28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 8 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth-
That whereas our constitutional parliamentary democracy was clearly developed as a Federation to preserve for all time to the Australian people their cherished right to live as free men and women, enjoying complete liberty of worship, assembly, speech, movement and the communication of knowledge and information.
And whereas our existing Australian Flag and our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, are perpetual reminders of these hard-won freedoms and of the wise British principle of the division of power, so well reflected in our own Australian Constitution with its careful separation of powers as between the Crown and Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate, the State Parliaments, the GovernorGeneral and State Governors, and the Independent Courts of Justice,
And whereas all such rights, liberties, heritage, advancement and prosperity, etc., are of no avail if our Armed Forces are unprepared or incapable of repelling invasion of our shores or withstanding other military threats,
So therefore must all these things be accorded the highest national concern and priority.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure-
The most rapid, efficient and largest possible expansion of all branches of our Defence Forces, and greatest possible strengthening and extending of defence treaties and security arrangements with our traditional friends and allies,
The right of every Australian citizen to vote at a National Referendum or Senate or Federal Elections for the retention of our present Australian Flag and equally of our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, before any government or other body can attempt to substitute either a new flag or anthem, and a similar voting right for the choice of any official National Song to play on international occasions.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the question I asked him last Wednesday concerning the investigation into all aspects of the incident at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on Thursday, 28 February. Has he received the report from those conducting the investigation? Will he be tabling the report today? If not, when might the report be expected?
-I said in the Senate last Thursday that I hoped to be able to make an early statement concerning the further investigation by the Australian Capital Territory Police into the incident at the offices of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra on 28 February. I now inform the Senate that the Police have made their further investigation and have submitted a report to me. The report has been examined by the Crown Solicitor and the Crown Prosecutor and charges of assault have been laid against 2 persons. One person was arrested this morning. I consider that it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment at the present time.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. Is the Government still committed to its election promise to abolish the means test during the present life of this Parliament?
-Whatever promise the Government has made will be fulfilled. If there is any further comment that the Treasurer or the Prime Minister have to make on the matter raised by the honourable senator, I will ask them to do so.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Defence recall my question asked on 6 December last relating to the long delay in introducing a uniform disciplinary code for the Services? Did he state in his reply that a report which would form the basis of a new bill covering a uniform code was almost complete? Will he now say whether the Government has received the report? Will he also say whether the Government will introduce the legislation with the same sense of urgency that it professed to attach to this matter when it was in Opposition?
-What the honourable senator said about my reply to him is correct. At the time I answered his question we had asked the departments involved to speed up the preparation of the legislation. I think that the only reason for the few extra days delay, as we are not going back a long time, is some technical matters relating to the drafting of the bill. I understand that the legislation is now ready to be presented to the Parliament but I will obtain the date on which it is likely to be introduced.
-Has the Minister for the Media seen a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ stating that Australian Government advertising work is being handled mainly through overseasowned agencies? How does this tally with the Prime Minister’s directive that when awarding contracts or orders for the acquisition of goods and services, the extent of Australian ownership of the bidding companies is to be taken into account when all things are equal in terms of specifications, creative ability, price and availability?
– I did see a report appearing in the Melbourne ‘Age’, I think it was yesterday, written by a journalist who apparently did not attempt to verify the accuracy of his sources with my Department. Apparently, he stated the fact that I had received representations from the Australian Advertising Agencies Council, an organisation, commonly known as AUSTAC, and that organisation was given as the source of his information. I have made it quite clear to my Department that the policy directives giving preference to Australian owned companies are to be followed when awarding new Australian Government advertising assignments to advertising agencies. Of course, that must take into account whether all other things are equal and the assessment by officers of my Department of the creative ability of the particular agency. So far as the figures are concerned, there has been a substantial increase in advertising expenditure by the Australian Government advertising service going to Australian owned agencies. During the period -
– Order! I am a pretty tolerant sort of President but the Minister is beginning to debate the question.
– All I might say is that during the period July to December the total share of income arising from the expenditure on advertising through Australian agencies increased by some 56.5 per cent compared with only about 1 8 per cent in the case of foreign owned agencies.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, following the comments made by the Minister for Labour over the weekend. Is it a fact that no real identification is required when claims are made for unemployment benefit? Is the Minister aware that some people are claiming on up to three applications for unemployment benefit? Will the Minister introduce a system whereby a birth certificate will be required for identification before any claim is received or compensation paid, so putting a check on this practice, stopping these people from bludging on the community, particularly on the working man, and offending the genuinely unemployed?
– You are giving information, Senator.
-If I may go further I ask the Minister: As there are other ways in which some people are abusing the system will the Minister make inquiries and report the results to the Parliament?
– I think that the honourable senator will have seen a statement made by my colleague the Minister for Labour last Sunday that some aspects of this matter were of concern to him and to his colleague the Minister for Social Security, and that both Mr Cameron and Mr Hayden will be and are conferring about the matter. I suggest to the honourable senator that if he knows of any cases where people are lodging three applications he should draw those matters to the attention of the Attorney-General.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he can enlighten the Senate on the method by which we now engage in defence components procurement? Are we avoiding any open-ended policies such as were a feature of the Fill procurement?
– The only thing I can say in answer to the general question is that the Government is still committed to a policy, as stated, of building up, as far as possible, a capacity within Australia to produce defence requirements. The matter has been under consideration, of course, since the Government assumed power, more particularly because of the need to re-assess what the Government’s advisers said was necessary for the defence services. Those assessments are currently being undertaken. The extent to which we supply new equipment to our services and keep our defence capability in production is being examined. The Minister for Defence is likely to make a statement in the near future and because of the impending statement I do not think I should embark on a more specific answer.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns the threatened ban on Australian apples in European Economic Community markets from 1 April this year. Will the Minister give an undertaking to make a statement on the matter as soon as consultations with EEC countries in Brussels conclude this week? Will he also give the industry some assurance, in order to obtain efficient forward planning, that the confusing circumstances of the 1974 season will not be repeated in relation to the 1 975 crop?
– I do not know what the confusing circumstances are to which the honourable senator refers. The statements which have appeared in the Press to the effect that there may be some resentment on the part of EEC countries at the importation of Australian apples is really a matter for my colleague the Minister for Overseas Trade to answer. I do not believe that the action taken by the Australian Government to assist the fruit industry in respect of its exports this season will be detrimental to those exports. It was necessary for us to assist especially the Tasmanian fruit industry which is the one primarily concerned with exports to the EEC countries and so far as I know this will not prove to be any impediment to marketing our fruit in the EEC this season. However, if there is any further information I can obtain from the Minister for Overseas Trade, I shall obtain it.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: In view of the worldwide shortage of protein, can the Minister say whether anything is being done to ascertain the full fishing potential of Australian waters?
-It is true that there is a worldwide shortage of protein. This is recognised by the Government and also by the Australian Agricultural Council. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations maintains that the fishing potential in Australian waters is in the vicinity of 250,000 tonnes. Presently we are taking only about 15,000 tonnes. I do not know on what basis those figures were calculated by the United Nations organisation. The Australian Government accepts that in view of the heavy financial investment required for modern fishing vessels- in the vicinity of $200,000 to $250,000 a vessel- it would be unwise to encourage people to invest in boats of that size without there being beforehand a proper survey of the potential resources of fish in Australian waters. Currently we are engaged in 3 main surveys of resources in Australian waters to ascertain the potential for increased fishing. At the present time the total amount being expended in this area is around $2m, approximately half of which has been funded by this Government since it came into office.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation aware of the growing tent town on the parklands opposite Parliament House? Does the Minister know that the number of canvas dwelling alienating these parklands is now six? If he proposes to permit permanent occupation, will he contact the appropriate Minister to arrange for the establishment of toilet blocks to protect the public health?
-Of course the tents opposite Parliament House are far removed from the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. It is well known that public toilet blocks are provided adjacent to where the tents are situated opposite Parliament House. Whilst there are some aspersions, there is no direct accusation that there is any danger to health as a result of these tents. If there were any danger, I think that appropriate action would be taken by the Minister for Health.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Will the Government take urgent steps to overcome its own internal problems so that it may take some positive steps to implement a preschool and child care scheme to ensure that even more educational institutions are not forced to close down?
-Being in the position of representing the Minister for Education, I am unaware of any internal problems within the Government in relation to the implementation of the Government’s policy for pre-school children or, for that matter, any other reason. I suggest to the honourable senator that he place the question on the notice paper. I shall obtain a reply from my colleague, the Minister for Education.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Australian Government aware of the strong criticism in Queensland arising from the refusal of insurance companies to meet any reasonable claim for damages following the disastrous floods in Queensland earlier this year? Will the Minister examine the relevant clauses of the major insurance companies’ policies to see whether the same injustice will occur in northern New South Wales following the extensive floods now causing hardship to thousands of citizens there? Is the Australian Government able to intervene in these matters with a view to compelling these giant financial corporations to meet their moral and financial responsibilities in national disasters?
-I assume that the policies which would be applicable in northern New South Wales would be much the same as those applicable in Queensland. There may be some difference where the State Government Insurance Office of Queensland operates, but I think that, by and large, the policies would be the same all around Australia. At present the Government can do nothing to intervene. For the most part these policies are made between private companies and persons and the Government is not able to intervene. But the Australian Parliament has legislative power over insurance. It could pass laws which could cover this subject matter and which could provide for standard forms of insurance policies with exceptions permitted only in certain circumstances or under certain conditions. In this way it could exercise that legislative supervision which it was thought, even at Federation, the Australian Parliament should have over the whole subject matter.
-I do not know whether the Prime Minister has seen the report. Assuming the correctness of the information which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has given, I think all Australians would deplore any kind of military action of this nature against children. Events in Vietnam over the years must be deplored.
The Government of Australia would express the feelings of Australia in abhorring any kind of inhuman conduct in war. It is a great tragedy that, as I understand it, right now the infamous Lieutenant Calley is free on bail.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. It relates to the tents in front of Parliament House which are claimed to be an embassy. Can the Minister say what attitude the Government would take if Croats, Italians or any other minority group which thought that it had a grievance wanted to erect tents on the lawns in front of Parliament House?
– I am not here to answer hypothetical questions, and the honourable Senator knows that he should not ask them.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. It is widely reported in this morning’s Press that 400,000 metal workers are to strike tomorrow. Is it not yet understood by the Government that, since it has come into office, strike action has become the normal method by which pressure is applied to obtain increased wages? Will the Government take some action to restore arbitration instead of strikes as the means of solving these disputes?
-The position to which Senator Wright referred is not characteristic of Australia only. He may have noticed that in the United Kingdom -
– That does not make it right.
– I am answering the question about the tendency of unions these days. In these days of inflation the tendency for unions and workers in all countries- including West Germany, which has had a wonderful record of industrial peace since the war, other European countries and England most recently- is to attempt to use the market to increase wages. That is part of the economic story. Mr Clyde Cameron, the Minister for Labour, as the Senate knows, has been meeting representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations, and other people, in an endeavour to achieve arrangements to increase the amount of industrial peace in relation to national wage applications. Some progress has been made. I know that the Minister is using intelligently whatever means are at his disposal in conferences with central labour organisations to achieve arrangements to reduce the amount of disputation. However, I again point out that industrial disputation is one of those things with which to some extent we have to live for a short period of time.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that one of the 3 anthems currently being submitted to a restricted ballot, namely, ‘Advance Australia Fair’, is so similar to the Danish national anthem as to be almost indistinguishable from it? Does the Minister agree that this is undesirable and that if Advance Australia Fair’ were to be adopted as our national anthem it could cause embarrassment? I inform the Minister that through the courtesy of Wing-Commander Whiteman of the Royal Air Force I have here a cassette recording of the Danish national anthem in case the Minister does not have a copy of it available. I would make it available to the Minister if it would assist his recommendation.
– Will you sing it?
– Owing to a direction from the President I am unable to offer to sing the Danish anthem. I ask the Minister whether he will discuss with the President the possibility of having the Danish anthem played for interested senators so that they may assess its similarity to ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
-I thank the honourable senator for the information he has given. The fact that the Danish national anthem is the same as ‘Advance Australia Fair’ seems to have created little problem in the past and I doubt that it would in the future. Perhaps the best evidence of that is that the information has been so little known. However, I will pass it on to the Prime Minister and be ready to co-operate with the President in whatever he thinks is fitting in the light of the point that the honourable senator has raised.
– Has the Minister for the Media referred repeatedly to the fact that the boom in the Australian film and television industries has pointed up the shortage of script writers? If so, what, if anything, is being done by the Government to assist in the training of more script writers?
– As a result of the policies pursued by the Government since we assumed office there has been quite a boom in the film and television industries, not only in high quality Australian productions for the local market but also in a substantial number of Australian productions which for the first time have been winning export markets. As a result of the boom I have been constantly made aware by the industry of the growing dearth of professional script writers in Australia. A shortage of camera crews and technicians also is developing. At the request of the Australian Writers Guild the Australian Broadcasting Commission recently has agreed to provide television studio facilities at its training centres in order to produce one script selected at the training workshop that the Writers Guild is conducting. In addition, a past president of the Australian Writers Guild- a lady who is a highly professionally qualified writer- has been appointed to the Interim Board of the Australian Film Commission.
– In directing my question to the Attorney-General, I say by way of preface that it is asked with the knowledge that the matter of the 2 men to whom he referred is sub judice. I will endeavour not to breach the sub judice rule as it relates to them. I refer to the statement of the Attorney-General that charges of assault were laid against 2 men this morning. I refer also to various statements of both the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs last week that everything that possibly could be done in that matter had been done. I ask: Why did the Minister not initiate a departmental investigation on the day of the incident or the following day instead of waiting until the pressure of the Senate Opposition forced him to do so? Do not the forced and belated investigations of the Government prove the utter falsity of the Government’s earlier stand and the full justification of the Opposition’s assertions?
– The answer to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question is no, they do not. The honourable senator may recall that I stated, I think on Wednesday of last week, that an inquiry had been instituted -
– On the Tuesday?
-Prior to the Senate commencing.
– On the Tuesday?
– Prior to the Senate commencing on the Tuesday. So before the honourable senator or his colleagues opened their mouths here an inquiry had been instituted, and I think I have indicated that it was formalised in some way on the following day. It is not appropriate for me to answer the earlier parts of the honourable senator’s question, as I think events will show.
– I also refer to the matter which has just been raised by Senator Carrick and to the answer given by the AttorneyGeneral. I ask the Attorney-General: In view of the prima facie evidence of some form of collusion or conspiracy to withhold from a court of petty sessions last Friday week material evidence as to what happened at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on the Thursday, what is the Attorney-General prepared to say to the Senate about the outcome of the inquiries into that matter? Is it to be assumed that there was no conspiracy and no collusion? If not, what is the explanation for the giving of apparently false evidence to the court?
– The honourable senator is making some very serious statements in saying that there is prima facie evidence of a conspiracy and that apparently false evidence was given to the court. If he has anything with which he can assist by way of factual information, let him put it to the police, the Crown Solicitor or the Solicitor-General. I suggest that the honourable senator should restrain himself and abandon the making of such observations, the purpose of which is to make political capital for himself. They are prejudicial to proceedings which have been instituted.
– I raise a point of order. It is offensive that a question which is designed to elicit information in a matter of public interest relating to the administration of justice is to be denigrated as an attempt to make personal political capital. I am seeking information in a matter relating to the administration of justice. The position is abundantly clear and my submission is that the Attorney-General ought not use the forms of the Senate or be allowed to use the forms of the Senate to escape giving a fair answer to a fair question.
– Order! I find myself in some difficulty in this for the simple reason that the rulings that I have given on sub judice matters are that questions are not to be asked on matters of a criminal nature which are either before the courts or are impending before the courts and in which the rights of citizens so arraigned may be prejudiced. To that extent I will rule out of order questions which begin to impinge upon that area. Bearing that in mind, Senator Murphy, you might care to end the matter.
-Yes, Mr President, I will end it by saying that it is a very serious matter after an inquiry has taken place and after charges have been laid for an honourable senator to allege by using classical legal terminology that there is prima facie evidence of conspiracy and that apparently people have given false evidence in the court. If the honourable senator has material at his disposal which shows that to be the position, his plain duty is to give that material to the Crown Solicitor and not make statements in this Senate which will prejudice persons who are facing proceedings in a court.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. I refer to the increasing threat of salinity to the viability of the River Murray irrigation areas which is due largely to the rising level of ground waters beneath the irrigation areas and the resultant increase in sub-surface inflows back into the River. Can the Minister indicate what control measures are being applied to ensure the continued productivity of these areas, especially in South Australia which is at the receiving end of an increasingly heavy accumulation of salt content particularly from irrigation areas up river?
– I have a clear recollection of having answered an identical question. I said then what steps were being taken to study and control salinity. I cannot recall the details but I will locate the answer that I gave and make it available to the Senate.
– I propose to call Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield. With the permission of the Senate, in the circumstances she may ask her question while seated.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and follows the question asked today by Senator Gietzelt and the Attorney-General’s answer to it. Is it fair, with the law as it presently exists and which, as the Attorney-General states, the Federal Government has power to alter, to pick on insurance companies and say that they have a moral obligation to compensate recent flood victims in Queensland and New South Wales? Is it a fact that although people insure against storm and tempest, quite legally the small print goes on specifically to exclude flood damage? Will the Government move to eliminate all fine print from all documents, forms and contracts and compel companies to state clearly in uniform print the terms and conditions being set out? Will he undertake to ensure that any such laws relate also to airline tickets, contracts for land acquisition, superannuation forms, hire purchase or any other similar agreements?
-I do not know that it would be useful to enter into the question of what are the moral obligations as distinct from the legal ones. However, the substance of the honourable senator’s question is one to which I would answer, in general: Yes, the law ought to be altered so that the obligations and rights which a person has under contracts, especially the simple ones, are well known and to ensure that there can be no departure from them except by the clearest notice. There are some provisions in the State laws, such as those covering hotels about the deposit of one’s valuables in a hotel and one’s rights there, which require large print. Also there are certain laws about the purchase of books by instalments. But, by and large, the law has not provided, as it should have, some standard form of contract. It is part of the policy of the Government to provide that there should be no departure from the ordinary obligations in the way which the honourable senator has suggested. I am speaking in simple terms, because it is a complicated area. Clearly, we ought to have far more standardisation of these matters. One should not have to read the fine print when one buys an airline ticket, deposits something for safekeeping or engages in any of these other ordinary transactions of life.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and follows a question asked earlier today by Senator Wright. Can the Minister say whether it is correct that more man hours were lost through industrial unrest in 1971 under the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government than were lost in 1973, the first year of the present Labor Government? If the Minister is unable to answer now, will he provide the figures at the earliest opportunity?
-I think I would prefer that the question be put on notice. We will then get the correct figures for the honourable senator’s information.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that details of a supposedly confidential letter from the Postmaster-General to the Secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, Mr George Slater, were published in the Press recently? Is the Minister aware that in the letter the Postmaster-General is alleged to have said that there would be another increase in the cost of posting ordinary letters which is now 7c? Given the recent savage increase in postal charges imposed by this Government, does the Minister think it is fair for the Government even to contemplate a further increase in postal charges?
– I am not aware of any of the matters raised by the honourable senator and I ask him to place his question on the notice paper.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour, refers to actual facts pertaining to an undertaking the name of which I prefer not to give as strike action has been going on for several days and I do not wish to inflame the situation. In the case where unions A, B, C and D are employed in that undertaking and unions A, B and C cause the unemployment of the members of union D, are members of union D whose unemployment has been caused by strike action at the undertaking entitled to unemployment benefit?
– I do not think I should answer the question unless the honourable senator can give me some information. He may even be referring to a Tasmanian dispute but I am not sure. I do not know the unions involved and I do not know the unions affected although not involved. Honourable senators will remember that during the last Government the Minister for
Labour and National Service took a certain attitude about such disputes. If the honourable senator gives me information about the particular case to which he refers I will give him an answer on behalf of the Minister, either privately or in the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the Minister’s reply to my question last Thursday concerning re-stocking arrangements arising from losses due to flood, will he ascertain whether in fact grants for the replacement of stock losses are provided for in the agreement between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to disasters, or is this something new which the Government intends to institute?
– I am not in a position to say whether the replacement of stock losses is mentioned specifically in the agreement. I shall find out for the honourable senator whether such a provision has been written into it. I can only repeat what I said to him last week; I think it would be logical to assume that costs involved in the replacement of lost stock would be part of the agreement between the State and the Australian Government. However, I shall endeavour to find out for him.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, when the court proceedings are ended, he will table a full report on all the events of the incidents on Thursday 28 February, including the actions and advices of Ministers and departmental officers?
-I will take that matter under consideration. The Senate will be aware that a report has been obtained through the Commissioner of Police and studied by the Crown Solicitor. Certain action has been taken already in relation to that report. If it seems proper at the conclusion of proceedings, the contents of that report will be made public in the Senate or elsewhere. My inclination certainly would be that the report should be made public. But I think it is proper for us to wait on the course of events.
-Because I have been misrepresented, I seek leave to make a personal statement arising out of an answer given by the Attorney-General.
– Is this to be a personal explanation? If the honourable senator intends to depart from making a personal explanation and to pursue matters or to go outside what is conceived to be a personal explanation, then I submit that he should not be given leave. If he intends to adhere to the rules which apply when an honourable senator is making a personal explanation, I, and I think my party, would be prepared to grant leave.
– Order! I do not give leave to honourable senators to make personal explanations. An honourable senator asks the Senate for leave to make a personal explanation on the ground that he has been misrepresented. Senator Greenwood has asked for that leave. I now put to the Senate the question: Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I rise only because, in the course of a response which Senator Murphy gave to a question I asked, he chose to say that I was under a plain duty to provide information and not to use this arena as an opportunity for making political capital for myself. He also sought to chide me not to make statements which would prejudice defendants. I take exception to those statements because, in fact, I made no statement which would prejudice defendants. The Attorney-General has not stated the names of the persons who have been charged, and one can only assume that they are two of the three or four people who were present at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that afternoon. Nothing which I have said relates to those people. As to whether there is a plain duty on me, I refer the Attorney-General to what I said in the Senate last Tuesday night when I stated certain facts. I asked: Does it not indicate that there may or may not have been a conspiracy? I also remind the Attorney-General that in the House of Representatives on Wednesday the Prime Minister made the same statement -
– Order! Senator Greenwood, you are debating the matter. I think the matter is concluded now.
- Mr President, I have not -
– Order! You must not debate the matter. You must indicate where you have been misrepresented.
– I am indicating that, Sir.
– You are taking a long time to do it. You have not indicated to me in clear and coherent terms where you have been misrepresented.
- Mr President, you were not the person about whom the things were said; I was. When a senator has an accusation made against him to which otherwise he would have no right of reply, then my submission is that the Standing Orders and the forms of the Senate entitle him to reply -
– But not to debate the matter.
– I am not debating the matter. I am merely indicating that the words which 1 used were also used by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives. If he felt that there was an occasion for an investigation into whether there was a conspiracy, he must have believed that there was some prima facie material which suggested a conspiracy. It was in relation to that that I asked my question, and that was the question to which I was expecting a reply. I have not been given a reply. All I received was personal abuse- abuse which is not warranted, as I have indicated by the fact that there were no statements -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. It is not part of making a personal explanation to indulge in the kind of statement being made by the honourable senator.
-Mr President, with respect, the Attorney-General in answering questions is allowed to make all sorts of allegations which are not responsive to the question asked. He can smear as much as he likes. Then he seeks to deny the making of a personal explanation for which the Senate has given leave -
– I raise a point of order -
– Order! I think the matter should be allowed to rest where it is at the present moment. Senator Greenwood, in my view, has said that he did not say or impute the things that Senator Murphy said he did. I think neither honourable senator is gaining any ground and the Senate itself may be losing. So I suggest that the matter be dropped at this stage. I ask both honourable senators to agree to that procedure.
– By leave- I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to fishing boats associated with Papua New Guinea.
– (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise)- Pursuant to the provisions of Section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, I present a copy of the report and a map in 2 parts showing the boundaries of each division proposed by the Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia, together with copies of the suggestions, comments or objections lodged with the Commissioners.
Ordered that the report and map be printed.
– (New South Wales- Minister for the Media)- On behalf of the Minister for Education and pursuant to section 7 of the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1 967- 1 972, 1 present a statement of the payments made to independent schools in each State for the year ended 3 1 December 1972.
-(South AustraliaMinister for Repatriation)- Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1973, I present the reports of War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunals Nos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the year ended 30 June 1973.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-( Western Australia)- Mr President, I bring up the report of the Commonwealth of Australia Branch delegation to the Nineteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in London in September 1973 and ask for leave to move a motion in relation thereto.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I seek leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That a Message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting that House to resume consideration of a Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act to establish a Legislative Drafting Institute” which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to create a Court to be known as the Superior Court of Australia and to make provision with respect to the Jurisdiction of, and other matters in relation to, that Court.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Marriage and to Divorce and Matrimonial Causes and, in relation thereto, Parental Rights and the Custody and Guardianship of Infants, and certain other Matters.
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to:
That a Message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting that House to resume consideration of a Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to determine the Site of the New and Permanent Parliament House, and to provide for the Grounds in the vicinity of the Parliament to be controlled by the Parliament which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 161).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives in the following terms:
Pursuant to the Standing Orders relating to the resumption of proceedings on lapsed bills, the House of Representatives requests the Senate to resume consideration of the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act relating to the Australian Industry Development Corporation’, which was transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leave- agreed to:
That the request of the House of Representatives contained in its message No. 6 for the resumption by the Senate of the consideration of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1973 be complied with, that a message be transmitted to the House of Representatives acquainting it therewith and that the second reading of the Bill, the stage which the Bill had reached last session, be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives in the following terms:
Pursuant to the Standing Orders relating to the resumption of proceedings on lapsed bills, the House of Representatives requests the Senate to resume consideration of the Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act to establish a National Investment Fund, and for purposes connected therewith”, which was transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence during the last Session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leaveagreed to:
That the request of the House of Representatives contained in its message No. 7 for the resumption by the Senate of the consideration of the National Investment Fund Bill 1 973 be complied with, that a message be transmitted to the House of Representatives acquainting it therewith and that the second reading of the Bill, the stage which the Bill had reached last session, be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives in the following terms:
Pursuant to the Standing Orders relating to the resumption of proceedings on lapsed bills, the House of Representatives requests the Senate to resume consideration of the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to establish a Petroleum and Minerals Authority’, which was transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence during the last session of the Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the prorogation of the Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leaveagreed to:
That the request of the House of Representatives contained in its message No. 10 for the resumption by the Senate of the consideration of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill 1973 be complied with; that a message be transmitted to the House of Representatives acquainting it therewith; and that the second reading of the Bill, the stage which the Bill had reached last session, be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives in the following terms:
The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives: “That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on Prices: Imports in respect of which evidence is presented to the Committee that the Australian dollar price to consumers or users failed to respond to reductions in landed costs following the revaluation of the Australian dollar in December 1972 or following other relevant currency changes in 1973, with particular reference to those imports having a significant effect on domestic costs and prices .
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 182), on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II be agreed to:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the members of the Senate, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank you for the gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness the Prince Philip has once again brought the greatest pleasure to your Australian people. We, their representatives in this Senate, are grateful for this opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, viz: but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that Her Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia in that it has:
1 ) created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it;
) caused uncertainty and its management of the economy is creating social inequities;
attempted to change the Federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States;
injured rural industries and the communities they support;
pursued defence and foreign affairs policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity; and
failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence’.
– Before the Senate rose last week I was mentioning a few matters to which reference had been made in this chamber in relation to the Government’s claims that it had a mandate to carry out certain things. When I looked at what had happened since this Government came to power I found that some of the promises which it made during electioneering certainly had not been carried out. My colleague Senator Carrick mentioned the matter of defence, the amounts which had been cut from the Budget and the confusion which is now taking place in the armed Services. I find that the Government certainly has not carried out its election promises in that field or, as I mentioned earlier, in the field of education. I referred also to the rural industries. Just recently the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when speaking to a group of people said: ‘You have never had it better in your lives before’. This makes one wonder whether members of the Government know very much at all about rural industries. We live in a country where we aresubjected to various seasonal changes.
One year we could have floods, the next year we could have droughts, and the year after we could have bushfires. To say that the farmers or the men on the land have never had it so good is really stretching the imagination. They may have had a good season this year, but that does not mean that good seasons will continue for the next four or five years. So again we find that the Government does not seem to have any true conception of the problems which are faced by people in the rural industry as well as in other spheres.
In view of some of the things which have happened recently, I have become rather concerned particularly in relation to the problems which are facing members of my race. As the first and only, to date, elected Aboriginal member of Parliament, I seek the indulgence of the Senate for I feel compelled at this point in time, because of what is happening to my race with threats of violence and the inevitable backlash which will take place, to refer today to 3 sections of the Australian community. My first appeal would be to those of my race who are young, frustrated, eager and impatient for change and who, I feel, have been led to believe that violent demand is the answer to the present problems facing our people. I do not believe that threats of violence nor the kind of violent actions, a sample of which we have seen recently in Canberra, will achieve what is needed to right the wrongs of the past or of the future. We, the Aboriginal people of this nation, need to gain the support of this Parliament, the support of the State parliaments and most importantly the support of the general Australian community.
There has been and still is talk of black power. If the young of my race mean the kind of black power which says that I am proud of my race and I am as good as the next person, and if they get out and help themselves in the white man’s environment and beat him at his own game, I say that is good black power. I warn my young friends that I will have no truck with the other kind of black power which, I know, brings in its wake violence, and I warn against it as I have done previously and as I will continue to do.I say to those of my race who are young, who have had the advantage of an education and who are articulate: ‘Use these God given talents to influence the thinking of non-Aboriginal communities’.
Many of them have had the opportunity of working within the system. Many have had the opportunity to become members of various committees, and they can do much for the Aboriginal race and the Aboriginal cause. Many, through hard work and study, have attained important positions in the community, and they have grave responsibilities. Their task is a very important one. There are times, I know, when they will become frustrated and impatient, and they will ask themselves what the heck is the use. I say to them that the attitudes of a lifetime cannot be changed overnight. I know that these changes must come. Many young people of my race can do much by working within the present system because I believe that the present system can be made to work for Aborigines by Aborigines. I warn again the young and impatient of my race not to let themselves be brainwashed into believing that violence can solve the problems which are of concern to all members of the Aboriginal race because those people who encourage them along this course are evil and have no true concern for the benefit or the cause of the Aboriginal people.
Through the forum of this Parliament let me now address myself to the older members of my race- those who, like me, have suffered so much because of past discrimination and prejudice; those who, because of the attitudes of the past, have lived in squalor on the banks of creeks and have seen the destruction of their culture, yet have been able to fight back and to give their children the best education that those conditions would permit. Like me, they have a responsibility that is perhaps greater now than ever before. We have seen many changes; some good, some perhaps not so good. We have seen changes of government and changes in attitudes of the people towards the Aboriginal cause. I believe that we are now seeing genuine concern for the advancement of our people, although much remains to be done. We must ensure that the genuine problems of health, housing, education and employment, along with the associated problems, are solved satisfactorily.
I say this to my race: Whilst we remember the bad things and endeavour to rectify them, let us also put on record our appreciation of the good things, such as the hand of friendship that has been extended and the opportunities that are now being offered. We must become involved. We must speak so that we can be a steadying influence on our younger people who speak of black power and violence. We who have crossed so many dry gullies and have known hunger, despair and discrimination in its worst form have paved a much smoother way for the younger members of our race. Now we see the light at the end of the tunnel and I hope that we will not allow it to be blocked by irresponsible actions by our young people and by non-Aborigines who would use them for their own political gain. There are within our community people who are doing that very thing at this very time.
Finally, I address myself to the nonAboriginal section of the community. Mr Deputy President, your forefathers have a lot to answer for- the poisoned flour, the shooting, the destruction of hunting ranges and hence the destruction of Aboriginal culture. Whether this was done through ignorance or greed or for whatever reason, nonetheless it is history. Although we should not dwell upon it, I believe that you, the descendants of the conquerors, should learn from history in arriving at guidelines for the present and future. I believe that you have much to put right.
There is talk of a white backlash. As an Aborigine, I cannot help asking why this should be. We, the Aborigines, are now being given opportunities that hitherto were denied to us. Surely this is just when one considers the past. I am conscious of the fact that there are in the community non-Aborigines who are in need of considerable assistance, but I do not believe that that is any reason to knock what is being done for the descendants of the conquered. This is our right by birth. I plead with those of the non-Aboriginal races who are part of the so-called backlash to try to understand that what is being done by governments is the true entitlement of the indigenous people who have been dispossessed of what was truly theirs. I say to them that their intolerance can only add fuel to the fires that have been kindled by those who want to see racial unrest in our wonderful nation.
Now, Mr Deputy President, perhaps you will permit me to address myself to members of the Parliament. I believe it is time- to adopt a phrase- that Aboriginal advancement and the cause of the Aboriginal people became an issue far and above Party politics. I say to you, my colleagues: Stop taking political kudos from a problem that should be concerning us all. I believe that the indigenous people of this nation are entitled to be given opportunities, encouragement and assistance to enable them to become respected and responsible members in the community. Let us stop making this matter a political football. I have listened in this chamber and read the Hansard of the other place and I have seen where the Aboriginal people have been tossed from one side to the other as though they were a political football, to gain a point here and to gain a point there, at the cost of the lives of so many. Governments still have not solved the high death rate of Aboriginal children in many parts of Australia. There is still a great deal to be done. I am grateful for what has been done and for the efforts that have been made to assist Aborigines, but sometimes I am sick at heart because we are being made a political football.
Mr Deputy President, I felt that I should say the things that I have said because this is the first time that the voice of the Aboriginal people has been heard in this chamber. I realise that I have responsibilities to all sections of the Australian community, but I feel also that I have a particular responsibility to people of my own race.
– I desire to say a few words on the AddressinReply to the Queen’s Speech and to support the amendment. But first of all I should like to refer to the uncalled for and unwarranted attack on the Premier of Queensland by Senator Milliner.
– How do you know it was uncalled for and unwarranted?
– It seems that my remarks have drawn a bit of an answer straight away. I think even Senator Mulvihill mentioned something -
– The only time the Premier of Queensland declared a state of emergency was when the Springboks were there- not when areas and people were flooded out.
– When the honourable senator opposite has finished I will make my speech. Senator Milliner accused the Premier of making political capital out of the recent disaster in Queensland by not recognising the role played by the Federal Government. That is entirely wrong and I refute the claim completely. The Premier has travelled the State continually since flooding commenced. Although most of the reference to flooding in Queensland refers to Foundation Day weekend when the Brisbane River was in such high flood, I remind the Senate that in some parts of Queensland flooding started a week before Christmas and that our Premier had made arrangements with the Federal Government for the use of helicopters. He gave credit to the Federal Government for the help it gave. On about 20 December he had helicopters working in the Gladstone and Rockhampton area rescuing people from rooftops.
– He did not. The Australian Government put the helicopters there. He never thought to ask for them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Senator Keeffe, if you have no contribution of your own to make during this debate you will let the honourable senator make his speech in silence.
– Helicopters were working in the south west areas of Queensland at the same time. Although the Premier visited areas in various electorates throughout the State, including Mt Isa, Cairns, Cook and Rockhampton, to mention a few, not one word of recognition or praise has been received from members of the Australian Labor Party. The Premier initiated a debate in the Queensland Parliament on Tuesday of last week during which he praised the Commonwealth Government. I quote from the Queensland Hansard report of this statement by the Premier on Tuesday:
I wish to express, on behalf of Queenslanders, our gratitude to the people and governments in Australia and overseas who gave money and material to Queenslanders in need after the flood. I have criticised the Federal Government in the past when I have believed it was warranted- I undoubtedly will do so in the future. However, I also believe in giving thanks where thanks are due. I have done so to date and will restate it in this House to go on the record: The Acting Prime Minister, Mr Barnard, the Federal Treasurer, Mr Crean, other Commonwealth Ministers and their departments have not hesitated and their help has been most generous. I saw a remark the other day that the Federal Government was only doing what other Federal governments had done in the past. I think that is a grudging attitude and again express thanks on behalf of the Queensland people and government for both the financial assistance and the spirit of co-operation displayed by all levels of government involved. In this spirit the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council are agreed that people, not politics, are the paramount concern. I pay tribute to the work of the armed services and particularly to the Air Force pilots who flew in the worst possible weather and saved very many people from certain death.
It should be noted that in the appeal for funds as apart from the joint governments assistance, the Queensland Government has given $500,000 and the Commonwealth Government $600,000. But I am informed that the Australian Labor Party City Council and the Lord Mayor provided nothing. Another claim has been made that the Queensland Government tried to claim credit for having given all the assistance. The Premier said in his speech on Tuesday:
Attention was drawn to advertisements setting out where help is available. There was no intent to claim all credit and I have repeatedly publicly thanked the Commonwealth for its assistance.
One has only to read the advertisements published in the Queensland Press which show where help is available to see that all those advertisements mention the joint effort by the Commonwealth and the State in this matter. I have mentioned that the Queensland floods did not last for about only a week. In fact, the serious part of the floods lasted for about 6 weeks. It is interesting to note that in the whole of that time our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on one of his brief visits to Australia, put in half an hour in Brisbane at night to look at the flood damage. I would like to point out also that when things were particularly bad in the north west of the State- in the Mt Isa area the railway line and the road have been completely washed out- and the Gulf country was flooded- Mr Barnard and Dr Patterson were on a trip to Darwin in a VIP plane. When they got to Mt Isa and realised how grim things were in that area, during the course of their refuelling stop there for about half an hour, they did manage to issue a lot of statements about what they were going to do and what should be done. But it was about 5 days too late. Another point disclosed by the floods in Queensland and New South Wales is the great difficulty in contacting any responsible authority in Canberra over the weekend. Apparently no Minister is rostered for duty over the weekend, as is the practice in most States, to handle any emergency that might arise. You have to telephone all over Australia to find a responsible Minister if you want something in a hurry such as the RAAF aircraft. It is very difficult to get this contact in Canberra. I hope that this matter will be remedied in the future and that somebody will be made available with whom the State governments, or somebody in authority in the States, can make contact in a time of emergency and get action straightaway instead of having to wait hours or even days.
I want to refer to some of the matters mentioned in the amendment moved to the motion containing the Address-in-Reply to the Queen’s Speech. Reference is made in the amendment to an attempt to change the federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States. That is something that my Party is very much against. My Party believes in a Federal system with strong States and we will not, if we can possibly avoid it, have any more centralisation of powers. This Government is committed to a centralist policy and has shown this in many respects. In the short time that it has been in power it has done all it can to weaken and destroy the authority of the States. It is doing many things that are of interest now. It has passed a Bill dealing with control of the seabed offshore which naturally is the subject of appeal at the present time. I noticed that Her Majesty the Queen said in her Speech that on the advice of her advisers in Westminster and Canberra she had decided to refer the appeal by the governments of Tasmania and Queensland to the High Court of Australia and not to the Privy Council as was the practice in the past. The Government has taken systematic action to endeavour to pass legislation in this Parliament, and by means other than legislation, to cut out appeals to the Privy Council and to cut our ties with Westminster.
A census is being taken now about a proposed new national anthem and the Government very cleverly left out the existing national anthem from the list of possibilities because it would seem from public opinion polls taken throughout Australia that the present national anthem would win about 70 per cent of the popular vote if included in the contest. The Government also wants to change our flag but we have not yet been told exactly what is proposed. No doubt we will hear about it in the future. It is now pursuing a policy of centralisation. The proposed referenda are all aimed in that direction and at giving all power to Canberra. The Party I represent is definitely against that proposition.
I want to refer briefly to rural industries and the communities which they support. In the middle of last year we received the report of the socalled Coombs task force, or think tank- I do not know what it is called these days- which recommended changes affecting in some way the rural industries or those people living outside the big centres of population. The report referred extensively to subsidies and to taxation incentives. The effect of that report is that people living outside the larger centres of population think that they are getting a raw deal from this Government. There is no doubt that they are, Mr Deputy President. The report affects rural areas firstly and directly but it will affect the whole of the Australian people. A decision has been made not to renew the superphosphate bounty and the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty at the end of this year.
I would like to refer to some remarkable statements which were made by an unnamed Treasury official and quoted about a fortnight ago on a program broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not know why a top Treasury official should be in a position to make these statements. His first statement was that the users of superphosphate were getting that product at $25 or $30 a ton below world parity because that was what the Australian Government was paying the Nauru and Christmas Island producers. He said that the producers were being paid $27, 1 think it was, below world parity. I understand that the Moroccan price was quoted as world parity. He said that the Australian users were already that much better off; so why should they receive any more by way of subsidy. He also made the remarkable statement that more than half the superphosphate fertilizer purchased in Australia was used on pastures and not on crops, although the grass was unable to benefit from the use of superphosphate. I do not know who told him that or where he got that information from, but it can be refuted in every respect. I believe it is entirely wrong. The man who dealt with that aspect of fertilizers on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program was not slow to refute it and to point out where he was wrong.
We in this country are witnessing a great upsurge in trade union dictation. We wonder whether the trade unions are running the country or whether the Government is doing so. In this regard I refer to the postal unions. The Post Office is going so far into the red that Mr Slater, who was to be a Senate candidate for Victoria, but has now retired from that position, has stated in a letter that the cost of posting an ordinary letter is to be increased to 10c in the next Budget. It will be a tremendous impost on the Australian people if they are required to pay 10c to put a stamp on a letter. I am afraid that many fewer letters will be posted. The Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), because of union pressure, said that throughout Australia there would be no Saturday household deliveries of mail in those cities in which such deliveries have been made. Not very long ago we had 2 mail deliveries on weekdays and one on Saturdays. Now we are down to one mail delivery a day, 5 days a week. On second thoughts, some of the union members are not too pleased about the situation because they will lose money by not working on Saturday mornings.
After the Postmaster-General made the announcement regarding Saturday mail deliveries, the unions decided what they would then do, and they issued instructions that all official post offices throughout Australia would not open on Saturday mornings. How can a union dictate to the Government in relation to how mail deliveries are to be made, when post offices are to be open and what business is to be done? But the unions went further than that. An instruction was issued from the district postal offices to all the non-official post offices- that is the great bulk of the post offices in the smaller places where there are no household deliveries, which were to stay open on Saturday mornings- to the effect that the postmasters of these non-official post offices were not to hand out mail over the counter on
Saturday mornings. I have seen that instruction. This has caused a lot of ill-feeling, because when a person goes into these smaller post offices he can see all the pigeon holes containing the mail. He can see whether there is mail in the particular pigeon hole in which his mail is kept. But he has to go back on the Monday to pick up any mail the post office is holding for him, and he may live some distance out of town.
In addition, in many of the smaller areas of Australia the mail goes out on Friday nights; it has been an established custom over many years that the mail trains and other mail services go out on Friday nights.
If a mail contractor goes out to serve the farms and station properties from a country post office he is not now allowed to get his mail on Saturday mornings. It cannot be sorted then and he cannot collect it until the Monday of the next week. Many people in country areas now have to miss out on all the weekend papers they have been in the habit of receiving for as long as they can remember. The people in the country towns will be the ones to suffer.
This results from further union dictatorship in regard to what the Government can and cannot do. The Postmaster-General then got a bright idea for providing a service on Saturday mornings. I do not know what the service could be because only stamps and postal notes could have been sold. The service was to be provided in newspaper shops, chemist shops or other small stores. It was not long before the unions declared that if any of these small businesses took on this work for the Postmaster-General, several things would happen. Firstly, the unions would see to it that the shops concerned did not receive the supplies of stamps, postal notes and the raw materials necessary to do business with the public. The unions would also place a black ban on the businesses concerned. If their telephone services broke down, they would not be repaired. So after trying for a week or so to have the service accepted the Postmaster-General himself had to capitulate to the postal unions. In effect, the result today is that there is practically no business done by the non-official post offices that remain open. A questionnaire was sent out this week to see whether it is worth while to keep open the non-official post offices for 2 hours, from 9 a.m. to 1 1 a.m., on Saturday mornings.
I should also like to refer to the telephone section of the Post Office. It is providing a good deal of the money to balance the losses in the mail section. The expansion in the telephone section, especially outside the bigger centres of population, seems to have broken down completely. Our Government, when it was in power, would construct the first 1 5 miles of a telephone service from a telephone exchange free of charge and maintain it in perpetuity. There would be a small fee for a service provided beyond that distance. lt is pretty hard to let private contractors build many of these telephone lines if they are to be connected to automatic exchanges because if the lines are not up to a certain standard, this affects the whole of the exchange. The present Government reduced the distance for which telephone lines would be provided free of charge from 15 miles to 5 miles or 8 kilometres from a telephone exchange. Any person within that distance from an exchange may have a telephone provided by the Department for the payment of $60. But when a person who is a little further away than 5 miles from the exchange applies to have a telephone installed, he is told that he may get it in 1976, 1977 or 1978.
To take the position a little further, I know of a case involving a man who lives 14.4 kilometers from a telephone exchange that is to become automatic. A demand has been made for the payment of $2,080 to construct the telephone services to his house. He has been told that if he does not pay this amount of money, he will not even be considered for the installation of a telephone for 2 years, 3 years or more hence. In addition, he has to pay the same $60 connection fee that is paid by everyone else.
– This is helping the Government ‘s policy of decentralisation, is it not?
-Exactly. What a penalty for those who by accident do not live within 5 miles of an exchange. They are not allowed to build their own telephone lines for the reasons that I have explained. The position now is that many of these people have to do without a telephone with the resultant loss of revenue to the Post Office. It is a severe penalty on persons in business, including farmers and graziers. Business people need a telephone to compete with others who have telephones. A telephone is absolutely vital also in the case of sickness or other emergency. So many of the country people still do not have adequate roads and at times of flood they just cannot get help.
We are supposed to be having a booming economy at present. One of the paradoxes, one of the extraordinary things, is that in boom times, when we would think everything would be in abundant supply, we are having shortages of many essential goods. The Government reduced the tariff rates on overseas goods to try to bring more goods into Australia. The tariff reduction was supposed to reduce the price. We are told now that there has been no apparent reduction in price, despite the overall reduction in the tariff on a flat rate percentage. Many articles which are made in Australia are not obtainable. The articles are not being held from the market; they are simply not available. Many people have made exhaustive inquiries into the shortages.
Foodstuffs, particularly canned foodstuffs, from many mid-European and eastern European countries have appeared on our shelves. I believe this would be to the detriment of the Australian manufacturers and canners of those particular foodstuffs. A rumour is getting around that in the next couple of months another very large increase will occur in the cost of foodstuffs and many other essential commodities. I think this is only natural. We hear of increased costs pretty well every day. I should like to refer also to minerals and energy and in particular the oil position in Australia. I do not think many Australians realise how lucky they were to have governments in the last 15 years or so that were prepared to give a substantial subsidy for oil search. As a result we went from the position of having no known natural oil of any commercial quantity in Australia to a point where we are about 70 per cent self-sufficient. What would be the position today if we were not 70 per cent self-sufficient in our oil supplies? If we had not discovered, through the foresight of the previous Government, this oil in various parts of Australia we would have been absolutely at the mercy of the Middle East oil companies as some other nations have found themselves. As a result we have been able to carry on without any big increase in price for our own oil.
The position now is that apparently there is to be no more oil search subsidy. Nobody is willing to search without a bit of help. The rigs that were boring and searching for oil in Australia systematically are leaving to go to other places. Some are going to the North Sea and other areas where more encouragement is given. Our oil fields are not inexhaustible. They will cut out in the foreseeable future, but that is certainly a good way away yet. We must continue to encourage people to search for oil so that we will be at least 100 per cent self-sufficient and not gradually become more and more dependent upon imported oil. We will arrive at the position where no more oil search will be going on. As well as the rigs leaving Australia we are losing the know-how and expertise which is available generally all over the world for oil search. We must have experts help us in our search for oil. That is something that is not generally realised.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the sitting of the Senate was suspended for lunch I was mentioning the position in respect of our oil prospecting and oil supplies. I suggested that by the Government not continuing the oil subsidy we have been placed in the position of losing a lot of the expertise and know-how which we had in oil prospecting, losing the drilling rigs overseas and running the risk of being short of oil and energy in the foreseeable future.
A matter which I mentioned earlier in my speech is the dictation by the trade unions as to how the Government shall run this country. In Brisbane the unions concerned are saying that a certain insurance building shall not be constructed. It so happens that the unions have picked on the Australian Mutual Provident Society. The attack on this organisation is apparently because it has refused to pay for flood damage under house insurance policies.
– Does the honourable senator think that what the insurance company did was fair?
– What I was going to say- I say this in answer to Senator Mulvihill- is that the AMP is one of the biggest life assurance offices in Australia. It is a purely mutual company with no shareholders. It does not do very much business in house insurance. No doubt it does some. But this building is a big one. Perhaps one could understand an attack on a company which deals purely with that type of insurance. But why pick on the AMP which, as I say, is a mutual office with no shareholders seeking profits? This is not a case of attacking shareholders for getting profits. The unions are saying what buildings can be built, what buildings are to be pulled down or not pulled down and where there should be green belts. The unions also have introduced sanctions against foreign governments in regard to ships, planes and even mail coming to our shores.
I believe that sooner or later there has to be a showdown as to who governs this country- the Commonwealth Government and the State governments or the trade unions. The trade unions claim to have a say in the way of life in this country. But others can play at this game. Other people might suddenly start to try to dictate. I do not believe it is right that a group of trade unions should dictate or attempt to dictate to established governments in this country. The sooner we have a showdown on this matter the better. We have had the spectacle of certain trade unions having an argument with France over atomic testing. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case were at the time, one group of people should not be able to say whether mail from France comes in and goes out. These things are wrong. The other day an aeroplane from a South American country was blacklisted for a few days because a group of unions believed that that country was doing something of what they did not approve. Another matter I mentioned is found in the Queen’s Speech. She stated:
Legislation will be introduced to set up an Australian Land Commission to co-ordinate land acquisition programs throughout Australia.
A little later the Queen stated:
My Government will introduce legislation, as required, on the recommendations of committees of inquiry on Land Tenure and the National Estate.
I wonder just what is hidden behind those 2 statements? Are we to have a massive acquisition and resumption of privately owned land throughout Australia to put it back under government ownership and control? I wonder whether that is the thinking behind those statements. If it is, I am very much concerned, because the Government could put that money into channels which would be much more beneficial to the people of this country. On Thursday night I noticed the apparent reluctance of honourable senators on the Government side to speak in the Address-in-Reply debate. I do not know the reason for their reluctance. From this side of the chamber we have had 2 speakers, one after the other. I wonder whether there will be any more Government speakers.
– That will be remedied very shortly.
– I hope it is. I support the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition to the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen.
-In order to disillusion Senator Lawrie, who has just resumed his seat, I point out that it was not really my intention to speak in the Address-in-Reply debate. I think that this sort of contribution to parliamentary debate largely becomes just an exercise, with people exploiting their own hobby horses. But I do not want to do that. I do want to refer to a number of things which Senator Lawrie has said in case they are misunderstood or misinterpreted outside this chamber. As one of my colleagues on this side of the chamber said earlier today, the speech from the honourable senator was almost like his maiden speech. It is certainly the longest one he has made in the Senate since he came here. As I have mentioned on a couple of occasions before, I am in grave doubt as to where that speech was written.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Keeffe, that is a shocking insinuation to make
– Order! What is the point of order?
- Senator Keeffe is implying that Senator Lawrie did not write his own speech. I take exception to that.
– Order! Senator Young, on what standing order are you basing your case?
– The honourable senator is casting -
– Order! What is the standing order?
– I think it is standing order 418.
-Standing order 4 1 8 states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
Whom has Senator Keeffe indicated as not being responsible for his own speech?
- Senator Keeffe has implied that Senator Lawrie has read a speech which was written by somebody else. I think that is most unfair and unparliamentary.
– Order! I do not think Senator Lawrie has ever asked anyone to write his speeches. Senator Keeffe, I think you will readily acknowledge that, will you not?
-Yes, I realise that. I am not aware of any standing order which would preclude me from making that statement.
– Order! No one can read a speech. That is the whole point. Senator Keeffe, I hope you will bear that in mind.
– Let me resume my criticism of the speech. I think it is significant that the honourable senator devoted almost the whole of his time to a variety of criticisms without suggesting any remedy. This has happened in relation to most honourable senators opposite who have spoken in this debate. In any case, I think I ought to correct that position or perhaps explain it on behalf of the honourable senator, who claimed to be representing the country people. As most people are aware, 2 separate teams are running in the Senate election on behalf of the Opposition parties in Queensland. The Party to which Senator Lawrie formerly belonged is now known as the great alliance. It has joined a second party in opposition to the Liberal Party. So there are grave doubts as to his bona fides when he claims to speak on behalf of country people.
I wish to make some pertinent comments on a couple of other points which he made, particularly his last statement. He asked: ‘Who is governing this country? Is it the trade unions or the respective governments?’ I remind him of events in England in the last few weeks when Mr Heath went to the people and said: ‘Who governs the country?’ All that the English people said was: ‘You do not. ‘ He lost his government as a result of his actions. The position in Australia does not vary a great deal. Probably the thing which affects the good senator and those who align themselves with him politically is the fact that for many years- for 23 years, to be precisethe people who sat on this side of the chamber were not making policies. In the field of health the people who made the decisions on behalf of the Government were the Australian Medical Association and the drug houses, in the main. In the field of education it was an emotional sort of thing, and it was doubtful who was responsible for making the decisions. In the field of foreign affairs the decisions were made by America and one or two other countries, and Australia tamelyfollowed along. It is a little difficult for the people who now comprise the Opposition parties of this Parliament to realise that there has been such a major change in the whole fabric of this country. Judging by what one hears around the streets and around the places of assembly in Australia, it is a change for the better. We do not want to go back to the old sort of dictation from outside the Parliament that we experienced in those days. In the field of home building the decisions were made for the Government by the developers of this country and by the people who made a buck out of the building construction game.
When governments fall it is obvious that somebody has to come to the rescue. The fact that trade unions today are applying green bans and deciding that something ought to be done in certain areas is unacceptable to those people who formerly comprised a government which had all its policies made for it by organisations and people outside this chamber. I think it is pertinent for me to say that the recent bans which have been discussed in Queensland, particularly in relation to this fantastic insurance company to which Senator Lawrie referred, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, have had one very good effect so far. The Premier of Queensland, whom the honourable senator places on a pedestal at all times, has had a second look at whether money shall be paid in the case of flood damage. Quite frankly, the onus falls back on to the companies which accept the premiums of the ordinary men and women of this country in terms of insurance payments. When the crunch comes, if there is a cyclone, a major flood, or a major bushfire, the companies are not very happy to pay out. They use all the loopholes they can to avoid paying.
I wish to refer to a number of other matters which were raised by my colleagues on this side. I refer particularly to the speech made by Senator Milliner a few days ago when he was one of the leaders, on behalf of the Government, in the Address-in-Reply debate. He made available to this chamber a whole host of facts and figures. It is a pity that Senator Lawrie did not study that speech in detail. If he had looked at the objective statements made by Senator Milliner he would not have told some of the fairy stories which he told today.
– Tell us the story about Bob Katter.
– I will have a couple of words to say about Mr Katter and about how he mistakenly sent a telegram that he was drowning in Cloncurry, and it had a Surfers Paradise datestamp on it. I will refer to that in a moment. Let me rebut the argument put by Senator Lawrie about the Premier of Queensland doing this fantastic job of going around the State to see where the damage was. If the Premier had sent his personal pilot and the State Government’s aeroplane which he uses exclusively- I doubt whether Senator Lawrie has flown in it, because the Premier certainly does not allow any member of the State Opposition to use it for political purposesto these devastated areas with half a dozen bags of flour and a few sacks of potatoes, he would have done a much more worthwhile job than he did on his tour of inspection. I think it was one of my colleagues in the State House who really answered the Press statement made by the Premier only a week or two ago. I refer to the statement made publicly by Mr Perc Tucker, the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in Queensland. The Premier criticised Mr Tucker by saying that he was several weeks too late to look at the damage. This was not true. People in the Brisbane area associated with the Premier’s office were probably happy to see him out of town for a few days because of all the fiddling around while he remained in Brisbane.
I live in the tropics. During the worst part of this tragedy I did not have time to carry out a number of inspections, but I certainly did a lot of other work. We were shifting food, medicines and building materials wherever and whenever we could, without much help from the State Government. When the State Government stationed a representative in Townsville to look after this area, this was when things started to break down. While the work was in the hands of local people- the local civil defence organisations and the local committees which were raising food, clothes and finance- the wheels of industry in the devastated areas were turning fairly smoothly. There was an occasion when we asked for 2 aeroplanes. They were supposed to be there to do short haul jobs in difficult circumstances, to take off from difficult aerodromes and to repeat the journeys. What happened? After we chased after them for several days, we found that the Premier had actually forgotten to order them. A great amount of red tape is involved. A local organisation cannot actually place the orders for this type of assistance. It has to go through the Premier’s Department or through the Commissioner of Police. Perhaps I should say a little more of that quick tourist dash which the Premier did to northern Queensland. He seemed to have a predeliction for staying only an hour or two in each area, issuing a Press statement and taking off again. It is significant- I am told this by people handling relief in the areas- that as a result of the Premier visiting those areas things slowed down. They were not speeded up at all.
Senator Lawrie also said that the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the Labor Brisbane City Council did not do anything to alleviate the distress during the time of the great flood. I say that that statement is a complete untruth. I did not say that it was a lie, so it is not objectionable. As we were told by Senator Milliner recently, if it had not been for the Lord Mayor no money would have been raised in the initial stages because when the Premier was asked to raise some money he said: ‘I will wash my hands of it. I will have nothing to do with it because I failed once after the Killarney storm. I will not raise anything now’. This is exactly what he said on A.M.’, an Australian Broadcasting Commission morning show. If Senator Lawrie rose early enough he would hear it occasionally. Somebody asked the Premier whether he would declare a state of emergency at a time of great crisis. The Premier said: ‘No, I will not’. When the questioner asked him why he was so anxious to declare a state of emergency when a football team was in town, he said: ‘That was a different thing.
That was an industrial matter’. When the people were losing their homes, their property and even their lives, the Premier sat back and did not declare a state of emergency. People would be alive today if a state of emergency had been declared. I refer particularly to the Army personnel who lost their lives and who should never have lost their lives. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane was one of the few heroes of the great flood. He did not sit down waiting for something to happen, as did the Premier. The Premier was the first to get off the ground in making political capital. He was not worried about the misery or damage that was being caused in Brisbane. When the insurance companies packed up and said that they would not pay, he said: ‘That is all right’. It was not his house that was washed away; it was not his property that was flooded. It was not even his office in the Treasury building which was flooded.
– None of his mining shares were affected.
– None of his mines went under water. They all stayed dry. The Lord Mayor did not sit around. He set the appeal going, in co-operation with other organisations in the city area. He went around Australia making an emotional appeal for funds, and that is the way that funds were obtained for flood relief in Queensland. It was not because of the Premier. As a matter of political expediency about a week later the Premier had to get off his bottom and do something, but only because he was frightened of the political consequences of not doing something. I refer now to the great telegram sender of north Queensland. As he is an ex-Minister, I suppose I should refer to him as the Honourable Mr Katter. This matter was brought in by interjection. I do not want to engage in a personality campaign against Mr Katter, but he is notorious for sending telegrams to anybody at all. In the old days he would send them to Bill McMahon, the right honourable ex-Prime Minister, or to anybody he could think of. But he never followed the matters through. This occasion was no exception. He fell into his great old habit of sending telegrams, saying ‘We want this and that’. It is true that he made a brief tour of part of his electorate. One of his great mistakes was reported in the Press. He sent a telegram seeking assistance for a flooded area in the Cloncurry region. I am not sure of its exact location. However, the telegram showed a southern area as its place of origin. The telegram pointed out the suffering that was being experienced in the flooded area, but it was sent from the Gold Coast or the metropolitan area where he was living it up. 1 think the record ought to be kept straight and not watered down by honourable senators opposite who misstate facts in this chamber.
Senator Lawrie is very worried about the weakening of the authority of the States. He went off at a tangent about the off-shore legislation and said it was one of the most shocking things that could happen to this country because we cannot take an appeal to the Privy Council. Who the hell in Australia in 1974 wants to take anything to the Privy Council? If we are not a grown nation now and cannot run our own legal processes and our own governments without hanging on to somebody else’s coat tails, we ought to give up and become the fifty-seventh satellite state of some other country. Senator Lawrie knows that a Senate committee sat for a long time in looking at many aspects of off-shore petroleum problems. Some very valuable contributions were made to the discussions that were held prior to publication of the Committee’s report. I am charitable and big enough to say that some of the good points actually came from members of the present Opposition, who in those days were on this side of the chamber. Now we have an Opposition senator who states that we ought not to have that sort of law. I remind him that we are one of the two or three countries which have no knowledge of where their offshore boundaries are. This year we are to attend a conference on the law of the sea. Because of the hold-up tactics of the Opposition in the Senate during the last session and thanks to the 23 years in which the previous Government was in office without writing into our statute book a policy in relation to the law of the sea, we will attend as one of the under-developed countries of the world. How stupid can we be? It is time that we all grew up and had a look at this particular aspect of law making.
We heard a great sob story that 70 per cent of the people of Australia want to retain ‘God Save the Queen’ as our national anthem. It amazes me. I know of a Liberal Party member who has been spending some of his money on advertisements in country newspapers and talking about the hundreds of letters that he is receiving. I have challenged him before and I challenge him again to table the hundreds of letters he has received which show that people are interested in retaining ‘God Save the Queen’. Even the Queen herself on the occasion of a previous visit to Australia approved of the Australian Government’s attitude in nominating her as the Queen of Australia. Had we continued under the previous Government we would never have made that great advance. If Senator Lawrie can produce evidence that 70 per cent of the people want to retain ‘God Save the Queen’ as our national anthem, I will donate my next week’s salary to any charity that he chooses, except the Liberal Party or the Country Party.
There was the famous attack on an anonymous Treasury official. Senator Young is interjecting. I did not mention the Liberal Country League and I did not mention Tin Shed’s party either. I do not think Senator Young has the right to call for funds for his bankrupt Liberal Country League. I thought that the reference to an anonymous Treasury official was a little below the belt. It is not of much use for Senator Lawrie to say that the people in the rural areas are all bankrupt. An economist who does not support Labor wrote in a recent publication that this country’s primary industries have never been better off, except under a Labor government. We all remember the visit overseas of the Leader of the then Country Party, or National Party, or Great Alliance, or something. At one stage he was Deputy Prime Minister of this country. He went overseas to see what could be done about phasing out the markets for the primary products that we needed to sell to Britain at that time because we had no alternative markets. No previous Minister for Primary Industry went around the world trying to find new markets as Senator Wriedt has done ever since he was appointed Minister for Primary Industry. He has found new markets from one side of the world to the other and we are now in the unhappy position that we do not have enough primary production to fulfill the orders we are receiving from the new markets.
- Senator Wriedt is a good Minister.
– Of course he is. He is twice as good as any previous Minister for Primary Industry in the 23 years of the previous Government. What is the honourable senator crying about? When he leaves this Parliament on 30 June he could raise a few sheep in his backyard. He would get rid of the wool all right by leaving the task to Senator Wriedt. The previous Minister to whom I referred decided that he would have a holiday on his way to London to negotiate. While he was holidaying on his way to London the New Zealand Minister for Trade and Industry got in before him and clinched a deal for a 5-year phasing out period for certain of New Zealand ‘s primary products.
What did Mr Anthony say when he came back to Australia? He did not say: ‘I had a holiday and was too late to do any phasing out’. He came back and gave the British Conservative Government a great blast because of the mess it had made of Australia’s markets. That does not happen under Labor. Since 2 December 1972 there has been continual progress so that today our markets and the scope of our primary production have been widened. Yet Senator Lawrie is complaining. He produces beef and has been able to sell that product which has been priced off the tables of our workers. Yet he claims to be poor and going bankrupt. He cried great crocodile tears about the Postmaster-General not having his post offices open on a Saturday morning. In all sincerity I ask Senator Lawrie to tell us of the last time that he went to a post office or a bank on a Saturday morning to transact business.
– Last Saturday.
– He must have been in real strife. He went along for political purposes to see whether the post office was open. I do not think he ever went there on a Saturday morning to transact business. I know of nobody in the community who is very interested in whether any establishments are open on a Saturday morning. If somebody asked Senator Lawrie to work here from 8 o’clock on Monday morning until lunch time on Saturday as a politician he would be the first one to buck and to say that he wanted a 35-hour week because he would not be able to cope. The next big complaint was that tariff reductions had not brought about a fall in prices. It is true it has not happened in some fields, but I remind the honourable senator that the people getting the rake-off are the middle men, the people who ought to be reducing their prices in accordance with the tariff cuts. But they are not doing that. They are putting the gains in their pockets. If the honourable senator really wants to do something worthwhile, let him come into this chamber and support the Trade Practices Bill and legislation to strengthen the Prices Justification Tribunal. Let us straighten this country out and have some son of control in those areas.
Great crocodile tears also were wept over what has happened to our oil industry and what would have happened if there had not been a LiberalCountry Party government in office in the previous 1 5 years. I say without hesitation that because a Liberal-Country Party government was in office for the previous 15 years this nation has been turned into a great area of dust bowls and gravel pits where we have mined our precious minerals and sold them for a song. There has been a great reaction because Rex Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, decided that Australians were entitled to a fairer deal. We saw the mining companies break out in tears all over
Australia. They took their drills away. The only reason they took their drills away was that they thought they would make a quick buck somewhere else. They will be back, Senator Lawrie, in all their glory, drilling in areas which they know have prospective oil deposits. There are numerous areas in this country which show signs of hydrocarbons and which can be drilled and prospected. One of the areas on which the honourable senator’s beloved Premier has his eye is the Great Barrier Reef- the whole 1,200 miles of it. He is not worried about the Great Barrier Reef turning into a dead marine jungle because he wants to put his oil wells into that area. As far as I am concerned, it will be over my dead political body that anybody puts a drill into the Great Barrier Reef.
-I sought substance in Senator Keeffe ‘s remarks but I found them such a farrago of nonsense as to be unworthy of serious consideration, although it was refreshing- for the first time- to hear him utter some concern for the unfortunate members of the armed Services who were drowned in Brisbane. So silly was his farrago that even when an interjection was in his favour he could not understand it. I want to make certain that I join in the loyal address to Her Majesty and that I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). The Queen has honoured us by conducting the opening ceremony as our constitutional monarch, even though she was forced by her advisers to deliver a speech of apalling twaddle.
– Order! Senator, I think you should not use the term ‘forced’.
– Well, I will change the word ‘twaddle’. She was forced by her constitutional advisers to deliver a speech of a highly party political nature, a speech written by Mr Freudenburg and approved by Mr Whitlam.
-It is still offensive.
– Offensive to whom? One of the interesting aspects of the drafting of this Speech which we are supposed to be discussingI know it is a novelty to refer to the Speech, but that is what we are supposed to be talking about- is that in one part of the Speech the Queen speaks about Her Government doing this and Her Government doing that and in another part Her Majesty states that a previous Government had failed to carry out a certain obligation. This is such a silly piece of drafting by Mr Freudenburg that it makes the Queen criticise her own Government because, presumably, the previous Administration was the Queen’s
Government as well. We then had some reference to the word ‘mandate’. The word mandate’ has not been used in this chamber so much in recent months- since the November gallup polls started to run. After the disclosure last Saturday of the poll results in the ‘Age’ anyone opposite would be far too timid to use the word ‘mandate’ again. I would think that if an election for the House of Representatives were held now the figures would show a majority of 30 to 40 in favour of the Liberal and Country Parties.
There was another significant omission from the Speech. It has been customary, Mr President, as a man of your experience would know, for the terminal paragraph of the Speech to commend the deliberations of the Parliament to Almighty God and trust that we get on well and that we have His guidance in the discharge of the high obligations that we have. In the last 2 speeches from the throne this, significantly, has been omitted, presumably on the basis that if you have Gough you do not need God.
– Of course God could reciprocate. Have you thought of that?
-Let us trust that he will very, very shortly. I want to comment on the reference in the Speech to foreign relations. Our policies are now said to be ‘forward looking’. If we substitute the words ‘servility and obsequiousness’ in describing our policies towards communist and third world countries we get a more accurate picture. The Government talks about ‘reform’ when what it means is simply ‘change’. It is usually a change for the worse and instead of reform it means decay. I suppose if there is any area more than another in which this Government’s performance has been a disaster it is in the field of foreign affairs. What the Government has done is to insult and to deceive the British, the Americans, the French, the Singaporeans, the Malaysians, the Cambodians and the South Vietnamese whilst picking up some more than dubious friends in China, East Germany, North Korea and any other communist state that shows its head. I understand that we are preparing to welcome the gentleman from Cuba in the not too distant future. This is no reform; this is no progressive policy. Australia has simply changed sides. Far from being a respected middle power which could be relied upon to discharge its international obligations, we have now become the running dog of Chairman Mao and sometimes even of Brezhnev, although it is a little difficult sometimes for the Government to balance the different requirements between Chairman Mao and
Brezhnev because they are not always the same these days.
As would be expected, the Speech makes a special reference to China. The bulk of the Government’s policy on foreign affairs revolves around pleasing the Chairman and because, as I said before, it is sometimes difficult to deal with both Chairman Mao and Brezhnev, we have all sorts of odd results emerging from that. Last week in this very chamber we had a representative of the KGB, Lieutenant-General Evgeni Pitouranov, who had been invited to this country by a Government which keeps out girl guides from Rhodesia and boy scouts from South Africa but brings in men like Pitouranov a former General in the KGB.
Before we go off on the trail of the KGB let us look at the circumstances in which we went to China. I use the word ‘we’ in the generic sense -‘we’ representing the Government. Mr Whitlam went to China before he became Prime Minister. He made an announcement in advance that a Labor government would, as soon as it was elected, recognise China. There was no talk about terms and conditions, although before he left he did say that Australia should recognise China on the Canadian formula, which meant that we would take note of the position of Taiwan. When Mr Nixon went to China shortly afterwards, for some reason which I have never been able to understand all our Press pundits announced that there was now no difference in the approach towards China between the Liberal and Country Parties and the Labor Party. Of course there was a fundamental difference because when Nixon went to China he went proclaiming that he went without prejudice to old friends. In the case of Mr Whitlam, when he went old friends could go to hell for all he cared. Professor Marchant of the University of Western Australia has made it abundantly clear that Australia has had to submit to 29 humiliating conditions in order to secure recognition. Those conditions were not imposed on anybody except the Seychelle Islands and the Maldive Islands. I do not believe our foreign policy should revolve around Taiwan all the time. I think too much can be made of that position. But it is true that on 27 July 1971 Mr Whitlam is reported to have said in the ‘Australian’ of that date: ‘A Labor Government will not dump Taiwan. We would use the Canadian formula’. Of course we now have seen opened up the greatest credibility gap in the business in regard to this matter. Not only has Taiwan been dumped so far as Australia is concerned but the Ambassador has been sacked. There was talk of appropriating the funds held in the Bank of China in Sydney. There were statements from the Department of Foreign Affairs that a doubtful title would be given to the property owned by the then Ambassador from free China. When it came to dumping it was a complete and absolute reversal of what the Prime Minister had said in July 1971 that Labor would do. So complete has the dumping been that poor Professor Teng from Taiwan, who won a music scholarship under the previous administration, is not allowed to come here to take it up. The basketball team could not come to Australia and Australian public servants are not allowed to visit Taiwan even in a private capacity. What sort of dumping is this?
We had 2 further examples of the subservience of the present administration to China when at the last minute the SEATO naval exercises were cancelled. Why? Australia was to provide ships for the exercise, but we thought it might offend Chairman Mao so we would not make our ships available for the exercise. It might interest honourable senators opposite to know that the maps currently selling in the equivalent of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Peking- it is not called that; I forget its correct title- show Chinese territory extending not only to include all Korea but right down to include the whole of Indo China, Singapore, Malaya and part of Indonesia and, of course, the whole of Burma. These maps are on sale in Peking now. If this is an indication of proposed Chinese aggression I should hope that people in our department would at least take some heed of it. The Paracel Islands were aggressively grabbed by China a few weeks ago. We heard no scream from this Government about this act of aggression because so far as this Government is concerned China can do no wrong.
Turning to Africa, the Prime Minister has of course a completely blind spot about it. He approves of murder in Rhodesia and South Africa by so-called freedom fighters who kill mainly black people- not white people. He even told Zvobgo here in the middle of last year that the Government would give him- Zvobgo, a black terrorist- every help in overthrowing the white government in Rhodesia led by Smith. If the word ‘overthrow’ does not connote violence I would like to know what it means. He launched, with his colleague Senator Murphy, the most vigorous and unfounded persecution of the Croatian people in this country whose only crime is that they loathe the communist tyranny that has been fastened upon their homeland. If the Prime Minister were genuinely interested in human welfare he might have had a few words to say about the shocking massacres carried out by President Numeiry in the Sudan. He might have perhaps have had a word to say to the Government of Burundi. I need not mention that these are all one party, pink fascist-type dictatorships. He might have had a word to say to them. But how silly can the Prime Minister get when in India last year he announced that before voting in the United Nations Australia will now consult Tanzania in preference to the United States and Great Britain. What social, political, cultural, economic or any other nexus has Australia with Tanzania? I notice from a invitation on my desk that the Government is to entertain the dictator of Tanzania who will be visiting this city next Wednesday.
– Have you accepted the invitation?
-I should not think I will be there, if it does not distress you too much.
– It distresses me not one bit.
– I am not used to attending pink fascist functions. We have had in the Speech talk of reforms in defence. This comes from a Prime Minister who once urged Australian troops to mutiny in the field. I think Mr Barnard has made a reasonable start in some spheres in his cutting down of duplication and waste, for which he must be commended. But, unfortunately, he also seems to be cutting down on things that are not waste. Vice-Admiral Peek had a few well chosen words to say about the way in which the Navy is being virtually destroyed. The morale of the forces, as Denis Warner pointed out, has never been lower, and this at a time when the Russians have at least 20 large naval vessels in the Indian Ocean. When the Americans go to establish a more substantial base at Diego Garcia, what does this Government do? Does it complain to the Russians about filling up the Indian Ocean, which the Government wants to be a zone of peace, about sending their warships to that area? No, of course not. It complains to the Americans. Aren’t they naughty to attempt to defend this country and the Indian Ocean zone if this becomes necessary.
The 3 DDL destroyers which the Navy has regarded as essential to the development of the Navy have been scrapped. A squadron of Mirages has been cut out of action. I noticed that last week we rejected a very interesting offer from the McDonneil Co. in America regarding its new FI 5 fighter. We were to have built part of it here and be given certain priorities about deliveries. At this stage I am not prepared to condemn that decision by the Government but I do think it was worthy of more examination than it appears to have been given.
Another matter which is distressing principally the housewife and the man in the street in Australia at the moment is one of the biggest con jobs ever put over the Australian people- I do not blame this Government entirely for it- and that is the continuation of the metric system in this country. If ever there was an unnecessary expense and a stupid, futile exercise it is the introduction of compulsory metrication to our weights and measures. Nobody is going to argue about the benefits that we have received from decimal currency; they are obvious and do not brook argument. But with metrication the position is entirely different. As you, Mr Deputy President, know, metric measures come in 2 sizes- too big or too little. If we cannot have a more suitable unit like the foot or the inch for normal measurements for building and so on, we have to go to the metre or drop down to the millimetre, which of course is ridiculous. In many industries right around the world our current unit has been retained and will be retained. In fact, the foot and the inch are almost universal in shipbuilding, oil production, aircraft instrumentation and quite a number of other industries. Electronic computers are using the binary, not the metric, scale. I have noticed in the English Press numerous criticisms of the proposal to go on with metrication in Great Britain. The estimated cost of completing metrication in Great Britain is $ 10,000m. Here, because we have a smaller population, the cost would be very much lower. However, on an estimate that has been given to me it appears that the cost would be at least $2,500m. It is a fact that French workmen, 180 years after Napoleon foisted this system upon France, are still taking their measurements in feet and inches.
– The French are?
– The French. After introducing this system, Napoleon once said that he never understood the metric system, and this is not surprising because it is so complex and confusing. I noticed recently that the English Jockey Club reversed its decision to go metric. It is going back to furlongs, stones and pounds. It has had metres and kilograms. Metric measurements, as I said, are the most awkward measurements capable of being used. They are very difficult to divide by anything except 2 or 5 and fractionally they become quite unmanageable. The rim sizes of all motor cars throughout the world, including French cars, are still measured in inches. I noticed, as an example of the way in which inflation has been kicked along by the metrication system, that a small sauce bottle, the 13 oz bottle, half the size of the normal 26 oz bottle, has become in fact a 400 millilitre bottle, the equivalent of a 10.5 oz bottle in fact, but the price remains the same. For the same amount of money consumers are getting 2.5 oz less of the product contained. I could refer to many areas of commerce, industry and everything else where metrication is boosting inflation which already is galloping at 14 per cent, largely or partly due to the action of this Government.
Last week the Victorian Minister for Housing introduced the first of the new metric houses. Instead of the ceiling height being the standard 8 feet, because it has to be in metres it has been dropped 1.5 inches. The ceiling height under metric measurements is the equivalent of 7 ft 10.5 inches. I know that some Australian Labor Party leaders are interested in abandoning the metric system. I understand that no less a man than Mr Egerton was discussing the matter at the races a week ago. He found that he could not understand the kilo weights allotted to the horses. He found that most punters were likewise affected and had no idea of the weights involved. I am informed also that a senior Cabinet Minister in the Labor Government would be willing to see metrication abandoned. I do not have time to run through the effects on the milk industry, postage and many other matters where, because of going metric, inflation has been given even a greater head then it had already. I have not had the opportunity of examining what may be just a very bald assertion from the Australian Antimetric Association which believes that metrication is the major cause of Australia’s inflation. I cannot agree with that belief in toto but it is an interesting thought from people who have given the matter considerable study.
I noticed that in the Speech from the throne there was talk about the restraint of monopolies which in essence is a good thing. I spoke about it as long ago as August 1956. Unfortunately some of the worst monopolies in the country will not be dealt with because they are monopolies of labour. The big unions are capable now of terrorising the community in a way that a big employer or big organisation cannot do. I heard Senator Lawrie refer to the control taken over building by certain unions. The unions decide what shall go up and what shall not go up. Being a democrat I always had thought that these decisions were to be taken by the duly elected government but apparently that is a thought which does not commend itself to honourable gentlemen opposite. I would be prepared to support any clause in the Government’s new Bill dealing with trade practices if it made a sane and intelligent approach to controlling monopolies of labour.
The Queen’s Speech referred to the better use of manpower resources. To me this has an ominous ring. It has overtones of industrial conscription. Industrial conscription has raised its ugly head in places where the reference has been far less specific. We remember the Allied Works Council, and matters associated with it, during the war. I think this is a matter which warrants very careful examination as it comes before this chamber. A great deal of nonsense has been spoken about Australian ownership and control of its natural resources. Most of it has been chauvinistic nonsense. If it had not been for the assistance given to this country by the wicked multi-national corporations in developing its mineral resources we probably would have little or no petrol at the moment.
At present 70 per cent of our petrol comes from the Esso-BHP operation in Bass Strait. If it had been left to the present administration to make successful searches for oil we certainly would have gone without. The changes which have been made by the new so-called Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) seem largely to be designed to have no fuel and no energy. I think that Mr Connor should get a medal from our bitterest enemies for the way in which he has practically destroyed any fresh search for petroleum products. On figures produced by the industry last week there has been a 40 per cent drop in drilling for oil in Australia since Mr Connor took over and there has been virtually a 100 per cent abandonment of new searches for oil since the drilling subsidy was abandoned. It seems that this Minister virtually has strangled our oil exploration.
The abolition of the bounty on superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers has taken place at an extremely strange time. It has occurred when food costs are rising. The Government is removing the bounty on something which is used to increase production. We have heard a lot also about the Senate being a mere chamber of obstruction. That statement will not stand up. I think 254 Bills have been introduced and we have stopped 10. If ever the people of Australia have been glad of the existence of the Senate it has been since 2 December 1972. 1 believe that we, like Nelson’s fleet, at least have been able to stand between the Australian people and the arrogant abuse of dictatorial power. Inflation, running at 4.5 per cent when we left office, is now running at 1 4 per cent. It is a little odd for the present Government to claim that inflation is imported since not one of the western developed countries has an inflation rate equal to 14 per cent. The rate in Germany is about 8 per cent and in America 6 per cent. Even the Japanese have only 10 per cent. How then can we import inflation at a rate of 14 per cent? It just does not make sense.
Some mention must be made of the recent trip to South East Asia by the Prime Minister. He visited 16 countries- Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Laos, Thailand and the Philippines. A most extraordinary omission was that he did not go to Vietnam where Australian soldiers have fought and died and where until recently, of course, Australian was an honoured name. We now have a Prime Minister who goes all around South East Asia and omits this one country. It would not surprise you, Mr Deputy President, that that country is a strong anti-communist country.
– That is the reason he did not go there.
– It could well be as Senator Lillico says, that the Prime Minister would not like to offend Chairman Mao by being seen with President Thieu but he does not mind giving a luncheon for a KGB general. If there is anything lower that a KGB general, I would like to know what it is. At a time when the rest of the civilised world is revolted by the treatment that the KGB handed out to Solzhenitsyn, what does the Australian Government do here? We slap his flags up in front of Parliament House and give him an official luncheon. What sort of interest does a government like that have in human rights? The Government has shown its true colours. Last year we had the example of 3 delegates from the Vietcong and 3 from North Vietnam, being feted here in Parliament House. Some of the worst aggressors in this century are fawned upon by this administration. But, of course, they have to be tough. As I mentioned before, we cannot have Rhodesian girl guides here; that might contaminate the community. We cannot have South African boy scouts here; that would be a disaster. We cannot play tennis against South Africa. But we can have a KGB general here. What hypocrites Government supporters are.
Before concluding, I suppose, in a burst of honesty, I must concede that in a Cabinet of twenty-seven you cannot have 27 duds, no matter how hard you try.
– You can go close.
– They have gone very close; but as a matter of honesty, I have no hesitation in saying that I commend the attitude of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) whose answers to questions on primary production matters have been enlightening. Oddly enough, despite the fact that other members of Cabinet could not care less about the primary producer and despite the fact that the Labor Government is not the least bit interested in the man on the land, Senator Wriedt appears, so far as I can make out from reports, to have battled with at least moderate success for the man on the land.
– That is my opinion, and I do not care who opposes it. That is my opinion and I stand by it. As I said, in a Cabinet of twenty-seven, you cannot have 27 duds. I have no hesitation in commending the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, who has brought a fresh, open mind to the problems of the media. I do not agree with all that he has said and done in that regard; but, in particular, I applaud his decision to refer the question of frequency modulation broadcasting to a new independent inquiry. If I read between the lines in the ‘Financial Review’ correctly, his decision may result in a very substantial benefit to Australia. As a result of work done by the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, the new inquiry may very well recommend that we go into the very high frequency band instead of the ultra high frequency band, which, in the long run, will save Australia some millions of dollars. I regret that I have had to be so critical of the speech prepared by Mr Freudenberg and approved by Mr Whitlam; but what is there to praise? Almost nothing.
-My remarks related to the Speech of Her Majesty are addressed to one particular part of the Speech in which she stressed that the Government regards inflation as its most urgent domestic problem and will continue its efforts to contain it. In addressing my remarks to that comment, I also address my remarks to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). I refer particularly to those parts of the amendment which stress that the Government has created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it and that it has caused uncertainty and its management of the economy is creating social inequities. I feel that this is the fundamental national question at the present time- the rate of inflation, the economic management, or lack of it, by the present Government, and the consequences of it. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the management of the economy is creating social inequities. It should be understood that a rate of inflation of 14 per cent is creating inescapable difficulties for sectors of the community. I refer to those sectors of the community on fixed incomes, those on pensions and those who have limited opportunities to add to income, despite the increasing rates of wage demands which are present in our wage structure.
But to look at the situation in perspective we should consider that last year we were talking about 2 fundamental dangers in the Australian economy. We were saying, firstly, that business decision makers would restrict investment because of the uncertainty that was being created in our economy and the type of economic management which was flowing from this Government. We were saying that the other danger was that the Government’s failure to co-ordinate key aspects of economic management would get worse and again create uncertainty, indecision and many of the problems which we are now seeing. Related to this second danger point in particular, we found that during January of this year there was strong movement. We have to look at the national wage case and Government policy in this regard when we are talking about economic management in the present context, because we have seen in the Government’s policy and in the Government’s attitude the real danger in the growth of inflation in the present economy. We had a money policy which created some of the difficulties. We now have a wages policy which is adding to those difficulties. Instead of getting a wages policy which would contain some of the difficulties which arose last year, we find that the Government’s approach to the national wage case will worsen the cost-push inflation which we are experiencing.
A dangerous contradiction is emerging between the demand management, which we have seen through the monetary policy which was adopted, and the cost-push management, which we have seen through the wages policy which is now obvious to us all. It is quite futile to say that the wages policy has to be the way it is because there is no profits policy. This is what is being said by the Government. Perhaps I could talk a little later about the Prices Justification Tribunal which was set up. It is showing itself to be simply a profits justification tribunal and not a prices justification tribunal.
The wages policy which we are seeing and the difficulties which this will create in this year and next year are the matters to which I address my attention. It is fair to say that in the past the wages policy had a strong influence from the Australian Treasury. The government case in the national wage case was put predominantly by the Treasury with the co-operation of the Department of Labour. But on this occasion we find a Government policy which is styled by the Department of Labour, and we wonder whether it has the support of the Australian Treasury and all the responsibility which should flow from the body in the Government which has so much responsibility for the handling of the economy.
The decision in the national wage case will flow through to all sectors of the community. It will add to costs, which will add to inflation. In no way will it return to the individual worker any advantage in the long term. It will simply add to the erosion of the value of our currency and it will simply add to the inflation which we will all experience. But the difficulties which we have seen in the handling of the economy flow in various directions. At the same time as we have had a wages policy which allows wages to increase unrealistically, we have had an attitude that price increases can be contained in some way through competition from a variety of imported goods. Here again we find a contradiction, because when we feel that prices are able to rise in accordance with wage increases we have an attraction for imports which can place on industry, particularly manufacturing industry, a great deal of concern with regard to future investment policy, the development and management of commercial resources in Australia and many conflicting influences which will flow from the Government’s lack of responsibility.
The subject of imports is of some interest to me because of” my work on the Joint Committee on Prices. An analysis was made of several commodities during the meetings of that Committee. The Government’s policies on the revaluation of our currency and the reduction of tariffs on many imported goods have not been effective. I think that this is manifesting itself because there is not really any overall management or co-ordination of policies which would lead to certain actions and reactions which would be favourable in the containment of inflation. We have a possible increase in imports which is designed to put some strain on the price levels of locally manufactured goods. At the same time, we have no government leadership or sense of responsibility in the national wage case.
During this session of Parliament we will be looking at legislation with regard to the new arrangements for the acceptance of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade anti-dumping code. It is fair to say that when this legislation is introduced the Parliament will need to scrutinise it very carefully to see whether it will enable the Government to live up to its promise effectively to counter injurious dumping so that the position of local manufacturers will not be impaired. Assuming that the legislation does meet that test, it will then be necessary for industry to watch closely that the accent on imports which is encouraged by this Government will not create other difficulties which appear to be unforeseen by this Government with regard to employment and other development of our manufacturing industries in Australia. These matters appear to me to lack a continuity of policy making that we would want to see in an economy that is showing the strains that the Australian economy is experiencing.
For this reason, manufacturing industry has asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to consider issuing short term economic forecasts and establishing regular consultations between industry and government on policies designed to overcome the effect of the world energy crisis, for one thing, on the Australian economy. It is quite simple for Australia to feel somewhat insulated from the world energy crisis because of some of our own resources such as those referred to by Senator Hannan. But there is another reason why we need to be concerned about the world energy crisis. That is the effect that it would have on our trading partners. In this connection we have no insulation from what could be a world shortage of energy or some temporary dislocation of energy resources as they are required by our trading partners. There is a clear need to establish a return to a confident private sector in Australian industry. Confidence has been eroded by inflationary pressures. It has been eroded by many stop- go policies adopted by this present Government. There is some confusion in industry as to what role industry needs to play in the rehabilitation of the Australian economy which will need to be undertaken.
One of the major sources of worry and concern for industry in Australia is the absence of these shorter term economic forecasts by government. There is relative scarcity of authoritative uptodate information on Australia’s main energy resources and other factors that are important. The monthly reviews of the economic situation by the Treasury are useful and give some valuable information. But there are gaps in information which is required by industry in the economic planning which needs to be undertaken. It has been put before the Prime Minister and the
Government that some sort of short term economic forecasts would be of great advantage to the private sector of the economy. These requests are made in the interests of the management and use of Australia’s industrial resources. I would like to think that there would be an early policy adopted by the Government that would make available some shorter term economic forecasting that could be used in the way that I have suggested.
I mentioned earlier that the Prices Justification Tribunal had been provided for in Government policy and had been stated by the Government to be responsible for some of its handling of price movements in respect of many of our essential commodities which are part of the normal family budget. Although the legislation which set up the Tribunal has many gaps in its application and in the way in which it may be interpreted, it appears from the months that it has been in operation that it is in essence a profit justification tribunal and not a price justification tribunal. In other words, it seems to take no cognition of the fact that wages are rapidly increasing. Rather, it seeks a justification of the profit margin of the large company. Again, it has created uncertainty in the private sector of the economy with regard to forward planning for investment for development and for the opportunity to provide the constant employment which we would like to see as part of the Australian commercial scene.
Australian industry is becoming confused with the Government’s moves and it is fearful that government controls could dampen and distort industrial growth. I say this because of the variety of commissions, boards and departments which require returns from industry. The dislocation of the managment staff of industry is quite serious when the number of forms that are required to be filled in and the amount of information which has had to be supplied for such bodies as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices and the Prices Justification Tribunal during the past year or so is taken into account.
The skills of management could be better applied towards the effective growth of our productivity and the reduction of costs that would result instead of the dislocation which has been caused through having to justify, in most cases, profits, not prices. I think that we have seen in the Prices Justification Tribunal a body which is without teeth in the sense of enforcing its judgments. It is a body which is intimidating in its application and one which has sought to influence the large company to distort its prices with the inevitable flow through to the smaller company. Perhaps, in the long term, this could create a grave shortage of those goods produced by the companies that are under the scrutiny of the Tribunal. This is another fear of industry. It is another source of distortion of economic development at this time when a healthy economy is so badly needed.
Perhaps another activity that we could link with this same Government policy is tariff cutting, particularly in those areas in which the normal reference has not been made to the Industries Assistance Commission or any other body which may have scrutinised and found reason for the decision which was taken. I refer particularly to the tariff cuts in the domestic appliance industry which is a labour intensive industry. In the long term, the tariff cuts in regard to this industry may be of some consequence to employment, particularly in some decentralised areas. We would like to think that this policy was part of a plan- a part of economic management- not simply the result of a sweeping judgment that was made to cut tariffs in order to increase imports in some way with the idea that this could be applied in a general way to reduce prices. It seems to us to have been evident over the past 12 months that many of the attitudes and policies of government with regard to its own spending and the development of its own administration have added to the inflation which is of such serious consequences to us. These policies one by one are adding to the problem.
The Speech of Her Majesty the Queen showed that the Government regarded inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and would continue its efforts to contain it. We find very little evidence of the skill of this Government in containing inflation or showing any sound economic management in the economy. For this reason I support the amendment which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I draw attention to the social inequities which have been caused by the inflation rate of some 14 per cent which has developed so rapidly during the past 12 months and also to the inequities which are being felt so severely by the pensioner sector of Australia. The recent rise which was given to the pensioners by the Government in no way has closed the gap which has been created by the inflation which we are experiencing. Here again we see the pocket of poverty or difficulty which is experienced by those people who are unable to take action themselves to combat the problem. With the release of the report of Professor Henderson we have new pockets of poverty being shown in Australia, pockets of poverty which will not be reached by many of the decisions which are taken by the Government at present. The family income is showing signs of strain. I refer particularly to the inadequacy of the one-family income in dealing with the increase in the essential goods which every family requires. These are things which we feel should attract the attention of the national Parliament because we firmly believe that inflation in the Australian economy is a great national question and requires the skill and dedication of us all in attempting to combat it in this year of 1974.
-I am sorry my colleague Senator Hannan has left the chamber after his attack upon the introduction of the metric system. As I look around the chamber I see Senator Drury, Senator Poyser and Senator Marriott. Senator McManus and I, along with those senators, were members of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures that recommended the introduction of the metric system into Australia with the support of an overwhelming amount of evidence from all sections of the Australian community. I suppose it is inevitable that some people wil see some evil in it. It is rather interesting that the United States of America has had a chequered record in the introduction of the metric system. I think it was first considered in the last century and pressures were then brought to bear to drop it, despite a recommendation of a Congress committee in the 1 890s, from memory, that the Americas should adopt the metric system. The Americans are now reconsidering the system and I have noted some comments which regard its introduction as inevitable. I do not wish to say any more than that on the subject but I think it should be put on record- and I believe I would be correct in saying- that more than 90 per cent of the evidence submitted to the Senate Select Committee strongly supported the introduction of this system into Australia. Another factor I wish to refer to is costs. Without looking at the savings in costs in the long term there was ample evidence to suggest that there would be a very considerable saving in costs as the system was introduced. I leave the subject at that.
I wish to mention very briefly 3 matters which have been referred to in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), namely the attack on the constitutional rights and the responsibilities of those rights by the present administration, the rural industries and, finally, defence policy. While the Government claims to have a mandate to introduce a great deal of legislation, I do not believe it can claim to have any mandate to attack the responsibilities of the States. It certainly has not a mandate from the States of Western Australia and Queensland nor, I believe, from any other State, to carry out a policy which is aimed at diminishing the responsibilities of the States. The Government has no mandate to attack the rural industries, and certainly the only mandate the Government can claim in regard to defence policy is on the undertaking by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that defence spending would not be reduced. In all 3 of these matters the Government cannot claim to have any other mandate and certainly it did not receive a mandate from the people.
I am not against the transfer of powers from the States to the Commonwealth where it can be clearly shown that the Commonwealth can more efficiently administer these powers. I believe there is strong argument for the transfer of powers from the Commonwealth to the States when it can be shown that the States can more effectively administer the powers. As I understand it the present Australian Constitutional Convention is looking at these matters. One would have thought that a wise government would withhold its attacks upon the States until such time as the Constitutional Convention reported. I argue against attempts by the Government, in many cases by strong arm methods, to pressurise the States by threats, by coercion and by the use of its financial powers. The States have been pressurised to bend to the will of the Canberra bureaucracy even in the matter of freeways of which surely the States and the State officers have a far better knowledge than has some centralised bureaucracy in Canberra.
The Prime Minister, it is true, has declared his belief in the unitary system. The Prime Minister and indeed the Labor Party have adopted a policy which aims at the elimination of State governments and the setting up of a number of local authorities. This is in Labor Party policy but it was not put forward in the December 1972 election campaign. But we witness this continuing attack upon the power and responsibilities of State government. I believe that there is always danger in centralised power. I rather deplore the use of cliches such as State rights and centralism which mean different things to different people. I believe that what is required in Australia- I am indebted to Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, for using the phrase- is decentralisation of power. I refer not only to decentralisation of power between Canberra and the States but also to decentralisation of power within the States between State governments and local authorities. I have noted iu.it the Prime Minister made some reference to this matter. If he meant by his remarks what I mean by mine, I agree with him. Certainly there is a complaint from local authorities of the centralisation of power within the States. I think that complaint is justified. I think that freedom can best be protected by decentralisation of power and by those with the best local knowledge carrying out the responsibilities. Therefore I cannot support the Government’s attitude. Indeed I oppose it and I oppose it strongly.
The Senate, which constitutionally is a States House, should be very jealous in protecting the rights and responsibilities of State governments. I certainly will be looking very carefully at legislation which attempts to diminish the responsibilities of State governments in those areas where State governments can more effectively and efficiently exercise power. The clumsy and at times dictatorial actions of the Prime Minister and his Government in attempting to destroy the whole basis of the federal system certainly do not have my support. Nor, I believe, do they have the support of an overwhelming number of Australian people.
I now turn to the Government’s attacks upon the rural industries and, in particular, the recent decision to eliminate the superphosphate bounty. I can think of no greater criticism of the Government in relation to this impulsive action than that which came from some of its own members, one of whom is reported to have said that the Government’s decision was stupid. Indeed, I think that is about the mildest criticism one can make. The Prime Minister, in justification of the Government’s action, recently told the farmers in Victoria that they have never had it so good. Certainly today there is greater prosperity in rural industries than there has been for some years, but surely lessons teach us that these conditions can change dramatically. Over the last 25 years we have been though a number of situations when the rural industries have prospered one year and then, because of world conditions, prices have dropped dramatically and have threatened the whole economic basis of many of our rural industries. Today, because of world conditions prices are generally good and buoyant and farmers are generally prosperous. This does not say that in 3 years, 4 years or even 2 years these same economic conditions will prevail. The very outlook in the world today with the energy crisis and its effect upon the economies of the world and particularly upon the less developed countries should be a warning that world conditions can change very quickly.
Another factor which is worrying and which must be worrying to the rural industries is inflation with costs rising continually and rapidly. We face a situation where we have a 14 per cent inflation rate which, in the view of some economists, is becoming self-generating and very difficult to stop. We see a situation developing where some of our primary industries very shortly could find themselves in economic difficulties. Certainly this is creating problems for many of our primary industries. One cannot help but feel that today rural industries are being made to pay for the Government’s extravagances in other areas. But not only are the rural industries going to suffer because of this; we will find that farmers’ costs will increase and, therefore, the cost to the consumers of many of our primary products will increase. I do not know how accurate this is but I have seen a figure suggesting that the price of wheat will rise by 5c a bushel because of the elimination of the superphosphate bounty. If that is so the increase inevitably will go through to the consumer and further feed the fires of inflation.
Of course another factor is the almost certainty of the price of superphosphate rising quite dramatically. The price of phosphate rock is rising, I think, about 2, 3 or 4 times. All the indications are that in the coming years the price of superphosphate will show a quite dramatic rise. Here again we will find that the effect of this will inevitably flow through to the whole commuity. One can only support the criticism from some of the Government’s own supporters who describe the Government’s action as being stupid. But the fact is that the attitude of this Government to the rural industries and to those who depend upon them has been arrogant and unjust.
The second factor to which I make a number of references is the incredible decision of the Government to announce the elimination of the subsidy without referring it to the body of its own creation, the Industries Assistance Commission. I support the establishment of the Industries Assistance Commission. As we understand it one of its responsibilities was to examine these matters and report to the Government as to the economic consequences of abolishing or eliminating bounties such as the superphosphate bounty. But the Prime Minister, in a moment of arrogance and maybe impulsiveness, said to the farmers: ‘If you do not like it, you take it to the Industries Assistance Commission’. I never understood the Industries Assistance Commission to be established as an appeal body to which the farmer or any other section of the community could appeal over actions of the Government. The Government should have a sound economic argument to support its policies. There should be a clear examination by an independent body such as the Industries Assistance Commission before the Government takes action. It is not for the farmers to go to the cost of appealing to this Commission for justice.
I think that is an incredible decision by the Government. The wounds which the Government is suffering in relation to rural areas are self-inflicted and the result of impulsive and thoughtless action.
I repeat that one cannot help suspecting that farmers, many of whom are coming to this belief, are being made to pay for the extravagant promises of this Government.
The last matter to which I turn is the Government ‘s defence policy. The Prime Minister undertook that defence expenditure would not fall below 3.2 per cent or 3.4 per cent of the gross national product. Within months it has fallen to something like 2.9 per cent. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) admits that the major responsibility of the Government- of any government- is the security of the nation. One cannot help but feel that the Government’s whole attitude to defence shows a frightening unreality. It is based upon an assessment that no discernible threat will exist for 10 or 15 years. I do not wish to challenge that assessment but I will be happy to do so at some other time. The folly of such assessments is shown through history. In the eighteenth century Pitt said that England faced 15 years of peace. Instead it faced 15 years of war. In July 1914 an English statesman said that the international situation never seemed brighter. Within one month the First World War had broken out. Many of us know the record of the 1930s when, throughout the world statesmen were talking of peace and ignoring the obvious threat from Nazi Germany. Right up to the last moment some people were still saying that we faced an era of peace. Those such as Sir Winston Churchill who proclaimed the danger of Germany, were regarded by many as madmen and were called warmongers.
The Korean war happened almost without warning. Recently we had the energy crisis. At one stage, when the United States nuclear forces were put on full alert, the world seemed to be facing the possibility of armed conflict. This situation arose overnight. Sb the lessons of history show the folly of making this type of assessment. Unfortunately, I do /not believe that anybody who looks at the world situation today can say that the chances of instability are not at least as great as the chances of stability. The Sino-Soviet dispute affects a large area of the world- Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and South East Asia. It affects relations and creates uncertainties between countries almost throughout the whole world. Today in China many people are finding what they regard as new signs of internal disorder or internal convulsion. At the moment no one knows who the targets may be, but certainly there are targets. The lessons in China are that each purge since 1949 has brought increasing power to the hard liners. It would be a brave man who would forecast where China’s policy is likely to lead in the next 5 years. The ageing leadership of China, and inevitability of change and the lack of knowledge as to who the future leaders are likely to be, their policies or the internal policies of China -
– Red Guardism in China appeared to decline. Did not the soft liners take over?
– The hard liners did.
– Relatively speaking.
– I am saying that the hard liners took over.
– But they are not as bad, allegedly, as the Red Guard group.
– Do not forget that they are the people who initially started the Red Guard. It was only when the Red Guard got out of control that the army came back to smash the Red Guard because of the fear of where the policies of the Red Guard were leading China. If we had time to go into this matter, I think the honourable senator would find that this is so. All I am speaking of are the uncertainties in the world, the uncertainties in relations between the United States and Japan, between China and Russia and between Japan, China and Russia. Today there is no balance of power worked out.
In South East Asia there is increasing uncertainty. Recently a series of Dyason lectures was given by Mr Rajaratnam, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, who pointed out the uncertainties and who predicted that South East Asia would remain an area of big power conflict and competition. All indications point to the area between the northwest of Australia through to the China Sea becoming, in the foreseeable future, one of the great energy producing areas of the world, and that inevitably will bring big power competition and big power conflict to our shores. When this proposition was put to the leaders of some countries in South East Asia which I visited recently, they accepted without question that it was inevitable.
I am saying very briefly and very inadequately that the world situation is far from stable. No one can look forward, with confidence, ten or IS years. Because there is no identifiable threat does not mean that there is no threat. Surely the lessons of history teach us that. It cannot be denied that there has been a rundown in defence capacity. Recently Sir Richard Peek said some words which all honourable senators should take to heart. At last report- I do not know whether it has been confirmed 300-odd officers have resigned since this Government took office. They include majors and lieutenant-colonels of ten and 15 years service. Despite all the excuses which honourable senators opposite make, we cannot replace overnight men with this experience. They would not leave a service to which they have given the best years of their lives if they could see a future for themselves. They do not see a future.
I refer to the situation in the Indian Ocean area where most of the third world lives. This is the most obvious area of competition between Russia and China. I was amazed at the Government’s reaction to the announcement of joint United Kingdom-United States proposals to upgrade the facilities at Diego Garcia- to extend the runway by 2,000 feet and to provide refuelling and other facilities for naval vessels. While everybody supports the concept of the Indian Ocean being an area of peace, it is completely unreal to believe that it is or can be so long as the Russian naval presence continues. It will continue. There are no indications that the Russians intend to move out. All the indications are that they will be increasing their naval strength, particularly if the Suez Canal is reopened, as everybody anticipates, in about 12 months time. They will be able to reinforce the Indian Ocean fleet through the Canal from the Mediterranean fleet and save the long haul from the Baltic or from Vladivostok. In the SinoSoviet conflict this is one area of competition in which one can expect the Russians to maintain and increase their presence.
I am amazed at the attack of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) upon this decision. No mention is made of the Russian base at Berbera in Somali which, as I understand it, is a far more sophisticated and militarily oriented base than Diego Garcia will ever be. We believe the Russians have all types of facilities at Berbera. There are indications that they have facilities in other areas. I am amazed at the attitude of some countries which are providing facilities for Russian naval vessels to this United KingdomUnited States decision and at the criticism of the decision. So I must say that the views of the Government would not be shared by the people of Western Australia who are very conscious of the fact that our coastline is washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean. I am not over-estimating the Russian presence- far from it. In military terms it is not a major presence at this moment. But the people of Western Australia are very conscious that out there there are Russian naval vessels. I believe that other countries in South East Asia are concerned also. They want to see, if the Russians are there, that others are there so that the Indian Ocean does not become a Russian lake.
Perhaps the Government’s attitude is an indication of the policy, which it proudly proclaims, of even handedness. I do not know what that means. Sometimes it seems to be 50-50 or one horse one rabbit- one horse for those who pose some future threat to us, and one rabbit for those who are our friends. I believe that in these 3 areas the Government deserves the condemnation of the Senate, and I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Firstly, I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed in the Senate of appreciation to Her Majesty the Queen for her gracious presence in the Senate recently and for the high honour which she conferred on this Parliament by opening it, as I think all honourable senators will recall, with a sense of accomplishment and discipline which impressed each person who was present. Her Majesty’s presence in the Senate highlighted several things. It confirmed the place of the Queen as the Head of State of Australia. It recalled . the Royal Styles and Titles Bill, approved by the Senate and referred to by the Queen in Her Speech. This introduction makes an interesting background to the present policies of the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) may parade as an arch nationalist; he may talk about republics; he may sound off about Viceroys; and he may endeavour to impose on the people a national anthem when, in reality, such observance should arise from the people on occasions which prompt a national feeling to be expressed in this way. Given this kind of background, the presence of Her Majesty in the Senate was an interesting one. I remind the Government of the various recognitions to which her presence gave evidence. I take it that it will now continue with recognition of the monarchical system of government for Australia, with the sovereign as head of state.
In referring to the gracious Speech I note, as a colleague of mine noted earlier today, that for the second time since this Government came to office the Speech from the throne has been notable for the omission of any reference to Divine Providence. As far as my researches take me, these are the only occasions on which this omission has occurred. Whatever views one may have on this subject, at least the inclusion of the term recognises the fact that governments as well as people have a dependence on a diety which, in my view, ought to be acknowledged.
This debate is on the Address-in-Reply to the gracious Speech. Words have been proposed to be added to the motion. In the additional words the Opposition has drawn attention to a number of serious situations existing in Australia to which the Speech did not allude. Inflation and uncertainty in the economy and an endangering of the federal system are two of the important situations. The Opposition in its amendment has also listed injury caused to the rural communities and the impact on the quality of life which rural communities support and promote. In the amendment the Opposition has listed its concern for the policies which the Government is pursuing in relation to defence and foreign affairs. Finally the Opposition has sounded a note of warning to Australians that the Government is not fulfilling what the people might have expected of it because its administration has become confused. The people who are affected by the confused administration are themselves confused and uncertain. The references in the amendment spring from the omission from Her Majesty’s Speech. They arise from the dissatisfaction expressed by a growing number of people in Australia today. This dissatisfaction has been expressed on many occasions and by many forums of public opinion, and we of the Opposition seek to give expression to it.
The first paragraph in the amendment includes the words ‘an intolerably high level of inflation’. The Government has spoken incessantly and for a very long time about inflation. I suppose that we could commence from the time the Prime Minister raised the matter in his policy speech. He promised the people that if elected he would tackle the problem of inflation. He undertook to deal with it. He laid down very firmly that if he was elected as Prime Minister he would reduce inflation. I repeat- it needs repetition in this forum and everywhere- that when he took office in December 1972 the rate of inflation was running at about 4 per cent or 5 per cent and was falling. Today it is more than 14 per cent and I regret to say that it is rising. We now have the highest inflation rate for 21 years and it is predicted that it will go up to about 20 per cent.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the failure of the Government to halt, reduce or tackle inflation. Instead of taking steps to cure this explosive situation or even to give a lead by exercising restraint in its own mammoth spending programs, the Government has given no lead to the people or to industry or commerce. So people today are caught in the tragedy that follows the uncontrollable inflationary spiral. The problems of the wage earner are compounded beyond description. The hardships of our senior citizens are intensified enormously, and with their intensification comes a massive problem for that large number of people who are trying to assist our senior citizens in the running of communities and homes for their care. The cost of administration is making their work a well nigh impossible task. Yet the Prime Minister has failed to substantiate his solemn assurance that he would reduce inflation and lessen its effect. He has not done so, and Australia knows it and feels it keenly. I regret to say that it is an electoral promise that has not been honoured. Yet in the gracious Speech the Prime Minister devoted 2 short sentences to the problem.
I remind the Senate that the Queen’s Speech was long and comprehensive. It was full of a great amount of detail, with many and varied references to a national program. Yet the most serious of problems was given scant and passing attention by the Prime Minister. He contented himself with calling it an urgent domestic problem. He went on to affirm that the Government would continue its efforts to contain inflation. I ask the Senate this afternoon: What efforts for the containment of inflation has the Government made? Why does not the Speech take a few more words or even a paragraph or two to explain what are referred to as ‘important restraining effects’? Side by side with the detrimental effect of inflation on the economy are the problems created by rising interest rates. They are the highest that Australia has ever known. We are now talking about 10 per cent, 1 1 per cent, 12 per cent and up to 14 per cent. This is imposing impossible burdens on people wishing to purchase motor cars and items of equipment necessary for home or work. It also places grave difficulties in the way of the permanent building societies in this country which are the major lenders of money for housing.
The major reference in the Opposition’s amendment is the reflection on the massive rundown that is taking place in Australia today. I am concerned that another of the causes of the difficult situation stems from the Government’s total disregard of the importance of an appropriate immigration policy for this time. Immigration has varied in style and importance over the 25 years that we have known it since the end of World War II. The previous Government had evolved in latter days a suitable pattern in which emphasis was being placed on, among other things, the recognition of skills amd migrants’ professional qualifications. Regard was had to the areas in which they could contribute not only for their own wellbeing but also for the development of Australia. Further emphasis was placed on technical and trade qualifications. Officers of the Department of Immigration were trained not only to assist but also to counsel and to render such services to potential migrants as would help them to fulfil their own desires in life in this country. The migrants came, with their skills and accomplishments, under programs of prearranged employment. They enjoyed here improved standards of education and accommodation, whilst activities relating to integration also were strengthened and improved. Community organisations and citizens with special knowledge were brought into action and they made a notable contribution.
All of this was geared to a program which brought to Australia an appropriate number of migrants who at that stage would have ahead of them years which would be satisfactory to themselves and certainly of advantage to Australia. Proof of the satisfactory administration of the immigration program of the previous Government is seen in the great number of migrants in this country who fit very truly into that category. Side by side were humanitarian interests. Sponsorship programs were arranged which helped both communities and families to become happy and contented units in the Austraiian community.
Today of course it is quite different. Two years before the election the Prime Minister in a telecast made it plain that his Government when in office would not have an immigration policy that would benefit Australia. The best he could do in reply to questions put to him was to talk about the number of departing migrants. He said on that occasion that his Government would not recruit migrants. He contented himself by saying that his Government would concentrate on family reunion. But what did that tell us? Family reunion was going on anyway, side by side with active and responsible recruitment. I suggest that the Prime Minister adopted a negative attitude by saying that immigration would decline anyhow and that people with qualifications could do better in their own countries than here. That was a quite remarkable statement, especially in view of the fact that he went on to say in the same telecast: ‘We cannot sustain the argument the Government recruiting gains very many skills for Australia. ‘ It is absolutely true that Government recruiting in the last quarter of a century has gained very many skills for Australia. I suggest that that statement by the Prime Minister is a sharp difference of expression from that of his Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) who more than once has praised the skills- the very many skills, to use the Prime Minister’s own words- that migration has brought to Australia. I suggest that the Government has deliberately cut off an orderly immigration program and I suggest that one of its main reasons for doing so has been to create a scarcity of labour.
That scarcity of labour has created a tremendous scarcity of everything in Australia. It has created a tremendous scarcity of materials. There has never been such a scarcity of so many vital items and so many vital materials. The scarcity of labour has, in turn, greatly affected the inflationary spiral to which I have referred. This scarcity of labour has put the unions in a position of pressure and of bargaining with a consequent interruption of services and goods. I suggest that it has almost dulled the Australian population to the effect of a series of strikes that occur somewhere every day. I read today that the strike statistics for the June quarter of 1973 show that the average days lost per worker in strike activity rose to 3.83 days. This indicated that strikes were lasting twice as long as they were a year earlier.
The cutting and cancelling of a decent immigration policy for Australia has meant that the Government has cut right across the efficient contribution of our basic industries. We have only to contemplate for a moment the effect on the steel industry. The shortage of steel in Australia today has affected a thousand industries. Look at what it has done and is doing to the automobile industry. Anybody who tries to obtain a motor vehicle today will be told fairly quickly by the manufacturers about the shortage of steel. People in the building industry will tell you the same thing. The manufacturers of steel in this country have tried over and over again to obtain permission to secure migrant help in order to improve their production but repeatedly this request has been refused.
Recruitment of the kind of migrant which we want is of untold benefit to this country. Most of them would come to Australia after a proper selection process and recognition of skills and qualifications. They would arrive here, as they did in the past, in their younger years with years of working lives ahead of them. There would be a long period of taxpaying ahead of them. As a result they would become a part of the contributing sector of the population. We view very seriously the fact that they are not with us today as they were during the previous Administration. If we had an active migration program which concentrated on these areas, we would have more people contributing to the economy and fewer people totally dependent on the community.
Lately the Prime Minister has been in Asia making statements that he and he alone has buried the white Australia policy. But, of course, by comparison with earlier administrations there has been literally no immigration as such and certainly many fewer non-Europeans have come to Australia under the present Administration. So the implementation of this policy just simply has not taken place. It has not occurred. One is aware in these circumstances that somewhere in the Government machine there has been a yielding to pressure which I am certain is strongly associated with labour shortages. This is part of the basic Labor opposition to migration generally. As proof of the Government’s opposition to an immigration policy I refer the Senate to an extract from the ‘Fabian Newsletter’ of August 1970 which contains an article written by Mr Everingham, who at that time was the member for Capricornia and who is now a Minister in the Labor Government. I will only read one paragraph of the article under the heading ‘Why Pay for White Migrants?’ It reads:
Religious and political tensions are not helped by subsidising migration. It increases the Roman Catholic component of our population and so strengthens the pro-State Aid, which is a kind of pro-segregation movement.
He went on to say that immigration increases the anti-communist movement, the anti-Russian movement and the anti-labor movement, thereby committing us more uncompromisingly to capitalist policies. I suggest that by turning down an immigration policy and cutting out an immigration program the Government is trying to persuade the people that to reduce immigration is the right thing to do when really it is the wrong thing to do and it is, of course, for very much the wrong reason. As we speak in support of the amendment to the Address-in-Reply we note that the newspapers have referred to Her
Majesty’s gracious Speech as one which sets the pattern for the Senate election. If that be true then I say that a mid-term parliamentary Senate election is a good thing because it will provide the people with the opportunity to make a judgment and to give an adequate response to the Government’s program. This is a program which has been marked by deficiencies, shortages, hardships and unfulfilled undertakings. For those reasons I support the amendment.
– I wish to convey my loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and our appreciation of the fact that she was able to open this session of Parliament. Her Majesty’s Speech was in fact a program of the present Government’s intentions for this session of Parliament. So far as I am concerned there are no surprises in it. This applies particularly to those of us who have become used to the socialistic program that this Government has embarked upon. I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). Senator Carrick made what I thought were a few very pertinent points. We have heard members of this Government saying from time to time that they have a mandate for practically everything that they bring into this Senate and for everything they do. But it is interesting to note that the main election promises and the ones which the public took notice of are the very ones that honourable senators opposite have not implemented. For a start, they promised to reduce inflation, but what has happened since this Government has been in office? We have had the greatest inflation rate of all time.
– That is not right. It was 22 per cent in 1952.
-We have had the greatest inflation rate in a period of 15 months. The Government which you support has been in office for 15 months. Can you mention any 15-month period in which there has been a greater rate of inflation?
– That is not quite right.
– Well, you can explain later. You know exactly what you mean.
– It was 22 per cent in 1952.
– There was one little period when we had a high inflation rate but I ask the honourable senator to compare the situation with what has gone on in the rest of the world. Certain things happened in that short period. Wool prices went mad. At that time wool represented something like 50 per cent of our export earnings. The honourable senator through his interjections has helped me to develop a point that I had proposed to mention later on in my speech. As I said, at that time wool represented something like 50 per cent of the export income of this nation and because so much money came into the country the whole economy was buoyant. That is why there was high inflation then. But at that time inflation did not have the effect that it is having at the present time because there is nothing coming into the country now which has the same effect as the wool income had on that earlier occasion. Inflation today is really hurting everybody although it did not hurt everybody during that earlier period of time. We have heard that one of the election promises was to reduce interest rates. No-one can tell me that interest rates have been higher in any other period of our history than they are today. They have never been so high.
– Not even the money lenders would charge such high rates.
-That is right. I tell Senator McAuliffe, who is interjecting, that in the old days the usurers would not have attempted to inflict such interest rates.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! This across-the-chamber skirmishing must stop.
– There is no malice in it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder, senator. I do not want any back chat from you.
– The Government was going to reduce taxation. I have heard that in the next Budget something may be done. Something must be done in the light of the rate of inflation in this country today because by the time the next Budget is brought down the Government will be receiving something like double the previous rate of revenue into the Treasury. The Government is bringing all sorts of people into a taxation rate which will mean that most people will be providing a considerable amount of their incomes for taxation. Another thing which the Government was going to do was make land available for people who wanted to provide homes and make homes cheaper to build. What has happened in that direction? These are only 4 points that Senator Carrick brought up but they are very important. When we went to the people in 1972 the Labor Party said: ‘This is what we will do ‘. It did not say that it would nationalise industry, that it would go through the back door to bring in a Bill to expand the Australian Industry Development
Corporation and a few other things. It did not say that in those days, but of course the moment the Government brings in these Bills and we reject them, it says: ‘We have a mandate for that.’ It does not have a mandate. Let the Government do something about inflation, about building costs for home owners and interest rates and then we might believe that it has a mandate. I am sure that when the Senate election takes place- in May, we hope; we do not know when it will be held; some of us will be told at some time- we will know then who has the mandate, whether the Government has a mandate to continue or whether the Senate has a mandate to throw it out.
I go now to the constant attack which this Government has made on federalism in this country. There was no mention of that in the preelection policy speech. We have had an almost constant attack on the States and on the whole federal system. What this Government cannot do through administrative action or through this Parliament it is trying to do through alterations to the Constitution. I hope that the people of this country will consider these proposed constitutional alterations, which we understand will be presented at the next Senate election, and give them the same kind of treatment as was meted out to the prices and incomes referenda last December. There is no doubt that the Government, through its actions and statements, is determined to destroy this House and the effectiveness of this House. We read from time to time- almost constantly, in fact- in the Press that this House is frustrating the Government almost daily in the operations of its administration. Yet almost in the same breath the Government says that never since Federation has this Parliament put through more legislation. If this Parliament has put through more legislation than any Parliament in history, that legislation must have gone through this place and therefore we must be responsible for more legislation than any Parliament in the history of this country. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say, on the one hand ‘We have put through more legislation than any Parliament in the history of this country’ and on the other hand, say that the Senate has been doing nothing but frustrate the Government in its administration of this country.
I go next to a few items which I believe are vital, particularly to the people that I represent, and to the nation as a whole. One, in particular, is the treatment that has been meted out to the primary industries of this country. There is no doubt that they have received a real slap in the face at a time when primary industries- I include the mining industry, for it, too, is a primary industryhave been recovering from years of depressed prices overseas and years of adverse seasonal conditions. Today seasonal conditions have improved and primary industries are receiving adequate prices for their products. This is the time when those industries should be encouraged because during years of droughts and depressed prices the primary industries of this country were unable even to maintain their buildings and the production of their particular units. Today there is a world wide shortage of primary products. This is when we should be encouraging the primary industries of this country not only to rehabilitate themselves from the depressed periods that they have been through but to increase production as rapidly as possible not only to take advantage of world prices that obtain today but to take advantage of the shortages that will occur in the future.
What does this Government do? The first thing it does is take away taxation concessions. Taxation concessions are vital to increased production by primary industries. During depressed times they were not able to take advantage of taxation concessions. Now, when they are in a position to take advantage of them and to do something about increasing productivity, what does this Government do? It takes that advantage away from them. Of course, one only has to breathe a word about the superphosphate bounty to make people in rural areas all over Australia irate. Further, the Australian dollar has been revalued on a couple of occasions. Primary industries, particularly certain sections of them, are so dependent on export income that revaluations can have a very important effect on the profit that they receive. But this Government just says: ‘We will revalue because we think we will be able to get goods from overseas cheaper.’ Maybe it will. I have not yet seen any cheaper goods in this country but I have seen a great deal of damage done to our export industries and to the prices that they should have received for their products compared with what they are receiving today.
Another great election promise was that Labor would do something abour rural industries and make sure that it looked after the labour force in rural areas. One can go through the rural areas today and not find anyone available to work in the primary industries. If one has a job available, one cannot find anyone to fill it. Why is this? It is the result of the actions of this Government. It has done nothing to help rural people. It has damaged the transport system by increasing the price of petrol. What has it done about telephone services? It has neglected the people in rural areas and encouraged them to go to the cities where it is spending money like a man with no arms. That is exactly what is happening, and this is unfortunate. It is almost impossible to get rural labour. Yet this Government in one great promise to the rural industries said it would not only look after them but would give them long term, low interest loans and maintain the viability of the rural labour force. What it has done is exactly the opposite. Do not tell me that the Government had a mandate to do that.
I want to get back to the question that Senator McAuliffe raised concerning the inflation rate. He said that it was 22 per cent in 195 1. That was in the wool boom. The United States decided, because of the Korean war, that it would buy up the whole of the Australian wool clip. Wool prices went mad and money came into this country. Overnight this country and the people in it became affluent. This explains what I was saying before, that unless the Government looks after our export industries we will be in trouble. The whole standard of living in this nation is dependent to a large degree on the export income brought into it. A nation is little different from a home or family unit. The standard of living of a family unit is dependent on the income that the breadwinner brings into the home, not on what else he does, whether he grows a few vegetables out the back, does his own plumbing or builds his own furniture. The breadwinner gets the experts, those who are efficient in those fields, to do those things. The breadwinner goes out and brings in the money and a nation does exactly the same. I cannot understand for the life of me why this Government has done everything possible to frustrate the export industries of this country and to stop them from earning export income at a time when we really need it and when there is so much available from overseas. I leave that point by saying that so far as our rural industries are concerned they have nothing for which to thank this Government.
Senator Sim mentioned another very important matter about which our attack on the Government is justified. I refer to defence and foreign affairs. The 2 subjects are linked. I know that Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, said that the Government’s policy for Aborigines was disastrous. I say that the defence policy of this Government has been nothing short of disastrous. This Government since coming to office has not only reduced the capability of our armed forces; it has also thrown into confusion those who choose the armed forces as a career. It has done this to such an extent that we are losing some of our best and most efficient officers and non-commissioned officers. At all times there is a draining off in a peacetime force. Mostly it is draining off people who are not satisfied with Army life and choose to get out. There are others who look at the situation and say: ‘I am not quite as competent as the rest and there is not a great deal of future for me so I may as well get out’. That is not the situation today. People with a great future in the armed forces are so frustrated and the future is so obscure to them that they are getting out now. It galls me to see some of the fine officers and noncommissioned officers leaving our Services and going into private industry. As Senator Sim said, we know that the Government is working on the basis that there will be no possible attack on this country for 15 years. We know what has happened throughout history. No one in this chamber could guarantee immunity from attack for a period of more than 3 years. Anyone who says otherwise would be guessing. We could go through all our experts in the armed Services or anywhere else and pin them down but not one of them would say that he could guarantee immunity from attack or involvement in a world war for more then 3 years. Yes, we may be all right for 3 years but there only has to be another brush up in the fuel crisis and a few other Middle East episodes with the United States and we could be involved.
– We are right for 3 years, though?
– That is the maximum that we could suggest but your Government is working on a policy that we will be right for 15 years. It takes 10 years to train an army, air force or navy properly. They cannot be trained overnight. We must keep that nucleus of commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers. We cannot just say that we will be right for 1 5 years, get rid of our armed Services tomorrow and then start them up again just before we think things might happen. This is what the Government is doing. It cannot guarantee for more than 3 years that we will not be involved in conflict, and it takes 10 years to train an armed Service. This automatically means that we must keep our armed Services going all the time.
– The Labor Party has a better record of wartime administration than has your Party.
-That is what you think.
– What about the Curtin Government?
– That is what you think. I want to get back to our foreign policy.
– What about the 18 months training?
– Yes, and what about the boys who flew the Wirraways against the Zeros? I hope the honourable senator is not going to talk about the Brisbane line again. Foreign policy obviously is wrapped up with defence. Our foreign policy has turned from our traditional allies. The Government is looking for new friends. What is happening is that we are losing our friends. We only have acquaintances. If the Government insults friendly countries and runs around with somebody else we cannot expect those countries to stay friends, particularly if they become suspicious of our actions. There is no doubt that our former friends have become suspicious of Australia’s actions in recent times. We cannot expect them to remain friends when we are grovelling and pleading on our bended knees to other people. How can our former friends remain friendly when these other people have a different way of life, a different type of government and a completely different outlook? How can we expect these other people to be friends in the long term? In fact all we can expect from them is contempt. Whilst it is the role of any government to endeavour to have peaceful relations with every nation in the world, we have a responsibility to see that people who have the same outlook in life and the same approach to peace as we have remain as friends. We have to show them that we respect them.
The other matter I want to refer to might interest my Queensland friend on the Government side. I refer to the attack made last Wednesday on the Premier of Queensland by Senator Milliner, not that the Queensland Premier would worry too much about it. Senator Keeffe had another go today. All that the 2 honourable senators could do was to denigrate the Premier of Queensland. In no way will they assist him to do his job when there is a disaster in that State. Senator Milliner said the other day that Mr Bjelke-Peterson had never acknowledged the role of the Federal Government at any stage and that he was making political capital out of the disaster. What the honourable senator did not know was that the Premier of Queensland the previous day had initiated a debate in the Queensland Parliament in which he stated how much he thanked the Federal Government. I would like to put on record what he was reported as having said by Queensland Hansard on Tuesday of last week. The Queensland Premier said:
I wish to express, on behalf of Queenslanders, our gratitude to the people and governments in Australia and overseas who gave money and material to Queenslanders in need after the flood.
I have criticised the Federal Government in the past when I have believed it was warranted- I undoubtedly will do so in the future. However, I also believe in giving thanks where thanks are due. I have done so to date and will re-state it in this House to go on the record: The Acting Prime Minister, Mr Barnard, the Federal Treasurer, Mr Crean, other Commonwealth Ministers and their departments have not hesitated and their help has been generous. I saw a remark the other day that the Federal Government was only doing what other Federal governments have done in the past. I think that is a grudging attitude and again express thanks on behalf of the Queensland people and Government for both the financial assistance and for the spirit of co-operation displayed by all levels of government involved.
In this spirit the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council are agreed that people, not politics, are the paramount concern.
I pay tribute to the magnificient work of the armed Services and particularly to the Air Force pilots who flew in the worst possible weather and saved so many people from certain death.
I have not heard too many compliments from Queensland members of the Australian Labor Party, either Federal or State.
– I think Senator Milliner said: ‘Why did not the Premier launch an appeal when he was asked to do so?’ It was left to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. I think you have missed that point.
-The honourable senator should read Senator Milliner’s speech. He said that the Queensland Premier did not give the Federal Government any credit whatever.
– You did not read my reply to Senator Wood.
– If the honourable senator read Senator Milliner’s speech he would find out. He cannot talk his way out of it now.
– What about the Lord Mayor?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriot)- Order! Senator Maunsell, if you address your remarks to the Chair you will not provoke so many arguments.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. 1 conclude by saying that on 1 1 May or 18 May we in Queensland will have the answer as to whether Mr BjelkePetersen has done his job and whether the policies of the Labor Party and this Government in office in Canberra are acceptable to the Queensland people. I am quite sure now what the answer will be.
I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
– When Her Majesty opened this Second Session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament she said that she was particularly pleased to perform personally an important constitutional duty as Queen of Australia. The occasion was not a cold and formal one; it was rendered warm, magnificent and unforgettable by the unique qualities of this great lady who fulfils the arduous duties of the monarchy in a way which indicates her dedication and her selflessness. It is indeed inspiring to see the way in which Her Majesty attends to the innumerable duties of her office and the way in which she performs those important duties. In a difficult era of change and challenge there is this solid base of monarchy at the foundation of our system. I hope that we will always remember that and maintain our heritage, because the system of the monarchy and the legislature has given us the best system of government that exists in the world. I wish Her Majesty well personally and in the discharge of her most important duties.
I believe that the matter of greatest concern to the Australian people at the present time is the inordinate degree of inflation now in existence. We can have all sorts of ideas on the betterment of living standards and social services and the advancement of the nation, but unless we have our economy soundly based we cannot achieve those things. In her Speech Her Majesty said:
My Government believes the economy is basically strong and buoyant. Nevertheless, it regards inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and will continue its efforts to contain it.
If I may say so, they are anaemic words and not the sort of words that one can take and understand in the way in which Her Majesty expressed pleasure when formally opening this Parliament. They are to be taken as a statement of Government attitude or assessment.
I believe that in our economy these days we have an unreal buoyancy and that in fact we are living in something of a fool’s paradise. The economy is not soundly based. We are seeing huge amounts of public funds being outlaid these days. We have an increase in Budget expenditure at a time of obvious danger in relation to inflationary conditions. The increase has been of the order of 20 per cent, which in the process is leading to greatly augmented income or revenue to the state by means of income tax. We note from the increase in revenue of some $ 1,500m over the previous year- revenue from income tax will increase from $4,000m to $5,500m- that actually the Government is financing its projects very heavily on what is not real production; it is just the figure which comes through in this unreal situation of extreme inflationary conditions. I believe that if the Government had set out after taking office to promote inflation it would have done the very things which we note have been done. In the first instance, there has been this huge escalation in public spending. We want to have moneys expended in many areas, but there is no need for undue haste in creating demands in the public sector which in themselves not only affect the actual cost to the public sector but in the process also have a real impact on the private sector and on the economy generally.
The immigration program has been steadied down or decreased at a time when there are very big demands on industry to produce those things which are now in very short supply. We have a situation of high prices and short supply. The Government’s immigration policy has not assisted the sound development of our economy. No damper at all has been placed on inordinately high wage demands. I firmly believe that the highest wages which can be paid should be paid. That is and must be our basic and strong objective. But it is no use having high levels of wages which will not buy the things which they are meant to buy. It is in this way that inflation hurts so deeply the ordinary citizen- the man on a fixed income, the pensioner and the superannuant. Inflation is indeed an onslaught on the ability of the citizenry generally not only to acquire the things they require in their working lifetime but also to provide their requirements for their days of retirement.
The removal of subsidies in the rural sector almost certainly will aggravate this inflationary condition. In areas in which productivity can be increased there is a reduction in prices and in costs. It follows that if one can parallel productivity with costs then one is in a situation in which prices can be reasonably maintained and will not escalate out of all proportion, thus avoiding a situation similar to the present situation in which we have an inflation rate in excess of 14 per cent per annum. The reliance on inflationary wage increases to finance Government expenditure is creating an unending situation. Measures will have to be taken which are effective in arresting this trend. It is a very human matter. It is not one which does not affect the individual. It is a very intimate problem to everyone and it should be the Government’s first objective to solve the problem. It should not just say that it recognises that inflation is a most urgent domestic problem and that it will continue its efforts to contain it. The problem has to be faced with greater resolution than has been shown to this point.
We are very dependent in Australia on our own supplies of energy that is, of fuels. Had not the incentives been offered at the time that we had very little of our own energy resources, we would not have had the Bass Strait petroleum supplies. The incentives provided for exploration and later for exploitation of discoveries have placed us in a very favourable position of part self-reliance in relation to our petroleum requirements. But it is not good enough just to have that situation. We have to be looking for further supplies, particularly as we note this very sudden world shortage of petroleum products and the holding to ransom of those countries whose economies are dependent upon imported oil supplies. I regard the removal of incentives for oil exploration as one of the really detrimental activities of this Government in relation to a most urgently required basic commodity.
The proposed removal of the superphosphate bounty can be referred to as an indication of lack of understanding of what is helpful in keeping down prices within an economy. Here we have the proposed removal of an input subsidy- not one at the end of the line which does not take into account efficiency or anything like that. It is of assistance in the first instance to the producer to produce his cereals or meat-vegetable protein or animal protein- whatever crop he may be growing. Most of our soils in Australia have a great requirement for the addition of superphosphate. The removal of a subsidy that is now costing the Government about $57m a year will be reflected in higher costs in other directions and will result in a lower income to government from real production. It will not be a fictitious production but one which is related definitely to the production of commodities. It is this sort of attitude which gives me very deep concern when 1 view the present very unreal situation, as I assess it, with our economy.
I believe that defence is more and more concerning the people of Australia. The rundown in our defence Services has occurred to such an extent that one fears for the ability, should the need arise, to retrieve a situation which has existed for some time and which would be indicative to other nations to whom we would look for assistance in time of difficulty. I think that we are very silly to regard ourselves as being quite immune to the possibility that covetous eyes could be cast upon us. I think that as a matter of national self-respect and in order to earn the respect of those who in the past have been of great help to us we should show our preparedness to do our part in regard to the defence of our country.
Without detracting in any way from the expressions given by Her Majesty in her opening speech to the Parliament, I state that I strongly support the expression of opinion embodied in the amendment moved by Senator Withers to the motion that the Senate take note of the Address-in-Reply. Senator Withers moved that: the Senate is or the opinion and regrets that Her Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia in that it has-
His first point was:
The second part of his amendment was:
There is certainly a very great lack of confidence which is increasing in our commercial and industrial areas generally. There is uncertainty as to what this Government will do in the pursuance of its socialistic policies. When uncertainty prevails, there is no progress; there is retrogression.
The third point made in the amendment moved by Senator Withers is that we regret attempts to change the federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States. I understand that it is the policy of the Government to centralise greater power in Canberra and in the process to decrease the powers of the States. It wants to set up regional areas of local government with direct financial assistance from and overlordship by Canberra. These policies are all undermining the system of federation. We would not be here today as a federation if the States in the first instance had not ceded certain powers to the central government. The States which have sovereign powers themselves, are entitled to retain and, I think, should retain powers that they have exercised since the beginning of federation. They should not have those powers diminished by rather back door methods such as giving, money direct to local government, not providing finance through the State Parliaments.
We have seen the use of grants made under section 96 of the Commonwealth. I know that the Government to which I had the honour to belong made such grants. But the use of such grants has also tended to quite a degree to take away power from the States unless the grants have been allocated to State authorities for their distribution. There is this background of intrusion, even through the grants system. But the intrusion has been nowhere near that which would be the case in bypassing State parliaments completely and giving grants direct to local government. Without doubt, there is merit in the fourth point in the amendment relating to injured rural industries and the communities they support. Currently, we are enjoying good prices for rural commodities. Overseas demands are extraordinarily strong and prices are high.
– There are some rural industries, I quite agree, which have not enjoyed the prices which have applied to others. But across the board for rural industries, the income these days, because of better overseas markets, is certainly greater than it has been for some years. But this has not been brought about through any action of the Government. It has been brought about by world demand. Anybody who claims that the prices now being received from overseas markets are the work of the Government is making an untrue statement. That is simply fallacious. This is a matter of world supply and demand. Rural industry is not being enabled to take advantage for the time being of better prices and so obtain better capital background and liquidity. The Government has taken away certain forms of assistance which were not excessive by any means but were of value to rural industries in difficult times. That assistance could now be of greater value in a consolidation of finance and an ability to withstand the fluctuations of overseas markets and so on which one can certainly expect.
The rural industry, in the main, certainly receives better prices for its products now. But rural industries have not had very much time since the better world prices have prevailed to be rid of longstanding indebtedness. This is a fact. I do not think that, with a realistic appraisal of the situation, people can claim that they have suddenly got out of the red into the very good blue. I deplore the action taken precipitately to reduce assistance to rural industry because there has been a spurt of betterment in overseas markets generally. I refer now to a very important aspect of farming. In fact it concerns the whole gamut of business activity right through to the individual. Interest rates at their present level, apart from adding to the inflationary spiral, are presenting problems to the businessman, the farmer, the home buyer, and the man who buys a refrigerator for the house or anything else on hire purchase or time payment. These people are paying an extraordinary high amount for the money they borrow before they start, as it were, to meet their commitments in the longer term. The overdraft rate today is between 9.5 per cent and 10 per cent. That figure has not been altered for many years. I cannot recall when this was at any time the base of the commercial world. When we have a 9.5 per cent overdraft rate and a flat rate for hire purchase which is almost double, we have interest rates which are absolutely killing to the man in the street.
– What did you do to control hire purchase?
– Hire purchase has its place in the scheme of things, in enabling people to obtain certain assets and also to provide employment in factories through demands which are created. But with interest rates at the levels at which they are set now an impossible burden is placed on the person who, by hire purchase, can obtain things that otherwise he would not have the ability to obtain.
I am very concerned to note what I see as an endeavour on the part of the Government to have the electorate accept that inflation is here to stay, that it can be lived with, that it is unavoidable and that it is imported. In my opinion this is a very insidious attitude for any government to adopt. It is a dangerous attitude. If those propositions are accepted we would never have other than a continuing dog-chasing-tail situation. Only when we get down to firm and sound business management can we expect to have a reduction in the inflationary spiral and a decrease in interest rates also. Mr Deputy President, I congratulate you personally on your election to that office and also as Chairman of Committees. I wish you well in your tenure of office.
– Someone wrote a book once and called it: Menzies- The Last of the Queen’s Men.’ When the book was brought to the attention of Sir Robert Menzies he said ‘I am not the last by a long, long way’. I agree. I believe that the monarchy is one of the most enduring and substantial things where democracy is practised in the British Commonwealth. I say that under its jurisdiction democracy has operated better than it has done anywhere else in the world. It seems to me to be a pity that this discussion is so onesided. It derogates from the effectiveness of this chamber as a deliberative body if all the discussion and most of the debate are corning from one side of the chamber. I call to mind that even in the little Tasmanian Parliament the AddressinReply debate was carried on for a very long time, that nearly everyone spoke in it and that all the pros and cons of State jurisdiction were discussed at fair length. It is a great pity that the speeches in this Address-in-Reply debate are in the main coming from this side of the House.
– Honourable senators opposite treat Caucus as their Parliament.
– That is right, I believe they do.
– Your Leader wanted to get the debate through today. That is why we are not speaking. He asked for that.
– Yes, but we come here to do a certain job and we can take the requisite time to do it, no matter how long that takes. One senator from the other side of the chamber made the remark yesterday that the Address-in-Reply debate is used by many senators as an occasion to ride a hobby horse. I say that there is one horse- I would not call it a hobby horse at ailthat should be ridden on every possible occasion and at every chance we get to mount it. I refer to the condition that this country is driven into and I offer no apology for repeating a lot of what has been said by other honourable senators in regard to inflation. Senator Hannan said something about the rate of inflation in Australia being ahead of that in France and in West Germany. He could have gone on further and said that we are ahead of the United Kingdom, with all its awful troubles concerning inflation.
It seems to me, so far as inflation and our economy are concerned, that we are far along the road to becoming one of those despised States of South America. Some people say that the rate of inflation will reach as high as 20 per cent in the not distant future. So regardless is the Government of this important factor that not long ago I heard the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) talking about sewering every city and every provincial town in the Commonwealth. If he does so or attempts to do so he will be doing it with worthless currency if the present trend continues. The Prime Minister’s policy speech recounts the wonderful things that would accrue to poor suffering humanity in Australia if the Labor Government were elected. He went on to tell the people that that was their choice or that they could return Australia to the same men who have presided over the worst inflation for 20 years. That is what the Prime Minister said prior to the election on 2 December 1972. In another part of his speech when he spoke about the Prices Justification Tribunal he stated:
We will establish a Prices Justification Tribunal not only because inflation will be the major economic problem facing Australia . .
And so on. The Prime Minister had quite a lot to say about inflation throughout this policy speech. But a statement which intrigued me mightily was made on 22 June last year. The Government had been operating for 8 months then and inflation had started to mount. We had got away from the idea that inflation was some Liberal-Country Party government phenomenon. Right across the page was this headline:
PM Vows to Curb Inflation
That was the Prime Minister’s statement. The article stated:
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said yesterday the Federal Government was determined to contain inflation.
It won’t be easy. We are aware of the need to manage economic affairs prudently to avoid too great a strain on Australian resources, ‘ he said.
He went on to state- this is probably the most amazing part of his speech:
The remarkable fact about the economy is its dramatic and healthy change over the past 6 months. ‘
Certainly, it has changed mightily. Then we come to the Speech of Her Majesty which was delivered in this place the week before last. She said:
My Government believes the economy is basically strong and buoyant. Nevertheless, it regards inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and will continue its efforts to contain it.
The Government says that the economy is sound and strong. We heard the taradiddle in this chamber last week when an honourable senator indicated- I have his statement here and it is the weirdest thing I have read in the 30-odd years I have listened to Address-in-Reply debates- that the Queen had a chance to vet the Speech before it was delivered. He implied that she could have cut out passages which should have been cut out and all the rest of it. Certainly there is one passage which should have been cut out. It reflects no credit on the people who composed the Speech. It fairly leaps to the eye. It states:
It intends to eliminate any remnants of discriminatory State legislation against Aborigines, a hope declared but unfulfilled by an earlier Government.
I believe that that would have been better left out. But I return to the subject of inflation. In view of the statements made by the Prime Minister and various members of the Government since it was elected to govern this country, the Prime Minister at least must have lost all credibility so far as the Australian electors are concerned. Surely only those who want to be gulled will take any notice of the Prime Minister whenever he makes any pronouncement about the economy and, for that matter, about other things in this country where the position is rapidly going from bad to worse.
Then we think of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). I have his statement here. He says that there will be big wage rises this year. He says that the employers in Britain have found out the uselessness of resisting wage rises. Do honourable senators know that what has brought Britain to her knees more than anything else is the nationalised industries? People say that if a government takes over an industry and operates it itself thereafter, in some weird way, it belongs to the people. That is socialism. Lenin called it state capitalism. However, the people today call it socialism. It is those industries which have brought Britain to her knees.
Further on in the Queen’s Speech the Government had something to say about buying back Australian industries from overseas investors. The method set out under which these industries are to be bought back is to nationalise them. That is what was contained in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill which, last session, was referred to a committee of this chamber. There is a mighty difference between bringing back these industries- which are owned partly or largely by overseas companies- under a nationalised system and bringing them back under the free system as we have known it in this country. All the talk about overseas investment in Australia- to the effect that the Australian people should own an effective or controlling interest in the industries of this country- is in spite of the evidence to the contrary that there is insufficient capital to effect the development we want. Nevertheless, it has proved to be a good talking point, that the Australian people should own their own industries and resources and own them in the way that the British people have owned their industries, which has brought them to their knees. That is set out in the Government’s program.
In the Treasury Economic Paper No. 1, which was published in 1972 and which deals with overseas investment in Australia, it is shown that of the total gross national production in this country only between 2 and 3 per cent was paid overseas to service the money which came in to effect much of the development which has taken place since the war ended. When I was on the farm, if I could raise money or raise the resources necessary for the development of that property at only 2 per cent approximately of the total production on that property I would say: ‘Bring it along. It is a good proposition’. I take with a big grain of salt all this talk about buying back the farm and all the rest of it. As I have said here previously, if each country had a taboo placed on the export of its capital and if it had to expand all its surplus capital in its back yard, a lot of the world would be an undeveloped waste which would never be developed.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). Before I resume my seat, I cannot resist the temptation to read a passage in an article which was written by Denis Warner. Recently a delegation from North Vietnam visited this country. Something was said about it by Senator McManus and others. The delegation came here as representatives of an ism which is foreign to us. I will not say much about that. Reference was made to Whitlam ‘s trip to South East Asia and to the fact that he did not go near South Vietnam. In addition Cairns has visited Hanoi and has made statements which have inflamed people who are now and must be our allies in future, in spite of what the Whitlams and the others say to the contrary. The representatives of these people visited Parliament House. They were entertained by members of the Government.
– At a luncheon.
– Yes, at a luncheon. The tendency of the Government, since it assumed office, has been to placate the communist and to go hand in glove with him wherever it is possible to do so. There has been talk about recognising the National Liberation Front in Vietnam. I quote now from the article by Denis Warner. He said:
But the sympathy for the Vietcong disappeared when the communists in February, 1968, liquidated 5,800 of the inhabitants who were found later in the horrible mass graves.
With the beginning of the Easter offensive in 1972 it looked as if the North with its steamroller tactics and its absolute disregard for civilian casualties had abandoned any thought of winning the people ‘s support.
Some 23,000 civilians were killed in Quang Tri province . . .
So it continues. Warner attributes the fact that Thieu has been able to continue for so long to the reaction of the South Vietnamese against the horrible North Vietnamese atrocities and a delegation from North Vietnam was fawned upon and entertained by our friends opposite.
– Order! Before I call Senator Reid from Western Australia, I remind the Senate that this speech is his maiden speech. I am sure that honourable senators will extend to him the normal courtesies which we extend in this place.
- Mr President and fellow senators, the first words which I would like to say in the Senate are words which will show the very great sense of honour which I have at having been appointed to represent Western Australia in the Senate. I know that the reason for my presence is not the reason for the presence of any other senator. It puts me a little apart from other senators. They have been elected, whereas I have been appointed on behalf of the Government of Western Australia. Nevertheless, I see my appointment, however long the term may be, as one of discharging duties as the custodian of Senator Edgar Prowse ‘s place here. His service was recognised last week by many speakers from both sides. I wish to add my thoughts on Senator Edgar Prowse. To me, he epitomises the father figure. I give to honourable senators an assurance that it will be my task to try to emulate the very real dignity of the man and his very high principles of office. He had other qualities, including the quality of being a very fierce debater on subjects in which he believed and of a very strong stubbornness, one could call it. I do not know whether I will be able to emulate those qualities of his. To be sworn in the week before last, prior to the Queen opening the Parliament, was an enormous honour. I believe that it was only the second time that a monarch has opened the Parliament. I consider myself very privileged to be so closely associated with that occasion.
The greatest difficulty in my maiden speech has been to decide on which matters I should speak. A number of very capable speeches have been made from both sides. I immediately wondered whether in the contribution of a new senatorone who has not had the experience of 10, 1 5 and I think, in one case, more than 30 years- I could offer anything different. Were there any thoughts which I could introduce into this chamber and which have not been debated here this week, last week, or last year? I am tremendously mindful that the contribution which I have to make in my inaugural address presents an enormous challenge. After some reflection I have decided to commence my speech by discussing the role of the Senate. Although it is naturally well know to all honourable senators, I believe that it is perhaps an opportune time for me to repeat some of the objectives of the Senate. I hope that honourable senators will bear with me. Following my appointment, the first thing I did was obtain a copy of the book ‘Australian Senate Practice’ which was written under the very capable hand of the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers. The version which I have was printed in 1950-5 1, which is rather an old one. I checked a later edition and found that very little has changed, except some of the form of the Standing Orders.
In his book Mr Odgers has outlined the functions and the role of the Senate. Briefly and in order of priority as set out by him, the No. 1 objective of the Senate is to preserve the rights of the States against Federal Government encroachment. The second objective is to preserve the individuality of the States. The third objective is to maintain equal representation from the States, irrespective of population numbers or size of the States. The fourth objective is to act as a House of review to legislation passed in another place or instigated in this place. If I may be permitted to boast a little, let me say that as a third generation Western Australian I am proud indeed to come here to fight to preserve the rights of Western Australia against Federal Government encroachment. I also am very proud to fight for the individuality of Western Australia and I am determined that all the States of this nation shall have equal representation in this House.
Naturally I accept the role of the Senate in acting as a House of review. The role of the Senate probably has never been more under attack since Federation. I believe from my reading that it is fair to say that the Senate has always been a bone of contention to governments, irrespective of numbers or political colour, because it is cast in the role of a States House. The pressures of legislation in another place are different from those operating in a House of review or a House of the States. I think this situation will and must continue in the future. I am a firm believer in federation. I believe that the thing that can save us now is effective federalism, not a devolution of federalism. Why break it down? The system has not failed. The failure has been on the part of the individuals who have been playing the game. In Western Australia, as honourable senators will be aware, tremendous emotion has been generated in recent times. It is not new and in the past has been shared by States such as Queensland. It is born out of the frustrations experienced particularly by people in the mining industry. It is felt that the Senate and, perhaps, the Australian Government are not acting in the best interests; that there is a tendency to centralisation of power. This has manifested itself in a States’ rights and secessionist movement. I cannot accept or agree with the movement. A breaking away from federation would do nothing but harm to this nation.
In the last week honourable senators have referred to the overwhelming vote in Western Australia in the 1 930s. There is no way in which we in Western Australia can secede from the federation. There is no earthly way in which we can get the required majority of States to agree to our secession. There is only one way to effective secession, and that is by taking up arms. To argue for secession on this score is to argue on the lunatic fringe. Perhaps as a member of organisations when feeling extreme frustration I have been guilty of preaching that Western Australia should secede and go it alone. We have been neglected for so long over there and some of us have felt that the game is worth changing and we should break out. But it is not clear thinking. I liken Western Australia a little to Cinderella after the visit of the fairy godmother. For so long we have been in rags and regarded as the poor sister. Suddenly we have been visited by the fairy godmother who has transformed us into a beautiful young woman. Our biggest problem now is to ward off the advances from outside our State. I do not see that leaving mother and running away from home will solve anything. In fact it will not.
In the past we have read a lot of comment about ripping and raping. I say quite clearly to honourable senators that we are not fearful of ripping and raping by overseas visitors. We are fearful of our eastern State cousins. Australia has been blessed with enormous natural wealth which has been discovered only recently. I am explaining this because it is the motivation of all Western Australians. It is more than skin deep. It strikes very deeply at home. In the referendum held last December Western Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of federation, although they may not have been aware of it. In no other State were the numbers so strong. I interpret the vote as a vote of confidence in the federation, although Western Australians did not really know what they were voting for in that respect. Today we want a strengthening of the confidence and conviction of all Australians, particularly those in this chamber, that federation can, will and must work. But where today can be seen in Canberra the flames of the States? Where are the States represented here, except in this chamber? Where does one go in Canberra to feel that a great federation is working?
A master plan was worked out 74 years ago but it has broken down because the people playing the game have not had the imagination to put forward ideas to foster its growth. The type of government we have had for 74 years is facing a real challenge. Why are not offices of the States in Canberra, working here in Parliament House to co-ordinate State legislation with that of the Federal Government? It has not been done. We have failed the system. The system has not failed us. This is the sort of thing that is felt so strongly in Western Australia. Because the system has not worked to the benefit of Western Australia as we think it might have worked, we want to break loose and go it alone. Of course, it is absolute nonsense and an argument of the lunatic fringe. To illustrate that we are in a position of our own making I point out that when we have had a choice as to which way to go we have opted for the centralistic alternative. There are always 2 ways of doing something. It can be done from the central source here in Canberra or it can be taken back to the legal authority of the States. Very capable speakers can talk, probably all day, bringing in different points so that at the end of the day the issue is still very closely debated.
I respect the obligation not to be contentious in this speech. Tonight I am explaining my personal philosophy rather than launching an attack on the Government. I want to refer briefly to local government finance which, in my opinion, has really been the pawn in the power struggle between the States and the Commonwealth. I do not think anybody argues against regionalism. That concept is really not at issue. But in my opinion the funding of local government by bypassing the States is at issue. Why can we not set up through a central Australian government a State-Local, government budget fund? Through that fund the finance would go to the States to run their own affairs under the effective federal umbrella. I am convinced that that system would work just as well and far more harmoniously. I have said that there are always 2 alternatives.
I want to touch briefly on some other aspects of the federalistic approach and to incorporate my own priorities which I would like to see adopted by any nation or government. My first priority is security. I have sat in this Senate and listened to good logical debate on this subject from both sides. Surely the first charge that any government has is the security of its people. Again I bring in this Western Australian feeling to say that we feel that we have been left out on a limb. It has become traditional for Western Australia to be treated this way when the chips are down. During the last war it was proposed that we pull back from Western Australia to defend the eastern States. Probably from a tactical point of view that was the only thing that could have been done in the circumstances. I am not arguing on that score now, but that is the decision that was made.
The decision on the Cockburn Sound project has been deferred. We see a great gap in the need for bases on our north-west shelf which is so enormously rich in oil, gas and iron ore. At the same time we read about the Suez Canal situation. On the day that the peace treaty was signed between the Israelis and the Egyptians, China did a grab or takeover of the Paracels, which was followed very quickly by a move on the South Vietnamese on the Spratlys. We also read about the opening of the Suez Canal and the establishment of the American-British base on Diego Garcia. All these moves lead to a heightening of activity in the south-east Asian area. We are part of South East Asia geographically, but that is all. Ethnically we are different, climatically we are different and on a population basis we are totally different. But surely- this is my personal view- we have an obligation as a country to keep up a reasonable surveillance of our shores and at the same time to make a worthwhile contribution to the peace and security of South East Asia. I honestly and personally feel that we are not doing this, particularly from the Western Australian point of view.
I am no expert on foreign affairs and defence, nor do I pretend to be, but I looked at the defence report and saw that the proposed expenditure for 1973-74, apart from expenditure on the FI 1 lc aircraft, was for 3 heavy landing craft and some small helicopters, and the next biggest item was for 358 5-ton trucks. I do not know whether they will be any good for roaring around the desert or the north-west Cape, but I do not think it is good enough for this country to rely on the Citizen Military Forces with their sagging morale. With all due respect to an honourable senator from Queensland, I think that the morale of the Army involves more than underpants trouble.
The second priority which I would like to mention just briefly relates to health. If a person is secure, obviously he wants also to be healthy. This has been a matter of great and lengthy debate. I do not think I can add anything of any interest to what honourable senators have said already on that subject. My third priority refers to education. Again I feel that this subject has been more than adequately debated in the Senate. I would like to make just one point on a subject which has been dominating debates in this chamber since I have been a member of it. I refer to the subject of Aborigines. I believe it is an indictment on us all and on the nation that the single greatest problem facing Aborigines every day is the difficulty they have in filling in a form such as a welfare form. The greatest problem is to get them to comprehend what it is all about and to get them to sign their name.It is so far from his thinking that it is a little like offering a tribal elder a Rank-Xerox. Aborigines are well behind our technology and our way of life. We have tried to advance them too quickly and our plans have miscarried.
As my time in this debate has almost concluded I should like to lump together as my fourth priority housing, employment and economics. I shall talk briefly on the housing issue, which I think poses one of the greatest challenges to this nation. In the next 5 years we will want one million new homes. We are now building 160,000 homes a year and this figure is falling short of the target by 40,000 a year. I have with me some figures which relate to the building societies in Western Australia. The figures were recently phoned through to me. Last year these building societies financed 11,169 homes. This year they will finance 7,300 homes. Lending on new homes in Western Australia has dropped from $160m to $ 110m.
I want to talk also about incentives, although I have very limited time in this debate. I believe that in Australia today we are in urgent need of a new incentives policy right across the board to cover the average worker, the primary producer, the miner and also the Aborigine. We want something that will encourage a man to have his chest up and out- not his hand. We want something that will make him seek reward, not welfare. I shall go quickly through some of the figures which I have before me, but I will not have sufficient time to explain them fully to the Senate. Last year the average earnings for a male worker were $103. 1 know that these figures are open to query but we have to use some guide and we have to get an average figure from somewhere. I am quoting these figures from the ‘West Australian’ newspaper. As I said, the average earnings for an Australian worker last year were $103. After paying tax of $18.60 he received a net income of $84.40. This year the average male earnings amount to $119.90. Tax has risen to $24.10 and the worker now receives $95.80. Next year, on the same scale of increase- that is, 14 per cent- the average Australian worker will receive $137 less tax of $30.60, which will give him a net return of $106.40. In this 2-year period the average gross pay will have increased by $34 a week or about 33 per cent and taxation by 66 per cent, but net earnings will have increased by only 25 percent.
There is a tremendous disparity of justice in this area. I read with great interest a report that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is considering having another look at this matter. What incentive is there for a man to go into our northern mining areas which members of the Australian Country Party toured recently? The average northern Australian mine worker receives $150 a week, which is $7,800 a year. He pays $35.75 tax and receives a net pay of $115.23. In actual fact, despite the very large increase in his annual salary- something of the order of $1,600 to $l,700-he receives only an extra $19.73 net. I ask honourable senators: Is that sufficient incentive for people to leave their wives and families and the comforts of the southern States and cities to go into these areas? I do not think it is. In fact, I am sure it is not. It is not until the salary of the average Australian mineworker jumps to $12,000 a year or $230 a week that his net pay increases to $158.80 a week. But his pay then is almost double that of an average worker. This is an enormous cost problem which again is related to that industry which has to bear it.
I have with me similar illustrations which relate to agriculture. They refer to my wool bond scheme which I proposed on 12 October 1972 and again submitted on 13 February 1973 to the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt. That scheme was supported by the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture in February 1973. The basic principles of the scheme were supported by the Farmers Union of Western Australia in March of the same year. The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia made inquiries in April as to the full details. The Australian Liberal Party asked in April for full details of the scheme. The State conference of the Liberal Party in Western Australia supported the provisions of the scheme. The Minister himself felt that it had merit as an incentive scheme to save while times were good. We were not asking for special privileges but that during those odd good times we might be able to cool the economy, to put something away for a rainy day instead of being asked to pay an exorbitantly high taxation rate. May I conclude- and I am somewhat regretful to have to conclude for I had hoped to make some other points- by saying that in all my reading I have noticed the words ‘good government’. Perhaps we all have our own interpretation of those words. I believe that a good government is one that is responsive and cognisant of the wishes of the people. It should never be cast in the role of forcing its intentions and its will on an unsuspecting public irrespective of disguises used. That is my humble opinion. Thomas Jefferson, a man of far more standing, described it thus:
The care of human life and happiness is the first and legitimate object of good government.
There must be an understanding that government is an instrument through which society seeks to achieve its objectives, not an instrument through which the lives of the people are controlled and directed. I quote as my final note a phrase heard at the Federal Parliament Christian Fellowship service which I attended the other day:
Australia is a land of peace, where order shall not rest on force, but on the love of all for their land, the great mother of the common life and welfare.
Mr President and honourable senators, if that is good government, this House has my total and undivided energies. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Withers’ amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Honourable senators, I would like to make a brief announcement. An application has been made to the Presiding Officers for station 4QR to be permitted to suspend its broadcast of the parliamentary proceedings while necessary and urgent messages are relayed through that station on account of the flood conditions in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. It is the only station that can get through with certainty to those areas. I have consulted my Senate colleagues, Senators Poke and Hannan, on this matter. As the Senate members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, we concur in this. I am sure that honourable senators would support that conclusion.
Senate MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)Speaking on behalf of all present, Mr President, I say that we concur in the decision that you have made.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 6.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740312_senate_28_s59/>.