27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr President, can I presume on behalf of all honourable senators from all parties and officers of the Senate to say that it gladdens our hearts to see that you are recovering from your recent indisposition.
Honorable senators - Hear, hear.
ThePRESIDENT - Thank you very much.
-I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Division of the Australian Capita] Territory respectfully showeth:
Thatthey have no objection to the Aboriginal Embassy being on the lawns outside Parliament House.
That they believe that the Aborigines in common with all other Australian citizens, have a right to assemble in any peaceful manner of their own choice.
And that they would object to any law that would make their being there illegal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government does not enact any law that would detract from or hinder the rights of the Aborigines to be there.
And further that the Government instructs its officers not to interfere with the Aborigines who are peacefully assembled outside Parliament House.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 7 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Postmaster-General’s Department Central Office policy, of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices, which is detrimental to the public interest.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Call a halt to all closing of Post Offices and reorganising within the Post Office until full details of the proposed savings and all details of alteration to the standards of service to the public are made available to Parliament, and
initiate a jointParliamentary inquiry into the Postmaster-General’s Department, to assess the degree on which it should be run as a normal business undertaking and to what extent its unprofitable activities should be subsidised as a public service charged more correctly to National Development.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the Australian Society for Medical Research has alleged that because of lack of funds at least 20 top medical research scientists have been forced to leave Australia during the last 3 years. Does he accept the Society’s contention that the real figure for grants handed out through the National Health and Medical Research Council is $2.25m? Has the Government any plans to increase funds for medical researchto halt the exodus of Australia’s best medical scientists?
I recall that I gave an answer in some depth on this matter during the last session of the Parliament. I would not challenge the authenticity of the amount of money mentioned by Senator Willesee. I would need to have such a check processed through the Department. There is evidence not only of professional people leaving Australia but also of some coming here. It is a mater of balancing the flow. I believe there is always a case to be stated for increasing funds for set purposes. The honourable senator’s question is an important one. I would like to have it processed through my Department and to obtain some of the exact figures in relation to people who have left Australia for purposes of research. In the medical field it is quite a normal practice for graduates to leave Australia very soon after graduating to seek higher degrees in the United Kingdom. But I do not think that is the point that Senator Willesee is really aiming at. I think he is talking in terms of specialised people who are researchers in their own right who are going away. There is quite a movement of our own nationals leaving Australia to further their studies. I think that is a good thing. One of the greatest dangers we face in this part of the world is our insularity. If our people can go overseas and take advantage of the world’s knowledge and experience and return, Australia will be a much greater country in the discipline concerned. I will obtain some further details and make them available to the Senate.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the Parliament whether the Government carried out in about 1964 an earnings survey on chemists similar to the one that is now being insisted upon and for the same purpose? Is it a fact that chemists rejected the methods used and the findings of that survey as being unrealistic and unreliable?
– Those sound like the words of a brief. The fact of the matter is that a survey was conducted which, unhappily, was not acceptable to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. As I said yesterday in some depth and at some length in answer to a question, the offer to conduct a survey has remained open to the Guild, with an addendum that there would be an element of retrospectivity if, as a result of a survey, justification existed for an increase. The Guild has chosen not to accept that. It wants another method adopted, a method accepable to it, for dealing with this matter. The Government does not accept the Guild’? method and the Guild does not accept the one that the Government has chosen to insist upon. That is the situation at present. I am continuing my discussions with the President of the Guild. I spoke to him last week. I have undertaken to communicate with him within the next few days to try to break the impasse in relation to the matter.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a pamphlet headed The
Concorde Crisis’ in which it is claimed that the sonic boom effects on human and animal life on land are alarming and that supersonic nights over the oceans may seriously affect marine life? The pamphlet contains many other condemnatory statements about the Concorde. Can the Minister say whether any research has been carried out along the flight path of the Concorde when in supersonic flight and, if so, what were the findings? Also can the Minister say who are the authors and distributors of the pamphlet?
– I do not know who is distributing the pamphlet. Naturally I will be seeking to ascertain who is distributing it. The Senate has been assured on a number of occasions that the effect of the Concorde on the atmosphere has been studied carefully by the Australian Academy of Science. I have mentioned that the effects of the boom have been and are being studied quite seriously and in depth by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. I think that would cover the general pattern of the question. It is quite evident that a lot of people have got themselves in a state of great emotional disturbance about the matter. I do not think it is justified or warranted. I wonder what the inspiration behind the pamphlet is. Honourable senators may rest assured that we will deal with the matter objectively and fairly in the interests of the Australian people. The aircraft has yet to be purchased by any airline. The reported cost of the aircraft suggests that it will be very difficult for many airlines to buy it and operate it profitably.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Taking into consideration the assistance that is granted to nursing homes which care for the elderly and taking into consideration the savings to the community when people care for their parents in their homes, will the Minister give consideration to making some form of assistance available to those who care for their aged parents so that such people are not disadvantaged when compared with those who place their parents in nursing homes?
The question raises a matter of policy. I cannot respond to such a question. I shall have to skirt around it. The case for a domiciliary nursing subsidy is a strong one. By its nature, it has some problems. Nevertheless, it is a strong case not only because there are people in nursing homes but also because people may be discharged from hospital and may go to private homes. The matter is currently under examination.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by referring to comments made by the Minister for Primary Industry in the House of Representatives yesterday in answer to the honourable member for Banks who asked whether Dalgety Ltd was one of the finance companies which received a large share of the $30m emergency grant lo wool growers because growers were in debt to that company, fs it a fact that Dalgety Ltd has announced a 5 per cent bonus share issue and has disclosed a net profit increase of Sim for the 6 months ended 31st December 1971? ls it likely that a great part of the profit came from the payments under the wool emergency gram? If so, wm the Government disclose how much of the grant was paid to Dalgety Ltd? Is it possible that this great profit by a wool broker, while growers are in a desperate situation, could have come from interest charges made on loans by Dalgety Ltd to the growers which, in effect, would mean that Dalgety Ltd received interest on a public subsidy? Can the Minister ascertain whether any members of the Australian Wool Board or the Australian Wool Commission are directors of or have any association with Dalgety Ltd or other major wool broking firms which received part of the emergency grant? If so, will the Government urgently consider ways of preventing large firms wilh such associations making large profits from public subsidies paid in an attempt to alleviate the plight of wool growers?
– In other words, take away from-
– The Minister will answer the question, thank you.
– Dalgety Australia Ltd is a very big wool broking firm, lt has many interests, so no doubt its final dividend would come from many different areas of commerce. I think it is fair to say that the broking houses in Australia have played a major part in assisting the rural producers in their problems of the last 18 months to 2 years. I know for a fact from my personal experience that many rural producers were kept on their properties during that period by the assistance of the broking houses. In regard to the $30m emergency grant, 1 say to the honourable senator that only $21 m was paid out. This was paid to producers throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The amount which could have passed through Dalgety’s hands would be much smaller than :he §30m to which the honourable senator referred. However, I shall direct the question to the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain some further information for the honourable senator.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Do application forms for legal aid under the Legal Aid Ordinance 1972 cover some 16 pages for civil matters and some 18 pages for criminal matters? If so, does the Minister accept that the time taken to fill in these forms would be about 2 hours? Does the complexity of these forms discourage people from seeking legal aid? If so, will the Minister take steps to simplify the layout of these forms?
– My attention has been drawn to a Press article which refers to the size of the forms that people have to fill in if they are applying for legal aid under the Ordinance introduced recently in the Australian Capital Territory. Following my attention being drawn to the newspaper report I have seen the forms and have examined the circumstances under which they came into being. Under the Ordinance the forms are the responsibility of the Legal Aid Committee which is charged with the administration of the legal aid scheme. The majority of members of that Committee consist of practising members of the legal profession who give their services voluntarily. A perusal of the terms of the Ordinance will indicate that the availability of legal aid depends upon the means of a person. As it is not intended that only, for example, deadbeats should receive aid but instead that it may be available to people who may possess means but to whom it would be a hardship if they had to pay court costs, it is desirable - indeed, it is necessary - that there should be as close an examination as possible of an applicant’s financial means. I am assured that that is the purpose of these forms and that that was the intent of the Committee when it drafted them.
As to the time which is taken, I think it is a substantia] exaggeration to suggest that 2 hours would be taken up in filling in a form. A permanent officer is employed by the Committee to administer the legal aid scheme and he is available to assist persons to fill in these forms. The forms having been prepared and the scheme having now been instituted, we will see how the forms are accepted by those who apply for legal aid. If it appears that far too much detail is being sought and far too much time is being taken, then the matter will be discussed with the Committee with a view to the Committee revising the forms.
-I am at a loss to know just how to answer the honourable senator’s question, except to say- (Honourable senators interjecting) - The PRESIDENT - Order !I ask for silence.I do not wish the Attorney-General to proceed to answer the question until he has a listening House. I now call the Attorney-General.
– Thank you, Mr President. I was saying that I am not sure how 1 can appropriately answer the honourable senator’s question, because whatever else it might ask for it certainly asks for a legal opinion and, unfortunately, a legal opinion somewhat in the abstract. I can only assure the honourable senator that if she cares to give me a concrete example I will do what I can to set her mind at rest as to what is the position in the hypothetical circumstances to which she has referred.
– Order! I wish to explain to honourable senators that I was impelled to make the remark I just made by a series of protests coming to me in the form of letters from listeners complaining that they do not hear the answers to questions. The object of broadcasting question time is to enable people to hear the questions and answers. Therefore I ask for the co-operation of honourable senators at question time.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a series of questions. I hope that he will be able to help some of us unfortunate backbenchers. What are the rules and procedures to be adopted when a senator has a temerity to beg hopefully for an appointment with a Minister in another place? Do we nave to make our request in writing and is the minimum application period 2 months or less? How does a senator get near enough to lick Ministers’ boots when craving an appointment? Should we approach these relatives of God by crawling on our stomachs, or would walking on our hands and knees be acceptable? Will the Leader of the Government help by opening a waiting list for senators wishing to interview Ministers in another place?
How humiliated a person feels is a matter for his own judgment, I suppose. I can speak only as far as this House is concerned.
– But it is the other House that is involved.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIf the honourable senator puts a question to me. I am bound to respond to it. If this is to develop into a series of questions and answers, I suggest that the honourable senator is a doctor, not a lawyer, and that he should stick to being a senator. The fact is that if any honourable senator puts to me, or to any of my ministerial colleagues here, a question which relates to the portfolio of a Minister in another place we do all we possibly can to obtain quick responses. If any honourable senator wants an appointment with a Minister in another place, he should use the normal procedures of seeing that Minister’s private secretary or staff and indicating that he wants to see the Minister. If he has some difficulty, I will be perfectly happy if he comes and speaks to me because I might be able to facilitate his interview. But I do not believe that the situation warrants the extravagant language used by Senator Turnbull in his question.
Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a statement by the Secretary of the General Practitioners Society, Dr Arnold, that his Society has received legal advice that arbitration on general practitioner home visits and surgery consultations is not constitutional? Has the Government received any similar or contrary legal advice? Did either the Australian Medical Association or the General Practitioners Society, or both organisations, in fact seek the arbitration; or is arbitration merely the Government’s decision to get itself out of an awkward political predicament? Because the Government has always maintained, so far as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is concerned, that arbitration will not work without adequate penal provisions, does the Government intend to apply penal provisions to arbitration proceedings concerning doctors’ fees?
I thought Senator Douglas McClelland at any rate would have had a better understanding of the concept of the common fee than is apparent from the way he put his question. 1 do not propose to respond to the series of questions he put to me. Suffice it to say that I expect to be making, either late, this afternoon or early this evening, a statement on the Government’s decision on the appointment of an arbitrator in conection with the problem of the common fee in New South Wales.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports which state that Australia’s Evonne
Goolagong is expected to wear a badge classifying her as being an honorary white if she visits South Africa to play tennis in the Federation Cup? Does the Minister believe that this insult to Miss Goolagong and Australian Aborigines is reprehensible? Has the Australian Government submitted a strong protest to the South African Government at this condition imposed on her for her entry into that country?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have not seen the statement and I think it would be improper for me to pontificate or make judgments until I have seen the statement, and I will set about so to do. I cannot say any more than that because, I repeat, it would be quite wrong for me to make judgments without having seen the document or the statement to which the honourable senator refers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Towards the end of last year an investigation was made by officers of the Department of Primary Industry and the Lands Department of South Australia into problems of finance and rentals confronting war service settlers on Kangaroo Island, to enable a general review of the situation there. What is the current position in respect of this review? When will the determinations in respect of it be announced? Further, is it a fact that recently the South Australian Minister of Lands, the Director of Lands and soldier settler representatives of zone 5 in South Australia conferred with the Minister for Primary Industry in an endeavour to resolve problems in regard to rentals and related matters? What has been the outcome of this conference? Finally, will a determination favourable to zone 5 settlers flow on to a similar betterment of the position of the Kangaroo Island settlers?
– I remember the honourable senator, and some other honourable senators, questioning me last year on the matter of rentals and finance problems of soldier settlers. The only information I can give the honourable senator is that last week here in Canberra the Minister for Primary Industry held lengthy discussions with South Australian government officials and representatives of zone 5. The outcome of these discussions is that a number of minor points which involve the total problem still have to be finalised. I understand that discussion is still going on in this regard. However, I shall again remind the Minister of the honourable senator’s concern in this matter and obtain some further information for him.
– Is the Minister for Health currently investigating allegations of improper use of funds of subscribers to certain hospital benefits organisations? Do the allegations refer to the use of such funds for political purposes, thereby diminishing the funds* resources from which legitimate claims of these subscribers must be met? What action is the Minister taking to get the facts about this alleged fraudulent practice, the effects of which will be to cheat and defraud unsuspecting fund contributors and obviously lessen the range and extent, of the benefits available? Finally will the results of any investigation giving the name or names of the offending organisation, together with the identity of the beneficiary political party be made known to the Parliament?
I know of no investigation in relation to the improper use of funds. If evidence were put in front of me of the improper use of funds I would have a responsibility in this regard. I concede that if funds were being used improperly it would have some effect in the generality upon the equity of the subscribers to the fund. If Senator Devitt or any other honourable senator has some information which he believes is evidence of any fund using its resources for improper purposes - it would need to be in some documented form - I would be prepared to look at it and make a judgment on it. It would depend upon one’s judgment. I suppose this is the same as company law which provides for certain funds being allocated for certain purposes. A judgment may be made in good faith but sometimes it does not meet with the approval and approbation of all the shareholders. Individual cases are different. If any honourable senator has a case which he believes fits into the slot suggested by Senator Devitt, I will be happy to look at that case.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It concerns payments to wool growers under the emergency scheme which operated last season when some $21m was made available to needy wool growers. Is it a fact that the money was not paid through broking houses but was paid to growers by other means? This situation is contrary to the suggestion in an earlier question asked by Senator Poke.
– I believe that the point the honourable senator makes is correct.
– I ask the Minister for Health: For how long does he intend tolerating the defiance of a minority of Sydney hospitals which reject the concept approved by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the major hospital insurance funds that in computing hospital costs the day of admission and that of discharge count as one day?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThis matter clearly would be within the responsibility of the States. All government hospitals in New South Wales are under the jurisdiction of the NSW Hospitals Commission which, in turn, is responsible to the State Minister for Health. If the honourable senator likes to send me particulars of the matter I will raise it with the NSW Minister for Health and get him to respond.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. What is the number of personnel going to the United States of America for training and familiarisation with the F111 aircraft? How many of the personnel were sent to America on a previous occasion to train for the same purpose? What will be the cost of this exercise?
– On the previous occasion 53 aircrew personnel and 121 ground crew personnel went to the United States.
– Did they have a crash course too?
– The honourable senator has a good memory. On this occasion the number will be slightly less by one or two aircrew personnel and three or four ground crew personnel. 1 just cannot give the honourable senator the total figure at present. It could be more or less depending on the kind of course that the crews go through. I will give that final figure to the honourable senator as soon as I can.
– When the Minister for Health makes a statement this day on arrangements for the appointment of an arbitrator to hear evidence in relation to the determination of a common fee for the medical profession, will he indicate whether it is the intention of the Government to instruct its officers to oppose any increase, just as it did when it opposed wage increases for workers during the 1972 national wage case?
I can only say: Wait for it. After all, such comments must not be made before the presentation of the statement. I think that the thing to do is to wait until the statement is made.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army: Were 64 prime movers ordered by the Department of Supply from a United Kingdom manufacturer in 1968 for use by the Department of the Army? Were two of the vehicles delivered as prototypes in June 1969 and were trials as to safety and suitability completed in June 1970? Did the trials disclose that the Army’s insistence on the ‘take-off’ equipment which operates the winch and controls couplings being mounted on the rear of the gear box rather than on the cheaper mounting on the front make the vehicle unsafe and unsuitable? Did the Department of the Army approve the manufacture and delivery of the remaining vehicles after trials had shown them to be unsatisfactory? Was a payment of $224,000 made in 1970-71 to endeavour to rectify the mistake made by the Army with respect to these vehicles? Is the position today that 60 of the prime movers valued in excess of $2.4m have been in Army depots for 12 months and are unsafe for use? Would an additional expenditure of $100,000 be necessary to make such vehicles safe for present use?
– All I do here is represent the Minister for the Army. I think the Minister would need to examine the question in detail to provide an answer.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Australian Ambassador to Korea accredited as ambassador to the whole of Korea or only to that portion which is not under Communist rule? Does the Government of South Korea claim that Korea is one country only? Is the Australian Ambassador to West Germany accredited as ambassador to Germany or only to that part of Germany not under Communist rule? Does the Government of West Germany claim that Germany is one country only?
– The honourable senator has the advantage of recent travel. He puts the 2 countries in apposition. This is a matter in which precision is desirable. I shall ask the Minister to expedite a reply after consulting the records.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral recall his statement in the Senate on 9th December last year to the effect that legislation to put more bite and more strength into the Act relating to restrictive trade practices would be introduced as soon as this was practicable? Will the Minister indicate what progress has been made and, in particular, whether changes are envisaged in Part XIII of the Act relating to overseas shipping conferences?
– I well remember the statement that I made on 9th December and the other statements which I have made to the same effect. I assure the honourable senator that a lot of work has been done towards the preparation of the Government’s policy wilh respect to strengthened trade practices legislation.
When that work will be completed so that a statement will be able to be made, 1 am unable to say. But I am sure that the honourable senator will appreciate that if the work is to be done effectively, if the strengthening is to have merit and there are to be teeth, this work must be done in depth so that the legislation will work. I assure him and the Senate that this is being done and r trust that, in due course, a full statement will be made.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport refers to flood waters again isolating Alice Springs and reports that the railway line between Adelaide and Alice Springs will take 2 weeks to repair. Is it a fact that although the survey for a new railway link between Tarcoola and Alice Springs is proceeding and that the Commonwealth Government has undertaken to build this railway line, there has been no commitment of Commonwealth funds for the project? Is it also a fact that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has already given to the Commonwealth Government firm estimates of the cost of constructing the line and has indicated that he is ready to proceed with its construction? Will the Minister consider an early commitment to construct the line in order to avoid these annual interruptions to railway traffic by flood waters?
– I understand that an examination of the potential cost of this construction has been made. The honourable senator would appreciate that no government could be committed to a programme, no matter which government it was and which part of Australia was affected, without a fairly firm indication of the cost. The honourable senator has referred to a statement that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has given an estimate. I do not know whether that is so. I agree with the honourable senator that there is some importance in constructing a diversion to the line to overcome this problem. Also I am given to understand that a quite remarkable job was done by all the people concerned during the recent flood. I shall direct his question to the responsible Minister and ask him to treat the matter urgently.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. I draw attention to a statement made in Adelaide yesterday at a writers’ week occasion by Vicent Eri, who is described as being the first indigenous novelist of Papua New Guinea, and who is reported as having said that anti-white attitudes and anti-white writings served a useful purpose for encouraging nationalism. Is the Minister aware that the same writer claimed that as indigenous writers did not have the opportunity to study novels and other literature they found it easier to write about missionaries or government officials. Will the Minister inquire of his colleague as to the availability or otherwise of literary and other aids of assistance to indigenous writers? In view of the comprehensive programmes of education carried out in the Territory, will he seek to obtain an assurance that opportunities exist for encouraging and achieving nationalism without resorting to the practices mentioned?
– I am grateful to my colleague for bringing attention to the matter to which he has referred. I shall have it brought undr examination by the Minister at an early opportunity.
– Does the Minister for Health recollect the Leader of the Opposition in the other place on 28th August 1969 pointing out that voluntary health insurance is cheaper for higher income groups than for low and moderate income groups? Is it a fact that currently the cost of public ward hospital insurance and medical insurance to a man supporting a wife and 2 children in Victoria, after claiming his tax deductions for the cost of this insurance, is $1.05 a week on an income of $3,000 per annum, but private ward insurance and medical insurance would cost only 60c a week on an income of $20,000 per annum? Why has this serious inequity been allowed to continue since 28th August 1969 and what decisive action has the Minister in mind to remove it?
– We have the old hardy question being raised again. The fact of the matter is that if anyone looks at the whole spectrum of taxation revenue and income one can always pick out certain areas which will give the result for which one is looking. The argument raised by the honourable senator is fallacious in the generality. I propose at a very early date not just to pick on one particular item and say, Voila, there it is- QED’, but to provide details covering the whole spectrum of income groups in relation to medical and hospital charges. When 1 have put that on the slate will be the time to ask another question, but I doubt whether I will get the question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and it follows a question I posed on 23rd February to which I have had an answer.I now ask the Minister the following question: Would it he physically possible to treat the footwear of all persons entering Australia from known foot and mouth disease countries to prevent the possible spread of that, disease into this country?
– 1 would not say that it is not possible. Nothing is impossible - it only takes a little longer. But the fact is that a particular problem with which we might be confronted would have to be considered, and 1 would need to look at the broad question.
Quarantine regulations are very rigid and sometimes this rigidity can cause distress to individuals.I well recall that, when I was Minister for Customs and Excise, at one stage every person at a port of entry had to be asked the categorical question whether he or she had been in a certain country within a specified number of days. Regardless of status - whether that person was on a VIP aircraft, a vice-regal flight or anything else - that question had to be posed because of the regulations. None of us wants to impose regulations which are not justified, but the quarantine rule has to be very rigid. We all appreciate that necessity.
I would need to look at the case with particularity. I have already given one answer to the honourable senator on this matter. However, 1 will take his second question, have another look at it and give a reply to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. I refer to my question No. 1300 of 22nd February 1972 and state that the Minister in his reply misinterpreted the purport of what I asked. I now ask: (1) Is the placement of the bulk of Commonwealth advertising made through 3 placing agencies? (2) Does the Commonwealth Advertising Council in turn delegate the actual creation of the advertising to a number of other agencies and pass on to these latter agencies a proportion of the profits earned from the replacement of advertisements? (3) Will the Minister name the agencies that participated during the last fiscal year in the disbursement of these profits and what were the profits received by each individual agency?
– I am not able to recall the original question to which the honourable senator referred and in respect of which I must have supplied the answer from the Minister for the Environment. I am not in a position to give the honourable senator any adequate answer to the question which he has asked today. I undertake to convey to the Minister the question which he has asked today and endeavour to expedite a reply for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that in 1953 when average weekly earnings were $32.70, the taxation deduction allowed for a spouse or dependant was $260 per annum? Is it true that today when the average weekly earnings have exceeded $90, the concession is only $312 per annum? Would it not be consistent and in the interest of the family man that the deduction should be about $750 per annum? Is it because of such obvious anomalies that the Government has ordered the taxation inquiry? Will the Minister assure the public that such inequalities will be removed following the inquiry into the taxation system now taking place?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAgain, this question rests on an individual basis and suggests that there are inequities between the increase in incomes and the constancy of deductions. I can only say that T will have to refer this matter to the Treasurer because I think that the question deserves a reply on a much broader canvas than .1 can give at question time.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and it arises from his reply yesterday to my question on the seminar on ‘Drugs and the Mass Media’ held in Canberra during the weekend of 26th-27th February. 1 preface my question by reminding the Leader that on Tuesday 2nd March I endeavoured to seek information from his assistant at question time regarding this seminar, but was prevented from doing so because of a ruling by the Prime Minister. J now ask the Leader of the Government whether he will allow the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health who opened the seminar to make a statement to the Senate on how he defused certain things that happened there and why this was necessary, so that I may clarify in my own mind whether 1 am, in fact, an unwise person who opens his mouth and swallows everything he reads.
– 1 will give consideration to the question and respond to it after I have looked at it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether his attention has been drawn to an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ stating that the retail price of Australian wines may rise by up to 10 per cent. Does he concede that a further increase in prices of wine could have a disastrous effect on sales similar to that which occurred after the imposition of a 50c a gallon excise in 1970? Will he recommend the lifting of the excise, which would obviate the necessity for the proposed increase in wine prices and which would assist in restoring the industry to its pre-excise duty prosperity?
– I saw the report, lt only confirms the information that was given by representatives of the wine producers to the special committee set up by the Minister for Primary Industry under Professor Grant of the University of Tasmania. Growers’ representatives told the committee that they expected the price of wine to increase by 10 per cent. The Minister for Primary Industry has said that he hopes that Professor Grant’s committee will be reporting to him very shortly. No doubt the committee will comment on this matter.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity of Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of widespread uncertainty in the minds of investors in the share market as to which profitable transactions will attract tax and which transactions will constitute a capital increment, will consideration be given by the Government to issuing a White Paper clarifying these ambiguous issues? Further, will steps be taken to ensure that interpretations of the Income Tax Act in respect of share dealings will be- uniform throughout Australia?
– 1 will certainly put the proposition to the Treasurer that a White Paper be published which would serve to widen the understanding of the problem which relates to liability to tax in the circumstances mentioned. Whether one is or is not a dealer is a classic issue that often arises, particularly in relation to share transactions. I will refer the matter to the Treasurer, hut I think a terrible danger is involved in publishing a document on a matter which, in the final analysis, is one for judgment in individual cases. It might well be that if a document were published it would create a more damaging situation than the original situation, unless it were very carefully considered and prepared. I could understand such a problem better if it were related to income gained from personal exertion, since I have had the necessary experience of that. This question is– When does one cease to be an ordinary taxpayer using some of his money for the purpose of providing security for himself and become a dealer as a result of his share transactions. I do not know how that would be expressed - whether there should be a quantum as to the number of times one makes transactions on the stock market or the property market. But it is an interesting proposition that the Treasurer publish a White Paper on this matter which so often is vexing to many people.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that he has indicated to representatives of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia that a survey of chemists’ earnings must be made before any review of fees for dispensing under the national health scheme will be made? Can the Minister indicate to the Parliament what other professions and/or institutions servicing the national health scheme have had similar surveys made of their earnings before their fees were fixed or increased?
– 1 think in response to the previous question I said that if the honourable senator spoke to the Federal President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia he would say that the Guild is in favour of a survey. I think that the terms and conditions of the survey are the areas of disagreement. I also indicated in the previous answer that I have had discussions with the Federal President of the Guild to establish a common level to overcome the differences of approach that we as a government and the Guild have. While those discussions are continuing I do not want to seem to be saying anything which could appear to be a judgment in advance on the discussions about the level to which we may aspire. The Government’s view on the problem is not merely my view, as a short term Minister for Health. It has been the view of the Government during the life of the previous 2 parliaments, as I understand it.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. It follows the question asked last week by Senator Rae about Mr Whitlam’s statement that Senator Greenwood should write to him regarding the whereabouts of Mr Johnston, the draft-dodging Australian Labor Party can didate for the Victorian seat of Hotham. Has the Attorney-General written to Mr Whitlam about this matter and, if so, has he received a reply?
– I recall taking up a suggestion which was put to me by way of a question. I did write to Mr Whitlam indicating that he should be in a position to provide information which might be of assistance to the Commonwealth police. I received an acknowledgment from Mr Whitlam that he had communicated with the Commonwealth police. Subsequently I received a police report. I believe that Mr Whitlam informed the Commonwealth police that he did not want, what he. said to be revealed to me. I feel that in those circumstances it is only proper that what he said should not be divulged unless he wants to divulge it.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Has the Minister for Education and Science received a proposal from the Minister of Education in South Australia, Mr Hudson, that the Commonwealth Government finance universities and colleges of advanced education on a $1 for $1 basis for each $1 spent by the States on both capital and recurring costs, on the condition that the State abolish all tuition fees? Does the proposal detail the resultant savings to the Commonwealth from the abolition of tuition fees on scholarships as well as savings from the resultant reduction in taxation allowances now permitted for student children, and the further saving of fees now refunded by the Commonwealth Public Service to employees who pass approved courses and the tax deduction allowance to employers who now pay for employees to attend universities or colleges of advanced education? Has the Minister for Education and Science had the proposal evaluated and would the scheme permit free tuition at universities and colleges of advanced education, at very little additional cost to the Commonwealth Government?
– I inform the honourable senator that no such proposal has been brought to my attention. I shall have the question referred to the Minister for
Education and Science. He will give information as to whether he has received the proposal and, if he has, his comment on it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that some manufacturers of poly-unsaturated margarine are creating an artificial shortage of this product by withholding it from sale on certain markets in some States? Is the Minister aware also that printed posters are being placed in supermarkets in Victoria stating that a shortage of this stock is due to government imposed quota restrictions? Is it a fact that there is a shortage of locally produced safflower oil, that those manufacturers who refused to contract forward for their local oil requirements are now faced with higher importcosts and that this economic factor is affecting the marketing decisions of margarine manufacturers?
– I am not aware of all the points which the honourable senator has made but I shall certainly ask the Minister for Primary Industry to investigate them. When the Minister has completed that investigation I shall seek some information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the nation wide concern over Mr Snedden’s revelation that new forms of taxation are under consideration, can the Government give a firm assurance that any re-arrangement of the taxation schedules will not result in increased taxes, either directly or indirectly, for family men with working wives?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIt is not true to say that what has been attributed to Mr Snedden is what he said. 1 think that this is an indulgence in what is called descriptive or interpretative writing. I think that is the fashionable description in the lobbies at present. It is what somebody chooses to interpret as what somebody else said. The report is not based on a statement made by Mr Snedden. Mr Snedden has made it abundantly clear that he has not made a statement in the sense in which it has been written. Having said that, 1 do not believe that I need say any more.
– I hope the Minister for Health does not think that I am giving him a dose of medicine, butI have another question for him. Willthe Minister consider that professional fees are not, and never have been, payment for physical work done but. are the buying price of knowhow and compensation for responsibility accepted and discharged by chemists?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not understand the question.I must admit that I had difficulty in hearing but, in any event, as I gathered from the broad canvas of the question I would need to look at itto see whether I could respond to it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to references in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald’ and today’s ‘Australian’ and Canberra Times’ to an intensive search being made across the United Kingdom for the balance of a batch of intravenous fluid - a 5 per cent dextrose solution - believed to be contaminated following the death of 5 people in a Plymouth hospital who were given this fluid as liquid food? As the name of the British manufacturer is referred to in the Press reports I ask the Minister whether he will check, through his Department, to see whether there have been imports of this brand of dextrose solution. If there have been imports, will appropriate action be taken to ensure the withdrawal of the solution from the market, pending analysis?
– It is my understanding that there has been no importation of that brand of that item for some 5 years. If I am wrong I shall correct that statement later. I need to look at the other implications of the question.
(Question No. 1192)
asked the Minister for
Supply, upon notice:
I mention that this question was asked on 12th May last year.
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 16th August 1971 the Minister for Supply sent the following advice to Senator Keeffe in response to this question:
The Clerk of the Senate has passed to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson as Minister for Supply, a copy of Question No. 1192 of which you gave notice on 20th May 1971, the day on which the Senate adjourned. The question concerned the spares associated with the six DCS aircraft purchased from Jetair Australia Ltd.
This matter has just come to my notice, and rather than await formal issue of the Question on the Notice Paper I am writing to advise that the value of the spares, based on current market values and estimations is assessed at $18,139, and that they are included in the gift of theaircraft to Cambodia. Nepal and Laos.
(Question No. 1789)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Conditionsimposed include -
As required by the Northern Territory Mining Ordinance conversion of these authorities to exploration licences has been sought. Licences over the same areas will shortly be granted and will be subject to similar conditions and to progressive reduction in area over a period of 5 years.
(Question No. 1797)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– On 23rd February, Senator Primmer asked the following question, without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Will the Minister give consideration to allowing the establishment of the Northern National Park in the Northern Territory or is he inflexibly committed to the destruction of this area and its objects of Aboriginal art by mining interests, in opposition to the Northern Territory Legislative Council?
The Minister for the Interior has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has considered the question of the establishment of a northern national park in the Northern Territory in the area where significant uranium discoveries have been made. I announced in October the Government’s decision to review the situation at the end of 1973 when more will be known about mineralisation and the ecology of the area. The Government will decide then whether further prospecting would be in the national interest or whether areas can be set aside for park like purposes. For these reasons the Government cannot support the immediate establishment of a Northern National Park as proposed in a Bill recently introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Council.
In the meantime, continued prospecting and any mining which may eventuate will be allowed only under special conditions designed to protect the environment. Also two localities of major ecological interest within the area have been set aside and prospecting authorities will not be renewed in. these areas. These are at Deaf Adder Valley (90 sq miles) and around the Jim Jim Falls (39 sq miles).
I can assure you that the Government recognises the biological, and anthropological values of the proposed national park, and is taking steps to ensure that mining and any other potentially injurious activities are allowed to proceed only under carefully controlled conditions.
– This afternoon Senator Drury asked me a question in regard to the estimated additional cost of sending personnel to America to train with the F111 aircraft. I said at that time that I do not know the final costs, and that is true. But perhaps I could give the honourable senator some information which would give him an indication of how much could be involved. It is estima ted that if the training is carried out in America the cost will be $3.3 10m, excluding fares and allowances. However, planning is in hand to train about half of these air crew personnel in Australia. If these plans are approved a saving of approximately $l.lm in overseas expenditure could be effected.
(Question No. 1059)
asked the Minister for
Suppfly, upon notice:
Was Government policy for exporting aircraft breached in the case of the two Viscount aircraft bought by Jetair Australia Ltd in 1969 and in other related matters?
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 21st June 1971 the then Minister for Supply sent the following advice to Senator Wriedt in response to this question:
I refer to the Question on Notice (No.1059) which you put to me on 6th April 1971 concerning the Government’s sale of two Viscount aircraft in 1969. As I did not present my reply before the end of the Autumn Session. J am writing to youto avoid further delay.
Consistent with the Government’s airline policy tenders to purchase the two Viscount aircraft were restricted to:
local buyers who undertook to export the aircraft outside Australian territory; and
holders of Australian airline licences currently operating aircraft of the type offered.
Delivery of the aircraft to tenderers in categories (a) and (b) was made dependent on production of an export approval under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations and evidence that the buyer had arranged for export of the aircraft.
The Government sold the Viscount aircraft to a local buyer who arranged to export them lo an overseasfirm and the necessary export permit was taken out. The overseas buyer then, of its own initiative, sold the Viscounts lo an Australian firm which did not hold an Australian airline licence to operate this type of aircraft. Action by the Government, however, ensuredthat the aircraft were not operated in Australian territory and the Viscounts were eventually sold again overseas and flown out of Australia in September-October 1970.
Thus, no real breach of Government airline policy occurred. I should mention, however, that, as a result of our experience in this case,the Commonwealth is reviewing its contract clauses to ensure a more immediate compliance with the conditions of sale in future disposals of aircraft.
I hope the above information satisfies the intention of your Parliamentary Question’.
(Question No. 1654)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1764)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answer:
As the demand for smaller refrigerators has not been of major significance to date and this limited demand has been spread over a range of sizes, local manufacturers have concentrated their production on the more popular larger models, thus leaving the small refrigerator market to be met mainly by imports.
As the manufacture of refrigerators is integrated with the manufacture of other products, separate employment statistics cannot be provided. Australian production of domestic refrigerators and upright type freezers between 1968-69 and 1970-71 has been-
Some of these goods are not produced in Australia. The established local industry might have the technical capability to produce some of these items but if demand is insufficient, the establishment of local production facilities might not be warranted.
(Question No. 1799)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
When does the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualification expect to examine the qualifications of non-British marine engineers with regard to land based positions in Australia?
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Because of the very limited number of nonBritish marine engineers seeking land based positions in Australia, and the greater priority attaching to work in other areas, the Committee on Overseas Professional Qaulifications has not so far considered whether it is appropriate for it to extend its activities to cover this field.
(Question No. 1852)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
Is the F111C aircraft to be equipped witha laser beam delivery system for stand-off bombing; if so, was this system incorporated in the design of the aircraft ordered by the Government in 1963; If not,is the system (a) one of the numerous modifications to the aircraft since 1968, or (b) an additional modification which will increase the cost of the aircraft over and above the last estimate of $US344m.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There are no plans to equip the F111C with a laser beam delivery system.
(Question No. 1853)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
Has the laser beam delivery system for stand-off bombing been specifically designed for the delivery of atomic bombs.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Laser beam systems have been designed to permit the accurate delivery of conventional high explosive bombs against pin point targets. My Department has no knowledge of any laser beam delivery system which has been designed specifically for the delivery of atomic bombs and considers it unlikely that existing systems would be used for this purpose.
– For the information of honourable senators I, on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), present the text of the agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of Japan for co-operation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. This agreement was signed in Canberra on 21st February 1972. I seek leave of the Senate to make a short statement on the subject of the agreement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This agreement represents the culmination of efforts over the past 2 years to provide a basis for greater co-operation between Australia and Japan in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. I am sure it will be readily agreed that Australia and Japan have important common interests in this field. Japan has a need for uranium resources for its expanding nuclear power industry and this is matched by our wish to develop the export potential of Australia’s uranium deposits.
The Agreement, which will enter into force later this year after it has been considered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, will facilitate co-operation both at the governmental and the industry level. It is in the nature of an enabling or umbrella agreement and will clear the way, notably through the provisions on safeguards procedures, for private enterprise to follow up with particular agreements for the export of uranium. In addition the Agreement provides a formal basis to facilitate future collaboration in specific areas of research and commercial ventures.
Finally, I should emphasise that the Agreement is a reflection of matters going beyond commercial and scientific considerations. It is a further tangible sign of the increasingly intimate relations between Australia and Japan. The Government places great importance on developing close co-operation with Japan and I hope that this mutually beneficial agreement will help to promote and strengthen our existing ties.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate 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 lime.
The Customs Tariff Bill 1972 now before the Senate proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1971. The tariff changes arise out of the adopton by the Government of recommendations made in reports by the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority. There are 7 Schedules to the Bill and to simplify the nature of the changes in the Schedules I propose to refer only to the General Tariff and the changes in the General Tariff rates. The Preferential Tariff rates which are ordinarily fixed having regard to international commitments are approximately 10 per cent lower.
The First Schedule to the Bill, operating from 24th August 1971, implements the Government’s adoption of recommendations in the reports by the Tariff Board on plastic products, etc., and trout. The report on plastic products, etc., is of major significance to the future development of the plastics industry in Australia. The growth of this industry can be seen from the fact that the value of output rose from $49m in 1955-56 to $210m in 1967-68, while in the same period the number of people employed increased from 7,464 to 17,158. The book value of land, buildings, plant and machinery was about $15m in 1955-56 but increased to $90m in 1967- 68.
The Board concluded that most sectors of the industry are worthy of protection. Nevertheless, the Board expressed concern that the high protective needs of some sectors of the industry raised serious doubts about the economics of local production, lt found that the industry’s most common cost disabilities are those which flow from the high cost of raw materials supplied by the local chemical industry, the high cost of Australian labour and the limited size of the Australian market.
The severity of these disabilities varies considerably from product to product with the result that the products under reference need widely differing levels of assistance, that is. from a moderate level to, in some instances, a level which in both nominal and effective rate terms is very high. The position regarding this latter category was of serious concern to the Board. Most of these products, however, are major outlets for important parts of the Australian chemical industry which it is Government policy to foster and protect. The Board concluded that it must recommend protection for most of the high cost plastic products under reference. Examples of these products are polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene film and sheet and polyvinyl chloride coated fabrics.
In relation to these high cost plastic products, the Board believes it necessary to discourage further fragmentation of production and has endeavoured to pitch the recommended duties at levels which would allow moderate profits to the more efficient local producers of each product. The Board has pointed out that because its duty assessments were based on the position of the lowest cost producers in each area of production, the recommended duties are unlikely to provide sufficient protection for all existing production by all present manufacturers. The assistance proposed by the Board represents, generally, a rationalisation of rates of duty on plastic products in accordance with the basic resin used in their manufacture. The recommendations mean that decreased duties apply to the majority of the goods under reference.
In its report on trout the Board recommended duties of 10c per lb on brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout. This represents an increase of 9.2c per lb in the level of duties on these goods from all sources. In ad valorem terms the new duties have an incidence ranging between 15 per cent and 30 per cent depending on overseas price fluctuations.
The changes in the Second Schedule to the Bill, operating from 8th September 1971, stem from the Tariff Board’s report on woven shirts, etc. These changes restore the effective level of import duties to that applying at 18th August 1971, that is, the date before the temporary duties on certain woven shirts lapsed. This is a holding action pending Government negotiations with those low cost countries which are the major suppliers of the products covered by the report. 1 invite the attention of honourable senators to my statement when releasing the report, the text of which is recorded in Hansard of 7th September 1971 at pages 472 and 473.
The Third Schedule to the Bill, operating from 17th September 1971, deals with changes arising out of Tariff Board reports on chain and parts therefor, of iron or steel, and light weight cotton sheeting, and the Special Advisory Authority report on woven man-made fibre fabrics.
On chain the Board recommended a rate of 35 per cent for sprocket and conveyor chain and parts therefor. For other chains a rate of 25 per cent was recommended. In the report on light weight cotton sheeting the Tariff Board recommended a rate of 30 per cent for sheeting weighing less than 3i oz per square yard.
In his report on woven man-made fibre fabrics the Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action was necessary to protect the Australian industry and recommended temporary additional duties of 10c per square yard on most types of imported man-made fibre fabrics and 15c per square yard on woven fabrics containing over 10 per cent and less than 50 per cent of silk in admixture with 20 per cent or more of man-made fibres. Polyester cotton mixture fabrics weighing less than 3.8 oz per square yard and some other types of fabrics are exempt from these temporary duties.
The Fourth Schedule to the Bill, operating from 1st October 1971, incorporates changes recommended by the Tariff Board on malleable cast iron pipe fittings, and flue-heated economisers. In respect to malleable cast iron pipe fittings the Tariff Board considered that in the long term a rate of 40 per cent was the highest that could be regarded as consistent with economic and efficient production in the industry. The Board recommended this rate as the long term level of assistance but that this level be arrived at over 5 years. The duty will reduce from 60 per cent to 50 per cent on 1st January 1973 and to 40 per cent from 1st January 1976. In its report on steam engines, boilers and power units, the Board recommended that certain flue-heated economisers be protected by a duty of 25 per cent.
In the Fifth Schedule to the Bill, operating from 11th November 1971, the changes arise from the Tariff Board’s report on track for tractors. The Tariff Board recommended a duty of 20 per cent be applied to complete track shoe assemblies and on pins, bushes, links and link assemblies when imported separately. On track shoes imported separately the Board recommended that the existing duty of 7i per cent be retained.
The changes in the Sixth Schedule, operating from 1st January 1972, stem from further additions to the commodities included in Schedule A of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. The last Schedule of the Bill, the Seventh Schedule, operating from 14th February 1972, implements changes arising from the Government’s adoption of Tariff Board reports on: Tetraethyl-lead, tetramethyllead and anti-knock preparations based on tetraethyl-lead or tetramethyl-lead; steam engines, boilers and power units; mining, metallurgical, etc., machinery; and yeast. On tetraethyl-lead. tetramethyl-lead and anti-knock preparations based on these chemicals, the Board’s recommendation resulted in a rate of 171 per cent. This represents an increase in duty of 10 per cent, by value, on imports from all sources except New Zealand. However, the Board further recommended that as there is no local production at present the new duties should not apply until such time as the proposed local plant had commenced commercial production. Imports will therefore be admitted under by-law until that stage has been reached. The Board has commented on the possibility of action being taken in Australia to limit the use of lead additives in petrol because of pollution claimed to be caused by emission from motor vehicle exhausts. The Government wishes to make it clear that any future loss of markets because of restrictions on usage of lead additives was a commercial risk to be carried by the industry.
In respect of steam engines, boilers and power units the Board has recommended a rate of 25 per cent but minimum duties on products for which there was no evidence of significant commercial production.
I turn now to the report on mining, metallurgical, etc., machinery. For the majority of goods covered by this report the Board recommended a duty of 20 per cent. A rate of 30 per cent was recommended on a range of products including certain gas generators, furnace burners, augering machines, pressure casting machines, concrete mixers and brick presses. On rolling mills and coal cutting machines the Board recommended that the existing duty of 7i per cent be maintained. In its report on yeast, the Board concluded that the economic and efficient manufacture of compressed bakers yeast could be sustained on a profitable basis without tariff assistance. The Board therefore recommended duty free admission from all sources. This represents no change in existing duties other than removal of the primage duty of 10 per cent general tariff. 5 per cent preferential tariff on imports of yeast packed for retail sale. Because of the large number of amendments involved I have indicated the duty changes only in the broadest of terms. For more detailed information the attention of honourable senators is invited to the comprehensive summary of changes and rates which is currently being circulated. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator 0’Byrne adjourned.
Mot:on (by Senator Gair) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate. Notice of Motion No. I. be postponed until the next day of sitting.
– 1 move:
I speak in the context of the existing economic system in Australia. Under this system in the economic area there are now 2 great worries. They are unemployment, due to lack of demand, and rising prices. Rising prices exacerbate the lack of demand and contribute to the economic disease known as stagflation. There has been a great deal of discussion elsewhere in the world - because the problem is not confined to Australia - and in this country on what causes inflation and what should be done about it. It is a complex matter. It would be foolish to suggest that it is not.
There is no doubt that what happens in Australia is affected by what happens elsewhere because Australia is one of the great trading nations of the world, especially when on© considers our small population. We have inherited a system which, because of an inbuilt interest factor has been subject to constant inflation throughout the centuries. One can hardly avoid some inflation over a long term period when a fundamental part of the system is interest on money and credit in its various aspects. This lends to produce the long term inflation. That is why every century has shown a progressive inflation in the value of money. But there are other short term effects.
– Does inflation occur in communist countries?
– Well, 1 would assume that the same kinds of factors, or at least some of them, would operate because communist countries also are trading, nations and, depending upon what they do to achieve readjustments inside their countries, presumably their cost structures would be affected if they had to import many goods at ever higher and higher prices. No doubt they could take measures to alter the value of their currency and to off-set those increases. The Soviet Union, as I understand it, has taken measures to decrease income taxation progressively until it disappears, lt was certainly very close to that situation some few years ago.
The honourable senator’s question illustrates that this is not a simple matter. But upon one principle, I think, the people of the world are agreed. That is that their government should take whatever action is open to them to protect the people whom they represent from the undesirable effects of inflation, lt is the duty of this Government, as it is the duty of other governments. Our complaint against this Government is that it has repeatedly and consistently failed to arm itself with the powers which are necessary and desirable to overcome the adverse effects of inflation and to see that the economy is run reasonably in the interests of the people as a whole. We contend - and I think the record demonstrates it - that the Government is an economic cripple. It has allowed itself to become a cripple because it would not assume the powers and it would not seek the legislation which would enable it to deal with the economy as it should.
– Does the honourable senator mean by referendum?
– No, I do not mean necessarily by referendum. If a referendum were necessary, the Government should have a referendum. I speak at the moment of the Government’s failure to introduce measures such as effective legislation against restrictive practices for that is, perhaps, the most obvious example. We recall the famous Royal Commission which was held in Tasmania. We know how that Royal Commission showed that a whole range of commodities was subject to restrictive practices. The honourable senator comes from Tasmania and knows that well. There were collusive tenders and price fixing by private authorities. These were causing undesirable increases in the cost structure which affected not only the farming community and those engaged in secondary industry but also consumers generally. We know that the inquiries by Sir Garfield Barwick when he was AttorneyGeneral disclosed that across the whole range of commodities and services in this community undesirable restrictive practices were operating and that it was in the public interest that there be legislation to deal with these practices. These were a considerable element in the cost inflation and in the inefficiencies in our industries, and in general operated to the detriment of the public. I remind honourable senators of what was said by that distinguished gentleman in August 1963 in presenting the G. L. Wood Memorial Lecture. Referring to restrictive practices and their effects, he said:
One problem is that prices tend to be unrealistic. Let me hasten to add that, in saying this, 1 do not wish to be taken as having formed a conclusion that prices are generally, or in particular industries, too high. I have, in fact, formed no such conclusion; it is not my function to do so. What I do suggest to you is that restrictive trade practices provide for prices to be determined on an arbitrary basis, which is neither regulated by the natural forces of supply and demand, nor necessarily in the interests of other than the persons who engage itf. the practices. There is, therefore, a risk that restrictive trade practices will lead to exploitation of consumers.
He indicated also that these practices tended to lead to the discouragement of the qualities of initiative, resourcefulness, courage and productive efficiency and that they tended to throw a wall of protection around the industries which engaged in them. In addition he said that they tended in a sense to be what he described as feather-bedded. There was one significant example of a need for legislation, a need for the Government to arm itself by asking Parliament to give it the powers to deal with such restrictive practices. That was in 1963. All honourable senators know what happened. Legislation came before the Parliament, after all the stalling, delays, prevarications and watering down.
Senator Webster smiles. I do not criticise him because J. seem to remember that on one significant occasion the situation became too much for him and he crossed the floor to vote with the Opposition to preserve one important part of the proposals which originally had been put forward. But that legislation, as we said then, was not intended to work. It has not worked. Leaving aside the challenge which was made on some drafting aspects of the legislation, we are left now in March 1972 without effective trade practices legislation. Yet we still hear the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) talking about the strengthened legislation that he is going to introduce. Is this a fair dealing with the community which was told by its most distinguished Attorney-General in 1963 what was happening to it? At that time he said that effective legislation was needed to deal with a level of prices brought about by the operation of restrictive practices, the getting together of cartels and monopolies of various persons in industry to see that artificially high prices were kept up and that competitors were kept out or squeezed out. This Government simply has not provided that legislation. We say that something must be done about it, and I think the community has come to this realisation.
The Government must be prodded into action. It is no longer acceptable for the Government to say to the community that the reason for price increases is that the trade unions are villains, that they are asking for increases in wages and this is the sole or only substantial cause of price rises, or that if only the trade unions could be told not to ask for any wage increases there would be no further trouble. The suggestion seems to be that somehow the wage earners would be doing the right thing if they asked for a decrease in their wages, that somehow this would provide an even better solution to the problems of the community. We know that this is not the answer. We know that one of the problems from which we suffer is the lack of demand because not enough money is getting into the hands of the people to purchase goods. Perhaps as a temporary solution a better way to get money into the hands of the community and to overcome the lack of demand would be to put it into areas such as social services, by increasing pensions and so on, where it would not add to the cost structure. This approach may have much to commend it temporarily, but the reality is that there has been an erosion of the position of wage earners. They really have not benefited equitably from the increases in technology which have occurred in this century. This points up one of the basic difficulties.
Much of the trouble in this community stems from a lack of efficiency. There has been a low increase in production. The growth rate in this country, according to world scales, has been one of the lowest. We lag very much behind the other industrialised countries. We have not made the progress that we should have made. If one looks at the reasons for this one sees that in the area of management we are extremely defective. There has been very little emphasis upon management and very little encouragement of studies in that area. Instead the Government certainly has taken the trade unions as scapegoats for all the problems which beset us. I feel that a great deal of attention ought to be paid to ensuring that we have the most advanced or at least the most efficient technology in Australia for our purposes. Although this may not always be the most advanced technology available, in many cases it would be. We need far better management than we have. We should have far more planning by the Government, in consultation with the rest of the community, so that the community may know what is happening, so that it may be involved in the planning and so that it may make decisions for the future, confident of what the Government has in mind. We should have these instead of the unplanned approach which has been characteristic of this Government for 20 years.
What has occurred now is the result of do-nothing policies by the Government, lt is the carry-over of the laissez-faire of the 19th century and we in Australia have suffered from it. This is most apparent in the complete abdication of responsibility by the Government in the area of restraining unjustified price increases. We have a federal wage system which has operated since 1904 and which may be described as one of wage justification. Before wages are increased throughout substantial areas of industry they must be justified and arbitrated upon, ft is the belief of my Party that there also must be a system of price justification. A Labor government would establish a price justification tribunal to control the prices of basic commodities which are of general importance in the community or which affect the secondary structure of prices and costs. That approach is on the basis that the control will be flexible and will use the accumulated expert knowledge of Australian industry acquired by government agencies such as the Tariff Board, the Commissioner of Trade Practices and State pricing authorities.
– Can you give us an example of how that might work in relation to a particular product?
– I think I can.
– It is very difficult.
– One that comes to mind - and I am not familiar with all the details - is in the area of milk. Before the price of milk goes up in New South Wales an inquiry is held which is attended by producers, the agencies such as the milk companies and so on. Representatives of these groups come before the inquiry and the rights and wrongs of the matter are discussed. The inquiry works out how much or what margin these interests are entitled to. It then resolves what should be the fair price of milk. The milk industry over a period holds periodic inquiries. So far as I know this system seems to have worked fairly smoothly and simply. Naturally, such a system would operate only in respect of basic commodities such as oil, steel and rubber and other kinds of commodities which affect industry generally.
The concept which is put forward is not one which would apply to every commodity or every kind of goods. We could not do this. After the last war, price fixing extended to all goods and services in a number of countries including Australia. As I understand it, the reason was that this was a time of severe shortage because the productive mechanisms had bden disrupted by the war. There was such a general shortage that if we did not have price controls on every area of goods and services we would have had a diversion into the luxury areas. At that time we had to concentrate on the essentials because to do otherwise would have meant a diversion away of energy and labour at a time when the country was trying to recover from the effects of war. This was a time, leaving aside the tact that this was an emergency situation, during which there was a severe shortage of labour and the community was trying to restore itself.
Obviously it would be impractical to set out to control the prices of 6-inch or 8- inch sponge cakes or similar goods. One would not envisage that any such endeavour could be made through a prices justification tribunal to deal with every kind of goods and services. The notion is that such a system will be restricted to the basic commodities or to something which might affect generally the cost structure in the community.
The Labor Party’s approach is that a parliamentary committee on costs and prices ought to be established to identify, publicise and expose unfair prices and any exploitation with the object of recommending legislative or administrative measures to prevent injustifiable price increases and to protect Australia from excessive inflation. We believe that there are ample Constitutional powers which might be drawn upon and from which the Government under appropriate legislation could arm itself to deal with the adverse effects of inflation. Those powers include obviously the corporations power under the new doctrine enunciated by the High Court in the ‘Concrete Pipes case’. They include the trade and commerce powers. Also there are taxation powers and other forms of revenue legislative powers such as subsidies, tariffs and so forth. All these measures form a collection of legislative authority from which any government ought to endeavour to seek the administrative capacity to act on behalf of the people and to see that we have a scheme of price justification to put alongside the system of wage justification, so long as this is the approach taken by the community.
We also consider that the Labor government would certainly take the necessary measures to strengthen the restrictive trade practices legislation so that we might be able to deal with the problems that were adverted to by Sir Garfield Barwick in regard to the concentration of monopolistic power and to eliminate the trade practices which restrict competition and produce inefficiency and undue inflation. I am not suggesting that all inflation can in a practical way be eliminated. As I understand it, many take the view that it would be undesirable to eliminate inflation completely in any one country while the rest of the world was undergoing a process of inflation. It is believed that the disequilibrium would present problems in itself and that small countries such as ours would virtually be forced to keep in some measure iu step with the major trading countries of the world. That is understood. But there is a great feeling in this country that the inflation is excessive, that a great deal of it is unnecessary and that whatever can be done by the Parliament to correct this excess ought to be done.
We had the example in recent times where the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd increased its prices twice within a short time. The Government could do nothing about this move except send some letters to that company and give it a bit of a lecture of which it did not heed. Yet its price increase affected the basic cost price structure throughout the community.
– Do you know how the price of steel produced by BHP compares with the world price?
- Senator Webster starts out, presumably, to suggest that the price increase may be justifiable. Well, it may be. Whether it is justifiable or not remains to be seen. But under the existing legislation there is no mechanism whereby we can ascertain whether that price increase is justifiable. In spite of all the time it has had, the Government has done nothing to set up any machinery to enable an inquiry to be made into this price increase. The proposal in the motion before us is that the Senate, in the pursuance of its legislative duties, set up a body to have a look at the prices which affect the general cost structure. It is envisaged that this body would look at this matter within the limits of the Commonwealth’s Constitutional power. This body certainly could look at foreign corporations or trading or financial corporations which have been formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, because those are the words used in section 51 of the Constitution. It could also consider the matter of the determination of prices by corporations which enjoy advantages under Commonwealth laws relating to Commonwealth tariffs, revenues, subsidies and so on. Further, it could look at how prices are determined by those corporations which have contracts with the Commonwealth. This would give the opportunity for an investigation of the justification of such prices. At least it would give the committee a chance to see how these prices are determined. While Senator Webster may think that Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd was right in what it was doing, we know that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said that he regretted that it had taken the action it took. There seemed to be divided opinions amongst the Ministers as to whether BHP should have increased its steel prices. Some took Senator Webster’s view and others took the view that whatever the justification might be in theory, the increase at that time was against the interests of the nation. We ought to have a body which could investigate such matters and which could recommend to the Senate what legislative or administrative steps should be taken by the Commonwealth to prevent unjustifiable price increases and protect Australia from excessive inflation.
I notice that Senator Gair has a motion on the notice paper which deals in simpler terms with the same subject matter and which is limited to automative fuels and lubricants within Australia. I have not had an opportunity to talk to him precisely, but this is comprehended in my motion. It might be desirable if those words were included in some specific way in the motion I am putting forward. Perhaps after the words, The determination of prices’ the words ‘including those of automotive fuels and lubricants’ could be inserted. Perhaps that idea would commend itself to Senator Gair.
– We have a suggestion which we will probably convey to the honourable, senator later.
– Very well. 1 would certainly be prepared to include those words specifically if it were thought fit in some way, because both motions are aimed at dealing with the same problem. It is the problem of corporations being able to act arbitrarily, the problem that there is no body which can look to see the justification for the determination of these prices which greatly affect the economics of this community. There ought to be such a body which, as a result of inquiry, will be in a position to make some recommendations as to what kind of legislation ought to be introduced to deal with the problem. The problem is a longstanding one. We know that for years the oil companies have been determining prices in a way that has aroused great controversy. We know that allegations of collusive tendering have been made over the years. Local councils have complained of this. If their complaints are justified this means that not only are the prices of goods being affected, but also taxes which are paid to local councils in the form of rates are being affected. Presumably if the effect of this kind of practice extends to governments the taxes which are paid at the Federal and State levels would be inflated by the restrictive practices engaged in by industries such as the oil industry and, notoriously, by the electrical gear industry and numerous others.
The selling aspect is not the only one involved. The cost structure of those companies has been the subject of very much controversy over the years. Scattered through many reports are allegations that the oil companies have inflated their own cost structures by putting in artificially high freight rates as an element in the cost.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! It being 2 hours after the time of meeting of the Senate, Orders of the Day will be called on pursuant to standing order No. 127.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That consideration of Orders of the Day be postponed until after further consideration of business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 2.
– Allegations have been made that the pricing structure of oils has been inflated by what might be described as the world wide practice of loading into it charges for freights, licence fees of all kinds and the use of processors, etc. Those charges are paid to subsidiaries or associates of the same great oil companies often located in tax havens so that the pricing structure is alleged to be not genuine at all. Every part of our community suffers from this. Surely someone ought to be able to look at it. These allegations have been made not only about the oil industry but also about other industries. If there is a real problem of inflation which faces us and if the Senate wants to get down to the task of dealing with it, in the national interest, it is time that we had a look at it because it is quite apparent that nothing has been done by the Government. There is talk of the Government publishing a White Paper on this subject. I do not think anybody is very optimistic that much will come out of that. If we can judge from the experience with the restrictive trade practices legislation over the years there is not very much hope that the Government will tackle this problem as it should, unless it is under the spur of a Senate committee looking into this area. We know that Mr Bannerman, the Commissioner of Trade Practices, stated that under the existing trade practices legislation he was really not able to do anything about the increased prices of steel announced by BHP despite the fact that the company is in a monopolistic position. That lays bare the weakness of the Act. The Act contains nothing to control the vital decisions of the nation’s only steel maker. It is to be regarded only as a legislative sham.
There are examples in other countries of what might be done. We cannot assume that these are cure-alls. But, in New Zealand there is prices justificaion legisla tion. Notice of proposed increases has to be given. Certainly it has to be more notice than was given to the Australian people in the case of the BHP increase. My understanding is that it is 3 months’ notice. Attempts have been made in the States of Australia to introduce some form of price control. In South Australia, it operates over a certain sphere. We know that endeavours were made-
– It is very limited and not very reliable. I can speak from experience.
– I know that Senator Gair has experience in this area, but we in the Commonwealth sphere are responsible for the general superintendence of the economy. The economy is suffering from this disease of price rises which in the present situation really can be made without justification. One does not have to commit oneself to the view that there is no justification; but no machinery exists. We have nothing comparable to the wage justification tribunals. There is no endeavour to do anything. It is just an open slather. It is an open slather, but not on what might be called the free or competitive market, where one would hope that under the prevailing system of price fixation the forces of competition might bring about a reasonable adjustment of prices. It is an open slather in the absence of competition.
The problem is that every endeavour has been made to create conditions of no competition. There is either a monopoly in which one corporation such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd sets the price or a collection of companies such as in the oil industry where a stack of companies get together and fix prices in a non-competitive way. So there is an abandonment of free competition. The Government no longer can say with any truth to the people: Leave it alone. Let the forces of the market - the free competition - solve the problem’. We know that the free competition will not solve the problem. We know that there is an open slather for the private price fixers. They can do what they like. In those circumstances I think it would be extremely naive to assume that the prices which are being fixed by those companies are justified prices. As Sir Garfield Barwick said, one would expect the tendency to be the very opposite.
In recent times a number of persons have made comments about the Commonwealth’s powers. I refer to comments made by a number of outstanding Labor economists such as Mr Frank Crean M.P. and Mr Rex Connor M.P. They have been joined in some measure - not always in the same words but in words which have the same effect - by persons such as the former Attorney-General, Mr Hughes, who only a few days ago said that the Australian people could no longer be treated like children and that the Government was making stumbling attempts to explain the inflationary forces operating in our economy. As I understand him he is an advocate of some form of prices justification tribunal. He said - I think it is being said by other members of Parliament - that the Government, if it were willing, could find a way to legislate to produce such a result. The recommendation of legislative or administrative measures which should be taken by the Commonwealth to prevent unjustifiable price increases is the essence of the motion. While Senator Gair was absent from the chamber for a few moments I indicated that I would be quite agreeable, if he wished, to include in the motion a specific reference to the important matter of automotive fuels and lubricants, to which his motion was directed, because that is one of the fields in which clearly there should be investigation as to the determination of prices and recommendations as to the legislative or administrative measures to be taken.
– Transport costs are reflected in the price of a number of commodities.
– Yes. Australia is noted as a country in which transportcosts probably are a greater component of costs than in any other country. I think that more than in any other country transport costs in Australia are an important factor-
– That is cost per population.
– Yes - in its cost structure. The prices of oil and fuels are components of transport costs. I have stated the basis of the motion. We consider that the time has arrived when something should be done to prevent the continuance of an uncontrolled position in which prices can be raised without any justification, without any price control and without any investigation. That is being done not in an area of free or real competition but in an area of monopolies and an area in which restrictive practices prevent the mechanisms which would operate to ensure that prices are kept at efficient and justifiable levels-
– Do you aim to concern yourself with luxury lines?
– No, because we think that they will probably attend to themselves. That is an area in which-
– It would be a waste of time.
– Yes. There probably would be competition in those areas.
– Ladies cosmetics and things like that.
– They are essential.
– They are essential, but they do not seem to be in the category of the commodities which would affect the general structure. I do not know enough about them. Suppose certain commodities were necessary for all items of make-up. It could be the fats or a component which is necessary in all items. They could be subject to a monopoly control which could cause the prices to be very much greater than they should be. One might say that that basic commodity could be looked at. I am told on good authority that the prices of make-up in Australia are very much higher than the prices in other countries. Without more information on the subject I would not be prepared to say that it comes within the area of what we contemplate. We are thinking of things such as rubber, steel, oil. Those are the basic commodities to which we refer. Take steel, for example. It may be that commodities such as cans come into that category if the increased cost of cans will affect costs generally, but I do not deal with the various items. I do not intend to cover the whole range. The motion was intended to deal, in a sensible and practical kind of way, with the commodities which are playing a substantial part in causing the inflation in Australia. Let us see whether the prices are being determined in a justifiable way. Let the committee say what the position is and let it recommend any legislative or administrative measures that might be thought necessary to deal with the kinds of prices which affect the community generally. Let the committee say what should be done about those prices. We think it is high time that this was done. Together with the rest of the Australian people we are not prepared to tolerate a position in which the Government fays: ‘There is nothing we can do about it. We hope the companies will do something about it. If they do not, it is outside our power’. We should be looking to see whether the constitutional powers enable us to set up proper machinery in order to deal wilh a real social problem which affects every person as a consumer, which affects every person as a ratepayer or taxpayer and which affects every person who has an interest in the efficiency and the prosperity of all industry and commerce. Therefore 1 commend the motion to the Senate.
– The people of Australia said that they did not want price control.
– Before 1 go any further J think 1 should say ‘hear, hear to Senator Gair’s interjection that the people of Australia, after having had experience of price control, rejected it very quickly and very substantially.
– That was principally because the Commonwealth aimed at controlling too much and it was beyond the Commonwealth’s power to do that.
– 1 am listening to Senator Gair because he has had experience as a S:ate Premier. Price control is precisely what Senator Murphy, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, proposed. I think I should read the motion. I have read it several times and I have asked myself: ‘What does it mean?’ Senator Murphy moved:
That is nol the simplest motion to follow through nor is it easy to trace its logical consequence if ever it were to be adopted in a serious form. In regard to Senator Murphy’s motion, 1 think it is proper to observe that the Government feels that it ought to avoid suspense to all concerned by telling the Senate that the Government is not at all disposed to support the motion. Wc cannot sec any warrant for it although the spirit of sweet reasonableness which has been vouchsafed this afternoon has been most interesting. But we do not feel in any way able to aid this process of confusion any further. On the other hand it was interesting to see Senator Murphy trying to draw some aid and comfort from Senator Gair’s motion by trying to incorporate it in his own. One was able to detect the tactical device which was being employed. In response to that operation let me say thai we were going to view Senator Gair’s motion with a completely open mind and listen to the debate on it. Today Senator Gair, quite properly, sought leave to h;ive his motion postponed. Later we will have an opportunity to look at it when it is debated, as it will be in due course. In his opening remarks Senator Murphy drew attention to 3 things which he said were the important factors and on which, I imagine, he was building his proposition. 711ey were unemployment, rising prices and a concern with inflation.
After all this time one is delighted to learn now of this great concern with inflation. To my mind there has not Ye been any evidence of any Labor Party support at any stage for any Government proposition in any way to try to bring inflation within bounds. I quickly refer to the Budget Speech made last year in which the Budget strategy was laid down as one which clearly was trying to encompass and bring inflation under control. That strategy did not receive much support from the Labor Party. A few days ago the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) made a very responsible statement. I. saw no evidence of the Labor Party saying: ‘We welcome the Treasurer’s statement that he is still trying to contain inflation. He believes that it is essential. He believes that it is important. He believes that it is an exercise of Government responsibility’. That attitude was not evidenced. The first indication of concern which we have is in this motion which, as I said before, is slightly confusing. All of us know that there are 3 factors in an economy like ours which have to be balanced together. They are not easy to put into balance together. One such factor is trying to maintain, sensibly and properly, a high rate of economic growth. This is something which the Australian people want, expect and believe they are entitled to see carried out by their governments.
This is a country of great resources, opportunity and great advantage. A second factor is that the people of this country and its governments actively pursue a growth rate policy. Within that policy a high level of employment - the third factor - is the order of the day and with that we endeavour to maintain price stability. At any time those 3 things are difficult to maintain in perfect unison. Recently we had a lot of complaining and a hue and cry of disaster and fatality in relation to the rate of unemployment. It was pointed out very properly that these were compounded in the summer holiday period by school leavers and that the situation would improve progressively. The situation is improving. The statement recently made by the Treasurer bears that out. Now we hear very little about the problem of unemployment as it passes away and resumes its normal pattern in this country. I believe that this will happen progressively from now on. Because of the absorption of school leavers and the improvement in the rural areas we hear very little about that situation. So that episode - that sort of trouble-making phase or noise-making situation - is passed over for something else.
We have here another reference by Senator Murphy to a committee of the Senate. The notice paper is freely available and anybody who wishes to do so may refer to it. Not counting the Estimates Committees we have 32 committees in all, including 6 select committees, which have before them 24 references. Senator Murphy referred to the spur of an investigation by a Senate committee so we would have something like 44 Senate committees. To say the least, the spur would not make any horse run very far because it would not be a very pronounced spur with that kind of work to do. We have to be realistic about this and once again say, as we on this side continue to say: ‘What is the Senate trying to do? What is the exercise in creating all these committees and sending all these references along?’ This is an impossible and unreal programme. It is a programme which will diminish the quality of the work of the Senate. Further, it will nol aid the process which those who are referring these matters to the Senate hope to aid.
At the outset I think one should observe that we have a lot of people from the Labor Party wandering around Kings Hall who have really assumed the mantle of office. They have chosen their Commonwealth cars: they have picked their houses in Canberra; they have begun to make arrangements to wear the robes of office. I suggest to them that the proper time to do this is when the Australian people give them office, and not before. Tn government one needs to have a sense of responsibility and an ability to govern. It is all very well to criticise. This Government has governed this country remarkably well, as the growth figures which will be quoted later will demonstrate. If we had had more help from the Labor Party in controlling inflation we could have done a better job. We have not had any help.
– .1 tried to help by counselling the Government to keep interest rates down but it rejected that.
– Any time Senator Little would like to join the Government’s ranks in the Senate I would be happy personally to sponsor him.. From our point of view we felt some confusion when Senator Murphy referred in his own reference to basic commodities. At one stage he talked about the fat which might be in lipstick if lipstick were controlled. I am not a great expert on lipstick but I understand that it contains a lot of tallow. That goes back to the Australian sheep industry. Is this a proposition that if lipstick becomes a problem we control the price of tallow and investigate by a Senate select committee the price of all sheep sold in Australia? The situation would become ridiculous.
– I think the Minister is stretching it a bit.
– I do not stretch lipstick. I think Senator Murphy’s quick reference to basic commodities and the fact that he was drawn out a little on this matter by honourable senators of the Australian Democratic Labor Party indicated that he really had not thought it through. He was anxious to make a noise - I must say that it was a noise - but did not take the trouble to say what he meant by ‘basic commodities’. Was he talking about bread and the price of wheat, or about the sugar which goes into lollies? What will this come to? I think that one might say that what honourable senators opposite are setting themselves up to do is to take over the function of government in its financial responsibility and its economic areas of reference and authority. The first observation which one might make is that the exercise of responsible government is not necessarily an exercise in daily popularity. From time to time every government has to do unpopular things. The record of this Government is that it has done them and will do them, and will set out to do what it can to control both wisely and well this country’s economy in the interests of all people.
Any fair minded person who studies the record over time and not episodically from day to day looking for sensation, will find himself much more chastened. I think it can fairly be said by us all that fiscal responsibility - we would all take this view - is the exercise of responsible government. Responsible government is exercised by those who take part in it. It is not only the Government in office but also it is the Opposition. This is something which those who seek to inherit office ought to bear in mind. If ever the day comes when honourable senators opposite are in government - 1 do nol think it will happen - it would be an unfortunate day for us all. A great weight would descend upon them and they would have cause to regret many of their earlier remarks which other people would have delight in quoting against them. What we are looking at is constructive and economic policy.
– We will be happy to put up with that.
– The honourable senator is not going to have that privilege. lt is nice to look at these things and say to yourself: ‘One of these days I will be’. I say to the honourable senator: Do not spend the money in advance. This is something which the Austraiian people have in their power to bestow. Honourable senators opposite cannot confer it on themselves. I see some of them doing so already. 1 recommend that they do nol. In this country what we are really concerned about was properly observed by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech, by the Treasurer in his recent statement and by Senator Murphy at a very late stage in the day. It is the problem of controlling inflation. This problem is of great importance to a great trading nation where the ravages of inflation impact severely upon the productive and thrifty people in the community, and upon the trading future of a great trading country. In simple terms what this motion really means to me is that we will set up in this chamber of the Commonwealth Parliament, which has a great deal of references to take up the time of honourable senators, a price fixing authority. That is what it means. Despite the gloss that is put on it and despite the attempts to pass it off by saying: ‘Maybe it will be lipstick and maybe it will not; maybe it will be steel; maybe it will be beer cans’, the Opposition is talking about a price fixing authority. The motion uses the words ‘the determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices’. That means a price fixing authority. That determination could include the prices of all companies in Australia and possibly all trading of every kind.
– If it will help you, let me say that it is not suggested that the Committee could determine prices; its task will be to look into the determination of prices.
– I am a person of such years that I can remember very clearly 1948 and 1949 and the bank nationalisation proposal, and saying to Labor Party people both in the Parliament and in the community: ‘You have no mandate to carry out bank nationalisation*. The reply from the Labor Party people was: We have, because the nationalisation of ali these various things is in our policy’. I have a great regard for the printed word and I have very little regard for the gloss that is put on it.
The Opposition is asking the Australian people to give the Senate the powers of a price fixing authority, whatever else members of the Opposition may like to call it and despite Senator Murphy giving me his assurances that that is not what is meant. Some other person or some other group later on will say to the people: ‘You gave us authority to do these things. This means the beer can; it means the loaf of bread; and it means the lipstick’.
– I suggest that you go back to the resolution which set up the standing committees. This subject matter is to be sent to the Standing Committee for inquiry and report. There is no suggestion that the Committee could determine prices. Obviously it would be impossible, constitutionally and legally, for the Committee itself to determine prices. Its task is to look into how prices are determined.
– I said earlier, in the spirit of sweet reasonableness, that that point really is most interesting, but it does not impress me because the proposition is such that the Committee can constitute itself as a price fixing authority if it wants to do so. Members of the Opposition might not think so. But I have been involved in a Commonwealth instrumentality and a Commonwealth government department, and I have known what it is to see the price fixing and price settling machinery at work. Anybody who has been involved in the inside activities of this operation, as I have been, does not want to see it return. I do not think members of the Opposition really would want the Committee to be a price fixing authority; but the Committee could constitute itself as such.
Let us say that the Committee decides that it will not be a price fixing authority but that it will single out the Max Factor company because the price of lipstick has increased too much or the colour of the lipstick is wrong. That company will be looked at and someone will talk about it. Its representatives will be brought before the Committee and asked to produce its figures. Samples of its products will be prominently displayed. This sort of thing will cause immense trouble, with possibilities of patronage, possibilities of victimisation although unintended and, through that, possibilities of people being able to get the edge on somebody else. The dangers of it are immense.
Have any members of the Opposition contemplated the size of bureaucracy that is involved in price fixing machinery and just how that machinery, from a very simple beginning, an innocent beginning and one with a great number of what are called safeguards and expressions of view, has an immense capacity to multiply and breed on itself? It is like a ginger beer plant. A person has one bottle given to him by somebody, and in the end it takes over his house, his neighbour’s house and half the street. Anybody who has seen price fixing tribunals work in this scene knows the extent to which they are capable of growing. The multiplication of the process has to be seen to be believed.
– Is it the same with wage fixing?
– We have an arbitration court which, as the honourable senator knows, is outside the functions of this Parliament. Senator Murphy referred to the problem of prices as, in his view, part of the total problem. He has a view on how to overcome this problem. I concede that his is a genuinely held view. But I take the view that he is quite wrong. I believe that the problem of prices is very much a problem of wages. I do not say totally’; I say ‘very much’. It is also a problem of productivity. In order to get this matter into some sense of comparative reality, I have taken the trouble to obtain figures which are quite short but which, I believe, illustrate the problem.
Average weekly earnings in this country rose by 6.3 per cent in 1968. I repeat that in 1968, over the whole Australian scene, average weekly earnings rose by 6.3 per cent. By 1971 they had increased progressively to the point where in that year - the year just concluded - they rose by 12.5 per cent. On the other hand there is the productivity associated with those great increases in wages. I do not deny those increases to the people. All I am saying is that as a community we have to achieve an efficient resource utilisation in order to make the best of things. So, the productivity that those wages produce becomes of great importance. Non-farm productivity - this isolates the matter - was increasing at the rate of 3.2 per cent per annum in 1968. But in 1971 it increased by only 1.7 per cent per annum. Between those 2 factors lies the problem of inflation and the increase in the consumer price index, which has increased much more severely than before. That is the problem to which we should direct ourselves.
So, what we want here is a motion which the Labor Party directs to itself - a motion that it will aid the process of overcoming industrial disputes, that it will aid the process of preventing stoppages and demarcation arguments, that it will aid the process of helping the arbitration system to resolve disputes quickly and that it will do what it can to help in productivity improvement. Improving productivity is something which many employer groups are doing and which I was doing before I came here. That is in no way to deny wage justice; it is only to talk about economic reality which is a product of real wages and real productivity reflecting themselves in price increases. In the context of wages going up at that rate and productivity going down at that rate we will, without any doubt, continue to be confronted with a situation of problems of price rises not only in respect of lipstick but also in respect of steel and beer cans.
We have had a comment from that remarkable or outstanding Labor economist, Mr Crean, as reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Monday, 28th February. Addressing the State Council of the Australian Labor Party at the Trades Hall in Carlton, Mr Crean said that wages were rising more slowly than prices. If Mr Crean is correct, the people who produced this information for me - I believe that they know what they are doing - are incorrect. I suggest that the great Labor economist, Mr Crean, does not really know what he is talking about. Senator Murphy made the comment that not enough money was getting into people’s hands to purchase goods. That, of course, is a total fallacy. The wage rises that have been quoted demonstrate that money is getting into people’s hands in increasing quantities.
– But is it enough to enable them to purchase goods?
– It is. There is something to which the honourable senator should direct his mind, which perhaps will be useful at later stages of this debate and which could well be worth listening to. I do not have the relevant figures with me now, but the growth in the savings of the Australian people has demonstrated where much of the money has found its way. What this country is looking for is a renewal of purchasing confidence. The purchasing confidence of this country has suffered some severe problems. The first of them was the rural recession, which the Government moved positively to correct. The Government did things; it acted. Then there was the problem of the international monetary crisis which we played our part in helping to overcome. These were problems of the people’s concern to save rather than to spend.
– And the mining collapse, I suppose.
– I suppose that one could properly include gambling on the slock exchange, the mining collapse and things of that character. It is very important that a concerted attempt be made lo have economic stability flowing out of productivity improvement, sensible wage adjustments and a government prepared to withstand inflationary processes with the cooperative help of all members of the Parliament, not just one section of it which seeks publicity on a given day. It is important that we get the people to say: ‘Yes, we are prepared to spend at a higher rale than we have been spending’.
– What about 12 months ago when you scared all the people, turned off the sprinklers and cut out. the lawnmowing?
– Senator Murphy has before the Senate a motion which suggests that he is interested in the problem of inflation; that he really wants it to be dealt with; that he wants a committee to deal with a forty-fourth item; and that he wants inflation to be part of it. So when the Government does what it can to try to bring within bounds an inflationary problem, what response does it get? lt gets a load of old guff flung at it. I referred to my own experience in relation to this problem of price fixing and price control. I review those years of my life which are ones that I do not want to go back to. We have talked about the way these things can escalate and grow and how amazingly they can spread. The Prime Minister has undertaken to sec that a White Paper is prepared which particularises the history of price inflation and its problems and which reviews (he situation.
The motion moved by Senator Murphy is really an attempt to have a general debate on price control, although, asI said, its terms arc rather confused. Out of such a debate perhaps could be developed a Labor Parly policy on price control and not a policy of double think. A White Paper will be brought down and then we can have a debate on price control. If the Opposition wants to bring about price control it should say so. It should say to what extent it wants to do it and describe how it will do it. The Opposition should describe what constitutional power it will draw to its side to do it. Senator Murphy says that it can be clone. That is one legal opinion. I have heard legal opinions which suggest that it cannot be done. I have heard Senator Murphy make reference to the concrete pipes case as giving all this power. Recently I have heard it said that that is an interesting view but is not supported by every lawyer constitutionally competent. So I suggest that it is not as easy as that. The proper thing to do is to wait for a White Paper on price control. If the Labor Party wants to adopt price control as part of its policy - it is very confusing whether or not it does because there is a certain amount or confusion as to what people are saying - then let us know that this is what it wants and tell us in detail how it will bring about price control.
The other proposition referred to which flows out of this question of price control is that the way to handle this question is by means of the tariff. The proposition is that we have a Senate committee which will meet and say: ‘We object to such and such a beer manufacturer putting up the price of his beer simply because the price of his cans has gone up. We will withdraw our tariff from the can maker so that he cannot sell his beer at that price.’ This is the sort of thine that we cannot do. Tariff machinery cannot be run in that way. I think a proposal was made somewhere or other that one of the ways out of BHP’s necessity to increase prices because of rising wage costs and productivity not being what it should have been and industrial disputes being difficult, was to import cheap steel from Japan in order to discipline BHP. But what will it do? Will it put off Australian workmen? When we look at this sort of thing we rather wonder whether or not there is any economic reality in all of this.
– One gentleman suggested that we should let another steel industry establish itself here. That was the Prime Minister’s contribution.
– One can follow quite clearly the logical economic reasoning of one’s own Party. One can follow the clarity of the statement by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. One can follow the continuity of thought and the taking of necessarily tough action when it is called for. But one finds it very hard to follow the confused thinking of these great Labor economists. Mr R. X. Connor of Wollongong is a new great Labor economist to me; I have not encountered him before. I think his difficulty has been that the Labor Party does not know what it is talking about because it speaks oftariffs as an exercise to be taken up by a Senate committee, and the purpose of this is to discipline somebody, straighten him out, pull him into gear, stop all this slather and whack that Senator Murphy is referring to and really put him under the hammer. Who will it be? Nobody knows. What will he be making? Who can tell. But it will be somebody Opposition senators thought about as they came down on the plane that morning. They read about it in the newspapers and said: ‘Let us get him up - or her, or it, or them - and take away the tariff. That will straighten them out.’ Beautiful, is it not?
The tariff is basically a long term instrument directed to the development of economic and efficient Australian industry. That is what it is. first of all. To many people who vote for the Government and to some misguided people who vote for the Opposition it is one of the things that guarantees employment in secondary industry in this country. That is what it is about.
It is the shelter behind which manufacture in this country became established and grew and prospered. Under the Opposition’s proposition it will become a will of the wisp, a creature of the committee, to be taken away, to be given and to be looked at on a sort of ad hoc basis. Goodness me, how long does it take the Tariff Board to receive a reference, study it carefully and objectively and come down with a conclusion with which the Opposition does not agree most of the time? So are we to hold these inquiries on a Thursday afternoon between 4 and 5 p.m.? A normal tariff inquiry involves a full and thorough public inquiry at which witnesses are called and heard. All relevant factors are considered, and it takes approximately 2 years. It is not an appropriate piece of machinery for short term requirements such as price control. Of course, the influence of tariffs on prices is most important. The pricing policies of industry seeking protection come under careful scrutiny in the Tariff Board inquiries. There is proper evidence of all these things. If the Opposition wants remedies there are proper and legitimate devices that do not have attached to them the possibility of either patronage or victimisation. They are devices which are quite detached. These situations can be examined in the public interest in a detached way.
When one reads this motion and hears the sort of a story put up by the Opposition one thinks that this must be a country of great disaster. What a pity we have to live here. Why do we not all go away and live somewhere else? What a tragedy to be an Australian at this point of time. For those who wish to see more about this matter, I have here a recent article which appeared in the ‘National Times’ which stated that Australia, on a range of analysis and on a range of factors, is very nearly the best country in the world to live in, economically, ecologically, environmentally and educationally. So in the country which is nearly the best in the world to live in we are to have a Senate committee with little time which will adjudicate on the economic policies of the country at large on a kind of ad hoc basis. This would disturb me very greatly indeed. I suggest to honourable senators opposite that the whole proposition is very close to economic lunacy.
On the other hand, if the Opposition wants to look at this country’s prospects in the future and if it wants to talk about what it might do, perhaps it might consider what has been done. The Opposition should look at the years of government in this country by what are called governments of a market economy philosophy as opposed to governments of a socialist economy philosophy. I worked as a temporary Commonwealth public servant under a government of what could be called a socialist type economic philosophy, and I did not enjoy the experience. The Australian people got out of that situation as fast as they could once they were given a chance. So the market economy philosophy, which is the one we freely own up to, freely believe is right for this country and freely believe has made great progress for this country, has shown this: In 1947-48 the gross national product was $3,988m; last year it was $33,087m. So in about 21 or 22 years the country has multiplied in economic, precisely measurable terms by approximately 8 times. And this is the country that is being badly run. This is the country for which people want to have special committees to look into various items so that they can run around and deal with their own particular hobbies and perhaps their own particular preferences for some firm or some person or some product.
I suggest to the Senate that this is a matter of very great danger and if it were carried by the Senate and became an effective part of the Senate’s working apparatus, implicit in it is a situation of great difficulty for the Senate itself and impressive problems for anybody so involved. For those who appear before it I suggest it would be a kind of tribunal which manifestly would not be very capable of giving an objective view or of giving any kind of reasonable justice. I do not think that in any sense at all it would serve the public interest of this country. I am quite certain that it does nothing in prospect as a proposition to advance the reputation of this Senate. The Senate’s reputation has been advanced in recent years by the work done by Senate committees. It is very wrong to pick up in a facile manner some proposition of one’s own and to seek popularity by getting that proposition taken up by a Senate committee and unloading the problem upon a group of other people who then will not have the time to carry out the work properly. I suggest that this is the stage we arc at in the Senate. This would be one of t he worst propositions the Senate could be encouraged to pick up.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) adjourned.
– by leave - As announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) yesterday, the Commonwealth Government has decided to appoint an arbitrator to determine, for the purpose of the medical benefits scheme, fair and reasonable fees in New South Wales for general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits. The Honourable Mr Justice J. R. Kerr, C.M.G., has been appointed as the arbitrator. Mr Justice Kerr, a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, has for some time teen chairman of the Committee of Inquiry on Pay for the Armed Services. Mr Justice Kerr’s finding will be accepted by the Government as determining the appropriate fees for general practitioner consultations and home visits in New South Wales. In terms of the arrangement between the Government and the Australian Medical Association covering fees in all States, the common fees apply ing for these general practitioner services services relate to the 2 year period, 1st July 1971 to 30th June 1973. It is not proposed that this 2 year cycle be varied as a result of putting the New South Wales fees to Arbitration. It is intended that fees determined by the arbitrator for New South Wales will be regarded as the adjusted common fees until the end of the current 2 year period, namely 30th June 1973. There will be no retrospectivity, either by way of increase or decrease, in relation to the period between 1st July 1971 and the date the arbitrator’s finding is implemented. After implementation of the arbitrator’s finding within the medical benefits schedule - which sets the benefits to be paid for particular medical services - firm assurances will be sought from the Australian Medical Association that there will be general observance of the fees so that they will, in fact, become the most common fees.
The Government also has decided that if. after implementation of the arbitrator’s finding, there is a failure by the medical profession to achieve a high level of observance of the common fees, other measures will be considered. The arbitrator will conduct hearings in public. It is the Government’s express desire that the inquiry be completed bythe end of April.
The general factors which the arbitrator will be asked to take into consideration are similar to those which were taken into account in the determination of the common fees accepted by the Government for the purposes of the medical benefits scheme to apply for the period 1st July 1971 to 30th June 1973. These include:
The arbitration process will, for the present, be confined to determining fair and reasonable fees for general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits in New South Wales to apply until 30th June 1973. It is in these general practitioner services in New South Wales that the common fee system has not given patients the full measure of protection desired by the Government. In general, the observance of common fees in New South Wales for most services other than general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits has been at a satisfactory level. The Government will give consideration to implications which could flow from its decision to put to arbitration one area of medical fees in one State. For instance, the Government, in the light of the arbitrator’s finding, will be prepared to consult with the Australian Medical Association regarding matters such as the introduction into the medical benefits schedule of new items for after hours and weekend consultations. The formal terms of reference and final details of the procedures to be followed by the arbitrator will be settled after I have further consulted with Mr Justice Kerr. 1 should like to inform honourable senators of the circumstances in which Mr Justice Kerr was able to accept the appointment as arbitrator. On 1st March this year, he advised the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) that, with the concurrence of the Committee of Inquiry on Pay for the Armed Services, he had decided to return to judicial duties on a part time basis. Mr Justice Kerr came to this decision on the ground that there is no need to continue his full-time involvement with the Committee’s activities at this stage of its advanced deliberations. Whilst some important and complex issues have yet to be resolved by the. Committee, there is a substantial amount of detailed preparatory and analytical work to be carried out by the Services and the interested departments and by the Committee’s secretariat before full consideration can be given to these issues by the Committee.
The Government today asked Mr Justice Kerr to postpone his return to judicial duties until after the end of April. In accepting the appointment of arbitrator in relation to medical fees, Mr Justice Kerr made clear to me that, in view of the timetable for the medical fees arbitration, the finalisation of his deliberations in the Committee of Inquiry on Pay for the Armed Services would not be delayed.
I have had a conference today with the Federal President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr R. H. MacDonald, and the Secretary-General, Dr E. Thomson, and explained the Government’s decision to them. They will be reporting to their Federal Council during next weekend and I have accepted an invitation to be present on the second day of their meeting. The Government, of course, will carefully consider any views that the Australian Medical Association may put forward as a result of its Federal Council’s deliberations in relation to the decision taken by the Government. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a documented statement setting out the background of this matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
In view of the Government’s decision, I feel it is important to outline the full circumstances which have led to the present situation regarding fees for general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits in New South Wales.
As from 1 July 1970 the Government, following consideration of the recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, and after consultation with the Australian Medical Association, introduced the reconstructed medical benefits scheme under which Commonwealth and fund benefits were related to the most common, fees currently being charged for all the medical services and procedures provided by medical practitioners.
The Australian Medical Association, with the cooperation of the major medical benefit organisations, conducted surveys in 1969 to determine as far as practicable the fee most commonly charged for each medical service in each State.
As a result of its investigations the Federal Council of the AMA, early in 1970, submitted to the Minister for Health a list of the most common fees for all services in each State and informed the. Minister that the fees listed ‘represented, at the present time, an acceptable list of most common fees to be used as a basis for determination of a revised list of Commonwealth Medical Benefits.’
The Government accepted the list of most common fees and used it as the basis for determining Commonwealth and fund medical benefits under the reconstructed Medical Benefits Scheme.
Both the Government and the Association recognised that the fees presented in 1970 could not remain fixed indefinitely. It was agreed in principle that there was need for an appropriate mechanism for the periodic updating of fees in the light of economic circumstances.
However, no agreement was reached as to the methods to be used in periodic reviews of fees. Nevertheless, it was accepted that a review of fees should be undertaken so that the first adjustment in fees should take effect as from 1st July 1971 and thereafter adjustments should be made, at twoyearly intervals.
In February 1971, the Association advised the Minister of the adjustments to the common fees to apply from 1st July ‘1971 which it had recommended to its members on the advice of the AMA Federal Economic Advisory Committee. Following discussions between the Federal Executive of the AMA and Commonwealth representatives, the Federal Council modified its recommendations and informed the Government of the extent to which the common fees for general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits should be adjusted.
The Commonwealth and fund benefits for these items were adjusted as from 1st July 1971 in accordance with the adjusted fees advised by the Association.
As background information the fees for New South Wales and the other States are:
It was apparent that within the medical profession in New South Wales there were differences of opinion as to what the most common fee should be. In that State the 27 local associations of the New South Wales Branch of the AMA have continued their long-established practice of recommending fees for adoption by their members in their own areas. Sixteen of the local associations recommended higher fees than the fees advised to the Minister by Federal Council for application from 1st July 1971.
There is thus a difference of opinion between the Federal Council and the various local associations of the New South Wales Branch of the AMA as to what arc appropriate fees for general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits in New South Wales as from 1st July 1971. This arose in part from a difference in view regarding the appropriate baseline figures to which the percentage increase of 15 per cent recommended by the Federal Council to apply from 1st July 1971 should be applied.
In the view of the Federal Council the appropriate baseline figures were $3.30 and $4.40. It was contended by some medical bodies that the appropriate figures were $3.50 and $5.00.
The fees advised by the Federal Council of the AMA were:
GP Surgery Consultation - $3.80
GP Home Visit- $5.05 (being; 15 per cent above the baseline fees of $3.30 and $4.40).
The fees recommended by the local associations were:
The Government and the Federal Council of the AMA agree that unless there is a significant observance of the most common fee, the present voluntary health insurance scheme cannot survive.
In this situation, the Government wants to have established by Arbitration processes what are fair and reasonable fees for genera] practitioner surgery consultations and home visits in New South Wales for the purposes of the Medical Benefits Scheme until 30th June 1973. (This is the date when the next 2-yearly general review of medical fees and benefits for al States is due.)
Senator Sir Kenneth AndersonI move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– We of the Opposition are pleased that this announcement has been made and that the Government has taken a decisive step after a great period of indecision.I do not propose to traverse the whole of the matters covered by the statement of the Minist er for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) but I would like to say that as the Government made this decision only yesterday it is clear that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has moved very promptly. For this he deserves the commendation of the Senate if not of everyone. We would like to consider this mas ter in further detail. Most of all. we will be interested to see what develops, particularly whether it applies the same principles in this area as it docs in other areas. We have not forgotten that the Government declined to accept the decision of the same arbitrator, Mr Justice Kerr, in regard to salaries.
– Salaries - there is a reference to acceptance.
– There is a reference to acceptance as Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson reminds me. I was about to advert to that matter. It is rather extraordinary that the Government, before knowing what the decision will be, has said that it will accept the decision. That is a most important departure from what was done in regard to the last matter on which Mr Justice Kerr arbirated. In view of the attitude which has been displayed by some medicalpractitioners, in view of the divisions of opinion which have occurred and in view of the constantly increasing costs of medical services, it will be extremely interesting to see how the Government proposes to deal with the observance of any award which may be made by this arbitrator. I do not wish to say any more than that at the moment because this is a matter which has just come to us; it is a matter of importance, and we would like the opportunity to consider the implication of the statement by the Minister for Health. Therefore, I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 551).
– I formally second the motion so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Lionel Murphy. The motion reads:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter for inquiry and report:
The determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices in the Australian economy and, in particular, of prices which are determined by foreign corporations or trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, or by corporations which enjoy advantages under Commonwealth tariff, revenue, subsidy or other laws, or by corporations which have contracts with the Commonwealth.
The Committee is requested to recommend any legislative or administrative measures which should be taken by the Commonwealth to prevent unjustifiable price increases and to protect Australia, from excessive inflation.
Before addressing myself to the motion before the Senate, 1 wish to make an observation on the contribution made by Senator Cotton who responded on behalf of the Government. I feel that Senator Colton must have been wearing his hat as Minister for Civil Aviation because his remarks on the motion showed that he was up in the clouds. He tried to misconstrue what, the Leader of the Opposition conveyed in his motion seeking the referral of this matter to the Standing Committee for inquiry and report. Senator Cotton went to great lengths to point out that this was a guise to establish a price control authority. A simple examination of the membership of the Committee clarifies the situation. Labor Party members will be in the minority. If it was their intention to seek to establish a price control authority, they would be outnumbered in any vote. I do not think that Senator Cotton was sincere in his approach to this question. He endeavoured to drag red herrings across the trail. The intention of the Leader of the Opposition is clear. This is a matter for inquiry and report to the Senate by the Standing Committee.
I know of no problem that engages the attention of the nation more today than the question of the state of the Australian economy and the inflationary situation in which we find ourselves and its impact on all sections of the community. No doubt exists that these 2 matters are causing great concern and bewilderment to the community. Therefore, I believe that the action that Senator Murphy has taken today is timely. His motion will receive the enthusiastic support of all honourable senators on this side of the chamber.
Throughout the 22 years of LiberalCountry Party government, Australia’s economic development has been retarded again and again by inflationary and deflationary interruptions. The current situation is one that was not unexpected, nor is it unprecedented. Over the past 22 years, a policy of stop-go measures seems to have been adopted as the attitude of the Government to inflationary problems. On 3 previous occasions when similar crises to the one that we are experiencing today occurred - 1 refer to 1951, 1956 and 1960 - the Government failed to take any measures which were effective in time to control the economy. However, there is one difference between the approach of this Government and the approaches by the Menzies and Holt Governments which preceded it. This is in the way in which the situation has been dealt with. It is true that the Menzies and Holt Governments did make full statements and explanations to the Parliament and to the people at the time of the previous economic crises. The approach of the McMahon Government on this occasion shows how much Liberal practice and principle in its attitude to the Parliament and to the people have declined. I am sorry to say, too, that this was the attitude of the Gorton Government in its approach to similar economic questions.
There has as yet been no explanation, statement or outline of any plan for the Parliament to debate. It is true that Senator Cotton said that the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) brought down a White Paper the other day in the other place. Some reference was made to the strategy in the Budget. But I challenge senators on the Government benches to show us clearly and conclusively any occasion on which a full explanation has been given or an opportunity for the Parliament to debate the economic crisis now before us. The whole strategy of the Gorton and McMahon Governments was to put the blame on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and especially on the trade unions, the white collar unions and the Public Service associations that made approaches to the Commission. It is apparent that wage and salary earners and their unions are to be made the scapegoats. The Government is trying to make out that the 6 per cent increase in the national wage granted in 1.970 was a major cause of all the trouble. It is no good Government senators saying that this is not so.
As recently as 16th February, the man who aspires to become the Federal member for Mcpherson, Mr Howard Richter, the endorsed Country Party candidate, made a public statement which was reported in the ‘Fassifern Guardian’ of that date. He suggested that a 2 per cent cut in salaries and wages would make more money available for the absorption of the 131,000 Australians currently out of work. Not only is this man the endorsed Country Party candidate for the Federal seat of Mcpherson but also he is a VicePresident of the Country Party in Queensland and, I understand, a member of the Federal Executive of the Australian Country Party. This must be the philosophy of the Country Party because, up to this point in time, neither the Federal Leader, Mr Anthony, nor the State Leader, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, has dissociated himself from that statement.
– There is only one thing: He will never become a member.
– That is quite so. Let us analyse the true situation of wages, salaries and supplements. It was said by Senator Cotton - he quoted certain percentages to show this - that the average weekly wage had increased by 6 per cent. Let us look at the true figures which give us the real picture regarding wages, salaries and supplements. Expressed as a percentage of the gross national product, over a 15 year period wages, salaries and supplements have fallen from 63.2 per cent to 61.7 per cent. In that time, the number of people who are supposed to be sharing these wages, salaries and supplements increased from 89.6 per cent of the population to 91 per cent of the population. What senators on this side of the chamber wish to know is what the Government pro poses to do about the other approximately 40 per cent of the economy. Why is it concerned only with what happens to wages?
I have heard Government senators endeavour to quote the celebrated economist, Colin Clark, as an authority on all financial matters. I propose to quote to them what Colin Clark said about wages and the inflationary situation today. Colin Clark, the well-known economist, was reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 17th February 1971 as having said:
Some people put the blame on rising wages, some more specifically put the blame on the Arbitration Court or on Mr Hawke as advocate, but they are wide of the mark. Rising wages are a consequence, not a cause. The decisions of the Arbitration Court may make some difference to some public employees and not others who do nol have strong unions, but generally speaking the Court does no more than follow what would have been the movement of the labour market in any case.
Surely honourable seantors opposite will accept the opinion of the one person that they are always advancing in this chamber as a financial genius. I invite honourable senators to consider the case of the trade unions. When they have to make an application to the Arbitration Commission for an increase in wages, invariably the basis of their application is the rise in the consumer price index that is, the increase in prices that has taken place since last they applied to the Commission for a wage increase. Usually the Arbitration Commission awards an increase in the national basic wage to enable the wage to catch up with the increase in prices. It is, in effect, an adjustment to offset the increase in prices between the hearing of the case and the previous hearing by the Commission.
I propose now to develop the point that I wish to make about applications to the Commission. Despite the fa.t that she Arbitration Commission considers all the evidence before it - as I have said, usually this is based on increased prices and movements in the consumer price index which will warrant an increase in wages - immediately the Commission has brought down an award to increase the national wage, commercial interests take this as a green light to increase prices. I submit quite seriously and sincerely that this is a contempt of the Arbitration Commission. I should like honourable senators opposite to give some thought to that statement.
I claim that prices and huge profits are the cause of inflation today. There should be a temporary price freeze where profits are excessive. To give the Senate some idea of the excessive profits that are being made ] mention that for the year ended 31st May 1971 Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd had a net consolidated profit of $68,459,000; General Motors-Hoi den’s Pty Ltd had net earnings of $27,760,000; the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd had a net consolidated profit of $20,149,000; the Bank of New South Wales had a net consolidated profit of $17,271,000; Carlton and United Breweries Ltd had a net consolidated profit of SI 0,588,000; and Mount Isa Mines Ltd had net earnings of $54,141,000. Does not that make interesting reading? It is these companies, not the trade unions or wage earners, that control inflation. Senator Little is trying to interject but I have only one cartridge left in my gun and I do not propose to waste it on a pipsqueak. It is the companies and not the trade unions or wage earners that control inflation. Institutions such as those I have mentioned are the ones with the power to start inflation and to carry it on.
Let us consider the statistics relating to company taxation. In 1967-68 there were in the whole of Australia 936 companies - a mere .74 per cent of all companies in Australia - with a combined taxable income of $ 1,728m, which was 56 per cent of the taxable income of all companies in Australia. The remaining 138,175 companies had the remaining 44 per cent of income. They would be small companies without any real power. The power to determine prices and, therefore, to start and carry on inflation lies with some of these giant companies among the 936 to which I have referred. To overcome our present crisis there must be a national plan. We must establish planning institutions to put that plan into effect. In no other way can inflation be dealt with. In no other way can justice be done to pensioners and other lower income earners. In no other way can the crisis in education be solved. In no other way can we prevent the power of the giant companies from dominating the nation and its people. Unless the Government is prepared to do this it can never earn and should never be given the confidence of the Parliament and the people. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– When lawyers get together to draft specialist legal concepts in their own inimitable legal jargon it is time for members of the community in life, limb and pocket to consider themselves in peril. But when they get together, as they have done here, to attempt in specialist legal jargon to draft an economic concept - if I may borrow a phrase from the, lawyers - it is time for caveat emptor; let the buyer beware. If I may, as one who for some years walked the path of the gloomy science of economics, I want to say to the Senate that I am so tempted in looking at the gobbledegook of the wording of this motion to suggest, since it relates to price justification, that we might be tempted to put lawyers and lawyers’ fees along with the doctors for price justification. Here we have a form of metaphysics that must have a price.
The motion seems to me to have 3 ingredients to substantiate it. It seeks an investigation of the structure of prices - not all prices, mark you, but prices which affect prices, and not all of those but only those that relate to corporations; and not all of those but specifically foreign corporations and other corporations. This is not the real basis of prices. That is one concept that I shall develop later. In addition the motion asks that a standing committee of the Senate conduct an investigation, and then it asks, as the nub of the problem, for that committee to recommend any legislative or administrative measures which should be taken by the Commonwealth to prevent unjustifiable price increases and to protect Australia from excessive inflation.
– Hear, hear. Jolly good of you.
– I am glad to hear that from the honourable senator. Perhaps we will have his co-operation during the remainder of the debate. It is an old fashioned concept that the structure of all costs is wages. Let me make this perfectly clear right at the outset: I do not stand here attacking trade unions or blaming unionists for all the evils in this country.
– You are just having 2 bob each way.
– Right, and I hope that Senator Poyser will do so also because I suggest that if this country had 2 bob each way by having the co-operation of both management and employees we would solve the problem of productivity. It is only because some people are having 2 bob on militancy, partisanship and class hatred that we are having the trouble that we have today. So let us have the 2 bob each way on the matters I have mentioned.
– That is a quinella.
– I do not mind having a quinella because it is a successful quinella, asI hope to demonstrate. I repeat that all costs are wages because the cost at all stages of manufacture is wages
– Plain rot.
– When I need help I shall ask for it. I noticed that there was a lot of help for Opposition speakers, but they needed it. I remind the Senate that wages are a price, yet neither of the Labor speakers tonight mentioned wages. I remind the Senate that if we are looking for the ingredients of price, hours of work, whether by management or employees, are also part of the price. 1 have no doubt that the Australian Labor Party is shy regarding its policy in that respect. It is also shy of the fact that the Government has said that it will bring forward a White Paper compounded by the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister’s Department on the ingredients of prices so that there can be a debate.
As I understand it, the millenium as outlined this afternoon by the leader of the Labor Party in the Senate is achieved when we reach a state in a country where we are as to price rises lower than any other industrialised country; when we are as to wage increases-
– What about-
– Tell me when I am not describing what Senator Murphy said? I thought this was the measurement of the millenium.
– They did not listen to Senator Murphy.
– No, and I can understand this. They have their own pri vate committee meetings in that regard. I also understand that the next test of the millenium is when the community as such by way of real wages has increasing real wages - that is increasing real purchasing power, and increasing at a rate higher than other countries and where in fact the distribution of wealth is egalitarian across the board. Incidentally, if that is so - and as that was described by Senator Murphy - I have good news for him. It is a fact measured by ail authoritive sources, including now the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, that Australia has had over the last 15 years the lowest rise in costs of any industrialised country in the world. Let members of the Labor Party deny that, and that the Australian worker in terms of average real wages has had substantially a greater share of real purchasing power than people anywhere else.
– That is why you have one million people without enough to eat.
– Let Senator Keeffe, when the time comes for him to make his own dissertation, deny these things.
– I deny them now.
– Indeed, that comment should confirm the honourable senator’s attitude in the public mind very, very firmly. Wherever we turn we have the fact of the confirmation of this. It is interesting that only recently-
– Why are you so angry about it?
– I am not angry at all. I am delighted that 1 am able to say that Australia on all measurements of the living standards of the average working family leads the rest of the industrial world. Lest there should be any doubts about this, let me refer to the survey made by the Union Bank of Switzerland, which is regarded throughout the world as authoritative. The survey says that Australia in fact has a higher standard than other countries. It goes on to say:
On the basis of the data compiled in the study it might be said that while Australian prices are slightly below the international average, salaries are slightly above. Thus in terms of the purchasing power commanded by his earnings, the Australian consumer is within the top half of 31 cities included in the survey.
So it goes. That report indicates as all statistics, including the Tariff Board report, do that the tests that Senator Murphy put have been in fact functioning in this country; that we have had the lowest price rises of the industrialised countries; and that we have passed on real wages and purchasing power.
Incidentally, Senator Murphy very firmly drew attention to the fact that the factors which affect prices are significantly international in character. I would now like to refer to the Tariff Board - and I do not know whether Senator Keeffe would regard such a source as authoritative or not. But on page 4 of the .1970-71 Tariff Board report, it is significant to know, the Board sets out paragraph by paragraph a comparison of the costs and prices.
– What is it? ls it a Government report?
– I think it is in fact an independent body. I am delighted to advise Senator Keeffe, who does not know what the Tariff Board is, that it is an independent statutory body which, I understand, is regarded by both sides of the Parliament, including the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) as objective. I draw attention to the fact that the report shows that over the years, by comparison with 7 other industrial countries, our costs rose at a rate considerably less than theirs. In fact, I shall go further because there seems to be a pre-occupation with the price of iron and steel which in Australia is the second lowest in the world. Indeed, the Tariff Board states:
Prices of iron mid steel have increased substantially in each of the past 2 years in most Western countries. The largest rises occurred in France and Britain; over the 2 years to March 1971, pig iron prices in both countries rose by one-third, and increases in prices for merchant bars and structural steel exceeded 40 per cent in France and 20 per cent in Britain.
The Board goes on to say that until recently the prices of iron and steel in this country have been kept to a substantially low level. I commend to the Senate the Tariff Board report and its diagnosis of the cost-price structure.
I also commend to the Senate the fact that Senator Murphy has identified world trends. However, he failed to identify the 2 trends which Senator Cotton rightly identified - that is, the severe fall in farm incomes and the currency crisis, both of which were immense factors in causing both world and Australian difficulties. The fact that we have survived them is, J think, an indication of pretty good management indeed.
The motion poses the question: How do we get a restraint on prices? This is an interesting question because in recent weeks when Labor Party leaders have risen to give a dissertation on what their policies are to be for the election I have been reminded of a Walter Mitty test pilot in action because each day they take up a new kind of aircraft, test it, see whether it will fly with the wind but invariably it crashes. The following day, unabashed they take an entirely different model up and it crashes as well. We saw this happen in many, many ways in the industrial field. Perhaps if members of the Labor Party believe that they have a constant model - a sort of Labor Fill - they might tell me which of their policies on prices is right.
– All of them are right.
– The honourable senator said ‘AH of them’. This convinces me of the Walter Mitty concept because most of these policies are decidedly antipathetic. Indeed, the Labor leader in another place, if I may refer to Mr Whitlam, has said that he is not putting forward the policy that is in his platform. Let us have a look at Walter Mitty No. 1 on price control. This policy under the heading ‘Economic Planning’, which is outlined on page 10 of Labor’s platform, states:
Wilh the object of achieving Labor’s socialist objectives, establish or extend public enterprise, where appropriate by nationalisation, particularly in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing, housing, stevedoring, transport and in areas of anti-social private monopoly.
Is that the current policy or not? The next item is as follows:
Identify, publicise and otherwise expose unfair prices or practices and the exploitation of consumers and in conjunction with the States to operate Australia-wide price control.
I repeat the words: ‘in conjunction with the States to operate Australia-wide price control’. Is this the policy of the Labor Party or not, because Mr Whitlam has said in recent weeks that the Labor Party will not seek the co-operation of the States to get Australia-wide price control? So that in itself is a different policy.
We go one step further. I would like to quote something which was quoted in 3 or papers, and which was analysed as such and not denied, of what Mr Whitlam said in opening the Labor Parly’s Federal election campaign in Victoria. He said:
A Labor Government would set up a special Parliamentary committee to investigate key price rises . . . Labor’s idea was that if the Parliamentary committee found that price rises were unjustified or purely against the national interest then, a Labor Government would take steps to correctthis.
Mr Whitlam went on to say that he would have astanding committee like the Senate standing committee, but composed of members of both Houses, to inquire into prices. I do not think anyone denies that, although Senator Murphy put a different and new Walter Mitty construction on it tonight. I take it that it is not denied that the policy as at 16th February, if not tonight, was that we would have a parliamentary committee to inquire into and to determine prices. (Honourable senators interjecting)-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The Senate will come to order. I remind honourable senators that tonight the Senate is being broadcast. I will not tolerate deliberate attempts to prevent a speaker being heard.
– Outlined in editorials in almost every newspaper of this country was that remarkable concept of a political party aspiring to government advocating that a parliamentary committee should be a price determination committee, not a committee determining methods of legislation or of an authority to fit prices somewhere else, but a price fixing committee itself. They are the words of he Leader of the Australian Labor Party.In my time I have never heard a more naive - that is the kindest wordI can think of - a more silly or more dangerous suggestion that the partisan politicians should be put in a position where they determine the price structures of individual companies one by one. Let us have a look at this suggestion. Firstly, politicians would be inexpert at this. Secondly, it would be an enormously time consuming activity and enormously demanding in terms of expertise. If we raised prices would it not be said that we had been bribed, that we had been corrupted and influenced? If we refused to increase prices in election years would it not be said that it was through the pressure of fear? Can anybody in his right mind think of a worse or more bumblefooted mechanism for price fixing or a greater perversion of the Parliament than that parliamentarians should be price fixers like those of the Professor Copland era, the kind of era that Senator Cotton talked about. This is the policy - no denial was made - of 16th February.
But there have been some interesting policies since then. They tend to change. There is another policy advanced tonight that says that we are really to have this kind of committee to look at policies in price fixing. But let us make no mistake. What Mr Whitlam said was that his government would fix prices and that there would be price control.
– This Government is not.
– All we want to do at this moment is to unravel the mysteries put up by the honourable senator’s leader. It is his leader who advanced these policies. Added to the next set of policies comes the interesting statement that tariffs are to be withheld by executive direction. That is the wording. The concept is that tariffs are to be used politically as punitive weapons.
– It would be commercial blackmail.
– That is right. It would be commercial blackmail. Indeed, it is a complete abdication from the whole concept of tariffs which, as Senator Cotton says, are long term policy making instruments implemented objectively by an independent body. If the Parliament is to have a government which uses tariffs discriminately, playing one industry against another industry, as a punitive instrument, this country has come to a sorry pass. Let us look at the position. Mr Whitlam said that he would fix the steel situation by lowering the tariff on imported steel. That is an interesting proposition. Senator Cotton took it one step further. There is, in fact, only one place where steel is cheaper than Australian steel is produced. That is Japan. To the extent that Australia is competitive, it is competitive in that respect. If we lower the tariff-
– That steel is mostly made out of Australian iron ore, anyway.
– Yes. If we lower the tariff we will increase employment in Japan and reduce it in Australia. Does anyone deny that that would be the effect of lowering the tariff? How do you, in fact, do otherwise? The second concept - Senator Murphy made light of it - concerns what happens then in respect of companies such as the Armco Company. What happens to this second kind of steel industry that we hope will come to this country? Does anyone believe that the way to bring a second steel industry to this country is to lower the tariff? If we wanted to drive big industries away from this country and make sure of entrenching a monopoly we would do what the Australian Labor Party says it will do. Ironically, this is the party which inveighs against the wicked monopolies. What a strange thing it is that the full force of the Labor Party’s attack is directed against Australia’s greatest wholly Australian owned company. Should we not have a little pride in it, or are we so perverse that we will attack our own even when our own is doing a grand job? Is it not time that we got our values straight occasionally? Let me talk about the next version of the Labor Party’s policy in price fixing. Mr Whitlam was asked in a programme which I think is called ‘Monday Conference’-
– What did Mr McMahon say about it?
– I will tell you about Mr McMahon. I am delighted that the honourable senator should ask. On the television programme ‘Monday Conference’ in October last year Mr Whitlam spoke about lowering tariffs. He said that what he was saying about cutting tariffs meant to cut, to cancel the unused tariff protection that there is in so many parts of Australian industry.’ They are Mr Whitlam’s scripted words. Is this what the Labor Party will do? Does this represent a full employment policy in Australia or is this a policy which will undoubtedly create unemployment? Now we are getting somewhere. In the case Senator Murphy advanced, I think he put forward 3 propositions. He said that we need to amend the Trade Practices Act. He did nol say how and he did not say to what countries he compared Australia, but it is fashionable always to say that Britain has a better system, Canada has a better system, America has a better system and Germany has a better system. Solemnly the Labor Party has advanced the proposition that if we amend this Act as strongly as we can and have in it the best of all the ingredients of the acts of those countries I have mentioned this will result in a significant lowering of prices. Why has this not happened in any one of those countries? Why has every one of those countries a higher price structure than Australia? That is one of the aircraft that has crashed already. Mr Walter Mitty has been having a rough night indeed.
Let me make myself clear. I am pledged to the idea of amending the Trade Practices Act for other reasons. They are good and cogent reasons. But let nobody in this country be seduced into believing that we will get somewhere by black magic. I was delighted when we were asked tonight how the price justification tribunal will work. Well, said Senator Murphy it will work in the same way as the price of milk is fixed in N.S.W. 1 will tell him a little secret, and Senator Mulvihill can have a quiet smile. Every time the price of milk is fixed in New South Wales, the Labor Party attacks the method of price fixation and says that it is absolutely wrong. Is this the kind of tribunal thai we will advocate? Will there be a price justification tribunal? We shall have price fixing.
Has the Commonwealth power to fix prices? Does anyone say solemnly that the Commonwealth has the power? Does Senator Murphy, Q.C., say that the Commonwealth has that power? If he does not say that, do not let us pretend about price justification with all this nonsense. They are grand things. It is all right to say ‘I intend to fix only 1, 2 or 3 of these prices’. Quaintly enough each of the commodities on which prices will be fixed is a commodity which the Tariff Board says has the lowest margin of profit. The commodities which Senator Murphy said that he did not think he would interfere with are commodities which have high margins of profit.
We have a grand kind of situation and a grand kind of complex that we do not know what we are doing. Shall we or shall we not, as a Labor Parly, stick to the platform 100 per cent? According to Mr Whitlam, we shall not. We shall not have price control by co-operation with the S’ a res Shall we have this peculiar all-party committee that will pervert Parliament by fixing prices? Mr Whitlam says ‘Yes’. Senator Murphy does no’: quite know. We shall have punitive tariffs. We shall use discriminatory tariffs. We shall have tribunals similar to milk tribunals fixing these things. Shall we have centralised price control power? I would hate to hurt Senator Milliner’s feelings because he felt that 1 was dwelling too long on the 2 Labor leaders. That is a fair comment. I point out that for almost !he whole of the past 2 decades this country has had the best run of voluntary price control and voluntary sharing of real wages of any industrialised country. That is not bad. The Labor Party, because at this moment for a variety of reasons there is a bit of turbulence, will throw out the baby with the bath water.
Price control is Labor Party policy, lt will introduce price control. That is its policy. As 1 see it. prices are costs with a margin of profit. Costs are wages. Therefore, prices are wages with a margin of profit. Tonight there has been a considerable knocking of this thing called profits. Senaor McAuliffe does not knock the 47ic in each dollar of profit made that goes into social services, health, housing, roads and bridges. 1 suppose that that half of the dollar of profit is wholesome.
– Do not quote me out of context. Quote the lot.
– 1 will quote it in context. Do we knock the half of each dollar of profit made that goes into consolidated revenue to give the egalitarian state to Australia? Do we knock that other third of it which is ploughed back into capital that builds the kind of machines and plants that create employment? What are we knocking? If we could conceivably take away all the undistributed profit and not have any, we would not stop inflation in this country because the total amount of profit made here is only a fraction of what causes the true inflation of prices. Do not let us inveigh against profits. From profits
Parliament gets its consolidated revenue 10 do humanitarian things. Never let anyone forget that. If people are against profits, let them say so because profits provide the consolidated revenue that provides the jobs and the incentives. If the Labor Parry wants to keep to its platform of socialism ils members should stand up and be counted. We will be looking at them. Price rises and inflation occur when productivity falls below the norm and when nominal wages get ahead of productivity. I finish on this note: If we want to solve the problem of prices we should return to the days of the Albert Monk regime when we had a bob each way, when we saw that there were 2 co-partners to industry - management and employees - that co-operation was right, that political strikes and militancy were wrong and that the best favour that could be done for the worker was to impress upon him and management that collective co-operation was right and that conflict was ugly and wrong.
– I move:
We have heard some very interesting speeches on the subject matter contained in the motion. 1 cannot help but comment about the difference which seems to be creeping in between what people say here and what we have heard said in another place. Senator Carrick has told us a lot about many things. He has reduced costs to a simplification of being merely wages. We heard Senator McAuliffe read out a long list of big companies and their profits, but he made no reference to capital investment in those companies. In the interests of Australia a debate on prices or the economy cannot be run along the lines of those absurd simplifications. If Senator McAuliffe wished to carry through his list of companies perhaps he should have paid attention to the radio stations that are run by the Labor movement. Most of the capital invested in those stations has been written off long ago by way of depreciation. They do not reduce their charges to advertisers today so that they run on a nonprofit basis. The percentage of profits per capital invested, which no longer exists because it has been written off, probably exceeds anything made by any other company in Australia. As a former unionist let me say that unions are quite keen to make this evil thing called profits. We do not hear of the Australian Workers Union passing back to its membership the huge surplus of membership dues that it has collected over the years in excess of what has been required to run the union. The union further invested the surplus in other profit making ventures.
I do not think anybody is contributing much in the interests of Australia when he speaks a lot of rubbish that has no economic background, when he suggests that wages are costs or when he refers to profits made by big companies without giving any of the relevant data that is necessary to apportion what is required to carry on a big company. Many things make up costs. There are wages, prices of raw materials and transport costs in which wages play a part. As I have said on many occasions in this chamber, there is the interest on the overdraft on the trucks or the machinery of the company which, in general, is manufacturing the articles.
– There is the cost of money.
– There is the cost of money. When Senator Cotton was speaking I interjected. I do not know whether he was being complimentary or whether he was endeavouring to belittle my efforts in some way, but he invited me to join his Party.
– I was being complimentary.
– I am glad that he now says that he was being complimentary. 1 asked for research to be carried out during the suspension of the sitting to see how often I had advised the Government on the stupidity of its economic policy of increasing interest rates to control inflation. ] warned the Government time and time again that ultimately it would increase prices by increasing costs and that deliberately forcing up interest rates in no way deters people from borrowing capital. In the time available I was able to carry out research covering only the last 2 years. On 7 occasions in 1970 during the debates on the Address-in-Reply and on Bills relating to war service homes, homes savings grants - this was before us on 2 occasions - Commonwealth-State financial relations, States receipts duty and consumer protection I had the effrontery to warn the Government that it was committing economic suicide by deliberately forcing up interest rates allegedly to control inflation. That was in 1970. In 1971 I found it necessary to step up my campaign against the Government on this matter. On not less than 9 different occasions in speeches in this chamber I again outlined the absurdity of the proposition, went into the economics of it and gave the Government the same advice.
Ultimately 1 made some impression because at last, after 4 years of campaigning, the Government began to reverse the cycle when interest rates in this country had reached 8 per cent as a straight out overdraft rate. Indeed, the rates were much higher in the more risky forms of borrowing where there was some danger of losing money. This increases the cost of production. I give a final warning to the Government on this matter. On this day last week I was in Korea where they have enormous economic problems because of the tremendous development which has taken place in the 20 years since the armistice was signed. South Korea is a country still in a state of war. It has a tremendous economic problem and horrible inflation. It has gone along the line further than this Government is going. Its bond rate of interest now exceeds 20 per cent, and it still has not controlled inflation by gradually increasing interest rates. What will South Korea do if the rate goes any higher? I do not know whether the economy will stand the strain much longer. I am interested in South Korea. I hope, as this Government has found can be done eventually after listening to advice, that it can reverse the trend before this problem destroys the country.
No country can carry those sorts of costs in its cost structure if it wishes to control inflation. In suggesting the amendment we say that the original motion in itself is too wide. It is wider in concept than we would have liked it to be. We have introduced the amendment with the idea of giving the motion some stable feature and something which can continue in the spirit of the motion. The motion does not in any way suggest price control. It merely suggests that the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade shall find out why prices are doing what they are doing, and why costs are increasing. 1 say that the debate we have had here tonight clearly indicates that we do need research, and that we do need a committee to go into this matter and to advise us on what is causing the problem. To date nobody who has participated in the debate has put his finger on any of the real issues. The Government itself, however, has suggested that wages are not the whole of costs but are certainly a very important part of costs.
– Colin Clark.
– Yes, Colin Clark. The honourable senator does nol mention an economist who has been inclined to favour Government policy. If the honourable senator thinks that Colin Clark is an expert he will find that Colin Clark leans very heavily towards the philosophies and the economics which are espoused by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, lt is refreshing that the Australian Labor Party can overcome its prejudices in some form and realise that in our struggles in the interests of Australia we do have some very good ideas. We do not claim to know the lot. I especially want to deal with the mailer of industrial peace and wages because, without doubt, here is one of the causes of the present trend of increasing prices. These do not affect so much the people who receive the wage increases - I know that the Labor Party has a very justifiable interest in them - but they create tremendous problems for those on fixed incomes such as the superannuitants, the pensioners and those people in whose wellbeing Labor professes to have a profound interest. There is a conflict of interest in this matter because every time wages are increased without a resultant increase in productivity, the standard of those who are on fixed incomes is reduced. All the talk and sympathy in the world from the Labor Party will not alter that sei of circumstances.
The late Ben Chifley warned the Labor movement of this country that it was not the wages which one received, it was what one was able to buy with them which set the standard of the working people. A mistake creeps in when honourable senators quote international figures, as Senator Carrick did in relation to Australian wage standards and prices. If we compare the Japanese wage structure with that in Australia, we find that Australia is far ahead because what does not appear in the Japanese wage structure is the fact that the Japanese also get their fares to and from work from their employer. They also receive the uniforms which they wear at work, and they are very good and tidy uniforms. They also have their housing provided by the employer. Their social services are paid, not out of the taxes which they pay but by the employer. Why come along and confuse the issue by trying to make comparisons between wages in one country and wages in another country? One does not define the standard of living unless one takes those wages and marries them to the cost of living in that country. I am not talking about what the tourists pay in the big cities but about what people pay for goods in the market place and for the other benefits which, in many countries, go alongside wages but which in this country, are foreign to our way of life. That, too, is a trap. It indicates the need for the motion. When people begin to assess living standards in this country they can pat themselves on the back because we in Australia are leading the world in many of these matters.
In Australia it will be a struggle for the average working man to buy a colour television set at a price, as I read in the Press, which was estimated to be 51,000. But there are 8 colour television channels in Tokyo today and every Japanese worker can afford to buy a colour television set. To absorb the immense production which Japan has today in colour television sets - they could be considered a luxury item in this country - she may be not only selling them for export but also selling them to every possible person in Japan. So why all this talk? This brings me to the real question of wages, particularly in relation to the Government and why it should clearly see the necessity for the Committee to make the investigation suggested in this motion. What does the Government really know about helping to stabilise the economy by restraints, particularly in relation to the unjustifiable wage increases?
At the moment the Government is sponsoring an amalgamation of 3 of the largest unions in the country. They will create a colossus. Today these amalgamated unions announced their intention of asking for further wage increases and improved conditions. This colossus will ignore its own organisa ion because now it has become big enough to do so. The Australian Council of Trade Unions will become redundant with the development of still more amalgamations and the creation of bigger unions. What purpose can the ACTU serve? The amalgamated unions have announced ‘hat outside the arbitration system they intend to place pressure on the metal trades employers for the increases they are demanding. Recently, when unions in those industries asked for and received a 9 per cent wage increase outside the arbitration system I did not hear anything from anybody on the Labor side or the Liberal side of this chamber. Labor did not say that ‘he employers should not put up their prices in order to pay the 9 per cent increase in wages. That is precisely what the employers did. Because the unions’ demands were being met, Labor was strangely silen*. The Government says that the unions must work through arbitration. What did it say or attempt to do about the situation? It came down with a proposition that the ideal was to take the unions back to the arbitration system and that it would permit, on a vote of the membership of the unions which was no more ‘nan an average of 16 per cent of the membership, an amalgamation of those unions into an industrial colossus that will be the greatest threat to the stability of the economy of this nation that we have yet faced.
– What about the employers?
– You do not believe that, and neither do the employers.
– The Government itself does not realise the threat that exists. Senator Bishop is right. Here is one man who hates the employers and another one who refers to all the big companies and tells us the profits they make. Now they interject on me and say that the employers agreed to the amalgamation. Of course they agreed to it.
– Because they are in industries (hat are highly protected by tariffs and they can increase their prices. Honourable senators on the Labor side and those on the Liberal side have not enough brains to realise what this is doing to the economy of this country and that they ought to be taking real precautions against it or doing something about it. They are silent because they are adopting a philosophy tha: they believe is in the interests of Australia, namely, that they are all right and the other side is all wrong.
Senator Bishop knows as well as I do, because he has been in the business for long enough to know, as I was, that that sort of short range policy may temporarily gain an increase in wages for one’s membership. But, if we want ultimately to lift the living standards of our members, we are making no real contribution to the future progress of the working people of this country by adopting that policy. The working people today know more about economics than any of the honourable senators here tonight do. They know - those of them who are listening tonight can judge me when I next come up for election - that every wage increase they receive which is not matched by an increase in productivity takes from them the standard of living that they want to enjoy, and that every advantage they gain, in terms of increased leave, which is not matched by an expansion of the economy and an expansion of production only makes it more difficult for the pensioners and superannuitants on their fixed incomes to survive in our community as it is today. Honourable senators cannot argue against those statements because they are economic facts of life.
The members of the Senate who are sitting here tonight are genuinely trying to learn something in the interests of Australia’s future on a problem that is a mystery. If it was not a mystery, surely we would have solved it before this. It is a problem with many facets about which all of us still have many things to learn. We should stand up here and exchange our ideas as people with an interest in Australia, not as people just trying to gain a political advantage over each other or sing a song that will be welcomed by the unions on one side, or on the other side sing a song that may defend the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) who has agreed to the evils that I have just outlined in the trade union movement and who, indeed, had an entirely different policy on the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd from that of his representative in this chamber, Senator Carrick. Every time I picked up the newspapers - certainly in the first week after the BHP announcement - the Prime Minister did not seem to know what to do about the price increase. But then he became very definite and said that it was a stab in the back to him personally and to his Party. Now he proposes to have an inquiry to find out why the price of steel went up. After hearing Senator Carrick here tonight, I suggest that he will not need any inquiry because the honourable senator knows all the answers before the inquiry has been made and has said that the increase was quite justified. I know that BHP is a big Australian company and one of the few that have not been sabotaged to the extent of being made almost non-Australian by overseas investment. I think it would be a great tragedy for Australia if BHP was allowed to fall below the level at which Australian capital could be persuaded to stay in it and it became another case of a sell-out to overseas capital.
The motion before the Senate suggests that the Committee that this Senate has already set up can find out the reasons for these things and at least satisfy the Prime Minister now that he favours some inquiry into the reasons why at that time BHP said that it found it necessary to increase the price of steel, lt is true that it still has the second cheapest price of steel in the world. We could make it the cheapest if we could increase the price of our raw materials to Japan. The Japanese must, of necessity, then put up their price of steel because most of it is made out of our raw materials. Speaking from memory - I am reasonably sure I am right - in the last 12 months Japan increased its exports of steel by 14 per cent. That was after an increase of approximately 10 per cent in the previous year. If we take the 14 per cent and the 10 per cent on the basic figure, we arrive at a figure of about 30 per cent as the increase in Japan’s exports of steel in the last 2 years. The Japanese will argue with us that they want more equality in their terms of trade with us. But when we remind them that they could not achieve those exports of steel, out of which they make a lot of money, without the Australian raw materials, they very quickly begin to realise that an adverse trade balance with Australia is very necessary for their economy.
I do not believe that we would be under the threat of the importation of Japanese steel if the price of steel here was investigated. I do not think there would be any real objection by the Austraiian people if an investigation showed that the price increase ‘‘ere was justified. After all, on whatever side of this chamber we sit, we must appreciate that the increase in the price of steel applied by BHP, in relation to the motor car or even the average suburban dwelling, would not amount to even a snap of the fingers in terms of the ultimate price of the motor car or dwelling, compared with the increase in interest rates which, as 1 have outlined before, went up gradually from 4 per cent to 8 per cent. A person does not pay the 4 per cent or 8 per cent in only the year in which he buys the motor car or dwelling; he goes on paying it on the money he has borrowed until the motor car or dwelling is paid off. Any increase in the price of the basic raw materials that go into a product such as a motor car or a house is as nothing compared with the increase in the ultimate price of the product which has been brought about by the inflated cost of money which has been developed quite deliberately in our economy over the last half a dozen to 10 years.
I hope that the Government will take note of some of the things that have been said in the debate tonight. 1 hope particularly thai it will recognise that in the current controversy in the industrial world lies the greatest threat it has ever faced. At times in the past it has shown some courage in dealing with the problems of Australia. 1 concede that to the Government. Finally I warn the Government that, if it cannot find the courage and the common sense to realise the dangers in’.o which it is gradually being swept, it will not be the Government of this country for much longer. I make it perfectly clear that there are no political threats from me in that statement. It will not be the Government because the people of this country will not tolerate a government which is supposed to be leading them but which will not go out in front and give them the lead which is necessary when these topics are discussed. If the Government wants the lead on the question it can get it from the 84 per cent of the membership of the union involved in the amalgamations which refused to vote on the question of amalgamation. If it wants to know the reason why 1 will give it because I have been in the trade union movement. 1 appreciate my colleagues coming to my assistance to deal with interjectors but I do no’, need even their assistance on this question. Many of that 84 per cent of the membership of those unions that did not vote would have a very valid reason for not voting. Once there is control of an industrial movement by members of the Communist Party it is very difficult for individuals to buck the machine that controls it. lt is very difficult because many of them do not receive the ballot papers they are supposed to get. If it is known that the members will not vote in the right way their ballot papers disappear in transit. It is very difficult because those who do interest themselves in union affairs - everybody knows that that is a very small minority of the membership of any union today; my colleagues in the Labor Party know this, whether or not they will admit it - are those who take an interest, who have to stand up to not only the physical threats of violence against themselves but also the harassment of their wives and families by telephone calls in the middle of the night which threaten and use vile language. I plead with the Government to take some action before it is too late to see that this greatest of threats to the future stability of price levels does not receive its approbation. I ask the Senate to carry the motion before the Chair and the amendment that we have moved to it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! ls the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment.
– 1 rise to support the proposal that has been expounded by my Leader, Senator Murphy. I feel that if it has done nothing else it has brought to the Senate a very vital issue. The polarisation of Senator Carrick on the one hand and Senator Little on the other hand vindicated the action that Senator Murphy took. Criticism has been made of the broad dimensions of the motion before the Senate tonight. It is quite obvious when we try to dissect the industries largely under foreign control and those which are entirely Australianowned that the probe which Senator Murphy suggested be undertaken by the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade will have to be a very serious one.
But there has always to be a jumping off place. After ploughing through all these allegations and counter allegations about responsibility in relation to prices wc get back to square one: We accept the concept, which has come particularly from Government circles, of a national wage case. Every year we have all the speculation as to what the percentage gain is likely to be. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is cajoled into putting its faith in arbitration and putting its submissions in a national wage case. Whatever the X per cent or Y per cent that the learned judges determine as a result of the inquiry, it all comes down to one criterion. This is the golden phrase: ‘The capacity of industry to pay’.
Surely all of us should accept, irrespective of party, that over a period of time - 6, 9 or 12 months - industries should not have recourse to a sudden price spiral when they put their case more or less in the lap of the judges in a national wage hearing. It could be argued to me - and I would concede - that this is not the position where a big percentage of the component materials or parts of a particular industry are imported. But honourable senators know as well as I do that within about a month of a national wage case determination this price spiral occurs. The trade unions cannot be blamed for that because they have argued in the court on productivity and all of the other factors that go to determine the living wage. Then they suddenly find that within 3 months it has all been frittered away.
Perhaps 1 could digress a little here and say that not only are wages eroded but also there is an erosion in the durability of the goods. We all agree that one of the byproducts of mass production is the passing of the smail craftsman. We know that we cannot stop progress, but this matter of poor quality goods stings the community at large, whether it is related to Crosby casual shoes or some other product. In my own case at Christmas time I had a pair of shoes which lasted only a fortnight, and the major retailer concerned was quite happy to give me another pair of shoes. Another example is the case of children’s toys. A friend of mine said: Once upon a time if a kid had a toy gun and he heaved it at the wall some of the plaster would come off, but now the toy gun breaks in half. I use those 2 illustrations merely to point out that not only is there an erosion of wages but also there is a need for constant replacement of goods. We all know that the life of a refrigerator today is considerably more than it was 5 years ago and the average person is in pawn to hire purchase companies. So when people talk about striking for another $5 a week I think the duration of the strike is arguable. The fact of the matter is that people, particularly in the income bracket of about $80 a week - the working mothers and others - are on a knife edge.
Even if the Government does not accept what the Opposition has put up about an inquiry being undertaken by Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade, there are many ways that it could use federal departments to apply leverage in relation to the quality of goods. It is history in this Senate that only when there was an Army contract was it discovered that the quality of sunglasses was not as it should be. There is no need to enumerate the various drugs that are of poor quality. These things are discovered when somebody dies or one happens to stumble onto the question. But in fabrics, footwear, groceries and such things we find that the quality is not there.
The question of productivity has been raised. I do not know the situation in this regard in States outside my own. But one of the big time gilt edge security industries in New South Wales is the Australian Gas
Light Co. Once upon a time its work force - 1 am applying trade union figures - was up to about 15,000. I doubt whether the work force in the gas industry is now more than 5,000. Yet we find that there is no decrease in the gas bills in metropolitan Sydney. The Government gives us all the highfalutin ideas on productivity and smaller work forces and it pleads with the trade union movement to accept some form of redundancy. The Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union has accepted considerable work procedure adjustments. If we accept the thesis of Senator Little, we would say: ‘All right, if we get the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union to accept this proposition, what about the consumers?’ They are the people Senator Little was talking about - the bleeding hearts of the consumers. They do not count either.
If this is an indictment of the capitalist system the Government of the day has to cure it. Honourable senators opposite will probably ask: “Do we have to set up costly edifices?’ I will give an illustration of how the Government can pull out old laws, dust them off and use them. This may be a very mundane example, but there was a situation in World War II when the United Licensed Victuallers Association in Sydney was prostituting its position by hoarding beer and selling it on the black market. A certain Minister for Customs - I believe he was a member of the Senate - went through the regulations. He sent his customs officers into every hotel in metropolitan Sydney and made the licensees declare what stocks they had. If that situation could be applied to a beer racket in war time Sydney 1 am certain that a regulation could be found by which customs inspectors could make inquiries into some of these commodities which are allegedly in short supply. I might have my own personal scruples about this sort of thing, but because of this law of supply and demand I do not really blame these people. If the Government approached the matter on that basis, put its customs inspectors into the big warehouses and made the owners declare what goods they were holding back, it would find at times that there would be a certain reduction in some of these retail prices.
Senator Carrick eulogised Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. This is not a question of national unity or national aspirations. I remember a situation which involved republican President Eisenhower. He had a Defence Secretary named Wilson who had the idea that anything that was good for General Motors was good for the United States. General Eisenhower had to hoist him out of the Cabinet because his loyalties were mixed up.
I say respectfully that in the steel industry members of the Federated Ironworkers’ Association and the craft unions at Newcastle and Wollongong earned any wage gain that they got. People may argue about a wage freeze. It is all very well for honourable senators to sit here on their buttocks on these red seats. If some people in this chamber spent a fortnight during a hot summer on the open hearth at BHP at Newcastle or Wollongong they would believe that every person working there earned any wage rise he got. Those rises have not been astronomical. People may talk about West Germany and Japan. 1 must say in fairness to Senator Little that he was right in making his point about the totality of the living wage and all the other inbuilt structures involved. 1 remember that this Government appointed an immigration planning committee. One of its recommendations - believe me, that committee was not loaded with trade unionists or members of the Australian Labor Party - drew a glaring contrast between the situation of a husband, his wife and 2 children in Western Europe and that of a similar group in Australia so far as health coverage was concerned. The crunch of the matter was that in Western Europe their payment under the national welfare scheme for health coverage was based on a percentage of what was earned. What do we find here in Australia? If we want the maximum coverage under our so-called national health system, a person receiving more than $150 a week and a person receiving only $75 a week both have to pay the same weekly premiums to a health insurance fund. These are the sorts of things that hurt people. Honourable senators on the Government side might say to me that people get back about 80 per cent of the money that they pay for medical treatment. It is the other margin of 20 per cent which makes the position so difficult for people on the lower rates of pay. They find it almost impossible to bear. I do not suggest that we have to get a George
Nader to expose some of the other rackets that go on but Government supporters know in their hearts that a lot more could be done.
I will give another classic illustration. To a host of people today a car is virtually a must in many ways. Consider the people working in the building industry in outer Melbourne and outer Sydney. If they do not have a car they cannot get to some of the jobs in the outer suburbs. Contrast the necessity of having a car with the constantly sky-rocketing insurance premiums that car owners have to pay. When we complain people say: ‘Well, the panel beater has to get a little bit more’. Last year I put it to the responsible Minister that we should energise the State Transport Ministers to make sure that the bumperbars on our cars are made of stronger material in order to absorb the minor prangs that occur. The Minister said that he would put the matter before a conference of State Transport Ministers. If ever there is a graveyard for these reforms it is conferences of State Ministers.
I say respectfully that the Commonwealth always should be the pacesetter. Senator Poyser, in his usual alert manner, prompts me about the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria which raised the same point about motor vehicles. We have been agitating for a long time. Man does not live by bread alone. Many other factors have been increasing our cost of living. I refer to such things as hospital costs and the inflated insurance system. As an appendage to the Commonwealth Treasury or one of the other Commonwealth departments we have a person known as the Commonwealth Actuary who operates in relation to insurance. I have been referring to Federal systems. In the United States of America the States toe the line when Washington issues edicts. After all. America has its backward States, such as Oklahoma and South Carolina, which must be compared with some of the more progressive northern States. We have the counterparts of those States in Australia. I do not want to invite criticism from honourable senators, and I assure Senator Lawrie that I am not looking at him although I anticipate some reply. The point I am making is this: If the trade unions or the work force as a whole could see some positive action and stabilising effect when they get a wage rise we would not get these sky-rocketing claims about which so much has been said. 1 mm now to the question of productivity. There is not an industry today in which there has not been outright resistance to new methods. Improvements have taken place, but when we have looked to our Commonwealth arbitration system for some solution we have found that it never has been very sympathetic. Quite rightly, people in the industrial field today fear being replaced by new methods. They want to hold their jobs. 1 have heard honourable senators on the Government side talk scornfully about demarcation disputes, and I have replied to them by referring to containerisation. After all, storemen and packers, members of the Waterside Workers Federation or members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association have nothing to live on but the money they earn with their hands. I know attempts have been made at times to rationalise their jobs.
This Government should be indicted. It has a Department of Labour and National Service, it has study groups and it has had surveys and researches done into job problems facing us in the next 10 years. I know that many of the Government’s top officers are very approachable men and I like them, but what happens when all this information gets to the Minister’s desk? One of the classic illustrations of this involves non-manual work. I refer to a case involving the Federated Clerks Union and the Golden Fleece petroleum company. That company introduced a mild form of computerisation to its industry. When the federal secretary of that union, Mr Riordan - incidentally, in the not too far distant future he might adorn this Commonwealth Parliament - raised in the arbitration court the question of severence pay, he got a lecture about the right of the employer to hire and fire - hardly a fair attitude. But the Government cannot expect the trade unions to remain docile in the face of job insecurity. The loss of a person’s particular mode of work is a vital matter to him. These are the problems the Government has to face.
I repeat that the question of the price structure is a very vital one. Many people hold the view, so far as overseas foreign capital and trade development is concerned, that some industries put more back into the country in another way. But other industries do not. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, says that he wants to have a certain trade course. But is it not a prostitution of democracy when some people in big board rooms overseas virtually can nobble the Australian Government’s trade policy? Government supporters can run away from this if they like. The attitude of some firms now is to allow offshoot companies in Australia to export to Singapore. They did not always do this, and we never know when the crunch will come or in which direction pressure will be exerted. This is the broad facet of the problems that worry us.
I do not say that the Labor Party has the complete answer. We are not suggesting that. There was some semi-badinage by Senator Carrick and others by way of interjection, asking about the broad Australian Labor Party policy. Let us be honest about this. It is inevitable that the Australian Labor Party will take office. There is no use running away from that. But it would be stupid for us to say al this very moment that we know all the aspects of the Treasury and everything about the trade figures. I say that sincerely. We would expect the Commonwealth public servants to give us the same loyalty as the Government expects and, I do not doubt, receives. Therefore I suggest that Government supporters should not run away with this red herring of asking us what a Labor government would do. Ail we can do is lo outline broad ground rules and say what we would endeavour to do. No government, least of all the present Government, would deny that. The present Government has used a lever here and another tool there. That has been its stock in trade. That has been the Government attitude so Government supporters should nol question the Opposition in this regard. After all, since time immemorial the Opposition has had a certain attitude towards foreign capital. I have no doubt that in November, when there will be a change of government, British and
American firms will be happy to accommodate us in the same way as they have accommodated very radical governments in Latin America.
I want to wind up by getting back to a question which should not be left unanswered. A tirade of hysteria has been raised about the amalgamation of certain unions. The Government cannot have it both ways. Sometimes the Labor Party is criticised for trying to politically dominate the trade union movement. The natural corollary is that if somebody wants to belong to another political party, whether it be Senator Gair’s Party or the Communist Party, that person has every right to do so. A person has every right to be a member of the Liberal Party. Government supporters should not run away with the idea that because a man has a ticket in the Labor Party and waves it about,everyone will say that he is right. We have to live in a competitive world in the trade union movement, just as people have to do in the business world.
Senator Little was sadly amiss when he talked about . a monolithic Communist Party. Of course there are members of the Communist Party in Australia. There are also members of his Party and members of the Liberal Party. Quite frankly, the situation is the same as when a person joins a friendly society- he expects to get service and value for his union membership. I suggest that honourable senators look at last Friday’s Sydney ‘Sun’ in which it was reported that the Secretary of the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union advocated to his members that a legitimate dispute should be confined to 48 hours. The rank and file of the union decided that the dispute should go a little bit longer. This is one of the hazards of trade unions. I suppose that, when we talk of a democratic society, we must accept that lack is as good as his master; it would be pretty bad if he was not. This is the current situation.
When we speak about the metal trades unions, let us be realistic. If the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia, the Sheet Metal Workers Union and the Amalgamated Engineering Union meet separately and decide on particular claims for wages and if they then meet at the
State level in the existing concept of the Metal Trades Federation, the same result is achieved. It may be argued that there could be occasions when variations occur and that the Federated Ironworkers of Australia, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia and the Australasian Society of Engineers might differ on detail. But to be honest about it, most of these unions have members working on sites in distant areas and in hot climates. If honourable senators argue with me that in a foundry in Sydney or Melbourne a number of these people receive over award payments and systematic overtime, 1 would point out that this was a product of the employers and not of the trade unions. The. trade unions would have preferred a higher hourly rate than to have the sop of overtime. But it has been created and that is where the situation stands.
On the subject of amalgamations and what happens at trade union meetings, let us not be namby pamby in our approach. Senator Little knows that at a trade union meeting as anywhere else one would expect to hear verbal insults. This occurs at all sorts of meetings. It reminds me of the old saying: ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me’. I turn to the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Most people who know me are aware that I am not beholden to AEU officials or at least some of them. Having said that,I assure the Senate of this: The AEU’s idea of a star night where it determines its policy is quite free. I say that any apathy that exists in the trade union movement which is said to be manifest in the AEU could equally be present in the Federated Storemen and Packers Union, the Australian Railways Union or any other union, so the question of voting percentage is not appropriate.
The economic lessons of the day are such that it is inevitable, whatever we may say about it, that amalgamation of the metal trades unions will take place. It will happen. Without naming them, we can think of what has hapened with respect to various manufacturing unions. Honourable senators should look at unions that deal with biscuit makers and pastrycooks. If those unions merged their members with workers in confectionery industries they would serve their members better. My colleague, Senator Bishop, is not here,. 1 know that he appreciates the cost factor in servicing a trade union. Not so long ago, Senator Greenwood, as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, gave me a most detailed answer on the backlog of migrants in Europe and the procedures that are followed, lt was a good answer and I complimented him and the Ministry on it. I gave a copy of it to Jack Maddox, the State Secretary of the Australian Railways Union in New South Wales, who has a sizable migrant membership. He said ‘We will send this to every sub-branch’. The union was up for $140 just for postage. That is a union with a pretty broad membership. I do not know what the situation is with respect to unions with memberships below 1,000 such as the union representing tarpaulin workers which has a membership of approximately 700. More amalgamations will take place. Let us be candid on this point: In the final analysis, it would not matter whether those concerned in a dispute were power house workers in Victoria or power house workers in New South Wales; if they believed that they had a grievance, they could not be stopped from taking action.
Let me round off my speech in this way: It has been necessary to have what I would call a search and destroy mission to play my role here tonight; there are so many points to pick up. This is an honest attempt by the Opposition to bring a most vital issue before an appropriate Senate committee. Manufacturers, trade unions, consumers and intermediaries can put a point of view to that committee and possibly we can evolve some system. 1 heard Senator Carrick speak tonight. He is entertaining but I certainly do not agree with his conclusion. I repeat to him what I have said on another occasion: The world never stands still. It is not much use talking about a private enterprise dogma on the one hand. Similarly looking at the situation in eastern Europe we see that the idea of the Stalinist era no longer applies in Hungary, Yugoslavia and Rumania. Our priorities must be revised.
I was very disappointed in the barrenness of thought from Government speakers. Senator Little conceded that something had to be done; he differed with us on what should be done. I commend the proposal which has been put by my Leader. We cannot stand still. To rely on wage fixation is insufficient. The kindred matters including hospital charges and social service benefits go to make up what should be a good life. I repeat my hope that if the Senate adopts this proposal we will have a long overdue searching probe into the anatomy of the Australian economy.
– Most of the discussion tonight has centred on inflation. Nearly every speaker has referred to it, and rightly so. I took note of the fact that Senator Murphy had the idea that, because other countries have the disease, as a number of them have, therefore it is a good thing for us to have a modicum of it too. I say without any hesitation that, for my part, I would sooner this country did not have it at all. Inflation is as old as civilisation. The old Roman Empire was troubled with it. To try to combat it, a system of fixation of prices was institutes at that time. I call to mind reading some of the edicts of Diocletian.
– The Romans had some pretty salutary penalties too.
– Yes, there were some salutary penalties for non-observance of the edicts brought forth about the price of this, that and the other. But it failed. In point of fact, it did not impede in any way the progress of economic collapse that took place not very long afterwards.
I think that that has been the story through history. Price control, as we knew it during the war years, when an attempt was made to control nearly every ambit of human endeavour, mostly succeeded in aggravating the very ills that it set out to cure.
I find great difficulty in dealing with this motion. Senator Carrick, too, was in trouble regarding its wording. The second paragraph of the motion states:
The determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices in the Australian economy . . .
That is the crux of the motion, surely. From there, the wording emphasises some aspects of the matter but the crux of the motion is that the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee for inquiry and report:
The determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices in the Australian economy . . .
I, for one, cannot see much that lies outside it. I would say that that wording includes all prices that are paid for anything. All prices would come within the ambit of that wording. In truth, it goes on 10 particularise by stating: . . of prices which are determined by foreign corporations or trade or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, or by corporations which enjoy advantages under Commonwealth tariff, revenue, subsidy or other laws, or by corporations which have contracts wilh the Commonwealth.
In my view, that is a mighty reference. I do not know how a committee would set to work to investigate it. I say further that it is a mighty reference to direct to a standing commitee which in my view and in the general consensus is a commitee which has been set up to investigate clearcut matters which are capable of fairly quick decision and report. However, to put a reference so tremendous as this to a standing committee of the Senate is in my view completely and absolutely absurd. The Committee is supposed then to go on to recommend what legislative action is necessary to give effect to such recommendations as are made. It has been rightly pointed out in this chamber during the currency of this debate thai no-one knows whether the Commonwealth has the power to legislate in respect of price control. It has been deduced because of a certain High Court decision regarding concrete pipes that it may well be that the Commonwealth would have some power in regard to price control. Nevertheless, noone knows positively and any recommendations from the commi’tee as to legislation to give effect to the report of the committee would, if it went along certain lines, be no more than fumbling in the dark. 1 repeat, because I cannot emphasise this too much,, that in my opinion the proposition contained in the motion is not a matter that should be referred to a standing committee of the Senate. In my view it is a matter for reference to a committee of experts. In no circumstances should such a reference have any overtones of politics. I noted that what, more than anything else, triggered off this motion was the rise in the price of Broken Hill P y Co. Ltd steel. Senator Carrick quoted from a report of the Tariff Board. He could have gone back also to a Tariff Board report a year earlier as both reports bear a resemblance and indicated just how fractional the rises in the price of s eel in Australia have been compared with rises in this product in other countries. The report to which I refer states:
The rises in Australian iron and steel prices in t969-70 were, in most cases, substantially, lower than those overseas. Prices of structural steel, for example, rose by 4 per cent in Australia compared with increases of 11 per cent in the United States, 14 per cent in Britain, 18 per cent in Germany and 37 per cent in Japan.
That pattern was carried on in’ 0 Ihe next year. It has been said - 1 do not doubt for a moment that it is correct - that we have the second lowest priced steel in the world. I am not saying for a moment that the recent increases brought: about by BHP in the price of steel were justified. No-one knows. In all probability the rises were jus ified. However, when we come to a comparison with al) other highly industrialised countries, we cannot do other than come to the conclusion that we come out of the comparison very favourably so far as the price of structural steel is concerned. We could go further in our reference to this Tariff Board report. I remind honourable senators that the Tariff Board is composed of men with no political axe to grind, that it is a body of men who surely would be impartial in these matters. In relation to the price of fuel oil the Board slated:
World prices for fuel oil increased sharply for the second year in succession. In 1970-71, the Australian price rose by 19 per cent compared with increase? in Britain of J5 per cent and in the United States and western Europe of approximately 50 per cent.
So we come out of that comparison also fairly favourably. 1 have said that in my view nothing lies outside the question of prices. I have taken note of some remarks made by Mr Whitlam during his visit to Tasmania.
– The honourable senator has not mentioned Mr Hawke tonight.
– No. Mr Whitlam went across to Tasmania and spoke on a subject about which I am pretty touchy. I refer to Tasmanian shipping rates. Mr Whitlam said that Tasmanian shipping freight rates had been increased to bear the losses that the Australian National
Line had inclined by its ill-considered proposals. Apparently Mr Whitlam did not read the report of the Standing Committee to which this reference is proposed, which investigated Tasmanian shipping freights. That report was arrived at after a most exhaustive inquiry spread over many months and it contradicts completely the statement made in Tasmania by Mr Whitlam only last month. Remarks of that kind merely serve to impede the progress of Tasmania, lt was found by the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade that Tasmanian shipping freights were not paying for losses incurred elsewhere as Mr Whitlam has suggested.
I remind honourable senators that we cannot have cheap shipping freights when we have approximately 14- delayed or cancelled sailings per week - that is an official figure - caused by industrial strikes; when we have a stewards’ strike which increases ANL’s losses from $600,000 to $1,200,000 for the 12 months through one strike alone. We cannot have these things and still have cheap shipping freights. That much is certain. On the question of shipping freights to Tasmania I say without hesitation that if all those who are engaged in the industry entered it with a spirit of co-operation and with a real sense of duty to the public, freights would be at a reasonable level. That is the crux of the position. But Mr Whitlam went across to Tasmania and said more than that. He spoke about the shorter working week and opportunities for earlier retirement. It must be borne in mind that be was saying these things at a time when, according to Senator Murphy, the rate of inflation was excessive. Mr Whitlam went on to say also that wages were rising more slowly than prices and. because of this, consumer demand would decline. It is a fact that in 1968 the average wage rose by 6.8 per cent compared with the level in the previous year. In 1971 the rise was 12.7 per cent.
– Except in this place.
– Except in this place, I agree.
– Because of the costs the Government imposed on the people.
– That may be. But how wide of the mark was Mr Whitlam’s statement that prices were rising more quickly than wages because in 1968 prices rose by 2.4 per cent and the average wage rose by 6.8 per cent. In 1971 prices rose by 6.7 per cent but wages rose 12.7 per cent. The crux of the matter is this: In 1968 non-farm production rose by 3.5 per cent. Last year this was down to 1.7 per cent. Anyone who says that this is not a contributing factor to inflation just does not understand simple arithmetic.
– Are you suggesting that there is no inflation?
– No, 1 am not. 1 think that inflation is so excessive that if something is not done to halt it-
– What do you suggest? We are suggesting something.
– 1 believe that we are the victims to a large extent of wage-push inflation. 1 think that is wrong. Wages have risen at a faster rate than productionUnless production increases at a rate commensurate with the increase in wages then all those increases in wages above the amount by which production increase ‘ire purely ficticious and are in fact inflation. Britain has found this to be true. Britain was in a position where wages rose by 14 per cent and production rose by 3 per cent.
– What are you referring to when you say ‘production’?
– I am referring to gross national production.
– But you are trying to blame-
– You can make a speech when I have finished. I am saying thai if that condition is not inflation I do not know how one would describe inflationary conditions or how conditions would be activated that would bring about inflation. In other words, the British were paying themselves more than they were earning.
Tasmania is a small place. I know of a sawmill in that State that used to employ 200 men. This mill was converted to a stage which was as fully automated as a sawmill can be. lt is doing the same amount of work now with 8 men. The manager said to me that it was a case of doing that or going out of business. He said: ‘We just could not carry on under the previous conditions’. I went further up the road and talked to a man who ran a very small business. He used to employ 7 men. However, he put in a machine that cost several thousand dollars and he now does the work with 3 men. He said that he had a choice of doing that or going out of business. I believe that this sort of reorganisation will go on all over Australia, lt went on all over Britain.
Not long ago 1 read a report detailing the redundancy in British industry. The report said that because of excessive wage increases in various industries the employers were compelled to put in up to date machinery in order to cut down expenses. As a result of wage increases, many industries went broke. Those that did not were compelled to use as much automation as possible to try to counteract the same wage-push inflation from which no benefit accrues to anyone. It is like a little boy getting a lot of pennies - there is no value in the collection. The article went on to say that redundant people were in a position where, unless fresh industries were started - and it is difficult to see how they could be in an old industrialised country like the United Kingdom - it was not known how they would ever be put in employment again. The same thing is happening in this country.
– The farmer is contributing just the same as anyone else.
– The farmer has produced more per man for less return than any other section of the community. If the farmer adopted the same policy, outlook or attitude towards his work as do the great majority of other people in the community, most of them would have been Walking down the road long ago. The way in which the farmer has carried on under the conditions, received less and less and paying more and more in costs, and the fact that so many of them have been able to survive at all are tributes to their tenacity in sticking to their jobs.
I say again that I do not believe that this is a subject that should be referred to a standing committee. I am a member of the Standing Committee to which the
Opposition wishes to refer this subject. The Committee has commenced an investigation that will take a very long time to complete. I would say - and I am only guessing - that if the Committee did proceed with this subject it would be well into next year, and probably towards the end of the year, before a report could be completed. I believe that this is one of the most futile propositions to be put forward since the committee system was introduced. For the reasons I have stated - and I believe they are as wide as the world - I do not believe that this matter should be referred to a standing committee which, I consider, was not set up for that purpose. Therefore, I believe that the motion should be rejected.
– I am totally at a loss to understand the Government’s opposition to this motion. Is the Government so touchy on the question of price inflation that it believes that this Parliament should throw up its hands in despair and say that it can do nothing about it? In fact, it is almost suggested that there is something sinister about discussing the matter at all. After all, that is all that this motion suggests. It suggests that the matter be discussed in an appropriate body of the Senate, despite Senator Cotton’s suggestion that this Committee, on which incidentally the Labor Party members are. a minority, would somehow become a committee which would attempt to fix even the price of lipstick. This absurdity was repeated by Senator Carrick; he repeated over and over that the Committee would be a price fixing body. I do not know how clear the Opposition has to make these motions, but for the guidance of honourable senators on the other side of the chamber who do not appear to have understood what we are seeking to achieve, let me read the motion to them. It is a suggestion that there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the question of the determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices in the Australian economy-
– The words ‘the question* are not contained in the motion. The honourable senator was supposed to be reading directly from the motion.
Senator Marriott suggests that I am in some way falsifying the motion. Apparently we have to spell it out in very simple language.
– The honourable senator said he would read it.
– I will read it and I will explain it to the honourable senator in simple language, and I would like him to pay attention because I hope he can understand. The motion reads:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter - The determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices in the Australian economy and, in particular, of prices which are determined by foreign corporations or trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, or by corporations which enjoy, advantages under Commonwealth tariff, revenue, subsidy or other laws, or by corporations which have contracts with the Commonwealth.
That the Committee recommend any legislative or administrative measures which should be taken by the Commonwealth to prevent unjustifiable price increases and to protect Australia from excessive inflation.
If any honourable senators on the opposite side of the chamber do not understand that this is merely a suggestion that this mutter be examined, that witnesses be called to discuss the problems we are suggesting exist and that suggestions then be put to the Senate, I am afraid J have no chance of explaining the position to them in words, no matter how simple they be.
Senator Little pointed out in what I thought was a thoughtful and mostly constructive speech that this Committee will inquire merely into causes of rises in prices. Is there something sinister in this? Is there, as was suggested by Senator Lillico, some more important matter for this Committee to be examining at the present time? Do any honourable senators opposite disagree with their leader in the other place, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) or with the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) who suggest that the most important problem facing this country is inflation? Are they suggesting that one of the standing committees of the Senate could somehow be better engaged than in considering the problem of inflation? I have listened carefully to what has been said by honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. We have been confronted with this now very familiar tactic of attempting to draw a red herring across the trail by suggesting that there is some confusion on this side of the chamber about our policy, to suggest that we speak with many voices, and that somehow we do not know and cannot find out what we want to do about inflation or what our policy is. As I understand it, that is the suggestion that has come from Senator Cotton, Senator Carrick and, so far as I could understand him, Senator Lillico. At one stage Senator Carrick suggested that we should make some attempt to unravel the mysteries of Labor’s policy.
I suggest that if any confusion exists about where either of the major political parties stands on this question it is all on the other side of the chamber. If we attempt to unravel the policy of honourable senators opposite on inflation we find that it is a very tangled skein. Let us start firstly with the statements of the Prime Minister. Let us look at the record. Let us look at what the enlightened contributors to this problem who wish to stifle debate on the problem say on the question of inflation. I will start with what the grand panjandrum himself says. When the question of prices was raised in the other place by the Leader of the Opposition there, Mr Whitlam, who suggested the establishment of a prices justification tribunal which, by the way had once been advocated by the Treasurer when he occupied a previous portfolio, the Prime Minister replied:
We on this side of the House have for long cherished the principle - and in practice we have applied it, too - that any attempt at price fixation creates bottlenecks and leads to the misallocation of resources and rather than cure inflationary pressures will probably increase them.
We know that the Treasurer since he has been elevated to that position has backtracked on his previous notions about prices justification tribunals and that his wisdom is summed up in his reaction to the price rise in steel announced by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd when he said that it was a matter for the company’s commercial judgment. Then we have the statements of an ex-Prime Minister - 1 refer to Mr Gorton - who as recently as 26th January 1972 was reported as suggesting that there should be a Federal prices and income policy to combat inflation. I am quoting from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of that date. Mr Gorton is reported to have called on the Federal Parliament to get the power by referendum if necessary to implement such a policy. The article continues:
Mr Gorton also called for the setting up of a national council of trade unions, employers, consumers, and the Government to check wages and prices.
If the National Parliament doesn’t have the power to diminish wage and price increases, then it should get the power or try to get the power.
I suggest that that is a little different from what we heard from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. But that does not conclude the confusion in the Liberal Party ranks. Just last week we heard a contribution from an ex-Attorney-General on this question. 1 may say that he was a much better Attorney-General than the present one. I am referring to Mr Hughes, the honourable member for Berowra in another place. He said - I quote from the Hansard of the House of Representatives:
There is in the community, I believe, at the present lime a strong sentiment, to which I for my part subscribe with firm conviction, that it is just not correct to place all or nearly all of the blame-
As Senator Lillico just did - for cost-push inflation on the activities of the trade union movement under the leadership of Mr Hawke.
He went on to say:
I find it not altogether easy … to see how the Government can persuade the electorate that we are doing all we ought to do and must do to stem the rising tide of cost-push inflation until such time as we have grappled with the task - enough time has gone by for us to have done this - of controlling effectively horizontal restrictive trade practices.
I find it difficult to see how it is altogether easy for the Government to persuade the electorate that we are doing all we can to control unilaterally decided price increases by corporations enjoying a near monopoly position when all we seem to be able to do - and it is not very effective - is to issue pious pleas or anxious exhortations when a price rise is pending. Surely it is time for honourable members on this side of the House -
He is referring, I remind honourable senators opposite, to their side of the Parliament - to take stock of the position and to ask themselves why in this day and age we should bc - I do not think we should be - or they should bc opposed to the idea of a prices justification tribunal.
That is not all, either. Another Minister of the Government - I refer to Mr Wentworth - made statements on this as recently as 12th February 1972. I will quote what he said because Senator Webster insists that he get the obsessima verba. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 12th February 1972 states:
The Federal Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth, called last night for a price and wage freeze throughout Australia during 1972.
He said the State Permiers at their meeting wilh the Commonwealth on Monday should unanimously offer the Commonwealth the constitutional power to impose the freeze for this year and no longer’.
Armed wilh power over wages and prices lbc Federal Government would be able to take effective action to halt inflation.
Another prominent Liberal, Sir Robert Ask in, hastened to express his assent to that proposition. The Prime Minister’s reaction to Mr Wentworth’s suggestion was to suggest that Mr Wentworth spoke mostly from his heart rather than his head. We on this side would like a Prime Minister who would speak from either place, but God knows where he does speak from..
If I may, I shall sum up the Government’s attitude on prices insofar as I have been able to discern any intelligible attitude. It speaks with many voices, but officially its attitude is that price fixing, price control or price justification is out. The worst that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd or any other large concern has to fear is a tongue in the cheek regret from the Prime Minister, a comment from the Treasurer that it is a matter of their own commercial judgment, approval from the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, the Leader of Senator Webster’s Party, and an almost tearful paean of praise from Senator Carrick. I submit that all this confusion in the Government’s ranks underlines the need for a consideration by a reputable committee of this chamber and the need for that committee to undertake the kind of inquiry that we are suggesting. We are suggesting that the committee should probe what Senator Little has referred to as the mystery of inflation. We on this side are not suggesting for one moment that we have any magical panacea for this problem. We frankly confess that it is a problem which, having mystified the economists of the world, does not appear to us to be one of a ready and immediate solution. Is this not a reason why all the resources of this chamber should be put to use? Should not the appropriate committee with power to call witnesses and with power to consider overseas experience and overseas attempts to solve the problem undertake this inquiry?
The confusion and the helplessness which the Government expresses - a confusion amounting to despair, to abdicating any attempt to deal with the problem of prices - are nol matched by its very positive belief that it knows what to do about wages, lt believes that wages should be regulated by law. Negotiated over-award payments are something evil. The Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Lynch, in adumbrating the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act towards the close of the previous session of Parliament suggested that if unions and employers negotiated agreements with which the Government did not approve the Government would go behind those negotiations and would appeal to a full bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to sei them aside. If the unions show any muscle by striking they are threatened with penalties - something different to the pious regret which is the worst that unilaterial price rises by great monopolies get from the Government and. al the worst, approval by the Leader of the Country Party. The Government has intervened actively before the Arbitration Commission in an attempt to affect the judgment of the Commission. There was the determined statement by the Prime Minister, on the eve of the day on which he expressed pious regret about BHP rises, to quarantine rises in a particular State and to take action to see that there was not a flow on to other States. In other words, wages should be controlled but prices should be left to be determined by the great monopolies.
As Senator Murphy pointed out, this has nothing to do with the free play of a market economy. We have gone a long way beyond that. I think that history has moved a little too fast for some gentlemen opposite. This is not the play of the market place. This is unilateral fixing of prices by people who are powerful enough to do so. lt is in that context that our motion was moved. If the Prime Minister concedes that there should be a White Paper on the subject, as he did on the day on which he made the statement which I quoted earlier, if he believes that there is something to talk about and if he believes that the Treasury should go to work to produce this White Paper setting out the pros and cons of wage control policies as practised in other countries - weighted, by the way, against such attempts, as he indicated - surely it is appropriate for us to avail ourselves of the forms of the Senate to explore the manner in which prices are determined. That is all that the motion suggests, lt does not suggest that the committee should set itself up as a wage fixing tribunal. The reference is a limited one.
I do not know whether Senator Lillico directed his remarks to the constitutional propriety of the reference of the matter to the committee, but, despite what may have been said about the power conferred on Parliament by the decision of the High Court in the concrete pipes case, I refer him to what was said by Mr Hughes, a distinguished lawyer and a man who was considered by the Government to be sufficiently equipped to hold the position of Attorney-General. In referring to the concrete pipes case Mr Hughes said:
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr
Whitlam) that as a result of the new found extent of the Commonwealth corporations power the Commonwealth Government, if it had the will, could find the way to introduce legislation to produce such a result. One always speaks tentatively in the field of constitutional law, knowing that decisions in the High Court go sometimes <me way or another way on a very fine balance of numbers. However, I stilt think it is worth acting on the basis that there is power to introduce in relation to trading and financial corporations - those corporations that are mentioned in the corporations power - a system of prices justification.
Mr Hughes is not the only distinguished lawyer in the Government’s ranks. It also has Senator Greenwood, the AttorneyGeneral, and Mr N. H. Bowen who is being spoken of in some quarters as a future High Court judge. Have any of these distinguished lawyers said: ‘No, Mr Hughe- is wrong. We do not believe that the new interpretation of the High Court does confer this power on the Federal Parliament’? If they believe so it is about time that we heard from them.I suggest that these men are sufficiently versed in the law to know that this alibi has disappeared for them, that they can no longer shelter behind the plea of constitutional inadequacy and that there is constitutional power to refer the matter to the committee and for it to recommend, if it thought fit, legislation which would be within the constitutional power of the Parliament.
I detect that what we are witnessing in all these alibis, in all these red herrings and in all these attempts to say that we do not know where we arc going is the basic insincerity of the Government in its approach to prices. This was illustrated abundantly - I do not need to go through it all again - by the Government’s attitude to the BHP price rise. The Government knew about it when the Prime Minister was to meet the Premiers. He said nothing about it. There was a series of equivocal statements as to what was said to BHP when the Government was told the rises were coming. There was a letter from the Prime Minister to BHP. Tt contained sentences which suggested disapproval of what the company was doing, but I suggest that it probably contained other sentences which nullified the effect of the ones which were quoted, otherwise we would have seen the letter. The letter should have been produced but despite our requests it has never been produced. This Government is not sincere on the matter of prices. This was illustrated in another way by the Government’s attitude towards the trade practices legislation which has had abundant time to show whether it can work any effect on the economy and in breaking down the practices which have the effect of prepetuating price rises and unconscionable price fixation by corporations which are powerful enough to do so.
We all recall that in the last session of this Parliament the Trade Practices Bill came before this Senate again because of the action of the High Court in finding it invalid. An attempt was made to patch it up. We on this side suggested that the opportunity should be availed of to put some teeth into the Bill and we introduced amendments to deal with monopolies and predatory price fixation. The Government found all sorts of reasons to say why this was an inappropriate amendment. When it was carried and went to the other place it was sent back and ultimately the amendment was rejected here. During the recess there came to my notice an illustration of the necessity for this sort of legislation. I heard of the case of a man who had set himself up in the Gosford area in the ready mixed concrete business. He had bought himself a couple of agitator trucks at considerable cost - something like $60,000 or $70,000. He was doing very well in the district. After he had been operating for a certain time representatives of 3 of the major ready mixed concrete companies in this State visited him and informed him that they proposed to drive him out of business. They immediately engaged in a price cutting war. For a brief period they reduced their price by several dollars a square yard until he was driven out of business.
One of the amendments which we on this side had attempted to introduce into the Trade Practices Act was designed to meet that sort of immoral conduct which is prevalent throughout the community. This Government had an opportunity to do something along these lines, but what did it do7 It took this provision out of the Bill. I say that this Government proves by this action and by its attempt to squash the sort of initiative which we on this side are taking in this motion that it is basically insincere in any attempt to control prices. I suggest that we should let this Parliament, and especially the Senate, indicate to the people, that it is not merely wringing its hands about inflation but, within its constitutional powers, is examining the problem seriously in an attempt to find an answer. That is what this motion is about, and that is all that it is about. I suggest that this matter has been thoroughly ventilated now. There has been ample opportunity for debate from all sections of the chamber. I move:
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority .. ..5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The question now is: That the words proposed to be added by Senator Little’s amendment be added’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The question now is: ‘That Senator Murphy’s motion, as amended, be agreed to’.
– 1 wish to speak to the amended motion. As the Senate is well aware, action was taken to gag a debate which was proceeding on Senator Murphy’s advocacy that a standing committee investigate the determination of prices and the methods of fixing prices which affect the structure of costs in the Australian community and recommend legislative or administrative measures that might be taken. I was very disheartened by Senator James McClelland’s move to gag the debate. The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy, introduced this matter into the Senate. He and the Party behind him gave senators very little opportunity to speak on this very important matter which refers mainly to inflation within the community which in turn is posed by the Opposition as a problem arising from unjustified price rises. 1, as a member of the Government parlies, am anxious to oppose the motion put forward by Senator Murphy. The amend ment moved by the Democratic Labor Party gives senators the opportunity to reopen and discuss this important matter and that amendment in particular, which varies very little from the motion, lt suggests that the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade consider the establishment of a ‘prices surveillance tribunal to achieve the aforesaid objectives’. There is not a great deal of difference between what the Democratic Labor Party is proposing and what the Australian Labor Party was proposing. Both proposals are subject to a fact thai is well known to every honourable senator, namely, that the Committee to which the ALP and the DLP suggest this reference should be made is already loaded with references and it would be some years before this reference would come forward for discussion by that Committee. Honourable senators are well aware of that and it is quite surprising that the DLP should move to further embarrass the members of that Committee. 1 think it is disrespectful to the committees that have been set up that the Leader of the Opposition continually - and in this case the DLP too - suggests that further references should go to those committees.
– Why do you say that the Committee is overloaded with references?
– Today there are 32 Senate committees and, as we know, there are 60 senators. The committees certainly can be divided into those which are particularly active and those which are not. I suppose senators can be divided that way also. It boils down to the fact that a reference such as this to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade would make it very nearly impossible for that Committee to deal with this matter judicially and quickly.
One of the points which I wish to make on this matter of the criticism of price rises applied by various companies relates to the criticism which has been levelled not only by Opposition members but also by some members of the Government al the rise which was proposed by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I have great admiration for that company. I see it as one of the great employers of labour within the Australian community, one of those companies which have a truly Australian flavour, with very nearly total Australian ownership, and one which has taken a most responsible attitude towards the Australian community over the years. I believe that BHP has demonstrated its interest in seeing that pr ces are kept within a reasonable range. I think that is demonstrated in this instance perhaps more by BHP than by some other types of organisations to which I intend to refer.
For instance, members of the Opposition suggest that there should be some investigation of the prices of companies which are involved in basic commodities which are of importance in the price structure in the community. If we look at the make-up of each dollar of sales by BHP we find th.it raw materials represent 22.3 cents in the dollar, that employment costs represent 22.7 cents in the dollar-
– That is wages, is it?
– That is employment costs. They are synonymous. I believe. I realise that I cannot have a graph incorporated in the Senate Hansard.
– Be quick about it.
– I do not intend to be quick. I want honourable senators to understand this point, if they would care to. I do not intend that the Opposition will be able to gag every senator who wishes to speak in the Senate. I am attempting to make a critical analysis of various aspects of the cost structure of a company. One must look at the factorsthat make up each dollar of sales of any company. BHP is one company that has been mentioned critically by the Opposition. I make the point again that the 2 greatest cost factors involved in each dollar of sales by BHP are raw materials and employment costs. I repeat that raw materials represent 22.3 cents in the dollar and employment costs represent 22.7 cents in the dollar. The other costs include stores and materials which represent 12.4 cents in the dollar; outward freight, 8.1 cents in the dollar; and fixed assets utilisation. 11.2 cents in the dollar. The final one is factory profit before debenture interest and head office expenditure, which represents 4.4 cents in the dollar. Wilh all those various categories of costs, what would a Senate committee do to determine which are the important factors in price rises applied by that company? Would it make an inves tigation of the very big sector of the costs of BHP - nearly 25 per cent - called employment costs?
– It was 22.7 per cent.
– I suggest that 22.7 per cent is very nearly 25 per cent. Would that be the first factor that would attract the attention of a committee? It appears logical that a committee investigating this matter would take the largest sector of costs in “a company and say: ‘This is the one to which we must give our attention. We must investigate how this cost is affecting the price’. I suggest that last on the list of matters for any Senate committee to investigate would be the smallest sector of cost; that is. the 4.4 cents in the dollar which represents the factory profit before debenture interest and head office expenditure for BHP.
– What dividend is it paving?
– To ask what dividend a company pays is a pretty ridiculous thing for anybody to ask. I. heard some expert the other day - I am not sure whether it was not a member of the Government - attempting to criticise a company because it produced a 16 per cent profit. Of course, what 16 per cent may mean in relation to paid up capital, the value of shareholders’ funds invested, or the capital value of the company is a matter for debate. But it is interesting to note how stupid the comments of individuals may be when they ask what was the dividend paid by a particular company. At the market value of BHP shares today I think it would reflect approximately 3 per cent on investment, lt is quite possible that any investigation of that company’s affairs would show that a higher profit could be struck, and indeed Mr Shepherd of BHP has noted that.
– Where did the profits come from? Did they come from the steel operations?
– No, but I do know that of every $1 profit that company made it ploughed back 50 per cent into the affairs of the Commonwealth for the benefit generally of those less fortunate in the Australian community. One of the major points in relation to that company, I believe, is that as an Australian company it has demonstrated a public awareness of its situation and its interest in seeing that the cost structure is dampened down. During the 10 years from 1959-1960 to 1969-70 the annual rate of increase in employees’ earnings within the BHP group was 6.4 per cent. During that period the consumer price index rose by 3 per cent and BHP steel prices rose by 1.4 per cent. I would challenge anybody to say that a company that can put forward a record such as that is not one which is to be admired.
Let us examine another factor. I asked the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library to obtain some information for me in relation to union dues over a similar period. 1 received the following reply from the Library:
I refer to your request of 29th February for details of union dues payable in four large Australian industrial unions, including an engineering union, currently and 10 years ago.
The following information was obtained from the New South Wales branches of the unions selected for this exercise.
I imagine that the imposition of union dues basically is to supply the finance to pay the salaries of their officers-. In 1962 the annual dues paid to the Amalgamated Engineering Union were $9.97. In 1972 the dues payable were $16, which represents an increase of 60.5 per cent. The dues payable to the Australian Workers Union in 1962 were $6 and in 1972 they were $14, a rise of 133.3 per cent. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber may gasp because they would not expect that a Labor oriented union would have the effrontery to increase the union dues from its own members by 133.3 per cent during that 10-year period. T. do not doubt that it was forced to do it.
– Do you think it was due to mismanagement?
– I would not believe so. I believe that it probably was forced to increase the fees because of a rise in labour costs within the union. In 1962 the annual dues paid to the Electrical Trades Union were $10.50 and 10 years later they were $21, an increase of 100 per cent. The dues payable to the Miscellaneous Workers Union in 1962 were $8 and in 1972 they were $19, which was a 137.5 per cent increase. It is wrong for any group of individuals, such as we find within the Labor Party, to come before the
Senate criticising companies which demonstrate a 1.4 per cent increase in prices - perhaps over a 10-year period it would represent approximately 11 per cent - while not putting forward the situation in relation to the unions to which they belong, the unions which they support and the policies which those unions support. I have been a very good unionist during my term as an employee. I can see that what I have said hurts members of the Labor Party very greatly. They have missed a point here and they are attempting to make my words unheard by the Hansard reporter. I intend to see that Hansard receives a copy of the figures I quoted so that they will bc accurately recorded.
The motion moved by Senator Murphy on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, and which is supported by every member of the Opposition, bypasses the great technical difficulty that would be set if the proposal were adopted. It would involve a committee of members of Parliament attempting to assess what may be the factors involved in price rises, lt is very nearly an impossible situation for members of Parliament to determine. This is a very complex matter, lt would be very time consuming. It would require staff with expertise and it would demand a great deal of their time. It would involve a very long delay in making an assessment. A delay such as that would lessen the effectiveness of any control of inflation. I question whether the committee would cover the matter of prices determined by some Commonwealth and State government instrumentalities. Would its inquiries be based on discussions related to stabilisation schemes which you, Mr Deputy President, and I are so interested to see supported in the community? Would there be an inquiry in relation to the various marketing boards? I suggest that the proposal would be very difficult to implement.
Senator Little got very close to the point in demonstrating how difficult it would be when attempting to discuss the interdivision relationship of pricing in large integrated companies and the manner in which they utilise raw materials in the flow of work between divisions. This situation would have to be related to the prices of independent and non-integrated companies which are perhaps producing the same final product. However, I do not doubt that the Labor Party would be able in some manner to come to some decision, but it would appear to me that the decisions which the Labor Party would come to would be very muddled in the end result, as typified in Labor policy over so many years. It would attempt to project its views in relation to every area of industry, whether large or small. It may proclaim today that its investigations would be into large corporations, but of necessity the investigations would flow into the production and costs of small companies, and it would be as big a threat to the Australian community as the disintegrated policies which have been spelt out by the Labor Party over the years. Its ability to bring success to the proposals it puts forward can be likened only to the success whichthe Labor Party has demonstrated in gaining public popularity for the policies it has expounded over the years.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senior Prowse) - Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn
Question put The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
-I thank the Senate for the attention it has paid to this matter which has been thoroughly debated.I suggest, Mr Deputy President, that the matter now proceed to a vote.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) proposed:
That the Senate do non adjourn.
– I am gravely concerned at what 1 have learned in the last 12 hours of the methods employed by the Commonwealth Police in arresting a young man named Robert Adrian Bissett. The young man to whom I refer was a draft resister, not a draft dodger or a draft evader. ‘Draft dodger’ is the terminology used so generally and loosely by Government Ministers and members. I stress that Robert Bissett is a draft resister, not a draft dodger. Let me say here and now that the distinction is neither technical nor subtle; but substantially the 2 are totally different. 1 emphasise this point because it has a significant bearing on the recent and only recent method adopted by the Commonwealth Police, no doubt acting on instructions, to invoke section 8a of the Crimes Act. I can presume only that the Commonwealth Police did invoke section 8a. Section 8a of the Crimes Act 1914-1966 states:
Any constable may. without warrant, arrest any person, if the constable has reasonable grounds to believe:
that the person has committed an offence against the law of the Commonwealth; and
that proceedings against the person by summons would not be effective.
I must confess that I can assume only that this section was at least relied on because, at the hearing for bail, the magistrate cleared the court of the public and allowed only the Commonwealth Police, the Crown Prosecutor, the defence lawyer and Mr Bissett to be present in court. In reply to a defence submission that the arrest had been illegal as there was no summons or warrant, the magistrate, Mr Cuthill C.S.M., said:
I am not interested in how he is brought before this court.
I remind the Senate that this hearing was in camera. As I understand it, in the ordinary course of events - this has been the position until this recent incident - if a person was believed by authorities to be in breach of a section of the National Service Act a summons would be issued for the person to appear to answer the charge. If the individual failed to answer the summons a warrant would be issued for the arrest of that person. Why then has the Crimes Act been used in this case? I can only assume that it has been used. I repeat that section 8a of the Crimes Act states, among other things, that a constable may, without a warrant, arrest any person if the constable has reasonable grounds to believe that the proceedings against a person by summons would not be effective.
– What was the lad charged with when he went to court?
– We are not quite sure of that at this stage. However I think it is essential that I should relate the history of Robert Adrian Bissett because I cannot for the life of me see that the action that has been taken by the Commonwealth Police is justified. The address of this young man is Flat 2, 8 Kelvinside Road, Noble Park, Victoria. His telephone number is 5461036. He is aged 22 years. He was born on 28th December 1949. He has lived at the above address since 22nd January 1971, that is, for over 12 months. He is a State public servant employed by the Housing Commission of Victoria, and while he has not been incarcerated as a consequence of his political beliefs and consciencious objection to the National Service Act, he has been working continuously in that Department. He states:
I was required to register between 21st July 1969 and 4th August 1969. Instead of registering I sent a letter to the Department of Labour and National Service, a copy of which is attached.
The letter he sent on 27th July 1962 to both the then Minister, Mr Bury, and the Secretary of the Department reads as follows-
– Is this matter still before the court?
– This hearing was held in camera. We are not sure what is happening. The person is on bail at the present moment.
– If the matter is still before the court, I think Senator Brown should check with his leader before he proceeds further.
– I want to ascertain from the Attorney-General in due course information about the conduct of the police and the way in which this man was arrested, which was quite contrary to the norm in the ordinary course of the administration of the law.
– I do not want to be difficult in this adjournment debate but I am concerned that if this mailer is still before the court it may well be sub judice A sub judice situation applies to protect a person as well as a court, and I think that Senator Brown should at least have a talk with his leader about the matter. 1 do not want to be seen to be trying to stifle any adjournment debate.
– Consequent upon the comment that has been made by the Leader of the Government I will make further inquiries. I ask for leave to continue my remarks in due course.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - rs leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Deputy President-
Opposition Senators - Hear, hear!
– No doubt the cries of ‘Hear, hear’ and the greetings I am getting on rising to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate flow from the fact that it must be widely known that I am commencing my twentieth year of service in the Senate and that this is only about the third or fourth time
I have spoken in an adjournment debate. I am one of those who believe in fair hours of labour. I think that from 8.45 a.m. to
I I p.m. is a sufficient day’s work when one does it 4 days a week. However, I rise with the concurrence of my Leader, the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). Yesterday Senator McLaren posed a question to the Minister for Health regarding the news media drug seminar that was held in Canberra on 26th and 27th February.
– Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Marriott is attempting to answer a question although a ruling has been given by the President that Senator Marriott cannot answer questions. That ruling has been fortified by a statement of the Prime Minister. The question was asked yesterday and Senator Marriott now is attempting to provide the answer. I submit that he is out of order.
– On the point of order, Mr Deputy President, I point out that this is an adjournment debate which does not attract all the nice ties suggested by the honourable senator. On an adjournment debate any honourable senator can talk on any matter that he thinks is important and I suggest there is no point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– -In the course of the reply by my Leader he said, when referring to me as the Assistant Minister who had opened the seminar, that I had de-fused certain things that had happened at the seminar. Today, I understand, Senator McLaren sought a clarification of the term ‘de-fused ceram things that had happened’ and my Leader gave an assurance to the Senate that either he or I would make a statement on the matter in the Senate today. I shall be as brief as possible, despite all the help that I am getting from honourable senators opposite who are sometimes critical because in their view 1 do not speak enough. I do not have the same thoughts about them. However, 1 should like to explain to the Senate that 1 had the honour of opening this seminar which was held primarily as a result of recommendation No. II of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse of which I had the honour to be Chairman. That Committee recommended that opportunities should be taken for negotiations with the Newspaper Council of Australia to see whether there could be more responsible reporting. The Department of Health took up this recommendation but it was found that the Newspaper Council could not speak for all the various news media in Australia and, after negotiations, at the suggestion of the news media the seminar was arranged. Some 78 people representing the media, health and medical authorities and drug educationists assembled in Canberra. At the seminar 7 papers, which had been prepared by distinguished people, all leaders in their own spheres of activity in Australia, were read. Certain news media people present came to the seminar feeling that the term ‘responsible reporting’ was an attack on the news media.
Some papers dealt primarily with the drug situation and education. As at ali seminars there was a short period for questions and discussion but not sufficient time was available for satisfaction to be given to those who wanted to discuss the papers. Anyone who has been at a seminar will know that some of the greatest value is gained from discussion - informal, private and general - at meal breaks in lunch hours and during morning and afternoon tea breaks.
– And over a few beers.
– This is so, for those who like it, senator. This was the situation on the Saturday of the seminar. I must say that as the Assitant Minister present, as the Chairman of the Committee that had brought forward this report and also as the person who had opened the seminar, I had to do what I could to see that a successful outcome was achieved. There was co-operation from all sides. I was greatly assisted by senior members of the Commonwealth Department of Health who were present. In private discussion it was seen where the discussions could lead and what we could hope to achieve. The Leader of the Government in the Senate used the word ‘de-fused’. I think that was quite a good word to describe what happened. We were able to see each other’s point of view and to gel differing views considered.
On Saturday night the seminar was not in session and a fairly lengthy buffet dinner was held. During that dinner much discussion took place. On Sunday morning we were able to come forward from the body of the seminar with a motion which has resulted in the setting up of a committee. It is hoped that from this action committees composed of drug educationalists and representatives of the news media will be set up in each State so that the aims of the seminar will be achieved. It is hoped that by responsible reporting and the fullest co-operation between the media, the drug educationalists and the Department of Health, the people of Australia will be given through the news media the best information possible in the fight against the drug menace in Australia. If I have played any part in helping to achieve that end I am proud and satisfied.
– I wish to raise a matter which relates to a national serviceman. I refer to information I have received about the apprehension and gaoling of a young man and the unfair manner in which he has been treated by the courts of this country and by the Commonwealth police. This lad has a very honoured name in this Senate chamber. I refer to a lad named Kenneth Joseph McClelland who was apprehended a*. Hawkesdale in Victoria some 5 weeks ago because he had failed to answer a call-up notice. He was not on the run and, as in the case previously referred to, could have been contacted by the Commonwealth police at any time in relation to the charges or warrant they might have had to take him into custody. When apprehended he was taken to the Bendigo court. Mr Garry Needham of Holding, Ryan and Redlich, a firm of solicitors who have an office in Bendigo, was assigned the task of representing Mr McClelland.
The solicitor went before the magistrate at the Bendigo court after having less than 10 minutes conversation with McClelland and after just a little more than 1 hour’s notice that the case would be heard in Bendigo. Mr Needham appeared before Magistrate Curtain in the Bendigo court and, naturally, sought an adjournment of the case so that he could be instructed by Mr McClelland and so that he in turn could advise Mr McClelland of his rights. This adjournment was refused by the magistrate. To me this action, which was taken with the knowledge that the lawyer had less than 10 minutes conversation with his client, seems most unusual. Kenneth McClelland was given a gaol sentence of 18 months and is now in Pentridge gaol. He decided to appeal against the decision of the court in Bendigo and went before a visaing magistrate at Pentridge gaol for the purpose of asking for bail so that he could prepare his case. Bail was refused by the visiting magistrate despite the fact that this person has not been on the run or in the underground, as the term is used. I understand that Kenneth McClelland then appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision of the magistrate not to grant bail. Two days later - it may have been one day later, and this is the only point on which I cannot give positive information - Commonwealth police came to Pentridge Gaol, loaded McClelland into a car and did not at that time tell him why. He was taken to Geelong again without having any opportunity to seek legal advice and on arrival al Geelong found that his appeal was to be heard before a County Court judge, Judge Dethridge.
The only way that Holding, Ryan and Redlich got the information that McClelland was to conduct his appeal that afternoon, an appeal in respect of which he had no time to prepare himself or to seek legal assistance if he desired it, was through the grapevine and from some other source. The position at the moment is that Judge Dethridge has granted an adjournment of the hearing of this appeal until such time as the appeal before the Supreme Court is heard. This is the only point at which it seems to me that justice has been done to this young man. The undue haste with which the Commonwealth Police decided this appeal would be heard and the undue haste with which he was tried without proper opportunity in Bendigo to consult legal advice, is something that would not be done to the most hardened criminal in the community. Not even Darcy Dugan would have these rights taken away from him, yet we find this young man of 22 years in a situation where he was unable to put before the courts a proper defence. He was unable to obtain the normal adjournment which I understand is granted in these circumstances on almost any charge where proper consultation between the person charged and his legal adviser was unable to be held. I want the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to investigate this matter because it seems to me that the Government is moving into the area where it intends to gaol these kids at all costs without any opportunity for them to defend themselves adequately.
The other aspect which is concerning the legal minds associated with this case is the unnatural action of the Commonwealth Police in taking this lad to Geelong to have his appeal heard at such short notice and not to Bendigo which was where he was found guilty of the charge by the magistrate. It seems that most unusual steps have been taken by the Commonwealth Police and the courts to ensure that justice will not be done when one thing that this country supposedly prides itself on is that justice must not only be done but must appear to be done. I want the Attorney-General to have a complete investigation made of the circumstances I have outlined tonight and to give this lad full and ample opportunity to prepare the appeal he has lodged so that we do not have a situation in future where he can on 2 occasions at least be forced into conducting an appeal in a court without the opportunity of the advice that any person in this community is able to obtain and have the protection of the courts to obtain.
– I would like to say a few words in connection with the explanation that the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health (Senator Marriott) has so kindly given to the Senate tonight. First of all I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) for acceding to my request this afternoon to allow Senator Marriott to make this statement in the Senate tonight. I think it appropriate to mention that last Thursday, 2nd March, 1 wanted to pose a question to Senator Marriott in view of ihe fact that he is the person who opened this seminar. I was notified of this by a Press release and the subsequent article that appeared in the Canberra ‘Courier’. However, I was frustrated in that effort to pose my question to Senator Marriott because of a ruling or a statement made by the President in respect of a previous question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland. To refresh the minds of honourable senators I think I should read the ruling given by the President. He said, in part:
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 and authority to answer.
I maintain that this aspect of the question I wanted to put to him came within his authority to answer as he was the person who opened that seminar, the person who was quoted in the article appearing in the Canberra ‘Courier’. Senator Marriott made the comment tonight that he has been nearly 20 years in the Senate and has very seldom spoken in the adjournment debate. He said he was not one to keep late hours and that he did not want to keep others late. I make the comment that perhaps Senator Marriott will go down in history as the first Assistant Minister who has been allowed to deliver a statement in the Senate on something with which he is connected. I appreciate that, because it is not Senator Marriott’s fault that he has not been allowed to answer questions. 1 feel for him that he has to sit there silent when people pose questions to him. Because of the ruling of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), he is not allowed to answer questions. It is not Senator Marriott’s fault that he has been gagged.
What concerns me is that the Prime Minister can make a ruling which affects the conduct of the business of this chamber. Standing order 98 states clearly:
After Notices have been given Questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs;
This is what honourable senators have been endeavouring to do, and this is what I wanted to do. 1 am very interested to know that the President can use a ruling made by the Prime Minister that persons in this chamber cannot answer questions when the Standing Orders clearly state that honourable senators can pose questions to Ministers of the Crown, which I acknowledge Senator Marriott to be. He has been sworn in by the Governor-General and is a member of the Executive. 1 then had to use various means at my disposal in an endeavour to obtain an answer to the question contained in this article in the newspaper that really worried me.
When I was not allowed to ask that question of Senator Marriott I directed my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I was told by the President that there was no-one in the chamber representing the Minister for Health. I found that quite astoudingBecause of the absence of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, there was no-one in the chamber responsible to that Minister’s Department, even though we had an Assistant Minister here. I then put my question to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and I was promptly asked to place my question on notice. I wanted an answer immediately because I was very disturbed that this report stated that $10,000 had been expended to conduct that seminar. I was also disturbed about other points in the article, particularly the statement in which Senator Marriott suggested that the reporting of court cases concerning drugs and drug thefts should be restricted. Senator Marriott did not answer that last portion of my question tonight. Perhaps he will answer it at some future date. Another point that disturbed me was that when I posed the question again yesterday to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in part of his answer he stated: lt is a most unwise person who opens his mouth and swallows everything that he reads.
I am not the only one who was concerned about that report that appeared in the newspaper. 1 understand it was written by a journalist who was in attendance at that seminar. As a responsible person in this Parliament who has been elected by the citizens and taxpayers of this country I share with other people concern at the way money is expended. I wanted an answer. The matter would not have come to this stage had the President on Thursday last allowed Senator Marriott to answer my question. I am sure that it could have been settled that day. I close by saying again that 1 am grateful to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson for allowing Senator Marriott as Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health to answer tonight part of the question I posed last Thursday and in the last 2 or 3 days.
– I rise to respond to Senator Poyser but before I do so I think I should say a few words in defence of Senator Marriott. I think all honourable senators recognise that the function of the President of the Senate, or of whoever is occupying the Chair, is to observe the Standing Orders and to rule in accordance with them. The Standing Orders indicate that senators may ask questions of particular people - of Ministers and persons who have charge of business on the notice paper. Senator Marriott in the style and under the title of Assistant Minister is not a Minister to whom questions may be addressed. Accordingly the President had no alternative but to observe the Standing Orders.
Although it may be implicit in what Senator McLaren has said that there is a reflection on the ruling last week of tha
President, I can say only that the President had no alternative but to rule as he did. As to the second aspect of Senator McLaren’s statement tonight,I can well understand why he felt that he had to take some time to defend himself or to justify himself in the light of the questions he had asked last week, but I think it is poor justification to take it out on Senator Marriott in the way in which he endeavoured to do so. As we all know, Senator Marriott is a person who will speak when he wants to speak and he will speak on occasions when he thinks it is warranted. In the light of the discussions which had taken place he judged that this was a matter which warranted his speaking because he could provide information. The suggestion that Senator Marriott was in some way gagged and the gag was removed is I think unfair not only to him but also to the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson).
I turn now to what was said by Senator Poyser about the case of Mr McClelland. I do not. know what happened after he was arrested. I know that before he was arrested he had evaded the police and I am at a loss to understand why Senator Poyser said that Mr McClelland was not on the run. 1 clearly recall great Press publicity being given to the fact that the Commonwealth Police had made an abortive trip to Hawkesdale to arrest him but the bird had flown. Eventually he was arrested at Hawkesdale but in circumstances which do not justify a statement that he was not on the run. He obviously had run from the police on the first occasion when they had sought to arrest him. I do not know what has happened since. I regret that Senator Poyser, if he was concerned to gain information, did not approach me before hand and indicate his concern. In whatever time he had allowed me I would have sought to get the information.
– I sought information the other day and you did not get much for me.
– The firstI was aware of the matters which were being raised publicly in the Senate tonight by Senator Poyser was when he mentioned them. I can assure him that I will endeavour to ascertain the facts and put them before him and to explain if need be, to justify if occasion requires, or otherwise to give an account of what has transpired. At present I do not know. I shall find out the facts I would have said that to him if he had asked me when they first came to his knowledge, without his having to use the public forum, doubtless to link what has happened as he sees it with condemnation of the Government. What he has said, on the face of it, impugns the integrity of the courts - both the magistrate at Bendigo and apparently the visiting magistrate at the gaol. I know that Senator Poyser is fully aware that magistrates and judges in this country are not directed by government and are not amenable to government policy in the sense in which he implied that they were. If an error has been made in the course of the proceedings, there are adequate means by which errors which have been occasioned thereby can be set right. I shall endeavour to ascertain the facts, trusting that when I do and when I relate them it will not be held against me that I am making comment on a pending case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720308_senate_27_s51/>.