27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at J 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Is it correct that recently an efficiency expert was appointed to investigate the affairs of the Department of Works? If so, can the Minister tell us the reason for that appointment and the costs involved?
– 1 have no knowledge of the appointment of an efficiency expert as referred to by the honourable senator. 1 shall make inquiries to ascertain whether any operation of the Department of Works comes within or near that description.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether reports of several oil slicks, one only 10 miles off the Victorian coast, are correct? If the reports are correct and if the slicks are outside the territorial sea, what steps are being taken by the Commonwealth Government to disperse the slicks to prevent their spreading? Will different methods of control, including the use of various dispersants, be undertaken and scientifically studied in an endeavour to obtain a better understanding of the control of oil pollution? Will investigations be made to ascertain the cause of the pollution? Will action be taken for compensation and will a prosecution be launched if negligence can be shown?
– I point out to the honourable senator that last night the Minister for Shipping and Transport issued a statement that bears on this matter. I have additional information which may be of value to the honourable senator. There has been discoloration of the water, but it is not yet confirmed or proven that it was caused by oil. Commonwealth and Victorian authorities are co-operating to investigate the matter. The Department of Shipping and Transport chartered an aircraft, on Wednesday and sent a nautical surveyor to the scene. He went out again today.
– Order! I hear music being played in the chamber. Is there a transistor radio in the Senate chamber?
Honourable senators - No.
– Is there one in the Press gallery? 1 am informed that there is none in the Press gallery. Is there one in the Public gallery? I make the observation that the Senate chamber is a haven from transistor radios. 1 hope it remains so.
– I shall continue with my musical answer. The Department of Shipping and Transport today sent out a boat to collect a sample. I am taking some time with my answer, because senators on both sides are interested in the problem of oil slicks and pollution. Whether dispersants are needed will depend on factors such as the substance of the slick and whether they head for the land or out to sea. Present reports are that the discoloration is breaking up and disappearing and that it poses no immediate threat to the coast. Also a study of this matter is under way by the Department of Shipping and Transport as well as experts in other departments and industry to consider the drawing up of specifications for the best form of dispersal having regard to the fact that, as many of us know, dispersants in themselves have to be considered in their ultimate effect on other matters such as marine biology. If there is illegal pollution the honourable senator may be assured thai action will be taken by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport follows the question just asked by Senator Young. I understand that the Minister has taken certain action in respect of the oil threatening the Victorian coast which, according to the State Minister for Public Works, was deliberately discharged from a tanker. Of course, this is not an isolated incident. I ask the Minister: Was there an agreement in principle at the April meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers to ‘provide uniform powers to combat this sort of problem’? If there was. will the Minister as a matter of urgency institute measures to achieve this desirable objective?
– From the information available to me I am quite sure there is a concerted proposal by both Commonwealth and State authorities to deal with cases of illegal discharge of oil from tankers off the Australian coast. I know that this is so, and I know that if indeed it is proved - this is what I tried to emphasise - that this is oil and it has been discharged illegally then the action that is necessary to be taken will be taken. But it has yet to be proved that it is oil and it has yet to be proved how it was discharged.
– I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General. What are the implications in respect to interstate trade generally, vis-a-vis section 92 of the Constitution, consequent on the High Court’s ruling which upheld Tasmanian State laws preventing the sale of cooking margarine which has been flavoured or coloured to resemble butter? Does the High Court’s ruling usher in a new concept in interstate trade generally? Does it mean that any State may now prohibit the import of any given commodity from another State, thus over-riding section 92 of the Constitution?
– The practice has been that Attorneys-General have not been prepared to answer questions on constitutional law following court decisions, but this is a matter for the AttorneyGeneral. If the Attorney-General wishes to answer the question he may do so.
– This question follows a question asked by Senator Webster on Tuesday of this week following the decision of the High Court which was delivered on Tuesday morning. I said to Senator Webster that when I had a copy of the judgment I would examine it and 1 would give consideration to whether it was proper to make a statement on what its implications may be. I said in answer to Senator Webster that the Commonwealth had not been a party to the case, and that is true, but the Commonwealth Government did intervene. I have not yet received a copy of the judgment so I am not able to express any view even if I felt it was proper in response to Senator Laucke to do so. I say to Senator Laucke, as I said to
Senator Webster, that 1 will examine the judgment when it is received, and if it does appear to me to be warranted then I shall consider making a statement to the Senate or otherwise making a statement concerning the matter. As I understand the position, it involves an issue which has been canvassed often before the High Court of Australia as to the extent of the operations in respect of any particular legislative or Executive act under section 92 of the Constitution.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it a fact that the staff of the China section of the Department of Foreign Affairs has dropped from 5 to 2 over the last 2 months? In view of the importance of improving our relations with China if we are to regain the loss of exports, particularly of wheat, does the Minister regard the situation as being critical? What action does the Minister intend taking to ensure that the staff of the Department’s China section is restored to at least its previous strength?
– I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for an early answer.
– Following on the previous question about oil spillage I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it correct, as reported, that the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport has promised to make available $lm to the State authorities charged with the care of the seas adjoining their States to be spent on stocks of oil dispersants which are to be located at 8 strategic points around the coast of the Commonwealth? That report has been made. If it is correct, can the Minister say when the dispersant, which is claimed to have been promised by the Commonwealth, will be made available at the strategic points I have mentioned.
– As the honourable senator from Tasmania has said, it is correct that arrangements have been made between the Commonwealth and the States to locate stocks of dispersants at places where they can be made available readily in the event of trouble. My understanding is that this matter is to be placed in the hands of harbour boards in the various ports in the States. 1 cannot be precise about the amount of money involved, the exact locations and the stockpiles in those locations. I understand that some stockpiles are already in existence. 1 will need to get more precise information for the honourable senator, and that I undertake to do.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. ls it a fact that originally 6 of the 24 Fill aircraft were to have been capable of conversion to a reconnaissance role? ls this conversion still possible? If not, is the Minister considering the purchase of 6 additional Fill aircraft in the reconnaissance version? If he is not, what type of reconnaissance aircraft will be obtained to perform reconnaissance duties?
– It is true, as Senator Willesee has said, that the Government originally planned for 6 of the 24 aircraft to be used for reconnaissance purposes. Since that time, however, the Royal Australian Air Force has been examining the matter. If the honourable senator looks at the joint statement made by the Minister for Defence and myself on 16th December last following the Government’s decision to go ahead with the procurement of the Fill aircraft, he will note that we said that a modern reconnaissance capability was still a requirement to be considered but that investigations were not yet completed and the RAAF was not yet in a position to make a recommendation to the Government. We went on. to say that the investigations would embrace the feasibility of Australia’s participation in the development and manufacture of reconnaissance packs for the F111C. In answer to a question earlier in this sessional period I said that we had the alternative of adding the pack ro the F111C or of looking at the Phantom F4E and perhaps adding a pack of some kind to that aircraft. However, as I have said, the Department is still carrying out its investigations and until they are completed I am not in a position to answer the honourable senator’s question any further.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that magistrates in Commonwealth territories such as the Australian Capital Territory are employee officers of the Attorney-General’s Department and, as such, are subject to the punitive provisions of Public Service regulations and the Commonwealth Crimes Act? Is this not contrary to the ideal that judges and magistrates should be independent of the executive arm of government? Will the AttorneyGeneral lake immediate steps to separate magistrates from his Department and give them the same degree of independence as is enjoyed by judges?
– It is a fact that magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory are members of the Commonwealth Public Service and that they hold offices in the Attorney-General’s Department as designated by the Public Service Board. The Public Service appointment to which they are subject relates solely to the remuneration they are paid and the conditions of their tenure in the sense that it regulates what shall be their leave. They are not in any way subject to the Public Service Board or to the control of the Attorney-General’s Department in the discharge of their judicial functions. That, very shortly, expresses the position. If it is desired that 1 should elaborate on that for the information of honourable senators I am prepared to do so.
As to whether that conflicts with the ideal that the magistracy should be completely independent of the Executive 1 can only say that magistrates throughout Australia, with the exception of Tasmania, are members of the State public service or are treated, as in Western Australia, as the equivalent of members of the public service. So it cannot be said that in the Commonwealth sphere the position is contrary to any pattern or ideal that is reflected in the way in which magistrates work in the States. Consideration has been given in the past by my predecessors, and more recently by myself, to whether this should be changed. The decision reached in the past is that there should be no change. I am currently giving consideration to it but I must ask the Senate to appreciate that there are many practical problems which would result even if a change were considered to be desirable.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that the Tasmanian telephone directory now is divided into 3 sections whereas previously it was one book. Will the Minister say whether the Postmaster-General intends to continue this practice in the future or to revert to the much more convenient style of one book only? If his answer is in the affirmative will he endeavour to ensure that all sections are delivered within a reasonable time of the closing of entries and not 7 months later as was the case with the north west directory in this past year?
– There has been comment on this subject in the past, I think not only by the Postmaster-General but by one of the standing committees of the Senate. As the Minister representing the Postmaster-General I cannot precisely state the position at the moment, either with regard to the existing practice or what might currently be contemplated for the future. What I shall do is ensure that the Postmaster-General is made aware of the honourable senator’s question and I am sure that he will provide a response as soon as he is able to do so.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral examined the recent Press articles relating to the activities of the League of Rights? Is he able to say whether the statements in those articles are correct? Will he consider making an authoritative statement on the nature and activities of the League of Rights?
– I have read the articles relating to the League of Rights which have appeared in. I think, the Melbourne newspapers and also in Sydney newspapers. I am not able to say whether all the information contained in those articles is correct. 1 did respond in part to some of the issues involved in this matter when I answered a question asked by Senator James McClelland on Tuesday. 1 think it is difficult to determine whether the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth should make a statement on an organisation which is a lawful organisation in the sense that there is no law proscribing its activities. To embark upon that sort of inquiry with regard to one organisation must involve consideration as to whether one does the same sort of thing with regard to a host of other organisations which also lawfully exist under the laws of the Commonwealth.
I think I should say that I have expressed a view that the economic policies of the League of Rights are dangerous. Its foreign policies are intransigent and therefore dangerous and I have expressed myself publicly to that effect. It also is an organisation which I think has expressed views which the vast majority of Australians would find abhorrent. But in a free society we accept the right of many organisations to exist and many of those organisations express views which are repulsive to most Australians. The difficulty is to determine which ones one makes statements about, if one starts upon such an exercise. I will give consideration to the matters raised by the honourable senator but it does not follow that one will start on an excercise of making statements about particular organisations.
In the absence of the Minister for Health, I address my question to the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health.
– Order! I will not allow questions to be addressed to Assistant Ministers as I do not recognise them for the purpose of questions.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is approximately 13 million lb of wool suitable for carpet manufacture imported into Australia each year? Has any research been conducted into the production of Australian wool with a view to its suitability for use in the manufacture of carpets? If not, why not?
– As I explained to the honourable senator earlier this week, the stronger wools which are needed for carpet manufacture are not produced in Australia in great quantities. Generally these stronger wools come from the British breeds of sheep and, therefore, quantities of the stronger type wools are imported into Australia for carpet making. It is possible to make carpets from the finer Australian wools, but I understand that after a certain amount of wear the fibres tend to lie down.
– Has there been any research?
– I would have to get further information on the research that has been undertaken, but I should think that there has been a great deal of research into this problem. As I am not sure of the position I shall take the opportunity to find out and I shall let the honourable senator have whatever information I am able to obtain.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs make inquiries to confirm or deny the allegation that the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) has clearly an J wilfully misled the people of Australia by claiming that during his discussion with the Premier of Mainland China, Chou En-lai, last year an indication was given that China would join another Geneva conference? Is it correct that a Chinese Foreign Ministry transcript discloses that the only discussion on the subject was with the acting Foreign Minister, Chi Peng-fei, who stated that there was no such possibility at present?
– I would have more than usual temerity if I attempted to answer that question without consulting the texts. I shall refer the question to the Minister for early attention.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. In view of past confrontations between Australian and foreign trawlers, what contingency plans have been made by the Royal Australian Navy to avoid any repetition of these incidents when the prawning season commences shortly in the Gulf of Carpentaria?
– The honourable senator will realise that the laws relating to fishing in certain waters are administered by the Department of Primary Industry. Therefore, if there is a confrontation between trawlers in our northern waters Or if Australian trawlers have a need of assistance, the information is relayed to the Department of Primary Industry which passes it on to the Navy. In that event the nearest vessel in the area will go to the assistance of the trawler or to the point of the incident, wherever it may be, and will give whatever help it is legally permitted to provide.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation follows from his answer earlier regarding the stockpiling of oil pollution dispersants. Has any research been conducted into the threat which different types of oil pollution dispersants might present to the cultured pearl industry in the northern areas of Australia, to the Great Barrier Reef and to the fishing industry generally?
– Quite a lot of work has been done in the marine biological area on the effects of dispersants and detergents on the various aspects of life in the sea. A certain amount of this work in the marine biological area has been done in Townsville. Some honourable senators, including myself, were involved in discussions on this matter quite a long time ago - I think it was 3 years ago. I cannot say specifically whether any of this work has been directed to the effects on the cultured pearl industry. I will have to try and find out whether it has. I should imagine that something would be known about this subject. It is very likely that this work has been undertaken in Japan.
– I again call Senator Douglas McClelland, who earlier asked an aborted question.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDMy question is directed to you, Mr President. Has your attention been drawn to a circulated list of members of the McMahon Ministry which shows as Assistant Ministers 5 members of another place and one member of this place, namely, Senator Marriott, who is listed as being the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health and Leader of the Government in the Senate? Was legislation carried in this Parliament last year to provide for the appointment of Assistant Ministers and, indeed, were those members of the Parliament who were appointed Assistant Ministers sworn in by His excellency the Government-General? Under those circumstances, will you please explain, Sir, why it is that you refused to recognise Assistant Ministers, as you indicated to me when I attempted to address a question to an Assistant Minister earlier in question time?
– I was not able to make a note of all of the aspects of the question asked of me by the honourable senator, but I think I had better recapitulate the situation which occurred when Assistant Ministers were appointed. Senator Marriott, for example, was appointed as an Assistant Minister pursuant to legislation which was debated in the Parliament. He has been sworn in as a member of the Executive Council. The Prime Minister has ruled that he is not authorised to answer questions on Government policy and administration. I have stated as a ruling from the Chair that I acknowledge Senator Marriott’s presence in the Senate but that I will not allow him to be asked questions which do not come within his compass sind authority to answer.
– But you do recognise him, Sir?
– When I see him I do.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that, under the new airline schedules, members of the Commonwealth Parliament from Tasmania are now unable to get to Canberra on a Tuesday morning without making an overnight stopover and that those members who do not want to make an overnight stopover have a 3-hour wait in Melbourne on Monday nights? Why have the airlines been allowed to disregard the needs of the travelling public in such a manner? Is there not a strong case to stagger the service provided by the 2 major airlines in order to overcome such inconveniences?
– The aviation industry in Australia, particularly the domestic RPT - regular public transport - services, is in a situation of very low growth rate. Indeed, services to and from Canberra represent one of the worst load factors the airlines experience in Australia. Nonetheless, I am aware of the inconvenience to members of Parliament who are travelling to Canberra from not only Tasmania - Launceston in particular - but also Sydney on Monday evenings.
– What about Townsville?
– What about Perth?
– Equally from Townsville, Perth, Darwin, Horsham, Warracknabeal, Ballarat and other points to the east and west, including my home town of Oberon. When I found out about this matter I asked immediately for the schedule to be looked at to see whether the services available could be made more convenient. I hope that that will be possible by Tuesday. The attention of the Senate and myself has been directed for quite a long time to the operations of the 2 major airlines and to the inconvenience caused to the public by parallel scheduling. I am trying to overcome that problem. 1 think that at last I may be beginning to get the airlines to understand the message I am trying to put across.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Has his attention been drawn to the action of Mr Peter Coleman, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, who called for the registration, licensing and control of all data banks operated by public authorities, credit bureaus, private detective agencies and people who offer such data bank information for sale? Is it not important that co-ordinated action should be taken in the 6 States and the Territories of the Commonwealth to ensure the privacy of the individual and protection from abuse? If so, what steps is the Commonwealth taking to achieve an effective and speedy resolution of this important matter?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to the action which was taken by Mr Coleman in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales earlier this week. 1 am aware of the problems which are involved in the area that concerns him. I share the general thought which he expressed that there is a need to lake action which will effectively regulate or control the activities of those people who amass a great deal of information about the private lives of others. 1 think the type of situation has been well instanced by the debate which took place in the Legislative Assembly. I know that comparable action has been initiated recently by a private member of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. I would like to provide a comprehensive answer to the honourable senator’s question. I ask him, therefore, to put it on the notice paper and 1 shall ensure that an answer is supplied as soon as T am able to give him one.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to the Adelaide Airport runway. Since his reply in October last year with respect to the examination of proposals which involved extensions to the main runway and the future of recreational areas, has any determination on these matters been made? ls the main runway to be lengthened or has it been decided to strengthen the pavements? Has the Minister had an opportunity to visit the recreational areas and adjacent areas which would be involved in any transfer of lands outside the airport boundaries, as he promised to do?
– Not so very long ago, one of the unrecognisable Assistant Ministers made a statement in South Australia giving full details of the matter to which Senator Bishop refers and on my behalf that Assistant Minister had a good look at the land location. I will arrange for the honourable senator to receive a copy of that Press statement. Substantially, there is a slight extension of the runway within the airport boundary itself as at present constituted. As far as I could see, there was no problem which could cause any concern and, therefore, I have not been over there recently although it is my intention to go in the course of a general look around before very long.
– I direct my question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. I refer to recent statements by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Works that it is the intention of the Government to preserve the natural environment of Garden Island and Cockburn Sound, apart from those areas required for the naval facility. I ask the Minister: Have any mining rights been granted in respect of any part of the Island or ils foreshores? Will the Government permit mining operations to be carried out on any part of the Island or its foreshores?
– 1 understand that mining rights were applied for but, since that time, those rights have been withdrawn. Oil exploration rights had existed but the State authorities were requested to cancel them. It is believed that applications to mine off-shore lime-sand deposits are currently lodged with the Western Australian Warden’s Court. But the Commonwealth has entered an objection in the court against these applications. I understand that all early mineral leases that applied to Garden Island have been cancelled.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a fact that insurers of motor vehicles charge over 30 per cent more to insure vehicles which are under hire purchase? Is it not extremely unfair that a person who. is already paying huge interest under hire purchase agreements should be slugged even more by insurance companies? If this is the case, will the Minister tell the Senate why that situation exists? Will the Government consider establishing a Commonwealth Government insurance office on a non-profit making basis?
– The question of whether the rates of insurance which persons have to take out or choose to take out for the insurance of their motor vehicles is I think a matter essentially for the insurance companies or persons with whom they do business. Whether a particular rate is high or too high must take account of a number of considerations, and of course one is that it is the obligation of the insurance company to be able to meet all the commitments for which it has policies. That is a general approach to what is a very general question. This is a matter, essentially, for the State governments under the hire purchase laws which exist at the moment and which are, of course, State laws. 1 find myself in the position of being unable to say that the Commonwealth Government will take any action with regard to this matter while it is a State responsibility.
– Because it is a matter of some public interest I ask the Attorney-General whether it is not correct that the word ‘crime’ is reserved for grave offences only and that numerous offences throughout the body of the law are not regarded as crimes? Is it not correct that the word ‘crime’ is rarely if ever used in regard to those offences - that is breaches of the law - which are dealt with summarily and are not even regarded as sufficiently grave to be matters for indictment?
– I think that it is very difficult to give an adequate answer to the very broad question which the Leader of the Opposition has asked, particularly as the question is couched in the abstract and, therefore, one is not sure of what he precisely has in mind. To give an example, I mention that in recent times there has been some publicity as to whether draft dodging is a crime. It may be that that is what the honourable senator has in mind. That offence, as I indicated to the Senate yesterday, is created by section 51 of the National Service Act. I suggest that whether the creation of an offence means the creation of a crime if a person commits that offence is a matter of semantics. However, I have heard from many honourable senators opposite how serious this offence is because a person who is convicted of the offence of not being prepared to undertake his national service may go to gaol for 18 months. I would think that any offence for which a person may go to gaol for 18 months ought not be regarded as of such inconsequence that it is not a crime.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. At the time that he is giving consideration to the matter raised today by Senator Carrick, will he also give consideration to the outstanding aspects of the copyright law relating to material stored by computer or data bank?
– I respond to Senator Rae in the same way as I responded to Senator Carrick. I would like the opportunity to give consideration to all these matters. If Senator Rae also will place his question on the notice paper I will arrange for it to be answered at the same time as I arrange for Senator Carrick’s question to be answered.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by saying that I presume he realises that if a man is being retrained under the national service retraining scheme or under an industrial retraining scheme his wife’s income does not affect his living allowance. Is the Minister aware that if a farmer is being retrained under the rural reconstruction scheme his wife’s income can affect his allowance? Will the Minister take action to examine this anomaly?
– I am not too sure whether the first part of what the honourable senator says is correct. I am well aware of the correctness of the second part of his question. I will take the matter up with the Minister for Primary Industry and whatever answer he gives me I will convey to the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, relates to the South Australian Labor Government’s interest or lack of interest in the State’s future water supply. Is the Minister aware that the Government senators representing South Australia and Liberal Country League Opposition members of the State Parliament waited upon the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development as long ago as
October last year concerning the Commonwealth Government’s rejection of a request from the State Government for a grant from the National Water Resources Fund to enable the completion of the KimbaPolda pipeline? Is he also aware that, as a result of new evidence with regard to stocking patterns in that area presented by the deputation, the Minister agreed to consider a further application by the State Government? Is the Minister able to say whether the Commonwealth Government has received an updated submission from the State Government? If so, will he do all he can to get his colleague to expedite the Commonwealth Government’s decision on the matter?
– I know Kimba very slightly because when I was quite a small boy I spent part of my life there. I understand the honourable senator’s interest in the construction of the pipeline to which he referred. I am quite aware that last year a group of members of the South Australian Parliament and South Australian senators again took up the matter with the Prime Minister after the initial rejection of the scheme. As I remember it, they based their proposal on a consideration of new stocking patterns flowing out of improvements in conditions and watering points. The proposal looked as though it had a better future because it would serve more people and more stock than the original proposal would have. I understand that the proposal has been directed to the South Australian Government and that there has been a communication from that Government to the Commonwealth Government but that the final details giving evidence to support the proposal have not yet been received and the Commonwealth awaits the receipt of that evidence in order to make a final determination. That is the
State of my information.
- Senator Webster, you were attempting to attract my attention. I assume that it was on the basis that you were frustrated in asking your previous question which I suggested should be put on the notice paper.
– Thank you, Mr President. Having been frustrated in that question I will ask another, if I may. My question is directed to the Attorney General. Will the Attorney-General consider my request for a review of the gaol sentences of those young men now serving a term of imprisonment for non-compliance with the National Service Act? Now that no Australian national servicemen are serving in a declared combat area, in particular Vietnam, and now that there appears to be no ground for a person objecting to the Act because of the possiblity of serving in a non-declared war such as the Vietnam war, will the Minister seek means of granting to these young men now serving gaol terms a further opportunity to elect to undergo national service?
– I am not sure that I got the true purport of the honourable senator’s question, but if it suggested that persons who are currently serving a term of imprisonment because they chose that in preference to undertaking national service, I believe - if I am incorrect I shall ensure that the honourable senator and the Senate are appraised of the facts - that at any stage these persons in gaol may indicate that they are prepared to do their national service and arrangements can be made to facilitate that change of mind. If that is not the position - it is my belief that it is - I shall arrange for him and the Senate to be assured otherwise.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister for Primary Industry confirm that he has knowledge of the proposal to dump into the sea 540 million surplus eggs? Will he make representations to the Cabinet to prevent this scandalous waste of food when so many people throughout world are on mere subsistence levels? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the United Nations food relief instrumentality or other instrumentalities have been made aware of this proposal and other similar plans that may have been drawn up and thus prevent this monstrous proposal of the Victorian Egg Board being implemented?
– I thought this arose out of a suggestion of the Queensland Egg Board. I have taken up this matter with the Department of Primary Industry. I believe that the Board was trying to point out how valueless it is, with the current large surplus, for producers to produce such vast quantities. If a producer wanted to get rid of a percentage of his eggs naturally he would cull the appropriate number of hens rather than feed the hens and destroy the eggs. 1 have further information on the subject. Last November representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Primary Industry, together with representatives of the egg producers, informed the Indian Government’s representative in Australia that Australia was prepared to offer stocks of eggs and egg powder to help to alleviate the food crisis in Bangla Desh. So I believe the Government has made some moves along the lines suggested by the honourable senator. However, I will have a look at his question and I shall speak to the Minister for Primary Industry about the honourable senator’s suggestion. If any reply conies from the Minister I will pass it on to the honourable senator.
– I take the point the honourable senator raises. I know what she said is correct in regard to overseas transactions when we are exporting, but in regard to the proposition of an Australian company or business importing goods and then not being able to pay the account or sending a cheque which is dishonoured, I am not sure what the legal remedy or indeed the governmental control is. I will have to find out for the honourable senator. I imagine the normal processes of banking ought to be able to cover this situation but I will do some more work on it for the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry seen recent statements attributed to Mr Whitlam that the Tariff Board would be used as a means of price restraint and/ or control? Would such a policy imply in effect that the price aspect and not that of employment or economic needs would be the main yardstick in determinations by the Tariff Board? If this is so, would not this policy of maximum price via the Tariff Board and the policy of minimum wage by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission be contrary to Australian Labor party policy?
– The purpose of a tariff really is to make a long term adjustment based upon a long term investigation. I have noticed the reference made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, and indeed I have noted reference, as all honourable senators have, to a motion which in due course may come before the Senate suggesting that tariff adjustment is a very easy way to control short term price fluctuations. In my view that really is not possible nor is it wise or consistent. I do not think the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, nor indeed the proposal contained in a motion here, is either wise or sensible. Tariff inquiries are long, involved and complicated jobs.
– What is the Government going to do?
– That will be vouchsafed to you in due course. A tariff inquiry is a long, involved and complicated job, and to put it at the mercy of a situation in a parliament is to put people under great duress, to make them liable to penalties which may not be at all justified, to put them at the mercy of perhaps an arbitrary and wilful decision leading not to thorough investigation but possibly to harm and perhaps, in the end, to accusations of unfair treatment and indeed corruption. This is a very dangerous proposition.
– In the absence of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I direct my question, which relates to land transfers, to Senator Cotton, a Minister from New South Wales. By way of preface I refer to a brief conversation 1 had with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson yesterday in which he told me that an impending answer to a question relating to land transfers would be no. In view of certain revelations in this morning’s Press to the effect that Mr Lewis, Minister for Lands in New South Wales, gave specific details to the New South Wales Parliament, will the Minister, as a senator from New South Wales, request the Prime Minister as a means of making restitution to senators, permit me and any other senators from New South Wales who may be interested to visit the foreshores of Sydney Harbour during the forthcoming week’s recess, and to have access to Department of the Interior officers so that we can discuss the causes of the endless dispute relating to the price required to be paid for the transfer of land because the dispute obviously is prostituting Commonwealth and State relations?
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, you cannot address a question to a senator as a senator unless he is in charge of some business of the Senate. In the circumstances surrounding your question Senator Cotton obviously is not in that position. I think the question should be directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior.
– In the spirit of goodwill and harmony which prevails here from time to time, I will take the question on behalf of the Minister for the Interior. I do not think that any citizen of New South Wales, even if he is a senator, is precluded from visiting the forehsores of Sydney Harbour. At least that has not been my experience. I know only the very broad outline and not the specific detail of the matter to which the honourable senator is referring. There is obviously a difference of view between the New South Wales Minister for Lands and the Commonwealth Minister concerned about what should be done, but I am sure this will be resolved both sensibly and harmoniously after due investigation and careful thought. The honourable senator will be aware that on several occasions his specific interests in this regard have been met by officers of the Department of the Interior as well as, I think, officers of the Department of National Development. If the honourable senator sees me after question time I will try to arrange whatever facilities I can to help him.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the current travelling allowance for the 2 part-time members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is $28 a day whereas for the 3 permanent members of the Board, including the Chairman, it is only $21 a day? In view of the amount of travelling compulsorily undertaken by Board members, will the Minister undertake early action to correct this obvious anomaly?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Postmaster-General for his attention.
– My question, I believe, is correctly directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, but if I am wrong I ask him to correct me. I understand that there was a conference recently of State Ministers for Transport and the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport at which it was agreed, among other things, to recommend the adoption of safety design rules for the manufacture and use of passenger car tyres. Is the Minister aware that some Commonwealth cars are fitted with tyres which have been recapped and have a tendency to peel off, as I witnessed recently in Melbourne? As a lead to the rest of the community, will the Minister ensure that all Commonwealth vehicles are checked for tyre safety and that all vehicles are fitted with only specified tyres which match their performance?
– I think this question possibly belongs not to the Department of the Interior but to the Department of Shipping and Transport under whose auspices the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which is comprised of the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport and the State Ministers for Transport, operates. That is the body which would consider a matter such as this. Equally, however, it would have some relevance to the Department of Supply which is responsible for Commonwealth cars outside the Australian Capital Territory, and to the Department of the Interior which is responsible for Commonwealth cars in the Australian Capital Territory. I will take the whole body of the question and direct it in 2 parts to the responsible Ministers to see what can be done.
– Earlier I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry relating to the dumping of eggs by the Victorian Egg Marketing Board. Has the Minister any further information which he can give me on that subject?
– Since I replied to the honourable senator’s previous question information about this matter has come to my hands. He will recall that I spoke of the Government’s efforts to provide eggs and egg powder for emergency aid to India and Bangla Desh. The information 1 have received is that the Red Cross in Dacca made an urgent request for 5,000 lb of egg powder for use in food aid programmes in Bangla Desh. In the light of the need for a large amount of this high protein food, Australia has undertaken to supply a total of 1 1 tons at a cost of $28,250. Tenders were called in the usual way and the contract was awarded on the basis of ability to supply the commodity speedily and economically. The order will be supplied by the New South Wales egg marketing authority except for 2,000 lb which will be provided by the Victorian Egg Marketing Board. That is the information 1 have.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, concerns the current visit to Australia of Dr Ralf Dahrendorf, a member of the Commission of the European Economic Community. Is the Minister in a position to comment on the progress of talks with Dr Dahrendorf and of the possibility of a commercial agreement with the European Economic Community? Is there reason for cautious optimism with regard to prospects of expanded and diversified trade with the EEC? Is the Government strengthening Australia’s trade representation in western Europe in order to ascertain and exploit to the maximum all available opportunities?
– The visit of Dr Dahrendorf is, as the honourable senator pointed out, a most significant matter for Australia and its trading position. Most honourable senators are aware that Australia ranks about. No. 12 as a world trading nation and therefore the percentage of our production passing into world trade is much higher than that of most other countries. We are very vulnerable in world trade because the world is tending to become blocked off in trade matters. We naturally have a great interest. We are seeking good negotiations and good representations with the new Community, which is the largest trading bloc in the world. I do not have the figures in my pocket - I used to carry them - giving the Australian trading position on imports and exports with our various trading partners in the world, but I think it is correct to say that the latest set of figures I saw showed that the Community, excluding the United Kingdom, was a greater buyer of Australian goods than the United Kingdom at that time. We do have some privileged situations within the Community which we can exploit. The ore trade is one that we can enter in a good position. Another is wool.
These negotiations are very important. i am taking some time to reply to this question because it is critical and important. Dr Dahrendorf, as I understand the position, can be regarded as the external relations officer for the Community in the sense that he is following the French principle that the total body of external relations should be conducted through one office rather than tend to be fractionated as is the case in Australia. In a sense he is representing the relationship which the Community will have with the rest of the world and with potential trading partners. We are in serious discussions with the Community through him. We are most interested in this. We are hoping to see results come out of these discussions - perhaps not immediately - and certainly a greater understanding by the Community of our particular situation and our particular problems. We hope that the situation will be resolved in due course. We, for our part as an Australian nation, will certainly be seeking to strengthen our representation in the continent of Europe where it could be most beneficial to us.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Parliament whether firm agreement has been reached for a visit to Australia by the Concorde? When will such a visit take place and what will be its exact flight path across Australia?
Seantor COTTON - It may be simply stated that no firm arrangements have been made for a visit to Australia by the Concorde. One has read from time to time that the people who manufacture the Concorde will be flying it to various parts of the world where they may be able to sell it. When we know more positively that they propose to come here to try to sell the aircraft I shall be able to answer more precisely the question asked by the honourable senator. The honourable senator will be aware that the Academy of Science has been looking into the effect that supersonic transport might have on the upper atmosphere. I expect to be able to give more information on that subject later. The honourable senator may be interested to know that the International Civil Aviation Organisation, through its world study groups, has been conducting a very serious study of what the sonic boom situation will be and whether it will be of any consequence. There are problems with the Concorde because of the economic cost of the aircraft to potential users and operators. This is a complex matter, but perhaps I shall be able to help the honourable senator a little more later when I know more myself.
– May I have your indulgence, Mr President, to ask a question which is of vital importance to the Aus tralian poultry industry? My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the proposed dumping of eggs by the Victorian Egg Board, what action is the Federal Government taking to persuade the Victorian Minister for Agriculture to agree with the proposal by all other State Ministers for a plan to control egg production?
– The honourable senator will be aware that only a fortnight ago there was a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council at which this matter was discussed. At that meeting the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria said that his Government was not ready to introduce legislation to control egg production. Legislation of this kind has been introduced in Western Australia and from 1st July next there will be a compulsion on producers to reduce their egg production by 15 per cent. Legislation has been introduced in New South Wales and I understand that as soon as a poll among growers is completed the legislation will become operative. Tasmania has indicated that, should the need arise, it is prepared to introduce legislation, and the remainder of the mainland States are in agreement to introduce control measures. Until there is agreement among the States there is very little that the Commonwealth can do, other than keep calling the Ministers together in an endeavour to overcome the problem.
(Question No. 1655)
asked the Minister representing the Post master-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1656)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
What are the many worthwhile plans for new programmes and for development, referred to at page 4 of the 39th Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that have had to be held in abeyance because of the financial limitation imposed on the Commission.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The plans referred to include:
Drama - The production of a studiobased series or serial of one hour’s duration per week in Sydney.
Features - The production in Melbourne of programmes (shot in colour with the view to overseas sales) dealing with Australian native flora and fauna, and the development and expansion of ABC documentary output generally.
Religious - The establishment of a Religious production unit in Sydney to undertake the production of all the Religious Department’s television output with the exception of ‘Divine Service’ and Dialogue’ programmes.
Music - Plans to resume the production of local Ballet programmes.
Training - Plans to recruit a group of young graduates direct from universities in ascheme similar to the BBC’s method of recruiting and selectively training creative staff.
Drama - The planned expansion of ‘live’ radio drama.
Orchestras - (1) Plans for inter and intrastate tours by the National Training Orchestras. (2) The addition of 4 players to the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
Music - A planned series on the ‘History of Music’.
Science - A planned series of medical programmes.
Regionals - Plans for Country Breakfast Session programmes in 3 further regional areas.
Education - The introduction of a programme’This Week in Education’.
(Question No. 1667)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
On how many occasions has the aerodrome been closed due to:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
During the period from 1 January to 30 November, 1971, there were 120 occasions spread over a total of 74 days when Bankstown Aerodrome was closed to all traffic obliged to operate under the visual flight rules. Most of these closures were of short duration. Details are contained in the attached table.
Of the total number of closures given in the answer to the first part of the question, the number caused by reduced visibility, which may or may not have contained an element of industrial pollution, was 91. Of these, only 3 were reported directly to have smoke content. The remaining 29 occasions were caused by thunderstorms, or low cloud.
(Question No. 1489)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia has submitted a national report on the environment. In addition, 14 proposals for case studies to illustrate particular topics to be discussed at Stockholm were submitted to the Conference Secretariat. At the invitation of the Conference Secretariat a case study on the development of new towns has been prepared by the National Capital Development Commission for possible inclusion in the official conference documents. Australia is also participating through its technical specialists in the work of 4 Intergovernmental Working Croups on Soils, Monitoring,
Marine Pollution and Conservation. The task of these groups is to prepare proposals for discussion at the conference. In addition, we have sent observers to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Declaration on the Environment as well as the Preparatory Committee of the Conference.
My colleague the Minister for Education and Science has discussed the prospects of a study of the ecology of the Ord with both CSIRO and Professor Stanley, Head of the Microbiology Department of the School of Medicine of the University of W.A. and a member of the Ecology Sub-Committee of the Ord Project Co-ordinating Committee. He has informed me that the results of his discussions might be summarised as follows:
A thorough integrated study of the ecology of the Ord and of the changes brought about by developments there might serve the following main purposes:
While a model developed on the basis of ecological studies in the Ord could have considerable methodological value for selling up related studies in other areas, I am told that there would be strictly limited possibilities for direct extrapolation to other parts of Australia or to other countries. On the one hand, the Ord differs significantly from the eastern and southern parts of Australia where future water storage and irrigation developments are most likely to be located. On the other, the Australian socio-economic conditions of the Ord area, and hence the impact of environmental changes on the inhabitants, differ vastly from those prevailing elsewhere in the tropics. The large planned farm size for the Ord makes the pattern of development quite unlike anything that could be considered in Asia. More valuable as a model for large-scale irrigation developments in other tropical environments would be the study being made by an international team of experts in the Mekong Valley, with its typical high density development accompanied by social problems of villagers displaced by the scheme. It is also relevant to note that the Special Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), a high-level international body established in 1968 by the international Council of Scientific Unions, has appointed an ad hoc Committee on Man-made Lakes, so that the subject is by no means being neglected internationally.
There remains the question of the value of a detailed study for monitoring, predicting, and mitigating local effects. lt seems reasonable to predict that human health effects, with the relatively small populations likely to live in the area and the high standards of hygiene and health services to be expected, are not likely to be as serious as in more populous regions typical of the tropica. I am informed that there is no reason to believe that the danger of the introduction of serious exotic human diseases will be greatly increased hy the Ord project. Conditions suitable for the vectors and alternate hosts of such diseases already exist in the north. CSIRO advises that major irrigation works, while increasing the areas suited to some of them, do not create a uniquely-favourable environment. This is not to say that no human health problems will occur, and Professor Stanley and his associates have been carrying out surveillance of human health and other studies for a number of years and have the support of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Grants Committee for continuing these studies.
Certainly there will be changes in the pest and disease patterns affecting agricultural crops. Some changes have already occurred and CSIRO is studyingthem. CSIRO is also considering monitoring the possible accumulation of pesticide and herbicide residues. University groups (from both Western Australia and New England) are studying some species of wildlife, as are Western Australia State Authorities.
Apart from current investigations, land surveys by CSlRO’s Division of Land Research in the Old-Victoria region in 1949 and 1952 provided extensive basic information about climate, geology, landforms and soils of the Ord area and examined the relationships between factors of the physical environment and growth amd distribution of native vegetation when still little disturbed by human activity. More specialised climatological and soil studies, together with studies on the taxonomy of grasses. changes in weed flora and insect pest species following introduction of irrigated crop production, and other natural and man influenced ecological relationships have since been made by CSIRO scientists and the results published.
There is thus available a considerable body of information about the basic ecology of the Ord, studies as indicated above arc being made on ecological changes that are occurring, and the Government of Western Australia has set up the Ecology Sub-Committee of the Ord Project Co-ordinating Committee to co-ordinate such studies. Some expansion might be worthwhile and CSIRO is examining its own degree of involvement. I am advised however, that at this stage it is questionable whether the gains to be expected from a really major effort would be commensurate with the cost.
(Question No. 1569)
Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Seantor COTTON - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– Last Tuesday Senator Milliner asked me the following question:
Will the Minister for Air make available to the Senate details of the use of any VIP aircraft which arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday, 2nd February 1972? in such details will he make known the lime and place of departure, the time of arrival and the names of passengers?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The only RAAF VIP aircraft to arrive in Brisbane on 2nd February 1972 was a Mystere which travelled from Canberra to Brisbane departing at 16.35 hours and arriving at 18.05 hours. The passengers were the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, and Mr Virtue.
Tuesday last, Senator Primmer asked me:
Has an agreement been reached between the Government, the wool buyers and the Graziers’ Association for the third price averaging plan pool to be wound up, for interlotting to be introduced or bulk class wools to he acquired and for there to bc no acquisition scheme for the remainder of the Australian clip?
The Minister for Primary Industry has provided me with the following answer:
The Australian Wool Commission has been working on a new lot building plan to replace the existing price averaging plan. The essential feature of the new plan is greater simplicity and reduced cost of operation and it has been prepared in consultation with the appropriate wool interests.
I understand that the new lot building plan is about to be submitted to the Government by the Commission for consideration. Tho future arrangements for the sale of interlotted and bulk-classed wool at auction will depend on the outcome of the Government’s consideration. As far as an acquisition scheme for the Australian wool clip is concerned, this subject is being examined by special committees set up by both the Government and the wool industry. When the reports of these committees are available the matter wilt be considered by the Government.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to give notice of motion for the disallowance of an Australian Capital Territory ordinance.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I give notice that, 10 silting days after today, I shall move:
That Australian Capital Territory Ordinance 1971, No. 29, being the Canberra Retail Market Trust Ordinance 1971, made under the Seat of Government Administration Act 1910-1970, be disallowed.
I ask for leave to make a brief statement concerning this notice.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I ought to explain to the Senate that the reason why this notice was not given at the proper time is that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee had just finished deliberating upon the matter when the Senate met. The Committee is concerned with certain aspects of the ordinance. It has had discussions with departmental officers and this morning it received a communication from the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). The Committee wishes to discuss the matter further with the officers and, as this is the last day for the giving of notice, I have given it in order to allow the Committee time to have those discussions.
– What does the honourable senator mean when he says ‘not given at the proper time’? Does he mean as early as possible?
– I mean the proper time in the order of business of the Senate.
– Mr President, I present the report by the Tariff Board on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins - an interim report on the general review inquiry on industrial chemicals - ethylene oxide derivatives and hydrogen peroxide (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
– Order! ls Notice of Motion No. 1, Government Business, formal or not formal?
– I move:
The proposal involves construction of the following works:
The estimated cost of the proposed works now being referred to the Committee is $30m. I table plans o£ the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is it desired to postpone or ito rearrange the Business of the Senate as shown on the business paper?
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate be postponed till after consideration of Government Business, orders of the Day No. 1 and No. 4.
– Mr President, J ask for leave to move a motion relating to the order of General Business.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
If honourable senators’ look at Order of the Day No. 1, General Business, they will see that this is a matter in the name of Senator Turnbull. Order of the Day No. 34, General Business, is a matter in my name. It refers to the adjourned debate on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1970. I have moved this motion with the concurrence of Senator Turnbull. He has indicated his willingness to give up trie position of his Order of the Day so that Order of the Day No. 34 may be dealt with.
Let me remind honourable senators of what has occurred in relation to this matter. A Bill was passed through the Senate in 1968 for the abolition of capital punishment. The second reading of that Bill was moved in my name by the late Senator Cohen. In 1970 a similar Bill was introduced. It took a long time to come up for debate. Towards the end of last year, when the debate on that Bill was almost concluded, a motion was moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to refer this Bill, even before it had passed the second reading stage, to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. That was done over my protests at the course that was being taken. It was indicated during the course of the debate in various ways that this would mean a delay of only several weeks at the most. The Committee reported before the end of last year.
On 2nd December of last year, I moved for the resumption of the second reading debate. The matter was not dealt with then. On 10th December 1971, I endeavoured to have the matter dealt with. Now, in March 1972, the Opposition still has not been accorded the privilege of having a vote taken on a substantial Bill which has been introduced in the Senate. That is not democracy. If there is to be democracy, we are entitled to have our matters dealt with. No-one can suggest that the proposal which has been put forward is a frivolous one. lt is supported widely throughout the community. It was supported by the vote of this Senate in 1968.
Mr President, I claim as a matter of democracy that we are entitled to a vote on this Bill. Government senators and those who for some purpose or other are not willing to have the matter put to a vo’.e ought to recognise that, if there is some democracy, we are entitled to have a vote on this Bill. The Attorney-General laughs at me when I say this. He was speaking last night about the democratic process. Well, I am Leader of the Opposition in this chamber representing 26 honourable senators and putting a viewpoint which is widely held throughout the community. I introduced in 1970 a Bill entitled the Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1970 and I want it brought to a vote. The democratic processes in this place are such that every device will be used to prevent me having this Bill brought to a vote.
I do nol wish to go through the matter. 1 indicated before that there were some understandings at the end of last year. Not, I think, through any fault of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, I have been treated dishonourably in this matter. 1 repeat, not by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson but by decision of his Party which ran across the understandings which he had had with me. This matter should have been brought to a vote at the end of last year. I want it brought to a vote and I think that the Senate should allow me to have it brought to a vote. General business lime is tonight. Senator Turnbull has kindly agreed to vacate his matter so that this matter may be dealt with. 1 suggest that if there is any decent approach to legislative matters and any pretence at democracy at least 1 ought to be entitled to have the matter voted upon. 1 ask the Senate to agree to the proposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has asked that his matter be brought to a vote. I point out that on the notice paper under the heading of General Business there are 40 orders of the day which, at one time, or another, someone wants brought to a vote. Senator Murphy’s order of the day is No. 34. It is all very well for Senator Murphy and Senator Turnbull to have an agreement that Senator Turnbull will stand aside from his position with Order of the Day No. 1 so that Senator Murphy’s matter is brought from No. 34 to No. I. When I look at the notice paper I see that Order of the Day No. 2 is Commonwealth and State Revenue - proposed Joint Select Committee, adjourned debate from 7th May. 1970, on the motion by Senator Little. I find that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is in continuation. If Senator Turnbull does not want to go on with his order of the day then I see no reason why No. 2 cannot be brought on in its place.
The Government opposes Senator Murphy’s suggestion. It does not look on this matter as a Government Bill. Many of us have views which we would like to express. Up to date the Government’s Parties have not had an opportunity to meet together and express their views on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1970. Morever, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is vitally interested in this Bill and he will be away from the sitting this evening. I believe that he should be here to hear the views of his Party before we come into this place to have a discussion. My Party had decided that it would like to have its Leader in the Party room while it carries out discussions and puts forward its views. Let us talk about democracy. Today, the Leader of the Opposition and I have had discussions on how we will arrange the business of the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition put to me certain suggestions because his Party would like longer time to discuss some Bill which I would like to see before the Senate today.
I understand that Senator Murphy and his Party have had meetings in relation to this matter. I have given him time to have meetings. I have agreed that one Bill be put aside because the Opposition feels that it would like further time to look at it. This is democracy. In this instance because members of my Party want to have further discussions amongst themselves, we are not prepared to see Senator Murphy’s Bill lifted from position No. 34 to position No. 1 and be discussed tonight. Therefore the Government opposes Senator Murphy’s proposition.
Senator Wright reminds me that the Government will certainly give Senator Murphy an early oppotunity to put his Bill before the Senate so that it may be debated. But because of the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate tonight and because the. Government Parties have not had an opportunity to discuss the matter we are asking that it be set aside from tonight’s discussion. When the Leader of the Government in the Senate returns on Monday I shall see that Senator Murphy’s views are conveyed to him and that a discussion takes place with the Leader as to how we can bring on Senator Murphy’s order of the day at an early date.
Sentaor BYRNE (Queensland) (12.30) - The proposal by Senator Murphy to advance Order of the Day No. 34 under General Business above other items is apparently based on an arrangement between himself and Senator Turnbull. It would be a very undesirable practice if the business sheet were substantially altered by private individual arrangements even though, subsequently, it would require the concurrence of the Senate. Senator DrakeBrockman mentioned this matter to me early this morning. But Senator Turnbull did not mention it to me and nor did Senator Murphy. As the second order of the day is a motion moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, presuming that honourable senators are not entitled to rearrange the business sheet on individual understandings, if Senator Turnbull had asked that his matter be deferred, the next item for consideration would have been the order of the day in Senator Little’s name to which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is in continutaion. I think courtesy would demand that we be consulted as to what we thought about this person to person arrangement. Unfortunately - perhaps due to an oversight - that was not done. Personally, I want this matter to come to a vote because 1 spoke on the matter originally.
– Which matter is that?
– That is the matter in your name. I was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to which this matter was referred. We have brought in a report. When one transfers an item above another item it can only be because there is an urgency about it which warrants that action being taken. For example, as 1 look through the orders of the day - quite apart from No. 2 - I see that Order of the Day No. 18 relates to the adjourned debate on the report by the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. 1 imagine that perhaps in the modern context that is much more important and urgent than Senator Murphy’s Bill. .1 know of nobody under sentence of death. 1 know of nobody likely to be sentenced to death or executed. But every day death sentences are being imposed on this community through drug trafficking. I think that, as a question of importance and priority, that matter should have priority over Senator Murphy’s Bill. That illustrates the type of thing which happens if something is transferred from the bottom of the business sheet to the top because, quite justifiably some person is intensely interested in the presentation of the matter and a decision on it.
– The honourable senator did not use this argument when he did this about 6 or 7 months ago.
– No. 1 think I would have used the same argument. I did not do it by private arrangement.
– The honourable senator set the precedent.
– With Senator Turnbull’s matter, yes, but not ours.
– .1 have asked for it.
– Yes, the honourable senator has asked just now but not earlier. He made an arrangement with Senator Turnbull and he asks the Senate to endorse that arrangement. But, as 1 say, that would amount to an individual rearrangement - person to person - of the business sheet. This would be an undesirable practice. I think that Senator DrakeBrockman’s proposition is very important. This matter not only attracts the attention of the professional lawyers in the chamber but also it is a matter of very high policy. In the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) I think it is highly undesirable that we should proceed to taking the debate to a vote. Unfortunately 1 shall be unable to be here tonight. As one who spoke on this matter and who was a member of the Committee which looked at the Bill on reference 1 should like to be here. Unfortunately I cannot be here tonight. That is another personal reason why I would like to see the matter deferred. For those reasons 1 cannot find myself in accord with the proposition advanced by Senator Murphy. If Senator Turnbull still does not wish to proceed with his order of the day then I suggest that we should go down the business sheet in chronological order.
– Briefly, I support the attitude adopted by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman). I think it is important for the Government Parlies to have the opportunity to consider the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which has been submitted. It requires very extensive consideration because the purport of the Committee’s report is that, technically, this Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1970 is not effective to achieve what is claimed for it. In those circumstances I think it is prudent that we give time to this matter. The simple fact is that members of the Government Parties have not given that time to this matter because there was never any indication as to when this Bill would come on. lt is Order of the Day No. 34 on the notice paper. As I understand the position the suggestion that this matter should come on tonight was raised only this morning. Apparently from an interjection which came from Senator Turnbull, he was aware of the arrangement only about 5 minutes ago.
– I was only asked-
– Well, 1 do not know-
– We have not had notice that this matter was coming on tonight. We want time for preparation of the debate.
– Senator Wright has expressed a view which we on this side of the chamber share. This is something which was not arranged with the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Leader of the Government is not here, and we believe that he ought to be involved because the whole of the business of the Senate is a matter of comity between the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party and, where they are involved, the Independents. Unless that comity is preserved in all matters, we can get ourselves into all sorts of difficulties. Because it has not been able to be preserved, because Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is not here today and because we are not in a position at the moment to go on - the notice has been short - our attitude is that the matter should be deferred, as Senator Drake-Brockman said, with the assurance that it will be discussed with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson with a view to having a debate on it in the near future. That is certainly the intention of everyone. I regret that Senator Murphy should. somewhat provocatively and challengingly, come into this place and suggest that he is being denied his rights, when in fact the whole record is that, in terms of General Business, the Senate is master of its own business and in times past has shown that it will exercise its rights.
– in reply - First of all, I did mention this proposal to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) last night and be raised no objection to the endeavour which I said I would make to have this matter come on tonight.
– Do you say that he agreed to it?
– I do nol say that he agreed to it.
– What do you mean by saying that he raised no objection?
– If I wish to discuss what 1 have said to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, other than what I have put to the Senate, in my dealings with him on this matter, I will do that with the Acting Leader of the Government. I do not propose to do it in answer to Senator Wright’s interjections.
– Order! The AttorneyGeneral mentioned, as I have indicated from the chair from time to time, that the management of the Senate cannot continue except on the basis of understanding, comity and private dealings between the leaders of the parties. Therefore, Senator Murphy, .1 would not wish you to address yourself to an agreement you have made with the Leader of the Government.
– If I made any agreement with the Leader of the Government I would not have any hesitation in saying that there was an agreement; nor would he. As far as possible, we do not speak about any understandings that we have between us. But that is not always possible. There is a good relationship between Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson and me, as I think everyone is aware. Any suggestion that I am seeking to bring this matter on because he is absent has no basis in fact. My understanding of the position is that he was not ignorant of this; J did tell him of the course T intended to take. There is no private arrangement to rearrange the business in this instance. I indicated merely that in what I was doing 1 had the concurrence of Senator Turnbull. Because it affected the order of the day in his name it seemed to me to be proper to speak to him and to obtain his concurrence. The arrangement or rearrangement of the business is a matter for the Senate.
A number of reasons have been advanced as to why this matter should not be dealt with. It has been said, firstly, that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has said that the Bil! would not be effective. 1 reject that suggestion. The Bill which was before the Senate certainly could be effective and would operate in its present form. However, to ensure that there could be no more nitpicking on this matter I took the advantage of asking one of the Attorney-General’s own draftsmen to suggest some alterations or amendments to the Bill. If one looks at them one will see that they are pretty clear and would cause no trouble in this simple Bill. They would dispose entirely of any further nit-picking in relation to the wording of the Bill. If any honourable senator wants a copy of the amendments that are proposed to be moved I will have copies circulated.
But we have not reached the stage of considering the clauses of the Bill. At present it is a question of the principle of ‘.he Bill and whether the Senate wants to adopt the principle of abolition of capital punishment, which is in the Bill. I have asked that the motion for the second reading of the Bill be brought to a vote. The unprecedented step was taken of interrupting the second reading debate when it had Deen almost concluded and sending the Bill eff to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. The Government has had plenty of time to consider the report of the Committee if it wanted to do so. The report of the Committee was presented early in December or at the end of November.
As for the suggestion that has been made that there have been attempts to block this Bill, I am not the only one who has made the suggestion. Honourable senators may recall that the editorial in the Age’ of Wednesday, 6th October, which was headed ‘Sense in the Senate’, stated:
The tactics employed last week in the Senate to block Senator Murphy’s private member’s antihanging bill were contemptible. They showed scant respect for the parliamentary system and the forms upon which the Upper House traditionally prides itself. They were also proof of the Government’s determination to move heaven and high water rather than let this vital matter be brought to the vote of Parliament. After nearly 18 months on the notice paper. Senator Murphy/s bill to remove the death penalty from Federal statutes was finally debated on Thursday. With Labor’s 26 senators bound to vote for the bill on party lines, and the declared support of several Government and DLP senators, the signs were that the Opposition bill would bc passed, and then sent on to the House of Representatives.
For the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) and other senior Government members, this was unthinkable. No matter that the Murphy bill might be based on sound and humane principles. No matter that it might represent me views of the majority of members of the Senate, and many, perhaps most, of the members of the House of Representatives. No matter, either, that it might accord with the wishes and sentiments of a sizable minority, if not an actual majority, of Australians. Senator Greenwood and the Government were not interested in such considerations. Their stand was dictated by the narrowest and most cynical of considerations - those of party politics.
So the blocking procedures were hurriedly introduced, the debate adjourned for a fortnight at Senator Greenwood’s request, and the vote avoided.
– Mr Presi– dent-
– Order! Senator Drake-Brockman, are you rising to a point of order?
– Yes. My patience has been tried. 1 think Senator Murphy is going a little outside the ambit of the motion that is before the Chair.
– The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to reply to the debate on the motion that he moved, and I think he understands the forms of the Senate as well as anyone else does.
– 1 am putting this to the Senate because it is important thai the Senate know the reasons why this mailer should be brought on and why 1 consider it has been prevented from being brought on. and also to rebut the suggestion which was made in the argument that it is something novel to suggest that there is an attempt to prevent this Bill from being brought to a vote. The editorial continued:
For good measure Senator Greenwood gave notice that he would move for the bill to be referred to the Senate’s standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs - a tactic which can achieve nothing but renewed delay,. By such manoeuvres the Government has won itself a little breathing space, lt has won very little else.
– Do you think that is a valid statement, or do you think the reference was worth while, as it turned out?
– I think the reference really was not worth while. I think anything that could have been done should have been done and could have been done in the Committee stage of consideration of the Bill. Certainly the second reading debate on the Bill ought not to have been interrupted. 1 answered that question because it was put to me. The editorial goes on in similar vein, lt refers to the fact that, at least out of decency and so on. the Government ought to allow this measure to be brought to a vote. The measure was introduced in 1970. I have endeavoured as often as I could since that time to have the matter brought to a vote. I submit that the Opposition is entitled to have its measures brought to a vote. There is a disease prevalent in many parts of Australia. That disease is inefficiency. This country is showing one of the slowest increases in productivity in the world. The disease of inefficiency is manifested in this Parliament. The fact that most of the matters on the notice paper will not be dealt with indicates that the forms of the Senate and of the Parliament are not sufficient to meet the requirements of our age and of this nation. This is one matter that I think should be dealt with. I shall press the matter to a vote. I intend repeatedly to take steps in this chamber to ensure that it will be brought to a vote. If I have to move the suspension of the Standing Orders each day I will do so until the matter is brought toa vote.
Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - I ask for leave to explain myself in regard to statements made by Senator Murphy in the course of his reply. He quoted a newspaper article which I assert is untrue.
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I ask for leave to explain myself.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– During his reply I objected, by way of interjection which he did not acknowledge, to Senator Murphy’s reading in the Senate and into Hansard an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ last October following a debate in this chamber. At the time that article was written I took exception to what I knew to be a completely untrue account of what had occurred here on the night in question and to the imputation of motives which were untrue and which were designed to denigrate. The exception that I took was that it was unworthy and untrue to suggest that a majority of the Senate had taken a step which was actuated by Party political considerations. I explained to the Senate at the time, as had been discussed by me with a number of Government senators beforehand, that there was merit and benefit in referring the matter to a committee. I have held that view since. I regret that the committee did not look more exhaustively into the matters which were raised. To suggest, as that article did and as Senator Murphy, in what I say was an outrageous manner, read in the Senate today-
– I take a point of order. The Minister has invoked the standing order which entitles him to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood but not to introduce any new matter. Not only is he introducing new matter but he is not explaining himself. Apart from an attack upon a newspaper, he is indulging in an attack upon me. That is not the purpose of standing order 410. Mr President, I ask you to restrain him-
– Senator Murphy, I interrupt you merely to indicate to the Senate that for some time I have been studying standing order 414 which states:
No Senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other Documents, except Hansard, referring to Debates in the Senate during the same Session.
I make it perfectly clear that I think there has been enough debate on the matter. I intend to put the question.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative. Sitting suspended from 1.2.55 to 2.15 p.m.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrock man) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision, announced on 14th February 1972, to restore the investment allowance on manufacturing plant and equipment. The allowance permits a deduction for income tax purposes of 20 per cent of the installed cost of new plant and equipment used in manufacturing, the deduction being made from the income of the year in which the plant is first used or installed for use. This allowance was introduced in February 1962, and remained in force until its suspension in February last year. The decision to restore it was taken recently when the Government decided upon measures to encourage activity in the private sector. This step has been taken on the basis of views put to us strongly from many quarters that restoration of the allowance is likely to be conducive to greater confidence and activity.
This Bill will restore the allowance, under section 62AA of the Income Tax Assessment Act, as from 14th February 1972. Expenditure incurred on or after that date will qualify regardless of when the contract under which it is incurred was entered into. In other respects the allowance will be as it was before suspension. The rate of allowance will be 20 per cent, and the allowance will apply to precisely the same categories of expenditure as before. The deductions will again be allowable in respect of the income year in which the plant is first used or installed for use. A memorandum explaining technical features of the Bill is being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 February (vide page 260), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Firstly, we on this side of the chamber support this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act to allow the Australian Dairy Produce Board to carry on, and if necessary expand its activities of the type that it has promoted in particular in South East Asia in recent years. As honourable senators would know, previously the funds for this operation came from a stabilisation fund which was basically contributed to by funds accrued in our markets in the United Kingdom in post war years. But it would seem that the point has now been reached where the Board is desirous of obtaining further funds and that the stabilisation fund which previously operated will not supply these funds. Consequently this is the reason for the amendment to the Act.
Over the years that the Board has been operating in conjunction with private enterprise or with Government industries in these markets in South East Asia, there has been quite a deal of criticism of its actions.I think we can all look back now with hindsight - even the Board’s critics can do this - and see that the action the Board took almost a decade ago was the result of a very wise decision in view of Britain’s impending joining of the European Common Market which will cause the Australian dairy industry to lose one of its traditional markets. Perhaps criticism is a good thing, but despite this criticism the Board has been able to show a profit over those years. I think even its critics would admit that any new industry starting up must expect a period in its infancy when it will not be able to pay dividends. It is only by a long slow process that any project is able to accrue profits, and the Board has been successful in this regard, lt is interesting to note also that over the greater part of those years the Board in its purchase of commodities from the Australian industry for utilisation in those overseas factories has paid a premium over and above the world parity rates for those very same products. In other words, the Board has done the right thing by the Australian dairy farmer.
In reply to a question which I asked of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) some time back I have received an answer which indicates that in the short term the Australian dairy industry currently would bc far better to be placing butter that has been churned into butter oil for use in Asian markets on the markets in the United Kingdom. Because of a world shortage of dairy products, butter is currently selling in the United Kingdom in the price range from £Stg550 to £Stg600 a lon. Here again I am of the opinion that to act in this manner would be to demonstrate a very short sighted attitude indeed. If the Board in fact were to adopt this attitude it could, in return for a short term profit, jeopardise the entire future of markets in South East Asia.
On the question of those markets in Souh East Asia, a recent publication of the Australian Dairy Produce Board points out that these plants which it has set up in Asia have secured an increased market share for Australian milk products sold in that area. Some of the figures behind this statement make very interesting reading indeed. For example, in Thailand the Australian share of the market has risen from 3 per cent in 1967 to about 50 per cent today. In Indonesia and Cambodia Australia enjoys a market share of 75 per cent and 100 per cent respectively, as well as 20 per cent of the Philippines market, and current annual requirements for raw materials amount to 25,000 to 30,000 tons of skim milk powder and about 7,500 tons of butter oil. It is not an inconsequential market. The pointers are that it will increase even though one can say that when regarded in the light of the total amount of Australian exports it is still not a large part. However, in conjunction with the cheese market which the Dairy Board has developed in Japan, it is becoming a sizable market for the Australian dairy farmer. The report which the Board has released contains a slight warning in these terms:
Because of a world shortage of dairy products and higher ruling prices, the milk plants-
That is a reference to milk plants in South East Asia - were currently finding it difficult to obtain sufficient supplies of raw materials to meet the increasing demand for the high quality dairy products being manufactured. In addition, increased duties on imports of raw materials entering South East Asian countries and a reluctance by some governments to allow higher consumer prices to cover production costs, have caused some trading difficulties. However, the position should improve as there are signs of an easing in the world supply and price position and wc are hopeful that our negotiations on duties will improve the trading positions.
It is obvious from the report that the Dairy Board is not content to sit back and allow things to happen as they will. Instead, it is fighting in the interests of the Australian dairy farmer. There are also indications that if the Board had access to sufficient supplies of Australian dairy produce long term markets would be available on the world scene, but because of the short supply of these commodities, particularly in Australia and as a consequence of a world shortage, the Board is not able to enter into long term agreements with other countries which would be of great benefit to the Australian dairy industry.
In this regard one can only say that the action of the Government almost 2 years ago in calling for a 34 per cent reduction in dairy production has not helped the situation by any means. Frankly, I find it very hard to project into the future in regard to the world situation for dairy produce. Some people are prophesying that within a few years Australian dairy produce will be sold within the European Economic Community while others are saying that the Common Market countries are already again building up surplus stocks. This I find hard to believe in view of the present high prices and the world shortage of these commodities, but those are the kinds of reports and suggestions that one reads daily in the Press and in industry journals, and they make it very difficult to assess in the long term what the demand will be for dairy produce or what the chances of selling Australian dairy produce on the world market will be.
There is little doubt in my mind that were the industry and the world properly organised there would be a great demand for the very high protein food produced by the Australian dairy industry. According to the last annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, cheese consumption in all countries covered by the report is on the increase. As most honourable senators would know, cheese, along with wine, is one of the in things in Australia today. There are not. many good eating houses which these days do not supply their customers with cheeses. In view of the declining demand for butter in the countries covered by the report, the fact that cheese is on the up and up is a very good trend for the industry. As I have said, butter is on the decline in the broad spectrum of the countries covered by the report. In this regard perhaps the industry has been a little tardy in that it is only within the last couple of years that a committee was set up to look into the question of the basis of payment.
Honourable senators would know that currently the method of payment for milk for manufacture is on a butterfat basis. The method of payment which seems to have been suggested by the committee, will be based on a protein - solids - not fat basis so, if the report which the committee hopes to produce in the next few months is adopted, we will see a switch in the method of payment from a butterfat basis to a protein - solids - nol fat basis. If this is the case and the dairy industry, through the. State Departments of Agriculture and their extension officers, starts to weed, breed and feed to this end rather than to butterfat, it could reduce the surplus butter with which the industry finds itself at various times. In fact, over recent, years butter has tended to become the byproduct of the industry and what were the byproducts of the industry in my day - the whey, in particular, that we fed to pigs or tipped down the. drain - have become the prime products of the industry. The whole commodity basis of the industry has been turned upside down, and whereas butter was once the premium with skim milk, buttermilk and whey the end product, the situation has been reversed. I am hopeful that if the protein - solids - not fat basis of payment is adopted we can start to breed and feed cattle and get away from the, at times, embarrassing situation with which we have been confronted in regard to butter.
In view of the fact that the Labor Party is supporting the Bill I do not want to drag out this debate. We on this side of the House have always seen the dairy industry as a viable one. The figures relating to last year’s production show that the industry produced goods to a total value of $415.Sm and exported goods to the value of $115m. According to an editorial in one of the newspapers that I read today, the dairy industry has again been set up as an Aunt Sally because of the High Court judgment in the margarine case in Tasmania. That aspect seems to have been something of a bonanza for editorial writers because everyone jumped on the bandwagon, and again we are seeing those well known adjectives concerning the dairying industry being thrown about. That has been going on for so many years. One editorial writer said that the dairying industry’s exports were not worth worrying about, but T believe that any industry which can export goods to the value of $U5m in any one year is not an inconsequential industry. If the editorial writers who talk about efficiency in the industry were aware of the relevant figures, they would know that the production I have mentioned came from 2,833,000 cows on 60,000 farms compared with 3,100,000 cows on 142,000 holdings 10 years ago.
I do not doubt that one can always find figures and statistics to back up any argument one likes to advance, but I believe that the figures I have cited show that by and large the dairying industry has put its house in order. It is an efficient industry. It has been able to cope with the many adverse situations which have confronted it from time to time as a result of actions by governments overseas, by governments at home and by flood, fire and drought. As I have said before, in my experience as I have travelled around Victoria I have found the dairy industry by and large, from cow to factory, to be far more efficient than many of the secondary industries I have seen. There is a continuous process of efficiency. One can walk into the modern dairy factories throughout the dairying districts of Victoria today and find that the management is continually pulling down plant installed only a relatively few years ago and replacing it with modern plant and modern techniques. We on the Opposition side, as I said, have maintained always that this is a viable industry. I believe it has a very bright future although I realise that there are many marginal areas in the Commonwealth of Australia where it is not easy to get the production figures obtained by their counterparts in the better areas. Be that as it may, in my opinion the industry is very efficient.
The action of the Board in going overseas to seek markets and in establishing industries in those countries has proved to be very valuable, lt is to be hoped that in future years similar action can be taken in other countries which apparently seen to believe that the Australian dairy industry cun give them a better product thin can the industry in other countries. Those countries seem to believe that the main dairying districts of Australia, those in which the industry basically is concentrated, are very efficient sections of the world wide dairy industry. I will leave it at that and reiterate that we on this side of the House support this Bill.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) f3.28) - The purpose of the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill is to clarify the general investment and promotion provisions of the existing Act *o provide the Australian Dairy Produce Board with specific power to participate in commercial ventures as a means of expanding its existing markets or of securing new markets. As explained in the Minister’s second reading speech, the position now has been reached where the Board may not be able (o depend on the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Fund to finance fully its planned activities. lt has been decided to clarify the investment powers of the Board under the Dairy Produce Export Control Act to enable it to carry on its milk plan’ operations in the manner that it has been doing under the provisions relating to the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Fund. The finance for the Board’s milk recombining plant operation”: in principle has been drawn from the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Fund which consists of industry funds built up under the post-war contracts with the United Kingdom.
This legislation deals in the main with the activities of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the body responsible basically for the sale and export of our surplus milk and milk by-products. It must be most gratifying to the Board, its directors and staff to find that in another place, as was pointed out by Senator Primmer, a great compliment was paid to the Board for the manner in which it has conducted its affairs over past years. This Board is composed of men who have demonstrated to Australia and to the Parliament tha’ they have a capacity for sound management. They have taken steps which perhaps no o:her industry in Australia has sought to take. I would like to mention the general ramifications of what the Board has done. Some year.s ago it adopted the principle not only of attempting to go to other countries, particularly in the South East Asian area, to sell its wares - a very imporant decision - but of setting up plants in those countries. retaining sufficient control, undoubtedly, to enable them to take raw dairy produce material from Australia and to reconstitute and recombine i*. That idea appealed to the Board and perhaps it is starting to appeal to the management of some other industries.
It is recognised that this was an enormously important step. I doubt whether the benefit of this step, even in the field of public relations between Australia and some of those countries in which we have established plants, has been properly recognised. Surely we must be bringing to those countries the principles of sound technical management. We must be encouraging the governments of those countries to think well of Australia because of the efficient manufacturing plants we are putting together and which encourage local employment. In general terms honourable senators will acknowledge that the Board has demonstrated ‘hat it is one of Australia’s leading marketeers of produce. We must contemplate the regularity with which the Board can repeat the installation of those plants. The management mus’ consider how far it can go. T imagine that there must be an enormous strain on ‘he management of the Board in ensuring that these plants are adequately staffed and efficiently run in order that they reflect credit on Australia. 1 believe that in the future the Board will need all the ability and ingenuity that it can muster to control those units properly.
As you know, Mr Deputy President, during the current season there has been a world record shortage of dairy products of all types. This has been brought about by a number of factors such as the restriction on production in Europe and some exceptional efforts on behalf of the European Economic Community to dispose of its previous surpluses. The shortage has been contributed to by a simultaneous decrease in production over 2 years in the Southern Hemisphere. This decrease in production occurred in all countries, including the Argentine, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The Board has been faced with the dilemma of attempting to meet a demand of about 300,000 tons of butter, as one product, with an estimated production in Australia of 192.000 tons. This obviously is manifestly impossible and the Board has had no option but to reduce the amount that, it could make available through private trader to trader export sales and sales negotiated by the Board itself.
Because of the previously agreed policy of seeking markets outside the United Kingdom so as not to be left without a viable market when the United Kingdom enters the European Common Market, the amount that Australia can be expected to ship to the United Kingdom in 1971-72 will be about 9,000 tons as against a quota of some 67,000 tons that under other conditions we would ship to Great Britain. The Board and the industry have taken steps over a number of years to build up alternative markets which have been growing for some time, not only in respect of butler but more particularly, and perhaps more importantly, for items such as buttermilk and skim milk powder for reconstituting. Although the ability of many of the developing countries is less than that of developed markets such as the United Kingdom to pay for these products, nevertheless they offer excellent prospects as long term market outlets for Australia.
A similar situation has arisen in respect of cheese. This year there will be outlets available for about 80,000 tons of cheese, whereas production in Australia will reach about 70,000 tons, lt is encouraging to consider that prices over the last 2 years have reached what is considered to be a world record, but perhaps this has been to the great disadvantage of the Australian dairying industry. To instance that, point I remind honourable senators that it is estimated that in the United Kingdom, for example, because of the price increase that has been necessary in that country, about 25 per cent of the total butter market has been lost. That would be the equivalent of about. 120,000 tons of butter. Obviously that loss is harmful to the dairying industry throughout the world and in future years it could certainly be harmful to the Australian dairying industry.
The first page of the report of the Dairy Produce Board emphasised that the past year has been one of the most complex periods ever to confront the Australian dairying industry. The report, the text of which is excellent, goes on to discuss the few reasons which I have stated shortly to the Senate, lt is worth our while to consider the dairying industry and to attempt to satisfy our minds about it. Senator Primmer referred to newspaper reports, even in today’s Press, which have attempted to denigrate the dairying industry. It is amazing that throughout the time that I have been a member of this place there has been scarcely one newspaper which has not taken up a daily cry attempting to attack the dairying industry for being inefficient. I am unable to say whether the newspaper reports have been encouraged by some of those industries which are in competition with dairying, but 1 suggest that here may be some justification for that view. I suggest that not one point can be instanced to show that the dairying industry in Australia is inefficient. Those of us who have had some rural experience would acknowledge the great importance of maintaining an industry such as dairying and attempting to achieve what the Commonwealth and States in future years will be spending millions of dollars to achieve, that is, the decentralisation of people and industries. The greatest factor in decentralisation in Victoria has been the establishment in areas of a viable dairying industry.
Wholetowns in the western district of Victoria and in Gippsland are dependent for their economic life entirely on dairying. This industry is immensely important from that point of view to the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia. But it is perhaps even more important in my State of Victoria and in South Australia.
– The honourable senator is forgetting about Tasmania which has the greatest production per acre in the Commonwealth.
– Tasmania is particularly important. With the concurrence of honourable senators J should like to incorporate in Hansard a table which was provided by the Research Service ofthe Commonwealth Parliamentary Library at my request. The document shows the movement in retail prices of selected food items compared with movements in the consumer price index. With the concurrence of honourable senators I shall have that document incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The table shows the average price of various items over a 10-year period from 1961 to 1971 and it shows also the movements in the consumer price index for all groups over that period. It is interesting to note that the movement in the consumer price index from 1961 to 1971 was an increase of 33.1 per cent. I do not wish to criticise other industries, but the document reveals that the price of rib beef increased by 48.3 per cent in that period, the price of steak increased by 62 per cent, leg mutton increased by approximately 39.4 per cent and chops by 57.1 per cent. J could mention other examples, but perhaps I have mentioned enough to show that the dairying industry has considered the public in Australia and has revealed that a consideration of the public is in the interests of the dairying industry.
I remind honourable senators that over that 10-year period the price of butter increased by 15.5 per cent. One can only draw the conclusion from that that this industry, which is a major industry in Australia, is cognisant of the importance of keeping down the price of its products. Senator Primmer made the point that fewer dairy cows are now producing a greater volume of milk. To assist me with my speech i should like to incorporate in Hansard a table which appeared in ‘The Outlook for Dairy Products’, a document which was prepared for the National Agricultural Outlook Conference in which you, Mr Deputy President, played such a leading part. With the concurrence of honourable senatorsI shall incorporate the table in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection. leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The table shows the number of dairy cows, the production of wholemilk and the average annual production per cow for the period 1960-61 to 1970-71. It would be interesting to know whether any other industry in the primary or secondary field could demonstrate a record which is so excellent as the one revealed by this document. Taking the figures for 3 years only, in 1960-61 we had 3,162,000 dairy cows from which we produced 1,339 million gallons of wholemilk, the average annual production per cow being 418 gallons. 1 shall not mention an intermediate year before coming to 1970- 71 when we had an estimated 2,744,000 dairy cows which produced 1,600 million gallons of wholemilk, the annual average production per cow being 574 gallons. Honourable senators should be aware that the production per cow would not normally increase as time goes on; the increased production is due to selective breeding and the use of selected fodder and selective methods of handling. Undoubtedly these are the means by which the average annual production per cow has been increased from 418 gallons to 574 gallons. Those figures demonstrate also the great efficiency of the dairying industry. Perhaps those who seek to criticise the dairying industry would care to compare its achievements with any other similar industry in respect of production and prices.
I regret that there has been so much criticism of the dairying industry. One can only reflect on the level of intelligence of those who have been its critics. Some 2 or 3 years ago the dairying industry faced the situation in which a mountainous stock of butter was supposed to be surplus to European Economic Community requirements. At that time, when prices were depressed throughout the world and prices in Australia also fell, experts from the universities whose names are well known to us made regular comments on primary industries. Some people in opposing industries were also advocating that the dairying industry in Australia be closed down. It was said that we would be wise to do that and to obtain all of the dairy products that we consume in Australia from a nearby country. It was generally suggested that that country should be New Zealand. How wrong those people have been shown to have been. I repeat that at present a very high price is being paid throughout the world for dairying products and it has been estimated that during the next few years there will be a great shortage of these products on the market with high values applying. The prospects of the dairying industry in Australia would be excellent if only we could increase our production in the very near future. The experts to whom I have referred were completely wrong in what they said.
The dairying industry is just another of the primary industries in Australia which have received assistance over the years by the present complexion of government. I suppose it is unfair to say that it has received assistance from only the present complexion of government because the dairying industry has been supported quite well over the years by Federal governments of all complexions. The dairying industry is an industry which, along with other primary industries, is subject to drought and to all the problems that beset the individual who earns his living from the land. Indeed, an examination of the history of not only the dairying industry but also most other primary industries will reveal that the economic health of those industries 12 months ahead is unknown. The primary producer must contend with that situation. I think it is a most satisfactory position for a primary producer to be in to know that he has a government which is ready and willing to support him in such a situation.
One of the problems besetting the industry today is whether there should be an increase in production. That has been the subject of the great discussion which has been continuing over the past year or so and which is still continuing. One could question the wisdom of the Commonwealth Government’s actions in conveying to the industry some 18 months ago the suggestion that it should break down its production by some 3 per cent or so. Many dairy farmers in Victoria took that advice and it was to their detriment. It was an incorrect decision to make but it was one of those decisions that have to be made to meet current circumstances and at that time it appeared to be a quite logical decision. For the past 10 years the dairying industry has been conditioning itself for the shock of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. The United Kingdom has, of course, been one of Australia’s greatest selling markets over the years. Now that the very important decision has been made in principle by the United Kingdom to enter the European Economic Community at the end of this year the Australian dairying industry is confronted with a significantly different market situation from the one anticipated some years ago.
As has been mentioned, the world is very short of dairy products and the prices of dairy products have been rising to really unheard of levels, although recently there has been some levelling off in the price of butter. 1 think the prices of some of the other dairy products have remained at a fairly high level but the price of butter has levelled off somewhat. The price of Australian butter in the United Kingdom soared from $Stg300 a ton to $Stg530 a ton c.i.f. The price of cheese on the same market rose from SS:g230 a ton to $Stg440 a ton. I wonder whether there is anybody on the Australian scene who anticipated that this situation would come about. The price of casein has increased from $400 a ton to $1,200 a ton f.o.b. The price of skim milk powder has risen from $150 a ton to $500 a ton f.o.b. The dairying industry in Australia knows that in all probability the United Kingdom market, which previously took up to 70,000 tons of its butter and about 11,000 tons of its cheese, will be completely lost to it. Indeed, that trade will probably pass direct to the French and German markets. The export markets available to the Australian dairying industry are of particular importance to Australia. It is in the face of that situation that the Australian Dairy Produce Board has been encouraged to use the very novel and interesting methods of marketing it has been using in recent times.
It is of interest to the industry to decide what actions it will take in the future. The Commonwealth Government will be proposing. 1 imagine, some sort of 2-price quota system in the near future. In my own State of Victoria there has been some opposition to the introduction of licensing and of some quota restrictions at the present lime. 1 think most people will agree that there is no necessity to bring in any restrictions but there is a concensus that, knowing of the marketing situation which may eventuate in the future, it would be as well to have machinery ready so that certain proposals may be implemented as quickly as possible if necessary. It has been demonstrated in the last 18 months how quickly a market can change. That is a matter which undoubtedly will be debated in the next 6 months as the next 5-year dairying support scheme will be before this Parliament for consideration soon. 1 believe that the industry faces a very buoyant situation for probably the next 18 months. I think that that is foreseeable. I do not think that the industry will have any problem in that time. I think it will be a very healthy time for the dairy farmers. It could bc said that the dairying industry is one of our primary industries which has no problems insofar as its economic health in the near future is concerned. But I believe that the dairying industry must be particularly cautious about the inroads that could be made into it markets by unfair competition. In that regard 1 refer, of course, to the competition which sections of the margarine industry have demonstrated towards the dairying industry in some instances. I was very pleased to note the decision of the High Court of Australia last Tuesday morning in the case of Mead v. Mowbray. It is interesting to note that the States will now have the right to place restrictions on the sale of a particular product which contains components which are decided by a State as not being in the good health of the community.
I think it is necessary for the dairying industry to look to its laurels insofar as competition on the local scene is concerned. I think it should give some consideration to the improved marketing of its products. One sees on the shelves at the present time - -apparently this is what is attracting the attention of housewives - new types of packaging and labelling. They seem to me to be a waste of money. It is the housewife who has to pay for the extra cost of wrapping, labelling and containerisation. But that is what appeals to her. Undoubtedly the industry will have to ensure not only that it markets a better product - if a wonderful product such as butter can be improved - but also that the packaging of that product is improved. Some packaging lately is getting away from paper wrapping in favour of cartons and plastic containers. This certainly will assist in increasing sales on the local market. lt must be realised that local market consumption has been dropping in the past few years. This is of no great credit to the local industry. The point I make is that it would be as well to look not only for export markets but also to encourage by advertising and better presentation of the product a greater consumption of whole milk and of butter by-products on the Australian market. As far as overseas markets are concerned. I think that the management of the Australian Dairy’ Pro- luce Board has demonstrated what it is cap.ible of doing. The existing management is a most efficient one.
There has been an interesting flutter of discussion in past years regarding the combining of butter with vegetable oils. By no means should the dairying industry be carried away by those who promote ‘his type of proposition. The industry needs to be very cautious in the way this proposition is handled because, whilst no great demand exists apparently on the local market, there is some prospect of demand in South East Asia and in particular there is some encouragement for such a product on the Japanese market. But the main oil constituent in combining vegetable oils with butter to make this new product is palm ->il. Whilst this situation may change and some indigenous vegetable oils may be able to be utilised in the combining process, .such action is nol acceptable at the present lime and palm oil, an imported product, would need to be used.
I think that there is very little economic sense in attempting to promote the proposition that in Australia palm oil and butter should be combined to produce an export product. Shipping freight of at least an extra $10 per ton is involved in bringing palm oil into Australia. It is obvious to me that any consuming country such as Japan - 1 have no doubt that it would calculate this - would not buy a product at a price higher than tha! at which a similar product can hp manufactured and supplied on its local market.
My point in raising this matter is to suggest that perhaps the Australian Dairy Produce Board should look at the possibility of manufacturing such a product in some of its South East Asian plants. The development of new and undoubtedly better products in such overseas plants would enhance the future of the dairying industry. But I think that it should be pointed out time and time again that no Australian products have such great health and food value for the Australian public as those produced by the dairying industry. The good that a hearty intake of milk will provide is beyond comparison. I know that you. Mr Deputy President, will agree with me that it is a product which we, in the Federal Parliament, seek to consume on every occasion. Those of us who are anxious to sec the dairying industry put on an even better economic footing are concerned to give our weight to that thought. Governments, both State and Federal, must continue to give every assistance to this important industry which produces such a wonderfully nutritious indigenous product. The industry is of great value to the Australian public. The marketing that if h;is achieved overseas is particularly important. ) find great pleasure in supporting the activities of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and this Bill which seeks to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act.
– 1 commend the Government on the introduction of this Bill to amend the Dairy Product Export Control Act. The whole objective of setting up milk plants in Asia was lo expand in particular and to encourage our trade in that region. This is of interest, to me because during the early 1960s I was a member of a Parliamentary delegation which toured various South East Asian countries including Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. These plants were in the infant stage at that time. But the people concerned were greatly confident that their activities would expand and develop rapidly to supply a long felt need for these valuable commodities in that area.
Looking al the figures, I see that since 1963 the Board has shipped butter oil and skim milk powder valued at $36m to these plants. This means that in the period since 1963 - let us say 8 years - approximately $4.5m worth of dairy products has been sent to the South East Asian area each year. The Board estimates that in 1971-72 about 10,000 tons of butter in the form of butter oil and 30,000 tons of skim milk powder worth some Si 5m will be shipped. It seems to be rather odd that in 8 years the Board was able to export products worth $36m only, yet it anticipates a trade of $l5m in the current financial year. 1 ask the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) to provide a little more detail of what has caused this big change in the figures. Why in one year does the Board anticipate exports worth $!5m in respect of 10,000 tons of butler in the form of butter oil and 30,000 tons of skim milk powder when the average over the previous 8 years has been $4.5m?
In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
Apart from providing a significant outlet for Australian dairy products the Board’s plants are playing an important role in the development of food technology in the South East Asian region and in providing nutritious dairy products for the people of the area.
If the Board is doing this, why has the plant in Singapore been given up? What is the reason? I should think that the expanding standard of living in Singapore would have made it one of the ideal areas for increased production. Yet the Board has disposed of its capital equity in Singapore but is continuing to supply raw materials. Did the Singapore plant become uneconomic or was it running so well that the Government decided to hand it. over to private enterprise because of its success. I would like some details from the Minister on that point.
The second reading speech continues:
The joint plant ventures have also done much to foster goodwill between Australia and the countries concerned.
I believed that this was one of the reasons for setting up this project. It has met with a good deal of success. But it would appear that this has been a very low key activity in view of the thousand million people who live in Asia and the limited outlets that are available for our products, including Singapore, Manila. Bangkok, Djakarta and Phnom Penh. I believe that we should extend our activities to areas such as China and Japan, set up plants similar to those established in South East Asia and sell our products in those countries. We should have representatives on the spot and, if necessary, supply these countries with surplus dairy products, even at cost. It keeps the cycle going. It does much to foster goodwill Between Australia and those countries which keep our dairying industry going, lt gives an incentive to the industry here in other ways. I think that the idea of having these plants throughout Asia should be expanded and developed. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
To dale the Board has invested a tOtal of $5,918,000 in the plants- $2,400,000 in (he form of share capital and $3,518,000 as loans for equipment, working capital and raw materials. These investments have included profits from the. plant operations which have been used progressively to develop the existing plants and to establish new plants. However the point has been reached where the Board may not be able to depend on the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Fund to fully finance ils plant activities. i do not think that much information has been given to the Senate to explain that aspect of the activities of the Board. It has put a lot of money into the plants. It has invested nearly $6m. In 8 years it has exported products valued at $36m. In the coming year it hopes to export products worth $15m. But there seems to be a contradiction in the amount which has been expended on new plants. No mention is made at all of how the Singapore plant was liquidated. Are there any plans for expanding in the future into various countries? Most of all I should like to know from the Minister why the dairy farmers should elect to the Parliament and support a government which will not recognise a country of between 750 million and 800 million people who are potential eaters of this highly nutritious food. It beats me that dairy farmers can be so dumb as to allow this sort of thing to go on when there are potential markets in that country. We seem to be playing around with politics and letting the dairy farmer’s soul go marching on, one might say.
The concept of establishing these plants in Asian countries is the answer, of course, to finding an alternative outlet to the traditional exporting outlets of the European Common Market where we are going to come up against some big problems for the primary producers. We have to start developing our trade in the natural areas - that is among our neighbours in South East Asia and, for that matter, the whole of Asia. 1 would like to have some elaboration and clarification of these points from the Minister when he replies. There seems to be some contradictions in the overall pattern which has been outlined in his second reading speech in support of this measure. As has already been stated, we on this side of the Senate support the measure. At least a report of activities has been given. I hope that there will not be any restriction on the funds which are made available because there are many valuable aspects of this matter. This is not only a matter of good public relations nor of keeping some outlets for the industry in a glutted market but also it is a matter of doing the very humane thing of making food available for people at a price which they evidently can afford to pay. In doing that we are helping them lift their standard of living.
Finally, 1 ask why we cannot have the Australian Dairy Produce Board expand its activities even temporarily to free some of this egg pulp which is going to be dumped into the sea or which is not going to be pulped at all. It would be distributed through this channel. After all, it is a nutritious food. We have the outlets. To me it is appalling to think that we are so rich in commodities and so poor in spirit that we can tolerate this awful contradiction of people starving in other parts of the world while we are throwing (he bounties into the sea. In my book it is very immoral. It annoys me to think that nothing can be done about this. How can a responsible government authority and a government tolerate it? I hope that the Australian Dairy Produce Board can do a little bit of co-operating with its poor sisters and see whether it can distribute some of this nutritious egg pulp through its distribution plants. I do not think there is anything better than a drop of reconstituted milk with an egg in it - an egg nog. If one is lucky enough to be able to brace it with something else, it is angel’s food. I think that these people ought to get together on this matter.
– One eventually becomes an angel?
– Eventually, if one drinks too much of it, it puts one where the angels live. We already have these distribution points established. The initiative which was taken by the Dairy Produce Board should be expanded, developed and encouraged. I do not think that the Board should be short of money to do this. It is a national project which is helping a section of primary industry which needs continuity and incentive. While the Board is doing this it is doing a good job on a national level. I support the Bill.
– in reply–I thank the Senate for the support it has given to the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill and the speakers for the contribution which they have made. Senator Primmer and Senator Webster are 2 honourable senators who have had a long and practical experience in the dairying industry. Although this Bill deals with only a portion of that industry both honourable senators in their contributions have covered a wide field. They spoke of many of the problems which are to be found in the dairying industry in many parts of Australia. Senator O’Byrne is one who, over a long period in this Senate, has always made a contribution in one way or another to dairying bills which have come before the Senate. Senator O’Byrne asked how dairy farmers could support this Government. Well, I say that it is very easy. If Senator O’Byrne had the experience of a dairy farm over a very long period and if he had benefited, as many dairy farmers have, through the policies of this Government then he would not wonder why dairy farmers should support the Government. May 1 comment on the matter of eggs? While sympathising with the sentiments expressed by the honourable senatorI point out that we arc dealing with the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the export of its products. I believe that the Australian Egg Board should deal with the export of its products. 1 shall say nothing further.
– You are going through the expense of duplicating outlets.
– That is how the set up goes these days. Each industry wants to deal with its own particular product. Each speaker has covered the
Bill pretty thoroughly and has gone through the purposes of the Bill. I do not think the Senate wants to bear with me while I go through it too. I remind the Senate that each of the speakers has spoken about the present situation, the price of butter and how the demand for butter on the export market is very good at the present time. But . 1 remind the Senate that the international dairy produce market underwent a considerable change during 1971. The position shifted rapidly from one of surplus to an acute shortage within the space of a very few months. Honourable senators will remember that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) was saying that there were huge stocks of surplus butter in Europe, and then very shortly afterwards he was saying that there was a terrific demand for butter in that area.
The changed situation, which enabled many factories in Australia to sell their 1971-72 export products forward at very attractive prices, came about because of lower production in the major exporting countries and the European Economic Community as a result of bad seasons and weather conditions in that area, coupled with a large reduction in the Community’s stocks due to an extensive surplus disposal programme. The change in the world market situation was quite unforeseen,I have explained already how the situation produced the 2 different statements made by the Minister for Primary Industry. There was a long period of depressed prices due to world overproduction; then suddently there was an improvement in the world supply situation, due to temporary factors. These temporary factors, of which all honourable senators who have participated in this debate have spoken, cannot be looked upon as permanent features of the world dairy trade.
Under the terms of access recently agreed to by Great Britain and the European Economic Community, the Australian dairy industry faces the possibility of being excluded from the British market as from the end of 1972. Therefore we have to look at the longer term marketing prospects for the Australian dairy industry. 1 believe that they depend on our ability to keep and to develop a foothold in the limited alternative markets available to us.
So, these amendments to the Act have been brought before the Senate in order to give the Australian Dairy Produce Board an opportunity to foster further those alternative markets. The Board’s plants will play an important part in marketing diversification in the future. The amendments before us are designed to give the Board this opportunity to diversify. All the honourable senators who spoke supported the Bill. I thank them for the contributions they made.
– Why did we sell our interest in the Singapore plant?
– The Minister might answer a few more of the questions that were asked, too.
- Senator O’Byrne made a number of other comments. I would like to obtain for him a much more detailed answer than 1 can give him at the present time. My advisers are not in a position to give such an answer now. I will give him a written reply as soon as the information comes to hand.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I had not intended to rise at this stage of the consideration of this Bill until the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) wound up the second reading debate with a speech in which he said - 1 do not decry him for saying it because it is a very popular misconception - that the reason for the present shortage of dairy produce throughout the world is a decline in production in the European Economic Community and elsewhere. I have before me only the annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for 1971. On the figures quoted in that report, it is very difficult to accept that point of view. As 1 said, the Minister is not the only one who has made that claim in recent times. My memory of the debate in the House of Representatives, from reading the Hansard report, is that a member of that chamber stated that in fact the huge surpluses that were stated to exist in the countries of the European Economic Community 2 or 3 years ago were only book entries: that that surplus produce did not exist in fact.
Table 47 in the annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for 1971 gives the cow numbers in certain countries. Honourable senators will recall that a couple of years ago the industry in Australia was told to expect a cut in production of 3.5 per cent and that in other countries - particularly Switzerland and, I think, France - dairy farmers were slaughtering cattle left, right and centre. But, according to table 47, the only country of any consequence which showed a decline in cow numbers from 1966 to 1970 was the United States of America. There were marginal declines in countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark, but they were of no great consequence in the total numbers. In fact, in the Commonwealth countries between 1966 and 1970 there was sn increase in cow numbers. As to the non-Commonwealth countries, without adding up the figures it is difficult to say what the situation was. The 1970 figure for Italy has been left out. So, although the figure shown represents a decrease of about 5 million, with Italy’s figure of 4,787,000 for the previous year there would appear to have been no decline in cow numbers. In the socialist countries there has been an increase.
Table 48 shows the milk production in certain countries and the percentage used for manufacture. There is no proof in that table that there was a decline in production between 1967 and 1969 or 1970. Some of the figures for 1970 are not shown in respect of some countries. In the Commonwealth countries 7,857,000 gallons of milk was produced in 1967. The production in 1969 represented an increase on that figure. There was a similar increase in the non-Commonwealth countries and the socialist countries. In the other countries mentioned in the table the status quo was maintained. Perhaps the Minister or his advisers could assess the situation and tell the industry the facts. There is not much point in the industry being told to cut production, as it was told 2 years ago, and finding out 6 months later that a mistake has been made. In the future, if the industry is to accept figures that are used by governments, public servants and other people and to be guided by those figures, it has to have proof that the figures used in the past have been correct. I am not pointing the finger at anyone. We are all fallible. Perhaps these estimates are only educated guesses anyhow. If that is the case, I believe that the Government and its advisers have a responsibility to say so. That is the situation as I see it. On the figures set out in the annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board there is no indication whatsoever that over the last 3 or 4 years there has been any decline in cow numbers or milk production in any of the countries mentioned there.
– I do not know whether the figures Senator Primmer gave are correct: but the information I have in my hand is very different from that which he has just given. The Netherlands was the only country in the European Economic Community area in which the cow herd increased. In regard to butter production, in the EEC dairy production areas the figure in 1968 was 1,408,000 tons. In 1969 production fell to 1,348,000 tons. In 1970 it fell by approximately 44,000 tons. In 1971 the figure was 1,250.000 tons. So there has been a considerable fall in that area alone. That fall has been approximately 200,000 tons. For 1969-70 Australia had a total production of 220,000 tons. The dairying industry believed that that figure would cause production problems and that something would have to be done about it. Tn 1970- 71 Australia’s total fell to 193,000 tons. So the demand built up in Europe but at the same time there was a fall in production in Australia. That is why we had a ready export trade for our surplus butter.
asked, by way of interjection, about the Singapore plant. The information given to me by my advisers is that the Australian Dairy Produce Board held a financial interest in the Singapore plant until 1968 when that interest was sold in favour of using the capital involved for the development of milk plants in other markets. Fortunately the Board has continued to be a supplier of raw materials to the Malaysian dairying industry.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
Report on Indian Ocean Region
Debate resumed from 24 February (vide page 216), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– We have already had 2 days of debate on this issue. No doubt by this stage most of us have forgotten what has taken place.
– The Indian Ocean is still there.
– The Indian Ocean is still there, as Senator Gair said. 1 will not detain the Senate too long at this stage. I felt that I should make some contribution to the debate because 1 was one of the members of the sub-committee that listened to the evidence and presented the original report. As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs I was present when the report was scrutinised and amended by that Committee before presentation to the Parliament. 1 wish to bring to the notice of the Senate some of the misconceptions that seem to have arisen in the debate so far. Firstly, the sub-committee was not set up by the Government as Senator Gietzelt, I think, seemed to suggest. The sub-committee was set up by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Members of all parties- ^-Government parties, the Opposition, and the Democratic Labor Party - were on that Committee.
– Did not the Opposition members resign from the subcommittee?
– In dribs and drabs members of the Opposition resigned from it. The Opposition was not represented on the sub-committee when the report was prepared, but members of the Opposition from both Houses were present at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee when the report was considered, amended in certain ways and finally agreed to by all. There were no dissenting reports. If I recall correctly what happened, I think Senator McManus was the only one who had a reservation on a particular issue. The report is a unanimous report of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
So far the only Opposition member of that Committee to have spoken in the debate is Senator Wheeldon. Other Opposition members have had a few words to say.
Senator Wheeldon was absent when the subcommittee’s report was prepared and when it was discussed by the Committee. I suppose Senator Wheeldon felt that he had the
Tight to attack the report or to not agree with it. I repeat that the report is a report of the Foreign Affairs Committte. It was agreed to by all parties, including members of the Opposition who obviously were elected by their caucus to take their places on that Committee. It is a detailed report of the evidence presented before the subcommittee. I believe that the report gives an unbiased approach to Australia’s requirement in the Indian Ocean region. It considers not only our approach to foreign affairs and defence but also our approach to trade.
It is interesting to note that our trade in the Indian Ocean region, whilst not very large when compared with our exports to other parts of the world, is still quite considerable. The value of our exports to the South African region last year were over $102m. In the East African area, which is further to the north and which includes countries close to the Middle East, the value of our trade was approximately $36m. In the South East Asian region, which includes India, Ceylon and similar countries, our trade was worth $75m. The value of our imports from the East African region was quite considerable - approximately $170m. Most of it was oil, which is vital to this nation. At present we have quite large trading opportunities there, and they are increasing. As the newly developed countries become more economic it is quite obvious that the Indian Ocean region will be a great deal more important to us.
It is in the areas of foreign affairs and defence that we, as an Indian Ocean country, are more concerned. I listened to the speeches of Opposition members. I will deal briefly with them. Senator Wheeldon seemed to confine all his remarks to an attack on South Africa. He more or less suggested that Australia should interfere in the affairs of South Africa. At the same time he suggested that what other countries, particularly the communist countries, do within their own borders is their own affair. I think that suggestion is something at which we really have to look. Whilst we may not agree with the apartheid policy in South
Africa, South Africa is still a nation which is of vital concern in this area. We have our responsibilities to it and we are just as concerned to build up trade and to build up peaceful relations with a country like South Africa as with countries such as China and Russia, or anyone else.
The recommendations in the early part of the report - they start at page 9 - deal with Australia’s goodwill initiatives. The whole of the report suggests that we should endeavour to bring about better relations with the nations of the region by trying to promote peace in the area but that at the same time we should build up our defences and be prepared in case this area should become an area of conflict. As has been quite rightly pointed out during the course of the debate, the Indian Ocean area is very vital to the big powers. No doubt both Russia and China will be trying to maintain great influence in the area. Of course, if they are successful it is quite obvious that Japan, which is not only dependent so much on oil from the Middle East but also has become very much more dependent on our great resources of iron ore in Western Australia will be interested in this area also.
– One of the recommendations deals with education. Do you remember what evidence you had on that?
– I cannot recall at this stage. I think that evidence was taken in Western Australia by a sub-committee consisting of Senator Sim and another Western Australian senator who was on the committee at that stage. I will obtain that information for the honourable senator. But what we have to do in this area is what I have suggested. It amazed me that some of the members of the Opposition should make all sorts of attacks on the report. Senator O’Byrne gave us a lecture on isolationism and pacifism. Whilst I appreciate his views on these matters it is practical, natural and absolutely essential that we should be aware of what is likely to happen in the future. A lot of people today are putting a lot of faith in the meetings between President Nixon and the Chinese leaders. They have the idea that once they have a dialogue or a bit of a discussion and a party everything will be all right. But many of us remember Chamberlain’s visit to Munich and the parlies that were held in the United States between the Japanese and the Americans while the Japanese fleet was heading towards Pearl Harbour. Whilst we appreciate that it is better to promote more dialogue and more friendly relations between nations, we at all times have to bc prepared for the inevitable. Because of the way that the Chinese, the Russians and the Japanese are likely to perform in the future - they are all vitally concerned in the Indian Ocean - it is obvious to us that we have to be vitally concerned in the Indian Ocean also because we have u substantial interest in this area.
I am very pleased at the reception that the report has received by all sections in this place. We may not agree with everything contained in the report. Let us face it, this report was drawn up on submissions and evidence given to us. Because such things as the forces which may be employed in the Indian Ocean are important to us. we have put down in the report what the Russian complement might be, what the American complement might be and so on. We have dealt particularly with the naval forces. No-one knows exactly the complement of the underwater forces in this ,rea, and these will be the main vital forces employed if a conflict should occur in the future. Therefore we were unable in this report to say how many of this particular type of naval force the Russians have in the area. As a result there is every reason why we should be vigilant and every reason why we should build up our naval and air forces in the west. This report has recommended such a move.
- Senator Maunsell was the last backbench senator to speak in this debate on the Indian Ocean in the context of its significance for Australia. Senator Maunsell, of course, was a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs which put before us the report that we are now considering. We have listened with great interest to his speech along with those of other honourable senators. Although the debate has been interrupted from time to time, I think that if it is perused and considered it will be found to provide a variety of viewpoints which have made it well worth while. Some very significant speeches have been made during the course of this debate. I think that the Senate and the country will get great value from a discussion of the matter along the lines that have been expressed.
In closing the debate, and speaking as I do for the Government, I believe that we all now have a recognition that Australia belongs in the Indian Ocean. It has by natural right a locus standi in the area. Facing that Ocean is one-third of our coastline which includes important centres of accelerated growth and development. But historically Australia has shown little concern about developments in the Indian Ocean. Although by geography it is. together with South East Asia and the Pacific Ocean, a major segment of our strategic environment, its great extent and relative emptiness in the past have of themselves given us security. To the extent that the ocean was not what is commonly called a power vacuum, the predominant and unchallenged influence on and around it was for our first 150 years, apart from time of war, British. This is no longer the case. The scene has changed. A great many varied political and economic influences are at work in the newly independent countries around the ocean littoral. The global powers have begun to make their presence more clearly felt in the area. In particular we have been conscious of an increasing Soviet interest.
In all these circumstances we have begun to look more intently at the Indian Ocean. It is a vast area on which to gaze and a hard one on which to focus. Tt calls for clear perspectives, and these will not be immediately established by Australia or by other interested countries. In suggesting sharpened perspectives and sharpened focuses, the report on the Indian Ocean region of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has made a particular useful contribution. As the report states in its conclusion, the Indian Ocean region cannot: be regarded as a distinct political and economic unit but rather it is divided into a number of political and/or economic areas. The Government believes, like the Committee, that it would be a mistake for Australia to attempt to treat the region as if it were a unit bound by the common factor of being washed by the Indian
Ocean. Without prejudice to the development of our interests in any relations with countries on the littoral more distant from us, we shall no doubt continue, in the language of the report, to be particularly concerned with the South East Asian sector of the ‘Indian Ocean area.
New developments in and around the Ocean obviously must command our attention and where appropriate, attract an Australian response; but we must at the same time be careful to stop short of either exaggerated concern or exaggerated proposals for policy. No one would suggest that the Indian Ocean is an Australian lake. We must be realistic. Like the littoral countries, the world’s major trading and shipping nations, and the global powers, we have our share of interests in and around the Ocean to be projected, protected and reconciled with the reasonable interests of others. In the context of commerce and communications the Indian Ocean generally is oi” considerable significance to Australia - in many cases of strategic significance. By volume more than 60 per cent of our total exports and imports pass through the Indian Ocean. The imports have so far included some 50 per cent of Australia’s petroleum requirements, drawn from the Persian Gulf area. On the export side nearly 50 per cent by volume is accounted for by mineral shipments from the northwest of Western Australia. In peacetime, our air communications to much of Asia and to the Middle East, Europe and Africa pass over the Indian Ocean. In the event of any threat to our security certain of these air routes would obviously take on additional significance. Our Cocos Island territory is important in this connection.
We have a natural interest in the strategic balance in the Indian Ocean generally as a component of the global strategic balance. But in the eastern Indian Ocean there is a more direct Australian defence interest in the approaches to our own west coast. In consequence of this interest the Government is. as is well-known, developing and improving the infrastructure of our forces in Western Australia. The naval project at Cockburn Sound and the air project at Learmonth will increase our military capacity to sustain a security role in the Indian Ocean. Particulars of those matters were enlarged upon by my colleague,
Senator Drake-Brockman, in the course of his speech. Naturally we and our allies inside and outside the region have been particularly conscious since 1967 of the introduction and maintenance of a Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Given the strategic and commercial importance of this area to Australia we have kept this new development under careful scrutiny and have made it a matter of consultation with those who share our interests.
Soviet naval deployments so far have been mainly concentrated in the area of the Middle East and eastern Africa bordering the Red Sea and South Asia. These appear to be the areas of major political and strategic interest to the Soviet Union. Soviet activities there are clearly related to Soviet policies in the Middle East. Asia and Africa, and to the evident desire of the USSR as a global power to play a larger role there as elsewhere in the world. It is necessary, we think, to distinguish between interests and influence. The Soviet Union professes not to seek to exercise influence which would be prejudicial to Australia. We. for our part, will judge how our interests are affected in each particular case and place. But it remains unlikely in our view that the Soviet Union could demonstrate that its long term objectives would not compete or clash with our own.
In all these circumstances the Government, is active in following developments in the Indian Ocean and in maintaining a continuing dialogue with its allies. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) reported in another place on 23rd November last that he had discussed the security of the Indian Ocean, in the course of his overseas visit, with the United States Administration and with British Ministers. He reported mutual agreement that a careful watch should be continued in this area and confirmation that the United Slates and Britain would continue their respective naval presences in the Indian Ocean. Our mutual interests with Britain and the United States in the Ocean are subjects on which consultations continue at a government to government level. In co-operation with our allies we are continuing also to maintain surveillance there. The United States has welcomed the possibility of using facilities at Cockburn Sound and, with Britain, is maintaining a communication station at Diego Garcia.
Soviet deployments are not assessed as posing a direct physical threat to mainland Australia. The precise extent of Soviet artivities is not easily determined at any particular time and disclosure of all available information is not possible. It would, therefore, be unhelpful to concentrate upon the numbers of Soviet ships involved from time to time. Distinctions requiring very precise information need to be drawn, for example, between combatant vessels, naval and space support ships, and research ships manned by either naval or civilian personnel. The statistical classification of ships of these types tends to vary so that there is not always complete agreement among the experts about the precise size of the known Soviet naval presence. Furthermore, of greater importance is the capacity or lack of capacity to position the naval ships quickly in the Ocean. The extent of the Soviet presence and their capacity quickly to add to numbers could increase in the future, particularly if the Suez Canal were to be reopened. We need accordingly to maintain a constant watch. On that point there is no room for disagreement.
The Government has taken careful note of international proposals for the elimination or limitation of armaments from or in the Indian Ocean area. It has recorded its hope that military competition in the Indian Ocean area may be avoided, and indeed this hope was jointly expressed by Australia, New Zealand and the United States in the communique of the last ANZUS Council meeting. Most recently the Government was required to adopt a position in relation to a proposal by Ceylon that the Indian Ocean be declared a zone of peace. This proposal was voted on at the United Nations General Assembly on 16th December 1971 with the result that it was adopted by 61 votes to nil with the unusually large number of 55 abstentions including one by Australia. Our attitude is that we would naturally subscribe to the ideal that the Indian Ocean region should be a zone of peace, in the same way as we could be expected to welcome an arrangement which made genuine provision for an agreed, balanced and effective limitation on great power naval presences in the Ocean. But in common with many states vitally concerned, we doubted that the zone of peace proposal before the
General Assembly was practical or realistic. We were also unable to commit ourselves to a proposal affecting our security in the absence of a full study of al) the implications and of full and constructive international debate and consultation.
At (he same time as the United Nations was considering this matter, the conflict between India and Pakistan was in progress. It was observed by the Australian representative and others that, unhappily, the declaration of a zone of peace could scarcely have been expected to prevent that conflict. The report of the Joint Committee was completed at a point of time when the implications of that conflict could not be taken into account. These are matters yet to be considered when conditions in the sub-continent have become stabilised. The Government has, of course, already played a leading role in recognising the Government led by Sheik Mujibur Rahman as the Government of the new state of Bangla Desh. In doing so the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in his statement of 31st January, noted the significance of Bangla Desh as a country of 75 million people bordering the Indian Ocean and likely to play an increasingly important part in the affairs of South Asia and South East Asia.
While the reasons for which the Committee report does not include particular reference to Indonesia are understood, the omission is nevertheless to be regretted. As stated at the outset, Australia’s concern with the Indian Ocean includes ‘particular concern’ with Soviet East Asia and, it must therefore be added, with our populous and nearest neighbour, Indonesia. We have always regarded and described ourselves as being neighbours with Indonesia in south east Asia. It neither adds to nor subtracts from that relationship to say that we are neighbours in the Indian Ocean and share neighbourly interests there as elsewhere.
But it does add clarity to our outlook on this broad region to acknowledge that in some respects, including defence, a new emphasis in attitudes towards the Indian Ocean has been reflected at home in developments on our west coast, and that in all respects our interests in the area will continue to be well served by the development of the closest co-operation with our nearest neighbours in all possible fields.
Wilh that summation of the Government’s view 1 have pleasure in concluding the debate and in asking the Senate to agree to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For some considerable time, indeed many years, members of this Parliament have been confronted with dealing with the problems of the elderly section of the community. Having regard to the niggardly benefits awarded to them by way of pension and to the paucity of arrangements made for them to enjoy the rest of their days, it would appear that very little is coming their way from the fruits of an affluent society. It is principally for that reason, in short, that on behalf of. the Opposition I move:
The problem of the aged in a modern society is tremendous. As I. said earlier, I am sure all honourable senators on both sides of the chamber have had considerable experience with heartbreaking cases. The problem involves not only aged pensioners and aged persons but also invalids and hundreds and thousands of other people, many of them former servants of Commonwealth and State public services who are eeking out very miserable and trying existences on what have become low pittance superannuation payments.
In 1970 a standing committee of this Senate was directed to inquire into the problems of mentally and physically handicapped people in this community. In May last year a former senator, Dame Ivy Wedgwood, presented a very detailed and comprehensive report to this Parliament. In answer to a question 1 placed on notice since then, the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has informed me that as a result of the presentation of that report a special committee of officers of the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Labour and National Service and the
Department of Education and Science is now considering the recommendations. If anything at all is done to ameliorate the alarming conditions of the physically and mentally handicapped in our modern society, set out most eloquently in that report, the hard work of the members and staff of that Senate committee and the expense to the Australian community of establishing the inquiry and having the report presented will have been quite worthwhile.
I suggest that the same situation exists in relation to the aged people of the Australian community. I am far from satisfied that all that can be done for the elderly citizens of Australia, the pioneers of this community, is being done. We have a number of homes for the. aged, the great majority of which are privately owned. I think it was my colleague Senator Poyser who, in his maiden speech in this Parliament as long ago as 1966 or 1967, drew attention to the shocking exploitation of the aged section of the community that takes place in some of those private homes. I understand that Senator Poyser intends later in this debate to draw attention to some of the conditions in some of these homes for the aged. I am sure that the. Minister for Health would be the first person to agree, if he were present in the chamber, that there is an insufficient number of these places. Indeed, in a great number of cases it is necessary for the children of the elderly people of the community to contribute, sometimes substantially, towards the cost of maintaining their parents in these places.
At the last meeting of the estimates committee which dealt with the estimates of the Commonwealth Department of Health I think the Minister said that the Commonwealth was considering engaging in the construction of homes for the aged. I suggest that it is beyond doubt that insufficient provision is made for accommodating our elderly citizens. I suppose it occurs not only to me but to all honourable senators that each week one, two or three people contact each of us to see whether it is possible to get their elderly parents into a satisfactory institution. At 30th June last year 807,711 people were receiving the age pension. This number represented an increase of 28,704 over the number at the end of the previous financial year and represented also 60 per cent of the Australian population of pensionable age. The figures reveal also that in the Australian community, which consists of about 12 million people, 1,300,000 people arc of pensionable age. They are men who are more than 65 years of age and women who are more than 60 years of age. That is a substantial proportion of the Australian community. About 10 per cent of the Australian community are of pensionable age, but 807,000 people only are receiving age pensions.
I pay a personal tribute to the officers of the Department of Social Services who I think perform an outstanding service to the Australian community in trying, as best they can having regard to present Government policy, to assist the elderly people in the community as much as they possibly can. In my opinion the officers of that Department are not sufficiently rewarded for the services that they perform. Restricted as they are in the avenues in which they can be of assistance, and having regard to Government policy, they do very humane and wonderful work. I propose to compare the 807,000 persons in receipt of a pension with some other figures which appear in the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. Page 33 of the report deals with the Aged Persons Homes Act.
I remind honourable senators while citing figures to them that the basic number of age pensioners in Australia today is 807,000. To indicate the paucity of the arrangements which exist for the elderly pioneers of this country one has to refer only to figures set out in the reports of the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Commonwealth Department of Social Services. Reference can be made also to the Budget papers tabled last year which set out the weekly entitlement of single and married age pensioners. At page 33 of the report of the Department of Social Services we find that in 1970-71 $16,749,870 was made available as subsidies for people who were accommodated under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The report states:
Accommodation for a record number of 4,136 aged people was subsidised under the Aged Persons Homes Act during the year. This was an increase of 831 over the number of people benefiting from lbc subsidy in the previous year and resulted from both the largest number of grants and the largest amount of money approved in any one year since the commencement of the scheme.
Approval was given to 235 grants during the year, amounting lo 518,175,531. Increases in previously approved grants, totalling $796,698, raised the total approvals for the year to $18,972,229. This represents an increase of 39.7 per cent or $5,396,469 over the previous year.
The figures which I am about lo cite are most important. The report continues:
On completion of current projects, accommodation will have been provided for 40,058 aged persons under the scheme since it commenced in 1954.
We find that in the 18 years from 1954 to 1972, 40,000 aged persons were assisted under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Last financial year there were 807,000 age pensioners but 4,136 aged people only were able to obtain a subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Department admits in its report that the situation is so horribly acute in respect of the provision of homes for the aged that the number of people in homes for the aged operating under the Aged Persons Homes Act is a mere drop in the bucket compared with the staggering number of people who obviously would need assistance.
When I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Hospital and Medical Costs the Committee received a number of submissions from various social service organisations. A number of the social service organisations advanced the proposition that because there was an insufficient number of homes to accommodate the elderly citizens of this community, the Australian Government should do something to provide domiciliary care for these people. In a submission to the Committee from the Victorian Council of Social Service and the Australian Association of Social Workers in January 1968 it was suggested that the present health scheme arrangements and social service arrangements are useless to the chronically ill of all ages. The submission went on to state:
The pensioner medical service does not provide help for the chronically ill who need nursing home care. The ‘special help’ to pensioners and their dependants referred to by the Minister (c.f. Guide to National Health Benefits 1966) extends only to medical, hospital and pharmaceutical treatment Though this could give the impression of the pensioner medical service protecting pensioners and their dependants against all needs, it does not extend to nursing home care for the chronically ill.
The report went on to state that intimate dealings with the families of the sick, with the chronically ill and the poverty ridden in our affluent society, as well as the anxious and socially incompetent, revealed that they found the fine print in insurance agreements very difficult to understand. It was suggested that the Commonwealth Government should play its part in financing home care services for the elderly citizens of this community so that, instead of shifting them from their own home environment and transplanting them in a home where they were completely strange because the situation was completely foreign to them, the Commonwealth could be engaging in a scheme to keep them in their own homes so that they could live in the environment to which they had been accustomed over the years. Regrettably the Commonwealth Government has done very little in that regard.
Then, of course, there is the situation so far as the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act is concerned. I again ask honourable senators to bear in mind that there are 807,000 age pensioners in our community. If one refers to page 35 of the 1970-71 annual report of the Department of Social Services, under the heading ‘Delivered Meals Subsidy Act’, one will find that the magnificent amount of $340,961 was made available for this purpose in the last financial year. The report slates:
The Act was introduced in April 1970. Grants made during the past year include meals served during 1969 and 1970. To 30th June 1971, 282 organisations were approved for the subsidy of 10c per meal. Subsidy of $340,961 was paid for a total of 564,890 meals served during the calendar year W> and 2.844.349 during 1970.
If, on a cold analysis of the situation, one were to bear in mind that there are 807,000-odd pensioners one would find that the Commonwealth subsidised a mere 4 meals for each pensioner in the last 12 months. The Opposition is of the opinion that that is not sufficient. The Opposition does not believe that our elderly people should be treated as though they are the flotsam and jetsam of society in this modern age.
Let us examine the situation insofar as social work and welfare are concerned. These matters are referred to at page 38 of the annual report of the Department of Social Services where it is pointed out thai there has been some difficulty in securing social workers. The report states:
General difficulties in recruiting social workers hare persisted. There has been a continuing high turnover of staff, because of both expanding opportunities for social workers in the government and voluntary bodies, and family responsibilities of female social workers. Thirty-three social workers were recruited during the year of whom 10 had been cadets. In addition 19 students were recruited bringing the total number of cadet social workers to twenty-five. Twenty social workers left the Department.
Anyone who knows the training that social workers have to undergo in order to become au fail with and expert in the very magnificent and humane tasks they perform must wonder whether those 20 people left the Department laM year because of the frustrations they experienced in handling and coping with the problems of the aged section of the community.
I turn now to the situation with regard to the pensioner medical service. It is indeed a very wonderful organisation insofar as the assistance- it provides to pensioners is concerned. But when one takes into account that the pensioner medical service provides treatment of only a general practitioner nature and that it does not provide for specialist treatment, physiotherapy, optical treatment and many other matters which could be enumerated, including an ambulance service, one can appreciate why those elderly people who are restricted to a pension of $ 17-odd a week are living in very poverty stricken circumstances indeed. It is inhumane and incredible that, although the Commonwealth fixes its own poverty line at about $45 a week insofar as the subsidy for the voluntary health insurance scheme is concerned it expects pensioners, particularly those who rely on their pensions, to eke out an existence on $ 1 7-odd a week. The pensioners are confronted with a hopeless task. For years people have been crying out for a thorough investigation to be made of the problems of the aged in the Australian community. In a paper entitled Living in Poverty in Australia’ which appeared in the ‘Australian Journal of Social Work’ in 1966, Dorothy Davis wrote, among other things:
It is 20 years since thorough surveys were carried out into the effects of our present methods of distributing social services. There obviously is a pressing need for a complete review of social service policy based on valid information about needs and minimum levels of income in terms of current living standards. We also need to have information on large families with low incomes who form a high proportion of Australians living below the poverty line.
In brief, I have tried to set out in the short time available to me the difference between those who live in affluence and those who live in poverty in our modern society. There is not one man or woman in this Parliament or in any other Parliament in Australia who could stand on his or her feet ana proudly say that the pioneers of this country are being well looked after by any government, Commonwealth or State. One has only to go into the parks of the main capital cities of a day and see hundreds of people sitting around wondering what to do to fill in their time. Unfortunately one secs some of them having to look in garbage cans for something to eat or smoke. One has only to go into some of the inner suburban areas of Sydney, such as Newtown, Surry Hills, Annandale and Balmain, to see at first hand the problems that exist. Those who have perhaps the hardest battle are the single pensioners who are paying high rents. The Opposition believes that it is in the interests of not only the aged people in our community but indeed Australia itself, having regard to its reputation, that there should be a thorough inquiry into the provision of facilities and accommodation as well as health and other services for the aged persons in our community. The Opposition believes that the elderly people of Australia - the people who did so much in former years to make Australia what it is today and who have lived through 2 world wars and one depression - should be assisted as much as is humanly possible by government so that they can enjoy healthy, active and useful lives in the Australian community. It is for that reason that I have, on behalf of the Opposition, moved that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare for its consideration.
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Perhaps I should explain my action in moving that the debate be now adjourned. Because the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is away today it has been agreed by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber that the best course to adopt in relation to this matter is to adjourn the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That notices of motion Nos. 2 and 3 be postponed fill after the next day of sitting.
On 8th December 1971 1 gave notice of my intention to move the motion which I have just moved. The extent of the measure before the Senate is relatively short but its implications, particularly for certain sections of the Canberra community, are quite wide and have a quite substantial effect. Looking at the explanatory memorandum, one finds the purpose of the amendments of the Commonwealth Motor Omnibus Fares Regulations expressed quite simply. That memorandum states:
By these amendments the fare to be charged in respect of a school child travelling between his home and his school by bus is increased from 2c to 5c.
That rise of 3c represents an increase of 150 per cent on the original bus fare. The memorandum also states:
In cases of hardship there is power under the amendments to refund all or part of bus fares paid for school children.
I wish to deal at some length later with that aspect of the matter and the administrative procedures which are necessary to implement the measure fully. But those are the provisions of the measure.
It would do no harm at this stage, as the provisions of this measure are relatively short, to state them as they appear in paragraph 2 of Regulation 1971, No. 7. The Regulations state:
Regulation 6 of the Commonwealth Motor Omnibus Fares Regulations is amended -
Those, in short, are the provisions of this measure. One must acknowledge, I think, right al the outset that the circumstances which exist in the Australian Capital Territory do vary fairly substantially in many areas from the sorts of conditions which one would find in other parts of Australia. But 1 think that by and large, in respect of the question of school bus fares, there is, as 1 understand it, a fairly common approach to this subject on the basis that school fares over a certain distance from a school where buses are used are free and that certain administrative procedures - I have used these myself in a former capacity that 1 had1 - are adopted to ensure that the parents of children travelling in excess of a certain distance in a school bus do not have to pay a substantial fare. In the Australian Capital Territory, by these regulations, it is proposed that the fare should rise by 3c. This rise represents an increase of 150 per cent on the existing fare. lt is necessary, 1 think, to look at the climate that prevailed at the time when this decision was made. We must face the facts of this matter. This is a taxation raising arrangement, lt is a provision to endeavour to raise more revenue for the public omnibus system which operates in the Australian Capital Territory. At present this is a pretty costly operation. Currently it is costing approximately $420,000 to operate this school bus transport system. Formerly, the fares charged to school children in the Territory raised $38,000. The proposal now before the Senate to increase these fares is estimated to return additional revenue which will bring total receipts to approximately $120,000. Honourable senators will see from the outset that this increase is not an attempt to make up the deficiency in the operating costs of the system but is an attempt to add revenue to the service to make it u more economic proposition. Perhaps shortly an opportunity will be available to me to develop in greater detail the aspect of the funding of the transport system. Perhaps somebody else will take up this aspect of the matter and will follow me on it.
In regard to the whole general question of the provision of services in the Australian Capital Territory, 1 must say that my own views on this matter stem to an extent from my persona] association with the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. My membership of that Committee has from time to time brought me into pretty close contact with various sections of public endeavour and public services in the Canberra community. These views have been quite substantially fortified by information which has been provided to me by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Enderby, in another place, who, be it remembered, is the sole spokesman for the people of the Territory on matters of this kind.
Naturally he is concerned with this proposal. He receives from time to time deputations, submissions and representations from sections of the community when they feel aggrieved by a proposal which will affect their daily lives and he interprets, quite well I suggest, the needs of the community and the implications to and the effects upon the community of any measures which are taken here. On frequent occasions during the period that I have been a member of the Senate, I have found it necessary to allude to the paucity of the representation provided electorally to the people of the Australian Capital Territory under our parliamentary system. One Federal member only represents in excess of 140,000 people. Nowhere else in Australia is a situation such as this repeated. So the points which I propose to put to the Senate in relation to this matter stem from those sources, that is, my own and, as I say, the information which the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has been good enough to provide to me.
If we were to approach this matter in its proper sequential order, the first question could be the purpose of the measure. Again 1 hark back (o (he fact that when this proposal for an increase in school bus fees charged in the Australian Capital Territory came to light there would have been very few people brave enough in isolation, I suggest, to add to the already high cost of education in this country. It must be remembered that, at this time, the economic climate was such that prevailing conditions were given rise to concern in Treasury circles as to the financing of the various public instrumentalities and services of the kind about which we are talking now. So as a measure towards meeting the additional cost which had been growing over the years in the provision of the public transport system, this was one area in respect of which it was decided to increase the fees.
These regulations were promulgated in October 1971. In the intervening months to the present date, changes have occurred in the general outlook of the financial situation and rather than tightening up the availability of money and public expenditure, at the recent Premiers Conference a broadening of the area of the expenditure in the public sector was encouraged by the handouts which were provided by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). l et us clearly understand that conditions which prevailed at the time when these regulations were introduced no longer exist. Therefore, honourable senators ought to br:ng their minds to bear upon the advisability and the suitability of increasing these fares and whether in fact in the prevailing circumstances this action might not have a detrimental effect upon the Canberra community in other directions. To attempt in any way to finance completely from fares am public transport system in this country would, J think, be quite ridiculous. As a natter of fact, a very good authority on th-“s subject, the head of the Transport Section of the City Engineers Department in Melbourne. Mr Nicholas Clarke, recently described the present policies of trying to finance public transport services from user charges as economic lunacy. I think that in the prevailing and growing problems of public transportation throughout the world one must look at the types of public transport services to be provided, their adequacy, their desirability, their necessity and, for instance, (heir relationship to the development of (he urban areas, high rise buildings and things of that kind. Any approach to the general provision of public transport services must be related to the needs of people and must also correlate to whatever else is happening in this area of human endeavour. Of course, I am referring to the closely settled, popular centres of the world.
– Eliminate the congestion.
– That is right. 1 was coming to that, thank you Senator. No doubt people in the field of engineering and the city planners held these views long before I did. Most people are dreadfully and deeply concerned at urban development. 1 think they realised long ago that there had to be a radical change in the approach to public transport services and, in fact, transport services generally. It is my view - shared with authorities on this subject around the world - that we are fast approaching the time when public transportation in the inner urban areas should be free. I am not able to make any evaluation judgment on this matter. I have seen nothing projected in relation to it. But I imagine that if we continue at the rate at which we are going at the present time we will completely clog up our city. Ultimately we will reach the stage when we will have neither of the 2 better things available to us. It occurs to me that some system will have to be evolved. It is necessary to have that system related to what is happening in Canberra and other parts of Australia where public transportation will have to be provided absolutely free to he community. The cost of not doing this will be far greater than the cost of providing these services. Perhaps this is not an appropriate time to develop that theme at great length. I merely put it in as my own considered opinion. It is not something which I have plucked out of the air. It is something which I have been looking at for quite a long time. It relates to whatever judgment I am able to make as a result of my past experience in the field of municipal services. I think that that is one of the things which has to be borne in mind.
We are in a day and agc when a tremendous emphasis is being placed upon the problems of education and the sufficiency of incomes to meet the great and growing demands upon people’s purses for education and the other services and systems. J do not know what sort of value judgment was made of this matter in the Australian Capital Territory. One can only assume that those people in administrative control of the service decided that revenue had to be sought from somewhere and that here was a source of revenue. But let us clearly understand when we talk in terms of $420,000 that the increase in school transport costs is going to raise the figure available from $38,000 to $120,000 and in the overall situation that is relatively a drop in the ocean. That docs not really solve anything at all. In fact. I believe and hope that ] have clearly pointed out that in the long term we could be adding to our problems by putting off the evil day - if I can put it in those terms - when we have to take a radical look at a complete change in the provision of the transport system.
But let me pass on to the effects upon the family. Naturally there will be an additional impost upon families. Figures have been taken out which indicate that the cost of the increased fares to a family with 3 children going to school at the present time will be in the vicinity of $1.50 a week. When we consider that 64 per cent of the wage earners in Australia receive less than $90 a week and that the income tax returns for 1969 for the Australian Capital Territory showed that approximately 26,000 people received less than $60 a week, we realise that we are dealing not with something which is rather remote but something which is very closely related to the pockets and purses and the capacity of people in the Australian Capital Territory to meet the growing cost of education in this area. Under the proposed new tariff the cost to a family with 3 children attending school will bc $63 and for a family of 6 - there are a number of families like this in the Australian Capital Territory - it will be approximately $126 per year. These are matters which have to be taken into account. We cannot merely come into this place and say (hat because the system requires some subvention or some additional revenue to help it stay on the road we arc going to apply this in isolation without a consideration of all the factors. We cannot divorce from a total appreciation of the problems of people in any area a particular aspect of the cost situation so far as it effects these people. 1 say that we have to take a very close look at this matter to ensure that there is, in fact, a justification for it. We on this side of the chamber say that this cannot be justified particularly in the light of the changed circumstances which have arisen since the time of the first announcement that this additional charge was to be applied. There is no suggestion, in fact, that we are going to recoup the cost of the present service. Here is a city which currently has a population of 140,000. By the year 1980 it will be a city of 200,000 people. At the turn of the century it will be a city or a city area of 400,000 people requiring all the additional services. It will be a fast-growing area requiring the immediate implementation of additional services. The problems which we see at the moment are going to grow. We are going further away from the city area here. Currently we are looking at plans for further development of the urban areas of the Australian Capital Territory which are growing at a tremendous rate. It is the fastest growing city in Australia. At the present time it is costing Treasury something in the vicinity of $50m annually.
It is interesting to note that a city with a similar number of people - the city of Hobart which has about 140,000 people - spends $4.5m a year and that the city of Canberra in its development spends about $50m a year. We are engaged on an exercise to raise from $38,000 to $120,000 the fares for school children in the Australian Capital Territory. As I say, this sort of thing docs not happen in other States. At least, as far as I am aware and as far as the member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) is aware these conditions do not apply in other areas. Why should they apply here? I have always said that there should not be 2 levels of people in this country. Conditions should not be provided here, because this is the national capital, which give people an advantage over people in any other area of Australia. On the basis of the same argument I say that it would be unjust, unreasonable and completely undesirable if we were to apply a tax to people here which did not apply somewhere else in Australia. After all, we are under the one system of government and the one taxation system. lt would be grossly unfair. 1 acknowledge that the Minister has made provision for cases of hardship. An application can be made through normal channels for relief from the payment of this impost. i point out to the Senate that thu. is a very real problem. Applications for relief on the basis of the economic circumstances of the family have to be made and processed. In the Australian Capital Territory al the present time, because there is a 3-year wait for government homes - l emphasise that - many people are obliged to pay rents of $25, $30 or more per week for homes. The income level that will be used for the purpose of determining eligibility for some remission of the additional cost that will be imposed on these people will not take into account what the wage earner pays after he receives his wages but will be the earnings of that person.
Thai is the first point I want to make. The determining factor is nol what a person has to pay out in order to live, it is what his earnings are. That is the judgment that is applied by welfare officers in determining eligibility for a remission of the charge. When that is related to the high cost in the Australian Capital Territory - at least in some areas - as has been proved quite conclusively, particularly in respect of the cost of homes, it is conceivable 1 hat there could be conditions of very severe hardship in a family, yet that family would not come within the $52.50 provision which would mean that it would qualify for a remission of the cost of these bus fares. That is the limit at which this assistance is to cease.
There is another point which is concerning us on this side of the Parliament very much and concerning the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory very greatly. In fact, it has been referred to in the courts in the Territory. There is a very great scarcity of qualified welfare officers here. The number available is not .sufficient to meet the already heavy and increasing demands upon their services. It was mentioned recently that there is on the staff only half the number of qualified welfare workers required to do the great but very difficult job that the people working in this area have to do. In some instances the courts are being held up and affected detrimentally by the insufficiency of welfare officers to carry out the duties - including making reports - which are required to be carried out so that the courts can do their work. But these very officers are to be asked to do the evaluation of the requests for consideration in relation to the bus fares issue. So, it looks as if the already severely overloaded welfare staff in the Australian Capital Territory will have an additional job thrust upon it. I suggest that this will add to its already very heavy burden.
There are cases of very real hardship in the Australian Capital Territory at the present time. They are the sorts of cases on which welfare people need to be engaged constantly in order to determine whether there is severe hardship and whether the ultimate result of the hardship will be that some young people will be denied something which I believe is their right. i believe that it is the right of every free born child to receive an education to the full extent of his intellectual capacity. Surely it would be completely unacceptable to an enlightened community if it were to bc suggested that, because a family, through economic circumstances, was not able to provide the funds to enable a child to get to school, that child was to be denied for the rest of his life something which otherwise he might have had. It has always been my view - I see no reason whatever to move from this position - that, if we can educate a person to the full extent of his intellectual capacity, make him a complete person and enable him to rise to his full height and dignity in the community, his future life is enhanced considerably, and not only is the benefit conferred upon him but the community itself benefits by 9 or 10 times the extent to which he benefits. So, it is incumbent upon every one of us to do everything we possibly can to facilitate education and not, without making the most serious examination of the situation, to put any impediment in the way of the achievement of that objective. Quite frankly, I believe that what the Government is doing at the present time is cheeseparing and just fiddling with the situation. I believe that this could be seriously detrimental to the interests of young people trying to receive an education in this Territory. i have mentioned the quite considerable build-up in the work of the welfare people. Their workload has grown by about 130 per cent in recent years. Already it is imposing severe strains upon the limited number of people working in that area. Then there are the parking problems which come from a lack of a proper understanding of the development of a complete transportation system. 1 suggest that, if we are turning our attention to the profit motive in relation to the operation of public bus services and similar instrumentalities, we are failing dismally in our approach. 1. suggest that the profit motive is not good enough. I believe that, if we deal in that way with the question of education or, to come right down to this minuscule question, 5c per bus trip, we are failing to lake account of all the co-related factors which go to make up the total life of a community. In effect, what I am saying is that we cannot deal with these questions in isolation. I believe that it would be the judgment of the community of Canberra at large that this approach is thoroughly bad.
Why have there not been protests about it? I have made some inquiries to ascertain the reason. The parents and friends associations and other organisations concerned with young people in the. community believe, wilh a certain amount of validity, that once this Government makes a decision and promulgates a regulation or ordinance that is the end of it. There is a good deal of justification for holding that point of view, because these people have made their protests on a number of occasions in the past in relation to other matters and they have received a pretty scant hearing. They believe - I fully accept that this is their opinion - that once a regulation is promulgated and comes into operation that is the end of the matter and any protest they make will be futile and completely unproductive. So, maybe, that is one of the very real reasons why we have not heard more from the local community.
The people of the Australian Capital Territory are rather emasculated. They have only one voice in the parliamentary system of the land. Of course, they are something of a captive audience. Canberra is a boss’s town. About 62 per cent of its work force work for the government. Many people are reluctant to buck the boss. Some people buck the boss but not too many are prepared to do so, especially when the experience of the past has been that it is a completely futile and unproductive exercise and they are just a few voices crying in the wilderness. I believe that the Government knows this. I think that the ordinance, in its present form, is pretty unreal, having regard to all the circumstances. 1 do not think that it lakes account of all the factors and all the circumstances which obtain in the Australian Capital Territory’- The increased fares for school children hit probably one of the most sensitive areas that could be hit in an endeavour to raise public finance for the transport system. There is not the slightest doubt that the increase in fares is an increased tax - a semi-direct tax. It is not a completely indirect tax, but it is a taxation measure nevertheless which hits at the larger families once again. So we protest about that, as we have done so consistently in the past and will continue to do in the future I suggest. It is a tax which cannot be supported on economic or financial grounds, a tax which is unjust in its application, a tax the implemantation of which, if it is to support a system which ultimately may need to be reviewed completely and redesigned completely, puis off the evid day, and a tax which does not take account of the factors which should be taken into account in a total assessment of the whole situation. It is a tax which. I think, because of all those grounds and because of the many other points that I have raised in the course of the debate, should not be supported. I sincerely hope that, having regard to what I have said and to the circumstances that I have outlined, the Senate will carry the motion that the ordinance be disallowed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
Thai: ibc Bill be now reid a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act to alter the period for which commercial broadcasting and television station licences are now renewed: to make certain changes relating to the ownership and control provisions in regard to commercial broadcasting and television stations; and to make some adjustments to the provisions relating to the broadcasting or televising of political and current affairs material. Dealing first with the renewal of licences for commercial broadcasting and television stations, section 84 of the Act at present provides that such licences shall be granted for an initial period of 5 years and for periods of one year thereafter. There is no provision for renewals for other than one year periods. lt is now proposed to amend section 84 of the Aci to provide that a licence may be renewed for a period of not less than 6 months or more than 3 years, on the basis that the normal licence period will be 3 years instead of one year after the initial introductory period for the new provisions has passed. With the steady increase in the number of commercial stations operating in the Commonwealth - there are 117 broadcasting and 48 television stations now established - it has become clear that the retention of a yearly renewal period has become burdensome and that in fact no real advantages accrue from the procedure. Under the Act as it now stands the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is required to make a report and recommendation to the Minister in respect of each appication for the renewal of a licence. The position has, however, now been reached where the Board would need to expand its staff considerably if the comprehensive technical aspects and other investigations, upon which its reports are based, are to continue on an annual basis. As I have said this does not seem to be justified in the light of present day conditions.
A renewal period of up to 3 years will also enable action to be taken, on the first renewal of licences after the amendment of the law, to vary licence renewal periods so as to distribute the work load not only of the Control Board but also of the licensees concerned more evenly over the 3-year period, bearing in mind particularly that it will permit all licences held by one group of interests to be considered together as a total operation. At present, the position is that in the case of a company holding licences for a number of stations which expire on different dates, the Board is faced with the unsatisfactory situation of preparing separate renewal reports in the case of each licence. Under the amended provisions, it will be possible to vary the period of the renewal of the licences in question so that they expire on the same date, thus permitting a single report to be furnished to the Minister with respect to the total operations of the group. This procedure will be particularly relevant to the operation of television stations and associated translator - relay - stations.
I might say that the position with respect to the renewal of licences in overseas countries is that in the United States the licensing authority may now renew licences for a period of up to 3 years, while in Canada licences may be renewed for up to 5 years. Honourable senators will, of course, be aware that the Act provides for the suspension and revocation of licences in specified circumstances. Provision therefore exists for special action to be taken in respect of a licence should the occasion arise and this is not affected by the proposal to provide for a longer licence renewal period.
Turning now to the provisions of the Act relating to the ownership and control of commercial broadcasting and television stations, some difficulties have been experienced by the Control Board in its administration of one particular aspect of these provisions. Section 92 of the Act, which deals with limitations on interests in commercial television stations, provides that a person may not have a prescribed interest, as defined, in more than 2 commercial television station licences. However, protection is afforded to persons or companies having interests in excess of those permitted, provided such interests were held before 17th December 1964, which was the date on which the Postmaster-General announced the Government’s intention to amend the legislation. Under the present law this protection is afforded, however, on the condition that the protected interests are not increased and that there is no change in the circumstances in which such interests are held. In addition, should any reduction in these interests occur, there can be no subsequent recapture of the interests previously disposed of.
The legal position is, therefore, that any change in the circumstances under which interests are held, even though the amount of the interests does not change, leads toa loss of the protection afforded by section 92 (3). A parallel situation applies in regard to section 90c dealing with broadcasting station licences. For example, if a company having such protected interests desires that such interests be held by say, a wholly owned subsidiary, such a change could not be effected without loss of the protection. In addition, because of the far reaching provisions of the Act. which require inter alia the tracing down of interests through interpolated companies and that indirect shareholding relationships must be taken into account, it is possible for a person having protected interests to be inadvertently placed in contravention of the Act through no fault of his own and no action on his part. Eventhough the increased interest indirectly attributable to a protected person may be extremely small and could be remedied, as toquantum by the sale of possibly a single share of his direct holding it is not possible for such a person to correct the situation in this manner because of the present prohibition on changing the circumstances in which the interests are held. The only alternative under the present law could he the sale of substantial investments in companies through which indirect interests are he1d and through which the inadvertent contravention has occurred.
This rather complex matter has been most carefully examined by officers ofthe Attorney-General’s Department and by Parliamentary Counsel in consultationwith the Board and the Minister is satisfied that theproposed amendment will not lead to any loopholes inthe Act.The Government was most anxious that no weaknesses should be created in the present legislation which has been most effective in enforcing its long standing policy with respect to the ownership and control of commercial television stations. The Government feels that the intention of the law can be fully achieved by providing that a person shall not lose his protection as a result of a change in the manner in which such interests are held, providing the quantum of such interests is not increased. The opportunity has also been taken to remedy a possible weakness in section 92 (3)(c) of the Act relating to television licences and section 90c of the Act relating to broadcasting licences to ensure that these provisions, which give some protection to new issues with respect to shareholding interests held prior to the prescribed date, do not extent further than was intended.
In relation to the broadcasting and televising of addresses or statements of a political and current affairs nature, section 1 1 7 (4.) provides that where the address or statement is in excess of 100 wordsthe name of the speaker and the author of an address or statement, where appropriate, shall be announced both before and after the address or statement. It has been represented that this provision has taken up a considerable amount of time in a one-minute political announcement, and in response to requests from all parties, and from licensees, it is now proposed that section 117(4.) be amended to provide that the announcement need be made only after the address or statement. To ensure that the provisions of section 117(5.) regarding the keeping of a record of the name and address of the author of such statements shall be fully effective, it is also proposed, Mr President, to amend the section to provide that in response to a written request to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the licensee concerned, any person may be provided with the name, address and occupation of the author, and of the speaker if he is not the author. The existing provisions require only that the Control Board may obtain a copy of the information. It seems clearly equitable that any person should be able to obtain details of the information in question. I conmmend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr President, the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act. Machinery amendments are necessary to this Act because of the proposed amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act which I have introduced concerning the period for which commercial broadcasting station licences may be renewed. At present, licences may only be renewed for one year and thus the annual fee is automatically related to the renewal date. However, in view of the possibility of licences being renewed for periods of other than a year or years, it has been necessary to amend the Licence Fees Act to ensure that licence fees continue to be payable annually during the continuing currency of the licence. I comment the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Television Stations Licence Fees Act. Machinery amendments are necessary to this Act because of the proposed amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act which I have introduced con cerning the period for which commercial television station licences may be renewed. At present, licences may only be renewed for one year and thus the annual fee is automatically related to the renewal date. However, in view of the possibility of licences being renewed for periods of other than a year or years, it has been necessary to amend the Licence Fees Act to ensure that licence fees continue to be payable annually during the continuing currency of the licence. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
– I wish to add a few remarks to those which were made by Senator Devitt before the debate was interrupted. The regulation with which we are dealing on the face of it does not appear to be one of great substance. The fares for children using public transport buses in the Australian Capital Territory have been increased from 2c to 5c. As Senator Devitt has rightly pointed out, that in itself can well be an imposition on many parents in the Australian Capital Territory. It is gratifying to realise that there is a provision in the regulation which allows for cases of hardship to be dealt with by the Minister for the Interior. But the significant thing is the attitude that is reflected in the decision to increase the fares.
The first time I raised the matter of public transport was some 2 years ago when I emphasised the need for a Federal involvement in public transport in Australian capital cities. At that time I had some discussions with the officers who operate the service in Canberra. In fairness to those officers, I. think it should be said that they operate a very good service. Their losses are the second highest of any metropolitan transport authority in Australia on a per bus basis, Tasmania being the highest. Notwithstanding that fact, the quality of their service is particularly good. Also they have a particular problem in that. Canberra has the highest number of motor vehicles per head of population of any city in Australia. So in fairness I think it should be spelt out that their efforts have been extremely good despite the lack of interest on the part of the Commonwealth to accept a responsibility in this field.
Senator Devitt covered some very important, points on the general question of public transport, but it is on the specific question of Commonwealth involvement in this area that I want to direct my remarks. On 8th July 1971 the Australian Transport Advisory Council met in Perth. The Council is composed of the Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport and the State Ministers for Transport. They issued a statement at that time to the effect that the various State governments would be required to prepare urgently a report on the investment needs of their urban public transport systems. Since that time the Council has met once. A further news release was issued on 18th February of this year, that is, 8 months after the previousone. The release is in these terms:
Commonwealth and Slate Transport Ministers today discussed the problems of railways and urban public transport. They said it is essential to Australia’s development and way of life that these systems function effectively with modern equipment. At present, the nation’s transport problems were growing, and as far as railways were concerned, great difficulties were being experienced. … At today’s meeting, Ministers discussed these reports, and sought further detailed information for their next meeting which will be in Queensland in July.
In other words, no specific decision will be taken until July this year, if then. despite the fact that initially it was regarded as a matter of urgency that the States indicate to the Commonwealth their investment needs in public transport. There is a note of urgency about the whole question of public transport for a variety of reasons which 1 think are known to all of us and which it is not necessary to go into here.
On the question of acceptance by the Commonwealth of its responsibility in this respect it seems to me to be strange, in view of the tremendous amount of work and research that has been done and the material that is available on this subject, that we have to wait 12 months before any action is taken by the Commonwealth. I might mention in passing that one of the things which also surprises me is that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory shortly will be looking info all revenues and cost structures in the Australian Capital Territory. I think a statement to that effect was made only two or three days ago. One would have thought that that Committee would have been allowed to investigate and report upon that matter before a decision was made to increase fares. I mention that in passing as a strange situation. Possibly it has been overlooked.
The Commonwealth’s assistance in this field is directed almost exclusively into road construction. Under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, for the current quinquennium 1969-74 the Commonwealth is investing a total of $l,252m to assist the States in the construction of roads. Only a very small proportion of that amount is being used for the purpose of developing public transport systems. I think it is only 1.2 per cent, and that will be used mainly for the purpose of research. So a vast amount of Commonwealth money is being spent in an attempt by the States to overcome their traffic problems in the urban areas. Some 20 per cent of the Commonwealth’s allocation of funds is being used specifically for that purpose. The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads which prepared a report for this Parliament in 1969 made it clear that the amount which would be needed to bring the Australian roads system up to acceptable standard was in the vicinity of $7,000m. Over the 5-year period the total amount of money that the Commonwealth and the States could find would be about one-half that amount, so at the end of the 5 years we will find the Australian roads system in a worse condition than it was in 1969, with the exception of freeway construction. A very large proportion of this money is going into the construction of freeways whereas some proportion should be going info the development of public transport systems.
It is in this respect that the Commonwealth has only very latterly come to realise the significance of this. Just before Christmas I asked a question of the Minister about this subject. I am disappointed that it has become apparent that the Commonwealth Government is coasting along in this regard simply because, to my mind, there are not many votes to be won in public transport seeing that most people want to use their own cars and, in the main, it is only the under age, the very old and the very poor who have lo use the public transport system. The great bulk of the money that is made available is being expended in the hope that it will keep the various motoring organisations happy, particularly prior to a federal election.
I emphasise that unless the Commonwealth is prepared to co-operate more closely with the States and to allocate its finances more effectively, it is obvious that the various public transport systems throughout Australia will gradually break down. The States cannot do this by themselves. If the Commonwealth is prepared to admit that it has a direct responsibility, we can overcome so many of the problems of congestion that we see in Australia’s urban areas. I emphasise also that it is significant that the increase indicates the Commonwealth Government’s altitude towards public transport. 1 am sure that if there was a greater and a more genuine desire to assist in the development of this field, these increases would not have been imposed and we could have looked forward to a more positive attitude by the Government, both in the Australian Capital Territory and in other capital cities of Australia.
– The Commonwealth Motor Omnibus Fares Regulations were amended in 1971 at the request of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and increased the fares of school children from 2c to 5c. Although basically this is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) has the carriage of it since the regulations are administered by his Department, and in this chamber I represent the Minister for the Interior. Senator Devitt gave notice on 8th December 1971 that he would move for the disallowance of this regulation - No. 7 - and accordingly he and Senator Wriedt have spoken to that end. As 1 have mentioned, in 1971 the Ordinance was amended to increase bus fares in respect of journeys by a school child between his or her home and school. The amendments to the regulations, however, authorise the Minister to refund to the parent or guardian of a school child the whole or part of fares in respect of the child’s bus travel between his home and school where payment has caused hardship.
The decision to increase school bus fares was taken by the Minister for Education and Science in view of the increasing cost to that Department of the provision of special school buses and for the subsidy on school bus fares On regular buses. The fare refund provision was included in the regulations following a suggestion by the Advisory Council that concessions be granted to families suffering hardship.
The costs of operation to the Department have risen by approximately 300 per cent since the Commonwealth Motor Omnibus Fares Regulations came into force in 1964. The alternative means of authorising advance payments for school bus fares to persons suffering hardship would have resulted in the vesting of a wide discretion in the Minister lo make payments of public moneys without adequate safeguards against the misuse of funds. A system of issuing tokens to the children involved was considered but not proceeded with on the advice of the welfare branch of the Department that such identification would be socially undesirable. I think we all would accept that. It is unlikely, in the view of the Department, that the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances would have allowed a very wide discretionary provision in the regulations. The variety of individual circumstances in the hardship area are difficult to define in the legislation. The present scheme is administered by the social welfare section as part of its function to provide general social welfare in the Australian Capital Territory. The financial and family circumstances of an applicant under the regulation were considered by that section.
The increase was approved by the Minister in September 1971, and, as 1 have said, fares were increased from 2c to 5c per trip. With the exception of private buses which are hired on a contractual basis to transport children living in rural areas to and from school, all buses used by school children in the Australian Capital Territory are operated by the Department of the Interior. The decision was not taken lightly. It was taken only after careful consideration because of great increases in costs. The bus fare of 2c was not varied between November 1964 and November 1971 which is 7 years, and in that time the actual cost of operating the buses had increased threefold. In the financial year 1968-69 the cost was $163,497. In the following year it was $260,000 and in the last financial year it was $428,000. It is estimated that on the basis of a Se charge there still will be a residual cost of $426,000 because operating costs are continuing to rise. The major element of the cost is the provision of special buses to take children to and from school and school sporting fixtures, and a subsidy on school fares to and from schools in regular government passenger buses, particularly for children living in rural areas of the Australian Capital Territory which are not served by private contract buses. Children attending non-government schools come from a wider area of the A.C.T. and are more dependent on special buses for transport to and from school.
The special school bus service provided in the A.C.T. is different from the school bus service provided in other parts of Australia. In Sydney and Melbourne, for example, the majority of school children depending on bus transport travel to and from school on ordinary passenger buses which operate on ordinary passenger routes. As I have mentioned, the buses in the A.C.T. tend to have to be special buses which travel over a wider area.
The proposal to amend the Commonwealth Motor Omnibus Fares Regulations in the Education Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory was discussed at a meeting of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council on 20th September 1971. Members of the Council did not express any objection to the proposed fare increases but suggested, as a Council, that the Department of Education and Science consider granting school bus fare concessions to families suffering hardship. This recommendation was accepted and the various alternatives mentioned earlier were considered. Difficulties were found with all alternative systems and it was decided that a system of refund payments to persons suffering hardship presented fewer difficulties than systems involving advance payment. A provision was included in the Commonwealth Motor Omnibus Fares Regulations authorising the Minister to refund to the parent or guardian of a school -child -the whole or part of the fares in respect of the child’s bus travel between his home and the school where payment of the fares has caused hardship. Applications for refund of fares have been made to the Welfare Branch of the Department, which has approved the payments. Also, provisions exist already under which persons requiring assistance can be helped.
I think that is the sum total of the situation in response o the comments on this matter made by Senator Devitt and Senator Wriedt. Both honourable senators directed themselves to wider areas of road transport and the obligations implicit, in this view, in this respect upon the Commonwealth. 1 do not propose to pick up that part of the argument. We are dealing with an ordinance which has increased fares from 2c to 5c. The loss factor in providing this service is still very close to the same order as it was before. Costs have risen very much over recent years and fares have not been increased for about 7 years. It is felt that we are justified in expecting the people who use this service to pay more for it in order to compensate the general body of taxpayers who, in effect, are providing the losses. Cases of hardship are covered by special application, as I said, and I feel that in those circumstances the best course would be to submit this matter to the test of the will of the Senate.
– I want to make one or two brief observations. One could justifiably say that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has not answered any of the criticisms which we on the Opposition side levelled against this legislation. One would have thought that this would have been done but it has not. This must indicate that there is a great deal of validity in the argument put forward by the Opposition to justify the disallowance of this measure. Certainly, as the Minister implied in his remarks, one could indulge in a lengthy philosophical argument about the merits of the various attitudes taken to these things, the systems applied and the policies which are taken into account in determining what ought to be done in a situation of this kind.
One. ought to have some regard to Parkinson’s law of diminishing returns. If honourable senators want a better example of how this can operate in reverse, I suggest that they look atwhat has happened recently in the airline system where a substantial reduction in fares has led, I believe - the Minister would know this better than I - to a greatly accelerated demand for seats. In fact, the reduction in fares has been a shot in the arm of the airline system. I do not think that this penny pinching attitude of slapping a few more cents on to the school bus fares is going to correct the problem. The problem is very much deeper and we ought to give it more attention.
I turn now to the processing of applications for relief. There are many variations in the wage levels and earnings of people in a city like Canberra, particularly now when there are hardships. There are 557 people at present out of work in the Australian Capital Territory, believe it or not. That is a remarkable figure. One wonders about the composition of this element of the ACT work force, Perhaps we will get clarification of it in due course. That figure suggests to me that there could be changes in the economic wellbeing of families in this area to the extent that there could be a great addition to the burden of the welfare people here. There has been 1 30 per cent increase in their work load in the past 3 years. Already those people are loaded beyond the normal capacity of human beings to discharge their function in the community. If the Government adds to the burden when the work load is already unendurable, I do not think it will improve things very much.
When one looks at the result of this measure - an increase of $80,000 a year in revenue - and weighs it against the cost of these welfare services, together with the policing and administration of the new system being introduced, one wonders what the net result will be. I suggest that this would be a good academic exercise which might lead to the conclusion that the Government will gain nothing.
Without labouring the point, in all the circumstances I sincerely suggest to the Senate that it should have regard to the fact that there in to be a complete examination of the accounting system of the ACT. Passage of this ordinance may be pre-empting the functions of the Joint
Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in discharging its duty of going into all the. pros and cons of that system. Certainly the Minister has not attempted even to justify this measure; he merely said that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that there ought to be an increase. He said the increase was justified by increased costs of bus services. I do not think there has been any clear examination of that area of human endeavour either. Be that as it may, I suggest that, in all the circumstances I have outlined and having regard to the fact that there has been no substantial rebuttal of the people of the Australian Capital Territory to support the proposition that the Senate if it has regard to the position of what 1 have said, it is incumbent upon the regulations be disallowed.
That the motion (Senator Devitt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
-by leave - 1 move:
That General Business, Order of the Day No. 1, be discharged.
I have taken this action because, although I know that all honourable senators will agree with me that tertiary education should be a responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament and that this proposition would be acceptable to the Senate, there may be problems in the other place and I cannot see a referendum being conducted on this matter. In view of the fact that the State Attorneys-General propose to hold a conference on the Constitution and because I think the Tasmanian AttorneyGeneral will be able to raise this matter at that conference, 1 have moved for the discharge of Order of the Day No. 1 .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7th May 1970 (vide page 1273, Volume S.43), on motion by Senator Little:
– When this matter was last debated Senator Little, Senator Devitt and, I think, several other honourable senators had spoken at some length on it. It was a most interesting debate. To my sadness I was not able to intrude very much into the debate, but I was able to make the following comment: 1 must say it has been a fascinating evening. One has come out of it with a tremendous addition to one’s knowledge.
That is all I was able to say. Looking back to the debate on that evening, which was nearly 20 months ago, I recall that it was a fascinating evening and that I did come out of it with a tremendous addition to my knowledge.
I want to point out to the Senate that the debate on this matter will be an extremely important exercise. The subject of the debate is a proper matter for discussion by the Senate. It is a very proper function for a House of review to engage in. I would suggest to those honourable senators who have an interest in this subject that the debate this evening could very well be a particularly useful one. But I want to warn those honourable senators who have not an interest in the subject of this debate that the Senate could be engaged in a series of long speeches. I do treat this matter with extreme seriousness and I always have. I regard it as a matter of great importance to the people of Australia and of particular importance to the Senate of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia. To that end, I will be seeking the indulgence of the Senate to speak on this matter for longer than I would normally do and to quote at length from material I have worked on. Having said that, I hope that those honourable senators who are interested in the subject of this debate will take an active part in it both now and later on and that those honourable senators who feel that the matter is not one which particularly fascinates them will occupy their attentions with other things.
Perhaps one of the most important exercises that have taken place in any study of Commonwealth-State relations took place in Canberra in early November last year when there was a very long and exhaustive seminar on the subject of intergovernmental relations, which is what this is really all about. The seminar was convened by the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and held in co-operation with the School of Public Finance of the Australian National University. Quite some assistance was provided by the School of Advanced Studies. A watching brief was held by Sir John Crawford and several others. I propose to refer at length to the work of that seminar. Those of us who have been engaged in a study of this matter for some time will be very conscious of its importance. We are equally conscious of the rubbish that has been talked about in relation to this matter and of the yearly grandstanding when emotions, hysteria and posturing are a part of the order of the day and the serious matters of consequence to the total body of Australian people are not thoroughly and critically examined in a detached sense, which is what 1 believe needs to be done. Many people involved in a study of this matter have come to the conclusion that it is high time that a serious attempt was made by people to come to grips with the problem and examine it quite critically but dispassionately in a setting in which it is free from any particular part of time at which there is some particular emotional conflict is involved. The seminar held in the ANU on this subject from 5th to 8th November 1971 is therefore the beginning point for my discussion - it will not be a speech but a discussion - with honourable senators this evening.
Let me refer to the scope of the seminar. It went for 4 days of morning and afternoon sessions and 3 nights. The work began with a paper entitled The Evolution of Australian Federalism’ by Professor Richardson of the ANU. That paper was commented upon in depth by Professor Gordon Greenwood of Queensland. Those honourable senators who have studied this matter will know that Gordon Greenwood is an eminent federalist scholar. To my recollection he was present on the first occasion on which the federal system was seriously studied in Albury at an Australian Political Science School in about 1949 when the matter was examined critically. Professor Greenwood, who presented a paper is now a noted professor at the Queensland University.
The next part of the morning was devoted to the topic ‘Political Decentralisation, Co-operative Federalism and Responsible Government’. The leading speaker was Professor Gordon Reid, a former clerk in the Commonwealth Parliament who became an academic at the University of Western Australia before returning to Canberra. He is now a professor at the ANU and is involved in a study of the problems of government. He is a most pragmatic and sensible man with a very good and applied mind. Professor Dick Spann of the Sydney University, a person to whom those of us who are interested in this field is well known - Senator Carrick and myself know him very well - was involved with Professor Richardson in the presentation of that topic. The next paper was entitled ‘Constraints on Administrative Efficiency in a Federal System’. It was presented by Professor Knight of Queensland and Mr Ramsay. The first paper presented the following morning was entitled Local, Regional and Metropolitan Government’. It was presented by Dr Neutze, a New Zealander who is in Canberra as head of the Urban Research Unit. He is a most impressive chap. I thought that his understanding of this problem was real, sensible and quite detached.
– What was the Minister’s assessment of Professor Knight?
– I do not want to involve myself in a comparative analysis of the abilities of the various people who took part in this seminar, but I would be very happy to discuss this matter with Senator Gair at a later stage. I have relative views of the abilities of the people who took part. I thought some were better than others and some were not so good. But I do not want to draw a comparison in this discussion between the merits of one as against the other.
The next topic discussed at the seminar was ‘Local Government in Relation to Social and Welfare Services’. This was presented by Professor Ronald Henderson of the School of Applied Economic Research in Melbourne University. He will be known to many honourable senators who study his work and who receive a copy of the quarterly paper that he puts out in which he does put a contrasting position to what I would call the Commonwealth economic review position. He was aided by Professor Lawrence.
The next item discussed was ‘A Theory of Fiscal Decentralisation’. I say, with respect to you, Mr Deputy President, that this paper was presented by your soninlaw. Professor J. Nevile, aided by Professor Williams, Vice Chancellor at Sydney University, a very competent administrator, who commented most ably on the topic. Admittedly, he is a man who has worked in the field of university education but a man with great experience in the practical work in a community of running enterprises.
The next matter discussed was ‘Direct Taxes in Relation to the Division of Fiscal Powers’. Mr Lane, a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, a resident of Queensland and a person with a very keen and perceptive mind introduced the topic, together with Mr Colin Clark, whose views are not necessarily accepted by everybody, myself included, but a provocative mind, a long term student of Australia’s problems and a man with a view but not necessarily the view that honourable senators and I might hold at any given point of time. But he certainly is a man with a view.
The next topic discussed was ‘The Search for a Growth Tax (with special reference to indirect taxes)’, introduced by Professor Ron Gates of Queensland supported by Professor Derham of Melbourne University. This was followed by ‘The Constitutional Scope for Indirect State Taxes’, introduced by Professor Geoffrey Sawer of the Australian National University and Professor Castles of Adelaide whom, I must say, I thought was extremely good. The next topic discussed was ‘Fiscal Adjustment in the Australian Federation - Vertical Balance’. I know that these are complicated terms but, in essence, we are talking about how to manage finances. This topic was introduced by Professor William Prest, and ex-chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, assisted by Mr Jay, a member of the Commonwealth Treasury.
Fiscal Adjustment in the Australian Federation - Horizontal Balance’ was the next topic introduced by Professor Russell Mathews, the head of the Department of Accounting and Public Finance in the Australian National University, essentially a most practical man who at the present time is engaged in helping the island territories of the Pacific in the problems of their revenue raising devices and their taxation patterns. With him was Mr Bellis of Tasmania. Mr Bellis is an eminent officer of the Tasmanian Treasury who came to Canberra to be with us on this occasion. The next topic discussed was Government Borrowing and the Public Debt’, introduced by Dr May of the Reserve Bank, assisted by Dr Gilbert of the Treasury. Giving some assistance and appearing with them was Mr Knight of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. For our sorrows, I presented what might be called a Liberal view of the problem, aided by my learned friend and colleague, Mr Whitlam, presenting the Labor view of the problem.
That outlines the honourable senators the matters that were discussed at this seminar. I suggest to the Senate that I might bore honourable senators by outlining briefly some of the points that I, made in expressing my attitude towards this problem. I do have an attitude towards this problem. It flows out of a long term interest. The attitude that I have to this problem, to me, is to a very great extent well above political philosophies at any given point in time. I think that a serious issue is involved here. I think that the Australian people have a serious involvement. I believe that it is a time for the resolution of this matter.
I was given a range of work to do. The range of work that I was given to do had several outlines. So I will proceed through these. I again assure the Senate of my unhappiness for boring honourable senators. But the proposition I put to the Senate is that what I do is similar to the work of the dentist who fixes a person’s teeth: We will all be better when it is over. Those honourable senators who think that this is not important may have other things that can be done if they wish, but I regard the matter as important.
I refer now to the general comments that I made which I think bear on the position of the Senate. In 1901 this country became a federation and it formed the Commonwealth Parliament. It adopted the bicameral form with a lower and popular House, with the population divided into electorates in the House of Representatives. The other House was the Senate. I make these comments now to the Senate as I made them at that seminar. The Senate is a deliberative House of review designed to represent the constituent 6 States in the Federation in equal numbers and to provide a check on the enthusiastic aims of the other House. Its members enjoy terms of office of 6 years in contrast to the 3 years of the House of Representatives. This might be expected to provide a body of continuity and of thought and, as well, to express the broad sentiment and the broad interests of the 6 Australian States joined together at Federation.
I made the comment then that it has been said by the people who wrote about those years that there has been no time since then in the history of this Federation when quite such an excitement was to be found in the Australian people. There has never been quite such a hope for the future and quite such a fascination with what lay ahead in building a new nation. Their imaginations were very stirred indeed. It would be hoped that, in the prospect of what this country has before it now, we, in this Senate at least, will be capable of trying to stir their imaginations again about the future of this country and its responsibilities.
It has become quite popular - we have all encountered this - to refer to the Senate as a States’ House as though that was all it had to do. The Senate is referred to as the sole States’ House with the idea that the States may seek to have through the Senate remedies achieved for the grievances of their Parliaments, some of those grievances real and some imagined. I do not deny the fact that the Senate is properly to be considered a House which has to regard itself as the conservative of the States. I think that it is proper to say that this Senate and its members on both sides behave accordingly. But I suggest that it is not the only function for the Senate; nor do I suggest that it is the most important. I think that there are other considerations.
I believe - and I express the view to honourable senators here as my colleagues - that in this chamber there is a matter of great importance. This is the long term Australian interests that reside in this country and its peoples through time. We all know that we are much more of age than we were. We make independent decisions in defence, foreign relations and monetary and trade policies. All these things are matters of supreme importance to the Australian people. I believe that the Senate is a place where these issues should be canvassed and some long term views established. Thinking should take place. I have never believed that to have in the Senate a pale shadow of the debate in the House of Representatives on the same issue aided the Australian people very much at all.
But I am of the opinion that the long term interests of Australia and its great issues are properly matters to be discussed here and, if necessary, with a certain measure of detachment
Therefore I say to the Senate that Commonwealth-State relations and intergovernmental relations were properly matters of concern to the Senate. Therefore, when this motion was proposed, it had my interest immediately as the subject always has had my interest and my great encouragement. But, looking back through history - and some people here would remember these things more vividly than others - we see that they are part of the Australian fabric. It is the warp and woof of which the Australian nation’s fabric has been made. The First World War really made Australia a nation although the conceptual considerations existed at Federation. The First World War made the Australian people one people. There are tremendous words written by C. E. W. Bean that I do not have with me tonight which demonstrate how that was the event which made the Australian people feel as one.
I think that the next episode was the years of economic difficulty in the depression, not a funny time for those involved, one of them being myself, but that period made this country a stronger nation in the end. The Second World War and the industrialisation of Australia and all the changes since then have consolidated the process. This is indeed a nation in its own right and it is not a group of 6 selfgoverning principalities. I think that it is important that this be established in our own minds.
So the problem that we considered in the seminar and that we are considering here tonight - that is, inter-governmental relations - to me is one of the important problems of the Australian Federation, of which this Senate is an essential and, to me, an ever increasingly important part. I closed that part of my comments by saying that in the increasing independence of Australia, its increasing size and the increasing wish of the United Kingdom to become part of the European community, we are thrown much more upon our own resources and the focus of Australian nationalism and Australia’s consolidated interest must increasingly reside in Australia. I believe it resides in the Commonwealth Parliament and that it ought to reside very much in the Senate, the long term institution of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– It is a good thing that the referendum was defeated?
– Yes. The next point that I want to make here is that the first part of the situation that we discussed at the seminar was: ‘Can the structure of the Federal system be adapted to change’? All I comment here is that it will need to adapt to change because time and nations do not stand still. Equally I comment that Australia began as a federation and I believe that it will remain a federation. I think one accepts that as a fact of political life and as a good fact of political life. I have no objection to it. I think the important thing is to make a study of how the federation worked. I do not wish to respond to interjections, although I take Senator Gair’s point. Really, I do not think that it bears much on the matter. The constitution of Australia, adopted at the time of federation of the then independent States of Crown colonies, passed certain responsibilities to the Commonwealth or national Parliament and reserved others to the States. I am not impressed by the proposition - although I am prepared to admit that I could be totally wrong in due course - that this is likely to change very much in the short run of time by constitutional changes. Attempts could well be made and, if they are, they might lead to a better understanding but the history of Australian referenda to which I shall refer later is not encouraging to those who seek to find a remedy by constitutional change.
How does one persuade the members of State Parliament to vote themselves into a situation of less authority? What real prospect is there of the Commonwealth Parliament abdicating any of its responsibilities to such Parliaments? The animal kingdom as described by Lorenz is true of people. Animals fight for territory; people fight for territory. These are facts of life. I believe that one has to look for other methods of change in this matter and not take rigid positions or do nothing because one postulates that at some time in the future there will be a constitutional change. It has been going on too long. I believe that one should work for change within the system and seek to make it effective. If legislative methods can come later, so much the better but do not delay the job, waiting for such methods.
It was put to me that I should discuss what values or objectives the Federal system promotes. I made comments and I have no objection to making them here now. I am a believer that human freedom to achieve within a free society produces the best results for the individual and his society. That people achieve more in a voluntary operation than in a directed one is an article of faith with me. The Federal system by its dispersions of power among many authorities and other diverse and defined areas of responsibility gives more freedom to people. It tends to make them less bound to the arbitrary decision of a few and, therefore, more protected against such arbitrary decision.
It has been said by some people who take a contrary view that people should do what is best for them. Of course this is correct but who defines what is best for them? Is it the Australian Parliament elected by the people, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or three or four people who view themselves as superior planners? Who decides what is best for people? Is it the people who are going to get the best out of all this or somebody who thinks they know better? I think I ought to say that it is my clear view that in my time the Federal Government has never, in my view, been a centralist government. It has been an Australian government without doubt. It has had - and I hope it will always have - a long term and continuing interest in the welfare of the Australian people as a whole.
To me, the principal value of the Federal system in its dispersion of power and responsibility, a Government in many areas closer to the daily needs of the people and a greater freedom from arbitrary decisions in a centralist position. But, equally, federalism provides for experimentation in policy. Variants are adopted. Even within a given philosophy there is a broadness in the thing and a cross-fertilisation of this which can produce ideas which end up in a better situation for all. If there is a novel approach to policy in a given place this is picked up by others. I believe that people are aided in this process, not harmed, lt generates competition among policies if different parties are in power in various Slates. In this condition the Labor Party is in power in 2 States and the Government parties are in power in the other States. There is competition for policy and therefore this generates competition. The process ought to be one in which they are checked against each other and, in the end, the Australian people receive a better result. 1 do not think we sustain these sorts of values if they mean anything to us by any other means which I know. The matter really rests on where we cast our priorities - people making their decisions themselves over a wide areas of government, Federal, State and local, or the decisions of a few people in a kind of planned centralist position. 1 cite in appendix A the number of members of Parliament relative to the Australian population in what I call the popular houses’ compared with other countries. From that it is clear that this country can be said to be over-governed in relation to other countries. The number of people per popular house members - State and Commonwealth - tends to be lower than in some of the countries with which we might be compared. People will say that this is a dreadful thing. I am not so sure that it is necessarily a bad thing in the state of modern society with drains and demands on a member of Parliament. I do not think that this is necessarily so. I think that what is important is the kind of mechanism of getting governmental results.
We talked about the political influence shaping the structure of federalism and the social and economic influence. This does not need to be elaborated. Naturally Australia was a Federation because history made it in that way. It began as a series of colonies, beginning one after the other. Geography helped the process. The industrial development flowing out of a pastoral economy aided the process. This began to be a series of rather loose, diverse, geographical and economic entities and the product of history and of remoteness. As time went on they were naturally destined to federate. This is part of political science history and part of what one would expect to happen in a country of this size and magnitude, lt is separated by great areas of infertile country with concentrations of populations in various areas where there is both fertility and water.
We were asked whether there was an inevitable tendency to wind up towards the centre or a centripetal tendency. I believe that there is. I do not think that such tendencies are necessarily peculiar to a political system. They are a fact of life all around the world. Cities get bigger and many towns get smaller. Companies get bigger and even become multi-national. They pose another kind of problem for an informed, sensible government with a totally responsible national view. Unions display a great centripetal tendency. They get bigger and there are fewer of them. This is a part of the process of life. People wish to herd together. Is it not a fact of history that the tribe of yesterday is the city of tomorrow? There is a tendency for governments to wind up towards the centre and there is a tendency for it to be expected that people will resist this because of their instinctive concern that this might become a process of over-domination and over-centralism.
I believe that flowing out of all this is the instinctive revival of interest by people in the federal system. There is an interest and there is enthusiasm for it. There is a wish to see it more effective in its terms of operating in the interests of those whom it seeks to govern. We discussed the matter of constitutional, political and economic constraints affecting the evolution of an effective system of government. An array of people were involved. Some were academic, some public servants, some people involved in politics like myself and some involved in daily administration. There is a postulation that the present system is not efficient or that there is a better one. I do not agree that it is not efficient. I agree that it might be improved. I do not agree that there is a better system than the one we have, provided that we work at making it better. But when we look at this we see that the position was well set out by an earlier person who worked in this field and who said: ti is unlikely that the level of taxation, acceptable to the electorate, will ever match their demand for public expenditure.
That is a fact of political and economic life for all governments - State, Federal and local. There will always be a demand on them [or more things than their resources will permit or their time will allow. This is a critical issue in which we are all involved. It is well to remember that there are 3 arms of government - Federal, State and local. One of the problems which I have always had with this proposal has been that this was the Commonwealth Parliament setting up to adjudicate and evaluate the governmental system of Australia when there were 2 other critically important partners - State and local - which might well resent what appears to them to be a ukase handed clown from above.
This is one of the reasons why I do not think this is the approach to the problem. I believe that State governments have an area of responsibility of great concern but so does local government. Many of us here are the products of the systems of local government, of an interest in State governments and of coming to Federal Parliament. This is not a bad progression for people who seek to serve this country in the Senate. We have had some notable people here. We have Senator Gair who was a Premier of Queensland. That experience gives one an understanding which some people who have served only in the Federal field of government and not in the local or State fields do not have. Local government is the creature of State government, not of Federal government. Under the Constitution there is no direct responsibility at all by Federal government towards local government. Therefore it is properly something to be considered in the total context of government.
Then there is another factor that comes into all this. Running across this broad trend there is the growing statutory corporationcommission operation which now is becoming another fact of governmental life tending, if we are not very careful, to be a creature apart from government which set it up. One can say 2 things of critical importance about the matter of Commonwealth-State relations or governmental relations - call it what you will: There is the inter-dependence of the Austral ian governments - Commonwealth, State and local; and there is the competition for resources which are always too scarce. Decisions taken by the Commonwealth government and the State governments affect the same people. Therefore they affect one another. There are not 2 classes of people; they are the same people. Because of this, the 2 fields of government really cannot dictate to one another. They should seek to persuade, influence and bargain with one another. Because of this there is always likely to be built-in competition and there is likely to be built-in argument. I believe that this is better overcome by rational, organised, regular co-operative discussion than by having occasional events which become a sort of short-run pantomime. I have here a great number of tables. I will not refer to them in depth now. They deal at length with relative evaluations of the availability of resources and revenue to governments. To comment on them would be to take up too much time. But they are the result of quite an amount of work and they bear on the field in which those honourable senators who wish to take this matter further will interest themselves. So, I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
– Those tables refer to the years between 1949-50 and 1971-72. That is a good span of years and an important one, in the comparative sense, because the first year was the last year of what we might call a socialist type economy and thelast year is the latest year of what we might call a market economy. There is a span of 21 years and the first and last years are years of Budget balance - neither of deficit of any consequence nor of surplus, in other words, equilibrium. In that span of years the total resources available to the Commonwealth grew by 7½ times. In the disbursement table honourable senators will see that in that same period the amount the Common wealth gave to the States grew by12½ times. That demonstrates that, despite many accusations which are quite unfair, the Commonwealth has more than played its part. Honourable senators will find other comparisons which bring the matter back to a net position.
Then the academic people and the others, such as myself, who might be more practical were asked whether anything could be achieved by a new Federal convention or a series of Federal referendums. I argued that if we wanted a Federal convention or referendum to succeed we needed to have much more public education and much more work on public understanding. I said that the matter needed to be treated much more seriously and on a much more continuous basis, and that if we did all those things and the Australian public understood thoroughly and properly, in time they would set the relative balance of government authority where it ought to be; but it ought not to bo based upon a proposition of emotion or trying to do something in a great hurry, This is a matter for serious study and serious endeavour. I believe that this is long overdue. So T argued that we ought to begin serious work on the matter before talking about referendums and conventions.
Then ] put forward my own solution. Let. me mention it without going into it at any great length. To some extent it flowed out of my earlier work in the Senate and my involvement in the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources and listening to many learned people talking about examples of CommonwealthState co-operation. As members of that Committee who studied this matter seriously will agree, there are many more examples of such co-operation than people appreciate. I concluded that today’s solution, designed to begin to produce a proper result, was to bring about a co-operative federalist position much better than we have now. If out of that we could really learn to work together effectively we could get ourselves info a better situation constitutionally in the end through referendums.
I was arguing that what we should be doing is looking at a regular pattern of examination of the resources of both Commonwealth and State in an economic council of the Commonwealth and the States and an allocation of those resources in certain areas in a kind of works council of the Commonwealth and the States, with the Prime Minister and the Premiers and the Federal Treasurer and the State Treasurers meeting regularly and discussing this matter as representatives of an Australian group of governments with an Australian problem. This was above ideologies and above philosophies. Tt was a pragmatic approach to handling the Australian problem in the present day and age. when we have a situation of demand being greater than resources.
We then discussed various matters such as the share of total resources that governments are taking. I looked back through my old figures and found that in 1949-50 governments per se were taking in total, for government spending, 20 per cent of the resources available to the community. At that time we used the argument that at 25 per cent disincentive would begin to apply to the private sector and people would begin to say: ‘If the Government is going to do it all, I am not going to try’. We now have a situation in which the actual proportion of revenue taken by governments in total to spend on behalf of the people is 32 per cent. So we are at a point which is interesting, if not perhaps dangerous, lt is a matter of how one views it. We have a federal system. I believe that if we are to continue to have that system we should sit down as people involved in government and, in concert with one another at the various levels of government, learn how to work to the best advantage of the Australian people. We did that at the seminar. We were State people, Federal people, academics, politicians and practical people. That was the approach that was made there. I believe that it is an approach which in the end has to be adopted.
There arc various other comments 1 could make, such as on the shifts between direct, and indirect taxation. These matters are referred to in the tables I have had incorporated in Hansard. The first one relates to the numbers of people represented by members of Parliament. The second one gives a comparison of Commonwealth revenues in certain years. The next one gives a comparison of Commonwealth expenditures in those years. Then there is an analysis of the availability of receipts, both Commonwealth and State. Then there, is an examination of how taxation has moved from indirect to direct. Finally there is information on the funds available to the States - both revenue and loan funds.
I argued, just for myself, that one of the ways in which this problem could be handled would be to give the Commonwealth Grants Commission a higher status, to revive the Federal Co-ordinator of Public Works, to pick up the constitutional powers of the Inter-State Commission and to look at managing the situation better, in the resource allocation sense. This could be done only if we adopted, first of all, the approach of co-operative federalism with a kind of national works and economic council, the Commonwealth and the States, meeting every 6 months. That was the general approach that was developed by me. Mr Whitlam’s view was another approach. It was published in the ‘Australian Quarterly’ in September 1971. In fairness to him, let me say that it was an opinion he expressed for himself, just as mine was an opinion I expressed for myself. At the outset of my paper, realising all the dangers for someone in my position, I qualified my remarks simply by saying:
At the outset it must be made clear that in no way can my remarks be construed as being necessarily those of the Government or in any way endorsed by it. In accepting the invitation to present a paper I have done so on the basis that 1 will give a ‘Liberal View’ and not necessarily that of the Liberal Party.
I give the same view tonight. I am giving a Liberal view - a Citizen Cotton view. It is not to be regarded as a view of the Australian Government. Some members of the Government might not agree with it. I want the Senate to engage itself in a serious examination of this matter, as it is doing now.
– Did you refer to income lax?
-I did.I had a reference table which dealt with the relativity of direct taxation to indirect taxation.I pointed out. how taxation paid by individuals has risen and how indirect taxation has fallen. The taxation on companies has remained static.I argued that one of the things that might have to be done would be to apply a value-added tax, not a sales tax, and to pass the value-added tax to the States. That would give them the large part of the revenue that It hey wanted. The balance ofthe revenue would not be considerable.It might well be called specific project revenue; it might be authorised by a kind of co-ordinated CommonwealthState approach and be given to the States as a section 96 grant. Roughly that is my approach to the matter. It was argued that passing the sales tax or the value-added tax to the States was not possible constitutionally. I am not sure about that. I think one adopts one’s stance depending on whether one is trying to do something or not.
My principal approach is a pragmatic approach. It is simply this: I am sick and tired of hearing Commonwealth-State relations argued once a year without a pragmatic or sensible solution being arrived at that would ensure the best use of our resources for the people and that would minimise their taxation because it minimised waste and the inefficient use of resources. There are 2 interesting articles on this matter. One is a letter; the other is an article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 24th February 1972 which refers to a most praiseworthy initiative by the Victorian AttorneyGeneral, Mr Reid, which proposes that State Attorneys-General have a discussion on the Constitution. One might look at the suggestion wish a little sadness and say that. Victoria has been a little patronising to the Commonwealth Attorney-General. In the end, the Commonwealth is the authority which has the ability to draw the States together. I think that perhaps it would have been wiser if the Commonwealth had taken the initiative. One of the best constitutional people in Australia in this day and age is Professor Lane of the University of Sydney. Having reviewed this proposal and having looked at all these matters, Professor Lane said:
Since 1901 the people have voted on 40 or so amendments - and rejected all but 5; and only 2, possibly 3, were of any substance.
There is another expedient open to the States. Section 51 (XXXVII) of the Constitution invites the States to refer any State matter to the Commonwealth for Federal legislation. To takethe example already given, the Slates could refer to the Commonwealth the subject of ‘industrial matters’.
He then dealt with section 90 and so forth. He added:
So, then, in the end the better way of decentralising the federal system might be through cooperation within the Constitution - not by alteration of the Constitution.
Without having had the benefit of even talking to Professor Lane, this is roughly the view at which I arrived.
There was a letter in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ yesterday by Professor Sackville who is a professor of law at the University of New South Wales. That describes an approach to the use of Federal power. What it amounts to is this: We have to try to persuade the people involved to get together, to do something and to stop standing off and shouting at each other at regular intervals and at arm’s length. That is my concern. I have this concern because, while 1 regard a proper and sensible solution to Commonwealth-State relations as being both wise and necessary in the interests of the Australian people and all their governments, 1 believe that it is but a step on a path that must be trodden before long because if we do not resolve the management of the governmental scene between Commonwealth, State and local governments and if we do not have a wise use of Australian resources for the benefit of the Australian people - a new, independent and rising nation - we will not be dealing with the next most important problem which is this: How do we learn to manage in a mixed economy? That is what our economy is - a mixed economy. How do we learn to get the private sector and the public sector over the whole Australian scene learning to understand the problems of their country and how do we get them working together to try to get solutions to these problems? In many cases we are dealing with people who have learned to manage mixed economies and who have benefited in the process of getting government, industry and the people concerned to have a better understanding of each other.
Australia suffers from a bad condition which might be called vertical stratification. People are most efficient in their vertical positions, but they tend not to interchange much with each other by a process of cross fertilisation of their abilities, ideas and responsibilities. To me, that will be the great issue that Australia will face - I hope with resolution, if ever it comes to grips with the first problem of intergovernmental relations. That is why, as honourable senators will understand, I am rather wrapped up in this matter. I have made various references; I have referred to the earlier debate: and I referred to Senator Little’s comments which I thought were most interesting. I have referred to Senator Devitt’s comments. He spoke with quite some feeling about his local government experience. I had similar experience. Those who have been in local government know that it is a very interesting avocation. It has its particular problem and its particular responsibility, but it is a creature and an arm of State governments. At the seminar to which I referred the Town Clerk of, I think, the Box Hill Municipal Council in Victoria, a man with immense and growing urban problems, dealt in a most revealing and most interesting way with the problems of local government. I believe that local government is a financial problem which has to be resolved. I do not think it will be resolved by what I call the namecalling process or the buck-passing process.
Having looked at the terms of the motion, I do not believe that it is necessary for the Senate to vote for the appointment of a joint committee. I will tell the Senate why I do not think so. Firstly, the State Attorneys-General are to have a serious discussion on the matter. Obviously people are beginning to realise that the problem has to be solved. The Commonwealth has taken a great initiative. It took that at the Premiers Conference when there were very serious discussions about this matter. Prime Minister McMahon made a statement which was of transcending importance to this country but which was little understood or little picked up by those whose concern is perhaps more involved in what I call a daily observation. The statement was more important to seriously-minded people such as those honourable senators who concern themselves with this matter. Prime Minister McMahon dealt with the subject after the Premiers Conference at which he discussed with the Premiers the need to get to some point of resolution. The argument was that we should take the subject of CommonwealthState relations out of politics and put it in a research centre. Therefore he proposed that there should be a research centre for Commonwealth-State financial relations. He said:
The Commonwealth Government favours the establishment, within the Australian National University in Canberra, of an independent Research Centre to pursue studies in the general field of Commonwealth-State financial relations.
It is in mind that the research should embrace all aspects of Commonwealth-State financial relationships, should provide for post-graduate study in this field and that the results of the research be published. The Centre will, however, act on its own initiative in relation to these matters.
Having been intimately involved in CommonwealthState financial relations - as honourable senators will understand, I have been part of it - I want to tell the Senate that the situation will be something like this: The centre will be concerned with expenditure (unctions, intergovernmental co-operation, taxation, grants and constitutional issues affecting financial relationships, lt will be detached. It will have asscociated with it men of great ability, integrity and experience in administration in the Australian governmental scene who will give up some of the leisure of their retirement to engage in work which they regard as so important and so serious that they are prepared to do that, and who believe as 1 believe and as I think most honourable senators believe that the resolution of this matter is of urgent and critical importance.
The centre will be established. The work will be most exhaustive, time consuming and very detailed. There is an immense amount to do. The State Attorneys-General are beginning their legal examination. Having regard to all those matters, plus the fact that the Senate has already engaged itself upon a great number of references and upon work of serious moment, it is my belief that the Senate should not vote for the establishment of the committee referred to in the motion. I believe that the Senate should have a continuing interest and a watching position in regard to intergovernmental relations and Commonwealth-State relations and that when the centre starts to work those of us who are interested in this field should go along to see what is happening. We should play our part in this because 1 believe it is part of our responsibility, but I do not think we have the time to do this work which is to be carried out. Having done some of this work myself, I can assure honourable senators that we do not have the time. I am sorry that we do not, but we do not have the time. I do not want to say anything more than that, except that I would like the proponents of the motion to understand that in no sense does one reject the philosophy behind their ideas. I agree that something ought to be done. However, I want to say to them that something is now being done and we have a lot to do. Let us watch the work that is being done. Let us encourage and help it but do not let us duplicate it.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) virtually has put the last word on the fate of the proposed joint select committee. We heard part of this argument on Tuesday when debating a
Labor Party proposal to refer to a standing committee a certain item. This proposal was rejected by both the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Government on the grounds, firstly, that the suggestion was far too wide to be handled by a committee of this sort and, secondly, that there were not enough bodies to go around; in other words, that the Senate’s committees were so cluttered up that we would be unable to do justice to the motion that I moved on Tuesday. This proposition is slightly different because it involves a joint select committee. Therefore if the Senate were to adopt this proposal very obviously the Government would merely say: That is that’. We would not have a joint select committee because the setting up of such a committee is a decision for the Government.
In these circumstances I do not see any point, in insisting that the debate go any further. This is a matter which peculiarly comes into the Government’s hands. The argument that was used successfully against me on Tuesday night was whether a joint select committee, or a committee of members of Parliament, is the type of committee that should handle this matter. Therefore the Australian Labor Party sees no point in supporting this proposal. I do express my appreciation to the Minister for Civil Aviation for giving this matter a very full treatment. He spoke for 50 minutes. At least his remarks are on the record. He made the point that something has been done on the inter-governmental level. I would like to read his remarks more closely in tomorrow’s Hansard in order to study them a little more fully. As 1 say, the suggestion is to set up a joint select committee, which includes members from the House of Representatives. If the Government puts its face against this proposal there is nothing very much we can do because any resolution we may pass here certainly will have no validity in the House of Representatives. Therefore the Australian Labor Party sees no point in supporting the motion which is before the chamber tonight.
– I think it is important to look at the background of this motion and at the attitudes of the parties 2 years ago when this motion was introduced. It was introduced in May 1970 by Senator Little of the Australian Democratic Labor Party after it had been on the notice paper for a considerable time, probably for the duration of the previous 12 months. It was introduced by him against a background of a great deal of topical troubles with Federal-State relationships which related particularly to constitutional arguments about the validity of turnover taxes, problems arising out of the Australian Loan Council and the massive interest and capital indebtedness of States and other matters which were then highly topical. I commend the Democratic Labor Party for bringing forward this proposal. I commend Senator Little for a particularly able introduction and outlining of the problems as they then stood. 1 think it is important to correct an attitude just put forward by Senator Willesee. The Australian Labor Party made its stand clear in May 1970, not only by not following the Government, although that would be understandable, but also by 2 of its speakers I think quite ably arguing principle. I remind Senator Willesee that the Australian Labor Party did not refer to the attitude that the Government put forward but said that the Opposition would oppose the proposal on grounds of its own definition, of its own choosing. I hope that the Labor Party will find those grounds and define them tonight and not try to pass the buck to the Government on this matter. Let it stand up and be counted as to where it stands on the substance of the proposal.
The substance is important. It seeks an investigation into the raising and distribution of revenue to ensure that the Commonwealth and States be able to discharge properly their constitutional functions. Very properly the proposal touches the nub of the matter. It touches the fact that finance is political power, that he who raises and he who spends the finances of government calls the tune of government.
– Finance is government and government is finance.
– Finance is government and government is finance. I am grateful to Senator Gair. In that statement is exposed quite a massive philosophical and complex problem. Indeed, I know of no domestic problem before this Commonwealth which is more significant or more complex than that of Federal-State relationships, particularly as it touches all tiers of government. I remind the Senate that this in fact was a substantial ground for rejection by the Labor Party of the motion. To look at Federal-State relationships is not for the Commonwealth merely to look subjectively at other levels of government but to look as a co-partner. The Commonwealth, the States, local government and the semi-governmental instrumentalities, if they are to be studied, should each have a voice.
Speakers from both sides of the chamber said 2 years ago that they commended the substance of the motion but they rejected it on a number of grounds, and the primary ground was that the Commonwealth itself ought not to seek subjectively and with all its inbuilt and inherent self-interests to sit in judgment and define judgment on other levels of government. To that extent - I find myself in full support of the idea but not of the instrument. I say to the Democratic Labor Party that in essence the instrument itself is now out of time, that what it sought it has achieved in many ways. The fact that this matter has lain on the business paper is no reflection on its ability to succeed because many things have happened since this proposal was initiated. I think that the debate in this chamber could have partially helped it along the journey. To that extent, although I will find myself voting against its mechanism - let me make that quite clear - I do not in any way reject the motivation that brought it forward.
I think it all important that from time to time this Senate chamber should have debates on very great and important subjects. Above all the Senate rather than the House of Representatives is more fitted to debate the question of sovereignty, Federal and State, because nowhere else in the structure of government are the 6 States equally represented. It is quite impossible for a debate of this nature to be held objectively in the House of Representatives. I make this point with all the force at my disposal because in an understanding of the complexity of these problems you cannot merely, as I may subjectively do, look at them from the point of view of a large State without realising that Tasmania has enormous problems in size, in geography and in a feeling of remoteness. So does Western Australia. So does South Australia. To a lesser extent, so does Queensland.
– Thai is one of the fundamentals of federalism.
– If I mentioned Queensland last it was not because it was the lesser. Yes, it is the fundamental of federalism. I hope that in the proliferation of committee work in this House we do not so overdo committees that we fail as a Senate, to be a States House, .1, a new chum to this exciting adventure of, firstly, the Senate, and secondly, the committees, rather feci that the committees themselves should bc like vegemite - a little use makes a very piquant taste, titillates the appetite :ind achieves a good digestive result. Discrimination of use is all important, but overdone the whole meal is completely ruined. That was one of the reasons why our side of the House and I think Labor said that the suggested mechanism was perhaps wrong.
Since this h:is been raised I want to discuss this subject in some depth because, although there are some in this chamber who are now holding their own private committee meeting - perhaps that is what is called a sitting committee of the Senate - I think this is important. Let me trace something of the history of how this problem emerged because when the founding fathers drew up the Constitution they had an entirely different idea from what has emerged today. The founding fathers had a profound faith in the individual 6 States. They had a profound mistrust in placing too much power in the centre. They might well have done so. as in America and elsewhere this has been evinced. In so doing they decided upon a federal system in which the centre or the Commonwealth should have limited powers, quite unlike the British Constitution, that the powers should be defined in writing and that we would be bound by those here in the centre of government whereas the Slates would then have residual powers. They would have al! powers that were not specified for the centre.
Just like this Parliament, the founding fathers did not understand that we would be bedevilled over the decades by clever lawyers. As we have seen in recent times, that is exactly what has happened with this Constitution. Make a law, and the lawyers will apply their minds to finding a way around it. 1 thought in recent days that that was the Labor Party’s prerogative, but looking at history I find that there is nothing new. 1 do not know whether that is a crime or a misdemeanour, but looking al the motion that was before us yesterday I find that, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), it is a crime. What we did not know was that the pressure of wars and the pressure of demands on the centre would lead to interpretations and behaviour in a number of directions. We had thought that the Commonwealth did not have power to destroy the States’ right to impose income tax. Incredibly there emerged, not only out of the uniform taxing power of the defence power granted by the war but also a ruling of the High Court to the effect that the Commonwealth had parallel but not superior powers on taxes. To myself a non-lawyer, that is very interesting. It is the kind of. semantics in which we talk about being first amongst equals. If you are first amongst equals to apply an income tax, the other equals cannot apply one because the general public, thank God, has only 2 pockets and the Commonwealth, of course, has its hands in both.
– And local government
– I hear the voice of local government very rightly being raised in the twilight area and I agree on this. So we had the situation that although de jure the founding fathers wanted the States to have the right to raise the only lax that matters in terms of sovereignty - that is, income tax - the lawyers found that that could bc circumvented. But they did more than that. Into the Constitution was written section 96 which undoubtedly was meant to give the Commonwealth powers in exceptional circumstances to intervene.
– For a limited period.
– Yes, I agree. When I spell this out I am not condemning the power, I am merely stating the history. It was intended to do specific things but now the Commonwealth, with some eager States, has found that, it can use the special grants formula, either in matching grants or in unmatching grants, to behave as does an orchestra conductor and to call the tune. As I want to demonstrate in a moment. it can do that in my view, if honourable senators will pardon the term, as a result of the bastardisation, the corruption of federalism.
As we move along we come to another factor, something that as yet has not been fully appreciated, namely, the decision of recent weeks in the concrete pipes case. Maybe the decision in the margarine case will also fall into this category. The ruling that the Commonwealth has specific powers over corporations can cause, I have no doubt, a complete widening of the frontiers of power, for better or worse, of the Commonwealth. There has been a discovery that the powers which lie within the Commonwealth Constitution are much larger than and quite different from what the founding fathers envisaged. It may very well be that one can say: ‘Good luck to it. Things have moved. It is now 1972, not 1901.’
That is a matter entirely of judgment because the real question that the motion of the Democratic Labor Party arouses is one of philosophy. What is your philosophy of government? How do you believe that the power of government shall be wielded? Do you believe, for example, the Lord Acton dictum that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? Do you believe that? If you do, do you believe also, in parallel wilh that, that decentralised power is safe power, sane power; that decentralisation is not only safety and sanity but also efficiency and common sense; that decentralisation of power is not only those things but also experiment, innovation and the capacity of people to get new ideas and to use them instead of having the strangulation, the inertia, of a monolithic centralised government? Indeed, you can have all those bad things in a centralised State government. If I may say sp, it has been, unhappily, the characteristic of our State education systems to grow more centralised and monolithic and not sufficiently dispersed. But the very first thought that this motion that Senator Gair’s Party has brought forward arouses in my mind is this: What is the philosophy that you espouse? Do you espouse a federal system or do you espouse a centralised system? Quite unashamedly the Government parties stand for a federal system although sometimes in practice, both here and elsewhere, we forget to practise it. The power that we seek and the confusion of administration tends to make us do things which centralise and fundamentally standardise.
– Do you not think that the States forfeited their sovereignty when they gave away their taxing powers?
– I think that the. States ceased to have sovereignty at that point. The whole gravamen of this discussion is how can they get it back and whether they should get it back. That is the test: What should they get back? This, I think, should be treated in no sense as a partisan squabbling between parties. I think it is fair to say nevertheless that there is a fundamental difference between the Labor Party’s philosophy and that of the. Government parties. It is true that a little while back the Labor Party amended its platform on the question of total centralisation of power and the total sovereignty of this Parliament.
– The Australian Labor Party believes in unification.
– Its members believe in unification because socialism depends for its survival on centralism. Socialism is centralism. Socialism believes in paternalism. I say this not in any attempt just to use words. The fundamental thing that divides the Opposition side of the chamber from this side is the difference of belief as between federalism and unification - whether or not central power can do things better in relation to education, health or anything else. The Labor Party’s policies, as they have been espoused recently, have been centralist and, if I may say so, have advocated the centralising of local government. Mr Whitlam, in recent months, reiterated the speech he made a year ago in which he said he saw no particular virtue, in having some 900 municipalities and shires and felt that the idea - this has been written and has been printed-
– You must know how ridiculous it is to have 900 municipalities.
– Do not let us be tender. It is for the Labor Party to assert to us that unification and centralism is right; it is for me, with Senator O’Byrne’s indulgence, to assert that decentralisation is right. I am bound to say to the honourable senator that tens of thousands of people who regard local government as being vital would support this side of the House. I was fascinated by the remarks of Senator Devitt in a speech he made 2 years ago and with which I agree. 1 commend him for it. He said that local government is a sturdy and an equally important form of government and that it should be recognised. I do not agree, as Mr Whitlam does, that some 25 city or provincial governments can replace 937 local governments. I wonder whether anybody in the Labor Party believes that. If so, will he rise and say to the shire councillors and aldermen of Australia that those 900-odd councils should go and 25 should be set up in their place?
– There should be some amalgamation.
– I agree entirely. I agree, if Senator Cavanagh is saying to me that boundaries are nol immutable, that there is some economy of size. Here is an example of the difference of philosophy. That is the basic reason why 1 raised it.
The next thing that emerges, apart from the philosophy of this, is the question of the Constitution and the way in which the High Court has interpreted it. Let us bear in mind that no matter how we decide that that power should be divided by the High Court of the day can change the whole meaning of that structure, as has been shown and as will be shown. This was shown in the High Court’s decision on what was an excise. That was, I believe, a fundamental and unfortunate decision for this country. I should have thought that the High Court would have done belter to look at the English definition. The next thing that we must look at is the demarcation that we feel should be considered inside the federal system if a federal system is to be preserved. If it is to be preserved, let us say so in the Senate. If it is not to be preserved, let honourable senators get up and state their case.
What we are discussing tonight really is a very simple thing. Leaving aside local government and semi-governmental bodies for the moment, the issue is this: Shall the States have sovereignty or shall they be subordinate agencies? That is the issue. I invite Labor Party speakers in this debate to tell us where they stand.
– Do you not think that the States are subordinate agencies at the present time?
– Unfortunately, in many cases, yes. I wish to correct that situation. 1 shall have to be honest and say that too often they are dancing to a tune. They do not have sufficient freedom, for several reasons that I want to mention. Whether or not power can be worked out and written down in words - we know the difficulty of lawyers in that regard - one thing we do know is that it is well nigh impossible in (his country to alter the Constitution by referendum unless we are removing powers from the centre or are giving social welfare powers to the centre. They seem to be the 2 things about which we can rely on succeeding. So there are enormous difficulties. 1 want to predicate a number of things. lt is common in debate, and has been for the last decade or more, to regard the States as being inferior in the type of work they do and in the type of impact that they make on the community, and as being merely the petty cash boys of the governmental systems of this community. Of course it has suited them to do this. There was a series of governments in my State, which happily ceased, which used always to hope that no-one would ask them to account for themselves. Whenever they were asked they said: ‘Sorry, chum. We would have done better but for the wicked Federal government’. The Federal Government happened to be of the same colour and from it, incidentally, they got less in loan funds and taxation than they did from governments of our colour. Indeed, they asked for less. New South Wales, under that kind of government, got less and less money per capita under a Federal government of the same colour, as well as those of another colour, simply because it asked for less.
– Queensland got damn little from either government.
– The ex-premier of Queensland naturally is both nostalgic and sentimental about it and I understand his problem. Since 1 am in an expansive mood tonight, may I pay a tribute to Senator Gair’s work as a Labor Premier, not a
Democratic Labor Party Premier, of Queensland. We are trying to talk about the broad avenues of this problem.
– Would you pay a tribute to the Honourable Joe Cahill also for being a good Premier?
– I would. As Senator Mulvihill knows, I regarded him as a friend and I hope he regarded me as such. Neither of us in his lifetime had anything to regret about the conduct of the other. I only wish that the Labor Party of today espoused the principles of Premier Cahill who said that if you remove the penalties from the arbitration Act you will give arbitration to the communists. So if I am asked whether I pay a tribute, I pay a tribute to the most profound and, if honourable senators will pardon my saying so, the gutsiest thing he did - going to his own conference in 1959, shortly before he died, and standing up to the conference on the greatest issue of that time. It was important, then and it is important today. That was the question whether communists would dominate the Labor Party or the trade union movement. Since we are talking of him, those who sit on the benches opposite and who tell us that we invoke communism should read holy writ about Joe Cahill because he invoked it very strongly and to good purpose. So I pay tribute to him. I am grateful for the interjection.
– I do not think Senator Mulvihill expected that answer.
– No, he might not have expected that.
– Does the honourable senator think that all Labor Premiers are no good?
– According to him all Labor Premiers, except Joe Cahill, are no good.
– No, I do not say that. I applaud what I have seen. There is nobody more alive, as the Australian Labor Party knows, than the ex-Labor Premier of Queensland, and I guess that honourable senators opposite will know of that in the future.
– Why not talk about Don Dunstan and Tom Playford?
– I should be happy to do so because a more centralist type of people I have never seen. They are people who take a philosophy which is the opposite of mine.
– Dunstan has done much for State rights.
– Has he, indeed? Let Mr Dunstan stand up and say that he believes in State sovereignty, that he wants the restoration of sovereignty, that he is opposed to the Australian Labor Party platform, and I will say to Mr Dunstan that he is an honest and courageous man. Let him do that. Let the honourable senator go and ask him to do it. Since we are tender tonight and the natives are lively, because it is autumn and pleasantly cool, may I get back to the problems that I was embroidering. The first one was that I wanted to demolish the idea that what State governments do is less important than what this Parliament does. I say without any hesitation that the day to day lives of the people of Australia are being more influenced and more impacted for good or ill by the work of State parliaments than by the work of this Parliament, except in war, except in peril, except in great economic crises. Does anyone doubt that the thing that matters to Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr and Mrs Brown day by day is the education of their children? Does anyone realise that almost 50 per cent of every State budget is for education? Does anyone doubt that hospitals and health are important, that housing is important or that justice is important? Does anyone doubt the importance of the concept of law and order, which we on this side value, or the importance of the law courts and the police, whom we respect?
– Can the States solve the hospital crisis?
– The States will help to solve the hosptal crisis, but not under the centralising policies of the Labor Party in which I understand there is to be one central hospital authority. Let honourable senators opposite go out and tell the hospitals that this is what they intend to do, because often at other times they inadvertently work for us and in this way they certainly would be working for us. I think that the States, under enormous pressures, have done very well. Incidentally, if honourable senators opposite want me to pay a tribute to a living Labor man, I pay a tribute to Mr Sheahan, who in my judgment did a good job as Minister for Health in New South Wales. He is alive. He might reassure Senator Bishop, who apparently has some shares in a morticians at this moment. Do honourable senators opposite believe that public works, agriculture, mining, conservation, lands, decentralisation or the environment are important? Are these not the things which today are the very breath of life to the people of Australia?
– What is the Liberal Federal Government or any Liberal States government doing about any of these things? Nothing.
– I ask the honourable senator not to be tender. Given the time I would be happy to enlighten him, because nobody needs more enlightenment, and I am sure that he would respond.
– That is a lot of guff.
– Mr Jago is nol satisfied.
– 1 am very familiar with what are called ‘brain fever birds’. Their device is to utter the same monotone the whole time. It lacks anything by way of intellectual contribution but it is hypnotic and its aim is to be so. It tends to distract.
– The honourable senator has been having 2 bob each way throughout the whole of his contribution.
– Am 1 not lucky? I would be. delighted if a Labor senator would get up in this debate and answer any of the challenges I have issued. Indeed, I challenge them so to do. Having said that, I come to the next point. Is the State and local government level of government a poor, penurious, begging type of government? Does it spend very little and does the wicked Federal Government spend a lot? I am to my back teeth a federalist and my aim would be to help the State and local governments to a better share of funds. Let nobody doubt that. Of all the public finance spent in Australia in any one year, 52 per cent - a substantial majority - is spent by State and local governments, and the determination of this spending is largely and substantially, although not wholly, under the sovereignty and control of the States, as no doubt Senator Cavanagh regrets. Also, lest anyone feels that the Commonwealth Government is the total or even substantial taxing power, one should keep in mind that the State governments raise, at least half of their revenue by taxes and charges and that local government has a happy little habit, which I deplore at about this time of the year, of putting on its rates and charges.
So when we are looking at this question of the raising and distribution of revenue we are looking at the nub of not just the Commonwealth and its purse but also the State government and its taxes and charges. If we force the State governments into putting on taxes of a particuarly perverse kind we create a rather uncomfortable situation. If I may say so, I think that in certain respects that has happened. Therefore, what I have said is this: We are dealing not with subordinate levels of government in the States and in local government, not with petty cash levels of government, but levels of government which, in terms of the things that they do and the money that they spend, walk with equality with this Commonwealth.
Therefore I pose the simple question: Do we want to force. State government sovereignty or do we want subordination? If we give sovereignty to the Government we do so by giving it accountability. In other words,, the only way in which a government can have sovereignty is by the spending power being the raising power - not partially the raising power and not even predominantly the. raising power, but totally the raising power. If we allow an alibi, if we permit a loophole, we get the inefficiency that the alibi creates. Therefore, if we want sovereignty we must give accountability to the States. Since the end of the war and since the proliferation of the use of section 96 of the Constitution the States have not had accountability. Largely the States have done good jobs; nevertheless the pressure of accountability is not upon them. Just as there is an accountability on this Parliament, I would like to see the States have that accountability. While there is a tax reimbursement formula of any size, while this government hits, in the middle of the year or at the end of a year, a formula by which it passes back a bit of the cake, we will have what I have mentioned in this House before - what 1 call the ‘Oliver Twist syndrome’. By that I mean that the States will be coming to the Commonwealth with their begging bowls and asking for more. But does anyone blame them at all for asking for more? That is their job.
Our interest is not in Federal government, State government or local government. 1 remind this chamber that our interest is in the people of Australia and the impact of our actions on the people of Australia, lt is not a victory if somebody presses and wins a trick. The question which should be asked is: ‘What has happened to the people?’ Every time money is squeezed out of the Commonwealth it is in actual fact the taxpayers who are being squeezed. As Senator Cotton so aptly put it, there is always a greater demand for money than there is an ability or willingness on the part of the taxpayers to respond. In my judgment the Premiers Conferences themselves are not - with a tax reimbursement formula - a proper exercise in co-operative federalism. I hope that one day the people of Australia will make a decision by referenda to extend by one year the life both of the Federal and the State parliaments because in my view whilst we have a situation as unhappily exists in America, where foreign policies and other policies are shaped year by year, there can never be objective judgments. In Australia every year there is usually a Federal one, either Senate or House of Representatives, but sometimes a key State one. This means that there can never be objective judgments around the money table and the Premiers Conference must always be the subject of great political influence.
There are very few grounds on which 1 disagree with Senator Cotton - none in his own thesis. He raised the question of whether we are over governed. I think that he in fact came down on the side that we are not. There is a massive misconception by those who do not understand the situation in other countries that because we have 6 State parliaments and one Commonwealth Parliament and because we can count the heads of our parliamentarians we have more government than, shall we say, the United Kingdom, which has only a House of Commons and a House of Lords, with 600-odd people in the lower House. But that is failing to understand the second tier of government in Britain, which is the county council system of government. The county councils are in themselves forms of State governments. If one counts those in Great Britain who govern one will find that on a per capita basis Great Britain is no better off than Australia. In any case I am not sure whether, merely by winning a trick of arithmetic, one solves an argument. The same situation applies in Canada and in the United Slates of America. Indeed, if one looks at the levels of government in the United States of America and gets down to the Stales and counties as well as the district councils of education and the whole ramification of participation in government one finds that on a per capita basis the involvement of the people of that country is substantially more than our own involvement. I think that, rather than talk about being over governed, we should look progressively for more and more participation in the decision making of government.
The next question that I want to discuss arises out of Senator Little’s speech. Senator Little spoke at a time when the turnover tax was a problem and when the Australian Loan Council had some massive problems. We have had a series of socalled reforms of the revenue grants. In 1970-71 we had some historic reforms of the Loan Council. Indeed, the nature of those reforms has not been understood and the Council’s potentiality in this Commonwealth is not realised. I think that I should pay credit to the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton who has been alleged to be a centralist. Of all the Prime Ministers in the post war years he did most to restore federalism. Certainly in the Loan Council field he took historic action.
– Does the honourable senator think that he will be recalled?
– That interjection escaped me.
– I am wondering whether supporters of the Government intend to get him back into office in the short time that they have before the next election.
– I know that the Australian Labor Party is at the moment preoccupied with leadership. Who should be more subjectively preoccupied with changing their leader than the members of the Australian Labor Party, especially as their leader today stands discredited on Senator Murphy’s own list of qualifications. So it is only natural that Senator Murphy should look wistfully towards us.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I submit that the honourable senator should not reflect upon the Leader of the Opposition in the other place - certainly not in terms that are very difficult to understand. I do not understand the basis of his suggestion, but 1 would submit that the honourable senator’s remarks are irrelevant to the debate and that therefore he should refrain from continuing them. If he persists he will only cause an unpleasant digression from the most interesting propositions which he has put to the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I would point out to Senator Murphy thai he was somewhat guilty of diverting Senator Carrick from the course he was following.
– Perhaps collectively we can say mea culpa. One should not forget the old saying: ‘If you prick us do we not bleed?’ But, more importantly Senator Murphy, if you tickle us do we not laugh and my goodness you have tickled us and I have enjoyed the laughter. I am grateful that Senator Murphy has found some merit and interest in what I have been saying. I was saying that the Loan Council reforms! - the initial reforms which 1 hope will be progressive - were major. I refer to the fact that Senator Little had correctly diagnosed that the Loan Council arrangements were thoroughly unsatisfactory; that the States under the system were building up a massive capital and interest indebtedness while the Commonwealth was reducing its indebtedness virtually to nothing. One other major point I should put in outlining the significance of the Slates is that although the Commonwealth - and here I pay tribute to a Labor man - largely due to the initiation of Mr Arthur Calwell commenced an immigration programme which 1 hope that this Government will go on to maintain and to expand-
– It has decided not to do so.
– Do not be tender about Mr Calwell. I was about to say that I hope the Government will reject the Labor Party’s insistence that we should cut back the flow of new and young migrants-
– But the Government has just cut it back. The honourable senator should make up his mind.
– My goodness! The situation is that the immigration programme is designed to the point of the migrants being brought, here by the Commonwealth but the full implementation of integrating them into our society is a State and local government matter.
– The honourable senator is like Pontius Pilate; he is washing his hands of the matter.
– I am not washing my hands of it at all. Senator Poyser.
– Of course you are.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! I would remind honourable senators that interjections are out of order.
– lt is quite understandable that the Opposition would find it difficult to follow a rational argument. Let me repeat it and then ask-
– We can follow a rational argument but we cannot follow an irrational speaker.
– If that is so, all I can say to Senator Keeffe is that Labor senators must find difficulty in their own caucus. What I said was that the Commonwealth itself should understand when it is facing up to this whole question of sovereignty that although it makes grand plans the crunch, the difficulties of housing, of getting electrical power, water supply and schools - is this washing my hands, or is it not in fact accepting-
– No schools, no hospitals, no houses and now no jobs.
– Wait a tick.
– Now, no migrants.
– The interjectors of course convict themselves as another did yesterday. That is, the advocacy put forward in this country by the Australian Labor Party as the solution of our ills is to place tariffs on industries so that we can import steel made by Japanese workers and German workers while by tariffs we put decent Australian workers out of a job. That is the policy that has been-
– That is a hypocritical statement. The Honourable senator knows that his Government has done more for the Japanese than any other government has ever done in our history. You know that to be the fact.
– We arc having a lively time. I have said with respect to the immigration situation that the States have a great job indeed to develop the needs in this respect. When he opened this debate tonight, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) talked about the tendency for unification. He referred to the centrifugal forces that drive power towards the centre. I have talked about the centrifugal forces that I hope will disperse power to the side. The real test of where we go is the test of philosophy. I was talking about the Loan Council. I said that we had-
– You are washing your hands.
– I am not washing my hands. In fact 1 am talking about a great decision by a former Prime Minister. Realising that the States had mounting capital works demands, mounting capital debts and mounting interest rates, Mr Gorton and his Government intervened and did 2 main things. First of all, they said: ‘It is not right that the Commonwealth should pay for its loan works out of revenue alone and therefore have no capital repayments and no interest rates. We will put that share into the pool and wc will cut it up so that the States in fact will get a share of their loan funds that are non-repayable whether by way of capital or by way of interest’. I hope that everyone will agree that that was a sensible step, though perhaps a belated one. The Commonwealth said also that it would look at interest and debt reduction and that it would set aside certain amounts of money each year. From memory the amount was $200m or something of that order each year. I think the period involved was 6 years. That means that $1. ,200m will be provided as an initial move lo try to bring down the volume of State indebtedness. This has presented to the Stales a completely new form of cooperative federalism. 1 come to the question of sovereignty. I stand for the restoration of the Federal system and the sovereignty of the States. I believe that the only way that we can do that is to ensure by whatever means that all the money that the States seek comes from sources of revenue raised by the Stales. I believe, personally, that thai will happen only if income taxing powers are returned to the States. That is a personal view, but it has been expressed in writing and on public platforms by me on many occasions. I would be dishonest if 1 did not say it here in this context. I say that against 2 facts. Any alternative tax or group of taxes is neither collectively enough to give the States the total amount without a reimbursement formula nor would such taxes be of a quality that it would be fair for this community to impose. What we are doing at this moment is forcing upon the States a tendency for them to impose a whole host of indirect tuxes. It may seem strange to honourable senators opposite, but I believe immense’ y in progressive taxation.
– Do the States want rights lo income tax?
– That is a very good point. May 1 answer it in ?. minutes. I want to finish this thought on the matter of indirect taxes. The point raised by Senator Cavanagh is a most pertinent one. Indirect taxation is a regressive form of taxation. lt costs the poor man as much as it does the rich man. ft is an ordinary price on the market. The only tax that is progressive is income tax. That is exiomatic. It is true - at least, until recently, it was true - that the level of indirect taxation in Australia is the lowest of the main industrial countries. That cannot be said about direct taxation as much as about indirect taxation. Personally, I would not like to see this country driven more and more into a situation in which the States imposed indirect taxes which were an additional price particularly to the lower income groups. That is why 1 find these taxes particularly wrong and unpleasant.
The Commonwealth itself must have centralised powers for defence and for the security of this country. It must have powers to maintain the economy and the stability of the country. It must have powers, I think, to ensure the conservation and orderly development of our resources because that does not necessarily flow through decentralised States. I believe that the latter can be carried out by co-operative federalism. Direct taxation in the hands of the States will not take from the Commonwealth its powers over the economy. The real powers over the economy today come from fiscal policies that are far and away greater than income taxing powers. I refer to the policies of central banking, of tariffs and the arbitration system. All these powers are far greater than taxing powers and all are outside this argument.
I have spoken at length. I think that the subject warranted that discussion. If indeed, I have intruded some infighting, I hope that it does not detract from the basic situation. Senator Cavanagh asked me whether the States want their taxing powers back. I examine that question in this way: Very great problems would be involved for the small States as merely to give them back income taxing powers would be a wrong thing. They would suffer at the hands of Victoria and New South Wales.
– It is not a popular proposition.
– It is not a popular proposition at all. Clearly, any kind of return of taxing powers to the States must have with it some kind of Grants Commission formula that gives to the small States a balance no worse than that which they receive now. Let me make that quite clear. This is not an argument on the part of a big New South Wales or a big Victoria at all. It is an argument to try to overcome what I think is the destruction of good government, that is, the reimbursement formula. Therefore, I would say this to the Senate: In the present situation at least 4 of the States, I would think, would not want the return of their taxing powers. The Commonwealth would need to work out a formula that would be acceptable to the States. I believe that it can.
To sum up, I think that Senator Little was right in bringing forward this motion 2 years ago. The 2 matters that he raised with respect to the turnover tax of unhappy memory and the Loan Council have been resolved and are now corrected. The purpose for which he moved his motion is now out of time. That does not in any way withdraw from the value of such a discussion as we have had tonight. I have simply said this: It would be a good thing for this Senate from time to time to discuss this subject without necessarily reaching the stage of voting on it. The discussion of the philosophy of what we are doing is of great importance. To have a discussion on the use of power is why we are here and why we are arguing with each other. Indeed, it is why the Opposition, from time to time, asks us: ‘Why did you use that power?’ I accept that. It is the nub of the discussion. I think it is important that we should do this. It is important that we should state where we stand on these kinds of matters. But when we do we come to a simple answer. We cannot debate this subject unless we start off by asking: ‘Where do I stand with regard to the true sovereignty of States? Am I willing to see the States fully accountable for their actions? If I am, what formula do I have for restoring that?’ These are the tests for this whole situation. If we believe in unification let us say so.
I commend the Committee of AttorneysGeneral for the investigation which it has initiated. It is fair to say that those of us with long memories will realise that the Committee’s journey will be hard but even the travelling is important - the opening of the problems in front of us all the time. I doubly commend the initiative of the Federal Government in setting up a research unit at the Australian National University. It will do precisely what Senator Little sought to do. It is going to look at this very problem so that the job is going to be done, but the instrument is going to be different. If I may say so, I also commend Senator Cotton’s enthusiastic interest in this policy. I know that he has been seeking this type of thing for years. He is to he commended for achieving it. I thank this Senate for the privilege of having made these remarks.
– I ask leave to speak in relation to this matter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I ask that leave of the Senate be given for the subject matter of Notice of Motion No. 1, General Business, standing in the name of Senator Willesee to be debated concurrently with the subject matter of Order of the Day No. 2, presently under discussion. These are the same subject matters. It means that Notice of Motion No. 1 will come on next week. I think, that my proposal will suit the interest of the Senate. The votes will be taken separately. T have mentioned this matter to Senator Gair and to Senator Cotton.
– We agree. We think it is a sensible suggestion that these matters be debated concurrently. If, at some time, a vote is taken it will be a separate vote.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave of the Senate be given for the subject matter of Notice of Motion No. I, General Business, standing in the name of Senator Willesee lo be. debated concurrently with the subject matter of Order of the Day No. 2.
– I think that we are indebted to Senator Carrick, particularly for his exposition on the anatomy of government. Just as Senator Carrick expounded from his own experience of life why he puts undue, emphasis on the sovereign rights of the States, I hope in a different context to justify why I, quite apart from my Party thinking, have always advocated more centralisation of governmental action. When I look across at Senator Cotton I remember when we made our maiden speeches in this chamber. On that occasion we both indulged in a bit of philosophy on how we came to this chamber. This is my commencing point. 1 notice that Senator Carrick had some nostalgic feelings - as I interpreted his remarks - on how relations between the States and the Commonwealth used to be before World War II. I suppose that as he is a fairly well read man on world affairs he would know that there was much nostalgic feeling about Europe after the Great War and before World War II. I think that some. leading statesman said: ‘Europe will never be the same again.’ And it was not. This is equally true as far as our Commonwealth is concerned. It could not be the same again. But people like myself who in 1936 went looking for work do not want it to be the same again. 1 do noi: want the old situation in relation to the Stales and their so called sovereign rights when at the age of 15 or 16 years, one could go to a place and be. ordered off.
I am not a vindictive man but. as honourable senators know I live in the electorate of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), the electorate of Lowe. Anyone who has travelled on our State railway system or who has come interstate would go past several factories in the area. One is Westinghouse Brake (Australasia) Pty Ltd which, as most people know, is renowned for its role, in the railway systems. 1 can think of one or two parts of the British Commonwealth where people cannot get work. It is no wonder that people get into all forms of violence. I have never embraced Marxism but one does not forget when one is ordered off a job because one asks for a posting. To me the fault was with the system. Probably I would not have been in politics and in the Senate if it were not for the indignities which I suffered in my teenage years. As a result I stood back and looked at the situation. I have spoken to members of what was then the United Australia Party but which became the Liberal Party of Australia. Those people would say: ‘Yes, we wanted to do the right thing for you.’ There were these gross comparisons.
I shall put the situation this way. My father happened to be a gas worker. He was not unemployed but he was rationed to one week in 6. This time was immediately prior to the war. 1 particularly instance my father because 1 shall deal with the matter of immigration and make a comparison between the attitude of the Australian Labor Party in 1948-49 and the present position because it relates to job opportunities. When we say we believe that every State should paddle their own canoe, this might sound all right but do honourable senators ever realise the injustice of this? If somebody were on the track he was unemployed. He might have received better rations in Queensland than he received in New South Wales. Let us consider the modern day. We can go anywhere in Australia, particularly to migrant settlements, and look at the lottery of injury which persons suffer today. Some honourable senators do not like the idea of uniformity. They think it is the next step to socialism. I am looking at human values. Today if a worker is in a foundry in Adelaide and he gets molten metal over himself he will receive a higher form of compensation for a maimed limb than a person in any other State.
I could stand up here and pay tribute to the South Australian Premier and play politics. But I do not want to do that. I like to believe that anybody who suffers any injuries in Australia receives the same form of compensation. This is my motive for advocating centralisation. I have no delusions that when a Labor government takes over the Labor Ministers are going to become commissars or anything like that. That thought is furthest from my mind. But I would like to have equality of opportunity and of accident coverage. That is the first point I make when we get on to centralisation. I shall take the matter a little further.
We are talking about the histories of governments. I am not blind to my Party’s shortcomings any more than I hope honourable senators opposite are to the shortcomings of their Parties. Let us take the situation in relation to the creation of the Snowy Mountains scheme. There was a Labor Prime Minister and a Labor Government in New South Wales. I think there was a Labor Government in Victoria. It is obvious that the State Premiers, no matter to which party they belonged, were girding their loins to go back to the position as it was before the war. It is to the credit of then Prime Minister Chifley that probably within the Labor movement heads were cracked and the Snowy Mountains scheme was commenced under the defence scheme. Let us be honest about the scheme. It would not have been a reality if a government had not lived dangerously. It may be argued that ultimately there may have been legal challenge. But I would say that the feeling of the people at the time was: We have been given a lot of stories of the new dawn after World War II.1
Irrespective of our political philosophies we made Australia a better country. There is no question about that. But I repeat that if 6 Premiers are haggling around a table and arguing there are problems. It is quite true that I am without any inhibitions whatsoever on this matter. A Federal Labor Government brushed aside the inhibitions of State sovereignty to create the
Snowy Mountains project. Subsequent governments of all colours have been proud to be identified with this scheme. On the other side of the coin, I went to Queensland in the 1950s and Queenslanders were talking about the Burdekin River scheme. The Second World War had been over for somewhat longer then. I think Senator Gair, if he were here, would admit that there was hesitancy or timidity as to whether another Snowy Mountains scheme could be undertaken. I believe that if the Queenslanders had twisted the meaning of defence purposes’ a little they probably would now have a more advanced system of flood mitigation and water conservation.
People talk about centralisation. If ever there was a futile exercise it is our federal system as it operates at the moment. There is not enough action, except in time of war. I refer to the numerous occasions on which State and Commonwealth Ministers meet under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Ministers. In the field of wildlife conservation I pay tribute to the former Prime Minister John Gorton. I know his private views on this matter. I know what, he would have liked to have done, but for the Constitution. We talk about the Fox Committee report. We would have been much further advanced than we are, as evidenced by my lambasting of Senator Wright the other night about the slowness of the States in coming together on wildlife conservation, had it been left to John Gorton.
Let me refer to some of the other horrors of this so-called federal system. I believe that the Commonwealth Minister for Customs and Excise, Don Chipp, wants to achieve uniform gun control legislation, but he cannot get all the States to agree. It is said that the States have sovereign rights. If I had to chose between sovereign rights and legislation against people using shotguns in hold-ups, maiming people and blowing off shopkeepers’ heads - these crimes in the streets about which people are talking - I would not have any inhibitions about trampling upon State rights. I would not do it as a dictator. I would do it for the common good.
My colleague Senator Cavanagh has interjected repeatedly about the fact that from the Chifley era right through the
Menzies era all State Premiers bellowed a little at times about uniform taxation. I know that several non-Labor Prime Ministers have said to the State Premiers: ‘Do you want to have a go at it?’ I believe that it was good for Australia that they did not do so. We hear quite a lot of platitudes about the little fellow. We know the situations we would have if we had dual taxation. I know the pattern of taxation, just as Senator Carrick does. New South Wales in particular was able to raise considerable revenue with the advent of club life. I say quite sincerely that clubs, provided most of the proceeds go back to the members, give many people things they otherwise would not have. They obtain them through collective ownership. 1 concede the point that was at the back of Senator Carrick’s mind. It might be argued that some other States do not have that form of revenue. But there are Totalisator Agency Boards and all the other exercises in finance.
Returning to the concept of uniformity, let me refer to the health situation. There is no doubt that nobody in this chamber envies Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson his ro’e. There have been many taunts about attempts to rationalise the attitudes of the Labor Party on given issues. I do not doubt that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is the real meat in the sandwich. His Government is supposed to believe in private enterprise. But the Australian Medical Association has made a mockery of the idea of individual freedom. The Government has the people under a system of semi-compulsion, lt says that none of us will receive any handout from the Government in respect of hospital and medical costs unless we belong to a fund. We do n nt object to that. The only difference between us is on the proliferation of funds.
Let me return to the nub of my argument. With the passage of time the Government will come to realise the attitude of the Australian people. The vested interests in the health field say that the present system is the best one. But members of the Government parties know in their heart of hearts that it is not working. It is like many other Utopian concepts, such as that of sovereign States. It reads well, but it docs not do the best for the people at a given time. I respectfully suggest that in the complex society in which we live there should never be a situation in which one person is in an inferior position to another merely because they live in different States. As Senator Bishop knows only too well, the arbitration tribunals have tried to equalise things by the introduction of climatic allowances and so on for people who work in the hot parts of the continent.
The theme that 1 am trying to develop is that we cannot turn back. We know that, in the countries of Europe in the post-war period, although there were governments to the Left in varying degrees the monarchies could never have been restored because the people would not have lived with them. Even the people who staged the Hungarian uprising and those who supported Dubcek in Czechoslovakia did not ever want to go back again lo the ultraRight. One can see excesses in any political system. Sometimes they are purged out. Sometimes that is done at the ballot box. One of the reasons why we members of the Labor Parly are agitating for a more egalitarian health system is that we believe that geography should not be an impediment to receiving health services.
Senator Carrick propounded the idea that if we had centralisation or if we returned taxation rights to the States they could raise only a certain amount of revenue. The inference was that, whatever schemes we are suggesting in the fields of urban development, health and social services, there has to be some limitation on how far we can go. Of course there has to be. That was the dictum of Chifley. Anybody who has studied the writings of our illustrious future Treasurer, Mr Frank Crean, will agree with that attitude. We believe that there are other sources which could be tapped to produce large amounts of revenue.
Let me use the classic illustration of South America or, as it is now known, Latin America, where there are many governments of the Right, including ones consisting of military chiefs. Honourable senators opposite will say to me: ‘What about Chile and Bolivia?’ No matter what form of government those countries have had, they have never had any inhibitions about dealing with foreign capital. Honourable senators opposite will say to me: ‘If we do as you say, there will be an exodus of
British and American capital from Australia’. Each time an American Ambassador returns to his country a big dinner is held. He does not know what is around the corner; there might soon be a different type of government. So he says that he likes Australians and that, no matter what government was in power or what financial policy it had, America would always invest here because Australia is a stable country. 1. do nol know whether the term ‘a stable country’ is meant to be a compliment or whether it means that we are the lackeys of big business.
That reminds me again of the former senator and former Prime Minister John Gorton, lt was he who made an excellent analogy by saying that he felt that sometimes Australia was like a little puppy lying on the floor with somebody rubbing ils belly with his foot. The inference was that Australia was begging for foreign investment. We have never said that we do nol want technical know-how. We may have queried whether there is any value in having foreign capital in a firm that makes breakfast foods. We have argued quite sincerely that if we were So renegotiate every mining agreement and off-shore oil drilling agreement that has been made we could get bigger and better royalties. Have honourable senators opposite studied the numerous books that have been written about Chile and Equador? In relation to the former country, without going as far as the Allende Government, the previous Prime Minister told the story - J imagine that this could happen with any government here - that 3 months after he took office he said to the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey: ‘I have to renegotiate these agreements’. He knew the feudal system and the peasantry of South America. If one reads his memoirs one discovers the amazing thing that the Americans made the first offer; they were prepared to increase the royalties by 10 per cent.
While a member of the Senate Select Committee on Oil Pollution - Senator Davidson would know this - at various times 1 broke bread with American oil mcn. I do not think that affected my socialism. I liked to listen to them. I taunted them in a very mild way. Senator Withers is smiling al my exposition of socialist economics. I said to these Americans: ‘I think we could do a better deal.
We could do what the Arab countries have done. They and the Latin American countries have pui the screw on the American oil companies’. The Americans did not take offence. They did not say: ‘Get away from this table’. They looked at me and said: ‘Senator, your governments have never asked’. To me, that is an open sesame. A Labor Treasurer could do things and could make negotiations. It would not matter whether the amount involved was Si Om or $!5m. I am sure that it would be more. People say: ‘Where will you get the money?’ These are the sources from which we will get it. 1 do believe that there is a resurgence of Australian nationalism. I do not doubt that when honourable senators opposite address high school audiences they get bumpers and leg breaks tossed at them. The respective agendas of the Young Liberal Party and the Young Labor Party are almost identical. Senator Withers and I may differ on other subjects, but surely we agree that when it comes to the economic field the youth of today has a sensible and healthy Australian nationalism. The feather bedding that goes on among big businesses riles me. I will bring my remarks a little closer to home. Any senator who was a member of Estimates Committee B would know that after digging around a little we learned that Nabalco and other firms in the Northern Territory are subsidised by the taxpayers. I was amazed to learn that Australian taxpayers pick up the tab above $40 for every injured worker who is on compensation and who is flown to the eastern States. I do not doubt that if we had had a little more time we would have learned of a host of similar examples. When somebody says to me that the trade unions are asking for too much or something like that I always look at these other fields where, to my way of thinking, some of these economies could be effected. The Commissioner of Taxation could look at fringe benefits such as travelling expenses. A miner argues that he works under the face of the mine and that he has to walk half a mile underground. The coal tribunal argues that the 30 minutes for which he walks amounts to only so many man hours and so on. These are problems to which answers are not forthcoming.
The mining journals talk about Australia as being a lucky country. Forgetting about what the Labor Party wants to do, it amazes me that in 1971, with all the rich minerals that have come out of the ground particularly in Senator Withers’s State, we cannot get a health scheme which is at least equal to the health schemes in Britain, New Zealand or the Scandanavian countries. Honourable senators opposite might say: ‘Look at the bureaucracy that emanated from the Beveridge system in England’. Tory governments have not interfered to any degree with the British health scheme. To my way of thinking, when we are talking about the trade union movement and strikes we should remember the position of the men who are seeking an extra $5 a week. People on lower incomes are thrown out of gear when they gel. sick. Honourable senators opposite might say that these men are getting 80 per cent back from the health fund. A lot of the health funds do not pay 80 per cent of the bill. It is the extra 20 per cent that makes the worker squeal. It happens on many occasions. A man might be suffering from a hernia or something else and will not go to hospital. He might be working as a painter-docker, crawling around in the confined space of a ship. It takes courage to carry on in such circumstances. These are the injustices that are perpetuated. We feel that nothing is done to take from those who have and to give it to those who have not.
When I talk of those who have, I am not necessarily talking about the magnates in Collins Street or their counterparts in Sydney. I honestly believe that the Government could have made a better deal and could have imposed bigger requirements, lt could have put a capital levy on most of the big overseas firms. To my mind, there is not the slightest doubt about that. Usually when I look across the chamber I see Senator Maunsell. I pick him out as a representative of the rural area. I believe that the Government is being totally unfair because every time that the maritime unions have agreed to changes there has been no visible change in the price structure. I am looking for a Queensland senator. Senator Bonner will appreciate this. I was looking for Senator Lawrie. I was about to deal with what happened in Mackay. I see that Senator Wood is in the chamber. I am talking about the sugar industry and the fact that the trade union movement has accepted changed techniques in that industry. I cannot always see how society has benefited, yet we are told that with better techniques the cost will be cheaper. On one occasion I visited Senator Wood’s home town and it was pointed out to me that, with the push button system in the handling of sugar to be exported, 40 people were doing the work previously done by probably 5 times the number. There is no visible indication that the price of sugar has fallen. I. am not developing an argument about sugar co-operatives, but I am talking about what happens to the redundant workers and the price structure when the trade union movement accepts new techniques.
What I want to hammer is this: Honourable senators opposite know that from, time to time the big overseas shipping combines increase freight rates, but each time there are new techniques or new fertilisers the waterside workers agree to changes. But shipping freights rise by 1 per cent, 2 per cent or 3 per cent. The Seamen’s Union has agreed to a new manning scale. The strikes here have not been of the duration that the strikes of the longshoremen on the west coast of the United States have been. Whatever argument is used, what makes us so cynical is that the Government will not say that these people, whether they be overseas shipping companies or other companies are the barnacles of the capitalist system and it will not take them on. It can be done. British governments have dealt with the various drug companies which were overcharging under the national health scheme. I make this broad point: We are arguing about centralisation because we believe that whether it be industrial law or something else there should not be artificial boundaries. If people are to enjoy freedom, it should be enjoyed throughout Australia.
In dealing with monopolies it is ridiculous to believe that if one State feels that it wants to get tough with them - whether it be in regard to pollution or taxation - it can do so. Can anyone tell me that the New South Wales Government would be game to put a super-tax on the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd? The Government would be threatened that the company would do this, that and everything else. The only way in which anything can be done is for the Commonwealth Government to fake action. The main difficulty has been the resurgence of genuine nationalism. My idea of Australian nationalism is not that the Government will annex any other country. I do not think many lessons could be learned. Last year or a little while previous to that there was a confrontation between our trawlers and those of a foreign country. At one stage we were told that, the trawlers were Red trawlers. Somebody else said that they were Taiwanese trawlers. There was a sudden back tracking. The Government might have asked why Australia should get involved with a super-power. That is reasonable enough. Nobody will argue that the ideas of any country should be too grandiose. 1 refer again to the fishing problem. I am talking about a South American country such as Ecuador which one could probably say is in many ways on a parallel wilh Australia. Ecuador has not had any inhibitions about requiring a very steep fishing licence for trawlers that come within at least 200 miles of the coast of Ecuador, lt is probably international psychology. In this case the United States is the other country concerned. Ecuador knows that whether the other country is the United States, the Soviet Union or Mainland China those countries believe that, irrespective of their big battalions, t’hey need a good image. The United States will do a deal with Ecuador, and Ecuador will get a pretty lucrative revenue from foreign fishing trawlers.
I do not know what will happen in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I appreciate that Senator Drake-Brockman gave a very careful reply today. He said that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) would get in touch with the Department of the Navy. That is an over-simplification. I think it would be a much better idea if the Department of Foreign Affairs were a little more militant and if it argued that if it is good enough for the Soviet Union and for a small country like Greenland to have defined fishing rights we should have defined fishing rights also. We should say: There are more fish in our waters than we need’. I do not deny that the international pooling of markets could do a lot for the undeveloped countries. But let us put a levy or a licence on these people. If it is good enough for Ecuador to do it, it is good enough for us to do it.
I have tried to paint a picture, in the first instance, that will show why I believe in centralisation. I believe with undue sovereign Stale rights we will never have any more projects of the magnitude of the Snowy Mountains project. We will have differing industrial codes. Some States will have good compensation laws and others will have bad ones. Those States with the bad laws will fry to blackmail the other States just as they are trying to blackmail Premier Dunstan at the moment by saying: We will entice industry to another State.’ In a debate the other night somebody talked about Jack London. He should have a look at Carnegie and the history of the United Stales steel mills and the mining fields from the 1880s right through to 1920. These are situations that we do not want here, and they can be bred if we have undue Slate sovereign rights.
I wish now to refer to the question of immigration. I suppose 1 can illustrate my point simply from a domestic angle. Because of his own lengthy experience in the industrial world 1 know that Senator Cavanagh will appreciate it. Like a lot of other people I joined the Australian Labor Party in the relatively early post-war years. 1 can recall my father’s reaction when Arthur Calwell introduced an immigration scheme. My father was probably no more racialist than anyone else. Before the war he had been rationed to one week’s work in six. When this scheme was introduced he said to me: ‘I don’t know: it might be better to keep the labour market scarce. I will get overtime to compensate for the years that I was rationed to one week in every six.’ That was a reasonable response from any Australian. As a political fledgling, in my own humble way 1 asked him to have confidence. I said that he would find that his fears would not be realised. They were not realised because there were more jobs available than people. That is the reason why the immigration scheme was successful.
When Government senators ask at the last minute what is the Labor Party’s attitude on immigration at the moment, let us be realistic on 2 points. I spent a fortnight at a hostel at Cabramatta. I was there with the approval of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch). I could not but make comparisons between that hostel and the hostels that I went into in the 1950s as a sub-branch official of the Australian Railways Union and as a member pf the Sydney Labour Council’s immigration committee. At that time people could pick and choose between jobs. They cannot pick and choose now. Someone might say to me: ‘What difference does it make if a fellow who worked in a flour mill in Poland or Yugoslavia has to work in a brick pit here? Somebody has to do the work. You cannot have it both ways.’ There is talk about an authoritarian government, but let us remember it is not the Labor Party that is directing this man to go into a brick pit; it is the Minister for Labour and National Service. I know that if we pressed his officers - I have good relations with them - they would simply say: ‘Is not that job better than anything else?’ The point I am making is that if we of the Labor Party and the trade union movement begin to question the number of migrants coming in it is because we do not want to see any racial bitterness or undue competition between A and B for a particular job.
My second point has not been raised tonight by previous speakers. Perhaps later speakers may raise it. I refer to this certain muted Enoch Powellism. Let us have a look at the situation in relation to the intake of non-British or non-European migrants. Senator Cavanagh and I were at a citizenship convention when Sir Hubert Opperman and Gough Whitlam, who was our Deputy Leader at the time, concurred on relaxing the status of non-European people who wanted to come to this country. That proposal was carried quite effectively. Subsequent events in Britain showed that you can often win by-elections by chanting certain slogans, but that was not manifest here and it is not applicable to Australia. We do not have a group of non-white people, say in Africa or Asia, who have Australian passports and want to come here. That is not an issue at all. I have deliberately raised both questions of the number of migrants coming into Australia and the type of people coming to Australia.
We have argued that, when the number of people coming to Australia is tapered off, dependants of people already here should be given priority. We do not apologise for that. I know of at least 5 migrants working on the opal fields - it is pretty hot work there - who have complained of the delay in getting mothers, sisters and wives out here. I have said, and I have probably written to the Press at different times, if we are arguing about priorities for dependants and somebody who is working his guts out in some hot part of the Commonwealth has a beef like that, he is entitled to go to the top of the queue and have his dependants brought out.
I have enjoyed the opportunity of being allowed to speak tonight. Senator Carrick gave a challenge to honourable senators to express their views. I say in conclusion that those of us who are avid centralists will never forget some employers because of indignities we had to suffer in the late 1930s. They were things that should never have happened in this country. That is why when I see people on the march in many countries in Europe I cheer them on. I feel that perhaps I could easily have been in those circumstances. I remember when I made my maiden speech Senator Cotton chided me. He said: ‘Of course, we can always forget the past’. Maybe we should to a certain extent but we always learn lessons from the past. My experience from the past is the only test I apply to political systems or the question of sovereign State rights. I am looking at Senator Gair now. I know the role of State governments in many vital fields. I differ with Senator Carrick’s views in this regard. Canberra is usually the pacesetter in relation to many things. From my own experience, I repeat that I never want to turn the clock back in relation to State rights. I want to ensure that today’s generation will not suffer the indignities that some of us suffered, and we will never forget them.
– I have been listening to Senator Mulvihill for some considerable time with varying degrees of enjoyment. Certainly he explored a large number of subjects which, I suppose, could have a tenuous relation to the topic which we are debating. Senator Turnbull entered the chamber and said that he was at some loss to know exactly what it was we were discussing, and I can understand why he may have been in some doubt. However, I think the range of subjects which Senator Mulvihill has canvassed does emphasise the enormous importance of the topic which is covered specifically by the motion which we are discussing this evening. There is no doubt whatever that the subject of CommonwealthState relations, and particularly financial relations, does cover almost every activity of government in this country, apart from foreign affairs and defence. Therefore, apart from the attention given by this Parliament to matters of foreign affairs and defence, this subject is absolutely basic to the whole problem of government with which we are confronted in this Parliament and which is confronted by the whole of Government institutions in this country. As 1 have said, although perhaps at times it has been a little difficult to relate Senator Mulvihill’s views specifically to the motion, I am grateful that he has. by his wide ranging speech, emphasised the very wide ranging and vital important nature of this subject.
When Senator Cotton opened the debate this evening he invited the Senate to approach the problem in a dispassionate and, as far as possible, a non-political atmosphere. He felt that this motion gave us in this chamber - a chamber which, of course, is constitutionally and historically associated with the States and their position under the Constitution - an opportunity to approach this subject in that manner. I believe that his own contribution in opening this debate, although it was lengthy, did give us all very considerable food for thought not only this evening when we leave this chamber but also when we have the opportunity of resuming this debate on another occasion.
Questions on Notice - Attitude of Ministers - Doctors’ Fees
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– 1 have 3 subjects to mention which are all linked by the one word ‘preposterous’. First of all, I think it is preposterous that we have on our notice paper 2 questions which were asked in April and May last year and are still unanswered. One would think that the Government would have learned by now that when it does not answer questions people begin to talk and wonder whether it has something to hide. The Government has not learned the lesson of the VIP aircraft. These questions were not asked by me but I have an interest in the subject matter covered by them. The Government has nol provided answers. Why does it not supply answers in regard to Jetair Australia Ltd? ls the Government ashamed of something? ls the Government afraid of something? Does it take 12 months to answer a question that is on the notice paper? The Government could answer it in a week if it wished to do so. The Government is scared, lt knows that it has something to hide so it will not provide the answers. If I can get enough friends in this House to support me 1 will see that we propose a substantive motion to make the Government provide the information.
The second thing that is preposterous is the altitude of Ministers. I am getting heartily sick of the attitude that God has made the Prime Minister, that all the rest are his servants and that we, the poor humble backbenchers, have to bow 6 times before we can even look at them, lt took me 3 weeks to get an appointment with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). All right, he was busy. He is a busy man, writing letters all day long. He gave me the appointment and then shoved me out in 3 minutes flat. Since then 1 have been trying for 2 weeks to get an appointment with another Minister. I admit that in the first week he had so much on his plate that I would not blame him, but for the past week 1 have been waiting for the summons to appear before God; no summons. They arc so busy. They have so much to do. Even with their Assistant Ministers they still cannot see a humble backbencher.
– An assistant Minister is not recognised.
– They are recognised in the other place. It is absurd and preposterous that a member of Parliament cannot, get to see a Minister. It is of no use for the Ministers to say that they cannot find you. They can find you when they want you to vote for them but they cannot find you when you want them. It is absurd that we have to be humble and to pray for a meeting with a Minister. When I was a Minister - I am sure that Senator Gair will agree with mc on this - if any member, no matter who he was or whether he was from the Government or the Opposition side, asked to see me I saw him immediately. But not the Federal Ministers. They are so puffed up with their pride at being made a Minister. I would not care if they got there on merit, but when you know that it is nothing but patronage and when they are so puffed up with their own importance, you get heartily sick of it because you know that they are not really worth while people. Today my ire was raised again. 1 asked the secretary to a Minister whether the Minister would ring me tonight as 1 wanted to speak to him. 1 am still waiting for the telephone call. 1 suppose the Minister said: ‘It does not matter. He is only a back bencher. Why worry about him?’ It is preposterous. It is time the- Government did something about this and made sure that Ministers realised that back benchers have a right to see Ministers. The Minister I wanted to see does not even know what I wanted to see him about, lt may be important to the Government; it may not be. lt does not matter what it is. Members of Parliament have a right to discuss matters with Ministers. 1 come to the third thing that is preposterous. I regret to say that in this case I have to become schizophrenic because I usually try not to mix my medical side with my political side. The preposterous demands by the General Practitioners Society has done so much harm to the medical profession that I feel it is time that 1 spoke against the Society’s proposal to increase fees. I am a member of the Society. In fact, I am one of the founding members of the Society. Unfortunately this is the second occasion on which it has raised the question of fees in an absurd, irresponsible and preposterous manner without any due consideration for the people of Australia, and 1 point out here that I am not worried about the health scheme. I doubt whether any doctor would charge the fees which have been suggested by the Society. I raise this point because the Press in its hysteria today has said that these charges have been recommended by the Society. However, I point out that these charges have not been approved by the Society. The first impression that I want to correct is that these charges have been thought up by the executive of the General Practitioners Society and have not been approved by the Society itself.
On a previous occasion I was fortunate to be present at a meeting when a similar wild and woolly scheme was proposed, and when it was put to the vote of all members we managed to defeat it. I hope to do the same thing again. I do nol propose to resign from the Society until after its meeting in a fortnight when I hope to be able to persuade the Society not to go on with this stupid and completely out of touch attitude in regard to medical fees. Then I shall resign from the Society because I think it has reached a stage at which it really does not know what it is doing. In fact, I am not sure that it: is not trying to sabotage the medical profession into being socialised. We founded the Society mainly because we objected strongly to the executive of the Australian Medical Association making decisions on matters which were never referred to its members. In the General Practitioners Society we agreed that any decision had to be carried by a vote of its members and a very good democratic system was evolved, but the executive has failed to regard this matter on a democratic basis.
I queried the decision, having heard that it was to be announced. 1 rang Dr Arnold and said: ‘We have not decided this matter. He said: ‘We were asked to work out a scheme on this’. I said: ‘You were asked to work out a scheme but it has not been approved by us members yet. I think you should say that in your broadcast’. I do not know whether he did, but from the tone of the Press reportage I fear that he did not say so because the Press has taken it that these are the fees to be charged. I completely disassociate myself from my own society in regard to these fees, as I am certain most doctors do.
– Does the Society have a secret ballot?
– Normally we do but we have not had a ballot on this. We had a secret ballot on another proposal a couple of years ago when the executive tried to introduce the same preposterous scale of fees which was something like four times the existing fees. The proposal was to charge something like $20 to see a patient at night. That horrifies any general practitioner and we managed to defeat it in a secret ballot. The present proposal has not been put to members of the Society. I am certain that if it is, it will be defeated. 1 felt that I had to mention this becauseI think that the Society has done irreparable harm to the medical profession by proposing these increases when they have not been approved by the Society as a whole.
– How many members of the Society are there?
– Nearly 1,000 as far as I am aware.I see them only every year at the annual meeting. As the honourable senator knows, I have been away so I cannot tell him the exact number at pre- sent.
– Are they mainly in New South Wales?
– Mainly, but there are members from every State. It is now an Australia-wide organisation but basically the bulk of members come from New South Wales. We are all general practitioners and most general practitioners would not have a bar of these proposed charges. I am certain that even if they were approved by the Society not many doctors would make these charges. There has been enough talk about the medical profession and its avidity for financial increases. I do not blame anyone for wanting to increase their salary range. Everyone wants to do that. Nevertheless. I think that these people have overstepped the mark and have done irreparable damage to the medical profession. J felt I should say something to this effect, and I have done so.
– Senator Turnbull made 3 points in his submission to the Senate tonight. The first was that 2 questions have been on the notice paper since 6th April and 12th May last year. Neither of them is in his name. Strangely enough, Mr President, both questions are directed to a Minister whom I represent in this chamber. Strangely enough, before coming into the Senate tonight I went through the notice paper with my staff looking at questions on notice for which answers are outstanding. All I can promise the honourable senator is that I will direct this matter to the attention of the Minister in whose name these questions stand and try to get answers for the honourable senators concerned.
– You would agree that this is bad.
-I would agree.
– It is an undue delay.
– It is an undue delay. This has to be looked into.I think that all Ministers in this place who represent other Ministers endeavour to get quick answers to questions on notice. These questions have been outstanding for far too long. Senator Turnbull then referred to the fact that he tried to see certain Ministers. He did not name she Ministers. I would say that the Ministers in this place are always available. . I think that the experience of most honourable senators in this place has been that if they want to see a Senate Minister they are able to do so.
– A Senate Minister.
– That is what 1 was saying. Senator Turnbull made a general complaint about all Ministers. Ministers in the Senate have to represent Ministers in the other place, yet they have time to see honourable senators. I do not think the accusation was fair because it was spread over the general field. However I will bring the matter to the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson)aind action will be up to him. As for the third matter raised by Senator Turnbull, I assure him that 1 will bring his remarks to the notice of the Leader of the Government when he returns next Tuesday. The matter comes within his portfolio.
– Because my name is associated with the first question mentioned 1 should indicate, in fairness to the Department concerned, that 1 was contacted a fortnight ago bythe Minister’s secretary. There was some doubt in the mind of the Minister about whether I had received a reply. 1 have put many questions on the notice paper about Jetair Australia Ltd and I have not had time to check specifically whether I have received replies to all of them. As Senator Turnbull raised this matter I thought that at least I should indicate that the Department has not entirely overlooked it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 March 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720302_senate_27_s51/>.