
I have been concerned for some time to find that, perhaps because we are so far from North America and Europe, ignorance about Australia and misunderstanding of some of our policies are still quite widespread in these areas. For this reason. I talked in New York over 2 special lunches to the editorial writers and correspondents specialising in Foreign Affairs of the ‘New York Times’ and of Time Life Incorporated. A member of my party did a similar briefing on Australia’s role in South East Asia for the ‘Washington Post*. In London, at a similar lunch I was able to speak to the editors of nearly all the main newspapers published in England. I believe this was worth while in focusing the interest of leading opinion formers in the media in the United States and in Britain on Australia and its prospects and policies. My mission also received considerable public notice in the media of both countries, particularly in the responsible Press. And I think this, too, served to project Australia effectively to the man in the street.
I turn now, Sir, to the international currency situation, a difficult, unresolved problem for us all. I discussed the situation with the President and members of the Administration in Washington - with the Prime Minister and senior Ministers in London - and with high officials and trading and financial interests in both countries. In both Washington and London I emphasised that Australia wants an early resolution of the present impasse as being a matter of the greatest importance for the whole trading world.
I pointed out the impact which the United States import surcharge and the uncertainty about exchange rates has had on the market for some of our products, including wool. I mentioned the charges that temporary expedients could harden into dogmas and that a widespread slowdown in economic activity could result. Unless there is an early, sensible and adequate readjustment in trade and currency arrangements, competitive devaluation could occur, and increasing protectionism in trade develop, with a consequent threat to economic stability and growth around the world. I stressed, particularlyin the United States, the indirect implication tor Australia of any sharp check of economic growth and trade in third countries, such as Japan, as a result of the United States’ measures. There were dangers in isolating Japan, which has to be seen as a country finding a new role in the world, and particularly a role in the economic development of South East Asia. I have made it clear that, in relation to currency matters, Australia reserves its position. We will take our decision when any realignment is settled. Our decision will be based on the interests of the Australian economy and the Australian people.
In America I urged on the Administration the need to remove barriers in the way of world trade in agricultural commodities and raised at the highest level the problems we face in our attempt to export Australian wool and meat to the United States. These discussions were followed up at other levels. There are good grounds for believing that the United States is seeking ways of being helpful to us in respect of both wool and meat.
Sir, in concluding this outline, I think it would be appropriate to say something about Australia and where we stand today. I believe that my visits to New York, Washington and London did something to project Australia to a Britain, which is becoming increasingly involved in Europe, and an America which is subject to varying degrees of pressure to withdraw from its overseas involvements, and toremind them that they have in the southern hemisphere: A vigorous, like-minded but independent friend; a country of great prospect, of influence and stability in the South East Asian region; a country willing and able to make its contribution to a secure and stable Asian and Pacific area increasing in economic strength.
I pointed out that we have our problems - such as inflation and the state of some of the rural industries - which we must solve - but, at the same time our friends should not lose sight of the fundamental soundness of the economy and the great promise of this country. For our part we should concentrate on representing Australia to the world as a tolerant, stable, healthy member of the international community - increasing in size and strength as it develops, but threatening no-one. I attempted to do this during my tour. In short, we in the Government will direct our energies to building a greater Australia based on self-confidence, determination, co-operation, and a vision of an unlimited future.
– I move:
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711124_senate_27_s50/>.