29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existing National Health Scheme involves a vast amount of public money distributed by private Benefit Societies and that it is necessary to join one of these to qualify for the full Government Health subsidy.
That it is far too expensive and discriminates against lower income groups a lot of whom cannot afford the cost of membership or private medical treatment.
That it is inequitable, inefficient and does not satisfy the needs of the community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will urgently legislate for a Comprehensive National Health Insurance Scheme, financed from taxation, and covering everybody instead of only those who can now afford it.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Mining Industry in Australia
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the report to the Minister for Minerals and Energy by T. M. Fitzgerald, dated April 1974, relating to the contribution of the mineral industry to Australian welfare.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay and urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people then introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
Rural Policy in Australia
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the report to the Prime Minister by a working group, dated May 1974, relating to rural policy in Australia.
Grants to the States
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate declare its opinion that on the making of grants of financial assistance to the States under section 96 of the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament should ensure that:
The grants to the States are free of restrictions in detail that infringe upon the power of the States to determine the policy in their own area of responsibility.
As far as possible the detailed administration of national programs financed by specific purpose grants made under section 96 of the Constitution should be carried out by State governments or local authorities authorised by them.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the second report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission dated April 1974.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate take note of the report relating to the finding and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate dated 1974.
-My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the demonstration on 1 8 May of this year at the Harold E. Holt base at Exmouth in Western Australia where Commonwealth Police assisted in the maintenance of order.
– And changed their numbers.
-I said Commonwealth police. I ask the Attorney-General: Is it a fact that Commonwealth police arrested a number of demonstrators? Further, have the Commonwealth police now been instructed to offer no evidence against those arrested? Finally, if that is so, why was such an instruction issued and who issued it?
– Commonwealth police were involved, along with police of the State of Western Australia, in dealing with the demonstration at the base at Exmouth in Western Australia. A number of persons were charged, some under the Commonwealth Crimes Act and some under a Western Australian Act. Those charged under the Commonwealth Crimes Act were charged with simple trespass, I think under section 89 of the Act. A number of those persons charged went to various parts of Australia after being taken to a police station and bailed out.
Certain submissions have been made to me about these matters and I have examined them. In relation to three of the charges, which were of a simple trespass, I weighed the various matters. Amongst the considerations which were taken into account were the nature of the charge, the fact that in the ultimate they were what one might call relatively minor charges, and the question also whether it would be oppressive to require persons to travel great distances at very considerable cost in order to meet comparatively minor charges. One alternative, of course, might have been not only to provide such persons with professional legal assistance but also to pay the fares of such persons in order that the legal assistance might be real. On balance I determined that it was in the public interest that 3 charges -
– Three out of how many? There are others pending.
-Others are pending. I determined that it would be an absurd waste of public money to proceed with the three that have been considered. There, are, as I have said, other charges pending, including charges under the State Acts. Each of those has been examined on its merits.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Can he advise the Senate what documents and /or copies of documents from the Attorney-General’s Department were taken by the previous Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, when he left office? Can the Attorney-General also advise the Senate whether these documents included dossiers on members of Parliament such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation report on the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, and other reports which were leaked to the ‘Bulletin ‘?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question. I know that last year the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, as he now is, did indicate that he had certain documents in his possession and subsequently did inform me in writing about one particular document. I am unable to inform the honourable senator as to the rest of the question but I will ascertain whether some assistance can be given. Perhaps it would be easier if someone other than myself were able to answer the question.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. Has more finance been made available for farm development loans through the banking system? If so, is the interest rate on those loans to be increased to bring them into line with other interest rates? Is it a fact that the interest rate in the rural credit section of the Reserve Bank of Australia is now to be 9Vi per cent to 10 per cent? If this is so, does it mean that wheat growers will be required in the 1974-75 season to meet an increased interest bill of some $4m to $5m on borrowings from the rural credit section alone?
-The Treasurer has announced that further funds will be made available to the term loan account and is the farm development loan account. Two-thirds of that money is to be made available from the statutory reserve deposits of the trading banks and the other one-third from other assets of the private banks. It is my understanding that the interest rates will be the normal interest rates obtaining. As to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question, it is my understanding that that also will apply. However, to ensure that my answer is correct I shall obtain confirmation from the Treasurer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. What assistance, if any, is the Department of the Media providing to help the independent Papua New Guinea broadcasting service establish itself effectively? Has there been any assessment of the role mass communications is playing in the development of New Guinea?
– I can tell the honourable senator that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is continuing to lend considerable advice and assistance to its counter.P: n organisation in New Guinea, the National Broadcasting Commission of that country. Recently there has been an exchange of correspondence between me and the New Guinea Minister for Communications. As a result of that exchange of correspondence 2 officers of my Department have been sent to New Guinea to assist the New Guinea Department of Communications in establishing audience research projects in village communities. The 2 officers of my Department have been working in collaboration with officers of the New Guinea Department of Communications in the village of Buka in north Bougainville. I venture to say, with respect, that this is probably the first time that any market research techniques have ever been undertaken in an island society of this kind. The aim was to test in the area the application of market research techniques according to village society. It is believed that this type of research will enable the New Guinea Broadcasting Commission to better utilise its own facilities and program arrangements, and will probably tend to stop the domination by the large centres of Lae, Port Moresby and Rabaul in their programming policies. I can assure the honourable senator that the officers of my Department were very keen and enthusiastic about working with the officers of the New Guinea Department of Communications. They have just returned from New Guinea- I think it was last week- and I am expecting a detailed report from them in a few days time.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. In view of the number of regulations and ordinances that have been gazetted during the period since the Australian Parliament was dissolved and as many more may be gazetted before the Parliament reassembles for the Budget session, will the Attorney-General assure the Senate that early action will be taken to reconstitute the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances so as to ensure that a proper and traditional examination shall be made of this subordinate legislation?
– Yes. I understand that the appointments have already been made. I am not sure whether the appointments from the Government side have been notified. I was just informed that the default is on the Opposition side. That may or may not be right. It does not require a motion to establish the Regulations and Ordinances Committee -
– It does.
– I am subject to correction. In any event, whatever steps need to be taken will be taken. The Government has already selected the senators it proposes to have sit on the Committee. I would like to see, and I am sure all honourable senators would like to see, the Committee functioning as soon as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Agriculture, concerns the twenty-sixth meeting of the International
Whaling Commission in London late last month. For what reasons did Australia move an amendment to the motion moved by the United States for a complete moratorium on commercial whaling, and what was the amendment?
-The only whaling station operating in Australia is in Albany, Western Australia. There has been considerable pressure in this country in the last 2 or 3 years to place a total ban on all whaling throughout the world. This, of course, would have had severe repercussions on the port of Albany in Western Australia. Last year the Australian Government took the position of supporting the United States motion for a total ban. However, this year, at the recent meeting, the Australian delegation moved an amendment to that motion for a total ban. The amendment was carried by 13 votes to 2 and subsequently was supported by the United States delegation. The 2 nations which opposed the Australian amendment were Japan and the Soviet Union, the two major whaling countries.
The essential difference between the American proposal and the Australian amendment was that the amendment sought that control over stocks and the preservation of whales throughout the world be tightened by the International Whaling Commission. There has been a change of policy on the part of the Australian Government in respect of this matter because it was quite apparent that a total ban could not be obtained but it was necessary to ensure the best possible machinery to preserve the whale. The most effective way of doing this was by strengthening the International Whaling Commission. It was for this reason that the Australian Government took a different approach. I might add that the amendment which was moved by the Australian delegation was widely acclaimed in the Commission, and has been since, and is the greatest safeguard we could have to ensure the preservation of whales throughout the world.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence or the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. It relates to the complaints recently made by Mr F. X. Purcell, a Werribee solicitor, to the commanding officers of the Royal Australian Air Force at Laverton and Point Cook in Victoria about the sub-standard condition of housing provided for Air Force personnel at Laverton.
I ask: Firstly, is the Minister aware that these housing conditions have resulted in a constant morale problem amongst servicemen and their families in that area; and, secondly, what steps has he taken to make available the funds necessary to enable these deficiencies to be remedied speedily?
– Honourable senators may recall that when the Labor Government came to power the Minister for Defence set 3 priorities, in this order: Firstly, he said, in relation to the conditions of engagement of servicemen, that he would make sure that they received a rate of pay which was commensurate with what was being paid in outside industry. This has been achieved. Secondly, having done that, he said that he would ensure that, in relation to pension rates, the defence forces retirement benefits scheme would be reviewed and improved. This has been achieved. Thirdly, he said that at the same time efforts would be made to improve the standards of servicemen’s housing. I know that investigations are being carried on. Mr Barnard and the Government are aware of the problem in respect of housing. He is making what efforts he can to achieve an improvement in that situation. In respect of the present investigation by the Government, I know that consideration has been given to doing everything possible to improve the standard of housing. I point out to the honourable senator that large amounts of money- many millions of dollars- have been spent in trying to improve conditions for servicemen. I would expect the Minister to concentrate now on the area about which the honourable senator has asked.
-Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen the recent Press report claiming that dumping duty on imported razor blades will not be applied? Over the years dumping duty has been applied to a significant number of items. Is the application of such a duty continued indefinitely or is it revised after a time?
– The report is correct. The Industries Assistance Commission found that there was dumping in the sense that imported razor blades were being sold in Australia at a price below what they would normally be sold at in the country of origin. I have stated the position in simple terms, but that is basically what the decision was. It was found by my Department that there was no evidence of real injury to industry in Australia. In fact, the profit margin in this area seemed to be extraordinarily high. It was determined that no action should be taken by way of imposing dumping duties. This decision is subject to review. Indeed, in areas where dumping duties have been imposed in the past, it has been found, during the last 12 months, that many of the duties were quite out of date and were no longer necessary. They have been revoked. Those revocations are subject to review. It is important that the policy be flexible and that these measures of protection are imposed when necessary and removed as soon as they are no longer necessary. In this way it will be easier to impose the duties and easier to remove them and to make our protection policy effective.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister noted the expressed willingness of the State premiers to co-operate with the Commonwealth and to refer powers to it for the purpose of controlling inflation? Does the Minister not agree that this has all occurred without any leadership for the Commonwealth? Does he not further agree that this ability to produce a proper solution by co-operation has existed for a very long time and that we all would be much better off had his Government availed itself of this chance earlier?
– I think the record shows that the present Government has endeavoured to co-operate with the States on the question of inflation. I do not see that there is any mileage to be gained from trying to make it appear that there has been a lack of co-operation on the part of this present Government. However, if the honourable senator would like a more detailed answer I shall obtain one from the Treasurer himself.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Can the Minister say what increase, if any, there has been in sales of Film Australia productions to Australian networks and to networks overseas? Does this commercial distribution of Australian Government film productions provide any return to revenue and are they likely to be further increased?
– I can inform the honourable senator that there has been a substantial increase in the print sale revenue of Film Australia, the Australian Government’s film production unit, for this financial year. I think that the print sale revenue for the last 12 months is about 45 per cent over and above that for the previous 12 months. There has been a consequential increase of about 30 per cent in the total revenue coming to Film
Australia as a result of the sale of its film productions. The distribution revenue now coming to Film Australia from the sale of its film productions is of the order of $270,000 for the financial year ended June 1974. My Department and myself in particular have instituted arrangements whereby the commercial television networks are invited regularly to view productions made by Film Australia. Quite a number of the productions have been sold. Only yesterday my Department was approached by a network for special rights to television screening of a film that has been produced by Film Australia, an organ of my Department, for and on behalf of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I have taken the matter up with my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and, hopefully, that film will be sold to the network in the near future.
– It will be sold. It was a good offer.
-My colleague interjects to say that he now agrees that it was a good offer. It will bring in further revenue to the Federal Treasury.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government as the representative of the Prime Minister in the Senate. I refer to a statement made by the Prime Minister at his Press conference last week in which he said that the former Department of Immigration had fallen down very badly. Has the Government closed the Department of Immigration as a matter of Government policy? If so, can the Minister tell the Senate why the Government felt that the Department of Immigration had fallen down very badly? Does this assertion refer to the work performed by the former and immediate past Minister for Immigration? Does this assertion refer to the work undertaken by officers of the Department throughout the world for some 25 years and their thousands of voluntary assistants in Australia who have helped hundreds of thousands of migrants to find a new life and to make a notable contribution to Australia? What were the areas of immigration activity in which the ‘falling down very badly ‘ took place?
-I cannot answer all of the honourable senator’s question. I will pass most of them to the Prime Minister in order that he may answer them. As to the question of closing down the separate Department of Immigration, that of course was a matter of Government policy. As to whether the Prime Minister intended in any way to reflect upon the administration of the former Minister for Immigration, I can safely answer the honourable senator by saying no.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. Did the Minister give an undertaking during the election campaign that the Government would assist in facilitating the extraction of the rock phosphate deposits in Queensland? Has the Government entered into any arrangement with Broken Hill South Ltd in this regard?
-The Minister for Minerals and Energy and I issued a joint statement on this matter during the election campaign. In that statement we said in effect that the Australian Government would co-operate in the development of the phosphate deposits in Queensland. The leases are actually held by several companies but Broken Hill South Ltd is the principal one. Some hundreds of millions of tons of phosphate rock are involved. There have been discussions between senior representatives of Broken Hill South Ltd and Mr Connor this week. It is my understanding that the company is satisfied with its development of those deposits at present. The Goverment remains available to discuss with the company at any time any matters concerning these developments. I understand that a matter of considerable importance is the policy of the Queensland Government in respect of the development of the deposits.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and refers to the locust plague which has severely damaged the grain industry in central Queensland, and the fact that none of last year’s Federal grant was made available to Queensland. Is it true that approaches have recently been made by a number of bodies, including the Queensland State Government, to the Federal Government for aid in attempting to protect this vital industry? ls the Government prepared to consider allowing any future Federal grants to be available for control of all species of plague locusts which seriously threaten our rural industry?
-Last year there was the threat of a very serious locust plague in Queensland. The Australian Government, in conjunction with the New South Wales and Queensland Governments, entered into an agreement whereby the Australian Government would make available the sum of $500,000 to assist in resisting the spread of the locusts. It also made available, at a cost, I think, of $70,000, the facilities of the armed services for plague control. I am not sure of the amount which has been expended but I know that the armed services were used and there was, I think, considerable appreciation of the efforts which were made on behalf of the areas referred to by the honourable senator. I am sure that the Australian Government would be prepared to look at any further claims for assistance in respect of plague locusts. Nevertheless, it is basically a matter for the States. I assume that the matter will be raised again in August at the meeting of the Agricultural Council which is the body through which the previous arrangements were entered into. I am not aware of any approach by the Queensland Government at present. There may be, but if there is it has not been brought to my attention. I am sure any request would receive sympathetic consideration if it were forthcoming.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral tell us what steps have been taken by the Government to ensure the adequate delivery of mail to and from Tasmania in the light of the present dispute involving the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers?
-Outgoing mail from Tasmania has been carried by aircraft and there has been no disruption. However, in relation to surface mail for Tasmania, I have arranged with Trans-Australia Airlines to have 2,000 kilograms of mail delivered per day at emergency rates until the backlog has been cleared up. In addition it is expected that there will be space for 1 , 000 bags of mail to be put on the ship the ‘Sydney Trader’ which will be departing from Melbourne today. Similar quantities will be delivered on future sailings. It seems that these combined arrangements will overcome whatever backlog there has been.
-I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. In view of reports from leaders of Australian electronics companies that the industry faces total collapse as a result of the Government’s tariff policies, has the Minister any knowledge of what effect this will have on the introduction and smooth maintenance of the colour television industry in Australia? Does the Minister accept that a stop-go policy for a highly skilled industry developing in Australia represents a short term attitude which could disadvantage Australian families who purchase television sets which are totally dependent for maintenance on imported components?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDYesterday I listened with interest to the plea made by honourable senators opposite on behalf of the Australian electronics industry to ensure that employment was maintained in that industry. Recently, honourable senators obviously would have seen a statement by the Prime Minister that the Government intended to proceed with the introduction of colour television which is scheduled for 1 March 1975 and details of which have been circulating in the community and throughout the industry for at least 21/2 or 3 years. I believe that this will give a great impetus to the industry.
Only last week I was at a demonstration organised by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. It showed the value of colour television to Australia. That company was very hopeful that a large number of sales would be made in Australia when colour television sets came on to the market. The statement was made that the electronics companies engaged in the manufacture of colour television sets believed that there would be a heavier saturation of sales at the outset in Australia than occurred in the United States, Canada and Great Britain when colour television first came to those countries. This Government has undertaken to introduce colour television on 1 March 1 975.I believe that colour television will be for the betterment of this country. It will open vistas that have never been seen before by a large number of people, and certainly it will give a great impetus to the manufacturing side of the industry.
- Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question on the same subject?
– Yes, you may ask a supplementary question.
-I believe that the Minister misunderstood my question. My question related to the fact that the heads of electronics companies have stressed that the industry faces total collapse. I asked the Minister Did he feel that he had any knowledge of the effect that this would have on the industry? I further asked: What effect would the total collapse of the electronics industry have on the maintenance of colour television sets in the future if they were totally dependent on imported components?
– All I can say is that not one sector of the electronics industry has complained to me in the manner in which the honourable senator indicates. Indeed, the statements that are being attributed to some sectors of the industry are completely at variance with the statement that were made to me by representatives of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd when I attended their seminar recently. If reports are made officially to me, I will have a look at the situation; but, frankly, at this stage I think that the position is very much exaggerated.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Can the Minister inform the Senate when pensioners will be able to have their war pensions or service pensions paid into savings accounts of credit unions?
-Yes, by coincidence, I can answer that question. Most of the administrative problems which prevented the payment of repatriation pensions into savings accounts of credit unions earlier have now been overcome. Before it was possible to do this it was necessary that satisfactory computer services be available in the offices of the Repatriation Commission in the various States. These arrangements have now been completed or almost completed, and it is hoped that the first payments will be made as from 1 November next.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Was the current action of the Labor Government in directing a substantial increase in the interest rates which will apply to those Australians who borrow money to build homes, a conscious decision of the Labor Party? Can the Minister explain to the Senate where a benefit will occur to the Australian economy or to Australian citizens in general by an increase in the interest rates paid by those who have existing home loans?
-I feel that the question should be answered by the Treasurer, and I will refer it to him.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. As a result of the Government’s decision to admit civilian patients to repatriation hospitals when spare bed capacity is available, can the Minister inform the Senate how many civilian patients have been admitted to such hospitals since the policy was introduced and what effect this policy has had on the provision of treatment for ex-servicemen?
– In the period from I July 1973 to 5 May 1974 a total of 2,548 civilians were admitted to repatriation hospitals. Included in that number were some non-entitled exservicemen. When the policy of admitting nonentitled ex-servicemen and civilian patients to repatriation hospitals was introduced, efforts were made to see that priority would be given to exservicemen and their dependants, the people for whom the Repatriation Commission has statutory responsibility, so far as the provision of bed space is concerned. The admission of civilian patients to repatriation hospitals has not excluded any entitled ex-serviceman from obtaining treatment in such hospitals.
-I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether it is a fact that meat now can be purchased in most cities of Australia at prices comparable to those of 3 years ago.
-You would be kidding.
– The honourable senator goes to the wrong butcher. If so, does this justify the considered opinion of industry leaders, the Opposition and also the Minister and his Department that there should be no interference by way of price control over meat products?
-I am sorry but I could not possibly make sense of that question. It will have to go on notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refer to the invitation extended by Mr Hartley, a member of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party, to the Palestine Liberation Organisation to set up an office in Australia. Is the Minister aware that many Australian citizens believe that this could form a base for terrorist activities in Australia? Does the invitation meet with the Labor Government’s approval? Is it the policy of the Australian Government to allow trade unionists, who are not elected representatives of the people, to intrude into such sensitive diplomatic areas? If not, what action does the Government propose to take to prevent the trade union movement taking over the foreign affairs of Australia?
– The general context of the question was on Mr Hartley’s recent visit to the Middle East. It was a private visit which in no way had the backing of the Australian Labor Party or the Government. I could not quite understand that part of the question which referred to the trade union movement. The point is that no application for representation in Australia has been made by anybody from the Middle East beyond the normal diplomatic representatives we have here. If an application is made it will be examined and a decision will be given.
-Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the suggestion by Major General Stretton that each telephone directory should contain a page detailing the emergency arrangements for the area that the directory covers? In view of the recent natural flood disasters around Australia, would the Postmaster-General give consideration to this commendable idea?
-Yes, I have seen the suggestion. I would expect Major General Stretton, who now heads the national disaster organisation, to make representation to the Minister for Defence about the proposition which, on paper, seems to be a very good one. All I would like to say is that once a submission has been made I certainly would be happy to look at it, together with Mr Barnard, to see how practicable it is. I know that there are a lot of telephone directories. I think that something like 9 million directories are printed in Australia. Somebody would have to meet the cost of the suggestion, and I am not going to say that the PostmasterGeneral presently could do it. I certainly would be happy to work out some arrangement with the Minister for Defence.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It follows a question asked by my colleague Senator Jessop. I refer again to the provocative statement by left wing Australian Labor Party official Mr Hartley that a terrorist organisation, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is responsible for murder and violence in many parts of the world, is considering establishing an information office in Australia and that it would be accorded diplomatic privilege. Will the Minister assure the Parliament that in no circumstances will the Government tolerate this unsavoury gang establishing an office in Australia?
-Of course nobody will try to bring terrorists and people who are likely to commit terrorist activities into Australia. We have no application for representation from anybody in the Middle East, apart from the normal countries which are represented here. When an application is made we will examine who it is from, what it is from and what it is all about, and we will then give a decision.
-Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen recent newspaper articles which refer to possible dangers to Australia’s livestock industry because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Bali which is being visited by an increasing number of Australian tourists? Is he satisfied with the steps taken by the Department of Customs and Excise to prevent this disease entering Australia?
– All passengers arriving in Australia from overseas are asked whether in the past 3 months they have visited any farm, meat packing place or abattoir and whether they have been in contact with farm animals. If they answer yes to any of the questions or if it is known that they have been in a country in which foot and mouth disease is active, the passengers are automatically referred to the animal quarantine officers on duty. These officers examine all articles of footwear and soiled clothing, and they clean and disinfect articles as necessary. Additional special precautions are taken with passengers arriving at Darwin from Bali and Timor.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry and is somewhat supplementary to the one asked by Senator Guilfoyle. It refers to the serious threat to the whole Australian electronics industry arising from the Whitlam Government’s tariff cuts which permitted a major inflow of goods from overseas. Has the Minister noted that, following the announcement of the impending closure of the works of Philips Industries in South Australia, the great wholly Australian-owned electronics firm Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd has indicated the possible dismissal of 1 ,000 workers and that another electronics firm, Plessey Pacific Pty Ltd, has indicated the possible retrenchment of more than 500 employees? Does the Government agree that it is vital to Australia’s national interest to maintain a comprehensive, viable and sophisticated electronics industry? If so, what specific steps is the Government taking to protect the industry and. above all, to safeguard the jobs of each of these thousands of Australians?
– Yesterday I was asked 2 similar questions, one by Senator Jessop and one by Senator Laucke. I indicated then the steps that the Government was taking in respect of the adjustments in the economy which are now appearing as a result of the tariff cuts last year. I pointed out yesterday that the Structural Adjustment Board has been created specifically to determine and to recommend action to the Government where redundancies occur and where firms are in difficulty as a result of those tariff changes. I believe that the Government is to be commended for the initiative it has taken. We have certainly adopted a new course in respect of protection to industry in this country, for which we make no apology. At the same time, we have established machinery to assist these industries to make the change. I deal now with the latter part of Senator Carrick ‘s question. Yesterday I said that under the Government’s proposals, which are now Government policy, workers who are declared redundant will receive an amount equal to their average weekly earnings for the past 6 months. At the same time the Government, as Senator Bishop pointed out yesterday, has implemented retraining schemes. I think it would be quite wrong to suggest that the Government is not mindful of the problems that will arise. At the same time, having created that machinery, we can proceed with the original policies that we set out to put into effect.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Following the Government’s decision to amalgamate the Department of Labor and the Department of Immigration, what steps have been taken to re-allocate the functions of the former Department of Immigration.
– It is now about a month since the Prime Minister announced that Mr Clyde Cameron would take over the duties formerly performed by Mr Grassby and that the 2 departments- the Department of Labor and the Department of Immigration- would be combined. As the Prime Minister explained, the idea was to make sure that the Department responsible for employment and employment policiesheaded by Mr Clyde Cameron- would be more closely allied with the objectives and policies of immigration. That was considered by the Government to be a good thing as it would ensure that the recruitment of people from overseas and the provision of assisted passages to migrants was related more to employment opportunities in Australia. It was considered that this would suit trade unions and management.
The Prime Minister has explained and the Minister for Labor and Immigration has announced that although the present head of the Department of Labor, Dr Sharp, will remain as Secretary of the Department of Labor, he will be assisted now by Mr Armstrong, who was formerly the Secretary of the Department of Immigration. Those two will advise the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The Prime Minister has announced in addition that some of the functions that were formerly performed by Mr Grassby ‘s Department will be passed over to the Minister for Social Security, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, in some cases, the Minister for Education. So all that has happened is that there has been a more streamlined approach. There is greater security from the employment and workforce side in respect of policy. There is now in existence a working committee which is obligated to report to the Government on the changeover. The committee which is headed by the Public Service Board involves also the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Social Security.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports of a statement made by Mr Charles Perkins, an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether he agrees with Mr Perkins that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs should become a statutory body outside the scope of politics and that white people should be phased out of the Department? If the Minister does not agree will he explain, either now or in a later statement, his reasons for not agreeing with Mr Perkins?
-I think there is a conflict between what Mr Perkins advocates and the policy of the Australian Labor Party. My Department and I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Perkins when he says that we should give control of the affairs of Aboriginal people to Aborigines. We are establishing Aboriginal control in every Aboriginal settlement and in every mission station by the formation of town councils, welfare organisations, housing societies and the establishment of industries so that they can proceed according to their own determination. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs will eventually play a lesser role in Aboriginal affairs, becoming the adviser and possibly the financing agency for the establishment of many industries.
We have found that much of the Aboriginal thinking has been in favour of a determination of their own control at the grass roots level rather than a commission making a national decision. We have had that concept accepted by the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which has agreed that there should be local committees, regional committees, State councils and, finally, a national body. Although Mr Perkins, myself and my Department agree that there should be as much Aboriginal control as is possible, we possibly disagree on whether the control should be exercised by a national or a local organisation. I mention that our efforts in this direction at Maningrida have been successful. When the Prime Minister, myself and two other Ministers were there we received a request to stop development for a time to allow the Aboriginal people to catch up with the development that had already occurred at that settlement. We are in agreement with the Aborigines who want to take over control of four other sections of development. There is no other settlement which would request a halt to development. This shows the different thinking of different Aboriginal groups, and also our desire to accommodate various requests from the Aboriginal people.
-My question to the Minister for Agriculture relates to the recent savage increase in the price of superphosphate, an increase ex works in Tasmania from $19.30 to $38.76 a tonne plus the equated freight component making a total cost of $46.96 a tonne delivered to the nearest railway station. I ask: In view of the resultant severely increased cost burden upon the primary producers with an inevitable rise in the cost of food to the whole community, will the Government give immediate consideration to reversing its decision to remove the bounty so that primary producers in this country can plan ahead with some degree of confidence?
– The Government decided that the superphosphate bounty would be phased out at the end of December this year. At the time it took that decision it issued an invitation to all primary industry groups in Australia which may be adversely affected to submit a case to the Government which, if a prima facie case were established, would refer it to the Industries Assistance Commission. The Western Australian Farmers Union did this successfully and its case is now before the Commission. I do not think any purpose would be served if the Government were to reverse its decision. It is true that the increased cost of phosphate does perhaps add weight to those submissions which are received by the Government. I might say that in respect of the State from which the honourable senator comes- Tasmania- I am not aware of any submission having been received. I would anticipate that industry groups which felt that they were severely affected by the decision to end the bounty payment on superphosphate would by now have made their submissions to the Government and accepted the Government’s offer of the use of Government facilities to assist them to prepare their cases. I believe that the Government’s decision is a sound one and the question of reintroducing the bounty is a matter of consideration for the future not so much in respect of price but of supply. It was for that reason that I indicated earlier the Government’s intention to assist in the development of the phosphate deposits in Queensland.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. Has the Department of the Media established a mobile bookshop and inquiry centre? What plans does the Government have to establish such inquiry centres and bookshops throughout Australia? What has been the reception to these mobile units in the areas which they have visited so far?
– In conformity with the Government’s policy of open government and in an earnest endeavour to make Government books available to the Australian people, my Department has established a mobile inquiry centre and a mobile bookshop in New South Wales and hopefully it is contemplated that eventually we will have at least seven of these bookshops operating on the mainland of Australia- two in Queensland, two in New South Wales, one in Victoria, one in South Australia and one in Western Australia. One mobile bookshop and inquiry centre has been established in the last 2 months in New South Wales. Already it has operated at Goulburn, Wollongong, Yass and Wagga. I can tell the honourable senator that in 2 days of operation at Goulburn it sold $1,000 worth of Australian Government publications. I can also tell the honourable senator that this year for the first time revenue from the sale of Government publications has exceeded the $lm mark. This is in conformity with the Government’s practice of ensuring that these publications relating to all facets of governmental activity are made available to the Australian people at a reasonable price.
-Mr President -
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
-Mr President, I have been getting up for nearly threequarters of an hour and have not received the call. Can I not get even one question asked?
– Order ! It was ruled by my predecessor last session that when, after a certain time, the Minister in charge asks that further questions without notice be placed on the notice paper the Chair regards itself as bound by practice to call on the next business. I will continue to so rule. I now call on the next business.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia-
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)- I have a reply to a question asked in the Senate yesterday by Senator Townley of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I seek leave to incorporate the reply in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Minister for Transport has informed me that he has been in touch with the ACTU in an endeavour to have Tasmania exempted from the present dispute by Marine Engineers and any further marine industrial disputes. He has spoken personally with the Secretary of the ACTU on the matter and has conveyed to him by telegram a resolution adopted by the Australian Transport Advisory Council in Darwin last week requesting an exemption for Tasmania.
The Secretary of the ACTU informed the Minister that the ACTU has advised the officers of the Marine Engineers to conform with the ACTU policy in regard to the Tasmanian trade.
In May 1971 the ACTU Executive recognised the dependance of the jobs of Tasmanian workers on regular and adequate shipping services and called upon the participants of any strike which has the effect of stopping shipping services to Tasmania to give consideration to the particular position of the Island’s economy and to take such steps as are practicable and required to cause the least disruption.
To date the Institute has exempted a number of ships in the Tasmanian trade, but this has not prevented a critical situation for Tasmanian industry which, if the dispute is not settled quickly, will be forced to cease production.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and
Excise)- For the information of honourable senators I present TariffBoard reports on:
Blades for Safety Razors (Dumping and Subsidies Act), dated 28 September 1973 and Bright Round Steel Bars (Tariff classification) dated 8 October 1973.
I present also a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on Fibreglass Insect Screening (Dumping and Subsidies Act), dated 5 March 1974.I present also a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on Passenger Motor Vehicles, which I have just received. As printed copies are not immediately available for honourable senators’ use, arrangements have been made for 10 duplicated copies to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. Printed copies for the use of honourable senators will be made available as soon as possible.
-by leave- In relation to the report on passenger motor vehicles, I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Maritime Industry regarding the training of seagoing personnel.
– I seek leave of the Senate to make a statement on the subject of my participation in the ballot for the office of President on Tuesday.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-In the constitution of the Senate the secret ballot was approached by 2 parties, each with 29 members, and 2 senators independent of parties. The result of that Senate vote on the basis of statements made, and reported publicly, by Senator Steele Hall- that he voted for the Australian Labor Party nomineeand by Senator Townley- to the effect that he voted for Senator Sir Magnus Cormack- means that the effective or defective vote that secured a majority for the Australian Labor Party nominee came from one of the 29 Liberal-Country Party senators.
– You would not have to be Einstein to work that out.
– One would not have to be an Einstein to work that out.
-No. I am astounded that any question has arisen as to whether I voted for the nominee of the Liberal-Country Party, Sir Magnus Cormack. I refer the question to the Senate by way of statement today only because at 5.30 or thereabouts on Tuesday afternoon I had a visit in Parliament House from a journalist who asked me an insulting question which I treated with the level of contempt that it deserved. That evening a colleague of mine mentioned to me that a rumour involving me was current from some quarter of the parliamentary machine. Next morning in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ newspaper I saw a paragraph which deeply injured and humiliated me. lit referred to a defective Liberal vote, stated that it had been a matter of concentrated attention and that the speculation was whether it came from a Tasmanian senator or a Queensland senator. Nobody in his senses would consider that as a reference to any of my three Liberal Party colleagues from Tasmania, Senator Rae, Senator Marriott or Senator Bessell.
– Why not?
-Because nobody in his senses would have the slightest reason to imagine that those 3 gentlemen would depart from what had been decided by the Party in relation to a secret ballot vote by the Party. But some idiot or purveyor of malice has confused the independence that I have established for my vote on measures of policy in the Senate as a private member, which is distinct at all times- that has always been the case- from my obligation as a Minister to observe the secret conclusions of Cabinet. But the rumour is growing and only today I learnt that on one of the evening programs on the Australian Broadcasting Commission the innuendo was cast. I felt obliged by these events to take the matter somewhat seriously, so I addressed a letter to the Assistant Clerk and asked him about the position in relation to the preservation of the ballot papers in yesterday’s Senate ballots. I stated that I wished every step to be taken to preserve them. I received an immediate reply stating that the secret ballot papers had been sealed in an envelope and are carefully kept with Senate records. The letter was signed by the Assistant Clerk. I am making this statement to affirm that perusal of those written ballot papers will establish in my handwriting the capital letters constituting the name of Cormack.
– Is that spelt O- ‘- BYRNE?
– I should hope that some people would treat this as a matter of deep injury to my honour. I am asserting the falsity of these innuendoes so as to scotch them now and to enable the Senate in its judgment as to my integrity to receive my statement to that effect and to consider with me whether there is any process possible, if it wants verification, whereby my written vote can be made available. I invite the Senate to authorise it to be placed upon the table of the Senate for examination by anybody concerned. That is the action that I desire. Its competence, I understand, requires consideration. Of course, I have in mind other action which is not confined to the precincts of this chamber.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Senate has heard Senator Wright’s statement and, speaking on behalf of the Government, I would think that we would accept without any reservation what he has stated. May I say, though, that I am deeply disturbed at the suggestion that there should be any examination of the ballot papers. Those ballot papers are part of the process of a secret ballot in this chamber and I would think that, however hurtful the circumstances may be and however much it might serve to confirm what Senator Wright has said, it should not be necessary and it is not necessary for such a step to be taken. I would think that the taking of such a course would be fraught with very great dangers to the proper operation of the ballot system in the Senate. I would suggest to Senator Wright with respect that he ought not endeavour to pursue that course any further. The statement he has made to the Senate is sufficient in itself and is accepted by all of us.
- Mr President, might I have leave to make a brief statement on the same matter?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-! just wish to follow up something that Senator Murphy said. I understand the philosophy behind it but, after all, Senator Wright’s honour also is important. I do not think that the matter ought just to disappear because I would hate it if Senator Murphy were perhaps to suffer an imputation that he would not want an examination because it might determine who was the person responsible. I would not want that sort of allegation to be made. However, I think the point ought to be made. All I ask of you, Mr President, is whether you would ask your Clerks to put down a statement in the Senate on the proposition put by Senator Wright. The request is that the President make a statement to the Senate as to whether he felt there was any merit in the matter or whether Senator Wright ought to be allowed to have his ballot paper identified and laid on the table. I do not think that is over-much to ask the Presiding Officer of the Senate to do. All I ask you to do is to give consideration to it over the weekend and to make a brief statement to the Senate on this matter on Tuesday. That is purely a request. It is up to the President to decide.
– I will consider the request made by the Leader of the Opposition
– Notice of motion No. 1 is standing in the name of Senator Douglas McClelland. Is it formal or informal?
– I move:
I have had discussions with Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition, and Senator DrakeBrockman on this matter. I think the course of action that I have laid down in the motion is agreed to by them. I should indicate, however, that it is not intended to be taken as a precedent for the Budget sittings so far as times are concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Is Government business, notice of motion No. 2, standing in the name of Senator Murphy and relating to the division of senators into classes formal or not formal?
– Could I have leave to postpone that motion until Wednesday next?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Government business, notice of motion No. 2, be postponed until Wednesday next.
– I move:
The intention is to suspend the standing orders so that the second reading speech on the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973 can be made by my colleague Senator Willesee. It is proposed that the Opposition will then secure the adjournment of that debate. It is then intended to introduce a message from the House of Representatives, bring the Representation Bill 1973 up to the second reading stage and have it adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I introduce into the Senate for the third time a Bill to provide for Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory. The Bill now before the Senate is in identical form to the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill previously introduced. Honourable senators have had ample opportunity to consider the provisions of the Bill. However, I will briefly outline the proposals contained in the Bill, and its purpose. The Bill provides for the election of 2 senators each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and that such senators have the same powers, immunities and privileges as senators representing the States; that the first election of Territory senators be held at the same time as the next Senate elections in the several States or at the same time as the next general elections for members of the House of Representatives, if such is held before or in conjunction with the next Senate elections; that the term of the first Territory senators be from the date of their election until the eve of polling day for the ensuing general election for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election for Territory senators, elections be held at the same time as the general elections for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election of Territory senators, the terms of Territory senators be the period between each House of Representatives election; and for the Territory senators to be elected under the same system of proportional representation as that currently applicable to the election of senators representing the States, except in the case of a single casual vacancy when such vacancy shall be filled by the holding of a byelection adopting the procedures used for filling a single casual vacancy for a State senator, as far as may be applicable.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide a measure of representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory in the Senate, giving some meaningful expression to section 122 of the Constitution in respect of the Senate as an integral part of this Parliament. Such representation is clearly permissible. Section 122 of the Constitution provides:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
We believe that, while the national Parliament remains bicameral, the people of the Territories, like all the people of Australia, should be represented in both chambers. We tried to bring this about in Opposition and we are determined to achieve it in Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when Leader of the Opposition, introduced private members Bills in 1968 and 1970 to provide for representation of the Territories in the Senate. Both Bills were taken to the second reading stage but no vote on either Bill was allowed. The Labor Government recently gave the Australian Capital Territory a second member for the House of Representatives. Mr President, in our system of government, where all measures must pass through both Houses of Parliament before becoming law, it is quite extraordinary that the people of the Territories should be allowed representation in one chamber but denied representation in the other. We believe that the people of the Territories should have a voice in the Senate when it debates motions concerning the Territories, and that senators from the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory should sit on parliamentary Committees which deal with matters affecting the Territories. It is not only the Labor Party which supports Senate representation of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. Since 1967 the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has been pressing for Senate representation of the Australian Capital Territory. At its meeting on 11 December 1967 the following resolution was carried:
This Council advises the Minister that the Australian Capital Territory should be allowed representation in Senate and seeks the Minister’s assurance that he will do everything possible to persuade the Government to introduce the necessary legislation in Parliament in order that citizens of this Territory are no longer denied adequate and proper Parliamentary representation.
Even the Australian Capital Territory Federal Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party is reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 17 May 1973, under the heading ‘Libs Want Two A.C.T. Senators’, as supporting this proposal. The Legislative Council of the Northern Territory has sought Senate representation for the Northern Territory on several occasions over many years. In 1969, the Legislative Council asked by resolution for the representation of the Northern Territory in the Senate by 2 senators. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is recorded as saying during the course of his speech in the House of Representatives on 29 May 1973-Hansard, page 2804:
In speaking to this Bill I point out that in 1966 Senate Representation for the Northern Territory was on my platform and it has been ever since . . .
The constitutional position with regard to the power vested in this Parliament to provide representation for the 2 Territories as proposed by this Bill is clear. I have already quoted section 122 of the Constitution. The Parliament may allow the representation of such Territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit. The founders of the Constitution obviously recognised the simple justice of the notion that, since the Parliament would make laws for the Territories, the citizens of the Territories should have a voice in that Parliament. Anything else would be a denial of the most fundamental right which a democratic nation allows its citizens. The position of the Territories is becoming more urgent each year. Each in its own way is a vital and expanding part of Australia. The population of each Territory is increasing rapidly. Two senators are suggested because it would be proper to have an even number representing the Territories. If only one senator represented a Territory, almost certainly the one party would be represented for long periods. It is not unlikely that the senator for each Territory would belong to the same party. It would appear then to be more just to have an even number elected each time for each Territory, thus allowing the representation of the parties to be more evenly balanced than would be the case if only one senator for each Territory were provided.
With regard to term of office proposed by the Bill for Territory senators I would remind honourable senators that 16 years ago the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties were represented, recommended that there should be an election for half the senators every time there was a general election for the House of Representatives. Bringing elections for Territory senators into line with House of Representatives elections accords with the recommendation of that Committee. Under the provisions of the Bill, after the first election of Territory senators, both senators for each Territory will be elected each time there is a general election of the House of Representatives. Consequently in respect of representatives of the Territories there will be elections for both Houses of Parliament at the same time.
The Bill before the Senate proposes an increase in the number of senators by 4 making a total of 64 senators in all. On the basis of advice by the Commonwealth legal advisors, the provision of Territory senators under section 122 of the Constitution does not cause an alteration in the number of members of the House of
Representatives by virtue of section 24. Consequently, the proposed Territory senators will be excluded in determining the number of members to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of section 10 of the Representation Act. This will be made clear by proposed amendments of the Representation Act contained in the Representation Bill.
This Bill when it becomes law will give effect to the Government’s announced policy, and its undertaking to provide representation in the Senate for the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory- representation to which they are justly entitled. It is presented for a third time to meet the constitutional requirements for it to become law following the recent double dissolution of Parliament. It has been unquestionably endorsed by the Australian people and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Jessop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
( 3.38)- I move:
This Bill is a companion Bill to the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill. Its main purpose is to amend the formula in the Representation Act under which the number of members of the House of Representatives for the several States is determined. This Bill is in identical form to the Representation Bill 1973 twice rejected by the Senate, firstly on 7 June 1973 and secondly on 14 November 1973. It is another of the 6 Bills which provided the grounds for the recent double dissolution of the Parliament. As honourable senators would know, the Constitution provides, in section 24, that the House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of members shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of Senators. Section 24 further provides that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and the section goes on to specify the manner in which that number is to be determined ‘until the Parliament otherwise provides’. Parliament has otherwise provided by the Representation Act. The Government’s legal advice is that section 24 of the Constitution does not have application in relation to senators who may be provided for a Territory under the provisions of section 122 of the Constitution. In other words, the requirement contained in section 24 for the number of members of the House of Representatives to be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators does not relate to Territory members or senators provided under section 122 of the Constitution. Furthermore, ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ in the context of section 24 are the people of the States.
The formula in section 10 of the Representation Act for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, sets out that a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators. The number of members to be chosen in each State is determined by dividing the number of people of the State by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
Clause 3 of the Bill before the Senate makes it clear that in applying the formula provided in section 10 ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ are the people of the 6 States and do not include the people of any Territory.
Clause 5 of the Bill which substitutes the words ‘the Senators for the States’ for the word Senators’, makes it clear that Territory senators are excluded from the formula for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States. Thus, consistently with section 24 of the Constitution, the introduction of Territory senators will not affect the representation of the States in the House of Representatives.
Opportunity is being taken in clauses 4 and 6 of the Bill to make some amendments of a formal nature to sections 7 and 13 of the Representation Act. The present provisions of these sections do not take into account the fact that one House of the Parliament may be sitting although the other is not. At the same time it is desirable to bring the period within which regulations are to be tabled under sub-section (2) of section 13 into line with the period of 15 sitting days provided by the Acts Interpretation Act in relation to regulations generally. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Jessop) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10 July (vide page 66), on motion by Senator Melzer:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of his Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY: We, the Members of the Senate, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to express our thanks for the Speech which His Excellency the Right Honourable Sir Paul Hasluck, G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.St.J., as Governor-General, was pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
But the Senate is of the opinion that
The Government is unable to handle the economic problems that confront Australia because its policies of
deliberately creating an intolerable rate of inflation;
creating unemployment; and
applying a credit squeeze with high interest rates have led to distressing social and economic dislocation; and
The Government is to be condemned for its continued confrontation with the State governments and the understanding of their rights and responsibilities. ‘
– Order! Senator Coleman is about to address the Senate. She is the second of our 3 new lady senators to make her maiden speech. The fourth lady senator, Senator Guilfoyle, is now considered to be a veteran. I hope that the Senate will extend to Senator Coleman the usual courtesies which it extends to maiden speakers. 1 now call Senator Coleman.
– In rising to support the motion. I extend to you, Sir, my sincere congratulations on your appointment. I know that you will fulfil your duties in a capable, unbiased and forthright manner. I extend to Senator Webster my congratulations on his appointment as Chairman of Committees. I am pleased that there are 3 other women senators. I single them out for this reason only. I extend to Senator Guilfoyle, who is the most experienced of the female senators, my congratulation on her appointment to the shadow Ministry. I am confident that she will fulfil her role to the best of her ability. I extend my best wishes to Senator Martin for a successful future in the Senate. I congratulate my colleague, Senator Melzer, on moving the motion for the Address-in-Reply. I know that the people in Victoria are well represented in this chamber by Senator Melzer. I also extend my congratulations to the new male senators.
I have devoted my opening remarks to women for a purpose other than that I am one. Senator Melzer, in her speech yesterday, spoke about the needs of women in our society. I put it to the Senate that a great number of issues which are loosely termed women’s issues have developed only because there has been an inequitable number of women members of Parliament, not only in this chamber but also in the other place. Out of 1 87 members there are only 5 women. I hope that I shall be present at a time when there is a more equal representation. In earlier discussion mention was made of discrimination against women. With all that this Government is doing to end discrimination through employment and other channels, I can express only concern and a little surprise that there is discrimination in the Parliament. I refer honourable senators to the handbook which is issued to all members and senators and which lists the services and amenities available. There is no mention of husbands of either members or senators. There is constant reference to wives, and, in the case of a widower member, a nominee may be appointed. I know that privileges are extended to our husbands and families in exactly the same way as privileges are extended to the wives and families of male members. Perhaps the use of the word ‘spouse’ may be considered.
I turn from the slightly facetious to more practical and urgent matters. Women in our society are finding difficulties and even impossible barriers in some areas. I refer to the obtaining of finance- for instance, housing finance, hire purchase finance for essential goods and services and in fact finance for anything at all- without a male guarantor. This requirement in itself is discrimination. A woman in Western Australia at least- I speak only of the situation there- cannot be a guarantor for her children to attend tertiary education institutions when a bonding agreement is necessary.
As a consumer advocate for many years, it would be remiss of me not to mention at this time matters concerning the protection of consumers. I refer firstly to the Prices Justification Tribunal and to the proposed amendments which were outlined by His Excellency Sir Paul Hasluck when he opened this Parliament on Tuesday. I am pleased that honourable senators opposite are concerned about the prices in the market place. At this time the Tribunal has not the power to enforce its recommendations and, therefore, to control prices to the grass roots consumers. With inadequate legislation, it is an impossible task, and it is impossible for us, as representatives of those grass roots consumers, to allow any delay in the passing of more stringent legislation in this area. I am heartened, as I am sure other members of my Party are, by reports from the shadow Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, that he would welcome stronger consumer protection legislation. Therefore I would anticipate not only Senator Greenwood’s support but the support of his entire Party when amendments to the Prices Justification Act reach this chamber.
His Excellency Sir Paul Hasluck also gave notice that it is the Government’s intention to reintroduce the Trade Practices Bill which was aborted in this chamber last year. At the time, that Bill was the subject of a very stormy debate. I believe that there were more than 100 amendments, consistent adjournments and ultimately debate was adjourned to a date beyond that of the double dissolution. Newspaper conjecture has it that the delaying tactics were used primarily because the consumer protection legislation was tied to the trade practices legislation. I put it to honourable senators that the trade practices legislation is as meaningful in its endeavours to afford protection to the consumers of Australia as the consumer protection legislation itself. At the moment consumers are being held to ransom by manufacturers, distributors, importers and retailers. I trust that there will be no more delaying tactics when this Bill is re-presented.
I do not want honourable senators to think that I can speak only on the subject of consumer protection, but I want to get that term in its true and proper perspective. Consumer protection is not something that automatically turns on in the market place. There are much broader connotations. There are the consumer protective areas with regard to advertising- the type, the quality and the truthfulness of advertising which we allow. This can be said also of reporting- the type, the quality and the truthfulness of reporting. We have reason to question the truthfulness of the press reporting even from this place. There are also the consumer protective areas of industrial activity and legislation- the important legislation designed to protect the living standards, the skills, the welfare and the safety of the working men and women of this great country. The legislation and the standard of legislation for which the trade unions have fought for decades must be maintained and even improved.
There are the consumer protective areas of social security- the pensioners, the aged, the invalid and others who are reliant on social service benefits to live in dignity. The aged particularly must be protected at all costs. In the past they were condemned to live almost in poverty.
Yet their only crime was to grow old. I refer also to the consumer protective areas of our country’s minerals and resources. It is only through legislation that we can protect our country from the avarice and greed of other people. I suggest that today I have touched only the tip of the iceberg. It would be fair to say that in most legislation there is or should be an element of consumer protection.
Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Western Australia for the confidence that they have placed in me and to assure them that I shall work in this place to the utmost of my ability to protect their interests. I support the motion moved by Senator Melzer.
– I draw to the attention of the Senate the fact that the next speaker, Senator Sheil, is about to make his maiden speech. I hope that the courtesies that have been so graciously extended to other honourable senators while making their maiden speeches will be extended to Senator Sheil during his address to the Senate.
-Thank you, Mr President. I am proud to be a member of this place. I, too, extend my congratulations to you, Mr President, on your elevation to the Presidency. I wish you well for the future and feel every confidence in you. I would like to congratulate Senator Webster on his election as Chairman of Committees. I congratulate the previous speakers whom I have heard make their maiden speeches. Their remarks have acted like a transfusion into the debate. Of course, by the time 1 5 transfusions have been put into anybody the situation can be quite dangerous. I hope that the Senate will be able to absorb us all and that we will have a contribution to make. I thank honourable senators, not only from my own Party but also from the other parties, for the way in which they have accepted us into the Senate and helped us. They have been most accommodating. I should like to thank also the wives of the more senior members of this chamber, who know the ropes, for the help that they have given. I extend thanks to the Clerks, the Usher and the Attendants, who have been most accommodating in sending us letters, giving us instruction and helping us around the corridors and lobbies.
The Senate may be even more male chauvinist than is thought because, according to one of the books in the lobbies, the word ‘Senate’ comes from the Latin word ‘senatus’, which refers to a body of wise men. For the benefit of the four delightful lady senators perhaps we should translate it a bit more loosely and call it a body of wise persons.
We are living in an historic time. The country is politically evenly divided and uneasy. The Parliament is nearly evenly divided in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. I should think that this would be a time for the Government to tread lightly. From the discussion that has taken place in this chamber it is obvious that there is room for both ends of the political spectrum and the middle to be heard. I hope that the Senate will ensure that no legislation is ever passed to upset that situation. Equally the Senate should be sure that it does not pass any harmful legislation, particularly legislation from which it cannot retreat. Our job is to protect the States and the people by providing a distillation process for legislation. By providing the balances and checks that are necessary we will give protection to the people and the States.
We will be faced with a massive program of legislation which is critical and important. The Senate machinery will have to slip into overdrive. We are more or less being asked to decide whether we are going to have big government or limited government. This will involve great change. As we heard yesterday, change is not necessarily bad. We have standards. If we are going to replace them we must be sure that we replace them with something better and not with something worse. Change, in itself, is not bad, but often we are frightened of it. It is often said that one’s age is shown by one’s inability to adapt to change. I hope that we will be able to adapt to change rather than have to do a complete about face and change altogether the direction in which our Government is going.
I have been interested in politics for many years, but it was the growing health crisis that precipitated my participation in politics. The catalyst, of course, was when I noticed the fiery fingers of the Federal Government coming between me and my patients. So I stepped off and got into politics. I will be speaking more in this chamber on the subject of health which soon will be an important subject of discussion in this place. Health is the single most important item on anybody’s agenda. A government- any government- must think twice before interfering with it. It is a private, personal and individual matter. Many health schemes have been tried all round the world. Most of them have failed dismally. We should not accept any scheme that has been proven a failure. What we should do is take the very best out of other schemes and incorporate it in our own. Of course, once I had entered politics I found that it was like opening Pandora’s box and seeing all the moths flying out everywhere. Some of my colleagues have said that they were not moths but rather were cockroaches crawling out of the wall. I prefer to think of them as moths.
I am very proud of Queensland. I am proud of its resources and the balanced way in which they are being developed. Despite the biblical flood it has experienced and the plague of locusts it has suffered Queensland is in resounding production. Although Queensland is a coal producing State it has many other resources, including copper, sulphur, lead, bauxite, phosphate deposits and, despite the difficulties, resounding rural industries. I like to think that Queensland enjoys this situation because of its sound administration, hard work, good government and solid leadership. I still like to think that it is because of those factors that I am here today. I say that because I am really an unlikely senator, having occupied the bottom of a 6-man ticket in Queensland. But the people have chosen to send me here and, as I have said, I am proud to be among my fellow senators.
Some supporters of the Government have expressed a cordial dislike with the campaign that was waged in Queensland. I think circumstances have shown that what is going on in Queensland is successful. I think it is obvious that prosperous rural communities lead to prosperous towns and cities. The two are interdependent. It is my policy and my Party’s policy to support and give incentives to the people who live in rural communities and to compensate them for the harassments of distance, which I know are real because I have lived in the country for much of my life. In the north of Australia- not only in Queensland but also in the Northern Territory and Western Australia- we seem to have discovered an Aladdin’s cave that is full of glittering treasures. Perhaps that will give us some clue as to what should be done about representation of the Northern Territory in the Senate. My Party stands for the development of a new State. Rather than give to the Northern Territory the right of representation by 2 senators I think it would be better to push its development forward until it is mature enough to receive statehood and then have 10 senators and proper representation.
The Government has a problem because we are now moving into a whole new lot of frontiers in relation to sociology. Concerning the financing of them I want to say that the Government should be very wary of any of the schemes that require financing by the Robin Hood method, that is, by robbing the rich to give to the poor. Remember, no matter what is said about Robin Hood, he was still a hood. The new terminology to describe this, of course, is ‘to reconstruct the economy’. I again warn the Government to be careful not to take money from people who have earned it and give it to people who have not earned it.
On the status of women, may I say that I have always held the ladies in the highest regard. They are now on a whirlwind campaign to elevate themselves. I must say as a practising doctor, a field in which one sees both sides of the question, that the scales are heavily weighted in favour of this being a man’s world. I wish the ladies well but I do hope that when the whirlwind and the dust settle they will keep that little bit of magic and mystery which makes all the difference.
I should like to say one thing that concerns our interest in the internal affairs of other countries. I say here and now that unless other countries are going to attack us or there is a fear that war may break out then their affairs are none of our business. We should trade with them. You do not have to like people to trade with them. It is nicer if you do like them but you do not have to like them. To me all that this attitude seems to have brought about is interference with our trading operations. It has stopped us seeing some of the world’s top athletes and artists, and it has even stopped cultural exchanges. We are silly to deny the people of Australia such exchanges. While dealing with foreign affairs I point out that recently I returned from a visit to the People’s Republic of China which is a socialist state and a totally organised economy. While this may suit the Chinese people, I am sure that it will never suit the Australian people. I thank honourable senators and you, Mr Acting Deputy President, for the indulgence displayed in listening to my maiden speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I call Senator Walsh and ask honourable senators to extend to him the usual courtesy as he will be making his maiden speech.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I trust that you will convey to the President my congratulations on his elevation to that office. I heard recently about a suburban newspaper in Melbourne- I think it was based in Caulfieldwhich was still publishing reports concerning Mr Max Fox and describing him as MHR for Henty. I was reminded of that story when I listened yesterday to Senator Scott who was referring to the revaluations of the Australian dollar which have occurred in the last 18 months as though they were some tragic aberration from the laws of economic rationality which would be put right if only the conservative political parties were in a position to reassert their Divine Right to govern.
When one hears this sort of thing one sometimes wonders whether an announcement that Queen Victoria is dead would really be believed in some sections of this Parliament. Likewise when listening to Senator Carrick yesterday I realised that the ghost of David Syme still haunts this chamber. It was particularly interesting to hear Senator Carrick speaking in the way he did on protection and also on the subject of unity within political parties. I wondered how the modest honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) would react to Senator Carrick ‘s evident views on the question of tariffs and protection, and whether there would be unity in the Liberal Party on that issue. I was, however, deeply touched by Senator Carrick ‘s concern for the Australian working class and the nationalistic economic sentiments which he expressed. But what appealed most of all was his determination to protect our very own Australian motor industry and such well-known Australian firms as Leyland, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
I understand that there is a somewhat loosely observed convention in this chamber that the maiden speech of a new member should contain some reference to the State which he or she represents and some reflections on a member’s personal background and previous experience. I shall observe that convention.
I am, or I suppose more correctly I was, a farmer and I have been for the last 25 years. I was catapulted, somewhat unexpectedly, into this Senate by the ill-considered decision of the Opposition to force a double election for the Parliament on 18 May, and I represent the State of Western Australia. The Premier of Western Australia, to the best of my knowledge, has the distinction of being the original slow learner in the field of interpreting and evaluating election results. According to the Premier of my State and I remind honourable senators who are not terribly familiar with the election result in Western Australia- in that State the Labor Party increased its representation to both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. According to Sir Charles Court the result of that election constituted a ‘stern rebuff’ for the Whitlam Government. It is regrettable that Sir Charles Court’s post-election trip into the realm of fantasy, was not an isolated deviation, but is consistent with the long-standing and widespread propensity within the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party to stand truth on its head. It was a product of precisely the same sort of perverted logic which compels the conservative parties to insist that an electoral system- such as that used in Western Australia and under which the votes of some Western Australians have 15 times the value of other Western Australians- is democratic. Perverted logic also enables conservatives to pose as champions of civil liberty and individual freedom while simultaneously voting for conscription, sometimes with enthusiasm and apparently without embarrassment.
Predictably I have a particular interest in rural issues and a special interest in agriculture. I want to place on record in unequivocal terms that I support the agricultural policies of the Whitlam Government. Indeed I have argued strenuously for many years inside the Labor Party and inside farmers organisations for the adoption of that sort of rational economic approach.
According to the conventional wisdom of the Country Party only farmers with sunburnt faces and dirt under their fingernails are properly qualified to understand the complexities of rural policy making. That belief was epitomised in the slogan which the Country Party used for many years when it was in power, the slogan that it was just ‘waiting for the industry to tell us what to do’. The Labor Party, the conventional wisdom asserts, has very few people who are properly qualified to speak on agricultural issues. Be that as it may, the Labor Party now has one more. I think I can justly claim to possess all the attributes so much admired by our agricultural fundamentalists except, hopefully, the intellectual atrophy of which the Country Party is both a product and a cause.
Ironically most of the people who expound the puerile line that only farmers understand agriculture have not actually been farmers for a very long time. The whole exercise is nothing more than an attempt to ingratiate themselves with their own supporters- once again epitomised by the slogan ‘we are waiting for the industry to tell us what to do’- and to conceal their own often profound misunderstanding or even ignorance of the very areas in which they claim to have special expertise.
It is not possible to canvass the whole area of agricultural policy or even of recent decisions. I propose to comment briefly on a few aspects of the report of the working group on rural policy or, as it is more commonly known, the Green Paper, and on the 1973 Budget. When the Green Paper was released some 3 or 4 weeks ago the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in the other place (Mr Sinclair) asserted that nearly all its guidelines were acceptable to the Opposition but predicted that very few, if any, would be acceptable to the Labor Party.
Since that very ill-considered statement, someone from the Country Party has not only read the report but evidently grasped its implications. Hence we find that Mr Anthony, the Leader of the Country Party in this Parliament, is reported in the ‘West Australian’ on 8 July- that is, last Monday- as describing the Green Paper as a cover-up by the Government to conceal the damage that it has done to rural industry. The alleged damage was not specified- at least, not in the report which I read.
I have noted from looking at some statistics this morning that gross and net farm incomes have reached an all time record high level this year and that net farm income has risen by almost 300 per cent on what it was 3 years ago. By contrast I remember that in 1969, as the Country Party was nearing the end of its 23-year reign in Parliament, no less an authority than its then Leader, Sir John McEwen, observed that Australian agriculture was facing its darkest hour since the depression of the 1930s’.
It is, of course, true that the unprecedented prosperity of Australian farmers is due to a variety of factors, most of which are beyond the control of any Australian government; but it is equally true that the depression which marked the end of the Country Party’s long reign was substantially attributable to that Party’s passion for treating symptoms instead of causes and consistently ignoring economic realities, thereby aggravating long term problems.
Referring to the Green Paper, it is encouraging to note such a healthy divergence of opinion within the Country Party as exists between its Leader and Deputy Leader on this subject. On the one hand, its Leader, Mr Anthony, says in effect that the Green Paper sets out to tip a bucket of whitewash over the Labor Party’s policy record. On the other hand, the Deputy Leader, Mr Sinclair, says in effect that the Green Paper tips a bucket of scorn over the Labor Government’s record in agriculture. Both of those contradictory versions, however, are wrong, whilst it does not endorse every detail of the policy record of the Whitlam Government or the things it has done or not done, the Green Paper, without any reasonable doubt, endorses the broad thrust of Labor’s program. It could not do otherwise since it was prepared and written by rational and humane economists. It recognises that the twin desirable goals of human welfare and economic efficiency are often in conflict and that a final policy is most likely to incorporate a sensible compromise between the two. It recognises quite explicitly, in chapter V paragraph 48, that previous across the board subsidies and tax concessions have been ‘in conflict with both efficiency and welfare criteria’. The low income farmer, who is usually but not invariably the small farmer, receives very little assistance from such measures, even though he is commonly used as human propaganda to justify or provide a rationale for massive handouts to the large wealthy farmers who effectively control the Country Party machine.
As Dr Schapper a fairly well known agricultural economist from the University of Western Australia, quantified and pointed out some years ago, the distribution of agricultural subsidies in Australia by income categories- the figures referred to the year 1966 but have not changed substantially since or up till 1973 at least- is as follows: The 15 per cent of farmers who in 1966 had net farm incomes of zero or below received 2 per cent of the total subsidy payment; on the other hand, the 1 5 per cent of farmers at the top of the income scale, on net incomes in excess of $ 1 0,000, received 47 per cent of the total subsidy payment. The Green Paper has quantified subsidy distributions in more recent years. Here I am using round figures from Table 6. 1 of the Green Paper. In the wheat industry for the years 1969-70 to 1971-72- that is, taking an average for those 3 years- the 22 per cent of wheat growers with net farm incomes below $2,000 received 10 per cent of the subsidy and the 23 per cent of wheat farmers with net farm incomes above $10,000 received 44 per cent of the subsidy. So, taking a comparable percentage of farmers in each category, the wealthy have received more than 4 times as much as those who are genuinely in need.
The Green Paper also recognises that on occasions there can be a case on both economic and welfare grounds for financial support from governments to an industry. It explicitly states in chapter III paragraphs 79 and 1 1 1 that such assistance should be counter-cyclical; in other words, governments should provide assistance for industries which are temporarily depressed and withdraw such assistance when they are prosperous. I need hardly emphasise that that is exactly what the Whitlam Government has done during its first 1 8 months in office. Those sectors of agriculture which are still depressed and which because of their comparative disadvantages are likely to remain, at least at the margins, depressed- the dairy industry and the fruit industry- are still receiving special assistance. In the case of the other industries- the meat industry, the grain growing industry and the wool industry, which are in no need of assistance and which have made the major contribution to the massive increase in net farm incomes that has been recorded in the last couple of years- assistance has been substantially withdrawn.
On pure and simple welfare issues the Green Paper states what even blind Freddie should always have known, namely, that a welfare policy is most effectively directed at incomes and not at bounties or subsidies on production. For those who still insist that the revaluations of the last 18 months were anti-social, I recommend a study of chapter III, paragraphs 52 and 53, of the Green Paper or a study of the writings and comments of just about every economist in Australia over the last 2 or 3 years.
I was interested to see that the issue of the superphosphate subsidy was raised during question time this morning. I intend to quote from chapter (V), paragraph 46, of this Green Paper report. It states:
If the problem is that the input’s price is rising, i.e. it is becoming scarcer, a subsidy encourages freer use of a commodity that the market suggests should be used more economically. Moreover, it discourages research into methods of substituting for the input or for using it more efficiently and discourages the adoption of management practices which economise in its use.
Those honourable senators who heard the reply of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) this morning to the question on superphosphate should have grasped that the quotation I have just read, and the Minister’s comments in reply to the question, fit very neatly the current position in regard to superphosphate. Although there is no shortage of phosphates in the absolute sense, there is a rapidly developing shortage of high quality material which is accessible for export or for processing. It was implied this morning, and it has been explicitly stated by the Premier of Western Australia, that in this sort of situation the Commonwealth Government should step in to encourage the wasteful usage of a commodity which is becoming scarcer and more expensive. I will back up my comments on wasteful usage of superphosphate with a little technical information. For example, it is common practice in Western Australia to pre-spread superphosphate on land just about to be cropped with cereals. There is, and has been for many years, quite decisive evidence from the local Department of Agriculture that superphosphate used in that way is about half as effective as superphosphate which is drilled with the seed. But, of course, while superphosphate virtually is given away, even though it is a scarce resource which is becoming scarcer and more expensive, farmers are encouraged to use it in ways which are technically and economically inefficient.
I turn to the question of tariffs. Probably, the section of the report dealing with tariffs has received more publicity already than any other section of the Green Paper report. Paragraph 64 of chapter (iti) of the report recognises that a case can be made for the payment of some sort of tariff compensation to industries which are exporters. Incidentally, in case anyone confuses that sort of more or less rational economist’s approach with the practices which have been followed in Australia for the past couple of decades, I point out that a subsidy is paid to an export industry because it suffers a comparative disadvantage by reason of the fact that it is an export industry and because we live within a protected economy. However, that has not been the practice with agricultural subsidies in Australia over the last couple of decades. The major exporting industries have been the grazing industries- the meat and wool industries in particular- and the wheat industry. The wheat industry has received moderate levels of protection or compensation, if we want to view the question within that framework. The grazing industries, until the last couple of years, have received virtually nothing. On the other hand, agricultural industries which are substantially import replacement industries rather than export industries have received the highest levels of protection. If that sort of subsidy is to be rationalised on the ground of tariff compensation, it does not make economic sense. I return to the report. It recognises that under some conditions a case can be made out for a tariff compensatory subsidy or some other sort of tariff compensation assistance. But, so far the fine print or the very fine qualifications appear to have been ignored. The first qualification is the strong recommendation that any such assistance should be counter-cyclable. I mentioned this before. This means that some assistance might be provided when prices were depressed but it would be cut off when prices increased. A second qualification is that such protection should be subject to the elasticity of demand for a particular commodity being sufficiently high. In other words, we would want to make sure that we were not in the sort of marketing situation in which increased production for any commodity would substantially reduce prices.
According to the Green Paper, this could very well happen in the wool industry. Incidentally, that is in direct conflict with what used to be the conventional wisdom of the conservative political parties. I do not know whether this is still the case, but the conventional wisdom of the conservative political parties used to state that if wool production increased, prices would rise. That piece of profound economic insight was described by Professor Lloyd, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Melbourne University, as a view which displayed - I think I am quoting him correctly- a profound ignorance of the process of price formation and evidence of- I am certain that I am quoting this part correctly; I will give the reference later to anyone who may require it so that it can be checked- ‘widespread economic illiteracy in influential circles’.
I wish to deal further with the tariff cuts. It is explicitly stated in paragraph 63 of chapter HI of the report that some sort of tariff compensation policy for export industries should be considered, at most, a second-best solution. Judging from the remarks made yesterday by Senator Cotton and Senator Webster, they seem to think that the thing to do is to jack up tariffs on the manufacturing sector so that a rationale is provided for jacking up tariffs on every other sector as well.
The 1973 Federal Budget was described at the time of its presentation and almost incessantly since by various Country Party spokesmen, and especially by the Leader of that Party, as a savage attack upon the farmers and vicious blow aimed at the rural sector. It was described as being centralist, socialist, bureaucratic and so on ad infinitum.
If we look behind this facade of inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric, what do we find? We find that, in fact, the dominant theme of that Budget, at least as it affected rural industries, was to hand back to the market place, back to the market price mechanism, a substantial degree of control over the allocation of productive resources and of input and output mixes. Ironically, that theme which was so hysterically criticised by our opponents in the Parliament and their lackeys outside it constituted the antithesis of socialism, centralism and bureacratic control. It is near tragic that the self-professed partisans of a market economy and a free enterprise system who face us across the Senate chamber- I refer also to those outside the Parliament and to those in State Parliaments- seem to be completely unable to grasp the crucial role of a pricing system in a market economy. So often it seems that the only people who fully comprehend the internal logic of a capitalist system are socialists, although I concede that there are a few notable exceptions. I have read the speeches of some of them in the journals of the Senate. I do not know whether the ability to see into the heart of a capitalist system is a cause or an effect of a person having socialist political beliefs.
I now wish to speak briefly on tax concessions for investment, or investment incentives as they are usually euphemistically named. Unless the rationale for these investment incentives is to provide a concession to individuals, which is regressive- in other words, in proportion to the marginal rate of taxation paid, so that those with the highest incomes get the greatest net benefit and those with the lowest incomes get the lowest net benefit- the only remaining rationale is an assumption that governments are better able than private investors or business managers to decide into which areas or which economic sectors investment funds should be directed and allocated. If that is the rationale for investment incentives I would like to place before the House the simple fact that it is also a rationale for a centrally planned economy since both presuppose that governments are better able than private investors or business managers to make sensible decisions in that area or, as the right wing rural propagandists would say, a rationale for the collectivisation of agriculture. I am neither for nor against government intervention in the economy per se. But I think that we must insist that the objectives behind such intervention be clearly defined ana that the policies as they finally emerge are compatible with the clearly defined objectives. Such has not been the case in the past.
Finally, reverting to what I was saying a few minutes ago, may I commend the informed and responsible minority in the Liberal Party which realises that the things I have been saying are true- the informed and responsible minority which realised in 1971 that a revaluation of the Australian dollar was desirable and inevitable. That minority has always known that the agricultural policies which its Party implemented when in government, woven as they were from a mixture of romanticism, economic illiteracy and Country Party pork-barrelling, would at best be ineffective and at worst counter-productive. I wish those members well in their future endeavours because theirs is a difficult task.
– I rise to support the motion and to support the amendment moved by my Leader, Senator Withers. In doing so I acknowledge that the Speech which was delivered by His Excellency Sir Paul Hasluck was his last formal speech in this chamber. I think it is fair to place on record the distinguished service that he has rendered to this country and at the same time to welcome and to extend our congratulations and best wishes to the Queen’s representative who succeeds him. It is also appropriate to acknowledge that in National Aboriginal Week you, Mr Acting Deputy President, are sitting in the chair of this Senate. It is the first time that an Aboriginal, one of the original Australians, has occupied this high office and, coincidental as it turns out to be, it is tremendously fitting, and I am sure that you must be honoured, that it has occurred in National Aboriginal Week. We trust that you will by your performance in this chamber, ancillary to the performance we have already observed, add to the distinction with which you have carried out your functions in the Senate.
May I also add my congratulations and welcome to the honourable senators who have delivered their maiden speeches. We trust that in the years that lie ahead the standard of speeches that they have delivered will mark the debates for which this Senate takes some pride. However, I must say, and I say it only in passing, that we regret that, while the courtesies of silence were extended to the honourable senator who has just made his maiden speech, he did not reciprocate with the ordinary courtesies of a lack of personal reference in the remarks he made.
I sense that all of us in this chamber noticed on Tuesday the sombreness which attached to the proceedings. Gone was the sparkle and the confidence which radiated from the Government benches in February 1973; gone indeed was the confidence of February 1974. There was a gloom which we on this side of the chamber could not help but notice. There should have been gloom because if ever there was a spark of realism in members of the Government they should have recognised that the sorry mess to which they have brought this country is wholly their responsibility. They do not know how they are going to get out of it. I would have thought that any person in that situation would feel that, no matter how impressive were the words used by the Queen’s representative, the burdens being assumed by the Government were almost insuperable. For the ranks of backbenchers who do not know from one day to the next what one of their Ministers will say or what their Government’s policies will be, and who must go to bed praying that there will at least be consistency the following day, the gloom will be even deeper.
Of course, there is a further reason for gloom. The Government recognises that although the 1974 election resulted in the return of the Government it has not resolved the real differences that are being felt by the Australian people. It ought not to be forgotten that the Government was returned having lost 5 seats and having secured office by one seat which was won by 146 votes, by another seat which was retained by only 147 votes and by still another seat which was retained by only 163 votes. If in these 3 seat- Isaacs, Eden-Monaro and Brisbane- 250 people had voted a different way there would be a different Government in this country. Then there would not have been the gloom that has pervaded the Government ranks in this chamber. We know equally that whilst the Government has been returned in the House of Representatives it has been denied- and denied for sound and responsible reasons- a majority in this chamber. I think that therein lies the hope of the Australian people, that they will see in the majority which will exist in this chamber from time to time a responsibility to which this Government will be responsive.
A further reason for the gloom is an air of uncertainty, doubt and concern as to the ability of this Government, controlled by the persons who are its senior Ministers at present, to control this economy. So the final decision has yet to be made on the performance of the Labor Government. One speaker said that this Government was a government which was preaching and making change, that it was in office because it was prepared to make those changes that the Australian people wanted. I suspect that there is an element of truth in the self-justification that has been used. But I sense that a tremendous amount of change has been introduced simply for the sake of change. It is purposeless change. Fear has been generated in the community that this Government is changing things only for the sake of changing things or to pursue ideologies and shibboleths which have not been fully disclosed or thought out and in respect of which problems arise as they operate. This is the difficulty which this Government has created in this country. For all the achievements to which the Government can point- I concede that there are achievements of which the Government ought to be proud- there are also disabilities and apprehensions for which it must take the responsibility and which I believe will cloud the people’s memory of those things for which this Government can take some credit. However, this is pan of the problem which has been generated in this community. It is part of the difficulty which must be acknowledged.
What is the direction in which this Government is going? Does this Government regard unemployment as the cure for a rampant, galloping inflation? If unemployment is not the cure, why is unemployment developing? What steps is the Government prepared to take to meet the twin evils of inflation and unemployment? Even the greatest friends that the Government has in this country, the editorial writers and journalists of the newspapers, are at a loss to justify the Government’s present indecision. The Government lacks a cohesive, clear policy. Until it indicates what its policies are we will be having greater apprehension, greater doubt and, I believe, further inflation, further increases in interest rates, further hardship and all the apprehension of greater hardship which the existing conditions promote. We also have a government which ought to acknowledge that it has promoted a polarisation in this country- a lowering of standards- which is without precedent.
There is no doubt, I believe, in the mind of any objective commentator that this Government retained its position in office as a result of lies, misrepresentation and deception. The telling of a political lie has become the stock in trade of the Whitlam Government and the record bears eloquent testimony to the use of language simply to score a point irrespective of whether what is said is true. We have seen, in addition to this type of campaigning, corruption used on a scale which, if it were used by individuals in the course of an election, would vitiate the election. We have seen patronage used by the massive outpourings of government money designed to secure the votes of persons who are dependent upon government money. We have seen promises made to the Public Service. We have seen promises made to those who receive or will receive legal aid. We have seen promises made to the teachers of this country which, quite bluntly stated, mean that unless you vote for this government you will be denied what we have promised you. That, I believe, is a development in this country which was not seen in the years of the Liberal-Country Party Government and which, if it develops at the rate at which it is currently progressing, will destroy the integrity of parliamentary democracy.
We have seen intimidation used by Ministers of the Crown in their ability to use, during the course of an election campaign, officers of their department to ensure that what is favourable to them is published and what is unfavourable is prevented from being published. I believe these are the tactics of the traditional authoritarian. When one looks through the world’s history of great dictators one finds that they have used the same tactics to secure themselves in power. I take pride when I reflect upon many years of Liberal.Country Party government that that sort of thing did not occur. If at any time the people believed that there were incipient signs of such development, and if the accusation was made, fortunately we had in this community a spirit of independence and willingness to criticise which ensured that what was incipient did not become permanent. We do not have that sort of situation in this country today. The reason, I believe, is that the so-called free Press, which is supposed to be the critics and watchdogs of free society, has become the sycophant and the pawn of the party which is currently in power. Until there is an independence and willingness to apply objectivity and to make an independent judgment designed to give expression to what a free Press has always stood for, we will have these stories which are nothing more than handouts to lazy journalists who are not prepared to do their own work and to write their own stories. I was gratified that the former Governor-General was prepared to make a statement to that effect publicly within the last few days. If we are to maintain our democracy and maintain the spirit of freedom and inquiry which ought to be part of it these things have to be said. I think people ought to respond if they have a defence to what is said and not to what they believe is the criticism to which they would like to respond.
The specific matters to which I desire to refer, Mr Deputy President, are outlined in the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). At the present time we have an inflationary situation which is the calculated result of policies which this Government has pursued. We saw in the general election campaign of 1972 the promise of massive performance. Indeed, there has been a massive expenditure of money and an attempt to give effect to so many of the promises which were then made. At the same time as those promises were made an assurance was given that there would be no increase in the rates of taxation and that is a promise which has been kept. But the result has been that there has been an enormous expenditure of money and that money has been secured by the fact that more revenue has been secured from higher incomes. Those higher incomes, of course, have come from greater wages and greater remuneration received by the wage and salary earners of this country. No wonder the Government has in many places and on numerous occasions encouraged the great wage demands which have been made and which have accelerated the increases. If people are earning more money they are paying more taxation. Therefore, the government coffers ai boosted and the expenditure programs can b* fulfilled. I believe- there are economists who will back the belief that I express and there is, I think, self evident reason for believing that it is the root cause of the inflationary situation which we experience today.
We have at the same time a massive industrial lawlessness which not only causes problems in the industrial arena but also has an impact upon the willingness of persons to accept the dictates of the law in other areas. We ought never to forget that the very basis of our society is dependent upon acceptance of laws which are made for the protection of all members of society. Allow the law to be broken down in one significant area and there is a pernicious effect which will mean that in other areas laws will be questioned and they will not have the same respect. This is the situation which we have been experiencing. It is the problem which industrial lawlessness can create for the community. Industrial lawlessness has involved other deficiencies and it has involved other hardships for a community. Can anybody these days rely upon the mails? Can anybody, particularly if he comes from Tasmania, believe that his future is secure when he is so dependent upon a shipping industry which is probably the most strike prone industry throughout this country?
Can we believe that we will be secure in our power supplies? Is there any area of our community in which we can say safely that we have a public service which is reliable, efficient and regular? We ought to because we are the type of society which ought to be able to maintain these services. We cannot maintain them because we have a situation which is eulogised by speakers on the Government side as what they call ‘collective bargaining’. Collective bargaining is simply the intimidation of one side of the industrial situation by the other side. What suffers in that situation is the public interest. The community is forgotten. It was to overcome that situation that 70 years ago we established a system of conciliation and arbitration. It has served this country well. Now we find, as a result of government action, that conciliation and arbitration as part of a cohesive system is forgotten and is put into the discard. In its place we have the collective bargaining which in the current employment situation must mean that the forces of labour can impose their will and, every time, that shall succeed. In these circumstances we have galloping wage claims of a massive size which are adding to the cost pressures in the community and which are themselves promoting huge price increases which in their turn promote further wage claims. In order to stop that spiral this Government has offered nothing. Therein lies part of the apprehension of this community.
The last report of the Commonwealth Statistician shows that in the March quarter of this year 660,000 workers were affected by 727 disputes and 2.7 million working days were lost. An estimated $45m was lost in wages. Compared with last year, the number of disputes has increased by almost one-third and their size and their length has increased fourfold. Of course, the amount of wages lost in the first 3 months of this year is broadly the same as the total amount lost in the whole of 1973. This is the result, we must suppose, of a Government which was elected on the assertion that it knew best how to deal with the unions. One can make the cynical comment that it knew best all right, because the best way to deal with the unions is to give them everything they want and not to have any system of conciliation and arbitration which may protect the public interest.
Over the past 1 8 months we have seen a house building industry which is being slowly but surely suppressed. We have seen interest rates rising to an unprecedented level in this country. We have seen people being denied what were their expectations prior to this Government coming to office. We have seen people being denied the opportunity to secure a home, and the prospect of their securing a home in the future must seem remote to an increasing number of young couples. Persons waiting to buy their homes are unable, firstly, to obtain the deposits to place upon blocks of land which are ever increasing in price. They are unable to obtain finance, if they are lucky enough to find a block of land and a deposit. Then these people have to contemplate their obligation to meet everincreasing interest rates. Persons who may have purchased their home before the Labor Government came into power are now faced with the situation of paying interest rates which are higher than those which, at the time they made their purchase, were reasonable and within their means. In some 1 8 months we have seen interest rates rising by 3 per cent or 4 per cent, from about 7!6 per cent to a current rate of 1 1 percent, on finance that has been secured by way of overdraft. Within the last week we have seen interest on ordinary savings bank loans rise by approximately 2 per cent, to 1 0 per cent.
What is offered to these people as a means by which they will be able to meet their commitments into the future? It is unreasonable to look at promises made during the last election campaign to the effect that persons on or below a certain income level will be able to have their interest payments deferred into the future. There are so few people on or below that level that the advantage will scarcely be achieved, and the prospect for the future as they look further ahead is that at a time in their lives when they would expect to have diminishing payments they will have increasing payments. We have seen m the housing industry a shortage of supplies which has meant that many builders are not prepared to continue in the industry. We have, as I indicated before, industrial lawlessness on a scale which is not as marked in any other part of the country. One only has to read the judgments of the judges who deregistered the Builders Labourers Federation to have a pen picture of the absolute violence which apparently has been allowed to continue in this country without remonstrance or restraint by this Government. It is a picture which is nothing more than a picture of criminals engaged in violent pursuits which, if they were prepared to rob banks with pistols or firearms, would undoubtedly bring down the justifiable condemnation of society. But, simply because they happen to be unionists claiming to be acting in pursuance of an industrial dispute, they are left to pursue their criminality without any restraint, notwithstanding the attempts of the lawful authorities to deal with them.
– Mob rule.
– I accept what Senator Wright has said, because if people are prepared to move into housing sites, as members of the Builders Labourers Federation did, to assault persons who are on those sites, to destroy property and to put fear into persons who are within sight or sound of them, then that is mob rule. I was amazed at the attitude taken by the Minister for Labor and Immigration in this Government, Mr Clyde Cameron, whose sole concern after the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation was that some action should be taken to enable that union to regain its registration. Action of a different character ought to be taken by a government which is concerned to protect the public interest and to protect the industry of which these unionists ought to form a vital and constructive part.
Under this Government we have seen the emergence of unemployment as the foreseen consequence of steps taken by the Government. No one can deny that at the time when the Government imposed the 25 per cent tariff cuts, on 18 July 1973, the Government anticipated that as a result of those tariff cuts there would be some disemployment involving some retraining. The sophisticated language obscured the fact that what was being created was a situation in which unemployment would be an inevitable consequence. I suppose that, if the effects of that sort of unemployment are to be softened by retraining and by other considerations which means that people losing their jobs as a result of a deliberate act can be protected, public benefit may be derived. But this Government has not taken the steps which would provide the retraining. It has not taken the steps which would enable to be met the promise of 6 months payment at full rates to persons who have lost their jobs. We find in the textile industry, particularly in country areas, that people have lost their jobs and no one apparently is concerned to help them or to alleviate the situation. They are small groups in remote areas who are not able to speak up with the force with which the major unions in this country can speak. We have dismissals and the prospect of further dismissals in the car industry. When the secretary of the union involved expresses his concern and criticises the Government’s policy, the only response which he is given by the Minister for Labor and Immigration is that he is a featherweight.
We now find that as a result of other tariff action unemployment may occur in other industries. This is quite apart from the downturn in the economy which must give concern in a great number of areas: Firstly, as to whether overtime will continue and, secondly, as to whether there is security of employment for people who find overtime dropping and who wonder whether there will be sackings in the near future. All of these problems exist because we have essentially an inflationary situation in this country. The Government has the obligation- as it reminded the people of Australia before 1972- to protect the people from inflation. Yet what has this Government done? Prior to the 1974 election the Government claimed that its policy of first establishing a Prices Committee and a Prices Justification Tribunal represented an earnest of intention to act to protect the community. It stated that its revaluations and impositions of tariff cuts would ensure that there would flow action which would retard inflation, and that this was a deliberate Government policy. We have seen, again as a matter of deliberate policy, what I see the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is now pleased to acknowledge could be called a squeeze in making money difficult to obtain. We have seen that squeeze brought about in flat contradiction of all that the Labor Party has ever stood for, by the raising of interest rates. That has been the Government’s performance.
All that the Government has done is to achieve, over a 12-month period, an inflation rate of 13 per cent, and there is a general expectation that the inflation rate, which is rising, will reach about 20 per cent or even higher over the next year. We have a generally accepted assumption that average weekly earnings will rise by 25 per cent, and that must inevitably generate claims for price increases because costs will increase by a similar order. We have a much vaunted Prices Justification Tribunal, which, as far as I can ascertain, has not once flatly refused a price increase. Every application for a price increase which has come before the Prices Justification Tribunal has been approved, albeit in some particular cases not to the full extent of what was requested. The Prices Justification Tribunal has become in fact a register of price increases. It has sanctified price increases and has made absolutely apparent what the Liberal and Country parties have maintained always in this country and which has been denied by so many members of the Labor Party- if you increase wages there will be some impact in costs which will find expression in increased prices. Nothing could be clearer than that that is what is happening in the Prices Justification Tribunal area at this time. It is no wonder that the No. 4 man in this Government, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), should have said yesterday, if he has been reported correctly, and I understand that it has not been denied, that the Government was presiding over the destruction of this nation ‘s economy.
This is the legacy we are receiving after 18 months of Labor Government in this country. We do not have for the future those assurances which would give the people of Australia any confidence that the performance of the Government is going to be any better. This is why this opportunity ought to be taken to put into the motion now before us our belief that this Government is pursuing policies which are creating unemployment, which are creating an intolerable rate of inflation and which are applying a credit squeeze with high interest rates, all with the consequence of distressing social and economic dislocation.
In terms of its performance, this Government has been an abject failure. What I understand to be the new testament of the Labor Party, the policy speech of 1972, is something to which we in the Liberal and Country parties are happy to return from time to time because it exposes this Government, if not for its dishonesty, at least for its incompetence. I note that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he delivered the policy speech said:
Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years? Or to the same men who have presided over the worst inflation for 20 years?
There is no doubt that this Government has presided over the nation’s worst inflation ever, far far higher than that which was regarded -
– What about -
– Does the honourable senator think that it can get higher?
– No. But you said that it was the highest.
– Possibly I do not think back far enough. Certainly I thought that history began in 1949 and ended in 1972 when the new era had begun. Certainly this is the worst inflation in the period since 1949 and it is far greater than that which was condemned by Mr Whitlam when he asked to be put in power because those who had presided over the previous inflation were not to be trusted. Now, within 18 months, we have a far worse inflation rate than was then prevailing. The indications are that we may well have an unemployment rate which far exceeds the unemployment rate at any time over the past 23 years. We have a Prime Minister who said:
We will revive in this nation the spirit of national cooperation and national self-respect, mutual respect between government and people.
I think it is a fair comment that in the 1 8 months of this Government we have seen a breaking down of trust and confidence between the Government and the people when, at the outset, the auguries for such a confidence, one must confess, were very high. But I think that disillusionment has set in at a rate which is quite remarkable. We have a Prime Minister who said that the program of this Government had the great aim of promoting equality and involving the people of Australia in the decision making processes of our land. Yet never has there been greater inequality than in the hardship to which people on fixed incomes and pensions have been subjected, and the profits which the speculative have been able to reap as a result of Government policies which have been unable to curb those who have been able to corner markets and take advantages out of this Government’s policies. As for involving people in the decision making processes, why, even the Labor Caucus does not know the decisions which are being made, let alone the Australian people. We have a promise to make a massive attack upon the problem of land and housing costs yet it is more difficult today for a person to buy land or to have his house built than it has been at any time during the last 23 years. We have a host of promises. We have a promise to deliberately plan to reduce interest rates wherever practicable. We have a promise that persons whose income was $4,000 a year or less would be able to have their interest payments 100 per cent deductible. Not only has that promise not been honoured; if it were to be honoured today it would be worthless because the limit of $4,000 is meaningless.
We have a Government which has shown by its conduct that it does not warrant the confidence of this country. As I have said, it secured office in 1 974 by a program of lies, deception and misrepresentation which obscured the real facts from the people of this country. Those facts will become apparent because a massive down-turn in the economy will not obscure the basic realities. We have a Government which is presiding over price increases, regularly occurring and increasing in level. We have a building industry which is undermined by violence and we have a housing industry which is declining. This nation has an economy which depends upon profitability but it is being throttled because profitability is being unfairly penalised. We have unions which have been given the green light to make their demands and to achieve whatever they ask with the support of Government. We have socialist and public planners given an open go with regard to the expenditure of public moneys. We have a weakening of the most fundamental sector in our community, the rural sector, by the taking away of those incentives which have made the rural sector profitable and which have enabled productivity to sustain a growing economy and also to provide handsome export earnings.
We have had an imprudent, reckless and dishonest Government which is achieving its promises only by reducing the value of money. I take a homely example from the State of Victoria where we have an education program which I think is without equal in any State of the Commonwealth. In 1973 the calling of tenders indicated a cost of $145,000 to build a school. Tenders received within the last month for the same sort of school, the same type of construction, have been at a level of about $320,000. It is all very well for a Government to put in money which can be said to be the fulfilment of promises, but when the value of that money has been reduced the Government is engaging in a mass deception and a confidence trick. I hope that the Senate will see the merit of adding to the motion the words which were proposed by Senator Withers. We trust that in due course this Senate, by its conduct, will be able to disclose to the people of Australia where they went wrong in 1974.
- Senator Steele Hall is now to make his maiden speech in this Senate. Senator Hall has considerable parliamentary experience at the State level but I hope that the usual courtesies will be extended to him while he is making his maiden speech in this chamber.
– I have pleasure in taking my place here among the 15 newcomers to the Senate. As you indicated, Mr President, in no way can I claim to be a parliamentary maiden. For that reason I do not look for any protection at this time. In fact, I could feel constrained by the remarks made by Senator Greenwood about the speaker who preceded him so I invite any honourable senator to interrupt me if he wishes, so far as the Standing Orders allow. I find it very ironical to be here in the upper House of the Australian Parliament having come out of a party which has gone through the procedure of self-destruction under the influence of its members in the upper House of the South Australian Parliament. I have seen there, as have most South Australians, the activities of legislative councillors who have dragged down the reputation of the South Australian upper House to such a degree that a good number of South Australians believe that it has lost its political usefulness. Therefore, as I have said, it is somewhat ironic that I, having been involved in the particular spin-off of that political infighting, have been elected to an upper House. I am here as the representative of a Party which is expanding. I look forward to being joined in 2 years’ time by a colleague from the Liberal Movement. In South Australia there will be a dramatic expansion of that Party. My being joined by a colleague will mean a diminution in the number of Liberal Country League senators who now number four.
I am somewhat amazed at the tone of the debate in the Senate so far by honourable senators who were previously members of this chamber and who have been returned. I congratulate those honourable senators who have spoken for the first time. I think that there have been some admirable speeches which have shown good promise of first-rate debating in future. But I am amazed that members of the Opposition do not seem to understand that they lost an election. I thought that Senator Greenwood quite clearly demonstrated in the first part of his speech his inability to grasp that fact. Before I proceed with any further reference to that subject I wish to say that I have a long history of opposing the Australian Labor Party. I was somewhat shocked this morning to find that, after working very hard to get away from Mr Dunstan in South Australia, he was sitting here during the welcome to His Excellency the Governor-General. I was pleased to find that his presence in this place was only a temporary one.
I am an anti-Labor politician. My involvement in State politics was of such a nature that I do not have to do very much to prove that point, but I believe that my interpretation of an effective anti-Labor stance may be somewhat different from the interpretation of some other senators who sit on your left, Sir. I see Labor as being quite different from the Liberal cause that I represent. However, I fear that too many people who call themselves Liberals have lost any idea of what they stand for, and they have no central core of ideology. If they continue to take the view that the Australian people did not really vote for Labor at the last Federal election, they will continue to be disillusioned in future and they will never develop the ideological core and reason for existence which they need and which we on this side of the Senate need.
I see the Labor Party as reacting traditionally, as it did in 1972 when it came to office, with all the enthusiasm which was built up during the long years in Opposition. We saw the same thing in South Australia in 1965 when the Walsh Government was elected. It let loose with social changes and it introduced very high spending Budgets in its first years of office. South Australia got into very great economic difficulties under Labor’s careless management of South Australia’s development. I believe that the same thing has occurred on the national scene. Labor, in its first enthusiasm, has obviously been over expansive in relation to the things it wanted to do, and it has pressed its programs too hard for the community to absorb them. Some of our inflationary worries and concerns today can be laid quite effectively at the door of Labor’s early expansionary plans. Labor in office will reward its supporters. I suppose that the business of politics obviously is to make sure that those people who put you there get a fair deal. By Labor standards, that fair deal often goes over the central point. It will destroy the incentives in this community, as we have seen happen in States in which Labor is in government and as we see now in the Federal sphere. It will control always rather than encourage. Today it does things without giving the Australian community the direction that it is so urgently seeking. Because it is a creature of the trade union movement it cannot argue with those who dictate trade union policy.
It destroys individual freedoms and many international alliances upon which Australia has depended in the past and must depend in the future.
One can go through, in a general sense, many areas of Labor policy which 1 am sure that people on your left, Sir, would oppose and which I oppose. But I return to this basis: Why cannot the non-Labor forces in Australia which are centred on the Federal Parliament understand that they were defeated? I have done some research as to the reasons for the election, and I find the contest quite clearly outlined in statements by spokesmen for the Opposition Parties. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, said:
Now is the time to put it to the choice of the Australian people . . . The people of Australia did not give a mandate to this Government to change the whole nature of the Australian democracy. If that is to happen, it can happen only by the freely expressed will of the Australian people. The only way to determine that is by an election for the government of Australia.
Mr Anthony, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, said of this Government:
It’s exceeded its mandate and I believe the Australian people have a right to re-assess their point of view and to affirm or reject the Government that it put into office 18 months ago.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1 973-74. Certain words were to be added at the end of the motion. They began: but not before the Government agrees to submit itself to the judgment of the people . . .
The amendment amplified that statement to some degree which is not worth repeating. The emphasis is quite clear. So the Opposition forced on the nation an election which should never have been forced, not only because the reasons for forcing it were not good reasons but because it was not in the Opposition’s interests to have an election. That statement is not hindsight on my part. In the policy speech which I gave before the election I said that it was the wrong election at the wrong time. I feel somewhat resentful, because I am a good Liberal, that the people who caused this election are now responsible for the power that the Labor Government has. It is all very well for Senator Withers or Senator Greenwood to blame the Government. They gave the Government the power it has. I wondered why, for so long after the election, these people who have given the socialist Government of Australia the power to socialise, as we will obviously find out at the joint sitting, continue to blame the Government. As a Liberal, I believe that they lost me my political shirt because of what they did, and they did the same for other Liberals in the community.
I would have expected a different tone in the debate, but listening to it so far it would appear that we are to have another election in one month’s time because the Opposition, in denigrating the Government- I can lend a hand in doing that when I get going in this place- has given only a recital of the problems. There has not been one substantive suggestion yet from the long term senators as to how the ills of the Australian economy are to be remedied. Their speeches are reminiscent of the futile Liberal election campaign which started with a promise that interest rates would be reduced and which ended with an admission that they might rise. Are we to continue with this ineffective sort of Opposition? Are we going to have a repeat of the situation where the Opposition does not know what policy it wants? I suggest that the Opposition had better have another look at the Government and consider that it might be in office for 3 years. If the ills of this community are as great as they are supposed to be would it not be better to get together and form some sort of consensus on the economic management of the community? The first way in which to do that is to suggest what the remedies ought to be and how they may be put into effect. As I have said, I am disappointed to find that the Opposition has no more idea than it says the Government has of what to do. We have an election situation as regards the promises and assessments of our needs in which the Opposition is doing no more than simply criticising the Government.
I come to the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It outlines exactly what I have been saying. It states that the Government is unable to handle the economic problems that confront Australia. That could well be. I should think that it would be in the midst of some very vital decisions at the moment. It could well be that the States of Australia are well ahead of honourable senators in their approach to the Commonwealth Government. I hope that they are. If the Premiers of the States are suggesting some really effective attack on the problems of inflation and if they are doing so from a bi-partisan electoral base or government base it will be useful for Australia. I agree- I suppose some other honourable senators also agree- with what has been said about the Labor Government’s performance in handling the economic measures of this community. I am not impressed with it. But on looking through the whole of this amendment it seems to me to be simply a recital of the problems which everyone admits are before us. It offers nothing as to their solution. I for one am not going to support the amendment because I do not think that it belongs where it is. It is not definitive and it does not do a thing for the Opposition itself. It certainly will not force the Government to do anything. Even if it were accepted by this chamber I doubt whether the newspapers would know that it had been accepted. That is not effective opposition. It is pure nonsense. Unless the Opposition can spearhead its attempts to reduce the standing of the Government it will remain on its present side of the House.
I have little more to say. I simply want to establish my position in this chamber as an antiLabor senator and a Liberal senator. I do so on the basis of a Party which is expanding in South Australia and I do so on the basis that I expect to hear far more penetrating opposition than I have heard so far.
– Earlier this afternoon Senator Wright made a statement, by leave, on the subject of his participation in the ballot on Tuesday last for the office of President of the Senate. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, and the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, also made statements and I undertook to make a statement. I respond by stating that it is a long-established parliamentary rule that a statement or denial by an honourable senator must be accepted. My only additional observation is that, unless otherwise ordered by the Senate, I certainly shall not permit anyone to examine any ballot papers of a secret ballot of the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
– I call Senator DrakeBrockman.
-Mr President, I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate is one of 2 Bills - the other being the Health Insurance Commission Bill- which comprise the principal legislation to enable implementation of a new Australian health insurance program to replace the present inadequate voluntary health insurance scheme. Honourable senators will be aware that this Bill has been passed by the House of Representatives on two previous occasions only to be rejected in the Senate and is one of the 6 Bills which were the subject of the double dissolution of the previous Parliament. It is the Government’s firm commitment to put an end to the present notoriously inequitable and inefficient arrangements for providing individuals with protection against the costs of medical and hospital services by introducing a health insurance program based on the principles of social equity, universal coverage and efficiency. The people of Australia have endorsed the objectives of such a program at two consecutive elections.
On its election in December 1 972, the Government established a Health Insurance Planning Committee to develop in detail the proposals which had received such solid community support prior to and during that election campaign. This Committee reported in April 1973 and when presenting its report the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) stressed that for the first time, the people were to be given the opportunity fully to consider action proposed by a government well in advance of any plans for implementation. Over 6 months of intense public debate followed, during which the Government listened. Serious misrepresentation of the proposals was attempted by some organisations and groups with vested interests in preserving a system which perpetrated basic social injustices upon the community. Nevertheless much of the debate provided rational, responsible and useful comment and criticism. In November 1973 the Government, after carefully considering both the Health Insurance Planning Committee’s recommendations and comment by individual and interested groups, published a White Paper which set out the Government’s health insurance program. I repeat that the Bill now before the Senate is the principal legislation to give effect to that program.
When this Bill was originally introduced the second reading speech detailed each facet of the proposals contained in the Bill. It is not my intention now to take up the time of honourable senators by repeating these details. However, I would reiterate that the Bill provides for payments for medical benefits, hospital services and certain other specific services. In relation to medical benefits, all persons in Australia will be entitled to receive medical benefits which will cover at least 85 per cent of the fee charged for the service, where doctors adhere to the scheduled fees. In no case will a patient be required to pay more than $5 for any individual service, again providing that the scheduled fees are charged. I emphasise that patients will be completely free to choose the doctor in private practice they wish to have treat them and that the doctor/patient relationships which at present apply, will be preserved. I wish also to emphasise, since it has been the subject of considerable misrepresentation, that medical benefits will continue to be paid on the basis of fee for service to doctors in private practice.
Pensioners at present eligible for general practitioner services under the pensioner medical service will have their eligibility extended to a full range of medical services, including specialist services, which are not covered under present pensioner medical service arrangements. Basically there are three convenient methods provided in the Bill for the claiming of benefits. In brief, the methods by which patients may receive their entitlements are:
The assignment of benefits will have particular significance for pensioners who have pensioner medical service cards. The Bill requires the Minister to request doctors to undertake that where medical services are provided to persons who present to the doctor a pensioner medical service card, the doctor should give these pensioners an opportunity of assigning their benefits to the doctor instead of receiving a doctor’s account. The effect of assigning benefits will be that the doctors accept the benefits as full payment for the services they provide to eligible pensioners.
With regard to hospital services the Bill provides for the Australian and State governments to enter into cost sharing agreements to enable patients in all approved hospitals to receive completely free accommodation and treatment in standard beds. The agreements are to be in accordance with the Heads of Agreement contained in Schedule 2 of the Health Insurance Bill. The Bill provides that the Australian Government will make a payment at the rate of $16 per occupied bed day in respect of all patients in all approved hospitals irrespective of whether they are public hospitals or private hospitals. This is a substantial increase on the $2 a day payments made in respect of insured patients under the present arrangements.
Patients admitted to public hospitals will be able to choose free standard bed treatment or private patient treatment. Patients in standard beds will receive medical services provided by doctors remunerated on a salaried, sessional, or contract basis. Private patients will be under the care of doctors of their own choice and the fees charged by these doctors will attract medical benefits under the program as will medical fees incurred by private hospital patients. While private patients will be charged fees for hospital treatment, the levels of these fees will be substantially lower than at present reflecting the significant additional Australian Government payments to hospitals. Patients seeking treatment as private patients in public hospitals or in private hospitals will be able to insure privately against the accommodation fees charged and private health insurance contributions will be allowable taxation concessional deductions.
The Health Insurance Bill also makes provision for special arrangements to be entered into with private religious, charitable and community hospitals, to enable such hospitals to choose, if they wish, to accommodate and treat patients free of charge. Participation on such special arrangements would be entirely at the discretion of the hospital concerned, and the hospital management would retain absolute autonomy in its operations, including in such matters as admission and treatment policies, and numbers of patients admitted. The Health Insurance Bill provides for the payment by the Australian Government of a supplementary bed payment to hospitals entering into these arrangements. All payments authorised by the Bill now before the Senate will be made from the Health Insurance Fund established under Part VI of the
Health Insurance Bill and will be paid by the Health Insurance Commission.
The Government recognises that the successful operation of its program is dependent upon the co-operation of the medical profession, State governments and their hospital authorities and private hospitals. I wish to assure honourable senators that it is the Government’s desire that co-operation and mutual understanding be achieved. To this end I know that the Minister for Social Security would be happy to respond to proposals for discussions on the program with representatives of these bodies. As honourable senators will recall, on the 2 previous occasions when the Health Insurance Bill was introduced into the Senate, it was stated that it was one of a number of Bills which, together, would provide the legislative framework to authorise the complete implementation of the Australian health insurance program. Further Bills relating to the program will be introduced during these sittings. Honourable senators are already aware that Bills to authorise the health insurance levy will be introduced by my colleague, Senator Wriedt, representing the Treasurer (Mr Crean), and I shall be introducing again the Health Insurance Commission Bill.
Once the Health Insurance Bill becomes operative and payments for medical and hospital services are being made under those provisions, it will be necessary to avoid the duplication which would be involved if payments were also made for these services under the provisions of the National Health Act. Consequently, it is proposed that, except for services received before the commencement of the new program, no further benefits under the National Health Act will be paid. Steps will be taken to ensure that no patient is disadvantaged over the period of transition from the National Health Act to the Health Insurance Act. So that the legislation on the statute books expresses the intentions of Parliament clearly, it is proposed to introduce the National Health Bill repealing those redundant provisions relating to the payment of medical and hospital benefits under the National Health Act and terminating the pensioner medical service arrangements which will no longer be needed.
The National Health Bill will also provide for: the cessation of payments of medical and hospital fund benefits by providing for registered health insurance organisations to cease carrying on health insurance business under the National Health Act. ( In future the operations of private health insurance organisations will be supervised under the provisions of special legislation to which I shall refer shortly.) the repeal of those parts of the National Health Act governing the operation of the existing health insurance scheme after all rights and obligations have been satisfied the extension of the additional Commonwealth benefits payable in respect of nursing home patients with pensioner medical service entitlement to all nursing home patients and the consequential elimination of the payment of nursing home fund benefits the Minister to direct the Health Insurance Commission to operate a medical and /or hospital benefits fund in a State or Territory where this is necessary for the protection of the benefits entitlements of contributors.
Honourable senators have been informed previously that it is the Government’s intention to introduce legislation relating to the scope and operation of private health insurance business under its program. This legislation is being prepared at present and, if it is available, will be introduced during these sittings. In the event that this is not possible I assure the Senate that it will be introduced during the forthcoming Budget sittings. I am able to foreshadow briefly for honourable senators that private health insurance organisations will be able to offer insurance coverage against the fees, firstly, for treatment in public and private hospitals; secondly, for medical services to the extent of the difference between the fees in Schedule 1 of the Health Insurance Bill and the medical benefits payable; and, thirdly, for an unrestricted range of ancillary health services. Organisations wishing to conduct private health insurance business will be required to obtain authorisation from the Minister for Social Security. The health insurance operations of authorised organisations will be subject to the Minister’s supervision. The administrative arrangements relating to authorisation and supervision will be broadly along the lines of those in the present National Health Act. However, to provide additional protection to the contributor, provisions will be made for a court to appoint a judicial manager where in its view an organisation is not being properly managed, and there will also be provisions to enable an organisation’s health insurance operations to be wound-up by a court where this becomes necessary.
The Health Insurance Bill is the principal legislation for a program which will give universal and comprehensive protection against health costs. People will bear the cost of the program according to their ability to pay, reversing the present situation in which the less fortunate pay most for their health services. The great gaps in coverage inevitable in the present arrangements will be closed. The money spent by the community on health care will be efficiently pooled and distributed, eliminating the wasteful practices inherent in the existing system. Certainty of access to comprehensive health care without fear of the financial consequences will become a right for every Australian. The Australian health insurance program, together with other initiatives taken by the Government in the field of health care financing and delivery, represents a concerted, planned approach to this vital social issue- an approach combining efficiency with social equity. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill before the Senate is one of the 2 principal Bills which will govern the new Australian health insurance program. This Bill, together with the Health Insurance Bill, has been passed previously by the House of Representatives on 2 separate occasions but each time these Bills have been rejected by the Senate. This Bill establishes a Health Insurance Commission as a statutory authority to plan and establish an organisation to administer the new Australian health insurance program.
The Health Insurance Commission Bill is being re-introduced in the identical form to which it was previously placed before honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
For the third dme the Parliament is being asked to create the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. The functions of this Authority will be to explore for and develop our petroleum and mineral resources, and to assist in implementing the Government’s policy of promoting maximum Australian ownership and control of our natural resources and resource industries. The Bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives on 4 December 1973 and into the Senate on 13 December 1973. It was introduced a second time into the House of Representatives on 8 April 1974 and into the Senate on the same day. This was one of the 6 Bills satisfying the conditions upon which the Governor-General dissolved the House of Representatives and the Senate simultaneously. The proposal to create the Petroleum and Minerals Authority was given great prominence during the campaign following the dissolution of the Parliament. No Australian Government has ever had a clearer mandate for its legislation. In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Houses of this Parliament are again being given an opportunity to enact this Bill.
I have explained this measure clearly in my second reading speeches. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority will provide the final link in the chain of organisations, to which I referred in my speech on federal petroleum search policy on 12 April 1973, for the formulation of national annual energy budgets. I repeat that the Govern-; ment’s policy is to expand the search for and facilitate the development of the nation’s resources of hydrocarbons, particularly crude oil, and also of other minerals. We plan participation in this task through the Petroleum and Minerals. Authority, a truly national instrumentality, both operating itself and also in partnership with technologically qualified private enterprise. Present’ world economic distortion will flow from the over-dependence of some of the world’s largest industrial nations on imported crude oil from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose trade surplus could increase from US$7 billion to US$65 billion from increased crude oil prices. The industrialised nations of the noncommunist world, which enjoyed a combined trade surplus of US$12 billion last year, are likely to swing this year to a trade deficit of around US$40 billion. Australia ‘s import bill for the 30 per cent of our total consumption, derived from heavy crude oil imports, will rise from US$285m to almost US$900m-roughly, twothirds of the value of current wool production.
Honourable senators will realise the significance of the role of the Australian transcontinental natural gas pipeline which can raise Australia’s usage of natural gas as a fuel, in substitution for imported crude oil, from 6 per cent to the industrialised world average of 21 per cent. This can be achieved by a systematic process of simple conversion which will, in itself, reduce our anticipated crude oil import bill by at least two-thirds.
Throughout the world today, the major nations and, above all, the multi-national oil companies, are realising the inter-relationship of crude oil, black and brown coal, natural gas and its hydrocarbon liquids. Major oil companies view their future as being major energy suppliers in all this range of hydrocarbons, and also uranium- both as ‘yellowcake’ and enriched. Accordingly, the top 1 5 United States oil companies today own 53 per cent of its coal production and, through a maze of subsidiaries, put their actual control of the commercial coal market at closer to 67 per cent. Eighteen of its top 25 petroleum companies have interests in at least one phase of uranium mining and processing. These oil companies account for 40 per cent of the total milling capacity and 45 per cent of all known US uranium reserves. Gulf and Shell oil companies, as partners, are now the third largest contractors for nuclear reactors in the world. The Getty oil interests already have substantial shareholdings in one successful uranium exploration project in our Northern Territory. Major oil companies are already busy in the acquisition of large blocks of Australian black coal, for immediate entry into the coal export trade, and, with achieved ‘cash flow’, in establishing coal hydrogenation plants in Australia for the production of motor spirit and associated derivatives. The pricing of Arab crude oil, in excess of US$ 10 per barrel, has been stated recently by Mr Froggatt of the Shell Company of Australia to be the ‘cross-over’ point at which coal hydrogenation is economically viable, as a substitute for imported crude oil.
The ‘moment of truth’ for major nations and multi-national corporations came in an address by Sheikh Ahmed Yamani, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, delivered at an Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries British Board of Trade Seminar in London on the 8 May last. With great wisdom and frankness, he said:
The Arab oil producers will only continue to deplete their reserves in order to meet reasonable increases in world demand for oil if certain conditions are satisfied. The greater part of the oil producers’ excess income must be converted to industries that can provide them with a living after their oil reserves are depleted . . The oil producers must be given safeguards against the loss of value of their foreign currency reserves . . . And also given their due weight in determining the monetary affairs of the International Community No oil producing country finds it acceptable to be paid for its oil in certain currency substitutes such as the Special Drawing Rights because the sole aim of the advocates of such devices is to recycle the financial surpluses of the producers to the Western economies . . .
Honourable senators may recall the remarks of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in April 1973 that ‘Arab nations considered oil reserves kept in the ground as good as money in the bank’. With this expose of world energy pricing, honourable senators will clearly understand the implacable resolve of the first truly independent Australian national government to promote and protect Australian ownership and control of our natural energy and mineral resources. Apart from Government participation in exploration and development, which I have outlined, there is a distinct need to assist smaller Australian mining ventures to develop their discoveries, without sacrificing control and even ownership to overseas interests. In energy reserves, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has clearly stated, both in Japan and Australia, the Australian Government’s policy to ensure that these are, to the maximum, under Australian ownership and control, in the long-term interests of the Australian people. We have a further obligation to examine and develop all sources of energy, including solar energy, which, while at best in limited use today, hold promise of contributing to our needs as the more conventional and traditional sources dwindle. It is through the Petroleum and Minerals Authority that the Government plans to recycle the savings from the withdrawal of the section 77 and section 78 taxation concessions, and the cessation of the petroleum search subsidy scheme. We plan to use these funds initially to promote the search for petroleum under arrangements to be determined. In addition, and of no less importance, they will be available to further our policy of ensuring that future on-shore mining development is at least predominantly Australian-owned and controlled. We will consider assistance to the many small companies and syndicates, which have used up their capital on exploration, and have discovered worthwhile mineralisations so attractive that, in default of obtaining internal Australian capital, they will fall into the hands of foreign companies before they have a chance of getting off the ground as Australian concerns. The Authority will be able to assist these companies by making loans, by joint ventures, by equity participation or in other ways provided by clause 12 of the Bill.
It is a disgrace that the natural resources of this nation are substantially controlled by overseas interests. I have previously spoken of the very substantial financial assistance afforded the petroleum and minerals industries in this country, in the form of taxation concessions and direct subsidies. The Federal Government has, in addition, provided invaluable assistance in the search for minerals, including oil, through the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The Opposition parties, when they were in Government, facilitated in every way the opportunities for foreign interests to dominate the exploration for and the exploitation of our natural resources, without serious thought of their obligation to preserve the national identity. Some 70 per cent of off-shore exploration interests are held by overseas companies. The Federal and State governments have leased excessive areas off-shore for exploration on a non-intensive basis. The Woodside-Burmah group, for example, holds an area of 140,000 square miles of the prospective north west shelf of Australia. In leasing such a vast area the Governments concerned abandoned their responsibilities to manage effectively the nation’s resources and thereby sacrificed the public interest. It is almost as if the test of Federal/State performance in off-shore petroleum exploration was to get as quickly as possible to the point where the whole of the off-shore areas were leased, and therefore exposed to exploitation without regard to the long-term needs of the nation. Over 60 per cent of the exploitable areas of our continental shelf have been leased for non-intensive exploration. By contrast, in the United States, including Alaska, according to a recent report, approximately 1.8 per cent of offshore public lands had been leased by the Federal Government to the oil and gas industry as of January 1974, and these leases were accompanied by very substantial payments. Even allowing for the differences in leasing methods, this situation reflects the very different attitude taken by the Government of the United States to the management of the resources of that nation.
One of the reasons no doubt for the failure to manage effectively the off-shore resources of the nation was the pre-occupation of the Federal and State governments m patching over their differences about the vital question of sovereignty of the off-shore areas. The real task of effective management was submerged in their futile attempt to solve the problem by fellow travelling with the States. That dispute should have been resolved, as one of their Prime Ministers wanted it resolved, and as it will now be resolved with the challenges by five of the States to our Seas and Submerged Lands Act.
Australia had a stake in the petroleum industry as far back as 1920, when the Commonwealth Oil Refineries was formed with the Commonwealth Government holding a majority of shares. Thirty-two years later, in 1952, the Opposition parties sold out the public’s interest in this company. Had they not done so we might today have had a very different situation. We may have had a major contributor substantially owned and controlled by Australia, with a worthwhile stake in all aspects of the petroleum, indeed, the whole range of energy resources. But we forewent that chance, we sacrificed that opportunity, and today we in this Government are faced with the formidable task of asserting our entry into a business dominated by foreign multi-national companies under policies decided in overseas boardrooms. Furthermore, it was not until Labor came to power that the real nature of the energy situation was identified, and the mistakes of the LiberalCountry Party governments revealed.
Not even the world’s greatest major oil company could adequately explore, with the required intensity of drilling, the vast area of the Northwest Shelf. The policy of the Government has been a simple one to suggested farm-outs. If the holder of an exploration permit is incapable of fully exploring the area held, then the surplus should be returned to the Australian Government in the interests of the Australian people, so that it can, itself, participate on at least a 50/50 basis with the new farminee whose obligation is to provide the necessary risk capital and technology to match the proprietary rights of the Australian nation. Otherwise, the original permit holder had, in racing parlance, the odds to nothing with at least 50 per cent of future discoveries in areas it could not test. Hence, the cumulative Opposition criticism on declining oil search, and the certainty of its intensification under the new Authority on behalf of the Australian nation.
Despite the omissions of the past, the misguided, unproductive and wasted efforts, the Opposition, has opposed the Government’s plan to attempt to rectify the situation by adopting the only practical course open to the Governmentto create a public instrumentality to engage in the petroleum and minerals business. I sympathise with the nation’s difficulty in understanding the Opposition’s definition of the public interest. What can possibly be the objection to an Australian government stake in the business of exploration for and exploitation of Australia’s own resources? The United Kingdom has it, and so too do the Governments of France, Italy, Norway, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, India, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines, to name only some of the governments which have thought it desirable to have government participation in this industry. The Opposition is still squirming at the impact of Victorian Premier Hamer ‘s statement last Thursday, in London, that he did not think we will ever see the day again when there is foreign investment in any part of Australia on an unrestricted basis.’ His further comment is even more humiliating for them. He said:
As far as the Federal Government is concerned, they have indicated that their policy in the energy field is 100 per cent Australian ownership. That indicates it is unlikely they would permit the importation of foreign capital to exploit energy resources anywhere in Australia. That’s that. We would not want it any different, either . . .
But this is not the whole of the story. I repeat that it is possible and economically viable to extract oil from coal. Hitler set out to conquer the world with motor fuel thus derived. The process consumes large quantities of coal, and therefore coal fields that can be dedicated to this purpose are an essential prerequisite. Whilst the Opposition in this Parliament is frustrating the Government’s endeavours to restore the Australian people to their rightful place in their own country, as the owners and keepers of the national estate and the nation’s resources, and as fair and equal sharers in the national wealth, the foreign interests who dominate our energy business are continuing to acquire, through the State governments, control over some of the best and most accessible coal resources of the nation. In Queensland, for example, where coal activities are already 80 per cent dominated by overseas interests, including 60 per cent by one such company, the Shell Co. is acquiring rights to explore for coal and rights over proven reserves of coal for the purpose of developing in due course installations for the liquefaction of coal. It is almost as if there is some sort of conspiracy to ignore the past, to ignore the rightful place of the Australian people in the national estate, and to deny the opportunities to our own citizens which these developments present. Starting from where we must now start it is a great challenge, but the interests of the Australian people are paramount. In the Government’s view, the creation of this Authority will be to the great and permanent advantage of the Australian people. It will be serving a national purpose in gaining for the Australian people a proper place in their own country and in the resources of the nation. It will enable the Government and the nation to be better informed on these important industries and allow the Government through the participation of the Authority to plan and accomplish the development of these industries in the public interest. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Debate resumed vide page 101.
– I want to take the opportunity, as have other senators, to congratulate you, Mr Deputy President, and the President on your election to the 2 highest offices that the Senate can bestow on its senators. I want to take this opportunity also, if I may, of congratulating all those new senators who have made their maiden speech. We have seen on this occasion a large number of new senators come into this chamber and on the second and third days of the session we have had the opportunity of seeing new senators get up and make a contribution to the debate. I have listened with great interest to their contributions and have been very impressed by them. I wish them well and hope to hear a great deal more from them. Having said that I want to refer to a matter to which Senator Greenwood referred. It is that the Senate indulges in a number of privileges. One privilege is extending courtesy to new senators when making their maiden speech so that they may be heard in silence and without interruption, provided that a new senator does not become too -
– And other leaders and other senators.
– I take Senator Young’s words: And other leaders and other senators. A number of courtesies are afforded in the Senate, particularly to the Leader of the Government and to the Leader of the Opposition. These courtesies are extended so that the Senate can function. One such courtesy which is extended on many occasions is extended when the Leader of the Government or the Leader of the Opposition asks leave to make a statement. Whenever it is requested, that courtesy is extended and those 2 leaders are given the opportunity of making a statement without interruption. These courtesies are not afforded out of kindness of heart. They are afforded so that this chamber can function in a proper manner.
Every morning at 9 o’clock the Leader of the Opposition and myself have the privilege, I believe, of sitting around a table and talking with the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland). We are able to say things there quite freely that we would not be prepared to say in this chamber. We have to do those things if this chamber is to work and the business is to flow through it. I make this point because of the large number of new senators who have been elected to this chamber and also because of the number of what I would call ‘old senators’ who have not had a great deal of experience in this place in terms of years. I think the courtesies that are indulged in by the Senate must be observed at all times if the Senate is to function.
Let me refer to some remarks made by the last speaker, Senator Steele Hall. I congratulate him on his remarks. We all know that he has a great deal of parliamentary experience but I was rather intrigued to hear him put forward his ideas in regard to the timing of the election which was held on 18 May. I say to him that those of us who were on the Opposition side of the Senate before the decision was taken to hold the election on 18 May gave long and careful thought to the action we were taking.
– It was a miscalculation, was it not?
-The honourable senator can say what he likes; that may be his view but it would not be mine. I believe that everything which has happened since that date has pointed to the fact that the Opposition parties took the right decision in the circumstances.
– How can you justify defeat?
-The honourable senator’s Party should be pretty good at justifying defeat because it has had many in the past. Senator Steele Hall also referred to the economic policies of the Opposition parties. The only point I have to make on this is that since the general election the Opposition has had a good look at its policies and has updated some of them. But it has also reiterated them. This, I believe, is the reason why the Premiers are now picking them up and coming to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) with them. Having said that, I will be interested to listen to other speeches concerning the points made by Senator Steele Hall who preceded me in this debate.
This debate is the third Address-in-Reply debate that we have had since Labor won the 1972 general election. One can see that the GovernorGeneral ‘s speech was based on the 1972 election policies of the Labor Party. The content of that speech in regard to policies has increased but each policy seems weaker and weaker; so much so, that the Opposition on this occasion has moved an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Senator McAuliffe, in his remarks last night, made the point that it was not customary to move amendments to such a motion. I doubt that he would have attempted to make capital out of that fact had he given a little more thought to it. Surely it is obvious from the absence of regular amendments to the Address-in-Reply motion that such action is taken only in extreme circumstances. The extreme circumstance in this instance, of course, is the economic mess into which Australia has been plunged by this Government. As we all know, the form of the Governor-General’s Speech relates to the Government’s proposals. The Speech is written by the Government. I refer to the third paragraph of that Speech which states: my advisers have taken the view that the first responsibility of the Government is to carry out, fully and promptly, the program for change twice endorsed by the Australian people.
Certainly there is a program of change, but I believe it is utterly false to claim that it has been endorsed by the people. I put the following questions to the Senate: Do the Australian people endorse the program of change that has resulted in the highest interest rates on record? Does the rural community support the continuing progressive withdrawal of longstanding subsidies, concessions and incentives for primary producers? Are the people happy about the change that has brought a mountainous increase in their weekly food bills? Are they content to put up with the present acute shortages of essential goods- materials and food stuffs included? Are they smiling about having to pay more for petrol and very soon heavily increased postal and telegraph charges? Do they endorse the economic policies which are leading to an alarming increase in unemployment? Do they endorse a change that has resulted in steeply increased taxation? Do they approve of an economic situation that erodes their savings and makes it virtually impossible to borrow money at viable rates especially in the essential area of housing? Do they have no censure for a Government that since December 1972 has broken promise after promise, clearly demonstrating that it has no answer to the problem of inflation?
These are some of the changes for which this Government has been responsible and for which it stands condemned. The Government won the May election with less than 50 per cent of the vote. It lost seats in the House of Representatives and failed to gain a majority in the Senate. I believe that result clearly was a censure by the electorate. I believe that the Government scraped back because the people decided that Labor should have a second chance, despite its poor record over 17 months. It squeezed back also because many people were misled by Labor’s propaganda, particularly the inflation line used by the Prime Minister. It would be interesting to know how many people were duped by the Government’s claim a few weeks ago that inflation was waning. I ask honourable senators to remember the full page advertisements, which appeared in the Press before the last Federal election, proclaiming in the boldest type that Whitlam had beaten inflation. Do honourable senators remember those advertisements? I doubt that many people have forgotten them. That was in May 1974; and now, in July 1974- in fact, ever since the election- the Prime Minister has shown by word and deed that the rate of inflation was never checked. Such is his professed concern now about the state of the economy that it is obvious that he knew inflation was rapidly worsening at the time when he told the nation that it had been contained. The Government has introduced a program of change and, according to the legislation foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech, it will continue to introduce a program of change. But it is a program of change for the worse.
Let me deal with another change for which the Government stands condemned. I refer to defence. When the then Governor-General opened Parliament in February 1973, just after Labor was elected to office, he devoted several early paragraphs of his opening Speech to defence. They included an expression of determination to maintain a strong armed force. One year later, in February 1974, the Queen’s opening address discussed defence in 2 paragraphs in the middle of the Speech. This year, the subject rated one paragraph almost at the end of the Speech. Let me quote part of that paragraph. It states:
Under the direction of the Minister for Defence, my Government is creating the most effective, mobile and professional defence force in Australia’s peace-time history.
I find it difficult to believe that even this Government expects anyone to fall for such a line. Some of the facts and figures proving the extent of the rundown of our defence capability and the erosion of the morale of the forces since Labor took office have already been cited in the debate. I only wish to add to those figures and totally refute the Government’s ridiculous claim. Whenever the Government’s defence policy has been questioned in this chamber, we have been told not only that there is no foreseeable threat to Australia within 10 or 15 years but also that the Services are better off now than ever before in the way of pay and conditions. I should not have to remind the Senate that those improvements were the result not of Labor initative, as the Government would have people believe, but of actions set in train by the former LiberalCountry Party Government.
I was very intrigued this morning with a question asked by Senator Missen of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Defence, concerning housing at Air Force bases in Victoria. I was very interested to hear the Minister in his reply say that when Labor came to office it had 3 principles on which it was going to work: It was going to upgrade Service pay and bring it into line with the pay of those working outside the Services; it was going to upgrade pensions; and it was going to upgrade housing. This Government has done all that. I hold in my hand a copy of the final report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Financial Terms and Conditions of Service for Members of the Regular Armed Forces. It is rather interesting to read the opening paragraph of chapter 1 of the report. It states:
On 16 October 1970, the Minister for Defence informed the Parliament that the Government had decided to appoint this Committee of Inquiry into Financial Terms and Conditions of Service for Male and Female members of the Regular Armed Forces.
The terms of reference given to the Committee in October 1970 are shown in paragraph 16 in chapter 1 of that report.
– Who found the money? Was it the Labor Government which found the money?
– I just want to finish what I was saying because I heard the honourable senator give this answer. This is the final report of the Committee. I remind honourable senators that there were many reports of this Committee which was commonly known as the Kerr Committee. Many of the recommendations in this report were implemented before the Liberal-Country Party went out of office.
– That is the paper work. You did not find the money.
-Now we are coming down to the facts of the matter. All the conditions which have been given to the armed services of this country by this Government were based on the final report of this Committee of Inquiry. The honourable senator can get away with it in this place at question time by referring to the constitution of the Labor Party, to what the Labor Party stands for and to what the Labor Party has done for the armed Services of this country. But when someone who is in the know and who was partly responsible for setting up that Committee of Inquiry comes into this chamber with the facts and figures honourable senators opposite run for cover, and they run for cover very quickly. I invited the Government and the Postmaster-General, who in this chamber represents the Minister for Defence, to explain to me why, at a time when conditions in the Services are far more attractive than they were previously, it has been found necessary not to raise the entrance standards for recruits into the Services but to lower them, and why so many of our senior experienced officers are leaving the Services.
– Because conditions outside are so good and the pensions are so good.
-The truth is that in the area of defence, as in many other areas, there is no excuse for Labor’s mismanagement. Many people in Western Australia, which is the State I represent, are incensed that the Government has chosen virtually to ignore defence requirements. Western Australia is potentially our richest and yet our most vulnerable State. I think it is a shocking thing, in view of what the previous Government did for the defence Services. I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Firstly, I take this opportunity to congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches during the course of this debate. Notwithstanding the comments of Senator Drake-Brockman concerning one newly elected senator, I believe that the contributions of those who have made their maiden speeches have been of as high a standard as we have seen in this Senate for a long time. I am sure that from all of them we will, in time, hear some very good speeches and contributions.
I want to take up one or two of the final points made by Senator Drake-Brockman. He made some remarks about this Government’s policies towards defence matters. He gave the impression that this Government was not interested in defence, that there was something lacking in our concern for the security of this country. The facts speak differently. We all know that, with very few exceptions, throughout the world the percentages of gross national product being spent on defence are declining. Last year only 2 countries of those making up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation group were spending a greater percentage of their gross domestic product on defence than Australia is spending. This is hardly indicative of a government which is not aware of its responsibilities in this area.
So far as the conditions of servicemen are concerned, as the Postmaster-General, Senator Bishop, has said in this place on numerous occasions, what the Government has done to improve those conditions is a credit to it. I say that despite the fact that there are still many members of the armed Services in the officer ranks who are leaving. They are leaving mainly because of the better pension benefits provided by this Government which amounted in total, I think, to $60m or thereabouts in the first year of this Government’s tenure of office. Naturally that created inducements to those officers to leave the armed forces. The important point is that this Government has shown an attitude of responsibility towards defence and the security of this nation second to none.
However, I was not intending to speak on defence. What we are concerned with is the amendment moved by the Opposition. Earlier this afternoon the question was asked: ‘What does this amendment achieve?’ Obviously it achieves nothing because it has not been thought through. We find, for example, that the first part of the amendment states:
The Government is unable to handle the economic problems that confront Australia because its policies of
deliberately creating an intolerable rate of inflation . . .
I repeat: ‘Deliberately creating an intolerable rate of inflation’. Let us look at the facts relating to how this inflationary problem came about. There are some matters which ought to be placed on the record so that we can see the situation that this Government inherited when it came to office. It is a well known fact that if, in any economy, there is an excess of liquidity and not sufficient supply obviously an inflationary situation will develop. There has to be a reasonable balance between those 2 factors. On the one hand, if there is far too great a circulation of money in the economy you can expect inflation. On the other hand, if there is far too great a supply and insufficient liquidity you can expect a recession in the economy. In the years immediately preceding this Party’s advent to Government we find, by looking at the increase in liquidity in the economy, a starkly different position from that which obtained in the first year in which we took office. The increase in the flow of money in the Australian economy in the financial year to the end of June 1968 was 8 per cent. To the end of June 1969 it was 9 per cent. To the end of June 1 970 it was 6 per cent. To the end of June 1 97 1 it was 7 per cent, and to the end of June 1 972 it was 10 per cent. In 1973 it jumped to 26 per cent. In other words, there was an abnormal increase in the amount of liquidity in the Australian economy.
This was brought about by three or four factorsmassive inflows of overseas capital; a big increase in our export earnings, especially in the rural sector, which was a good thing in view of what had happened in the years gone by; increased liquidity by the private banks; and, of course, the taxation cuts which took place in the 1972 Budget. All this resulted in placing an intolerable burden on the Australian economy and it was inevitable that the economy could not possibly meet that situation in the space of 12 months or even 2 years.
Today we are still living in the aftermath of that massive inflow of money into the economy. Had that remained in the comparative state of balance which had obtained in the years before, we would not have been confronted with this position. I can assure the Senate that had there been no change of government in 1972 we would have been confronted with exactly the same position now. But the Labor Government realised the problems that confronted it upon coming to office, and it took the harsh and difficult measures which had to be taken. It reduced tariffs, something which I thought the rural community generally was very pleased about. Sometimes I wonder whether members of the Country Party in this Senate agreed with that decision. In fact some of them said that they did not agree with it.
– They were a bit out of touch.
-They were out of touch. They did not realise the significance of what we were doing. In a moment I will quote one of the leading authorities in the rural sector on this point, and I doubt very much whether Senator Drake-Brockman would be prepared to argue with the person whose words I shall shortly quote. In view of the massive increase of money in the economy it was necessary for us to take the steps we took to increase supply through increased imports and to revalue the dollar.
Senator Drake-Brockman also commented about the Government’s doing these terrible things to the rural sector, as did other honourable senators during the course of this debate. I take this opportunity of quoting to him a statement made only last Friday here in Canberra by the Executive Officer of the Graziers Association of New South Wales. Senator Drake-Brockman knows the person to whom I refer. It is Mr John White. I will not say that he is a good conservative but he certainly is an authority in the area of tariff mechanisms and generally in the field of agricultural economics. I am sorry if I tread on any toes because I believe that there is at least one honourable senator in this chamber who was a member of that organisation. I understand that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in the House of Representatives also is a member of that organisation.
– So what?
-I am sure that they would be grossly displeased at what Mr White said. “ These are his words: . . your Government, in its first period of office, despite the fact that all of us around here have our criticisms, has made historic progress in Australia, has done perhaps an enormous amount of good for the rural sector already, and we must acknowledge it in initiating the first acrosstheboard tariff reduction of 25 per cent … So far the Labor Government has started some vital things for country people.
– Who said this?
-This was said by Mr John White, the Executive Officer of the New South Wales Graziers Association. In his concluding remarks he said:
The real judgment of Labor Government and whether in rural policy it really becomes an historic government is what it does from now on.
Mr White really laid on the line quite clearly what this Government has done in respect of its rural policies. Its economic policies for the rural sector are of historic significance in this country. Mr White and members of the Country Party may be assured that we will continue in the rational way in which we started. It was particularly gratifying to hear the speech today by one new senator from Western Australia, Senator Walsh, who spelled this out in very good detail. It is a great problem, of course. The Opposition spends most of its time attacking us on inflation, but as soon as we take the steps to overcome inflation we are attacked again.
– When did you take one?
– If the honourable senator had been listening more attentively he would have heard me spell out some of them. It has been necessary, in view of the situation we inherited from our predecessors, for us to make these decisions. We do not run away from the difficulty. What have we done? We have had to increase interest rates. We know that there is excess liquidity in the economy at this stage. Although it might be harmful and distasteful to have to do these things insofar as housing loans are concerned, for example, they are necessary for the overall benefit of the economy and these things needed to be done.
– What is the purpose?
-I wish that the honourable senator would listen to what I am saying because I have not time to repeat myself. As I said just now, the purpose is to ensure that the flow of money in the economy can be restrained to a reasonable degree. Whether he understands or whether it has that effect is not my worry.
The amendment refers to the unemployment that has been created by this Government. I do not suppose at any time in the history of this country has the labour market been as tight as it has been during the 18 months of office of this Government. When we came into office we inherited a position which was caused by our predecessors using the standard practice of creating a pool of unemployment to overcome the problem of inflation. We have not done that. What we have done has not been dramatic in its effect. We know that it has been reasonably slow. At least we do not create problems similar to the ones which were created by our predecessors, especially in 1 96 1 . The present employment position in this country is not one that suggests there will be massive unemployment, as the Opposition would have us believe. A recent survey conducted by the Bank of New South Wales showed that the main problem was not a shortage of finance but of labour. In other words, there is still plenty of work about. Because we recognise that adjustments must be made as a result of our policies we have introduced retraining schemes for employees to enable them to move into other forms of employment.
There is no painless way of curing inflation. There are no magic wands that anyone can wave. All that we can do is to continue to watch the position and make sure that the balance of payments, through the strength of our currency and our tariff policies, is kept in balance and ensure that neither of the problems of inflation or unemployment gets out of balance. The Government does not intend to be stampeded or deviated from its policy approach.
Our relations with the States have been another matter of some comment during this debate. On all occasions we have endeavoured to maintain a proper liaison with the States. Under the federal system it is not possible- it never will be, I presume- to achieve complete harmony between the Federal and State governments. We have endeavoured to plan at a national level. We do not believe that moneys which are the responsibility of this Parliament should be allowed to be disbursed willy nilly by any State government as it sees fit. We have not been restrictive. We certainly have increased the proportion of specific purpose payments. We will continue to do so, because we feel that in certain areas there are greater needs. In conjunction with the States we will see that those moneys are disbursed to meet those needs. But it would be quite wrong, as has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), simply to apply a percentage amount each year and pay that money to the States. What would be the position if the needs of the States were different and if it were important for the Federal Government to inject greater funds into particular areas? Are the States expected to accept less money simply because there may be a fall in income tax revenue? They are not the answers to the problems that confront us.
The Government has set an example. We are endeavouring, to the maximum of our ability, to cut down costs and expenditure and to ensure that we, as a government, set an example to the State governments and to the private sector to do likewise. There would seem to be little point in any detailed assessment of the amendment. As I made the point earlier, it has not been thought through. It does not get to the heart of the problem that we see. The speakers on the Opposition side have not put up any worthwhile arguments to substantiate the case which is allegedly contained in that amendment. I am confident that the common sense of the Senate will prevail and that this amendment will be defeated.
- Mr Deputy President, I offer my congratulations to you upon your election to the high office of Chairman of Committees. I offer my congratulations to our President on his election to that very high office. I can assure you, Sir, that my good wishes go to you for a successful term of office. I pay a tribute to honourable senators who made their maiden speeches yesterday or today. I believe that there has been quite a remarkable contribution to the debate from both sides of the Senate. I believe that apart from one or two provocative speeches we could say that the speeches were received in the traditional way in which speeches are always received in this place.
Eighteen months ago the people of Australia opted for a change of government. The socialist Australian Labor Party Government set about its so-called progressive legislative program. I understand that this program was supposed to benefit the average Australian citizen. I wonder what the average Australian citizen thinks about the progressive legislation of the Labor Government today because it has done nothing other than impose greater and greater penalties upon the average working man and woman in Australia. During this period food prices have risen by 18.2 per cent, taking an average throughout the States. I think South Australia has achieved a slightly higher rate and has a rate approaching 20 per cent. This increase places a very heavy penalty on the average Australian householder. Apart from that fact, the Government has created a situation in which there is a shortage of building materials and in which people are finding it very difficult to build a home today. For example, in Canberra today it take about 16 months to build a home, whereas before the Labor Party came to government about 6 to 8 weeks would have seen an average home built in Canberra. That is a classic example of the detrimental effect which the so-called progressive socialist Government has had on Australia.
I am concerned about a number of things in my home State, not the least of which is the climate of industrial unrest in that State. Recently I inspected the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd roll-on roll-off terminal at Port Adelaide. No less than 10,000 tons of steel are at that terminal purely and simply because of a conflict between 2 trade unions about who should be despatching that commodity from that area. I understand from my inquiries that there had been negotiations between BHP and the Waterside Workers Federation before the terminal was completed. They decided that the Waterside Workers Federation was the appropriate body to provide the labour to unload the ships there, to discharge the cargo and to see that it was delivered. Since March of this year the steel has remained in that area, purely and simply because of an argument between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Union concerning the delivery of that steel. Of course, that has created tremendous problems in South Australia for not only BHP, which wishes to supply its customers, but also the customers in that State who are trying to fulfil urgent contracts.
– Is it a Federal or State award?
-A Federal award, of course. It is a Federal conflict. I am worried about the Labor Government’s inability to overcome these problems. Not only is it incompetent to deal with the trade unions in that area but also it has allowed the trade union movement to take the foreign policy of Australia out of the Government’s hands. I will say a word or two about that in a moment. I think it is quite incredible that a situation like the one that I have just described should persist in South Australia and elsewhere in Australia. I am sure that it is not the only example in Australia of such stupidity, which is the only way to describe it. Many workers in South Australia are going to lose their jobs before very long if that sort of stupidity is allowed to persist.
I have written to the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, about this matter. I wrote to him early last month but I still have not received an acknowledgment of my letter. I have asked him to see what he can do about arriving at some sort of an arrangement between the 2 unions involved. That sort of thing is affecting productivity in this country. I believe that the strike situation in Australia is one of the major causes of inflation. I suggest that the Government should consider the proposition put forward by the Liberal and Country Parties during the election campaign and look at the leadership of some of these unions. Many of the leaders who cause trouble have migrated to this country, so in many instances we have imported industrial trouble. I suggest that the Government should look at this aspect, introduce the holding of secret ballots for the election of union officials and insist that all trade unionists in Australia vote at such elections. That would get rid of some of the irresponsible trade union leaders who are causing industrial trouble, leading their fellow workers into strike situations unnecessarily and causing them and their families hardship.
I suggest as a positive move- as a positive example of the policy of the Liberal-Country Party- that the Government should introduce legislation to provide for the holding of secret ballots for elections of union officials. I believe that if that happened the average trade unionist in Australia would vote at such an election and would see that the irresponsible trade union leaders were thrown out of office and replaced by fair dinkum Australian workers who have the interests of their fellow workers at hean. In my view that is a positive suggestion that the Government should adopt.
Something else that irritates me is a situation in which a trade union- to wit, the Seamens Union of Australia- can hold the country to ransom simply because it disagrees with the policies of a foreign government. We have had the example in South Australia this year of 2 ships from Spain being held up for 8 days and 7 ships from Greece being held up at Port Adelaide for about 5 1 days. I recall that in one instance a ship was carrying cargo that was vitally necessary to the building industry in Australia. It was carrying timber that was vital to the building of homes for workers in Australia. I think that sort of thing is disastrous. I believe that it is quite evident to the people of Australia that the Government is unable to control or negotiate with the trade union movement and that the trade union movement is obviously the Government’s master.
I propose to add a little more to what I have said about the strike situation in Australia. I think that Senator Greenwood brought home very strongly this afternoon the point that the cost to the Australian worker of strikes is tremendous. The March quarter of this year saw a loss of no less than 2 million working days, because of irresponsibility in most areas, at a cost to the workers of $45.2m. This amount is more than the cost of such losses for the whole of last year. The Liberal and Country Parties had a record with respect to industrial unrest that the Australian Labor Party should envy. I believe that the State governments have recognised the importance of the policies that were promoted by the Liberal and Country Parties during the election campaign because they have agreed that our proposition with respect to the handing over of some temporary control of wages and incomes is a wise one. I believe that the Premier of South Australia would agree with my statement that our propositions during the election campaign were the right ones.
I notice that Mr Dunstan has, quite correctly, hit out at the Labor Party tariffproposals, which have caused tremendous problems in South
Australia over the last few months. Yesterday I asked a question about the factory of Philips Industries Ltd at Hendon. Probably it would be one of the main electronics industry factories in Australia. This factory has been placed in serious jeopardy because of the indiscriminate tariff policies implemented by the Labor Government. Tariffs certainly have to be reviewed. But I believe that it was quite irresponsible to make across the board tariff cuts. Certainly some tariffs should have been cut further but other industries should have been provided with additional assistance. The indiscriminate cutting of tariffs has created tremendous unemployment problems in South Australia particularly. South Australia relies very largely on the motor industry and to a lesser degree on the electronics industry, which in that State employs about 1,850 people.
On looking back to the election campaign I note with a lot of interest and cynicism the promises made at that time by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam). For example, he came to South Australia on two or three occasions and on each occasion he dangled another carrot in front of the people of South Australia. He said: ‘We will provide $80m for the filtration of Adelaide’s water supply. We will build a dual sealed highway from Port Augusta to Alice Springs’. That is something that I would like to see happen. The Prime Minister said: ‘We will build a railway line’. I am glad to say that that may have some chance of success. He also said: ‘We will sign a contract with respect to the Dartmouth Dam that will ensure a water supply for South Australia’ That is much needed for the development of our State. Yet last year- not very long ago- the Prime Minister was going to adopt the proposal put forward by the Coombs Task Force that the Dartmouth dam project be deferred or delayed. It will be recalled that at that time all Liberal Party senators from South Australia mounted an attack on the Government during an adjournment debate in the Senate. I am afraid that this took the present Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) completely by surprise because he did not know that the Prime Minister had written to the Premier of South Australia suggesting that the construction of the Dartmouth dam ought to be deferred. But during the election campaign the Prime Minister said: ‘We will see that a contract is signed so that the State of South Australia will be provided with that dam’. From my recollection I think he said that if the Liberal Party got into power- I think at that time he thought that it would- it would not be able to back down on this proposal. I can assure the Senate that we on this side would support anything that would provide South Australia with the water that is so urgently needed for its future development.
Another matter which arose during the election campaign and which greatly amused me illustrates the significance of the Press reporting things during an election campaign in a slightly more responsible way. I recall reading in the Adelaide ‘News’ about a week before the election a report that the Federal Government would provide $2,000m for the construction of a water treatment plant at Port Pirie in South Australia. However, a further reading of the article revealed that the proposal was that the State and Federal governments would set up a committee to conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of providing a $2,000m water treatment plant at Port Pirie. But while the Labor Party was doing this sort of thing, the Liberal Party and the Country Parties were proposing that the growth of the Public Service ought to be restricted. We said that if we were elected to office we would restrict the growth of the Public Service to 3 per cent. According to the Governor-General’s Speech I notice that the Labour Government has adopted our suggestion minus .4 per cent and will restrict the growth of the Public Service to 2.6 per cent. We suggested that expenditure in the public sector ought to be restricted. For example, we said that as a government we would not permit public money to be spent on projects such as the Gidgealpa pipeline which will commit the taxpayers of Australia to something like $500m. We believe that sort of project is best kept in the field of private enterprise.
– Just so that you can make a wopping profit out of it.
-My fine feathered friend from Murray Bridge interjects. Apparently he considers that it is a sin to make a profit. This project is another mistake by this Government. It illustrates the motivating force behind the mentality of this Government. This Government wants to destroy the incentive of everybody in the community to make a profit. We on this side of the Senate believe that everybody, the workers, from the factory floor upwards ought to be provided with incentives. But honourable senators opposite do not like to provide incentives for the workers.
– We do not want exploitation.
– If the honourable senator were working on a certain line alongside Senator
Georges he would probably not be capable of working as hard as he because of the sort of internal problem in respect to his income compared with the honourable senator’s income. I believe that we ought to encourage the worker to work as hard and as much as he can, and we should pay him for it. We believe that business people ought to be provided with incentives to encourage them to produce more. We believe that business people and industrialists ought to be encouraged to expand their businesses. We should give them incentives to do this so that there will be more jobs for people who would be encouraged to earn more money in the proper way.
I will not take up the time of the Senate for very much longer except to say that I have attempted to make to this Labor Government one or two suggestions on where it is going wrong. I think productivity is very important to this nation. We are lagging behind other countries.
– But Mr Cameron has a plan on productivity and you have scorned it.
-One thing that I will say-I do not suppose I should be completely destructive in my criticism of the Labor Party- is that I do support the concept of retraining. I think this is a good thing because it is something that we as a party believe in. It is something in regard to which we might be able to get together and help this Government promote this sort of philosophy. I think this is a good idea.
– It depends on what the people are being retrained for.
-As Senator DrakeBrockman reminds me, it depends on what they are being retrained for. That is very important because we must make sure that the retrained workers will enter new fields which best suit them and in which they will contribute most.
– Get on to optometrical benefits.
– Thank you for reminding me about that. I believe that the proposed optometric benefit is a good one. It is one that my Party has been considering. Although I am speaking of my own profession and although I believe that this benefit to the patients of optometrists is long overdue, I think we would approach this much more responsibly and have a look at what the cost will be to the community. We would hope that not only optometry patients but also other sections in the field of health care would benefit. We want to include all professions in a health scheme, but I believe that we have to approach these things in the light of the economic state of the nation. However, I compliment the Government and support the proposal which has been put forward.
I disagree with what Senator Hall said about the amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Obviously Senator Hall believes that the Government is able to handle the economic problems that confront Australia. He believes that the Labor Party is not creating unemployment. He believes that it is not creating an intolerable rate of inflation in Australia. He believes that the people of Australia are not being distressed because of the actions of this Government. I disagree with him.
– You meant to say that he is Alice in Wonderland.
– That could be an appropriate description. I support the amendment to the motion. I suggest that I have given to the Senate some indication of the policies that we as a government would put forward to combat the problems facing this Government. My leader in another place, Mr Snedden, has indicated that he is prepared to co-operate with the Government in any measures that are taken to combat inflation provided they do not involve the socialisation of industry in this country. I support the amendment to the motion and, together with members on this side of the Senate, will continually strive to promote our policies so that at the next election we will throw you people opposite off the Treasury bench and give the people of Australia responsible government.
-I support the motion moved by my colleague, Senator Melzer, and I take this opportunity to congratulate all of the newly elected senators on their first contributions to debate in this Senate. I am sure that as they become more aware of some of the problems we encounter here they will develop into first class debaters. In fact, some of them already have that quality, as they indicated in their maiden speeches. As I said earlier this evening, there is one matter on which I support Senator Greenwood, and this is the first time that we have agreed on anything since he entered this chamber. It is his reference to Senator Bonner occupying the chair in this place during this National Aborigines Week. It was a very fitting tribute and I support Senator Greenwood’s remarks. It is probably the last time that Senator Greenwood and 1 will be supporting each other in this Parliament.
Amongst the newly elected senators we heard speak today was Senator Steele Hall from South Australia, who has just been denigrated by Senator Jessop, who just sat down, as one of his political opponents. Senator Steele Hall clearly indicated to this chamber what his political thinking was. At least he had the courage to do it. Unlike some of the people sitting on his side of the chamber who come from South Australia, in future at least he will have a clear thinking line and he will not be making decisions because they suddenly occur to him. If I have any criticism to make of him, it is in relation to his statement that he is anti-Labor. That is a negative attitude. However I do accept that he is non-Labor.
I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). Let us have a quick look at some sections of that amendment. Paragraph (l)(a) states that this Government had deliberately created an intolerable rate of inflation. That is a complete misstatement of fact because this country was clearly set on the road of inflation in the last half-year of the term of the Liberal-Country Party Government.
– Why do you not go back to the 1 7th century if that is the argument you are going to adopt?
– Because Senator Greenwood comes from the 17th century it does not mean that I have to go back with” him.
– Go back to 1972 and remember that it was 4!6 per cent instead of 1 4 per cent going on 20 per cent.
-We can go back to when it was 416 per cent and we had an unemployment figure of 230,000 people. If 230,000 people being unemployed does not worry Senator Rae, obviously that is his only remedy for inflation. If the Opposition had been returned on 18 May we would now have in excess of 200,000 people without a job. The Opposition still deals with human lives in the same way as it did when it sent kids out of this country to be killed in Vietnam. Human life does not matter to it. Senator Rae can sit there and laugh about the loss of human life, but that is not the policy of this Government. The Opposition believes in the dogma of murder, and we do not. That is the difference between us. I was diverted by the stupid remarks of, I think, the shadow Minister for darkness or something like that; so let me refer again to some of the -
– Tell us about Tasmania under your Government.
– Have you got a wound-up gramophone in your gullet? Will you just calm down?
– Tell us about Tasmanian unemployment under your Government.
-The only pity is that Senator Rae did not come back here unemployed. Let me now refer again to that part of the amendment which says that this Government is deliberately creating unemployment. In answer to Senator Rae’s interjection, I have said that this is not the policy of this Government. I propose in a couple of moments to quote from the Governor-General’s Speech where our plans for the continuing good government of this country are set out. The amendment also states that we have created a credit squeeze with high interest rates. It is true that high interest rates at the moment are causing some problems in the community. But is it not better that we operate so that the least number of small people are hurt rather than adopt the policy of our predecessors who, while protecting the profits of the multinationals, ruthlessly kicked the working man to death? In other words, they squeezed the pensioner. The fact that a pensioner died in ill-health mattered not at all to them. The fact that a man tried to keep his family on $10 or $15 a week, which was the miserly rate of unemployment benefit paid at that time, also did not matter at all to them. They continually had between 100,000 and in excess of 200,000 breadwinners out of employment in Australia during almost the whole of their last term in government.
– You think unemployment is all right if you pay the unemployed enough, do you?
-We are not saying that at all. We do not believe there should be any unemployment at all. Because unemployment happens to be part of the dogma of the honourable senator’s party, that does not mean that we have to believe in it too. It is claimed in the amendment that the actions of the Government have led to distressing social and economic dislocation. It is true that some developers today are dislocated economically as a result of the policies of this Government, but they have been indulging in a financial rip-off of the Australian community for so long that it is just bad luck for them. The last paragraph of the amendment says that the Government ought to be condemned for its continued confrontation with the State governments and the undermining of their rights and responsibilities. My answer to that last paragraph is that it is just plain poppycock. It is a figment of the imagination of the people who drafted the amendment. I respectfully suggest that the amendment should not be carried in this chamber tonight.
For 16 months from 2 December 1972 the old men of the Liberal and Country Parties who sat on the other side of the chamber refused to believe that there had been a change of government. They lived in the past. They thought the government had not changed at all, in the same way as the old men of the Australian Medical Association worked consistently to oppose the introduction of Labor’s health insurance schemes and ultimately were joined by the old men of the General Practitioners Society. We saw what happened as a result of the consistent efforts of the Opposition over those 16 months. Both Houses of Parliament ultimately were dissolved as a result of the political anarchy of the Opposition when it threatened to block Supply in this chamber. The Australian people have given their answer. The Labor Party has been returned with additional members in this chamber and a continuing majority in the House of Representatives.
– Reduced numbers in the House of Representatives.
– I said ‘with a continuing majority’. As far as I am concerned, it is numbers that count in both chambers. If Senator Greenwood intends to go on like this we will be forced to carry a motion seeking pyschiatric treatment for him. I ask Senator Greenwood to accept that his Party was defeated at the last election and not to adopt the Snedden attitude, which is that if he had had a majority of two or three he would have had a mandate to govern but because the Whitlam Government has a majority of two or three it has no mandate. That famous word mandate’ ought to be indelibly impressed on Senator Greenwood’s mind. In 1961 if it had not been for a handful of Communist Party preferences the then Government would not have had a majority of one. But, because of a handful of Communist Party preferences being given to one of its members, it was able to continue governing for another 2 years. Let me say quite categorically that the Labor Party is the Government and intends to govern in spite of the Opposition’s obstructive tactics.
Let me refer to some of the things that brought about inflation. The Opposition claims that it was brought about by the actions of this Government. It was not the actions of this Government but a continuation of what had been happening for several years prior to our assuming office. Let us look at the mining boom. We have on the other side of the chamber a very vocal front bencher who has consistently taken all sorts of measures to prevent the publication of a report dealing with all the crooks in the mining industry.
– Would you like to support my motion which is waiting now?
– Do not get too excited about it. Senator Rae is the Chairman of the Committee. He is the man who is taking action to prevent the publication of that report in order to protect his friends in the stockbroking industry, people who have been thieving in the mining industry and others like that. So let us be factual about it. In the great mining boom -
– That was a deceitful and despicable remark.
-Do not get excited.
– It was deceitful and despicable.
– Do not raise your blood pressure.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order! I appeal to honourable senators on my left to allow Senator Keeffe to continue with his speech.
– Not when he makes those sorts of remarks. He knows perfectly well-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Rae, I appeal to you as an experienced senator. You know the rules of debate in the Senate. Please allow Senator Keeffe to proceed with his address.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I did not intend to upset my honourable opponent, but when one speaks the truth about these things it is bad luck if it hurts. Let me make reference to a number of other things. There are firms in this country whose trading turnover is above the $20m mark which, when they find that they have to expose themselves to public scrutiny before the Prices Justification Tribunal, decide that they will not go before that Tribunal to justify their price increases. There are some manufacturers in Australia who, prior to the last election, were stockpiling goods in the remote and feeble hope that there would be a change of government and that they could get away with marking up the price of their goods. Some retailers in Australia are abusing tariff cuts and are trebelling and sometimes multiplying their mark-ups by 500, 600 and 700 per cent.
Some honourable senators opposite say that it is the policies of the Labor Government that have caused inflation. They ought to have a good look at their consciences and a good look at the bank accounts of their friends who have continually set out to profiteer at the expense of the Australian people. It is significant that during the last election campaign the average small to medium sized Australian business and some of the larger Australian companies gave their donations to the Australian Labor Party because they knew that they would get a fair go. But to whom did the multi-national companies give their funds? An amount of $2m was poured into the funds of the Liberal and Country Parties to help fight the election campaign on their behalf.
– You would not be here if that had happened.
-It has been stated publicly and nobody has been sued for making the statement. Probably, the amount was more than $2m. Goodness only knows what your rake-off was in that area. Members of the National Party or the Australian Country Party- whatever it is called in Queensland- who were handing out howtovote cards on election day were being paid $25 each to hand out those how-to-vote cards on behalf of the National Party. They were being paid that amount of money because the National Party did not know how to get rid of its money. If any honourable senator wants some background information on that, statutory declarations will be made by some of the National Party people.
Senator Jessop was holding a little demonstration here a while ago. He said that if he wanted to build a house in Canberra it would take some 18 months to 2 years to have it completed. My colleague on my right, Senator McLaren, by way of interjection drew the attention of honourable senators to a statement in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ by Mr Newman, the president of the Canberra Timber Merchants Association, who said that there is a surplus of building supplies. I would rather believe Mr Newman than my colleague from the Opposition.
– Why do not you go out and have a look for yourself?
-It is too dark. I wish to make reference to some of the legislation that is proposed by the Government and set out in the Governor-General’s Speech. On the second page of his Speech he states:
In determining priorities and in carrying out its program while continuing the fight against inflation, my Government will be guided by certain principles. These are: protection for the weaker sections of the community; a firm commitment to the principle of full employment;
This is the position in spite of what Senator Greenwood says. The speech continues:
Equity in sharing sacrifices as well as prosperity; and the need to ensure that any deferment of expectations shall not be made at the expense of those for whom deferment could mean a lifetime of deprivation- for example, children at school and migrants.
The Government will continue its measures to strengthen and modernise the Australian economy, to improve the quality of the Australian workforce, to expand Australian resources and to promote Australian control over those resources.
Yet we have heard Senator Jessop saying that his government- that is the present Oppositionwould not have allowed the building of the Gidgealpa gas pipeline. Of course, this demonstrates what we have been saying. Honourable senators opposite want the multi-nationals to get the rip-off at the expense of the Australian public. That is why honourable senator opposite do not believe in those sorts of things that I have just quoted from the Governor-General’s speech.
– Is anybody building the pipeline now? Is this progress under the Labor Government?
– The honourable senator probably applied for the contract, but he will not get it. The Governor-General’s speech continues:
There will be legislation for a Securities and Exchange Commission and a National Companies Act to achieve uniformity.. The Government intends to re-introduce legislation to examine and, where needed regulate activities of non-banking financial corporations. The Government will establish an Australian Government Insurance Office which will compete actively in all forms of insurance and which, in particular, will provide the widest possible cover for homes at the lowest possible premiums.
Yet, when I made a brief reference to a report that we have not yet seen, a front bench member of the Opposition almost had a heart attack. I now wish to refer to the I 10th page of the Governor-General’s Speech. Time does not permit me to expand on a number of other things upon which I ought to expand. It is stated -
– Just as well.
– I know that the truth hurts. Quite obviously, the honourable senator does not want to listen to it. If he does not wish to listen to the truth, he can go to the bar or to the coffee room. The Governor-General states:
Legislation will be re-introduced to permit Australia to ratify the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which came into force in January 1969. Legislation will also be introduced to supersede certain provisions of the Queensland Aborigines Act and Torres Strait Islanders Act which are contrary to the principles embodied in the Racial Discrimination Convention and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. The Australian Government will not allow the overwhelming decision of the Australian people in the referendum of 1961 to be any longer denied or disregarded.
My Government has accepted in principle the recommendations contained in the Second Report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission and following consultation with Northern Territory Aboriginals will legislate to give effect to its policy . . .
Although I commended the remarks made earlier by Senator Greenwood, as I stated then, it is quite obvious from the continuation of my discussion in the Senate tonight that that will be the last time that we will agree in the life of this Parliament. I want to make some reference to a statement made by Senator Bonner. I warned him tonight that I proposed to make this statement. I am sorry that he is not in the Senate chamber. Senator Bonner said in Brisbane that he would seek to confer with the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, and Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department Director, Mr P. J. Killoran, this week in relation to that paragraph which I have just read to honourable senators from the Governor-General’s Speech. The newspaper article to which I am now referring goes on to state:
A spokesman for the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister (Senator Cavanagh) said the legislation would supersede three sections of the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act, which, he said;
Deprived and Torres Strait Islanders of the right to visit -
- Mr President, I rise to order. Is it proper in a debate, as distinct from the asking of questions at which stage I know what the rule is, to refer to a newspaper report in the Senate?
– In the ordinary course of a debate the honourable senator can refer to a newspaper report, but during question time he is not supposed to refer to a newspaper report. I call Senator Keeffe.
-Thank you, Mr President. Unlike the honourable senator who just tried to pull one of his old points of order, I would like to say that I told Senator Bonner tonight that I was going to refer to his statement in today’s copy of the ‘Courier Mail’ newspaper. I am not aware that I am breaching any Standing Order. In referring to the powers of the Queensland Acts, the newspaper article continues:
Gave the Queensland Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department the right to take possession of Aborigines’ or islanders’ property or wealth. Prevented Aboriginal and Island defendants in settlement courts from having legal counsel or a right or appeal.
Senator Bonner said outside the Senate that he understood that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders did have the right of appeal and the right to counsel.
He said the provision about visiting relations on settlements was not in the Queensland Act, but in by-laws approved by Aboriginal councillors on the committees in the various Aboriginal communities.
That is a way of avoiding responsibility for the humane things that ought to be carried out in regard to Queensland’s dual Acts. There exists a set of 3-tier restrictive legislation. Firstly, there is the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act; secondly, the regulations that were brought down on 4 December 1972; and thirdly the bylaws that operate in the various communities. They all add up to one thing: Discrimination at the expense of the black people of my State. The sooner this Government is able to implement this legislation the better off 30,000 people will be. If my very dear and beloved friend Holy Joh of Queensland wants to oppose this then he lives back in the 15th century, not the 16th, the 17th, the 18th, or the 19th; he lives back in the dim mists of time.
– He was here today.
– Yes, I saw him here today. I saw the great glow on this side of the chamber: It lit up a number of seats around here. Anyone who resists the Commonwealth on this issue is not working in the best interests of thousands of people in Queensland. Mr President, as time is running out I want to conclude my remarks by saying that it is the duty of this Senate to carry the original resolution and that it is the duty morally and otherwise, of this Senate to reject the amendment.
- Mr President, I wish to congratulate you on your election to the very high office of President and to congratulate Senator Webster on his election as Chairman of Committees. I would like to say also how impressed I have been with the maiden speeches of senators from both sides of the chamber. They certainly augur well for the maintenance of the very high standard of debates which has been characteristic of this chamber, in spite of what was said tonight by another speaker. The honourable senator who has just sat down, Senator Keeffe, likes to refer to those who oppose him as belonging to the 14th, 1 5th or some other century. He always reminds me of prehistoric man. I do not think that it is normal to refer to the maiden speech of a senator. However, tonight Senator Steele Hall made a very strong attack upon honourable senators on this side of the House. All I wish to say to the socalled leader of a so-called party who bitterly attacked us for having no policy and for lack of judgment is that I did not hear his policy for overcoming inflation. It rather reminded me of a remark made by a distinguished member of the House of Commons, Sir Winston Churchill, who said about an honourable member of that House that he had sat on the fence so long the iron truth had entered his soul. Senator Steele Hall has reached the stage where he cannot distinguish the rust from the iron.
Having said that I wish to go back to the important question of inflation. One of the great problems we face is that people have come to believe that inflation is beyond control. Yet inflation is man made and it can be controlled by man. One of the great problems we face is that inflation has not been explained in terms that the people can understand.
– Are you going to do that?
– I am prepared to do so. I am sorry. My time is very limited; otherwise we might have a discussion about that. It has not been explained in terms that people can understand. During the election campaign it became confused. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said the great issue was not inflation but multinational companies. I was reminded by my colleague, Senator Wood, a few minutes ago that the Australian Labor Party relied upon a foreign owned company in the last 2 elections to manage its election propaganda. I suggest that it should start at home. However, during the election the question became confused. It was only when the truth was brought home to the Prime Minister that inflation was an issue that he began to recognise it. It became a great confidence trick because he assured the people that it was not too bad, that there would be no unemployment, that it was under control, that interest rates would not rise and so on. However, we know the history.
I do not want to speak about this. I want to say that inflation can be controlled and that the Government, principally, but the Opposition too, has a responsibility to put the issue to the people of Australia in simple terms, in a language the people can understand. The people believe that inflation is a problem of government. It is not only a problem of government. Certainly governments have a major responsibility, but inflation can be solved only if its solution becomes a whole community effort, from the Federal Government, State governments, local authorities and the people. It cannot be solved otherwise. The problem is too great to be solved merely by some government action. The situation is grave and can be saved only if the Government, supported by the Opposition, is honest and frank with the people of Australia and if the Government, the Opposition and the Parliaments know where they are going. This requires a total effort. Above all it requires courageous and honest leadership at all levels- not only Federal, State and local authorities but throughout the community.
A great responsibility rests mainly upon the Government, but also upon every one of us, I believe, to give leadership so that inflation is recognised for what it is. I believe that this is the great problem and the great challenge that we face. I say with the greatest good will that the Government is failing. Maybe we have all failed but the Government is failing. We hear of squabbles. We hear the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) saying there is a danger of unemployment, and the Prime Minister saying there is no danger. I am not saying this as carping criticism. All I am saying is that it requires courageous and honest leadership and a declaration of where we are going. If this is not shown at any level of government, the people will suffer loss of confidence, and leadership will not be seen and example will not be set. What is required is united leadership. We want no divisions or selfishness. We want nobody to act for his own selfish interest, and we do not want various pressure groups in the community concerned only with their own welfare and interest. This is the responsibility of government. I regret to say that there is no sign yet that the Government is prepared to give that leadership and to set the example.
I refer to the speech that was delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General on behalf of the Government. Inflation was recognised as a great issue but occupied only a few lines. Yet the Prime Minister said today, belatedly, that it is the greatest issue. The opening of this Parliament presented a wonderful opportunity to set an example by providing in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the type of leadership the community requires. I regret that this was not done. The way economists speak about inflation is terribly confusing; not many of us can understand it. But put in simple terms as an economist put it the other day- some are sensible and logical- it is this: ‘Rising prices are caused by attempts by the people as a whole to have a higher standard of living than the economy can afford ‘. This is why 1 referred to selfishness in the community. Naturally everybody wants more; everybody wants improved standards and wants them quickly. This is understandable. But the people must be told in firm language that they can understand that all things cannot be done at once, that if an attempt is made to do them all at once there is a price to pay, and that price is inflation. The people who suffer most from inflation are those who can least afford it. We do not want people to be seeking aggrandisement. We want people who are honestly prepared to tell the public the problems and how they can be overcome. I can appreciate the demand for higher wages, but here is a failing in union leadership. The simple basic truth is that if wages rise by 20 per cent and productivity by 5 per cent somebody has to pay for it. There is a gap of 1 5 per cent. That gap will be paid for by the trade unionists and other sections of the community. In fact, more is paid because if wages rise by 15 per cent and productivity does not increase by 15 per cent, other factors such as higher taxation come into it. In fact, people have less. Because they have less, naturally there is a demand for an increased wage.
I say honestly that, amongst many sections of the community, unions are failing their members and leaders of industry are also failing because nobody is prepared to tell the hard, cold truth. If we are to overcome inflation sacrifices have to be made and people must understand why sacrifices have to be made. This is not happening. The Government, leaders of industry and trade unions are not only failing their own members but also failing Australia. The public must be told. Members of the public must stop demanding more and stop demanding that the Government spend more. Unless productivity is raised the Government cannot meet the demands of the community without lowering the standards of the community. Today more commissions are being set up willy-nilly by the Government which is wanting to placate every section of the community by offering more and more. Increases are pretty easy to get. Some people think that the Government has to pay for them. People have to be told in plain language that the Government has no money of its own. The people must be told that they have to pay. They are paying today by having to accept lower standards of living. One hopes this will not lead to growing unemployment.
Not enough money is available today for everything we all want to be done. We all want to see improved standards of living and we all want to see better education, roads, hospitals and so on. We all share in that view. If these conditions are to be achieved without the money being readily available we pay the price and we have to ask ourselves whether that price is worth paying. One of the great troubles- I referred to it a few minutes ago- is the fact that the community effort is required. The co-operation of
State governments is required. At the recent Premiers’ Conference the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did not seek co-operation. He sought confrontation and he got nowhere. Even Mr Dunstan was bitter in his criticism of the Prime Minister. The Premiers of all political parties met this week- I give them full credit for doing so- and presented the Government a plan of their willing co-operation. I only hope that the Prime Minister is big enough to stop the arrogance of believing that a centralised government can control everything. The demand that he should control everything is wrong. He should accept the offer of the Premiers to co-operate to overcome this problem. When the Premiers and the Prime Minister meet in a fortnight’s time they should be prepared to tell the people of Australia frankly what the problem is. It requires the co-operation of government at all levels and the full support of the community before this problem can be overcome.
There is a lot more I wish to say on this subject but I know that the Senate wishes to proceed to a vote. I believe that it is the responsibility of the Government, the Opposition, and all State governments and local authorities to work together. The major responsibility rests upon the Prime Minister and this Government to stop squabbling amongst themselves and to present a united front and together with the States to outline to the people of Australia in a language which they can understand what the challenge is. I believe that when the facts are presented to the people of Australia they will accept them and we will go a long way to overcoming this problem. My final plea is for productivity. When we accept that one of the answers- not the only answer- is to increase productivity we will produce more. Everybody should produce more.
– I am too old, now.
– I ask Senator Poyser not to come up with his nonsense. The United Kingdom is one of the greatest examples in the world of a crisis situation. It is a welfare state. No one will work. This country has set an example over several hundred years. We know the problems it faces. We are going to face these problems unless we wake up to the fact that one of the keys to the solution is productivity. I finish with this plea: For goodness sake stop all this nonsense about not having to work and the less work we do the better off we will be. The only answer is more work and better work. We will then start to control this problem.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Withers’ amendment) be so added.
The Senate divided. (The President-Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
– The Opposition will endorse and sup- port this motion. I think it is only proper to acnowledge that, for the first time, I think, in the lifetime of the Twenty-eighth Parliament and in these early days of the Twenty-ninth Parliament, it has been a Minister who has moved this motion. I presume that he will indicate that Government senators will accompany Opposition senators to see His Excellency the Governor-General. We are delighted that on this occasion you, Mr President, will be accompanied by senators of your own Party when you go to Government House to present the Reply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I will ascertain when His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply. When the time is fixed I will advise the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I will not detain the Senate for very long. I wish that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) were present in the chamber tonight. I notified him that I intended to raise a matter concerning question time. When we were in Governfment no limitation was placed on the length of question time and the present Government senators were allowed to ask as many questions as they desired. Since honourable senators opposite have been in Government there has grown up the practice of limiting question time to about an hour. I have no objection to that, provided that every honourable senator who wants to ask one question is allowed to do so. On occasions some honourable senators have asked more than one question. Today question time was cut off after 50 minutes. Questions started at 2.40 p.m., which was 10 minutes after the Senate met at 2.30 p.m., and at 3.30 p.m. the Leader of the Government in the Senate asked that further questions be placed on the notice paper. Two or three honourable senators had not asked even one question. Are we to reach a situation in which the Government will gradually whittle down the length of question time? It was not even an hour today. I think that question time should run for at least an hour in order to give every honourable senator a chance to ask a question. What will happen if, after question time has run for 30 minutes, the Leader of the Government in the Senate asks that further questions be placed on the notice paper? What is there to hide? We were promised open government. We were promised the right to ask questions. What will happen if an honourable senator who wants to ask a question is not seen or called by the President to ask a question for two or three sitting days? If the length of question time is to be cut back, is there to be any order in which honourable senators are called to ask questions? What will happen if honourable senators who are not given the opportunity to ask a question one day do not receive priority the following day? What is to be the arrangement? I believe that this matter has to be considered.
– What do you want to ask a question about? Crossing to the Hotel Canberra or something?
– The subject of the question has nothing to do with it. Today I and several other senators wanted to ask questions, but question time was cut off after 50 minutes. That is my complaint. As I have said, I told the Leader of the Government in the Senate that I would be raising this matter tonight. I only wish that he were here to reply to what 1 have said. I believe that we should have another look at this matter in order to give honourable senators the opportunity to ask at least one question during question time. That is all I ask. I raise the matter in the hope that the Senate will take notice of it.
– I should like to say a few words concerning the matter raised by Senator Lawrie. I think that if he would fairly examine the complaint that he has raised on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate this evening he would find that since the Parliament has reassembled Opposition senators have had more than an ample share of question time. In point of fact, if he examines the list of honourable senators who asked questions today he will see that on 2 occasions you, Mr President, called 2 Opposition senators consecutively and denied Government senators an opportunity to ask questions. You might recall that this happened also on the last occasion on which question time was being discussed in this place. The Government is entitled to have regard to its legislative program which has been seriously disrupted by the tactics of the Opposition over the last 18 months. The Government has the responsibility of expediting its business and of carrying out the mandate given to it on the second occasion, even if this involves a reduction in the length of question time. Opposition senators have a responsibility not to waste so much time in debate. If they accepted that responsibility we might be able to enjoy the maximum time for questions. I wanted to ask 2 questions today and I suffered the disadvantage of question time being cut short. But after all, we have expedited our business and have completed the Address-in-Reply debate. This will enable us to deal with the legislative program, the Bills which are to be placed before the Senate and which have been before the House of Representatives. They have been before the other place and this place on several occasions. The purpose of this 3-week session, Mr President, is to expedite the business of the Government. I do not believe that we should allow question time to continue at the expense of the Government’s endeavours to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth. On this occasion we are entitled to draw to the attention of Senator Lawrie that Opposition senators have had more than an equal share of question time in the life of the Whitlam Government.
– I would like to put forward some facts about this matter. It would help if we looked at the statistics. I think every honourable senator is aware of the statistics published in relation to the Senate. In the period from August to December 1971 the average length of question time was 82 minutes. The average length of question time in the period from February 1972 to June 1972 was 80 minutes. In the period from August 1972 to October 1 972 the average length of question time was 78 minutes. If we average those times we find that the average length of question time was 80 minutes. In recent times, as Senator Lawrie has said, that period has been reduced by one-quarter compared with the average length of question time during the 18-month period leading up to the change of government. For some time I have been concerned about the matter which Senator Lawrie has raised, and that is why when he raised it I was able to refer to these documents which have been under my seat for some months waiting for the subject to be raised.
I join with Senator Lawrie in asking that the Senate reconsider the limitation of question time every day. I can understand that there may be days when the Government has business which it urgently wishes to get through, but I cannot believe that that applies every day as a reason to reduce question time. I would be the first to agree, Senator Douglas McClelland, if I may address you as the leader of the Government in the Senate at the moment, that there may be special occasions when it is perfectly justifiable to move for an early curtailment of question time, but not every day as a matter of practice. Honourable senators who wish to ask questions are precluded from the opportunity of doing so when they have a constitutional and democratic right to do just that.
– Not under this Government. What about open government?
– If we have a government which believes in open government, one of the most important aspects of open government is the opportunity for any honourable senator, from either side of the House, to ask questions. Some of us may think that some questions are not good while others may think that they are important. What it amounts to is that this is part of the democratic process. I believe this is an important aspect which should be reviewed. The practice appears to have grown up, particularly in recent times, of the Minister every day asking for question time to be curtailed after, at the most, an hour. Senator Lawrie said that this happened after 50 minutes today, and that represents a reduction of almost half an hour on the average length of question time in the 18 months preceding the change of government. I support what Senator Lawrie has said and I ask for the matter to be reconsidered.
-With great respect to Senator Rae, naturally and understandably he selected a period when question time did run for about 80 minutes.
– It was 1 8 months.
-And I think you said that the average for that period was 80 minutes right?
– Obviously you deliberately or unwittingly overlooked the fact that during the course of the life of this Parliament or the last Parliament, the Twenty-eighth Parliament, which you and your colleagues deliberately set out to destroy- your own leader announced this on 10 April 1974, and that is on record at page 910 of Hansard- there were occasions when question time went for 2 hours. You check the record. You know, you are not really genuine. Somebody mentioned constitutional democracy. I name Senator Greenwood in this instance. If ever I have heard such fraudulent political rubbish it has come from you, Senator Greenwood.
– Except when you speak of Marshall Green.
– I have not finished with Marshall Green, or you either.
– I almost feel like Marshall Green.
– You are a colleague of his, as a matter of fact. You were meeting on the night on which I spoke in the city square in Melbourne, on 4 July 1974. Now that you have raised the question I will answer it. You were meeting with him not far from where I was addressing the public and raising the question of the democratic processes of this nation. You were meeting with Marshall Green and other people such as Mr Don Chipp. Don Chipp, Senator Greenwood and Mr McManus were celebrating 4 July, the anniversary of that great day when America, after defeating the British as a colonial power, obtained its independence. So do not start talking to me about constitutional democracy, Senator Greenwood, because quite seriously you are politically fraudulent. You are acting in the same position as one Denis Warner who obviously is a great friend of Marshall Green, a great defender of this hatchet man. I use that term again. I say again that you are now taking over the role which that gentleman of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ cannot sustain in this place. You were foolish enough to do so, with great respect to your training and discipline as a lawyer and a Q.C. That honour must come cheap for the simple reason that you were stupid enough to move in on the first occasion to give notice in this place of a motion which would dispossess your colleagues of the right to tear us to pieces at question time provided, of course you thought you could do so. That is how clever your are, Senator Greenwood. I hope Senator Greenwood has the decency to give me at least 2 minutes notice of when he is going to pull this on because I welcome it. I have made my remarks publicly and I make them again in this House.
Getting back to what we were talking about before Senator Greenwood was foolish enough to talk about constitutional democracy -
– You started it.
-No, I did not. You did. Even your colleague the other night, when commending those new senators for being succinct, precise and concise in their addresses turned to you of all people when he talked about what happens to some people in the Senate chamber. It has been said that you could talk under water with a mouthful of sand. I think everybody in the Senate agrees with that remark, even some on your own side, because you were left like a shag on a rock one night, just prior to 8 May 1970 when there was that great demonstration for your Government’s participation in the involvement of our youngsters in Vietnam. You yourself never had the guts to do the things that they were prepared to do and which you forced them to do by conscription. Yet you have the temerity to stand up and talk about constitutional democracy. You are a fraud- I use that term deliberatelypolitically in every sense of the word.
– I rise on a point of order.
– You had to take a point of order, and I am pleased that you have.
– I do not like raising these questions because I have always thought that the language used in the Senate is the responsibility of the Senate, but standing order 4 1 8 is quite mandatory in its prohibition. Mr President, I invite you to say whether it is proper to reflect in that way, offensively, on a fellow senator. Standing order 418 has its prohibition. It states that a senator shall not use such language. Mr President, you have been in the chair only this week. I draw your attention to that standing order and to Senator Brown’s statement. I do not think it is consistent with the Standing Orders of the Senate to use that language.
-Can I speak to the point of order? I referred to political fraudulence. It means one thing and you, as a constitutional lawyer, a Q.C., who was previously the first law officer of this country, ought to understand what that means. Obviously you do not. I have no intention of withdrawing that terminology which I expressed in describing you as being politically fraudulent, because that is precisely what you are.
- Senator Greenwood has drawn the attention of the Chair to standing order 418. I think that for the good conduct of the Senate the honourable senator should be aware of the restrictions that are imposed on senators in relation to the use of certain language. I think that it would be more in keeping with the traditions of the Senate if Senator Brown were to withdraw the words to which Senator Greenwood has taken exception.
– In deference to you, Sir, I withdraw the words and I say no more than withdraw the words’. Senator Lawrie raised this question of being disadvantaged in Opposition at question time. I was dispossessed of that same so-called right today because I had a question to ask of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) who was being attacked by way of questions in respect of a matter. It is a ploy which is used by the Opposition to embarrass the Government. That question will be asked next week. It will not be the Government which will be embarrassed, but those who will be embarrassed will be members of the Opposition who attempted today to embarrass the Government in respect of our rural industry policy. I am satisfied and I am sure that Senator Rae would concede, that if one checked the record- I invite you, Mr President, to check it -
– Have you checked it?
-Yes, my word I have.
– What does it say?
– You will not crossexamine me. I will say what I have to say. You will not put words into my mouth. You will have an opportunity to speak if you wish to do so. If you check the record you will find what happened in the short period that we were in office before you set out to destroy us. I remind you again of page 910 of the Senate Hansard of 10 April. You can smile, Senator Withers. You have something coming to you which you have never imagined. You can throw your hands up in the air.
-Remember the $1,000 bet which you had and which you lost.
– I am prepared to stand up to that, too. I say this to you: You are small fry.
– You are big fry.
– You have a lot of wind, but it is like the big drum.
– It is like your challenge to Marshall Green.
-That is right, and I have not finished with him or with you either, or Senator Greenwood or Senator Withers.
– Are you going to do the lot of us?
– No. I have selected only certain people. I shall return to the point.
– That’s good.
– You should not interrupt. As Deputy President you leave a lot to be desired.
– Order! Senator Brown, please address the chair.
-Yes, provided the individuals over there who, quite frankly, are rather inane anyway -
– Do you take it all back now?
-I will not back off anything, Senator Webster. Make no error about that. I have set a course, and I will not change it. Nobody will muzzle me. I refer to the question which has been raised by Senator Lawrie. You should check the record for the short period you allowed us to remain in government. I say ‘allowed us’, and that is all you did because you set out 12 months ago to destroy us. Again check the Hansard of 10 April. You determined in the autumn session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament to destroy the Labor Government that was elected on 2 December 1972. You have already announced that you will do it again.
– But they will not do it.
– But they have announced their intention. On balance, if you look at the record, you will find that question time during the period that we were in government far exceeded the time, I am sure, when we were in Opposition. I can recall my Leader saying to the previous President, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, for whom I have a great respect- I say that quite seriously and sincerely-that it was getting to the point at which it was embarrassing even for him as President. It reached the point of at least 2 hours as a minimum on occasions. Senator Rae and his colleagues should check the record.
– I will be happy to do so.
-You check the record.
– Can we continue this debate after I have checked it?
– Yes, for sure. I have no worries about this matter. All I am saying is this: If you look at the record today- you obviously have not- you will find that on the 2 days that we have had question time since the new President has been elected the Opposition has asked more questions than Government members have asked. I think that you ought to check the record thoroughly, Senator Rae and your colleague Senator Maunsell, before you make the accusations which you do.
– I just quote the facts.
– Facts are facts, but people can fiddle with facts, and you are capable of doing that.
– I rise on a point of order. I do not think that the last observation ought to go unnoticed. Senator Brown said that my colleague Senator Rae is capable of fiddling with facts. I do not think that it is a proper parliamentary expression. It is an accusation of dishonesty. I do not mind an accusation about a man’s political beliefs or what he stands for. In the Senate we fight, one would hope, on policies and not on personalities. That is what I had always understood the political game in this place to be about. I would hope that we would keep to that level and that we would fight on policies. We fight hard in the Senate for the beliefs which we hold, but outside the chamber there is often a friendship which extends both ways between members on both sides of the chamber. We ought not to get involved in personalities. I think that to accuse my colleague Senator Rae of having the capacity to fiddle with facts is going a little bit beyond it. I think that Senator Brown, on reflection, would most likely volunteer to withdraw.
-This debate is one which should be of serious interest to this chamber. I think that those who believe that parliament is the focal point of democracy believe that senators should have a reasonable opportunity to speak and to ask questions. When my colleague from Queensland, Senator Lawrie, raised this matter I am quite sure that he did so with the object of having an opportunity to ask questions. Sometimes it is more difficult for a back bencher to ask a question than it is for other people who seem to enjoy a privileged position in this Parliament, some of whom I do not think should be privileged. As a consequence, it is sometimes difficult for people on the so-called back benches to ask questions as often as they like. Therefore, I think that every opportunity should be given to honourable senators to ask genuine questions which seek to elicit information. I know that a variety of questions are asked and that some politically loaded questions are asked. But there are other questions that are asked because of a desire to obtain information. I think that a properly conducted question time is one of the most interesting periods of a parliamentary sitting. For that reason I think it is wrong to limit the amount of questioning to what might be termed a very short period of time. In those circumstances I feel that it would be of advantage to this chamber and to everybody concerned if a reasonable amount of time were allotted to honourable senators in which to ask questions. Taking the heat out of the issue and getting away from other matters, I believe that if we were to concentrate on that aspect we would, in order to give honourable senators every opportunity to represent their States, devote the fullest possible amount of time to this very interesting section of our Parliamentary life.
– in reply- I have listened with interest to the debate that has ensued this evening and I was very interested in the remarks that were made by those members of the Opposition who have spoken. In fairness to the Government I think it must be said that members of the Ministry have attempted to answer all the questions that have been posed to them without notice and on notice during question time. Senator Lawrie has complained, apparently, because he has not had the benefit of the call. Might I say that any question without notice that Senator Lawrie or any member of the Opposition has asked of my colleagues in the Ministry in this chamber has been answered or there has been an attempt to answer it, and if it could not be answered it has been placed on notice for answer with expedition. With great respect to Senator Lawrie, who represents the State of Queensland and who comes from Longreach, Mackay, Townsville or wherever it might be -
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSomeone said Rockhampton. With great respect to Senator Lawrie one cannot be expected to answer questions that relate to the crossing of Commonwealth Avenue at traffic lights between the Canberra Hotel and Parliament House, which I remember the honourable senator asking about and in respect of which he expected an answer immediately. Senator Rae has said that between August and December 1971, which is when the present Government was in Opposition, an average period of 82 minutes a day was allowed for questioning; that between February 1972 and June 1972, which is when the present Government was in Opposition, an average of 80 minutes a day was allowed for questioning; and that between August 1 972 and October 1 972 an average period of 78 minutes a day was allowed for questioning.
– Was that the average during that time?
– I do not know what the average was.
– Is the Minister saying that during that time there was a day when 72 minutes were allowed for question time?
– I am quoting to Senator Webster and to my colleagues in the Senate the information that was accorded to us by Senator Rae. There was a difference of a mere 4 minutes between the average period allotted to question time between August to December 1971 and August to October 1972. But Senator Rae did not quote what happened between February 1973 and June 1973, which is when the Government first came into office. He cannot have it both ways. He quoted a difference of a mere 4 minutes and then raised Cain and Abel between the 2 differentials, but he did not state what the score was between February 1 973 and June 1973. With great respect to my friends opposite, no one in this chamber can honestly say that members of the present Ministry have not set out to answer, either without notice or on notice, the questions that have been asked fairly, or, at times from our point of view, unfairly by members of the Opposition. The Government believes in open government. It is a government which lays all the cards on the table. Irrespective of the smiles and smirks of members of the Opposition, that is the situation. I believe that the remarks attributed by the Opposition to the Government are unwarranted and unjustified.
- Mr President, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– I raise to point of order, Mr President. I understood that Senator Douglas McClelland had closed the debate.
– That is true, but I think that Senator Rae is entitled to exercise his right to ask for leave to make a statement.
-That is what I wish to do Mr President.
– I call Senator Rae.
– I claim to have been misrepresented and ask for leave to make a very brief statement.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
Senator RAE (Tasmania)- I thank the Senate. So that the record is clear and particularly in view of the statement made by Senator Brown, I wish to quote from the records produced by the Senate in relation to the periods which have been referred to tonight. I am happy to show any member of the Senate who would like to see them the documents from which I am about to quote. According to a Senate statistical summary the average length of question time during the period between 17 August 1971 and 10 December 1 972 was 82 minutes.
– I again rise to a point of order. Those figures have never been in dispute, Mr President. I do not think that Senator Rae has any right to make a second speech. He was going to make a personal explanation. There is no personal explanation involved in the matters he has raised.
- Senator Rae, you have the leave of the Senate to make a personal explanation. I hope that you will confine your remarks to that.
Senatoe RAE- I had intended to do so, Mr President. It has been suggested that in some way I manipulated the facts. I am simply referring to the facts as contained in certain documents.
– I stated the facts as Senator Rae stated them.
-It was Senator Brown who made a reference to something to which I wish to respond. If I may continue, I will be very brief. The average length of question time between 22 February 1972 and 1 June 1972 was 80 minutes. The average length of question time between 1 5 August 1972 and 31 August 1972 was 78 minutes. Going on to figures for the latter period, which I did not have when I spoke earlier -
– What about the period between February and June 1973?
– I was just coming to it.
– Come to it now.
– If the Minister for the Media will let me continue, I will. It is the next period.
– If the honourable senator wants my colleagues to continue they will.
- Senator Rae assured the Senate that he will be as brief as possible.
– I propose to do no more than read the figures for the period, Mr President. The next period is from 27 February 1973 -
– I raise another point of order. 1 have to raise another point of order in relation to the matter that Senator Rae is now raising, Mr President. There is no personal explanation involved in the matter he is now raising. I insist in this.
– The next period was the period between 27 February 1973 and 8 June 1973. The average length of question time during that period was 96 minutes. The next period was between 21 August 1973 and 13 December 1973. The average length of question time during that period was 62 minutes. The next period was between 28 February 1974 and 10 April 1974 when the average length of question time was 67 minutes.
– I rise to another point of order, Mr President.
– Those are the facts, Mr President. I shall say no more.
– As Senator Rae has resumed his seat I will not pursue the point of order I wished to raise, Mr President, but that was a flagrant abuse of an opportunity that was given to make a personal explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740711_senate_29_s60/>.