29th Parliament · 1st Session
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Order! The Joint Sitting will now proceed to the consideration of the fourth proposed law named in the Proclamation, namely, the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, and pursuant to rule 11, I propose the question:
That the proposed law be affirmed.
– May I have the indulgence of the Joint Sitting to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate commences I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the Joint Sitting to have a general debate covering this proposed law and the proposed law entitled Health Insurance Act 1973, as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, Mr Chairman, that you permit the subject matter of the two proposed laws to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the Joint Sitting to have a general debate covering the two proposed laws? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
- Mr Chairman, it is my honour to commend to the Joint Sitting of this Parliament for confirmation the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Bill 1 973. The presentation of these Bills to the Joint Sitting of the Parliament on this occasion becomes necessary following a recent double dissolution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) at this Sitting yesterday suggested that the Joint Sitting had become an anti-climax. That may well be, but that is not the Government’s fault. We did not choose a Joint Sitting and, quite frankly, thought it was unnecessary. The fact that a Joint Sitting would establish what was well known through simple arithmetic- that there would be a majority with the Government members of the House of Representatives and the Senate- should have indicated to any flexible and understanding intelligence that all that would be involved in forcing a Joint Sitting of the
Parliament would be added cost to the community and a further delay in the process of legislation of the Parliament. I think it raises serious questions about the capacity of people in the Opposition as an alternative government and especially about the flexibility, the comprehension and the intelligence of some of the decision makers of the Opposition that they should have forced this situation today.
No Bills ought to be better known or better understood than the Health Insurance Commission Bill and the Health Insurance Bill. They have been debated more extensively both inside this Parliament and outside than any other issue on the record of this Parliament. But, unfortunately, the vested interests here and outside have been assiduous in propagating misrepresentation and creating confusion, because the vested interests stand to lose while the public interest stands to gain by the changes we are proposing. Indeed, emotionalism reached great heights on the part of the Opposition when the spokesman for the Opposition on matters such as this, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) said he was prepared even to fall at the barricades fighting against the proposal for a universal health insurance program. With the kindliest intent in the world I say to him that as one of the first casualties to fall at the barricades today he can be one of the first people to call on the benefits of the new universal health insurance program.
The program we will bringing in is a comprehensive program. It is based on equity; it is based on a sense of justice; it will ensure that every person in this community is covered for health insurance purposes; and, most certainly, it is based on a freedom of choice- a freedom to choose the private medical practitioner that one cares to use and a freedom to choose the type of hospital treatment that one cares to draw upon. Let me outline quickly the key points of the health insurance program. I point out that the Health Insurance Commission Bill is ancillary to the Health Insurance Bill in that the Health Insurance Commission Bill proposes an administrative structure that will ensure that the health insurance program operates properly.
These are the benefits that the community stands to gain: For individual citizens our health, insurance program will mean an automatic health insurance cover that is based on a more equitable system of payment and a freedom of choice of the doctor and the type of hospital care. That cannot be stressed enough. There has been altogether too much dishonesty within this chamber from members of the Opposition who neither understand nor want to understand, and from the vested interests whether they are in certain representative bodies of the medical profession or whether they are in private health insurance funds, which generously subsidise their political activities, and which do not want this change to take place, in spite of the benefits that it will contribute to the people. Those are the people, those are the spokesmen who have asserted contrary to the basic principles of our scheme.
Our scheme guarantees that any member of the public will be able to choose his or her medical practitioner- the one he wants to provide him with medical services. He can sack that medical practitioner if he wants to do so. This scheme is not concerned about the organisation and distribution of medical services. That is a much more comprehensive and challenging task. That is a task that has been taken up by the Government within the Ministry of Health and mainly through the activities of the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. We are making rapid progress in that area.
No previous Australian Government has committed itself financially to supporting the development of health services in the community on a national scale. Today community health centres are being developed so that people will have a range of health services- not just medical practitioners, as important as they are, and there is no disputing that fact, but also the people who should be backing them up and who have never had adequate encouragement to provide those services or an opportunity to fulfil that task, namely, the paramedics and the associated medical professionals, such as health social workers, home visit nurses, physiotherapists and technologists of various types. They are the people who are now staffing those community health centres. Similarly, psychiatric community health centres are being set up. A school dental service is now being developed. People are being trained to be therapists so that the children of the nation- our children, the most valuable investment we will make in the future of this countrywill, among other things, have adequate health services available to them in the school grounds through the services being developed.
For the first time ever the critical situation in Australia’s public hospitals is being attacked. The Australian Government, through Dr Everingham and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, is providing money- not proposing to do so but doing so; it commenced to do so in the last Budget- to the State authorities that maintain our public hospitals so that they can upgrade them. No one could be happy with the situation that exists today whereby accident victims have to be canvassed about the casualty wards of the public hospitals in the large cities of the community. Nothing was done before we took office; something is now being done. There can be no satisfaction about the existence of a situation in the fringe suburbs of our largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne whereby elective surgery cases have to wait several months, one year and sometimes longer before they can obtain the surgery procedural services that they require. Those things are being attacked.
I want to move back from the subject to which I have diverted because it relates to health services and I do not want any member of the Opposition to stand up and say that I have spoken only about an economic exercise. Of course that is what this is. That is what the present system of health insurance is. But this is a superior system of health insurance as an economic exercise, as a financial exercise, because every dollar that is spent maximises the return in health services that are purchased.
The essential thing about a health insurance program is that it should cover everyone in the community, there should be equity in the distribution of the cost of the scheme and people should be able to obtain the health services they need without concern as to whether the cost is going to be prohibitive in some way or other. Those things do not happen now. That is how this scheme, as an economic exercise, is superior. To the extent that it guarantees medical services and hospital services and extends choice in ways not previously available, it clearly improves the quality of medical and hospital services. And it does this by providing cover for people not presently covered. It is an unchallengeable fact that many people are not receiving proper health care. This has been established by surveys in Sydney and Melbourne and will be confirmed again, with even added emphasis, when the findings of the commissioners inquiring into poverty are published a little later this year and next year. The people on low incomes, especially migrants, are not receiving the level of medical and hospital care that they really need in the best interests of their health. This scheme will cover all pensioners in the community and not just for medical consultations at general practitioners surgeries, as now, but will cover them for procedural items as well. It will cover them for specialist services and they will be able to go to a private specialist of their choice. Pensioners will be treated in exactly the same way as other members of the community are. These are principles that do not exist at the present time.
At present, with the exception of the States of Queensland and Tasmania, there is a fairly rigid means test on those who can enter the public wards of public hospitals. It was Nimmo, by the way, in his report which was produced at the request of the Liberal-Country Party government, who recommended that this means test must go. We are going to expand choice by proposing that that means test does go. To that extent, as we do these things we improve the quality of health care. Under our scheme patients will be able to receive free standard ward- or public ward as it is called in some States- treatment without a means test. But those who want to go into the private wards of public hospitals, into the intermediate wards or into private hospitals will be perfectly entitled to do so. They will attract a $ 16 a day subsidy towards the cost of the bed they occupy. They can insure themselves for the cost of hospital treatment above that level, bearing in mind that their medical costs will be met automatically by the medical side of this insurance program. The additional cost of that extra insurance is an allowable deduction for taxation purposes and that cost, with the basic levy of 1.35 per cent of taxable income, for most people in the community and for most families will still be less than the cost of hospital and medical insurance under the present scheme.
For the privately practising doctors this scheme will mean the existing system of medical care and the doctor-patient relationship will be maintained. These are iron clad guarantees which are written into our scheme. For State governments, our scheme will mean that at last there will be a cost sharing arrangement. The States have needed such a formula for a long time and it now becomes critically needed because the costs of maintaining public hospitals are exploding at an exponential rate and quite clearly proceeding at a rate which will soon be beyond the capacity of State government authorities to finance. Under this scheme we will meet 50 per cent of the net costs of operating public hospitals in the community. An adjunct to the program will allow for the provision of nursing home benefits as a direct and universal benefit financed by the Australian Government from Consolidated Revenue and not just for people entitled to the pensioner medical service benefits.
In Queensland the public hospitals will attract more than an additional $30m. I come from Queensland and I can assert with confidence, but certainly with no satisfaction, that the state of public hospital services in Queensland and the standard of facilities available is deteriorating rapidly. The quality of the staff is unsurpassed but the facilities with which they have to work are inferior. This comes about because the State Government just cannot divert sufficient resources to maintain standards, let alone improve them. These standards are declining. This injection of additional finance will give the sort of stimulus required to allow the Queensland Government to regain standards. The fact that the Queensland Government spends on bed and day maintenance costs only 60 per cent of what is spent in Australia on average on such costs is an indication of how much lower standards in Queensland must be compared with other States. We want to get away from this situation. Our basic position- and it is the primary intention of this program- is that health care services should be provided in the same way as is assistance for education; it should be provided as a social utility available as a right to every Australian rather than as a commodity to be traded or as a privilege to be purchased.
I think it is fair enough to ask the question: Why change, why move away from a scheme which members of the Opposition once used to say- they do not say it now- was the best scheme in the world? They even went to the extent just before the last election of drumming up rather hastily a rather vague proposition for restructuring the present system of hospital insurance. Their proposal turned out to be a rather tattered ambulance service costing about $200m which would do very little to remedy the defects of the present system of health insurance. The worst aspect of their proposals was that they had been poorly thought out. But the proposals were a confession that there is something wrongsomething dreadfully wrong- with the present system of private health insurance.
There are clear and compelling arguments why there should be a change. The very fact that at any given time the present system of health insurance fails to cover more than one million people is one reason. This fact is not open to challenge. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, which was known as the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and more recently Professor Henderson in one of his surveys for his poverty inquiry, have established that at any given time at least 13 per cent of the population is without any health insurance cover at all, and most of the people in this grouping are people who cannot afford to take the risk of not having adequate cover for their health needs. These are the people who are repeatedly shown up in social surveys as the people who have health needs which are not being met. It is a poor state of affairs that such a high number of people should have neglected health needs in a wealthy society such as ours.
The efforts to prop up the present scheme have been disastrous. The subsidised health insurance program at best could cover only four out of every 100 low income families which it was supposed to cover. The inequity of the present scheme is intolerable. Take the position of a man with a wife and 2 children in New South Wales who wishes to cover himself and his family for intermediate hospital and medical cover. A man in this position who earns $80 a week after tax pays over $2 a week for his health insurance cover. But a man earning $300 a week pays only a little over $1 a week for his health insurance cover. The wealthy man gets at least a $45 subsidy each year. Let us not have any argument that because a wealthy man, or a comparatively better off man, pays more tax, he is entitled to more. We do not argue that because a man earns more income and therefore pays more in tax he should pay less for the use of a social utility such as public transport or that he should pay less for a loaf of bread or for anything that he uses in the community. Yet this seems to be the argument which has been put forward by spokesmen for vested interests in the community trying to give some sort of cloak of respectability to this absolutely dreadful inequity and discrimination against lower income earners. Liberals privately, in the secrecy of their committee meetings, have confessed this inequity because at page 9 of the original document which one of the Opposition members was kind enough to send to my office anonymously before the last election- the document on the Opposition’s health proposals- the following remarks were made:
It has been argued with some force that the progressive rates of taxation produce inequities with deductible items. For example, the case has been given that it costs the Prime Minister less to insure himself for health and medical care than it does for his chauffeur to do the same thing.
As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out, there is always a great distinction between us and them; we have drivers, they have chauffeurs. The Opposition went on to argue in this document that something would have to be done about this situation, but it seems to be a principle that they have forgotten.
Let me move on to another problem of the present system of health insurance, namely, the cost explosion. There has been a 152 per cent increase in the commitment by which the Australian Government has to finance private health insurance schemes and associated schemes like the pensioners medical service and repatriation medical services. The Australian Government spent $325m in that area in the financial year just completed. The rate of explosion in health service costs in this area covered by and related to health insurance is far faster in Australia than in most other advanced countries in the world. It is far faster than in Canada. We hear a lot about Canada from Opposition spokesmen, from the Australian Medical Association and from the health insurance funds. We are told that the scheme there is a failure. Then the argument goes that the scheme in Australia is similar to the one in Canada and, to complete the simple little syllogism, that therefore the scheme here will be a failure.
Let us compare the Canadian system and the system in Australia. In the last 5 years the average annual rate of increase in costs in health services has exceeded 18 per cent per annum in Australia. The AMA criticised the Government’s proposal and said that in Canada the average increase in costs was 1 3 per cent per year. Would that we could be as successful as the Canadians. One must bear this fact in mind about the Canadian system. The Canadian system covers everyone in that country. As a proportion of gross domestic product the cost of Canada’s health services is at this point about the same as in the United States of America, but I repeat that in Canada everyone is covered. In the United States a very large proportion of the public is not covered. More importantly, the rate of increase in costs in Canada is much less than the rate of increase in costs in the United States. If one had to make a comparision to decide which scheme the present Australian scheme was more likethat in Canada or that in the United States- one would have to say that it was more like that of the United States of America.
What the Government is trying to do by proposing a system of universal health insurance is to bring Australia up to this stage of the twentieth century and to give it what most other advanced countries of the world have. Even the United States of America is in the middle of a rather turbulent debate on the issue of universal health insurance. Some very respected politicians, such as Senator Edward Kennedy, are putting forward proposals for schemes which are very similar to the one which the Australian Government is proposing. But no one in America would bear with the sort of scheme that exists in Australia at present. It is too costly, it is wasteful and it is inefficient. The interests of contributors are not properly attended to. Worst of all, its inequity and the way that it neglects so many people in the community indicate that it is inappropriate to a wealthy country which makes some claim to a commitment to respect for human dignity and the rights of people.
-Mr Chairman, I have been in some doubts as to the value of televising the proceedings in Parliament. After hearing the speech just ended, I have changed my mind. I am now persuaded that it is a good thing, because the people of Australia have just seen the most pathetic exposition of this so-called Labor scheme and they can now judge it for themselves. This is the fourth time that this socalled Labor health scheme has been debated in this place. It is the fourth time that I have stood here with the unanimous support of everyone sitting on my left to oppose the legislation with all our force. In doing that, the Opposition realises the political implications of its stance. We are not here to make a political point. It is a matter of principle, because we believe that this health scheme proposed by the Labor Party would be a disaster to the health of the Australian people. I reject on behalf of everybody on my side the sordid allegation made by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) that the Opposition bows to vested interests. We do not give a damn about vested interests. It is a sordid allegation. What the Opposition cares about is the health of the Australian people. That is why we oppose this scheme.
This debate is not really about politics, although it is conducted in a political forum. It is a debate about human beings- Australian human beings- and the most important thing in their lives, their health. This debate concerns not only those people who are now living, but also those to be born, because once this Labor health scheme is impacted on the Australian people there is no getting away from it. It will be with us for ever, as the British socialised health scheme is with the British people, as are the schemes that exist in Canada and New Zealand. This proposed scheme affects all Australians- living and to be born. The inevitable result of living is that sometime all of us will lose that rare gift which we take for granted while we have it- our health. We appreciate it only when we lose it.
All of us can talk academically about health schemes, doctors and hospitals until we or one of our family need one. Tomorrow, as innocent pedestrians, we or our children could have our hopes decimated by the fool or the drunkard in a motor car. Any one of us could be struck at any time by a predatory virus, no matter what our social standing, income, age or sex may be. The mysterious killer diseases of heart and cancer could strike any of us without warning. Every baby born in Australian families requires hospitalisation and the best of medical care for mother and child. No one can promise that we shall not grow old. These are the things that this debate is about.
I am not suggesting that the Minister for Social Security or any member of the Australian Labor Party does not have the same basic concern about these values as we do. What we say is that their method of approaching them and solving them is basically wrong and will end in disaster. They are socialists. They are proud to be socialists. They approach all problems in this community with that philosophy. Eighteen months ago honourable members opposite sincerely believed that they could improve our way of life. They sincerely believed that they could improve our economy. In 18 months they have reduced it to near chaos and disaster. The socialist regards the individual as a nuisance. In 18 miserable months the Government has made the rate of inflation jump from 4 per cent to 14 per centunparalleled in our history. In a time of an oil crisis the Government has rendered Australia -
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to refer to the Bill.
-Mr Chairman, you know that I have ultimate respect for your rulings, but if the performance of this Government over the last 18 months is not relevant to what it promised to do in the field of health, I regard that as a rather curious ruling.
– I deem it not to be relevant. The honourable member made a passing reference to it, which was quite in order. I allowed that. But when he started to talk about oil he got on to another matter altogether. This has nothing to do with an oil crisis; this is a health Bill.
-Let me talk about what the Government promised young married people 18 months ago. The Government said that it would solve their problems. A young person getting married today has to pay $36,000 for a home. He has to borrow $18,000 on first mortgage at 12 per cent. The Government has done that in 1 8 months.
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to confine his remarks to the Bill before the chair, which is a health Bill.
– This measure before the Joint Sitting will effect the health of every Australian. The Government’s performance in this regard must be judged on its performance over the past 18 months. I would have thought that it was quite fair and proper for me to refer to the Government’s miserable record over the past 18 months to allow the Australian people to assess what hope this health scheme has. That is what the Government has done in 18 months- all of that and many more things, Mr Chairman, which you will not permit me to mention. It is not easy to do those things in 18 months. One needs a rare touch of genius to do them, but the Government has done them, spending money like a drunken sailor on leave.
Now it proceeds with this health scheme which 56 per cent of the people surveyed in a Gallup poll said that they do not want. Yet with the persistence of the stupid the Government presses on with it, as socialists do. I remember the words of Koestler about socialists. He said that they whip the groaning masses to theoretical happiness which only they can see. The Labor Party genuinely believes that the best health care system is by salaried doctors, with Governmentowned hospitals and Government-owned nursing homes. The Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) is on record as saying that he envisages that in a few years time, under the scheme, 80 per cent of people will be going to salaried doctors and that only 20 per cent will be able to afford to see a private doctor in his surgery. Where is the doctor-patient relationship in that sort of scheme?
In July 1972 the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) said:
Private hospitals and private nursing homes are irrelevant to the Labor Party’s concept of a national health scheme.
The vast majority of people could easily be catered for in the public hospital sector.
The Prime Minister himself, in July 1 972, said:
The major act of nationalisation in the traditional sense to be undertaken by a Labor Government in the next term will be through the establishment of a single health fund administered by a health insurance commission.
The Minister for Social Security, in September 1972, said:
The Labor Party is a socialist party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is the establishment of public enterprise.
If we had any doubt about the Government’s intentions, the statements of those 3 people should be enough to dispel them. These sorts of statements literally mean that there will be a system of salaried doctors and the destruction of the doctor-patient relationship, the destruction of the magnificent private hospitals, the public hospitals, philanthropic nursing homes run by dedicated people, government-owned insurance funds including the little ones, and funds owned by trade unions and friendly societies.
We in the Liberal and Country Parties are against the nationalisation of medicine. We are against the nationalisation of all professions- not only medicine but also law, science and architecture. We believe that it would reduce the quality of living to that of a socialist banana republic. Because of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of human nature, as soon as the rights and incentives of the professional man to practise in a free, competitive society are taken away and he is forced to work in a government machine, creative achievements, ingenious new techniques, break-throughs in knowledge and further explorations of the perplexing problems of mankind cease and we are all reduced to a level of mediocrity.
I make an appeal to Senator Hall, who I understand is to oppose these Bills but who then by some curious system of logic, after these Bills are passed by the sheer weight of numbers, will sacrifice the principle on which he opposes these Bills and vote for the enabling Bills when they are introduced. That is a form of logic which I cannot follow. If he approves something on principle, how does it change if by the sheer weight of numbers certain Bills are passed through this Parliament?
Let me explain what the Bills do. Firstly, the Government says to between 92 per cent and 95 per cent of Australians who are already covered by voluntary health insurance: ‘We are going to upset the present situation. We are not going to give you the right of choice of voluntary insurance. We will force you by a compulsory super-tax of 1.35 per cent on income to insure with the government insurance fund’. It goes further and says to the man whose wife is working: ‘We will not only take 1.35 per cent off your income in tax, but we will also take it off your wife’. So there will be double taxation in a family. In Queensland, the Minister’s own State, the scheme goes further. It hits Queenslanders a third time because, as the Minister knows, in Queensland there is free hospitalisation already. Not only will all husbands and wives in Queensland be taxed on their incomes but they will be taxed for something that they are already getting for nothing. I would be amused to hear how the Minister justifies that to Queenslanders.
The Government scheme goes further. By choice, 80 per cent of those people who now insure privately have opted for insurance for private wards. A young couple prefer to have their baby born in a private hospital. Eighty per cent of them pay for private hospital insurance. The Government says: ‘We will insure you and drag you down to public ward accommodation. We will take away your choice’. The Minister says that people can insure privately. Is there any young couple who could afford additional private insurance after the imposition of the supertax of 1.35 per cent on income? Estimates of private insurance over and above the tax range from $ 100 to $200 a family. Can a young couple afford that as well? That proposition is absurd.
The Opposition believes in the maximum coverage of people. We concede that many people today are not covered for health insurance and should be. From 5 per cent to 8 per cent of people are in this category. If the Minister and the Labor Party acknowledged that in those people they had a problem and decided to try to cover those people- the poor, the migrant, the ignorant; the 8 per cent or 5 per cent- we would be all the way with them. But they do not do that. They go to everybody in Australia and in typical socialist fashion grab them. The Government says: ‘We will grab the lot of you and take away your freedom of choice’. In its obsessive zeal for nationalisation the Government will create one government insurance fund which will process 90,000 claims a day. That is mind bogsling. Everyone’s personal medical history will be in one Government owned data bank. The Labor Party health scheme entitles all Australians to free hospitalisation in a public ward. I ask: What is the effect of this? At present free public ward accommodation is mostly reserved for the poor, the migrant, the pensioner and those suffering from diseases the treatment of which demands special and sophisticated forms of equipment. Such hospitals are exclusively reserved for bad casualty cases. But these public hospitals are now used to full capacity. For example, in Melbourne there is already a waiting list in public hospitals of from 6 to 18 months for non-urgent surgery.
The present system gives preference to the underdog, the poor person and people on low incomes. These are the people whom the Australian Labor Party supposedly champions. But make hospitalisation free overnight as the Government proposes to do on 1 July next year and we remove that preference to the poor, to the underdog and to the underprivileged. They will then have to compete with everybody else. The absurdity is that into the already overcrowded system we will impact millions and millions of people who are available for free accommodation in public ward hospitals. This will throw the public ward hospitals in this country into chaos. Human nature being what it is, why would not people who have a tax imposed on them say to themselves: ‘Well, I am being taxed for this free public ward accommodation. I might as well use it. ‘ That is human nature. As I said a moment ago, many people will not be able to afford private insurance over and above the super tax. In Melbourne alone 1 ,000 additional public ward beds will be required overnight. How do we get 1,000 beds overnight? We cannot build a new hospital overnight. We can extend the waiting time for non-urgent surgery in public hospitals as they have had to do under the United Kingdom scheme upon which this scheme is modelled. One has to wait three to five years in the United Kingdom to have surgery for varicose veins, non-urgent gynaecological disorders, hernias and the like. Does the Labor Party want to impact that kind of scheme on Australia? the third possibility is that we commandeer private hospitals. I think that the great private hospitals run by philanthropic, charitable and religious organisations which have done a fantastic job for health care in this country are in immediate danger under this scheme. Does anybody in Melbourne believe that that great private hospital, the Mercy Hospital, or the equally great St Andrew’s private hospital will remain immune? The Minister will commandeer, induce, seduce in some way beds from these hospitals. There is only one place in which these additional public ward beds will be required and under this Bill the Minister has power- time does not permit me to go into this- to do just that.
This Bill makes the Minister for Social Security a latter day Don Corleone as far as the private hospitals are concerned. He can make them an offer. They cannot possibly refuse. No matter what the Minister says about doctor of own choice, if a great private hospital is half public and half private it is absurd to talk about a patient in the private section having the doctor of his own choice. That is a myth. I remind the people of Australia that this scheme cannot be paid for out of the 1.35 per cent levy. For every dollar the Government collects on that levy there has to be an extra $2 or more out of Consolidated Revenue. Who provides Consolidated Revenue? It is the taxpayers, and on to them this already over-expensive Labor Government is impacting a scheme which, according to an expert actuarial firm, is already under-costed by $300m or $400m per annum. The Minister will not cost his scheme. He is asking this Joint Sitting to pass an uncosted scheme, to give him a blank cheque.
Mr Chairman, we are not obstructionists. We have an alternative scheme. On 3 occasions in the
House of Representatives I have said to the Minister that the Opposition supports increased money for public hospitals, we support assistance for people on low incomes with their insurance premiums and we support a great number of proposals in his health scheme; and I have appealed to him to adopt a bi-partisan approach on these matters. If he does that, the Opposition will give him every co-operation. But he has not done so. I plead with him to drop this crazy costly scheme. It will not improve the nation’s health. It depersonalises medical care. It offers patients public wards when 80 per cent of people have shown clearly that they want private ward accommodation. It adds massively to costs at a time when cost increases are destroying our way of life.
Why does the Government not realise that it cannot keep spending money as though it is going out of fashion? The Treasury coffers are not some bottomless pit into which some mystical goose continues to lay golden eggs. The ordinary, hard working Australian is the person who has to pay for socialist extravagances. The fact of life that this Government does not understand is that there are no mystical geese, although at times members of the Government Party seem desperately to be trying to imitate them, and there are no golden eggs. The Labor Government has ruined everything it has touched in the past 18 months. It can meddle with and ruin everything else it touches, but I plead with it not to meddle with the nation’s health.
-Mr Chairman, section 57 of the Constitution provides that where the requirements for a joint sitting have been satisfied the sitting shall vote but may deliberate; that is, it need not necessarily deliberate on the proposed laws put before it. It occurrs to me that when the founding fathers wrote in that provision they must have had something like these health Bills in mind because, especially having heard the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and, for that matter, knowing in advance how I proposed to respond, I can only be fortified in the view that if there is one subject on which no good purpose can be served by further argument it is this subject of Labor’s alternative health scheme. It has all been said before. Only rarely can a domestic political debate in Australia have been as long and expensive and as bitter and divisive as has been the case with this subject. We have fought 3 elections on it, the first as far back as 1969. We have passed this very Bill through the House of Representatives 3 times within the last 9 months. Thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars have been spent in propaganda pro and con.
At every stage the Government has been open in its intentions and open to advice, suggestions and request. The present Bill, in its substantial difference from earlier concepts, reflects the willingness of the Government to accommodate, so far as that is possible, both the concern and the special interests of all affected groups. I am quite sure that even now the Government will remain receptive to reasonable approaches for further amendment to it; but, for the moment and for technical reasons which are well known to us all, the Bill must go through this Sitting in its present printed form. That being so and the result being inevitable, I wonder whether we might be able at last to look at the scheme in a rather calmer and more rational manner than has been the case in past debates. If we are to be honest we would all acknowledge, I think, the serious difficulty, when we try to discuss a complex issue for the purposes of political persuasion, is that it is easy to fall into the trap of using generalities and over simplification which ends up distorting the picture.
In this context slogans are particularly good for short term political effect, if useless for real understanding, and whatever may be said about the opponents of Labor’s health scheme it could not be said that they have been short of slogans. They have said, as Mr Chipp continued to say today, that we were going to nationalise medicine; we were going to prevent freedom of choice; we were going to destroy the doctorpatient relationship; we were going to wreck the hospital system; we were going to give much less service at far greater cost; we were going to socialise, centralise and bureaucratise; and we were going to reduce proud, vigorous and individualistic Australians to mere ciphers on some remote computer roll.
– That is right.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that is right. That indicates how much he must know about it. As we have seen today, not even all that vilification could stop the impetus of a new scheme, but it has had many unfortunate results all the same. In the first place, it encouraged an inflexible attitude amongst the medical profession which precluded its cooperation in amending and improving the scheme. In the second place, it produced what I would accept as genuine but none the less unnecessary anxiety and fear among doctors. That situation still persists and it has been deliberately transmitted to a very large number of patients. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the blanket condemnation of the scheme produced- as a reasonably natural reaction- a blanket defence of it. In the course of that process some potentially serious difficulties have tended to become obscured.
Accordingly, at the end of this long campaign, many people- doctors and patients alike- are obviously left with doubts, reservations and fears, many unreal and unjustified but others real and reasonable and calling for consideration. What I would categorise as the unreal worries can be passed over fairly quickly. They are issues which, in the main, have attracted most attention in the public controversy so far. For example I refer to the allegation that we are out to destroy the freedom of choice which exists in the present scheme. The honourable member for Hotham repeated that allegation today, as he has every time I have heard him speak on this subject. But it is less than a year ago that the honourable member for Hotham said:
There have been many cliches spoken, in the hope that people are idiots, and based on the false premise that just because someone drops a cliche, everyone is going to believe it and therefore hate the Government, hate the Labor Party, and despise the health scheme. This line of reasoning is stupid.
I wish the honourable member for Hotham would take his own advice. It cannot be repeated too often that the charge about destruction of freedom of choice is simply untrue. Coverage for all private medical service is part of the program and will continue to be available at reasonable cost. This applies to general practitioner services, to specialist services and to services within hospitals and outside them. Anyone who refers to the Bill itself rather than to their own pre-existing prejudices would find it impossible to deny that fact. Let me put it again as clearly and unequivocally as I can. Any patient seeing any doctor today under the present scheme will still be free to see that doctor when the new scheme is introduced.
The new scheme will in no way restrict a patient from seeing a doctor he is seeing now. In fact, far from restricting freedom of choice the new scheme will expand it in many important respects. For the first time pensioners requiring specialist attention will not be restricted to hospital outpatient wards but will be able to attend a specialist of their own choice at his private rooms. For the first time everyone will have the choice of access to free standard ward care including free medical services by paid hospital staff. Again for the first time, free medical attention will become possible for everyone, free of means test, where doctors are prepared, entirely at their own discretion, to accept 85 per cent of the common fee in full payment for their services on a bulk billing system. Curiously, this last possibilityit can be no more than a possibility because it depends entirely on the doctor’s preference- became the basis of a second attack on the scheme on the grounds that it would destroy the doctor-patient relationship.
The reasoning here, if one can dignify it by that description, is that somehow there must be a direct passage of payment between patient and doctor for the doctor-patient relationship to arise. That is a peculiar concept, is it not, because among other things it would mean that the 1 1 million consultations last year between pensioners and general practitioners of their own choice where no direct payment was involved did not involve any doctor-patient relationship. One wonders how many doctors or pensioners would be prepared to agree with that proposition.
It is tempting to try to pursue these fairly shallow arguments and others like them, for example, that we are going to nationalise medicine when our scheme guarantees the continuance of fee for service medicine, which is the very antithesis of nationalisation. It is tempting to try to pursue these more shallow arguments, but it is probably more important, given our limitation of time, to move to other areas which involve matters of more realistic concern. It is said, for example, that the new scheme will be accompanied by sharply rising health cost. So it will. But that really proves nothing on its own, does it, because the present health scheme is also accompanied by sharply rising health costs, and the figures are clearly available to demonstrate it.
Between 1969-70 and 1972-73, for example, the cost to the Commonwealth of medical services to insured persons and pensioners rose from $193m to $329m, that is, at an average annual increase of 20 per cent. The Treasurer’s statement of financial transactions for the 1973-74 year shows the outlay on health at $942m as opposed to $783m the previous year. Again, that is a 20 per cent rate of increase, and all on the basis of the present health scheme.
– That is ALP inflation doing that.
– In spite of the interjection by the honourable member for Griffith who is no doubt anxious to have some place in Hansard and perhaps on the television coverage, the truth is that the escalation of medical costs is a serious problem in all countries and under all systems, and there is no single, let alone simple, answer to it. State governments can confirm- and it is evidenced by the most recent 50 per cent increase in hospital charges- that hospital costs are running away in this country under the present scheme and at a much faster rate, as it happens than in Canada or the United Kingdom or the United States of America against which unfavourable comparisons are so often made. The present scheme has no controls, and comparisons with the new program are made on the erroneous, or at least the unbased, assumptions about the extent to which services in the future will be free and will be subjected to abuse. In fact, the statistical feed-back from the new program will at least provide a starting point for cost control, that is, knowledge of where the money is actually going and what the component trends are.
A second major concern has been expressed that doctors will be over-worked, that their surgeries will be flooded with patients, and that there will be an inevitable decline in their standard of practice. Once again I believe it can be said that these fears are based on unwarranted assumptions and assertions that all services in future will be free, and will be freely abused.
In fact, doctors will have three billing options, two of which involve them in giving their patients bills and collecting from them exactly as they do at present. If they use these options, as they say they will, there is no reason to expect higher utilisation by people already covered than is already the case. On the other hand, if doctors do adopt the third billing option and so provide literally free medicine- and if their experience indicates that this does lead to excessive pressure and declining standards- there will be nothing to prevent them from reverting to another billing system which reintroduces part charges. The standard of medical practice, in other words, as is the case now remains in the hands of the profession itself.
This still leaves for consideration what is probably the most serious question of all, namely, what will happen to hospital services when free standard ward treatment becomes available on the basis of paid, allocated hospital staff. On this question the honourable member for Hotham and the Opposition in general have adopted what might fairly be described as the disaster view, and it goes something like this: Firstly, as soon as free standard ward treatment becomes available there will be such an immediate and huge shift of patient demand to the standard wards that the public hospitals will be incapable of coping; their standards will crumble; patients will be left queuing for attention, with long waiting periods before admission. The honourable member for Hotham nods his head and insists on that view. He would also insist that the converse would apply, namely, that the public hospitals being starved of clients would simultaneously go into collapse, although for the opposite reason.
That combination of events in fact could occur in a certain set of circumstances. The point of view I put to the honourable member for Hotham is that that set of circumstances is not going to occur and is positively prevented by the provisions of the Bill. That set of circumstances could arise, for example, if the Government provided no subsidy at all for intermediate or private beds, but that is not the case. It could happen if no arrangements were possible for private supplementary insurance to meet the gap between bed costs and government subsidy, or if the cost of that supplementary insurance were prohibitive. Safeguards against each of these possibilities are specifically ensured by the Bill or by clear commitments contained in the White Paper on which the Bill is based. A daily hospital benefit of $16 has been guaranteed. That figure was set before the most recent increase in hospital charges and, I believe, will have to be subject to further review. Again, the White Paper ensures that private supplementary insurance will be available and will be community rated to ensure reasonable contribution levels.
Quite apart from these factual considerations, however, the disaster view ignores the probability that a high proportion of the public will not opt for free standard wards because in that situation patients will not be able to exercise their own choice of doctor. That will be the case only with private and intermediate wards. The disaster theorists cannot have it both ways. They cannot, on the one hand, say that the public desperately wants to preserve its freedom of choice of doctor but then say on the other hand that for the sake of an after-tax contribution of less than $ 1 a week they will desert their private doctors, desert that freedom of choice in a great stampede for the standard wards. I believe that the estimate made last week by Mr Shaw, the acting general manager of the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria is more reasonable and certainly more realistic. He estimates that the Association will retain half its present contributors. Nonetheless, there is no point in denying that a potential problem in this area does exist and will have to be monitored carefully, especially in the early days, to ensure that excessive demand in particular areas does not disrupt the scheme as a whole. There seems no reason to doubt that that can be done.
The debate in which we are now engaged did not start just this morning or even a couple of months ago with the double dissolution. It did not start last year with the Green and White Papers or at the 1972 election in which the subject figured so prominently. In essence, this debate continues and, hopefully concludes, at long last a discussion initiated 6 years ago by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who was then Leader of the Opposition. Those days are so far past that it is hard to remember them. He enunciated 3 desirable principles. The first was universal insurance instead of partial cover, the second was equitable payment of costs rather than the current inequitable spread, and the third was some predictability in medical costs both as related to total health expenses and as applicable to individual fee for service arrangements. Nothing that has happened since has made those objectives less desirable or less necessary. Nothing that has been offered since by the Opposition or by any other source has indicated how those objectives might better or more fairly be achieved.
– I found the speech by Mr Berinson, the honourable member for Perth, quite a remarkable one. Anybody who listened to him would realise that the essential message coming out of his speech was this: ‘For goodness sake, do not talk any more about this health scheme because the more it is talked about the more it is exposed for its essential badness.’ The more it is talked about the more it will become clear to the people of Australia that if this scheme is imposed upon Australia and Australians succeeding generations will go through difficulties the like of which we can save them from now. All we need to do is abandon this commitment to a socialist philosophy. I know that people say: ‘Let us examine it for its quality and not condemn it because it is socialistic’ On this occasion it is condemned on both counts. It has been suggested that we should not continue debating it. Let me tell the honourable member for Perth, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the entire Australian nation that we will fight this scheme continually and positively, and in the end we will defeat it because it is a bad scheme.
The objectives of any health scheme are basically the same, whether they are the objectives of the nation or the objectives of a person. A person wants to be fully covered for any sickness, any accident or any debility that he may have. He wants a choice of doctor, hospital and the level of care in a hospital. He wants access to and the choice of the paramedical services which are so necessary, especially after surgery. A person wants access to doctors and hospitals. He does not want a perpetual wait in a doctor’s surgery. When he needs elective surgery he does not want to have to wait and wait before it can be done in a hospital. He wants the choice of intermediate or private ward care. Why must everybody look as near to a pea in a pod as a socialist government can make him? Why must he receive public ward care? Why should he sit in a designated doctor’s surgery and wait until he gets his bottle of coloured water which will make him better?
What is needed is that when a person requires health care, he must have access to it. That is what we want to provide. Personal requirements are the same as national requirements. Our purpose as members of Parliament, or as members of a Government or the Opposition, is to establish a policy which will achieve those things for people. The individual has to be able to pay for these things but not at such a level that they take from him the capacity to spend on other necessities and other comforts. That is the objective of government, but we do not want instituted a national health scheme which will send us broke. That could very easily happen.
The honourable member for Perth said that this debate did not start at the time of the double dissolution. How true that is. He said that this debate started long ago. All right, let us go back to 1967. In that year Mr Whitlam is reported in Hansard as having said:
We can- and a Labor Government would- build an alternative public health service within the limits of present health expenditures in Australia.
When was a more stupid statement made? He said that he would build this scheme within the limits of the existing costs of the health scheme in 1 967. The absurdity of that statement is such that one needs only to read it to know that he did not know what he was talking about. He did not understand the subject. He did not begin to understand it. We all know that the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, will not cost his health scheme. He will not put a money figure on it. He does not want to disclose the consequences. The honourable member for Perth, hoping to defuse the issue, said: ‘Do not debate this subject because it has all been said. ‘ Has it all been said? On 26 July, less than 2 weeks ago, the Prime Minister said:
At present, health services cost our nation more than $2,000m a year, or about 5.3 percent of gross domestic product. Their cost is increasing so dramatically that it has been estimated that our expenditure on health services could be more than 12 per cent of gross domestic product by the year 2000.
The honourable member for Perth wants to stop the debate now, but the Prime Minister wants to talk about health services in the year 2000. Let us compare the 2 statements of the Prime Minister. He said that the present cost of health services is 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product and that the cost in the future would be 12 per cent. Compare those figures with his statement when he launched the proposal and said: ‘We can provide it within the limits of the present health expenditure’. What are the consequences of expanding the cost from 5.3 per cent to 12 per cent of gross domestic product? He was talking about our gross domestic product, which is a finite amount, a finite concept. We can put a money figure on it and escalate that figure and nobody will take much notice of it in these days of 14 per cent inflation. People say that it is just more money, and really do not understand the concept clearly. But people can understand it clearly if we refer to 5 per cent of the whole of our gross domestic product and expand that figure to 12 per cent, thus contracting the remainder of the gross domestic product. There is no way of escaping that concept; it is real and inescapable. This is what this Government is committing us to.
In present day terms our gross domestic product is about $45,000m. Health services, representing 5.3 per cent of our gross domestic product, cost us $2,385m. For these purposes I will refer to it as $2,400m. Twelve per cent of gross domestic product would be $5,400m. In other words, we are being asked to accept a scheme which, on the Prime Minister’s estimate, in today’s terms would cost us $3, 000m more than the present scheme. There is no point in rushing into it and saying that we did not know the gun was loaded; we do know that the gun is loaded.
Let us see what these figures mean. In today’s terms the extra cost of $3,000m- that is the difference between $2,400m and $5,400mwould represent an increase of about two and a quarter- between two and two and a half- in the share of the gross domestic product given to health services. What does that mean to the rest of us? It means a diversion from all other spending in the community. For example, it must cut down our capacity to spend on education, conservation, defence, roads, urban improvement and pensions.
To put it in some form of perspective, if this scheme were in operation today the extra cost would mean that the entire Commonwealth spending on defence, plus the entire Commonwealth spending on education, would be totally obliterated. The money would be going to health. The total spending on defence and education by the Commonwealth was $2,200m but the extra cost of this scheme is $3,000m. Cut out education and defence spending entirely and we still have not got the $3,000m that would be needed, on the clear statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam), to meet the cost of the scheme. Let me give another example of how costly this scheme would be. The entire social security and welfare, and housing expenditure by the Commonwealth comes to $2,975m. This health scheme would drag away all of that expenditure on those items of social security and welfare and of housing. The man who runs the Ontario health scheme- nowadays Canada is the criterion for all things, and Ontario is the place from where a lot of this health scheme was taken- said this:
It is up to the politicians to reform the monster before it bankrupts the economy and destroys itself.
This is the scheme we are not merely being asked to accept; we are being told to be good chaps and to let it through. The Opposition will not abandon its duty to the Australian people in that way. We will fight and continue to fight until we are defeated. In Canada the spending on health services is one of the highest portions of gross domestic product in the world, and Canada still has not a health scheme which satisfies anybody. Everybody knows that in Sweden the weight of taxpaying around the neck of the individual is gradually starting to deprive the whole country of any incentive. I am informed that half of the Swedes have to take out private insurance anyway notwithstanding the massive taxes they are paying to try to finance the health scheme.
The point is that this expense is just massive. It would be economic madness to incur it. If the Government were going to produce a good health scheme we could make a choice and say: A good health scheme we will have to pay for and we opt for it. ‘ We could do that. But how can anyone declare this to be a good health scheme when the people who deliver the health scheme- the medical profession- will not have a bar of it? Are we to run a health scheme without doctors? That is the sort of socialist AliceinWonderland world that we are told we can live in. I do not believe it. At the present time the economy is in disastrous shape. It is all Labor’s fault. It has a mad Midas touch. Everything it touches goes bad- housing, interest rates, strikes, inflation, prices. Who knows when we will get out of this place to our electorates? Who knows when people will be able to travel to see their friends and relatives? We sit around to see what will happen. That is the Government’s mad
Midas touch. The Government must use commonsense.
We are living in a world of charade in this Joint Sitting. The fact of the matter is that if these Bills are passed, as the march of numbers means they will be, it is certain that every man sitting on the Government side of the chamber who votes for them will rue the day, because it is an absolute certainty that each generation will pass on its achievements or its failures. If this health scheme goes through, this generation will be passing on a vast failure and those who vote for it will regret it. Are we to follow the British example? Britain has inflation, strikes, nationalised health, and its health scheme is falling about its ears. It has revolt by the consultants. I understand that in Australian terms a consultant is a specialist. Its unions are saying that they cannot have private hospitals.
The honourable member for Perth and the Minister for Social Security said that the Government scheme is not so bad because if one does not like it one can insure oneself for treatment in a private hospital. In England people tried to do this and the unions are closing down the private hospitals. Will the Minister give us an assurance that the unions will not close down private hospitals in Australia? In fact, if the Government is to get the number of beds it requires for standard health care it will have to pinch them from the private hospitals to start with. The doctors will not accept the scheme in Australia and the private hospitals, the charitable, religious, community and rural hospitals, will not have a bar of it.
Are we to follow that British example? The British people are great. They should all be out here in Australia so that Australia could have the benefit of the experience they have lived through. Do not forget that a tremendous number of Britons have left Britain, not excluding a tremendous number of doctors who have left Britain because they could not stand the health system there. If we had not had those British doctors who have come to Australia we would not be able to deliver the health care we are delivering today. Britain is short of 24,000 hospital doctors and 60 per cent of the junior doctors in the hospitals and the junior doctors in these socialised practices are not British at all; they have come from overseas. Those who have been to Britain know that if it were not for those overseas doctors the entire scheme would totally collapse.
Are we to face a situation where our doctors migrate? We have to get over this myth of free health care. It is not free at all; it will be paid for massively. There must be user restraint. We cannot have a situation where people just go to the doctor and fill up the surgery unnecessarily. There has to be a restraint. The patient has to make a contribution so that there will not be over-usage and so that the people who are sick can get to the doctor. We do not want to see overusage of hospital beds. Where a person is left in bed there is no reason to put him or her out under the Government’s scheme and the people awaiting elective surgery will not be able to get into hospital for it because of the over-usage of hospital beds. We want hospitals that are efficient units and not for them to have taken away the example of the present health scheme, so that there will be a proper turnover and efficiency in the hospitals.
The levy we heard about to fund the scheme was 1.25 per cent of income; then it became 1.35 per cent, and that figure is losing more and more reality because it will pay for a smaller and smaller fraction of the total cost of the scheme. The honourable member for Perth, Mr Berinson, said: ‘For goodness sake, stop talking about it now. Stop debating it.’ One can understand why he should want that when I pointed out the difference between the statement of the Prime Minister in 1967 that the scheme would be provided within the present limits of cost and that a fortnight ago when he said that it will cost 12 per cent of gross domestic product.
The last time this matter was debated in this chamber was in December last year. I said then that the people of Australia should beware because I believe the cost of this scheme could reach 1 4 per cent of gross national expenditure.
Within 2 weeks of today the Prime Minister had already admitted that it would cost 12 per cent. He may accuse me of overstating by 2 per cent. All right. He has come up from 5 per cent to 12 per cent. He has 2 per cent yet to go to make my forecast correct. But when the matter was last debated in December last I said that 14 per cent of gross national expenditure will be the cost of the scheme. Let me quote from last December’s Hansard- 7 months ago. When talking about the Opposition’s proposed scheme- the policy I had put forward in a positive sense, the Prime Minister said:
In contrast, our program will be cheaper for the vast majority of Australians.
How could a man say that and believe it- one would expect a Prime Minister to believe what he is saying- and within 7 months escalate his estimate from being cheaper than the present scheme to 21/2 times the cost of the present scheme? To put the position in perspective, we claim that to fund the scheme would take all present Commonwealth spending on defence and education. Even if this amount of money were spent on the health scheme, we still would not have arrived at its cost. Is it any wonder that we believe not only that the scheme is bad but also that it is horrid? Not only is it bad in today’s terms, but also it will bedevil the future. It will reduce the standard of living of Australians for generations to come. We oppose it.
-I have listened with great interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) expressing his views on this legislation. Apparently, he has decided to lend his voice to the propaganda war against the national health scheme. Having heard him and the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) this morning, it appears to me that they represent in this country a political force that is a relic of the dark ages. I say this because apparently the policy of the Tories in the 1930s was more enlightened than the policy of the Liberals in the 1970s.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) says ‘nonsense’. Thirty-six years ago a then senior Minister of the Government of the time- he was Treasurer in a United Australia Party Government- introduced a Bill into the Parliament dealing with national health. The Minister concerned later became a Minister in a Liberal-Country Party Government and, indeed, later became the Governor-General of Australia. Mr Casey, as he then was, introduced that Bill into the House on 4 May 1938 and said in his second reading speech:
Voluntary insurance has failed to cater for a substantial part of our population. The greater portion of those who stand in most need of insurance are uninsured.
– Who said that?
Casey said that in 1 93 8. He went on to say:
They are either unable to afford it without the assistance of the government or lack the initiative to become and to remain insured.
He went on to say, 36 years ago:
The story of voluntary insurance is marred by a tragedy of the number of lapses from insurance due to sickness, unemployment and other misfortunes.
Again, referring to history, we have seen a Minister of a previous government, Mr Menzies as he then was, resign from the Ministry because that legislation was not implemented. It is to the shame of previous conservative governments, governments of the same political persuasion as the Party to which the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Hotham and all other members who are taking part in this debate from the Opposition point of view belong, that the nation’s so-called voluntary health scheme does not cater for at least a million Australians today. It is those people and their children more than anyone else who need the scheme to cover their health needs. Until they are fully protected and until they are fully covered, we as Australians will not have a truly national health scheme.
Of course, in our own political time we have seen inquiry after inquiry reach practically the same conclusions as those enunciated by Mr Casey in 1938. We saw the previous LiberalCountry Party Government try to head off the establishment of a Labor sponsored Senate Select Committee to inquire into health and hospital costs. It did this by appointing another inquiry, namely the Nimmo committee of inquiry, only to find the Nimmo committee reach the inevitable conclusion that a new approach was required by all interested parties. We saw the Nimmo committee advocate the establishment of a national health insurance commission. A previous Liberal Minister for Health, the honourable member for Barker, Dr Forbes, who I understand will be taking part in this debate, stated in a ministerial statement on 4 March 1970:
It has been decided -
This is by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government - to adopt the Committee’s proposal that a National Health Insurance Commission be established. The Government is currently giving consideration to the composition and functions of the new Commission.
That was 4 years ago. Nothing was done between March 1970 and December 1972 when this Government came to office. In the last 20 months we have seen the Opposition in the Senate time after time reject important legislation on this subject. Indeed, it has refused even to give the legislation a second reading. The debate on this Bill, therefore, has raged and smouldered on many fronts since it was first introduced in the House of Representatives. Probably no Bill in the history of this Parliament has been more debated; no Bill in the history of this Parliament has been more represented. But at this stage in the long and repetitious debate that has gone on over the years there are 2 points that still bear reiteration. They have not sunk home to the people who matter, the people who pay the medical bills- the Australian people- because they have been caught up in this political propaganda war that has been waged by our political opponents. Red herrings have been spawned by the opponents of this Health Insurance Bill in a veritable ocean of propaganda that has almost swamped the real issues that are the subject of the debate.
The Bill, let me stress, is not and should never have been the subject of a campaign between the Government and the medical profession. Yet there is again this false propaganda on the part of the Liberal Party and the Country Party and on the part of the health funds that in some way the doctors have to fight a so-called socialist plot to undermine doctor-patient relationships. No scheme that involves a fee-for-service payment by the patient- as this scheme does- as well as permitting the patient his or her choice of doctoras this scheme does- can possibly interfere with that relationship. The Bill really concerns the Government’s relations with the Health funds- the so-called voluntary health insurance funds. The Bill seeks to improve and rationalise the system of health insurance because it is the Australian Government that is the major contributor to the health funds. The majority of Australians are simply unaware that the Government subsidises very substantially the patients’ contributions to the health funds and that the funds are not simply private insurance organisations. Indeed, I have seen it written that the Australian Government pays for $2 out of every $3 that a medical practitioner earns. If that be so, the fact that two of the funds have more than $50m in reserves and recently signalled their intention to raise patient contribution charges naturally was very much a matter of concern to the Australian Government. So, the focus is finally where it deserves to be.
In the Prime Minister’s policy speech he stated that the Australian Labor Government would introduce a universal health insurance scheme, that it would be administered by a single fund and that contributions would be paid according to taxable income. That- no more and no less- is the hard core of this legislation. But, Mr Acting Chairman, the Opposition has deliberately set out to hoodwink the Australian people. It talks constantly about the alleged high cost of the Australian Government’s scheme sponsored by my colleague Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security. As part of its propaganda war it conveniently forgets to mention some of the benefits accruing to the Australian people from this scheme. It refuses constantly to tell the people some of the things which they will get from the
Government scheme. We heard the Leader of the Opposition talk about hospitals and the need for the modernisation of hospitals. The Liberals have not told the Australian people, for instance, that the present hospital bed benefit of 80c a day for uninsured hospital patients is the same as the amount which was introduced by the Chifley Labor Government in 1948- never changed by conservative governments over nearly a quarter of a century- and they have not told the Australian people that the Labor Government wants to increase that subsidy to hospitals for uninsured patients from 80c a day to $ 16 a day. They have not told the people either that the bed subsidy paid by the Government of $2 a day for insured patients is exactly the same as that which was introduced by a Tory government in 1958 or 1959-15 or 16 years ago- and that this Labor Government seeks to increase it from $2 a day to $ 16 a day. They have not told the people that the amount of subsidy payable for hospital bed accommodation for pensioners has remained at $5 a day since 1963- for over a decade under the Liberal and Country Party governments-and that this Government wants to increase it from $5 a day to $16 a day.
– Raise it.
– If the Opposition will give us this Bill the subsidies that I have enunciated today will be raised by this Government. The Liberals have not told the Australian public that the pensioners, who now have to queue in a public hospital for specialist attention because the niggardly Liberal-Country Party Government that preceded us in this place did not give the States sufficient funds, under our scheme will not be discriminated against and that they, as much as any other Australian, will be able to see a specialist to whom they have been referred in the specialist’s own consulting rooms. Surely, they, as pioneers of this country, are entitled to equal dignity and equal treatment.
Mr Acting Chairman, I do not intend to canvass the many other details of this Bill. The details are not nearly as important as the general aims, objects and purpose of the legislation, as has been demonstrated by my colleagues Mr Hayden and Mr Berinson and by the few examples I have cited. The Bill puts the interests of the majority of Australians far ahead of the interests of the anonymous, self-appointed pontiffs who supervise the hundred or more private insurance funds. The Bill says, in effect, that no Australian should be placed in a position where his health or that of his family can be jeopardised by his lack of money or where his health or that of his children can be further jeopardised by worry over his ability to pay. Sir, all fair minded Australians should support the principle enunciated in this Bill. That is really the gravamen of the whole of this debate. That is why we of the Government say that the motion before the Chair should be overwhelmingly carried and supported by this historic Joint Sitting. I support the motion.
-This is the fourth occasion on which this legislation has been debated. On the other 3 occasions the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) adopted the same approach as he has adopted today, that is, criticising the present scheme without once giving details of how the Government’s proposed scheme will work. The Australian public wants to know how the Government’s proposed scheme will work. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) at least gave some details but in doing so he gave away the devastating point, that under the Government’s proposed scheme people will still need to take out private health insurance and at a considerably increased cost. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), with all his socalled expertise in propaganda, was unable to put forward a convincing argument in favour of the Government’s proposal. A significant omission from the list of speakers from the other side of the chamber who are to take part in this debate is the honourable member for Prospect, Dr Klugman. In fairness to Dr Klugman I should say that he has expressed doubts about the present scheme, but he has also expressed doubts about the scheme that those who sit on his side of the chamber are putting forward. All of those things add up to the worst fears which have developed and been confirmed in the minds of those who sit in the Opposition since the debate started, that is, that this scheme is unworkable. The Government has not given any details as to how it will work. Presumably that is because it does not know how it will work. Another factor that has to be taken into consideration in relation to this matter is the problem of skyrocketing and accelerating costs, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has said. The experience of other countries which have similar schemes has confirmed the Opposition’s fears that the proposed scheme will be an expensive and unworkable one.
The best summary of the opposition of those who sit on this side of the chamber to this scheme is provided in the amendment that we moved in relation to it during the first debate on it last year. The points we made were, firstly, that it would lower the quality of medical care to Australian families; second, that it would increase the total cost to the Government and thus to the taxpayer; third, that it would increase the cost to an individual because, in addition to increased taxation, expensive additional private insurance would be required to maintain health care standards; fourth, that it would reduce the freedom of choice of doctors and hospitals; fifth, that it would jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals; and, sixth, that it would be the first stage of nationalisation of health care in Australia. Anybody who doubts the last point should look at what is happening in Great Britain at the present time.
The reason why there are so many faults with the Government’s proposal is that the basic approach of the Government is wrong. The Government is adopting a revolutionary rather than evolutionary approach to our health care system. What happens with revolutionary approaches? They bring confusion and chaos. It should be remembered that at least 92 per cent of the Australian public are covered at present for hospital and medical care. Surely that is not a revolutionary situation. After 30 years of a national health scheme Great Britain has managed to cover approximately 96 per cent- or 4 per cent more- of its population. It has been admitted in the Scotton and Deeble report that the Government’s scheme will cover initially only 80 per cent, which is considerably less than the 92 per cent covered at present. It has also been admitted that it will take some time to pick up the difference. So we are arguing about 4 per cent or less of the population. Surely that is not a problem that requires drastic revolutionary surgery that will turn the whole health care system into confusion and chaos. One should add to that the fact that according to gallup polls a majority of Australians has consistently shown themselves to be opposed to it and that the vast majority of those involved in the health care system are opposed to it, including the doctors. Anyone who is critical of the doctors should remember that under the Labor Government’s proposed scheme they would earn more and work less hours; yet they are still opposed to it.
The Opposition agrees that the present scheme needs improving. The pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefits plan for low income earners are not perfect. There are problems with them. We freely admit there are. We have put forward proposals ourselves to simplify and improve the schemes. Surely that is what the Government should be doing- updating the present scheme rather than destroying it. The Labor Party claims that its scheme will help the poor people in this country. It will not. It will harm them for 4 reasons. I will give some examples that have come forward in the last few weeks. Under the Labor scheme, if it had started on 1 July of this year, a family man with a taxable income of $2,500- that is a man who earns only a little more than $50 a week- would have to pay a special taxation levy of 1.35 per cent. Under the present subsidised health benefits plan- imperfect though it is- with the recent alterations, a family man can earn up to $3,500 and be completely covered for hospital and medical benefits with the Government paying his contributions and he still does not have to pay any special tax levy. In other words, even with the Government’s great scheme the lower income people- those people earning $ 1 ,000 less than the people who are now covered without charge- will be caught and will have to pay a special tax levy.
The second way in which the Government scheme will harm poor people is that it will reduce access to public beds because people who previously used intermediate beds or private beds will be forced into using public beds because of the increased costs of intermediate and private beds. Third, it will polarise the health system in this country. Instead of having a reasonable community approach to health in Australia there will be a polarisation between those who, on the one hand, are forced to use the public system and the wealthy who, on the other hand, can well afford to pay for special private hospitals and private facilities. Those wealthy people using private facilities will take with them a disproportionate share of our health delivery people- doctors, nurses and so on- so, in a situation of shortages, depriving people who use public wards and ordinary facilities of the services of these urgently needed people.
The fourth point is that the community support which has been apparent for health and hospitals generally will be lost. Because of this polarisation there will not be this broad spectrum of support. This will be particularly so in country areas where it has been most apparent and once again the ordinary person will lose. In the time available to me in this debate it is not possible to detail every point of opposition to the scheme but I want to refer to 2 points. The first point concerns freedom of choice and religious hospitals. Of all hospital beds in this country 20 per cent are in private, religious or charitable hospitals. The second point to remember is that, as the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) said, 80 per cent of all Australians prefer and use intermediate or private ward accommodation rather than public ward accommodation. Under our free choice arrangement at the present time 80 per cent of Australians opt for the intermediate or private ward accommodation.
If the Government’s scheme comes in, the cost of private and intermediate beds will increase because the Government supported insurance scheme will not be available for these 2 types of accommodation. Nothing Government supporters may say can alter this position. Insurance will still be available but it will not be the Government supported insurance that we have at the present time. That means that these types of hospitals will not have people coming to them because they will not be able to afford to use them as they have in the past. This will create a dilemma for them. The hospitals will either have to close or accept public ward accommodation. The Act states quite clearly that if a private hospital decides that it wants to have one or two wards turned into public ward accommodation, under this scheme it is the Minister and not the hospital itself who will decide how many of those wards and how many of those beds will become public. Instead of one or two wards becoming private wards, the whole hospital could be taken over by the Minister. He has complete power to do so under section 34 of the Act. In addition, it is the Minister who decides how much money will be provided to those hospitals for those public ward patients. The Minister will have dictatorial power over private, religious and charitable hospitals.
I make another point: At the present time under the existing scheme there is a special provision known as the special account. Under the special account a patient’s insurance is taken over by the Government after he or she has been in hospital for 180 days. This system provides a guarantee for long term patients and it also reduces the cost of health insurance. But Labor’s proposal will abolish the special account. Many private and religious hospitals specialise in long term patients such as orthopaedic and psychiatric cases. Because private insurance will be more expensive as a result of the cutting out of the special account provisions many of these long term cases will be forced back into public wards after 180 days. These cases will be accepted in public wards only if the beds are available, and, as the honourable member for Hotham detailed, this will be subject to the level of the increased bed utilisation that will result. It will not be easy and it probably will not be possible for many of these people to take out insurance cover under the proposed scheme because of the additional cost that will result when the special account guarantee ends.
Two specialist Sydney hospitals which could possibly be forced to close because of the abolition of the special account are St John of God at Brighton and Mount St Margaret at Ryde. These examples can be multiplied right throughout Australia. So the religious, private and charitable hospitals are faced with a terrible dilemma. If they are to remain open to a large extent they will have to accept public ward beds, but if they do that they will become employees of the Commonwealth and they will no longer be carrying out the vocation for which they were established. Catholic hospitals are concerned that under such circumstances they could be forced to conduct abortions, and there is no guarantee against this in the legislation.
Government supporters- Oh.
-You can say what you like but I ask you to stand up and prove otherwise.
– It is a shocking claim.
-It is a shocking claim because it is a shocking truth that one has to reveal. So much for the Government’s claim that it will not restrict freedom of choice. What is freedom of choice if a person does not have the right to go to a private or religious hospital if he so chooses?
The next point I want to make relates to the cost to the nation of the proposed scheme. The Leader of the Opposition made the point very well that there will be an increase in the gross domestic product expended on health from 5 to 12 per cent. The costs therefore will basically double almost immediately. The Minister for Social Security is very good at criticising the cost estimates of other people’s schemes but consistently refuses to update his rather inaccurate cost estimates of 12 months ago. The only cost estimates that we have from the Minister and the Government are those provided in the White Paper which are now 12 months out of date. He has never updated them. He has never successfully countered the number of bodies that have criticised these figures. Shrapnel and Knight, 2 independent actuaries, have said that the Minister has underestimated the cost by $400m and State health ministers have said the same. More recently the Taxpayers’ Association of Victoria has claimed an 82 per cent increase. Not only will there be an increased cost to the nation but there will also be an increased cost to the individual who will have to pay the special tax levy of 1.35 per cent plus, as that percentage will have to be increased; he will also be required, out of ordinary taxation from general revenue, to pay for the deficit in the health fund. In addition, 80 per cent of Australians want more than public ward accommodation. As this scheme will provide cover for only public ward accommodation, these individuals will have to take out private insurance just as they do now. If Government supporters opposite do not believe me, they should believe what was said by the honourable member for Perth who gave it away 2 speeches ago. But private insurance will be very expensive partly because the special account will not operate under the new scheme to provide the safeguards and guarantees and also because the private insurance scheme will not have government backing.
I want to quote from an article which was published in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 31 July, about 2 weeks ago. In commenting on what the Taxpayer’s Association had to say about the increased cost that a person will pay, it stated:
The Australian Government’s proposed new health scheme will be ‘a mathematical shambles that in some cases will more than double health care cost,’ the Taxpayers’ Association said.
The scheme will represent a costly and retrograde step, the association says in the latest edition of its magazine, the Taxpayer.
It gives the example of an average family, comprising a husband, a wife who works, and 2 children. Their health insurance bill will jump 82 per cent under the new scheme, it says.
If the Government wishes to criticise some of those who have put forward cost figures disagreeing by $400m with the Government estimate, I do not think it can say very much in criticism of the Taxpayers Association which looks after and speaks up for the ordinary taxpayer in the community. The newspaper report states quite clearly that the health bill for the average family man will increase by 82 per cent. Mr Acting Chairman, the Government should stop its senseless, socialist stampede for a costly, unworkable scheme that will reduce health care standards, reduce freedom of choice and put many of our hospitals at peril. Instead, the Government should come to its senses and update the present scheme for the benefit of all Australians.
-Mr Acting Chairman, these health bills have been considered by the House of Representatives and passed by it on 3 occasions. They have been debated out in the community for literally hours. So I fail to understand why the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) consistently confuses this proposed health program with the British scheme. I should have imagined that he would at least have been able to grasp the fundamentals of our program. This program has already been endorsed twice by the people of Australia. It is the culmination of a great deal of planning and investigation. It was the subject of open debate throughout Australia for more than 6 months. I think that in 6 months the honourable member for Hotham could have caught up with the fundamentals of this program.
The report of the Health Insurance Planning Committee outlining how the health insurance program could be introduced was tabled in the House of Representatives in April 1973. Not even the Opposition can deny that every opportunity was given for this program to be fully understood. Even though it is repetitious, I repeat that the program was fully endorsed by the Australian people on 1 8 May 1 974. That endorsement has been maintained in spite of a deliberate campaign of deceit and misrepresentation of the program such as has seldom been seen in this country.
I do have some support for that claim, gentlemen and ladies. Let me direct the attention of honourable members to certain quotations. The first quotation is:
This debate has become more unwholesome as it has proceeded. Let’s face it- some argument has been based on false assumptions and advertising by some professional organisations who have demeaned the professions they represent. Advertising in deplorable taste, by professional bodies that should have known better.
My next quotation reads:
I have kept quiet for three reasons. First, because this debate in the public mind has been so blurred, stirred up with false passions and abuse and counter abuse, that I felt that any responsible voice or voice trying to be responsible would have been lost in the murky manoeuvrings of the debate.
Those are not my words and they are not the words of my Labor colleagues on this side. They are the words of the member of the Opposition who will go to the barricades to fight this Bill. They are the words of the honourable member for Hotham. I continue to quote:
This legislation represents a sincere endeavour to build a new health benefits system which will provide high quality health services, accessible to all. Which will expand freedom of choice; which will promote efficiency in health services and which will upgrade hospital and community health centres.
The legislation will make possible the establishment of community health centres. This was not possible in the 23 years that the Opposition had the chance to provide a health service to cover Australian people
There are some groups within the community who obtain health services free, including pensioners. I know of the services which pensioners receive because I have been one. This Bill will increase the availability of services to pensioners. At present they are eligible for general practitioner services under the pensioner medical scheme. They will have their eligibility extended to a full range of medical services- I can say from personal experience how much that will mean to a lot of pensioners- including specialist services. Supporting mothers can be covered under the new program; they could not be covered under the old. This Government had to make other arrangements for them because the Australian Medical Association was not co-operative. Under the existing scheme, if a woman is uninsured and becomes pregnant she is not covered. Under our new scheme she will be covered from the word ‘go’.
At present the bulk of the population must insure themselves and their families through one of the multiplicity of health insurance funds. The greatest drawback to the existing scheme is that it is voluntary. Over one million Australians have no coverage. If honourable members of the Opposition can visualise a situation in which a person cannot afford health coverage, they will realise that if he has the choice between paying the rent and eating, he will eat, and if he has the choice between paying health insurance and eating, he will eat. That is human nature. Let us face this fact once and for all: The existing scheme discriminates against the very people who most urgently need health insurance. Even the members of the Opposition have confessed that their scheme leaves many people out in the cold. The very basis of the program submitted here by my Party is to make sure that the hard-working family man is not plunged into poverty through his inability to afford health insurance. That does happen. If the breadwinner falls ill and has no coverage, he and his family can be plunged into poverty in trying to cope with doctors and hospital bills. Honourable members and senators should read the Henderson report. The facts are there in black and white. I did not make them up. I repeat that people will eat before they take out health insurance.
The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) made an unfortunate statement the other day in the debate on the health Bills. He said:
We in Australia are in the happy situation of having a typically Australian solution to the problem of health care.
It may be a happy position for the Opposition to have approximately 1 5 per cent of the Australian community uninsured and threatened with poverty when illness strikes, but it is completely unacceptable to the Government. It may be typically Australian to see one million Australians weighing up the cost before they seek medical advice, but it is completely unacceptable to this Government and it is unacceptable to the Australian community. There are some freedoms that are basic to the Australian way of life. I submit that the right to good health is a basic freedom and that medical treatment should not rest on ability to pay.
The honourable member for Chisholm also suggested in this House that the health program we are debating would do away with the close relationship between doctor and patient. The honourable member does the medical profession a grave injustice if he believes that the close relationship between doctor and patient relies on a cash transaction. For his information, no really close relationship can ever rely on a cash transaction. Let me make one point clear; it should be clear by now: Patients will be free to choose thenown doctor. They will be free to change doctors. That point cannot be reiterated enough, as it has been consistently misrepresented. Let me also dismiss the vicious suggestion that Catholic hospitals will be forced into performing abortions. That is one of the worst suggestions I have heard, and it is quite untrue.
There is one other thing I would like to make clear. It was intimated this morning that this Government will force doctors to become salaried doctors to the detriment, I think it was said, of their initiative. The intimation was that they would be second rate doctors. Does that mean that all those doctors who work in repatriation, in the defence forces and all the residents in public hospitals- many of them paid by the Governmentare second rate doctors handing out second rate treatment because they accept a salary? Australians re-elected this Government and, in so doing, re-endorsed this national health program. Senator Hall made that clear yesterday. I did not really agree with him yesterday when he said that he thought that new members could opt out of supporting the other Bills. I thought that left logic behind, but I agreed with him when he said that the Australian people endorsed these Bills. If one takes the attitude that one of these Bills was endorsed by the people, it follows logically that the others were also endorsed. If the Opposition will concede that we won the election, then new members, old members, and the Australian community should concede that this Government has a mandate to proceed with the Bills.
Too many Australians-more than a million in fact- have no protection against the high cost of illness and injury. When honourable members opposite are politicking and grandstanding, they should remember it. We are dealing with people. Too many Australians, particularly those who live away from the centre of our major cities- I thought that the Country Party would have looked at that- have inadequate access to high quality hospitals and medical services. Too many Australians suffer from a system which makes it cheaper for a wealthy man to insure himself against medical charges than for people who are not wealthy. Maybe I feel that more strongly because I have never been wealthy.
Australia’s present private health insurance system is clearly to blame for the present situation. Disadvantaged people are being discouraged from belonging to private health funds because contributions to them are in no way related to a person’s ability to pay. The scheme perpetuates injustices; it perpetuates inequalities. The new program is based on ability to pay and will provide insurance for everyone in the community. In debating this Bill, the Parliament is really deciding whether health care is a privilege to be purchased or a right to be enjoyed equally by every Australian. In my opinion, a vote against this Bill is a vote against the rights of good health of one million Australians who are uninsured.
– This Government is obsessed with monopolies, but it is a selective obsession. I am sorry that the esteemed Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) is not here to hear me say that I understand many of his reasons why he has introduced a Trade Practices Bill into this Parliament. I support that. Many of the provisions in the Bill refer to restraint of trade, monopoly operations, limits on people to do the things that are competitive. Why then should the Government be so selective as to see that reasoning as referring to the commercial sector of Australia and not apply it to the most personal service that is required by every person in this country? Why does the Government think that a government monopoly removes those dangers that we see in other forms of monopoly operation? Why is it that there is obstinancy and obduracy by Government when it sees itself as providing this very personal service to the people? I find that selective obsession rather illogical.
Why should a monolithic health service be any different, any better, for the people of Australia than the one which has been developed as part of the Australian need? The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) referred to the Government’s scheme as a superior economic system. I think he acknowledges that nowhere is he talking about delivery of health care. A superior economic system in the terms of a government which has reduced the economic management of this country to chaos is something which I find frightening. The other thing about which the Minister spoke this morning was the public interest. Again I find that the Government’s attitude to this matter appalling. The public interest is the interest of every individual in Australia. It is not a collective thing. We are not a collective mass. Each and every one of us is an individual with personal responsibilities to assert. When they are usurped by Government, we have no public interest, we have no private interest; we simply have a government which takes all.
The people do not want this health scheme. Every time an opportunity that has been given to them has been tested a majority of the people of Australia have decided that this is not the scheme that would best serve their personal needs. Why then do we have the obstinate introduction and re-introduction- round and round again- into this Parliament of a scheme which is a disaster to health care as we need it?
It has been stressed in a cliche that health care is a right. Surely health care is a responsibility. Surely it is a personal responsibility, and it is for each and every one of us for ourselves and our families to accept that responsibility; but surely it is also a responsibility that should be shared by Government. We do not want a Government takeover but a sharing of responsibility between Government and community. Under the existing health scheme the Liberal-Country Party Government progressively closed the gaps as they were found to exist and it assisted those low income groups, such as migrants and pensioners, to have health care. Ours was not a government obsessed with taking over the health scheme. But really, it is not a health scheme that we are talking about; it is a social program. In these Bills at this Joint Sitting of Parliament we are talking about a political system. It is a political system from which the word ‘voluntary’ has been completely omitted. There is nothing voluntary about any of the procedures which are being developed over these 2 days. Nothing in this political system really talks about the individual Australian and the way in which he or she shall determine how to express the future.
The other thing which should be acknowledged is that this is part of a package. I am to become a card-carrying Australian for a public health system, a national superannuation scheme and a national compensation scheme. More and more my personal earnings are to be commandeered by the Government for universal schemes which it decides that I want. I do not want them. But if the Government pretends that by having me become a card-carrying Australian I then have no worries, let me just say that I have the greatest worry of all because if that card is withheld from me for political or economic reasons, then I have nothing. The expression of this philosophy is the thing that ought to be examined. What is the motive? What is the premise on which it is based? Is it in the interests of individual Australians to create a monopoly over health services? What about the spirit of the Australian people? Are we so decrepit in spirit that we need to be cared for in every decision which we should take personally? Why is the Government now pleading with the Australian people to get up and go and help the Government out of the economic chaos into which we have plunged?
Of couse the spirit of Australia will develop its own way of life. This national health scheme and other nationalised programs which we are seeing are not the way in which we will best express the will and the purpose of this nation. We are a responsible people. Every time one of our personal responsibilities is usurped we are diminished in this spirit which we can express for our own development. Why should we try to stifle enterprise in this country? This country has been built on the development of individual enterprise. To see it developing into a socialist political philosophy is something which I feel is frightening. I believe that the people of Australia are reacting to that fear.
To pretend that this is a system which will give freedom of choice is to overlook so many facets which have to be explored. This scheme has been explored by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), by the shadow minister for social security in our Party and by other speakers. This is a system which does not give the free choice that we want to have expressed. This scheme does not even give us the free choice as to whether we should belong to it or whether we care to be part of the whole program. In the first place, there is to be a compulsory levy. Another aspect about which there is no free choice is the rate of that levy. It started at 1 .25 per cent. It has gradually crept up to 1 .35 per cent. But what will that provide? If it is not to provide a diminished health service, then, of course, there is no freedom of choice for us as to what the rate will be next year. Independent actuaries have told us that the 1.5 to 1 ratio which the Government initiated in the first place will in no way cover the needs of the present health program. If we talk of a government running something efficiently and effectively we overlook all the other incentives which, in our system of enterprise, provide for efficiency, development and growth. This year it is to be 1.35 per cent. Goodness knows what it will be next year. If the Leader of the Opposition is correct in his figure of some 14 per cent being required for health care, what sort of a levy will we, as individual Australians, have imposed on our tax-paying income? Not only one in the family but every income earner, every taxpayer, in the family will have to pay the compulsory levy. There is no choice in that. The White Paper which was produced stated, in paragraph 7.15, that the total net cost of the Budget, including the effect of tax deductions, will be approximately the same as under the existing health scheme. The Government tells us that it will be a better scheme. We know that costs are escalating. Are we therefore talking about diminishing the actual health care that will be delivered? I think we must be, because there cannot be an equation that is unbalanced to that degree. And who will pay?
– The strong will pay.
– The strong will pay and the cost will be shared by those people who undertake their personal responsibilities. The scheme will be paid for by Australians. It will be paid for in varying degrees by Australians because there are people who are able to pay more and there are people who are prepared to pay more, but there are other Australians who need assistance through Government services. These things are provided in the existing health service. The Government has talked about the freedom to choose a doctor. That is just not possible under the proposed scheme. The doctor whom a person requires to attend him in hospital will have to be an accredited doctor who will work in that hospital. It is not possible for a person to have the doctor of his choice in the hospital of his choice. The Minister, whom I am shadowing with some diligence, mentioned that the Government would increase the government contribution from $2 a day to $ 1 6 a day. That will not help me as a Victorian when it costs $55 a day for a private room in a Victorian hospital.
What will be the future of the private hospital system? Throughout yesterday and today we have seen the desire of the Government for a unitary system of government. Do we want a unitary system of hospital care as well? That is what we are going to have. There is no way by which the private hospital system can maintain its independence and the service it has been able to give. The great teaching hospitals and the hospitals which give spiritual support in time of deep illness and the quality of service that has been provided will, of course, be diminished under the proposed system. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said: ‘Of course, we cannot nationalise the medical profession, but we can nationalise the public hospitals’. That frightens me. Experience in other countries has shown that there is always the impossibility of delivering care to the people because of the demands on the service and the strains on the service. This will happen in Australia. The problems we have seen in so many other places are natural human problems that exist when there is no restraint on the use that is made of the services which people demand because they pay 1.35, 2 or 10 per cent, or whatever percentage of their taxable income is needed.
The Government is going into business, not only in pharmaceuticals, as the GovernorGeneral mentioned, in the exploration for minerals and in all sorts of other fields in the national interest but also in private hospitals. In 1972 the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, said: We would, in fact, build good quality nursing homes at various points in the community according to various types of plans’. The various types of plans that any government department decides upon are plans with doors, doorways and passages of certain dimensions, and all manner of restrictive provisions- not necessarily what is needed to deliver the health service to the people but what some bureaucratic department decides is the type of plan that would best suit that purpose. I want to trace a little how we got into this situation. We have not talked about this.
– We got into it because of 23 years of your government.
– I am not talking of that time; I am going back to 1944-45, in the days of a Labor government, when it was decided that the Federal Government had a responsibility in the matter of health care. It was decided that such responsibility would best be discharged by introducing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1944-45. There was a typical Labor government approach. That government introduced the Bill before it found out whether it was constitutionally possible. We had the charade of having to have a constitutional amendment after we had actually enacted the Bill. There was found to be no constitutional validity for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Acts of 1944 and 1945 of the Labor Government. In 1 947 we had a constitutional amendment. It was one of the few constitutional amendments carried by the Australian people. Why was it carried? It was carried because it was put by both sides of the Australian Parliament to the people, as has any constitutional amendment which has been successful.
Both sides of the Parliament had to put forward to the Australian people the sort of amendment to our Constitution which enabled the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment benefits and pharmaceutical, sickness and medical benefits. Do members recall the wonderful clause that was inserted by that amendment? It read: ‘But so as not to authorise any form of civil conscription’. Do members know who introduced that? It was the founder of my Party, the Right Honourable Robert Gordon Menzies. He had that clause inserted in a proposed amendment to the Constitution and enabled the Australian people to accept it. Members might wonder at the choice of words: ‘But so as not to authorise any form of civil conscription’. He used that phrase not only in his great skill but also in his understanding of the union structure throughout Australia. It was the unions which had insisted on that form of words in an amendment with regard to industrial matters. Is a civil conscription that is not tolerable in industrial matters tolerable to the medical profession or to any other body of Australian people? Mr Menzies at that time said that very little doubt existed that the medical and dental professions could be nationalised by making all the doctors and dentists members of one government service which had a monopoly of medical and dental treatment. So Mr Menzies introduced into an amendment to the Constitution the words: ‘But so as not to introduce any form of civil conscription’.
That amendment to the Constitution was passed and on that basis we constructed the present medical scheme assisted by government with a voluntary use of medical funds by the Australian people. We have updated that scheme to the point where we have closed many gaps. At the time of the Gorton Government we made very great leaps ahead. At the time that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Health we closed many more gaps. Progressively the system has been built to serve the Australian people and their health needs. These are things that are of interest. Let me put to the chamber the dangers which we are now facing. When the amendment to the Constitution was passed, the High Court of Australia held that the requirement by the then Labor Government with regard to pharmaceutical benefits was an infringement of the provision of the Constitution relating to civil conscription. Everyone knows the details which were involved. The medical profession could prescribe only on a form that was required by the Government department concerned. If that were upheld by the High Court as an infringement of the Constitution with regard to civil conscription, can members imagine what the High Court of Australia may say not so long ahead with regard to sessional doctors who, under the Hayden health scheme, will be required to deal with government in the way in which this form-filling-in government always requires?
I wonder at the constitutional opportunities in the future for our High Court to deal with the implementation of the scheme as we are seeing it unfolding in this place. The danger of the scheme is surely the uncosted nature of it. We have talked about government responsibility. We have talked about economic management. We have seen the great strains on our economy at present. We know that when the Government sees these strains it has to curb government expenditure. Will it dismantle the health care program as it has done the child care program? Are we in the hands of a government which, for economic reasons, after having created this monopoly of health care, will plunge into discrimination against certain groups, against services which will be provided and against ancillary services? How will the Government trim its expenditure to its economic needs when we see that it is unable economically to manage this country?
The dangers of the proposed health scheme on the medical profession, on the private hospital system and on the Australian people make me feel very concerned about the fact that the Government should persist in introducing a scheme which is not wanted. As was pointed out this morning, the Government has trimmed, schemed and tried to by-pass the problems that have been put before it, but at no time has the Government acknowledged that it was wrong; that the proposed health scheme was a theory of some economists. The proposed health scheme may be a superior economic system, but superior to what has not been acknowledged. Although we have been regarded as obstructing the wish of the Australian Government to introduce its health scheme, I believe that I represent the people of Victoria who have elected me to this place, and I assure them that it will not be my vote that will enable a nationalised health scheme to be introduced into this country.
– I have great admiration for Senator Guilfoyle. At the beginning of her speech I had even more admiration for her because for the first time today it seemed as though someone was going to approach this question on a quiet and philosophical note instead of indulging in all the exaggerated rantings that we heard before Senator Guilfoyle commenced to speak. But for too long she has been sitting next to people like Senator Carrick and she has caught the virus, because halfway through her speech she started to talk about and hint at conspiracies and economic and political plots affecting people who were carrying cards. Everyone who presently belongs to a medical benefits organisation carries a card. It is a pity Senator Guilfoyle went that way. Her concept of free competition in the present medical benefits voluntary health scheme is a rather interesting one. Anyone who considers that there is competition between schemes which charge the same rates, which give the same benefits, which have the same forms and which have the same regulations has a peculiar concept of competition, as has someone who refers to referendum results as an indication that the Australian people do not want this proposed health scheme. The two most comprehensive referendums held in this country were held in December 1972 and in May 1974. The result of those referendums or elections put honourable senators and members on this side of the Parliament into power, and the proposed health scheme was part of our policy at those elections.
I am always amused when members of the Opposition raise the question of civil conscription. We in this Government realise that the Constitution prevents civil conscription, and we agree with that. We are not the party which conscripts people in peacetime. We are not the party whose members, although they are young enough to go and fight in undeclared wars themselves, are willing to send others to go and fight in undeclared wars. We are not the people who will conscript doctors or anybody else. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) is trying to interject. There is a word for the behaviour of people like him which the Acting Chairman would not allow me to use. There is a noun to describe people like him, but it would insult Australia’s only native canine to use it.
These Bills produce for the first time a system of health insurance incorporating the principles of social equity, justice and universal coverage which are not present and not possible under the present health scheme. It is because we believe that an affluent society like ours can afford to provide adequate medical care for its citizensthe Constitution confirms our right to do so- that we believe it is our duty to provide this care. Therefore, we believe that adequate medical care comes into the field of social security and, as such, should be funded by a system of progressive taxation, as are all other social services- that is, payment which depends on the ability to pay. In this scheme recognition is made of the private hospitals and the right of people to insure separately for these. But we insist on the right of those who choose to use public hospitals, to do so, without limitations or means test.
These proposals provide for a change in the method of funding health care in this country and, together with the other proposals for hospital and community care, represent a social reform- a reform to overcome the inefficiencies of the present system and to correct its malapportionment of the taxpayers’ money between the private and public sectors and its maldistribution of doctors and health services. The removal of the problem of bad debts alone in poor areas and in country areas will help to solve this problem very quickly. It is because this is a social reformand even then it is not a very radical one- that it has provoked the noisy and, at times, hysterical opposition from the people opposite and others, especially those who have built themselves a privileged niche in the present system.
The campaign has become vicious and personal, as instanced by the personal attacks on the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). It has also involved the use of the time honoured methods of opposition to reform, namely, the misrepresentation of the proposals and the imputation of sinister motives to those who promote the reform. The Opposition wishes to introduce the element of fear into this debate. It was to his credit that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) saw fit to rebuke those who in the last year have lied, abused and misrepresented in statements which have been quoted by the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child). Rarely, if ever, has so much time, money and paper been used to oppose such a scheme. The Australian Medical Association even introduced to the campaign a former Miss Australia to add sex appeal and to bolster the Opposition campaign. She was a flop. She was donated to the Liberal Party for the purpose of sitting in its beautiful communications centre and teaching people such as the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) to use their home perm kits and to apply their artificial tan without streaking. This is the sort of nonsense that went on.
But the most virulent opposition to the scheme has been from the General Practitioners Society of Australia. This Society was conceived in the wealthy suburbs of our largest cities and is nourished by the funds of the drug companies and the finance companies which view with alarm this Government’s questions on their profits and prices. It is not surprising that they pad their journal with the writings of right wing extremists from overseas but it is very surprising that they consider the Liberal Party a socialist party-a socialist party which cannot be trusted. I am amazed to see sitting on the opposite side a member of the General Practitioners Society. He sits there with these nasty Liberal socialists, Comrade Killen and Comrade Wentworth and the others. During the last election campaign he said he supported the Liberal Party health scheme when, because of his membership of the General Practitioners Society, obviously he did not. But he sits there and consorts with the Opposition and votes for their socialist policies. These people and their ilk proclaim the principle announced last year by the Retail Traders’ Association, namely, that a fair price is whatever the market will bear and that they themselves should fix the price. They conveniently forgot that the skills they acquired and wish to be free to sell at the highest possible price were acquired in almost every case at the taxpayers’ expense.
The second most virulent opposition to the new health scheme has come from the friends of the honourable member for Hotham, the big funds with their $20,000 and $30,000 a year executives, whose boards are made up of people who have vested interests in the business of health, whose constitutions carefully preclude consumer representation on their boards. They spend large sums of money on the media and in supplying help to the Opposition. Not only were they active in the great health debate but also they were successful in having provision made for meaningful consumer and government representation on health funds removed from the Opposition’s policy on health, in spite of the opposition of the honourable member for Hotham who leaves to feed himself.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was speaking about the false and unreasonable criticism of the Government’s proposed health insurance plan. Most of these false criticisms have been centred on the issue of freedom of choice. Mention was made of general practitioner services. In that regard I can do no better than use the words of Mr Chipp when he was going through his small ‘1’ liberal stage. On 4 October last year he said:
And I say in fairness that under the Labor scheme, notwithstanding what has been said, you will be able to go to the doctor of your choice insofar as the general practitioner is concerned.
The pensioner will have his freedom of choice extended to treatment outside a hospital as he can be referred to a specialist in his surgery. In the public hospitals the choice will be the same as it is now, unless the States which run them change the system. But patients who are now prevented from entering these hospitals because of the means test will have their choice extended. A person who chooses to insure against the possibility of requiring treatment in a private hospital must make one conscious decision to insure, as he does now, to cover any medical expenses.
It is surprising to hear the Opposition’s objection to lack of choice of a specialist in a public hospital. It never concerned the Opposition in that other large field of public health carerepatriation medical services- when it was in power. Perhaps it considered the sick exserviceman unworthy of the choice which is so important to the affluent civilian. The more one looks into the matter the more it seems that the important freedom to the Opposition is that of the consultant to get his fee for service from the patient who is forced, because of the application of the means test, into the private or intermediate ward. I do not believe that the degree of patient care and skill provided by the vast majority of doctors in this country is dependent upon the payment of a fee for service. I think that to suggest that is to insult the increasing number of doctors who opt for salaried positions and who receive salaries for sessional work in hospitals. From experience as a medical practitioner, I know that profit is no stimulus to quality in the medical profession, and the size of the fee bears no relationship to the standard of the treatment. Few doctors outside the General Practitioners’ Society in Australia would disagree with me. The greatest benefit of these Bills to the people of this country is that they will remove the financial worry in times of illness. This worry may have a serious effect on the recovery of a patient and may force him back to work before he is fit.
The basis of this scheme is universal coverage of the cost of medical care and standard ward accommodation. It will remove the second-class status of the pensioner. It will preserve the freedom of choice of the doctor and the patient, and it will allow people to insure against the cost of private hospital care. It will not nationalise or conscript doctors- a statement agreed to by Mr Chipp before he reverted to the conservative stance which he takes now. It will remove from the patient and the doctor the worry about the ability to afford treatment and the worry about accounts. It will remove the financial barrier between doctor and patient. The cries of communism, conscription and fascism from the opponents of this scheme have no meaning in this debate. They are desperate cries from those destitute of reasonable argument. I am sorry that the Opposition Parties may get less assistance from the large health funds in future, but there are plenty of other equally wealthy and equally unworthy causes for the Opposition to champion. The basis of the opposition to these Bills is that they are a social reform. The Opposition, being a conservative Opposition, is opposed to almost any sort of social reform which reduces the inequalities in our society. They are pressured by those who have a privileged position in this society because of previous inequalities. This pressure can be seen by the scurrying of a previous honourable member for Barton around the portals of this House at the moment, touting for the Australian Medical Association. All the criticisms of the present scheme are corrected in our proposed health scheme. Some of them were corrected in the hurriedly prepared Liberal Party health scheme produced just before the last election. For the first time the Liberal Party and the Country Party conceded that there were people not covered by the present health scheme, that the scheme was not universal. For the first time they realised that migrants and poor people were not covered by this scheme. So they hurriedly tried to correct their scheme before an election that was of their choosing. Someone interjected and asked what percentage of the people were not covered. That interjection will be of great interest to people who cannot afford to be in the present scheme. The fact that the Opposition parties are quibbling about whether it will cost $500,000, $800,000 or $lm must be of great interest to people who have no cover. This shows the lack of perspective of members of the Opposition parties. The only difference between the scheme proposed by the Opposition and our proposal is that we cannot see any sense in preserving the large voluntary health funds. In the original draft of the Opposition’s proposal there was provision for representatives of the contributors to be on the boards of the health funds. In fact a most radical step was suggested- that members of the boards of these funds should be elected by the contributors. However, when the final draft came out, after pressures had been applied and after threats of the withdrawal of election funds, this suggestion was withdrawn from the Opposition’s scheme.
The Labor Party’s scheme is a good scheme, a just scheme, a fair scheme. The criticisms of the Opposition generally are a matter of quibbling and have no philosophical basis. We are dealing with a matter of social security. An ex-Prime Minister on the Opposition side agreed a fortnight ago in an article in ‘Nation Review’ that this was a matter of social security. This legislation will improve health care in this country and will bring justice to it. I recommend that we pass this Bill.
-The proceedings of this Joint Sitting are not being televised now and I want to compliment those in my Party who organised the list of speakers and exercised good judgment in making sure that my contribution was not televised. Apparently that applies not only to me. I have been looking at a survey conducted by the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of people who watched the Joint Sitting yesterday on television. According to the survey most of the housewives spoken to preferred the soap operas and daytime movies. One woman said: ‘Why watch that bunch acting like children when you can see the real thing in “Romper Room”?’ According to somebody else ‘No. 96’ is far too important to miss for a parliamentary debate on electoral boundaries and that we should be discussing real issues, like price rises. I agree with the last part of that. At least the price is right on Channel 10. However, according to this newspaper man, one person, the secretary of an old age pensioners’ society, watched the telecast from beginning to end. He said Parliament should be televised more often and believed there was one way of boosting ratings. He said that members of Parliament should take the opportunity of appearing in the altogether so that constituents could become more intimately acquainted with them. I nominate the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) -
-Order! If my memory serves me correctly we are debating the health Bills.
– This is all about the health Bills.
– The honourable member for Barker will confine his remarks to the Bill. He has had a fair go so far.
– I have probably spoken more words about national health schemes than has anyone in these 2 Houses of Parliament, not because I am naturally verbose but because for 5 years as Minister for Health I presided over the development and operation of the existing voluntary health scheme which these Bills, in an act of wanton senseless vandalism, are designed to destroy. During those years I learned a lot. I learned how complex and delicately balanced were the relationships between the professionals and the institutions responsible for providing health care and, in turn, between those professionals and institutions and the recipients of health care. I learned how easily these relationships can be upset, how easily the quality of health care can decline if one wields the bludgeon, as the present Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has done; if one attempts to let funding arrangements and economic considerations rather than efficient and sympathetic delivery of health care predominate in the health scheme; if in a search for something that is simple and easily understood one forgets that he is dealing with something that is essentially complex and therefore not conducive to such treatment; if one pulls down and destroys and starts again rather than build on what is proven and tried. I learned by observing what had happened in other countries that by adopting these criteria we had developed a health scheme which, although not perfect, was unique and, I believe, somewhat precious. That is why I say with all the conviction at my command that it is a wanton act of vandalism to destroy it, as the Labor Government proposes to do when and if these Bills are enacted.
At the end of my time as Minister for Health I expressed my convictions in these words:
We want a health scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being and not just as a cog in a medical care machine. We want a scheme in which his feelings, his convenience, even his idiosyncracies, are respected, in which he always remains a person and not just an illness or a cipher on a computer card. We also want a system which encourages a degree of self reliance and which does not encourage the individual to rely entirely on the machinery of some monolithic government agency for care and sympathyqualities which any bureaucracy, however well motivated its personnel, is ill equipped to provide.
It is because the present scheme provides, in my view, these things and the scheme embodied in these Bills provides the very opposite, that I and the joint Opposition Parties oppose the proposed scheme. Let me tell the Joint Sitting what this proposed scheme does not do. This should hardly be necessary except that over many years now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Social Security have persistently and wilfully misled the public, and in this they have been uncritically echoed by some newspapers, particularly the Melbourne ‘Age’. Honourable members and honourable senators will remember that, over the years, every time there has been an increase in doctors’ fees or an increase in hospital charges; every time there were complaints that the present scheme did not adequately cover paramedical services; every time there were problems about nursing homes; every time that other such problems arose, there were cries from the Prime Minister and his few servile supporters in the Press Gallery that we must have the Labor Party’s health scheme to fix them. In these circumstances it will probably surprise the public to know that these Bills and the scheme embodied in them are silent on all these things. There is in them no mechanism for ensuring that doctors charge the common fee. There is no answer to the problem of soaring hospital costs. There is even less cover for paramedical services than under the present scheme. There is absolutely no answer to the ever escalating costs of nursing home fees.
Last year the Government brought down a White Paper designed to turn away wrath, to assuage fears, to dampen down the hostility of people and institutions affected by its proposals, and to lull people into a sense of false security- a dishonest document deliberately designed to mislead. This White Paper received a great deal of publicity. It was hailed by the Minister and his acolytes in the Press Gallery as a triumph for tolerance, reason and compromise. It will therefore come as a surprise to the public to know that despite the soothing words in the White Paper there is no guarantee either in it or in the legislation that there will be sufficient standard ward beds for people who want them when they want them. There is absolutely no guarantee that their doctor will be able to follow them into hospital even if they happen to be attached to the visiting staff. There is absolutely no guarantee that private hospitals will remain in existence- still less the subsidised community hospitals in my own State. There is absolutely no guarantee that large numbers of able specialists will not be forced out of private practice into salaried public service by economic deprivation.
There is absolutely no assurance that in the absence of government support for the special account in particular, and other forms of Commonwealth assistance in general, insurance cover for private hospital treatment will not be so prohibitively expensive as to be out of the range of all but a very wealthy few. I could go on with this list. But the items on it all have one thing in common. The White Paper makes reassuring noises about all of them which do not mean a damned thing. Given the record of this Minister, this Prime Minister and this Government over the last 20 months the Australian people would be extremely unwise to listen to or to heed reassuring noises of any description. In my view that record perfectly justifies this Opposition’s maintaining our opposition up to the hilt.
In the light of all this there are people from one end of Australia to the other asking themselves why the Government is trying to throw out a health scheme which the overwhelming majority of them have found perfectly satisfactory, which has given them good quality health care at reasonable cost with freedom of choice of doctor and hospital and health insurance fund, and with speed and compassion, and in which they have genuine confidence. However much the Government may protest to the contrary, however much it may twist and distort figures and however much it may emphasise individual cases and incidents and attempt to make people believe that black is white and white is black, this has been the experience of the overwhelming majority of Australians.
I constantly ask myself why these changes have become necessary or why there has been the denigration which the Australian Labor Party has undertaken persistently over the years of the health funds, the doctors, the private hospitals, the nursing homes and other such bodies. Why have the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security denigrated them time after time, year after year, week in and week out?
– What did the Nimmo Committee have to say?
-I will deal with that in just a minute. I constantly ask myself why all this denigration was necessary. If the Labor Party’s health scheme was as good as honourable members and honourable senators opposite have been saying it is, why go into this denigration of decent, self-respecting individuals to the extent that they have. Looking back, I think I understand. The original scheme was not the WhitlamHayden scheme; it was conceived by 2 young economists, Scotton and Deeble. Not unnaturally, being economists, the financial aspects dominated their thinking. As they saw it, it was only by constructing a scheme that was virtually entirely tax financed that the health costs which were burgeoning everywhere in the world could be controlled. This is how the United Kingdom has been able to keep expenditure on health below 5 per cent of its gross national product. Undoubtedly, this was their model, although, of course, it was adapted to suit Australian conditions and Labor Party political prejudices. Everything else followed, particularly the large degree of uniformity and Government control, dragging everybody and everything down to the lowest level. The Australian people will live to regret this. In other words, it was nationalisation in fact, if not in name.
Deeble and Scotton sold this scheme to the Australian Labor Party lock, stock and barrel. It emerged as Australian Labor Party policy without a change of a dot of an ‘ i ‘ or the cross of a ‘ t ‘. Deeble and Scotton did not have to work hard to sell it. It appealed to the Labor Party’s opportunist instincts. The voluntary health scheme was going through a bad patch. There was some public dissatisfaction with the benefits it provided, and the Government at that time was waiting for the Nimmo Committee to complete its report so that the next great step forward could be taken. That step was to be taken with something true and tried. What better environment could there be in which to launch this deceptively simple, superficially appealing and apparently cheaper scheme. It appealed not only to the opportunist instincts of the members of the Australian Labor Party but also to their socialist instincts. We must remember that it was essentially the British scheme. It was almost entirely tax financed. But it was and still is wrapped in tinsel to disguise its socialist origins. It made some headway in the minds of members of the public, not on its merits, because the realities were and are hidden from the public gaze, but on the constant reiteration by the Prime Minister that the current difficulties of the voluntary health scheme at that time were inherent in the scheme itself.
I do not have to remind the Joint Sitting how the 1970 reforms- what I am now saying relates to the question I was asked earlier about the Nimmo Committee report- following on the acceptance by the then Government of most of the Nimmo recommendations gave the complete lie to that assertion. We were able to produce the present arrangements, which so many Australians have found so sensitively attuned to their health care needs, without abandoning the principles of voluntary health insurance. Almost overnight the main arguments on which the Labor Party based its proposition for a substitute scheme disappeared. Faced with this position, with the ground cut from under their feet, the present Prime Minister and the present Minister for Social Security decided to bluff it out, to misrepresent and misrepresent everything about the defects of the present scheme and the elements of their own scheme.
Let me give honourable members and honourable senators one example of each type of misrepresentation. Firstly, there are the health funds. I defy the Minister to deny that he and the Prime Minister quite deliberately, as an act of policy, set out to denigrate the health funds and to create in the public mind the impression that the funds were profit making institutions operating for their own benefit and that the large number of closed and friendly society funds were a source of extravagance and inefficiency and squandered money on excessive promotion and self-indulgence. I defy both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security to deny that at the time they said those things they knew them to be untrue.
Let me take another example, this time from their own scheme, the one that we are asked to approve this afternoon. Members of the Labor Party have asserted constantly- they have said it in this debate- that it does not mean the nationalisation of medicine. Yet they know- indeed, they have boasted- that under their scheme many more patients will enter the public wards of public hospitals. They have told us that the occupants of these beds will be treated by salaried or sessionally paid doctors, not on a fee for service basis. They know that most specialists in private practice depend on the fees they are paid for services rendered to patients in intermediate or private wards and in private hospitals for the major part of their income. They know that the more people cease to be private patients and become public patients the more specialists will be forced by economic necessity to become salaried doctors. If this is not nationalisation, I do not know what is. They have said again and again that their scheme does not mean nationalisation. They know that to be untrue. This scheme deserves to be thrown out because it was conceived in deceit and has been perpetuated by misrepresentation unequalled in Australian history.
- Mr Chairman, that was a fine flowing phrase that the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) just used. He talked about ‘a record of deceit unparalleled in Australian history’. He said: ‘If that is not nationalisation of medicine, I do not know what is ‘. He was referring to economic pressures on doctors to join salaried service. But the statistics in respect of doctors who have joined salaried service under the present scheme- under the scheme launched, promoted and defended today by the once great Liberal Party- show that the ratio of medical practitioners on a salary in this country has increased from one in seven to three in ten. If it is nationalisation to cause economic pressures that cause doctors to go into salaried service, then I say that the Liberal Party has given us an example of 23 years of nationalisation of medicine. Let us get away from this nonsense and this misuse of words.
The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) misrepresented me by saying that I had foreseen 80 per cent of doctors moving into salaried practice within a few years. I said nothing of the kind. I said that I can foresee that possibly, ultimately, some day we might get as high as 80 per cent of doctors in a salaried service. I compared it to the teaching profession, which, if anything, is more vital than the medical profession, if there is one in this country, and I am sure honourable members would not look on teaching as nationalisation because 80 per cent of teachers, shall we say, are forced by economic pressures into a salaried situation.
The honourable member for Hotham went further in his misleading statement by saying that if this ever occurred- he almost implied that it was going to happen in a few years, in some inexplicable way, because of the present health scheme proposals- only 20 per cent of people would be able to afford doctors in private practice. This is deliberate, calculated, knowing misrepresentation, because the honourable member knows that I have said to him in public debate and in private discussion, as have others on this side of the House, that in Queensland well over 40 per cent of the population still buys private hospital insurance and a much higher proportion buys private medical fee insurance. How can the honourable member conceivably make the misrepresentation that somehow the scheme that we are proposing, which continues subsidy to private hospital beds at a higher rate and which continue subsidy to private medical practice on an equitable tribunal-fixed scale, will tip people into the situation where in a few years only 25 per cent of them will be able to afford private doctors? This is the continual, deliberately misleading argument that we hear from the opposite side.
Senator Guilfoyle quoted some figures which indicated that the cost of this proposed scheme was about the same as the cost of the present scheme. The costing of it has shown that this is about the level at which it has been pitched. Two or three speakers on the other side have said that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has refused to cost his scheme. The only people who have never costed their scheme or ours or anybody else’s are the members of the LiberalCountry Party coalition. They are the only people who have never produced costs. They quote airy fairy estimates plucked out of the air. Let me give an example quoted by a former Treasurer and the present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden.
– Do not be dishonest. Tell us the cost of your scheme.
– This is some of their dishonesty- I will quote the honourable senator the figures which Mr Snedden stated in this House today. He misrepresented the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) just as others have misrepresented me. He said the Prime Minister had forecast that the 5.3 per cent of the gross domestic product now going on health care would rise by the year 2000 to 12 per cent of the gross domestic product. This we have from the former Treasurer who pretends to be the leader of an alternative government in this country. He said that the Prime Minister had predicted that under our scheme the cost would escalate to 12 per cent by the year 2000. The Prime Minister said nothing of the kind. He said, as I have said and as the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, has said- as several of us have said- that the best expert extimates of the way the exponential growth of health cost is going now is that if it continues at the present trend it will reach 12 per cent by the year 2000. It has nothing to do with whether we bring in our scheme or the Opposition sticks to its old ramshackle scheme until the year 2000. That is the sort of misrepresentation on which the Leader of the Opposition has built his case.
The Leader of the Opposition made a few more sweeping statements. He said: ‘We will defeat this bad socialist scheme’. Let me assure him that in this defeat we will not lose. He said that people do not want to have to wait in surgeries or hospitals, that they do not want everybody to be like a pea in a pod and that they do not want to be sent into a ward with a designated doctor. Can he point to one public hospital anywhere in this country-repatriation schemes, State schemes- in which one gets a choice as to one’s doctor? He is trying to confuse the Australian people, as so many have tried to confuse the Australian people, including the Australian Medical Association and many of the voluntary insurance funds, by identifying the Goverment ‘s scheme with a public ward scheme. We have done more in the White Paper and in this legislation to provide reasonable rates of cover for private and intermediate beds, as well as to upgrade the public sector, than any previous government. There is no way in which people are going to be forced into public wards. There is no way in which doctors are going to be forced onto salaries. Those are the things that have been speciously misrepresented around this country during the last 3 federal election campaigns and they are still being mouthed today by people who know that what they are saying is wrong.
The honourable member for Hotham also made a few large and sweeping statements. He said: ‘If you and your wife work and you live in Queensland you are going to be taxed 3 times. Your wife will be taxed, you will be taxed and you will be still paying the tax you are paying now which gives you the right to a free bed in Queensland’. Can he tell me of any married couple in that situation who do not have to pay 3 times to send their children to a private school? Is there any person whose wife works and is in receipt of an income who does not pay taxes for the public school system at the same time as he pays for the private schooling of his children? Is that not the same situation? Does somebody who goes into a private hospital in Queensland today not also pay by way of taxes for the public ward system in Queensland? Do a husband and wife not pay taxes from their incomes to support that system? It is the use of half-truths as lies to deceive people to say that they will be taxed 3 times. People are confused by the making of such sweeping statements. I do not blame them.
Another dramatic statement by the honourable member for Hotham was that 80 per cent of the people who are insured- that is, 95 per cent of Australians- want their wives to have their babies in a private hospital. Is there any other government which has offered a way in which one can choose to have one’s baby in a public hospital? The Government’s White Paper provides for this. The honourable member has deliberately ignored the feature of the Government’s scheme whereby, for the first time, there will be a way by which a private doctor who agrees to attend to people in public wards will be able to get his fee for the delivery and the patient will be able to continue as a public hospital patient. No other government- State or Federal- has put forward such a proposition.
The honourable member for Hotham said that the Government will grab everyone in Australia for this scheme. Let us have a look at that statement. He said that the Government is introducing this scheme for the benefit of the 5 per cent of the population who are not covered. Have we grabbed everybody in Australia to set up the
State school system? Have we grabbed everybody in Australia to join the pension scheme? These are legitimate social security functions in relation to which the community has a responsibility. The Opposition has made much of the scheme that it, as a government, brought in after World War II as being a great advance in the field of social security. Did it not grab everyone into that? The Opposition says: ‘No, we gave you a choice. You can join a voluntary insurance fund if you want to or you can stay out of it ‘. Was anybody given a choice about whether $2 of every $3 that the private doctor earns should come from his taxes? That is what is being provided under the present scheme. Is the LiberalCountry Party scheme grabbing anybody in Australia or is it not? Those emotional phrases are not going to solve or stop this health debate. The Opposition is not going to stop the people of Australia from getting universal health insurance cover. It is not only our side of politics that has commended this proposal. As long ago as 1938 the founder of that once great Liberal Party said that the only solution to the problem of meeting health costs was a national health insurance scheme. In fact, the Liberal Party got very close to implementing it. Opposition supporters were very touchy on that subject when we suggested that they might be influenced by some vested interests in the field of insurance and that maybe the Australian Medical Association or voluntary funds were misusing investment avenues and promotion funds to influence them. The Opposition did not like that suggestion, but now it has changed its mind. What changed that great vision of Sir Robert Menzies and turned the Liberal Party away from a universal health insurance scheme?
Why is Australia the only advanced country which for 23 years has had an almost complete scheme? It hovers on the brink and yet the previous governments were fearful to make it universal and fearful to give that cover to the 5 per cent to which the honourble member for Hotham referred? He said that we should not bring everyone down to a uniform mediocrity. I wonder whether he calls it ‘dragging down’ when, for the first time, the Government makes available some kind of a mediocrity and some kind of equality of care- any kind of medical- for people who formerly had no cover whatever. The honourable member for Hotham spoke also about the long waiting lists for beds. I have worked in private medical practice at a reasonably mediocre level of affluence of the population in the western suburbs of Sydney. I have also worked in Queensland under that so-called horrible scheme of nationalised medicine where they have free hospitals. My experience, and that of any other doctor in those areas, no matter what side of politics they came from- the Opposition can confirm this view- was that we were never short of beds in Rockhampton but we were always short of beds for patients who lived in Chester Hill and if they wanted to get a bed they had to take a 40-minute trip in an ambulance -
– To Sydney.
– To the other side of Sydney, to the Royal North Shore Hospital and to the Coast Hospital very often. The waiting lists have not improved very much, I am told. In some parts of the western suburbs a person has to travel for 40 minutes not to be admitted to a hospital, but just to get to a doctor or an outpatients department. The scheme that we have now is creaking and is out of date. It is time for a radical reappraisal of it. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who spoke earlier in this debate pointed out that what we are debating today is a system of payment. Much has been made of statements by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security that our first nationalisation project would be health insurance. The Opposition has again misrepresented these statements by saying that the Government will nationalise all health services, and that of course is something very different.
People on both sides of the House have stressed that nationalisation of health insurance is not nationalisation of medical services, that health services and health care delivery are not insurance and are not systems of payment. One of the biggest deficiencies in the present scheme is the inability, the unwillingness or the neglect of previous governments in any way to plan, to look ahead at the needs of health care delivery. In fact, when we made representations to former Ministers for Health they said consistently: ‘It is not a matter for us, it is a matter for the States.’ They washed their hands of the hospital system. They did not even dream of community health systems and they had no approach to rehabilitation, with one honourable exception. The only exception was the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who, when he was Minister for Social Services, managed to sell the then government a kind of rehabilitation program- a vocational rehabilitation program only, not a medical one. Its purpose was purely to get people off pensions and sickness benefits. It was purely a money saving operation and not a complete system of rehabilitation. These are the areas at which we have looked and in respect of which we have tabled reports in this Parliament.
I refer to a community health program, a medical rehabilitation scheme for Australia and a hospitals program for Australia. We have been concerned with major federal funding and commitment and with major federal concern, planning and advice to the States, in co-operation with the States. This action of the Government has again been misrepresented as centralised bureaucracy. But what other government has done as much to help to decentralise these very functions and to insist that the local community committees and authorities and the voluntary organisations have a place in the regional organisation of health care? We have taken some of the power out of the centralised bureaucracies of the States. We have confronted the States and forced them into this position.
– What could be a more centralised bureaucracy than Canberra?
– The honourable member has referred to Canberra. The doctors in Canberra have at last seen the light, that some of their leaders have been leading them up the garden path. They have at least seen that I am a person who is willing to engage them, to offer them salaried posts on the conditions that apply in Queensland and Tasmania where salaried doctors are giving public service without the application of a means test.
-What about conditions in South Australia?
– There is a means test for public beds in South Australia. I have told the doctors in Canberra that 1 am prepared to look at their guidelines or what they call their log of claims. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and I met the principals of the Australian Capital Territory Medical Association in his office in Canberra when he was Minister for Labor and we offered to go through with them in detail any of their industrial complaints. We offered to discuss with them anything which they felt was not fair in a scheme which proposed the introduction of a salaried service in Canberra hospitals. We are still waiting on a document prepared by them. We are still waiting on one single written proposal to alter the agreement which we proposed to them. They have not taken up Mr Cameron ‘s offer to make his officers available to work with them and to hammer out proposals. They have collected sheafs of legal advice but not one of those documents or objections has been shown to us.
The rank and file doctors of the Australian Capital Territory know that they have been taken for a ride and I am sure that we will see some sanity emerge. I am sure that we will not only have full time salaried doctors of world standard engaged here treating public patients in Canberra for no cost and without a means test, but also we will have the doctors who are working in private practice now in this federal territory working alongside doctors engaged on the basis of sessional payments.
– Is that a threat?
– That is a promise from the doctors themselves. That is what they have told me. No one is going to force them into this system. They will be offered an agreement, which will be a 2-sided agreement. The Queensland Government and governments of other colours have offered doctors these conditions and the Australian Medical Association in those States willingly has accepted those conditions. We are going to pay doctors for what they now do for nothing, bearing in mind that 20 per cent of their work is done as charity. We are to give them a bit of payment and recognition for the work they do.
We ha ve heard much nonsense from the other side of the chamber that our scheme will destroy the doctor-patient relationship. But has it destroyed the doctor-relationship of every single private doctor when he was a resident medical officer?
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce-Leader of the Opposition) -Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
-Yes. The Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), who has just spoken, claimed that I was wrong in attributing to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) estimates of the cost of the health scheme. I have before me a document which is entitled ‘Speech by the Prime Minister, the honourable E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.’, which was delivered by the Prime Minister at the sixteenth anniversary of the official opening of the Liverpool District Hospital. At page 5 of that distributed document he said:
This problem extends into other health services as well as hospitals. At present health services cost our nation more than $2,000m a year or about 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product. Their cost is increasing so dramatically that it has been estimated that our expenditure on health services could be more thai 12 per cent of gross domestic product by the year 2000. The result of this increase has been especially reflected in hospitals. Higher charges and growing deficits have become a feature of our hospital system in recent years.
Other words in the speech make it quite clear to what the honourable gentleman was referring. He said, for instance, as appears at page 6:
The proposed levy of 1.35 per cent on taxable income will prove cheaper than the present health insurance scheme for the great majority of Australians.
I do not agree with that statement, but it does indentify what he was talking about, that is, the proposed Labor health scheme with the 1.35 per cent levy. On page 8 the honourable gentleman is reported as saying in the speech he made at Liverpool:
The Government will have a majority to ensure their passage at the Joint Sitting.
He was referring to the health scheme legislation. He continued:
It remains the Government’s firm intention to introduce the program. Obstruction in the Senate may have delayed its introduction, but will not prevent it. We expect the health insurance program to become a reality in 1 975.
There can be no doubt, Mr Chairman, to what the Prime Minister was referring.
The other matter I wish to raise is that in his speech the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) said that I had said- and I certainly did- that the Minister for Health had not costed his scheme. There were interjections from this side of the House asking what is the cost. I will be delighted if the honourable gentleman will produce the costs.
Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation on the same matter.
– Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. It is clear from the passages of my speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has quoted that I was not only quoting the cost of the scheme which my Government inherited from the previous Government, but also giving the projections of the cost of that scheme. Mr Chairman, it is clear also from other passages which he quoted that I was referring to the prospective cost of the scheme embodied in this legislation. The basis is that this legislation will provide for a more economic costing and a more equitable sharing of that cost.
– I think that we all really want to know what effect the passage of these Bills will have on the patients, the doctors, the hospitals and the health industry overall. But before I deal with that I wish to address some words to the Government on its attitude to the role and function of the Senate.
Yesterday in the debates Government members stated quite categorically that they did not regard the Senate as a States House. Indeed, they wanted to abolish it, but they realised that this was some sort of Utopian dream that they could not yet achieve. They have found that the Senate is a tough nut and not being able to dissolve it they have decided to dilute it. This will happen as a result of one of the Bills which was passed yesterday.
– Talk about this Bill and not about what happened yesterday.
– The role of the Senate is most pertinent to this health legislation. We are to have some pseudo-senators in the Senate. But the Senate is a States House because there are 10 senators from each State elected to it so that an equal representation from each State is maintamed. This is to protect the interests of the smaller States.
– What has that to do with this legislation?
- Senator Poyser comes from one of those States.
– What are these ‘smaller States’?
– Queensland, the State which I represent, will be inimically damaged by the passage of this health legislation. The role of the Senate is most important in relation to this matter.
– The role of the Senate has been -
– Order! Senator Poyser, you will cease interjecting.
– The Government informed us yesterday that the Senate discusses the problem of the States in its Party room, but not all senators belong to the Government side of the Senate. Almost half of them belong to the Opposition side of the Senate. To decide State issues in the Labor Party’s party room is to disfranchise every voter in the States. Is that parliamentary democracy or is it socialism? I call it socialism. There have been several precedents for senators to act on behalf of their States. I remember reading in relation to the legislation establishing the Snowy Mountains Authority that New South Wales and Victoria were going to tamper with the water of the River Murray and disadvantage South Australia. All the South Australian senators voted together to protect their State. Similarly, in relation to the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Bill, the Western Australian senators stuck together and protected Western Australia.
– And sugar in Queensland.
– I think we should get on with the health aspect.
-Certainly. I hope that with the health Bills all Queensland senators will vote together, as they have been clearly instructed to do, and reject them.
– By whom?
– By the people of Queensland. Let us not have any misconception about either of these health Bills. They do not promise people any better health. They promise worse health. They certainly promise high taxes. Everybody has spoken about the cost. The cost will come out of people’s taxes. What the Bills promise is a universal and compulsory insurance scheme. In those Bills is contained the machinery for socialisation. This will be achieved by a simple process of strangulation of the private medical services that we enjoy today and it will replace them by a single huge, Government operated, bureaucratic machine, I presume something like the Post Office, of which all Government supporters would have knowledge, where one pays more and gets less.
This high tax, ill-health Bill is the first step in destroying our private health insurance, our private general practitioner service, our private specialist service, our private hospitals, our private nursing homes and our private ancillary services. Once that happens Australia will be stuck with a fully nationalised service such as exists in the socialist countries. Then, my dear patient, when you crawl into your sick bed the Government will crawl in beside you. And the Government is not a very good bed-mate. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said, if the Government pays, the Government controls. In these new public beds a person will cease to be a patient and will become what is known as teaching material. Curiously, a lot of people do not mind being made teaching material, but they should remember also that they will be used for research purposes.
As has been stated during these debates, many countries have tried various forms of socialised health. They are all variations on a theme and they all come from the magnificent promise of freedom from cost and worry, mainly from politicians in order to curry favour and win votes. But in not one of those countries is any one of those schemes a success. Indeed, they are failing and they are costing the people of those countries enormous amounts which they cannot bear. Why should we make the mistakes that have been made overseas? If there are any good features in their systems, certainly we should lift them and incorporate them in ours, but we have no need to practise their folly. Despite the claims of honourable members opposite, Australians are not generally dissatisfied with the health service they have at the moment. Any faults that exist lend themselves to easy correction. If we are to replace our health services and the good standard that we enjoy, we should replace them with something better, not something worse.
– What standards have you in your nursing homes?
– Quite good. They are low only because of Government interference and because the Government has imposed vicious price fixing on them causing many of them to close.
The Government has given many reasons why it should introduce this new scheme. It says that over one million people are not covered by private medical insurance cover. The number has been disputed, and rightly so. But even if one person is not properly covered then it is the duty of the Government to see that he is brought in out of the cold. If one per cent, 5 per cent or 10 per cent are not properly covered, then certainly it is the duty of the Government to see that they are covered, but not to tip the other 90 per cent out into the cold, which is what this Bill proposes. It will expose us all to the second-rate class of treatment that pensioners get. The Government claims that the passage of these Bills will remove the fear of the financial consequences of illnesses from the patients, but who are the patients? They are you and I. The high cost of the Government’s scheme will not relieve us of any fears of the financial consequences of illness. Indeed, we will be suffering from them because we as taxpayers will have to foot the bill. It is maintained that there is social inequality in the cost of medical insurance simply because richer people can deduct their premiums from their income for tax purposes and get it more cheaply, but I would point out that the richer people pay more tax anyway and out of that tax a fair whack is taken for the provision of other health services.
Mention was made of the unpredictability of costs and the way in which the Government will fix doctor’s fees to some myth of a thing called a common fee. I would point out that the doctor’s fee is not the important factor in the rising medical costs. It is the utilisation of the service that creates the high costs. When a patient goes to the doctor he does not know whether he has a little illness or a big illness. It might just involve one consultation and a prescription, but it might involve the doctor sending the patient for tests, an X-ray, a further opinion, hospitalisation or an operation. The cost depends on the usage. We cannot possibly predict medical costs. The doctor’s fee is only a minor part of those costs. Doctors, of course, have been accused of being bloody-minded and money-grubbing. It has already been pointed out in this Parliament that if the Government’s medical scheme is brought in doctors will earn a lot more. I would point out also that over the last 20 years or more doctors have been providing cheap services for the Government for treatment of pensioners, repatriation patients and workers compensation cases. Rather than the Government subsidising the doctors the boot is on the other foot and the doctors have been subsidising the Government.
The Government talks about the demeaning application of the means test. I know that it is the policy of my Party to abolish the means test and I thought it was the policy of the Government to do so, but its spending in other directions, which has reduced the economy to dire straits, has not allowed it to do so. Yet at least the means test sees that services go to the areas of most need. The charge that pensioners get second-rate care is true. For the last 20 months the Government has done nothing about it. All it has to do to fix it is to put the pensioners in a medical benefits scheme and then the whole range of medical care will be open to pensioners.
The most critical part of the Bills involves that crafty ruse whereby doctors will be gradually coerced into bulk billing the Government. When that happens it means that the Government will be paying the doctor, or in other words, the doctor will be working for the Government and will not be working for the patient. Once that happens we will all be sorry and every Australian will be disadvantaged. When the patient comes to see the doctor he will find all of a sudden that a government wedge has been driven between him and the doctor. He will find when he attends his doctor that if the doctor’s fee is fixed and low the only mechanism the doctor has to earn more money is to see more patients. The patient will be scorching his pants going through the doctor’s surgery, as has happened in other countries that have tried this type of scheme. The patient, by the way, has been the forgotten person in all of this scheme. When we come to think of it, the whole health edifice exists for the patient. Our medical education, medical research, administrative medicine, curative medicine and preventive medicine all exist for the patient- and one at a time, not in big groups. If we have no private medical care to balance public medical care the patient has to take it or leave it, like it or lump it. I was amused to hear other speakers say that they would fix the problems of hospitals and doctors in this country, apparently by the passage of these Bills.
At the moment Australia is suffering from a tremendous shortage of doctors. Where are the new ones to come from? Now that the Government has nationalised the universities, Queensland has a situation where a medical student can pass his first year medicine but not be accepted into second year medicine because quota systems are rigidly applied.
Under these new Bills doctors are not encouraged to expand the service which they give to patients in their surgeries. The doctor will be paid only for the patient’s passage through the surgery. In other words he is not encouraged to provide pathology tests, X-rays, cardiographs and all those other services which save time and inconvenience to patients.
The promise of free health care to the consumer at the point of delivery is a wild one. It is incapable of fulfilment because a promise like that immediately creates an unlimited demand. To satisfy that demand there is a Government Budget. The two cannot meet. Indeed, one goes away from the other and we wind up with dissatisfied doctors, patients and government. I recommend that we reject the Bills.
– I think the people of Queensland should be congratulated on having elected Senator Sheil to the Senate. At least it moves him out of the medical care field, to their great advantage. By now these Bills have been debated over and over in both Houses of the Parliament. They have been debated almost endlessly outside the Parliament through the media, in clubs, committees and societies. The debates which have covered the intricacies of the scales of fees and actuary reports have gone on endlessly. These matters have been pulled apart and put together again. I rise to support the Bills on the grounds that, for the vast majority of the little people of this country, they will be a godsend. The intricacies of Government subsidies and the financial arrangements that prevail between State and Federal governments are beyond them. They want, and they have said through 2 elections in the last 2 years, that they will have a scheme such as this to take some of the terror out of being ill. The difference between the party to which I have the honour to belong and the Opposition Parties is that we represent those people and the Opposition represents the privileged in the community, people such as the doctors who are represented by the Australian Medical Association and the General Practitioners’ Society, the private hospitals and the private health insurance funds.
Through all the debate which has waged around these Bills the constant hysterical and deliberate attempt to misrepresent the scheme and to engender fear and dismay has come from those bodies which I mentioned. The willing tool in this patently dishonest campaign has been the Opposition in the Federal Parliament. One would have thought that some tinge of conscience would have been awakened under those modish suits and those stylish haircuts, some feeling of responsibility for the ordinary people whom the Opposition represents, the ordinary people who join one of the health insurance funds out of some 160 which exist. But there are still one million people uncovered. People join these funds at an ever-increasing cost while the funds are propped up by Government finance and create greater and greater reserves. As the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) pointed out recently, they amount to $40m in one instance. Meanwhile, the funds pay their executives larger and larger salaries. This week while the Minister argued against bigger contribution payments by members, the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia’s executive committee approved new salaries for its top executives. In the case of the director the salary is $3 1,400, plus $1,500 expenses and a car. This is a rise of 22.54 per cent. At the beginning these funds were envisaged as being of assistance to the very people whom they are now milching, the very people whom the Opposition is supposed to represent. These funds are not even representatives of their consumers. (Honourable senators and members interjecting)-
– Order! Honourable senators and members will come to order. I will not keep on asking members of the Country Party to remain silent. If they do not remain silent, I will have to take the appropriate action.
– Even members of the Country Party represent consumers who should be represented on these health insurance funds. But consumers play a very small part in boards of management of health insurance funds. For instance, the Hospital Benefits Association in Victoria is run by a committee of twenty-eight, only eight of whom are elected by the contributors. The other twenty are appointed by the various hospital associations, the Australian Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria and the Bush Nursing Association. Of those 28 committee members, eleven form the executive committee which actually runs the Association, and under that set up there is no way that the contributors can be represented adequately in that inner committee.
The private health insurance funds have failed to give the Australian people the protection they require. People who insure themselves with these funds are finding it harder and harder to afford adequate cover. The very proliferation of funds- 81 medical funds and 93 hospital funds -is illogical and must be costly to the community as costs rise and as they compete. More than one million people are left without any cover. These are people who, in the main, are the sorts of people for whom the community must take responsibility- age pensioners, single mothers, people on low incomes with large families and people who just do not think about the necessity for cover and who are irresponsible but who, with this Government’s scheme, will be forced to discipline themselves. To follow the line of the Opposition and have all these people enrolled in private funds would result in a massive handout to doctors and the funds. It would cost in the vicinity of $150m a year and would achieve nothing by way of desirable incentives for the future development of the health care system.
I instance the case of a working family which has to pay out an increasing amount for insurance cover; has to remember to go to the chemist regularly to pay for that cover; has to remember, if the contributor changes jobs and the boss has been making deductions from his pay, to make other arrangements to have the payments made or else when the wife has a baby in 3 months’ time or when Johnny has appendicitis there is no money; and which has to wait for repayments to arrive. That family and similar families are all desperately wanting a scheme that looks after paying the bills in some civilised and easy way so that there is one more thing about which they do not have to worry. They do not feel that they have lost any great liberty in having the amount deducted from their pay. They are looking forward to the freedom of having that part of the business of living looked after for them. So many of them know from conversations with their mates that this is the way it is done in comparable overseas countries. No terrible disasters have overtaken those countries because of such schemes. Not one of the Governments involved would remove such schemes.
Much is said about nationalising doctors, socialising medicine and creating a government monopoly over medicine. The fact is that we are losing goodwill in the medical world. We are losing the goodwill of the patients. Doctors are losing the goodwill of the patients-the goodwill that used to exist between them- because, so far as the patients can see, the doctors or, to give them their due, the doctors represented by these associations are much more concerned with their own position and how much money they can earn than with the welfare of their patients. One patently dishonest rumor that those gallant gentlemen in the AMA have spread abroad throughout the highways and byways- a rumor which has been mentioned here today- is this despicable story: ‘You will not be able to have your own doctor. You will be zoned. You will go on a list. You will have a black man to look after you’. This is all poppycock, and they know it. Over and over, in written and spoken words, the Government has said that there will be complete freedom of choice of doctor. There is no way by which a person will be forced away from his own doctor, even if the doctor is Senator Sheil.
If the doctors from the General Practitioners Society and the Australian Medical Association took time out from worrying about how much money they were going to earn and tried even once to be truthful they would have to admit that today, under the scheme they prefer and maintain, it is very difficult in some instances for a patient to see the same doctor on 2 consecutive visits. Doctors have formed themselves into groups and clinics to give themselves decent working hours and conditions- nobody has any complaint about that- and the patient sees the doctor on duty. So why this constant childish nonsense about the personal relationship between doctor and patient? What patient goes to a specialist of his own choice? He goes where his doctor directs him. That is the system that exists and that is the system that will continue. It is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary people to say otherwise.
This scheme that we are bringing in does not in any way interfere with that current situation. The Opposition and the doctors it represents would have more credibility if they showed more concern for the areas where there are no doctors at all. If they were more concerned with the people who cannot afford doctor’s fees, hospital insurance charges or charges for proper medical cover, they would have more credibility in their crusade to save the community from itself. Does not the Opposition know that there are many areas in which doctors’ surgeries display a sign cash on consultation’? What does a mother do who slices off her thumb doing the vegetables or whose nipper falls out of a tree and breaks his wrist? It is unfortunate if they are stupid enough to do it on the day before pay day and there is no money.
Have not members opposite ever existed where the purse was empty? If a plumber is asked to come and mend a pipe he does not ask for the money first. He comes and mends the pipe and sends his bill like any honest, decent tradesman. But members opposite are not prepared to make doctors become honest, decent tradesmen. The people opposite have never woken up in the night with pain and laid in misery saying to themselves that they will go to the doctor tomorrow only to find that when tomorrow comes they are faced with the milk bill and the new school shoes and they have to put the visit off again and again. A member of the Opposition in earlier debate told us that if a person is too poor to pay a doctor that person should certainly go to the doctor, feeling sure that he would not be refused attention to his needs. What incredible cheek. It is like Florence Nightingale bringing calves foot jelly and other help to the poor.
We on this side of the House are committed to maintaining the proper dignity of all people. We are not committed to innumerable private health insurance funds whose only concern is to build up their reserves so that when this Government’s scheme begins to operate they may escape with the fat funds. We are not committed to preserve a system where doctors exist in some privileged position- gentlemen who, at will and as the pique takes them, will withdraw their services from areas of need without a care for the people left without their care. Gentlemen withdraw their services; lesser ranks go on strike. But the lesser ranks go on strike in a desperate bid to maintain their very lives. These other people go on strike to maintain their position of privilege. We are committed to giving the people of Australia a comprehensive health insurance scheme- a comprehensive health cover- because we believe in their intrinsic right to a life of dignity and decency.
– I call the honourable member for Lilley.
– Santamaria wrote this.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will cease interjecting.
-The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) has always had a fertile imagination that has been demonstrated in nothing else but his puerile interjections. Within the constraints of time that are put upon me- they are quite severe- one or two things deserve to be stated concerning the proposed health scheme. When I look at the Government and when I consider the activities of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) over the last 5 years I am forced to accept the simple proposition that their aim has been to go down in Australian history as the gravediggers of Australia’s health system. They have become very chirpy because they feel themselves to be within 20 minutes or 25 minutes of achieving that very disastrous goal and title.
This proposition must also be considered in some other contexts. Nothing that this Government does can be considered other than in a context of power and its propensity to stretch the Constitution to its very limit. When one remembers what was attempted last December, what was attempted in May and what was carried out yesterday, one can see that the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Oxley intend to make themselves the gravediggers of the Australian Constitution. This is certainly true in respect of health services. The commonsense of the Australian people was manifest when the Constitution was first adopted, because in the matter of health only one power was conferred on the Commonwealth Government- the power of quarantine. When, after the Second World War, the social service amendments were made to the Constitution, further powers in respect of health, hospitals, medical benefits, etc., were conferred upon the Commonwealth Government, but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription. The spirit of that veto is quite clear. The spirit of that veto is offended when, in terms of economic conscription and financial conscription, the Government, through the honourable member for Oxley and the Prime Minister, attempts to inter our present health system. Economic conscription, with all its compulsion and with all its direction, has always been anathema to the Australian people, but the Government intends to impose it on the Australian people in respect of health.
The further question should be asked: In what respect does the Government intend to impose this economic conscription upon the Australian people? Earlier this afternoon I listened to the speech of a former Minister for Health, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), and every word in his comments was correct. For 5 years the Prime Minister and his supporters have looked for the vulnerable elements in the Australian health system in order to utilise them as instruments with which to destroy the Australian health system. They have looked for the vulnerable elements in three respects. They have looked for the vulnerable elements in the medical profession; they have looked for the vulnerable elements in respect of hospitals; and they have used the weight of their propaganda and money to make vulnerable the voluntary health services of this nation. Time makes very severe constraints in this respect, but in terms of the medical profession the Prime Minister and his supporters intend to use the weight of the Commonwealth’s powers to interpose themselves in every consultation between a doctor and a patient, and it is a weight that can barely be resisted by the people who do not have great organisations behind them. Common sense indicates that this is so.
The Prime Minister and his supporters have utilised the vulnerable element in respect of hospital services. People who are without great resources and who wish to avail themselves of hospital services will be turned away from the hospitals of their choice. I will illustrate that with one example, and it is quite clear. Who could be more vulnerable in this respect than an expectant mother expecting difficulties in child birth? Who could be more vulnerable than an expectant mother under those circumstances who has paid her contributions to a government insurance fund and has booked into a private maternity hospital? Under the proposed health scheme that payment will be an extra cost on her of several hundred dollars. If her child happens to have difficulties and has to be put in an intensive care ward, and if the hospital cannot juggle that child between a private and a public intensive care ward, that mother will have to pay some further extra hundreds of dollars. Those vulnerable people are the ones who will be induced to move away from the private hospitals of Australia.
Turning to the third element in respect of the voluntary health funds, accusations of deception upon deception have been laid at their doors for more than 5 years, and there has been no more cruel deception than that 25 per cent of the money paid out by voluntary health funds has in fact been spent on management expenses. They have been clear, unequivocal lies; they have been a series of lies. When one looks at what the Government has done and the context in which it has done it, one sees that the Government’s plan of campaign and its tactics do the Government little credit. But of course the Government wants to make a name for itself. It wants to copy the British scheme. When Aneurin Bevan introduced the British scheme he did not know what inflation was. The experiment of the welfare state was something new and its consequences were not appreciated. Aneurin Bevan did this against the background of a tragic and very high rate of unemployment which had existed in his own country for more than a couple of decades.
– The Tories have never taken that off the statute book, though.
-I hope that we have a higher standard of living than they have in the United Kingdom. Every one of those experiences is known in Australia. The economic context in which this scheme is being introduced has 2 elements- high inflation and rising unemployment. I am unable to see in the chamber at the moment the Minister for Labor and Immigration, but we will soon be able to say of him a parody which was said of others almost 20 years ago, namely: ‘You will all be cool in Cameron’s pool’.
In the few minutes available to me I would like to descend into a parochialism appropriate to my own State, but it is one that touches nearly 2 million people in this nation. For decades there has been in Queensland a mixture of public and private hospitals which all of the people in that State have supported. In fact, almost 900,000 people in my own State have sought to have the free public hospital system available to them as their own source of treatment. That right is to be taken away, and it is to be taken away by this scheme which has been proposed by the Government. The Government has chosen the vulnerable elements in the private hospitals field, in terms of patients to indicate that they would not be able to pay to go to those hospitals, and in terms of simple benefits which people in Queensland have received and which have been appropriate only to that part of the Commonwealth. Those things will vanish, and it is appro1 priate to consider that point in a time when Cameron’s pool is going to get larger.
There has been a form of accident benefit or unemployment benefit available to those people in Queensland who were members of funds and who went to a public hospital, in that they received up to $30 a week. This benefit helped many families. Even that is to be taken away under the scheme which is proposed by the Government. Everything that is done by this Government is done in the context of power. In terms of health, which is the most intimate of social services, the Government does not want to put itself in the position of sharing power with anyone else. The people of Australia will regret it if in fact they have this scheme imposed upon them.
The final indignity with respect to my own State has been the double shuffle and the trickery that have been proposed in respect of Danegeld, an extra amount of money to be given if the State agrees to do away with the free public hospitals. Various extra amounts ranging between $22m and $34m have been promised to the people in my own State if they go quietly and do not object to the plunder of their own free public hospitals system. But the honourable member for Oxley knows, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) knows, and the Prime Minister knows that the way in which interstate finances are organised, unamended at the moment, it is very unlikely that that can be given to Peter without robbing Paul. So the double shuffle and the trickery deserves to be exposed in this respect.
One is left only with the proposition- a simple proposition in this respect- that the Government and those people who propose this scheme will not be happy until they have the title of the successful gravedigger thrust upon them, and they will not be happy unless they see the body of a healthy, vital, voluntary, supported Australian health services interred.
-There is nothing like a debate on a down-to-earth topic such as health to expose the gulf that separates the Liberal Party from the problems of an average Australian family. Every word we heard this morning from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Opposition spokesman on health and social security, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), showed clearly that they are out of touch with the health care services upon which an overwhelming majority of Australian families are obliged to rely. Every calamity which they predicted as a result of the health scheme which we are debating this afternoon is already part and parcel of health care arrangements for which the Opposition is responsible and with which every ordinary Australian family becomes involved in times of sickness or injury.
The Leader of the Opposition said that under Labor’s alternative national health program patients would have to wait and wait in doctor’s surgeries for their medical attention. I will show him surgeries located for miles around his home, which is situated in my electorate, in which sick people, frightened people, crying children and victims of accidents waited hours this morning for medical attention, as they wait each day of each year under the Liberal health arrangements which did not occasion him any concern in 23 years.
– Are you sincere?
– I hear members of the Country Party disagreeing with me. Perhaps they have a different experience. Every member on either side who represents a suburban electorate knows that this is the truth and the waiting goes on. I know because last week my wife and my child waited for 3 hours under those conditions in a suburban surgery.
The Leader of the Opposition said that under Labor’s alternative health scheme people would have to wait, wait, wait until hospital beds were available before they could undergo elective surgery. Is there any public hospital in which this was not the case throughout 23 years of Liberal Party Government of this country? Honourable members opposite are no more able to understand the state of ordinary medical and hospital services to which they would never dream of entrusting themselves or their families than they are able to understand the ordinary schools to which they would never send their children. I have no doubt that the honourable member for Hotham thinks that he is making a point when he says that 80 per cent of Australians choose to insure themselves for hospital care at the intermediate or private ward level. It would never occur to the honourable member to use these services himself. He is obviously unaware that apart from the people of Queensland everybody is means tested out of a public ward. They have no option but to insure themselves at that level. It is a proscription. It is utter presumption for Opposition members to pontificate, as they have today, on community health services of which they have never had personal experience. The criticisms which they made this morning were not based on the shabby congested surgeries and public hospitals of the outer suburbs on which ordinary people rely for health services. They were based on the air-conditioned consulting rooms of Collins Street and on the single bed private hospital wards to which Opposition members turn in times of need; on those private hospitals for which the honourable member for Hotham has always reserved his greatest eloquence and his sincerest concern. Under the agreement made between the Whips that is the limit of the contribution which I can make today. I am glad that I had an opportunity to speak.
– The debate having concluded the question is:
That the proposed law, namely the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, be affirmed.
Pursuant to rule 1 1 the Joint Sitting will divide.
Ring the bells.
The Joint Sitting divided. (The Chairman- Hon. J. F. Cope)
– Order! The result of the division is ayes 95, noes 92. I declare the proposed law affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by section 57 of the Constitution.
– The question now is:
That the proposed law, namely the Health Insurance Act 1973, be affirmed.
Pursuant to rule 1 1 the Joint Sitting will divide. Ring the bells.
The Joint Sitting divided. (The Chairman- Hon. J. F. Cope)
-The result of the division is ayes 95, noes 92. 1 declare the proposed law affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by section 57 of the Constitution.
-Mr Chairman, under the provisions of rule 16 I move:
– Order! The honourable gentleman gave me a copy of the proposed motion beforehand. The Proclamation by the Governor-General on 30 July 1974 convened a Joint Sitting of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for the purpose of deliberating and voting upon each of the 6 proposed laws. In my opinion, neither section 57 of the Constitution nor the Proclamation authorises the consideration of any other matters by the Joint Sitting. Accordingly, I rule the proposed motion out of order.
-Mr Chairman, under rule 141 move:
That the Chairman’s ruling be disagreed with. (The honourable member for Mackellar having submitted his objection in writing)-
-Mr Chairman, this sitting comes about in consequence of a Proclamation, as you have said. That Proclamation detailed what we should do. But it did not detail what we should not do. Indeed, sir, the Chief Justice a few days ago criticised the terms of the Proclamation as setting out in too much detail what in fact we should do. We are constrained by our ad hoc Standing Rules and by the Senate Standing Orders. But even the Senate Standing Orders do not confine the discussion. It is true that we cannot make here valid laws outside the terms of the Proclamation, but there is nothing to prevent us from discussing what we want to do. Surely, we can make resolutions about our own adjournment; it would be monstrous if we could not make such resolutions now. I put to you, Mr Chairman, the general principle that unless it violates a special requirement, every meeting is master of its own business. So, there is no specific requirement which precludes this discussion.
Sir, I will be brief. We are meeting as all members of Parliament. It is true that we are not the Houses of Parliament in the normal sense. But the matters that I propose in this motion are relevant to our main responsibilities as members of Parliament and we would be recreant to those responsibilites if we did not consider them in the present frightening state of crisis. It is true that I have proposed 2 alternatives: Either that we should discuss these matters adequately nowand whatever personal inconvenience it may be to members, we should stay and discuss them -
– I rise to a point of order. I understand, Mr Chairman, that the motion we are considering now is that your ruling be disagreed with. Therefore I think we should be given some reasons why we should disagree with your ruling. Whether or not it may be appropriate to discuss something now is another question. The question is whether your ruling should be accepted.
– The point of order is upheld. I shall read out what I said:
The proclamation by the Governor-General on 30 July convened a Joint Sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives for the purposes of deliberating and voting upon each of the 6 proposed laws. In my opinion neither section 57 of the Constitution nor the Proclamation authorises the consideration of any other matters by the Joint Sitting. Accordingly I rule that proposed motion out of order.
The honourable gentleman shall not discuss any matter except that embraced by the point of order raised by Senator Cavanagh.
– Indeed, Sir. I shall confine myself very specifically to that point. I have already taken the point that while the Proclamation does not require us to discuss these things, it does not forbid us to discuss them. I now take the point that as members of Parliament, since we are not forbidden to do this, we have a duty to do it in the present circumstances. I have put the 2 alternatives: Either we discuss them now or the Government indicates that both Houses should meet next week. The Senate is to meet anyway. I do not believe that in the present situation honourable members would be worried about their personal convenience. I say that, hoping to commend honourable members and senators. It has been asked: Why should the House of Representatives discuss these matters when it met only last week? I think that this is a question which should be answered in terms of the point that you have raised, Sir. It is a question of whether our duties constrain us to do those things which are not forbidden. There have been 3 changes in the situation since last week. Firstly, there has been an authoritative economist’s statement that has placed the Government’s economic policy in ruins.
– Order! I have just read a statement from the Chair about this matter. I am asking the honourable gentleman to make the point he wishes to make as to why my ruling should be disagreed with. I am not asking the honourable gentleman to debate the question. Do not strain our good friendship.
– I know that no small incident could strain our friendship, Sir. I simply say that it might be said that the House of Representatives met last week. In order to show the extent of the responsibilities which lie upon honourable members and senators to discuss now those things that are not forbidden- I think that this is absolutely relevant to your ruling, Sir- I wish to point out briefly that I have noted that there have been 3 changes, namely, the economist’s statement, the communists’ statement and the present industrial disruption -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman.
– Order! I will have to ask the honourable member for Mackellar to resume bis seat if he persists in going outside the motion before the Chair. The motion is that the Chairman’s ruling be disagreed with. The honourable member for Mackellar is not allowed to discuss the economy or anything else; he is allowed to talk only about the reason why my ruling should be disagreed with.
– I have given that reason, Sir.
– If the honourable member for Mackellar persists in debating the question I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I shall, of course, obey the Chair. I only wish to say in this my last sentence -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. I draw attention to the Rules of this Joint Sitting, which are those of the Senate. Standing order 429 states:
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President -
Meaning you, Mr Chairman- such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and Debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides - (Honourable senators and members interjecting)
– Order! On this occasion we are working to rule (14), which provides for the situation where any objection is taken to any ruling of the Chairman. Every honourable member and senator has a copy of the Rules. That rule, which was agreed to by both Houses of the Parliament, supersedes the provision in the Standing Orders of the Senate. I indicate to the honourable member for Mackellar that he had better confine his remarks to the reason why my ruling should be disagreed with.
-Mr Chairman, I thought I had done that. I will conclude with 2 final points, if I may. First, if we adjourn in the face of this new, frightening new situation without doing anything about it we face the deserved censure of the people. I hope that there will be a bipartisan debate. I do not intend to press this motion to a division because I know that it takes a quarter of an hour to count a division and I am not prepared to waste time knowing that if the Government feels a certain way the steamroller will come out. I am not going to waste time by requiring the motion to be put to a division. I was hoping against hope that this frightening national crisis could be met in a bipartisan spirit.
– Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I wondered how long the calm of this Joint Sitting could last. I wondered also how long the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) could resist the temptation to let those strange people in his electorate know that he was amongst us. Having seen his performance on the television screen, I should imagine that at the next election the seat will be a Labor certainty. Mr Chairman, you ruled that the honourable member for Mackellar was out of order when he submitted a motion to this Parliament. He sought to introduce into this Joint Sitting of the Parliament discussion of matters which were not included in His Excellency the Governor-General’s proclamation. I refer the honourable member for Mackellar, if he can read it intelligently, to the proclamation. The final words are these:
Now therefore I, Sir John Robert Kerr, the GovernorGeneral of Australia, do by this my Proclamation convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, to commence in the House of Representatives Chamber at Parliament House, Canberra at 10.30 o’clock in the morning on 6 August 1974, at which they may deliberate and shall vote together upon each of the said proposed laws as last proposed by the House of Representatives.
So that that final paragraph might penetrate the intellect of the honourable member for Mackellar let me repeat it slowly: at which they may deliberate and shall vote together upon each of the said proposed laws as last proposed by the House of Representatives.
The honourable member, in his usual disruptive and propagandising way, decided to take advantage of the Joint Sitting of this Parliament at which we are deliberating on tremendous issues because of the frustration caused by members of that decadent chamber opposite. He sought to take advantage of the situation and to suspend Standing Orders so that he could raise a matter in contradiction of His Excellency’s command. Could the House have imagined a Liberal breaking His Excellency’s command? What a treacherous thing to do. What an insult to the Crown and Her Majesty.
– Order! I think the Minster is becoming a little provocative.
-Well, with my Irish background, Mr Chairman, I am upset tremendously by the motion moved by the honourable member. I would not like to see a motion such as this carried against Her Majesty’s representative in this country in the precise way it has been moved by the honourable member for Mackellar. I have no wish to hold up the business of this House, but, as everybody knows, this is a propaganda move. There is no substance in the honourable member’s motion. You, Mr Chairman, in your wise and Solomon-like way, gave one of those rulings for which you are famous. The business of the House should not be held up. The proceedings of this Joint Sitting are, at the moment, being televised and the honourable member moved this motion so that his electors might see him.
Another reason the honourable member has moved this motion is to try, as other speakers on that side of the House have done, from the Leader of the Opposition down, to take away from this Joint Sitting the opportunity to deliberate on the great issues before it. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the motion because it has no substance. It is contradictory of the proclamation that has been issued and of the Standing Orders. It has been moved for propaganda purposes only and all the honourable members will get out of it, no matter what happens, is to let those people who have seen him know that he is here. I hope that having had his moment of glory the honourable member for Mackellar will behave himself and let this Joint Sitting get on with its deliberations.
-Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been most grossly misrepresented by the Minister.
-Order! If that is possible, I will permit a personal explanation.
-The Minister said that I had moved this motion purely for propaganda purposes and to delay discussions of important issues. Important though the issues before this Joint Sitting may be, the issue that I raised was even more important.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I now call on the sixth proposed law, namely, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973, and pursuant to rule -
- Mr Chairman, before you do so, I would like to raise one other point of order with you. If you had read that part of the judgement in the High Court yesterday by the Chief Justice -
– Order! There is no point of order involved.
– But you have not heard me, Mr Chairman.
– Order! A point of order can relate only to the Standing Orders and the rules governing this Joint Sitting adopted by both Houses.
-But you are acting on proclamations which the Chief Justice said were improper.
– Order! A motion was moved disagreeing with my ruling. That motion was defeated. I now call on the sixth proposed law, namely the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973 and pursuant to rule 1 1I propose the question:
That the proposed law be affirmed.
- Mr Chairman, honourable senators and honourable members, I support the motion as stated. No Australian Government was ever in a stronger position in the introduction of its legislation than we are on this occasion. We have the specific mandate of the electors of Australia, who returned this Government to power, following a double dissolution election in which this legislation was a major issue. The Senate Opposition, entrenched in its ‘House of Obstruction’, continues to flout the clear electoral verdict deliberately, systematically and provocatively. Its actions strike at the fundamental concepts of parliamentary democracy. Having once pushed the Australian Government to an election by double dissolution, the opposition has immediately threatened to repeat its behavior. It is a supreme example of Little Australians, narrow and biased in their approach, exhibiting uncompromising opposition to the legitimate Australian Government. The House of Representatives is the House where governments are made and unmade.
In succession, this Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on 12 December 1973; failed to pass the Senate on 13 December 1973; was refused a second reading by the Senate on 2 April 1974; was re-enacted by the House of Representatives on 8 April 1974; was refused a second reading by the Senate for the second time on 10 April 1974; was re-enacted by the House of Representatives on 11 July 1974; and again was refused a second reading by the Senate on 24 July 1974.
This legislation proposes the creation of a Petroleum and Minerals Authority whose functions will be to explore for, and to develop, Australia’s petroleum and mineral resources, and to assist in implementing the Government’s policies of promoting Australian ownership and control of our natural resources and resource industries. In today’s world, the ever growing energy crisis highlights the world reliance on oil and natural gas for energy needs. It is in no small measure due to the quadrupling of oil prices that a threat is posed to the economic viability and foreign exchange reserves of some of the world’s major industrial powers, which have complacently relied on unlimited cheap oil imports, and have ignored research and development of alternative energy sources, such as natural gas, coal, and ultimately uranium and solar energy.
I first spoke of this Authority in the House of Representatives on 12 April 1973 in my statement on ‘Australian Petroleum Search Policy’. I then foreshadowed an Australian annual energy budget, based on the advice of a group of statutory bodies and authorities, which will include the authority created by this measure. Energy can, of course, be derived from sources other than oil and natural gas. Petroleum equivalent derivatives can be obtained from the hydrogenation of coal, from natural gas and its liquids. There is also the enrichment of uranium. We have yet to determine fully in Australia our reserves of these energy resources, without forfeiting national ownership and participation, and
I stress the words ‘national ownership and participation’. These are but three of the energy resources which we possess and in which we are rich. We are, for example, amongst the world’s 5 major producers of bauxite, iron ore, tin, silver, lead, zinc and manganese. In addition to world ranking deposits of uranium, we have significant deposits of other minerals. The Bill vests in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority the same functions and powers, in relation to these other minerals, as it does in relation to petroleum. Other provisions in the Bill are designed specifically to promote Australian ownership and control of our natural resources, by requiring the Authority to assist weaker mining undertakings to get off the ground, and achieve cash-flow, thereby helping them to remain Australian, and saving them from falling into foreign hands.
Australian ownership is not an objective to be achieved by usurping the reasonable interests of overseas organisations, which today have majority control of certain sectors of our mineral and energy resources. It is an objective to be achieved by other means, not the least of which are by Australian national partnership participation. As a nation we have not hitherto been conscious of our obligation to ourselves to undertake the development of our mineral resources. Our predecessors in office certainly sought such development. The great difference between them and us has been their policies, which exposed Australian initiatives to overseas acquisition and control. We believe that these policies resulted from a misunderstanding of the national interest, ignorance of the effects of the real operations of multi-national corporations and, above all, underconfidence in the capacity of their fellow Australians, and fear of the consequences of failure.
The Australian Government accepts its responsibilities. We are not unmindful of the contributions of overseas companies by development in particular cases, by the provision of capital, technology, and commercial opportunities, but in future Australia will be the primary partner in such enterprises. These objectives are well understood overseas by both governments and commerce. Whilst we shall be primary partners, we still, under appropriate conditions, welcome continued participation and assistance of overseas companies. The Prime Minister has said that our policies are not ‘anti’ anyone: They are ‘for’ Australia. I emphasise that these measures concern ownership and control of our mineral resources and resource industries. They do not affect supplies under existing contracts which will be honoured to the full, nor do they have adverse implications for the future supply of minerals from this country. The products of our Australian resources will be as readily available to our trading partners as they have been in the past. We shall be aiming at the greater processing of our mineral exports, and so moving from being primarily an exporter of raw materials, to being substantially an exporter of semi-processed and fully processed materials. In the field of energy resources we are naturally looking to our own needs first, particularly to ensure full independence in liquid hydro-carbons, and their equivalents. We have insisted, of course, upon fair and reasonable returns, based upon world market prices for our exports, ensuring that neither the buyer, nor the seller, will suffer windfall losses, nor enjoy windfall gains by currency exchange rate movement, and long term contracts. We are specially aware of the energy needs of Japan as our major trading partner, and our continuing obligations to meet Japan in complementary trading relations.
The Prime Minister has already said, with great clarity, in documents tabled on 7 November last, that in special energy cases we have the particular objective of 100 per cent Australian ownership. The specific cases are uranium, crude oil, natural gas and black coal. Soaring crude oil prices can reach a point well before 1980, where alternative production of petroleum derivatives by the hydrogenation of coal can be cheaper than continued oU consumption. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority will also participate in this field. In his 1972 policy speech the Prime Minister said that the Australian Labor Party was determined that the Australian people should be restored 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 reasonable sharers in the national wealth. The Government believes that Australian ownership and control of the nation’s assets is no longer a matter of debate, but an objective to be shared by the great mass of the Australian people of all political persuasions. Approximately 62 per cent of Australian minerals are under foreign ownership and /or control. In the case of crude oil and natural gas it well exceeds 70 per cent. The Australian Government is determined that these figures will not rise, and will work to ensure their progressive reduction.
Lacking a comprehensive minerals policy, our predecessors allowed conflicting policies to originate in the various Australian States, which have embarked on conscious policies of foolish competition to attract mining companies to their areas. The competitive granting of mineral exploration rights on absurd terms in the name of progress has resulted in the States, in many cases, being allowed to usurp national functions. In the State of Queensland for example, 80 per cent of its black coal resources are in the hands of overseas ownership. One foreign company dominates 60 per cent of” the black coal production in that State. There is only 15 per cent Australian equity in the consortium holding off-shore exploration rights on the North West Continental Shelf of Western Australia, where 142,000 square miles of one of the world ‘s largest potential natural gas areas are held by it- an area beyond the full capacity of even the largest company to intensively explore. We have refused applications from it to agree to the transfer of its obligations by ‘farm-out’ to other companies on a 50-50 basis, ignoring the rights of Australian sovereignty. We have refused such ‘farm-outs’, stating that areas which cannot be explored by existing permit holders should be returned to the Australian Government to be let out by it on a participating basis, ensuring at least a 50 per cent direct return to the Australian people.
About 25 per cent of Australia’s export income is derived from minerals. We seek to follow the lead of other nations, which now participate directly in petroleum and minerals search and production. The British Government, of course, is a major shareholder in the British Petroleum Co. Ltd. There is direct participation in mineral production by national governments in France, Italy, Norway, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, India, Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand, to name only some of the governments thus participating. Indeed it is questionable whether, with the degree of government participation throughout the world in these fields, the interests of our nation can be properly represented other than through an agency of the government. Without government to government initiatives, Australia today would neither have unrationed access to liquid fuels, nor the ability to continue to export its high tonnage production.
It was the policy of our predecessors to make their contribution to search for petroleum resources by a variety of indirect means, including payment of subsidies and special tax arrangements, and to accept the abuses necessarily associated with such a system. Our policy is direct contribution by a Petroleum and Minerals Authority, the subject of this Bill. Last year the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and I announced the termination of the income tax concessions provided by sections 77c, 77d and 78 of the Income Tax
Assessment Act. Matching replacement finance will flow through the activities of the new agency.
The celebrated Fitzgerald report on these matters showed that only about 27 per cent of the funds raised by typical companies of the section 77 claiming class were in fact being devoted to genuine mineral exploration or mines and plant, and the remainder to company share speculation and other colourable practices. It has been backed in great detail by the Rae Committee’s report, with particular reference to the notable abuses in the share market transactions of the crashed Minsec Company. These will be fully covered by other Government speakers. The Fitzgerald report disclosures of the paltry contributions by major overseas mineral companies to Australian tax revenues, utilising the excessively generous tax concessions our predecessors allowed, were greeted with stunned silence by the Opposition during the recent May election campaign. Direct subsidies for oil search and available taxation concessions up to the end of 1971 showed that of $843 m spent on petroleum exploration in Australia $4 19m, or almost exactly one-half, represented either direct Commonwealth subsidy or taxation concessions available to participating companies. In return the Australian Government, and the Australian people, have not received even a single dollar equity share. Of this sum $ 1 34m has been disbursed under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act which expired on 30 June last. A considerable proportion of this money has been paid to the subsidiaries of overseas major oil companies, who have had least need of assistance. We are assailed by demands for ever-increasing government expenditure on oil search. It will be forthcoming, but with tight protection for proper returns to the Australian nation, without the fecklessness and folly of our predecessors.
The Petroleum and Minerals Authority will function efficiently by partnership and farm-out in the case of off-shore oil and gas exploration, and by partnership, equity holdings, loan and guarantee in the case of on-shore mineral eplortion. The normal pattern operating in so many comparable countries will be observed by a partnership between the national Government providing natural resources and experienced explorers providing the risk capital, technology and expertise. In the case of small mining companies and syndicates which had discovered substantial mineral resources, and were unable to obtain Australian developmental finance, we were confronted with a situation where astute overseas investors were prepared to take over major interests in such deposits. There is a considerable number of such small companies and syndicates held up by the operation of the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act who will benefit immediately by assistance from the Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
Contrary to Opposition propaganda and distortion in successive debates on this Bill, foreign investors are not going to be frightened away merely because the Australian Government wishes to play a greater role in the exploration for, and development of, our resources. They live with much tougher conditions elsewhere in the world than Labor is establishing. The taxation concessions which became blatant tax ramps would have been terminated years ago in such countries. It has been asserted by the Opposition that public funds will be placed at hazard in supporting irresponsible ventures. It conveniently forgets the discreditable minerals exploration boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s and its consequences. There is clear evidence that the design and intention of the Senate Opposition in relation to this Bill has been to seek every opportunity and pretext for delay. In debating this measure in both Houses there has been deliberate and persistent misinterpretation of its provisions. It has been suggested that property can be seized without compensation, that the interests of the States of Australia have been completely ignored, and that genuine assistance is not available to the smaller companies, despite the specific provisions of the Bill supplemented by the Lands Acquisition Act and the Austraiian Constitution.
The legislation in relation to the States onshore minerals stands on the basic constitutional powers of the Australian Parliament to regulate overseas trade and interstate trade, and also, at appropriate times, the general powers for the defence of Australia. We are determined to ensure that the transition in the United States will not be repeated in Australia, under which major petroleum companies are announcing that they have broadened their activities and objectives to become major energy companies. A point has been reached in the United States where top oil companies own 53 per cent of United States coal production and, through a maze of subsidiaries, control nearly two-thirds of the commercial coal market. A similar situation exists in relation to uranium. This Bill will be Australia’s certain insurance policy against such a situation developing in Australia in respect of the petroleum and mineral resources which are the birthright of the Austraiian people. It is a matter for serious national concern that we are confronted with a situation such as now exists in relation to Australia’s natural resources. We will present a barrier to further overseas exploitation. Companies which are here will get fair and reasonable treatment but, for the furture, the interests of the Australian people in preserving their birthright will come first.
– We have just listened to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) present the Government case for the establishment of a petroleum and minerals authority. He has presented it in the rosiest manner in which one could possibly present it. He has glossed over the real substance of this legislation. One would think that there are no contentious issues in it whatsoever, but the facts are that the proposed establishment of this new authority has put gloom into the mining and energy industries in Australia. Today there is no confidence at all in this area. The Minister talked in glib terms about Australian ownership. In referring to overseas ownership he has used figures which are not correct and which have been challenged previously. He has even used figures from his own department showing that Australian ownership is not something like 38 per cent but is more like 64 per cent. He has talked about the need for greater Australian ownership. Everybody in this House would like to see a maximum Australian ownership. But it is not this legislation which will give greater Australian ownership; it is legislation which has been brought in by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) in relation to the Australian Industry Development Corporation which will facilitate the marshalling of funds to try to give a greater Australian participation and involvement in resources. It is just a cover-up to talk about greater Australian ownership by the use of this piece of legislation.
The Opposition Parties strongly oppose this legislation. But before going into the substance of the legislation I say that when this Bill last came before the House of Representatives I said that there were grounds for grave doubt as to whether the passage of the Bill through the 2 Houses of Parliament conformed to section 57 of the Constitution to enable it to be a double dissolution issue. The Senate reaffirmed this point of view by taking a vote on an amendment that this Bill be not allowed to proceed. That amendment was defeated by an equal vote. But it shows that within the Senate there were very strong reservations as to whether this Bill should proceed. There has been litigation before the High Court. No doubt there will be further litigation. It is the view of the Opposition Parties that this
Bill should not be included with the other 5 Bills for the Joint Sitting of this Parliament. Not only does the Bill offend the political beliefs of those on this side of the House but also it does not conform with our free enterprise principles and the spirit which is necessary to develop this country and especially its mining resources. This is probably the worst piece of legislation that we have seen introduced into this Parliament. It has been conceived out of prejudice and it is motivated by the desire for more political power. It conflicts with the sovereign rights of the States and it confuses existing Commonwealth laws. Its legal drafting is shoddy and crude and it provides no legislative safeguards for people affected by the legislation or for the taxpayer. It is a monstrous piece of legislation. I appreciate the fact that these proceedings are being shown on national television so that people might hear some of the facts relating to this legislation which they may not have been able to glean up to now from the biased reporting in many of the newspapers, particularly by socialist and left wing writers who believe that this is a sound piece of legislation.
By bludgeoning through the Parliament such wide ranging powers, without consultation with the State governments or the industry, in a Bill with such wide ramifications the Government is making a sham of the democratic process. If this legislation passes through the Parliament by the sheer weight of numbers, as no doubt it will, there is little doubt that there will be further litigation on it in the courts of this country. The Minister and his Government have launched and fostered a campaign to create the feeling that the mining and energy industries in Australia are unAustralian and are not acting in the best interests of this nation. If people have listened to some of the speeches of members of the Government Party- I must say that the speech made today by the Minister for Minerals and Energy was one of the mildest he has made; he is generally spitting venom at foreign companies and multinational companies- they will understand that there is a deliberate campaign going on in this nation to discredit the mining industry and to usher in this grand new Authority which is going to take over the development of mineral and energy resources in Australia and supposedly do it in a much more efficient manner than private enterprise has been able to.
In all fairness, why does this Government not acknowledge the enormous contribution that the mining industry has made to this nation? Were it not for the enormous development of the mining industry during the last decade, Australia would have had an economic recession when the rural industries collapsed because of drought and very low prices. The mining industry made up the gap. In the last decade it has created new towns in remote areas of Australia and has provided railways and roads. Much of this work has been done with the money of mining companies. It has created jobs for Australians and, as we see the employment situation become worse, I think we will find some moderation by this Government in criticising these great firms which are giving thousands of jobs to Australians, especially skilled Australians. It has been the greatest form of decentralisation that Australia has seen in the last 25 years. It is of enormous importance. Let nobody underestimate the dependence of this nation on the mining industry. Why has that industry succeeded? It has succeeded because people have been prepared to risk their capital in searching for mineral and energy resources and developing them. People have had faith in this country and faith in themselves. They have been ready to work hard, to go to harsh areas and to work under difficult conditions. We owe a debt to the Australian mining industry and it should not be criticised and poisoned as Ministers of this Government have done.
No doubt this Bill is designed to bring the industry into subjection to the Government and particularly to the Minister. The claim that we need an authority such as that which is proposed cannot be substantiated. The Australian Government and the State governments already have complete control and complete ownership of the natural resources of this country. No individual, firm or company, whether it be Australian or foreign owned, controls or owns the minerals and energy of this country. Governments make the laws and lay down the rules. The Government already has all the power it needs to control, to regulate and to direct the mining industries of this country. Why is the Minister so anxious to have this new powerful authority? He wants more and more control. He wants to be able to dominate the whole of the mining and energy situation in Australia. Never have we seen such far-reaching powers being given to a Minister or such wide-ranging all-embracing powers being given to an authority as exists in this legislation. Surely such powers and such highly contentious issues deserve a great deal more explanation from this Government than we have had up to date. Parliament and particularly the industry needs the courtesy of some explanation. The industry does not seem to be able to get a policy out of the Government on so many issues related to energy, uranium and to the pipeline system. The industry is just being stymied at the moment. The whole industry is being set back.
The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill seeks to put the Government into the mining and energy business in a big and dangerous way. The Authority would not just advise, supervise, control and direct these industries but it would get right into the act itself. It could do this simply by taking over existing enterprises on whatever terms it thinks fit. If people are starting to wonder what we mean when we talk about socialism let them have a look at this piece of legislation. This socialist Government that we have in Australia at the moment is set upon giving all power to this Authority so that it can control the industry, nationalise it and socialise it if it so wishes. The Authority would not only advise the Government on policy, lay down rules and regulate and control the industry, but also it would explore, develop, extract, refine, transport and market minerals and energy in this country. The Authority would lay down the rules but it does not have to stick to them itself. It would put itself in a privileged position to make it difficult for private enterprise to be able to compete with it. Surely we have not come so near to being a socialist State that this Parliament can allow this sort of monstrous proposal to be approved.
We do not reject the concept of a commission being able to regulate the industry and to advise the Government. In fact, a Senate committee set up in 1971 recommended that there ought to be a commission to use regulations where activities went across State borders and to be an independent authority advising the Government. But we cannot accept the proposal that has been brought forward. This proposal offends the principles of democratic rights which we believe are so precious to a democratic society, and mean so very much to the spirit and the life of this country. As I said earlier, the Authority would be empowered to take over existing enterprises on whatever terms it thought fit. There are no safeguards and there are no limits written into this legislation. The Authority need merely publish a notice in the Australian Government Gazette naming any area of Australia and that area then becomes a declared area. The Authority could move in and carry out whatever activities it likes. It could take over mineral or petroleum assets or reserves which any individual or any company may have against the will of the individual or company. All the individual or company would be sure of getting would be a royalty. There is no guarantee at all that compensation will be paid for the assets that have been confiscated.
Is it little wonder that we are fighting so hard to stop this monstrous proposal? This is the kind of thing that is expected in a dictatorial State, not in Australia. The Authority would simply override the rights of the States. Its activities are not subject to any of the existing laws, including the State Mining Acts-Acts which protect the landholder and people who have mining licences or leases. If the Minister tells the Authority to do something and the Authority loses money on the deal, I wonder who will lose. Certainly it will not be the Minister; it will be the poor old taxpayer. How many government enterprises make a profit? Goodness me, when one looks at the mess which the Government has made of managing the country, one would hardly want to encourage the Government to move into the mining industry or the energy industry. I think even the Government’s most avid and dogmatic supporters must be having a lot of doubts now about the Government’s capacity to manage anything.
There may have been some wisdom in amending this Bill to take out the obnoxious and undesirable aspects of it. But come hell or high water, this Minister was not going to allow his Bill to be interfered with. He has become a living legend in the mining and energy industries. He is legendary. He is a shadowy figure. Few people in the mining and energy industries know him.
– He throws a big shadow.
-There is a lot of physical substance to him. But he is a shadowy figure as far as anyone knowing him is concerned. He does not talk to people; he does not seem to want to talk to people. His Department has no idea what is going on inside his mind. In fact, the officers of his Department are in a state of dazed confusion. The Minister sits in his office and between bouts of mumblings about dreaded foreigners and capricious multi-national corporations he dreamsand he dreams some very expensive dreamsabout a national pipeline grid. While this is going on the whole program for the search for oil in Australia winds down to a very serious situation, and the mining industry gropes along bewildered and rather concerned. The trouble is that when the Minister says something he is generally wrong. Only last week he was trying to justify the pipeline going across to Palm Valley. He said there is 7 trillion or 8 trillion cubic feet of gas there. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has said that there is less than 2 trillion cubic feet of gas there. Of course, what is frightening is not the Minister’s ignorance of these matters but the fact that many of these gigantic projects for which the taxpayer will have to provide many millions of dollars, are based on the ignorant facts which the
Minister brings forward. He talks about the pipeline being extended from Palm Valley across to the north west shelf where there is approximately 1 8 trillion cubic feet of gas. But the company, which is concerned with that project and which has spent an enormous amount of money looking for oil and gas, has had its resources appropriated by this Government. The company cannot sell its products to anybody but the Pipeline Authority. It has no idea when the Authority will take its products or what quantity the Authority will need or what price the Authority will pay for the products. This has been going on for the last 12 months, at a time when there has been a world energy crisis. If that company were given instructions right now it would take it 6 years to get the gas on-shore. This is the situation.
The Minister has another idea about converting gas to petroleum. Goodness me, that would run into hundreds of millions of dollars. It is a most inefficient process. He would get a drop of petrol to meet our needs, but the gas would realise 3 or 4 times as much as could be obtained for the petrol produced from it. The whole idea is quite insane, but it shows the ridiculous ideas that are coming forward. Can you imagine the Authority implementing these ideas with your money and saying that it is in the best interests of Australia? This Minister has done a great deal to harm the Australian mining and energy industries by his open hatred of free enterprise and his obsession about foreign companies. I am not frightened to stand up and say that foreign companies have done a great deal for the development of this country and that they will do a darned sight more than this Authority or this Minister will ever do. But as our oil reserves run down, as they are running down, and as we are almost wholly dependent on Bass Strait, within a few years we will have only about 30 per cent self sufficiency in oil. This is a calamity and it is the Australian consumer who will be hurt. We oppose this legislation because it is tainted with bureaucracy and it smells of socialism. For these reasons we will continue to fight it wherever we can.
– I begin my contribution to this very important debate on the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill by acknowledging the work of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and of Mr T. M. Fitzgerald who prepared a report on the contribution of the mineral industry to Australian welfare. It is true, as the Leader of the Austraiian Country Party (Mr
Anthony) has just said, that the Minister has become a living legend in the history of the Australian mining industry because he represents the turning point in the history of this nation against the sell-out of Australian resources, with which I will deal in a few minutes, to the statement of a full and effective responsibility of the Australian Parliament and the Australian people in relation to that mining industry.
The extent of the sell-out of Australian resources to foreign companies has become vividly known. As it has become vividly known, I point out that no one has played a more significant part in making it vividly known than has the Minister himself. As it has become vividly known it has become resisted. Rejection of the sell-out of Australia is now almost universal. All sections of the community, all parties, except the Opposition parties in this Parliament, reject the sell-out of Australia, and still the Leader of the Australian Country Party appears here as the representative of the international corporations. No one has done more, as I say, than the Minister has to awaken the people to their responsibilities, to their possibilities. No one has done more than Mr Fitzgerald to discover the facts and prove the case. Mr Fitzgerald pointed out that the first economic task of any government is to raise the standards and the welfare of the people, and particularly those sections of the people who have been most disadvantaged. There are great and growing needs of the people for better housing, health, education and for the whole quality of life in which the modern city has failed so badly.
These needs are so great and are growing at such a rate that they cannot be met from the proceeds of taxation on individuals, or from charges made in the public sector, or from charges made for health or education or housing. Indeed, many of the needs for a better quality of life cannot be charged for at all, and resistance to the further use of these methods- the paying for welfare and the wellbeing of the people- as Mr Fitzgerald points out, have become as strong as the public desire for social improvement. Resistance to paying for social improvement has become as strong as the public desire for social improvement, and this is a dilemma that it is the responsibility of this nation to solve. Hence the desire of people for social improvement is stifled by the ability of the modern government and the modern economy to supply it. Modern public finance is no better to solve the problem of social improvement than is the market.
For Australia an exceptional opportunity for improving standards of welfare and wellbeing of our people did open out in the 1960s with this great unsurge of mineral discoveries. Mr Fitzgerald pointed out in a recent summary of his report.
The intrinsic quality of the newly discovered deposits of such minerals as iron ore, coal and bauxite gave prospect of exceptionally high income return in relation to the costs of the usual factors of production, mainly labour and capital. The superior profit would come from the contribution made by the resources itself to the value of the product, and since the resource belonged to the people, they would be entitled to a proper share of the benefits. After the foreign-owned mineral enterprises, in particular, had fully recouped their original investments, assisted in this by the generous income tax concessions available, there would be ground for negotiations to obtain increasing Australian ownership and benefits from the further extensions of operating leases. The situation called for an ordinary business approach in dealings with business enterprises. Mining companies, like other commercial enterprises, seek as a matter of course to maximise their profits. This is natural and inevitable and government authorities have to treat with the companies in the same terms. To do so the State and national authorities had to find a common basis in pursuing objectives to their mutual advantage. The nature of the foundations laid in the formative years of the mineral revival would have effects on Australian welfare lasting for decades or (as it turned out) for generations.
I agree with Mr Fitzgerald that what has been done up to now will have effects lasting for decades and, as it has turned out, for generations. Common sense supports that conclusion. What has been done under the supervision of preceding governments in this Parliament to our mineral resources will have effects lasting for decades and probably for generations. Despite this vast wealth and even far greater potential, Mr Fitzgerald concluded:
Apart from some regional benefit, which are . . . small in relation to the Dig values of high quality mineral resources being extracted and exported, the mineral industry is not contributing to the supreme task of raising welfare.
The report summarised the position of the minerals industry in figures which have not since been faulted, except in detail. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party talked about the enormous contribution of the mining industry to Australia. Let me give some evidence of that contribution. He talked about the principle of free enterprise. Let me state the principles of free enterprise, as they apply in the mining industry. He talked about the poor old taxpayer having to pay for this Authority which will be set up by the proposed law which the Minister is now submitting to Parliament. Let me state what the mining companies have done to the poor old taxpayer. In the 6 years from 1967-68 to 1971-72 declared profits of principal mining and oil-producing companies, before tax, were $2,072m. Between 1967-68 and 1971-72 the Australian Government received $286m of that sum in tax and royalties but in the same period it provided to the companies $34 lm in tax concessions, subsidies, bounties and Bureau of Mineral Resources expenditures. Hence, although the companies made $2,072m profit, the Australian Government made a net contribution to them of $55m. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party supports that proposition. He talked about the poor old taxpayer. During the same period the companies paid $263 m in royalties to the States, making contributions by them to all governments in Australia of $208m from profits of $2,072m, or less than 10 per cent. Who would not want to pay less than 10 per cent in taxation? Who, except the principal mining companies which made over $2,000m profit, has the privilege of paying less than 10 per cent in taxation? They are the principles of private enterprise.
In addition, before the profits of $2,072m were arrived at, a vast amount was charged against the revenues of the companies which would be inconceivable in any other industry or would be inconceivable for mineral and mining companies in any other country. Mr Fitzgerald pointed out the precise position of one of these companies. This is one of the principles of free enterprise. It is one of the great mining companies which have done so much for this nation. Let me quote in detail what Mr Fitzgerald wrote about one of them:
The paper presents a number of concrete examples of the process in action. Hamersley Holdings Ltd . . .
It is no worse than any of the other mining companies about 80 per cent foreign owned, is one of the major iron ore miners in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Among all the iron ore projects this is the only one for which the standard details of financial information (profits, taxation, capital expenditures, etc.) are made available to the governments and the people of Australia.
It is the only one from which we get information. What information do we get from that one? Mr Fitzgerald continued:
Since it commenced ore shipments in 1966 Hamersley has declared profits, before tax, amounting to more than $264m. It has paid less than Sim in income tax; the total figure is $572,000.
Think about the poor old taxpayers and the lugubrious speech that the Leader of the Country Party made. I thought that at any minute he would burst into tears over the taxpayers. Hamersley, out of that $264m, has paid $572,000 in taxation. He said it was risk capital and spoke of the enormous risks that these companies take. Still referring to Hamersley this writer said:
It has more than repaid through dividends all the share capital invested by the 2 overseas groups which promoted the enterprise.
It already has paid by way of dividends more than all the capital, risk capital, that those groups contributed. If only we could have a little more of that risk. The writer continued:
It has shipped more than 1 16 million tons of ore, a tonnage representing more than half of its original proved ore reserves- and about a quarter of the estimated reserves- in its original lease at Mt Tom Price. But Hamersley has been granted further leases -
These were granted by preceding governments- having estimated ore reserves of much more than 5,000 million tons. In fact, the company now designates a continuous area of some 20,000 square miles in north-west Australia as the ‘Hamersley Iron Province’, and has published maps with that title.
The Deputy Leader of the Country Party said that it is the Government which has power over this matter.
– The Leader of the Country Party.
-Oh, he seems to me to be much too young to be a leader. To me he is more like a boy scout. The author continued:
So far from having been required to cede some of the foreign equity in exchange for these great extensions of mining rights over ore deposits which are among the very best in the world, Hamersley has rather been able, on the strength of these assurances of reserves, to demand and get premiums of about 500 per cent in selling thin slices of the equity to Australian investors. The amount of money subscribed in these premium share issues has been nearly twice as much as the original- and unchanged- share capital subscribed by the 2 foreign promoters of Hamersley . . .
So that is risk capital for you. This article continues:
The extensions of ore reserves have spurred Hamersley to greater production and export of the ore. Its planned shipments of 34 million tons in the present calendar year, compared with actual exports of 27.7 million tons in 1 973, will be six times as much as the originally programmed rate of production.
This illustrates the so-called depressed mining industry to honourable members and honourable senators, the terribly depressed mining industry for which the Leader of the Country Party almost burst into tears. The Australian Government considers that the position of the mining and minerals industry in Australia, as established under preceding governments, is intolerable. I think that the great majority of the Australian people agree with us. This Government is concerned that the industry should contribute more to the Australian people than it does and it is convinced that something like the Petroleum and Minerals Authority for which this Bill provides is necessary for that purpose. No Australian government ever has had a clearer mandate for its legislation than this Government has for this Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill.
The Leader of the Country Party, in that colourful but strikingly inaccurate manner that he has, spoke about the sheer weight of numbers in this place. That is another way of describing the decision of the national Parliament. When the national Parliament makes a decision it is through the sheer weight of numbers. This Bill has been twice passed through this House and has been stopped twice by a majority in the Senate acting against the decision of the House of Representatives, where the Government is formed. On top of that, the Leader of the Country Party and his lugubrious friends decided that they would force a double dissolution, thoroughly confident that they would come back here and be able to get their hands into the Treasury. But, no, they lost. No doubt they were surprised. Having again achieved a mandate we are now engaged in this first historic sitting of this Joint Parliament and honourable senators and honourable members are to be asked to vote on this Bill. That is described as blugeoning legislation through this Parliament by the sheer weight of numbers but it is an example of the democratic process working more thoroughly and at greater length than I think it has ever done in this nation.
No Australian Government has ever had a clearer mandate for its legislation than this Government has had for the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. I would think that nine out of ten citizens of this nation are convinced that the hand of the national Government has to be strengthened to preserve for them some share in the vast mineral resources of this nation. The Authority has a number of tasks to perform. Firstly, it will expand the search for, and facilitate the development of the nation’s resources of hydrocarbons, especially crude oil, and natural gas and the integration of the use of the hydrocarbons including coal. Secondly, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will operate itself as an organisation owned by the people and charged to act first, and at all times, in the interests of the people. Do we not need in this nation some organisation owned by the people and charged to act first and at all times in the interests of the people? Thirdly, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will operate in partnership with technologically qualified private enterprise, both foreign and Australian, to ensure that not only the best technological and environmental methods are used, but also to maintain both Australian ownership and public interest and responsibility at the highest level. Do we not need to raise these things in this nation to a higher level?
The Petroleum and Minerals Authority will not be operating in some declining and unprofitable field, into which public enterprise is normally allowed to function, but it will take a leading part in safeguarding and developing the vast mineral wealth of Australia, as the heritage of the people, and as one of the main sources of the welfare of the people for many generations. Recently the Minister for Minerals and Energy spoke about the future in the case of the vast undiscovered resources of the North West Shelf. The policy of all previous Australian governments was to allow one company to take up permits under its own power and control and responsible to nobody and, when it could not itself explore the resources, to farm out to other companies under its control. That is going to be changed. The company granted rights by previous governments will have its rights properly protected and preserved but it will not have rights over the future of this nation. The Austraiian Labor Party Government refused to continue this abdication of the people’s rights to private, mostly foreign, companies. Of this Australian willingness to give away the nation’s resources, a leading Liberal, the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, recently said:
We will never see the day again when there is foreign investment in any part of Australia on an unrestricted basis.
Then he went on:
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 unikely 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.
That was said by the Liberal Party Premier of Victoria. We may never again see unrestricted foreign investment in Australia or less than 100 per cent Australian ownership in the energy field and, if that is so, it will alone be because of the Whitlam Labor Government. The Victorian Liberal Premier is realistic enough to know that even Liberals cannot any longer allow foreign corporations to plunder Australian resources, almost without paying taxes, as I have shown, but the Federal Opposition is not realistic enough for that. The Federal Opposition would allow the plunder to go on. It still argues that unless taxless plunder is allowed to foreign corporations as a right, there will be no exploration or recovery. It still believes that it can sell out Australia behind this odious abdication of Australian rights.
But this Bill alone is not enough. Unless there is a Labor Government to stand behind the Authority this Bill creates, the Authority will be diverted from its purpose. The continued existence of a Labor Government is essential if
Australia’s resources are to be fairly used in the interests of the Australian people. The Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Labor Government of Australia have held the pass against the sell out of Australia. While this may rank as the greatest single achievement of the Government, this pass is only held. Only Labor governments in Australia can ensure the doors will not be opened again to the sell-out of the nation. Only Labor can ensure that our national wealth is used for the welfare of the people and not for the enrichment of just a few.
-This Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill was introduced by a Minister whose arrogance and ineptitude has placed Australia’s minerals and energy development at risk. In the words of the Australian Financial Review’, Mr Connor prefers depotism to rationality and instinct to reason. He has preferred confrontation to cooperation, prejudice to objectivity, secrecy to open government and ideology to economic judgment. As the Leader of Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has so well evidenced during the course of this debate, he is a Minister who has presided over the virtual destruction of the oil search program throughout Australia. At a time when there is a world-wide oil shortage, oil exploration has slumped to its slowest level in 1 1 years. At a time when productivity increases and real economic growth are essential, forward investment plans are being severely curtailed or simply abandoned. At a time when Australian mineral and oil companies are seeking funds for expansion they are virtually prohibited from borrowing overseas- the only exception being the Australian Industry Development Corporation.
At a time when confidence in Australian industry is so essential the Minister for Minerals and Energy has raised doubts and confusion over export contracts, mineral leases, farm-in arrangements and a range of other vital industry considerations. This Minister, described throughout the industry with what I believe to be compelling accuracy as the Wollongong strangler, is pursuing an unrelenting campaign of hostility towards Australian exploration companies. He has promoted Labor’s inane propaganda which seeks to make the so-called multinationals scapegoats for the Government’s own monumental failures. What intelligent Australian or overseas businessman would look at Australia for future investment in the face of this irrational and manic hostility? Is it any wonder that more than 100 companies withdrew from the industry last year and similar numbers are leaving this year? Is it any wonder that Australian and overseas firms are now directing their investment towards Indonesia and Brazil? This legislation reflects this Minister’s and this Government’s authoritarianism. It demonstrates once again Labor’s preference for grandiose State symbols and ineffectual coercion rather than efficient policies of co-operation that are directed towards this country’s national economic progress.
Before I deal with the Bill which is before the Joint Sitting, I give the lie at the outset to the gross misrepresentations which have been made by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). I confess to a considerable degree of surprise that the Minister should place such weight on what I believe to be the now discredited Fitzgerald report. That report is neither a full nor accurate assessment of the contribution made by the mining industry to Australia’s economic welfare. It is based on only a small, biased sample of a few large companies. The only benefit included in the calculations is Commonwealth tax revenue. State and local government revenue are totally excluded. Mining royalties- a significant and unique contribution made by the mining industry to public revenue- are specifically excluded. The report compares taxation paid by a selected group of companies to concessions granted to the industry as a whole. No allowance is made for the sizeable balance of payments benefit that the mining industry has provided for the Australian economy.
The mining industry has made an overwhelmingly important contribution to Australian economic growth and stability. This report upon which the Minister for Overseas Trade places such importance takes a narrow, myopic view of the industry’s contribution to Austraiian welfare. The report lacks relevance and application in the wider context of Australian development.
I turn secondly, in terms of the overseas investment proposition so loosely put down in the House by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), and to his total misrepresentation of the policies of the alternative government of this country. I make it perfectly clear that the Liberal and Country Parties believe in the maximum ownership and control of Australia’s resources and industries. I believe that we have the only effective, comprehensive and sound program which would, in fact, attain that ideal. Our policy is not one advanced with the xenophobia and jingoism, such as that which we have heard from the Minister for Overseas Trade, who seeks to condemn overseas participation as harmful and unnecessary. We know that in this chamber the
Minister has been playing very much to the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. No doubt he is seeking to position himself for the office of Prime Minister of this country. Significantly, when the Minister spoke it was one of the few occasions during debates in the last few days when there has been an almost full attendance of members of the Government Party. Of course, what he said in his attack on the multi-nationals and overseas investment was designed for narrow political advantage.
What are the real issues if we want to put the credibility of the Government Party at stake on this issue which is so basic and fundamental to all Australians everywhere? What are the facts? This Government, although it has attacked overseas interests, has not implemented any additional controls. It has not laid down any effective guidelines for foreign investment. It has not re-examined the taxation legislation. It has not toughened up the legislation protecting Australian companies from overseas takeovers. Its only policy initiative, the once 33 VS per cent no interest deposit requirement on overseas borrowings, and more recently the 25 per cent deposit requirement which now, according to a Treasury bulletin released about one hour ago, is down to 5 per cent, has limited the borrowing capacity of Australian owned businesses to a much greater degree than it has overseas owned companies.
Where, therefore, is the Government’s credibility? This is simply the line of a Government which seeks narrow political advantage. There is no concern for the national interest and no concern for the tremendous contribution that these industries have made to Australian economic development. The Government is prepared to risk our development by seeking, in a narrow and dogmatic way, to enact a policy which could not possibly attain the loose ideal that the Government alleges is its aim. This Bill, according to what the Minister would have us believe, seeks to facilitate maximum Australian ownership and control of Australia’s petroleum and mineral resources. In more precise terms, what the Bill seeks to do is to achieve maximum Australian Government ownership and control. Quite frankly, this legislation is a very subtle and deceptive fiat for the progressive nationalisation of Australian minerals and energy industries
The development of a national minerals and energy policy has very profound and far reaching implications for all of us. In the long run, the development of the Australian petroleum and mineral industries will lead to major structural changes within the Australian economy. That process of change is well under way. The legislation is of vital importance to the nature of that change and its wider implications should be fully understood. In the development of the Australian minerals and energy policy all available options should be assessed m terms of their practical application. But in a country with a democratic system of government- although one has some doubt about this when one has regard to Government policies- this can be achieved only through the recognised process of extensive consultation with the industries involved. It is conspicuous that this consultation has not taken place under a government which, prior to the election, preached the virtues of consultation but which in government has been subject to an apparent manic preoccupation with confrontation to a divisive extent.
The purpose of this Bill, as set out by the Minister, is ‘the comprehensive development of government control of Australia’s mineral resources, with emphasis on the need for discovery of new deposits and direct Commonwealth and State participation in oil and mineral search and exploitation throughout Australia’s land and off-shore territories’. That statement of purpose must be challenged immediately on 3 basic grounds. The first is the use of the Authority to extend government control of Australian resources. Under the export power of the Constitution, the Commonwealth already has complete and absolute power to control and regulate policy. Companies require approval for the exploitation of a particular mining right; for the terms of exploitation; for the rate of mineral extraction; and for the degree to which that mineral can be refined. All these decisions are within the competence of the Government to lay down. Not one ton of metal, ore, petroleum or petroleum gas can be exported from Australia without Government approval. Clearly, then, the Government already has effective control. There is no need for a further extension of power, particularly to a government which so clearly has abused and misused so many of the powers which are available to it at the present time.
The second fundamental objection to the Minister’s expressed purpose is a misleading reference to participation in oil and mineral search by the Australian States. It is manifestly clear, even from the most cursory reading of the Bill, that one of its particular purposes is to seek to override States’ rights of participation in the oil and mineral industry. We on this side of the chamber recognise this as a serious precedent that would erode the principle of States’ rights in
Australia. This Bill and this Government disregard State mining legislation and the existing rights under that legislation. The Bill seeks to centralise mineral rights under the Commonwealth and ultimately to exclude the States from this field of jurisdiction altogether.
The third basic objection to the expressed purpose of the Bill is that direct government participation in oil or mineral exploration and exploitation cannot be justified on any simple ground of necessity or efficiency. If fact, if this Bill were passed in its present form it would discourage local Australian companies from expanding their operations and new companies from entering the industry. It would polarise the industry and rigidly channel prospects for exploration and production to those companies already in operation in the industry. Let us be frank about the propositions before us. Direct government intervention in minerals activities will not stimulate Australian commercial participation on a partnership basis. In fact, it will be positively harmful in its effects. I only wish that time would allow the opportunity to elaborate this point in its entirety.
Let me close my remarks by saying this: What are the facts concerning oil discoveries at the present time? Unless more oil discoveries at least equal to the Bass Strait field in both quantity and quality are made, by 1980 Australia will be producing only 30 per cent of its petroleum requirements, as against a current 70 per cent, and by 1990 that fraction will be down to only 10 per cent. In fact, it is estimated that on present reserves this country will have a shortage of 8 billion barrels of oil between now and the end of the century. Australia will be held to ransom in the international oil market and to that extent its economic independence will be forfeited in consequence. Imported inflation now a marginal concern, will be totally beyond Australian fiscal and monetary control. This Bill represents a most serious threat to Australia’s economic and social advancement both in its own implications and as a direct consequence of the precedent which it would establish. The Opposition has rejected this Bill on successive occasions. We do so again.
-Mr Acting Chairman, I have listened on four occasions now to members of the Opposition harangue the Government and particularly offend the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). He is the one person that has turned back the tide on this question of minerals and energy to allow Australians to keep their foot on their own heritage which has been slipping away slowly under successive Liberal-Country Party governments. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) comes in again, sounding more like a third-rate businessman addressing an Apex Club than the Deputy Leader of a major party addressing the national Parliament of Australia. This BUI which has raised so much opposition from the Liberal and Country Parties is designed so that we may explore and develop the petroleum and mineral resources in Australia and to permit the maximum ownership and control of Australia’s natural resources. What it will mean in fact is that future generations of Australians will be able to preserve the national wealth and heritage which rightfully belongs to them. Ours is the one country that has never done anything positive about preserving our national wealth or having an organisation able to do it.
I have listened so often in the Senate to those lackeys of foreign interests, Senator Durack and Senator Webster. I have sat in the President’s Gallery over there unable to say anything about it as they came into their House with the briefs handed to them by the foreign mining companies. They should be ashamed to show their faces as members of the Australian Parliament. They are on the wave length of only one group in this community- the Australian Mining Industry Council which is 85 per cent foreign controlled because 69 of the 93 companies in it are foreign companies. It is the one group in Australia to which the Liberal and Country Parties are attuned. Even the Australian Petroleum Exploration Authority has deserted it and this week has said it will support the Australian Government in getting this proposal through.
The Opposition members are critical of this proposed Petroleum and Minerals Authority for one reason and one reason only: It will damage the foreign interests which they support. Who would deny this public corporation the right to gather technical and entrepreneurial expertise in the fields of minerals and energy for the public benefit? Who would deny Trans-Australia Airlines or Qantas Airways Limited their roles in aviation? Who would deny the Commonwealth Banking Corporation its right as a statutory banking corporation in Australia? Who would deny the Petroleum and Minerals Authority its rightful role as a statutory corporation in mining and exploration of Australia’s mineral wealth? No one should deny it- least of all members of the Australian Parliament. One does not have to look very far to find parallels to these corporations. Italy has its ENI, which is primarily concerned with the pursuit and production of hydrocarbons; Britain has its BP; and the Minister for Minerals and Energy mentioned in his speech many other countries which have organisations similar to this Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
The Opposition talks about the public expenditure which this Authority will use in so-called risk ventures. When he first introduced the Bill the Minister said the Authority would be financed from moneys saved under sections 77C, 77D and 78 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which were repealed last year by this Government. The Government has been expending $47m a year on this hopeless concession. This is the way this Authority will be financed. If the Liberal and Country Parties want to talk about what the foreign companies and the mining companies have done for us in Australia, I invite them to look at the report from the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange- the Rae Committee report. The Chairman, Senator Rae, is one of their members. If honourable members read that chapter of the report dealing with Minerals Securities Australia Ltd they will find that section 77C, the section which is supposedly supporting mining in this country and giving an impetus to exploration, was used for a very shabby purpose- for speculation in stocks purchased and operated by Minerals Securities Australia Ltd and as a tax evasion technique to increase the asset value of that company. I have in front of me an extract from the Rae Committee ‘s report. It shows that in 1 966 Mineral Securities made a profit of $161,000 and paid no tax. It was able to claim the whole profit as a deduction because under section 77 moneys subscribed to new mining issues are completely tax deductible. It moved its profit across into a completely new company which it had formed, received a deduction for it and paid no tax.
In 1967 it made a profit of $1,584,000 and paid no tax. The next year it made a profit of $1,423,000 and paid no tax. The next year it made a profit of $12,707,000 and paid $61,000 in tax; that is all the tax it paid on a profit of $ 12.7m. There was a cumulative effect. As it made further profits it had to put money into another company to get the deduction. How was it able to get its own capital out? It invested in shares at $1 each, speculated on the market, manipulated the market, got the shares up to $5 or $6 each and then sold out. In that way it was able to tear out its capital and have 60 per cent of the company- 50 per cent financed by deductions under section 77 and 10 per cent financed by the Australian public through share and market speculation. When the market finally collapsed its game collapsed. But all in all it raked $ 1 5.8m of the $47m per annum concession under section 77. That is just one case which is referred to in the Rae Committee’s report. That was happening across the board. Mr Fitzgerald pointed out in his report that only 27 per cent of the section 77 deductions was going to genuine, legitimate mining search. That is what the Opposition’s Committee found. The Opposition cannot dispute those figures. It cannot say that the Fitzgerald report was a rort.
– Who is Mr Fitzgerald?
– I will tell the honourable member for Cowper who Mr Fitzgerald is. The Fitzgerald report is the most significant report to have been presented to this Parliament in the last 3 years. He is a respected economic journalist. He was commissioned by the Minister for Minerals and Energy in the early part of this year to inquire into the benefit derived by Australia from the mining industry. It happened that, unbeknown to the Government, the report was ready when the last election came on. The Opposition tried to can it on the basis that it was a political stunt. It is the most devastating document ever to be presented to the Australian Parliament. The Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) referred to it today. Talking specifically about Hamersley Holdings Ltd- the famous iron ore developer in Western Australia- he was able to show conclusively that the tax payable by such companies is payable at a very minimum. In fact, mining companies in Australia enjoy the very honoured distinction of being able to write off not only capital equipment as a depreciation but also the infrastructure of towns and buildings. So the towns which they have built and of which the Opposition speaks have all been a complete tax deduction. Against all its profits for the first 6 years of its operations Hamersley wrote off every deduction that it had. The Western Australian Government kept increasing the ore body that Hamersley had. Every time that it asked for an extension of its lease it was granted additional areas. Which of the world’s major trading banks would not lend money to a company which had an established mining operation and which was getting new mineral leases that were proved to have the best grade of iron ore in the world? Of course it was just a joke
The Deputy Prime Minister told the House that of the $ 1 , 1 32m in declared profits of mining companies in the 4 years from 1967 to 1971 the take to the Government of Australia was minus $40m; in other words, we paid out $40m in 4 years to let the mining companies earn $1,1 32 m. Of that amount 80 per cent was repatriated overseas. So we had the ludicrous position where the previous Liberal-Country Party Government was allowing the Australian tax laws to be used to subsidise profit that was ultimately payable to foreigners. That is what honourable members and senators opposite did when they were in government; yet they have the hide to call themselves Australians and to ridicule the Minister for Minerals and Energy. They ought to be on their knees and thankful for having a man of his competence in this place.
Let us talk about the Opposition’s approach to things. It says that the Petroleum and Minerals Authority BUI is a piece of socialist legislation. I will admit that the Authority is not there to compete with private enterprise. It is there to look after the national interests of Australia. We will go into partnership with private enterprise. I presume that the Authority will do that in the national interests. The Opposition has said that Australians are incapable of making investment decisions. I will tell the House something about the famous Hamerlsey deal. When Hamersley was first conceived by Lang Hancock- I give him credit for recognising a decent investment potentialand he approached the Liberal-Country Party Government of Australia, it closed the door in his face. He went to the Australian trading banks and they closed the door in his face. Finally, the only people he could interest in this enormous project in the Pilbara was the Kaiser Steel Corporation of the United States of America and Riotinto Zinc Corporation of the United Kingdom. Their original and only investment in Hamersley, which is now capitalised at $672m, was $45m. Their original loan was for $80m from the banks in the City of London. To show the magnitude of that investment I point out that the Commonwealth Employees Superannuation Fund invests $45 m every year.
Members of the Opposition have spoken about the massive Pilbara developments. It involved $22. 5m from each company. Are members of the Opposition saying that Australians cannot recognise a decent investment decision? Are they saying that Australians cannot raise money on the Australian capital market? They ought to be ashamed of themselves because what they are saying is that only foreigners are able to make decent investment decisions and that is not so. I will tell the House a little more about Hamersley. Of the $674m raised by Hamersley $5 50m was raised on the Australian capital market. The Australian public is the largest saving public in the world. Australians have the record of being the greatest savers in the world. Any of the statistics which are available will substantiate that. We have enough capital in this nation to finance any sizable national investment project.
What this Petroleum and Minerals Authority will do is guard decent prospects for Australian companies. When the areas of the north west shelf are returned to the people of Australia under the agreement they will come back to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority which will enter into joint ventures with decent companieswhether they be Australian or overseas- to make sure that the benefit comes back to the people of Australia. To that extent the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be a regulatory body but it will gather its own geological expertise, its own entrepreneurial expertise and we will be able to deal with any of the major energy companies of the world because we will have a body competent to do so. I do not slight the Department of Minerals and Energy or the Bureau of Mineral Resources, but they were not designed or equipped to handle this particular job. We need an authority, like the Petroleum and Minerals Authority, to do it. Through this Authority we will be capable of identifying good investments, of encouraging Australians to take part, and of guaranteeing loans for them and getting genuine Australian investors interested in what are genuine national development projects. That is something that the Opposition never did when it was in government.
We have often heard the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the former Prime Minister, the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) say how we are scaring foreign capital and pushing all the mining companies away. I ask them to answer this question: If a company is able to recover its initial costs of setting up a mine and a development as a complete tax deduction against its immediate profits- it sets up its operation from nothingand it has an enormous ore body lasting, at the same rate at which Hamersley will extract ore, for 175 years, do they not think that that is a better investment than any manufacturing industry or any tertiary industry in the world? The company has its operation costs covered. It has a massive ore body and it has an increment every year in the price of its product. It will reap a return of thousands upon thousands of per cent from the investment. This Government will say- I hope the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and the future governments of Australia will say- ‘Thus far and no further. You have made enough. We will not let you rape and plunder our country. We want what is rightfuly available to the people of this nation and to future generations of Australians. We want our rightful slice of the cake. And we will get it.’ We are not going to be put off any more by these arguments that foreigners alone should invest in Australia.
The Opposition referred to the original investment of $45 m in Hamersley and to massive capital raisings. The Esso-BHP group raised twothirds of its capital on the Australian capital market. And what have we paid for? Where is the rip-off there? The rip-off is there for the group’s so-called expertise. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be able to employ whom it likes. We can buy the best geologists in the world; we can buy the best mining engineers in the world; we can buy the best reservoir engineers in the world and we can buy the expertise we like. We do not have to pay for it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was speaking on the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill which is a Bill designed to explore for and to develop Australia ‘s petroleum and mineral resources. During my remarks I referred to the Rae and Fitzgerald reports which dealt with minerals and petroleum in Australia. I did so much to the chagrin of members of the Opposition. The establishment of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority is not a singular policy of this Government. It is part of a package which was developed by the Minister for Minerals and Energy as part of a total energy budget and program for the development of the minerals and petroleum industry in Australia.
The Government has been consistent in the policy approaches that it has taken. In the case of natural gas we have instituted since we have been in office a national pipeline grid which will supply people across the nation. We have introduced a Seas and Submerged Lands Bill to guarantee the sovereignty of the national Government of Australia over the offshore areas of Australia for the benefit of all Australians; to put a policy for the offshore development of our petroleum resources where it fairly belongs- in the national Parliament and not on the parliaments of the States. We have developed and are developing a uranium policy to guarantee the proper development of uranium in this country. Already the Minister has been vindicated in his statements that previous contracts were signed at below what were world parity prices. In the 1 8 months that we have been in office we as a Government have seen the price of uranium doubled and the contracts that were written and hailed by the Opposition as being of great achievement in 1972 look rather puny against the prices which are being paid on the world market today.
In the field of minerals the Minister has gained major increases in the price of iron ore. Through his government to government relations we have gained an 1 8 per cent increase in the price of iron ore to compensate for the revaluation of the Australian dollar relative to the American dollar. The Minister again has set the climate for Australian negotiators representing Australian iron ore companies to go to Japan next month to seek further price increases. Since this Government has come to office the Minister has increased dramatically the price of coal. Australia is now securing world parity prices for coal where 18 months ago we were about 25 per cent below what was available in the world.
We have proper relations with Japan, our major trading partner, on a government to government basis as willing sellers to willing buyers. The previous Liberal- Country Party governments had our iron ore and coal producers stringing along to Japan one after the other and being picked off and played off against each other. The Minister has now taught these producers to barter on a negotiated basis. He has taught them what collective strength means. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Minerals and Energy and other senior Ministers went to Japan last year and paved the way for a better relationship with our major trading partner.
Of course, the people who are most upset are members of the Australian Country Party, the people who are most interested in the pork barrel; the people who claim to speak for rural industries but really want to represent the wealthy foreign owned mining companies in Australia. Very shortly we will see Doug Anthony House next to John McEwen House if the Australian people are foolish enough to let the Liberal and Country Parties have another crack at the title. We are interested in the wealth and well being of the Australian community, not the sectional interests of an agrarian rump- the Country Party- which will sell out to any interest to meet its own shabby political purposes. The Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) during the last election talked about an increase of $6 a barrel in the price of oil in this country. He is now called ‘double price Doug’. He wants to send the price of oil up by another $6 a barrel. Such a move would increase the take to the likes of Esso-BHP which made a profit in petroleum of over $43m last year, to a profit of $966m a year in oil. That is what the Country Party proposed; that is what they were prepared to force upon the Australian consumer and the Australian motorist. May I conclude by congratulating the Minister for Minerals and Energy on his foresight in introducing what is a most far reaching and worth while piece of legislation. He has been the exclusive architect of the Labor Party’s minerals and energy policy.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The previous speaker, Mr Keating, has referred to me by name and to a report which, by the Press, has been given partly my name. It is a report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. He has referred to that report as a support for this legislation. That is, in my view, a misrepresentation. Our Committee, I believe, set out to be objective.
– A point of order!
– It is to be regretted that Mr Keating of the Australian Labor Party is not prepared to be equally objective. (Government supporters interjecting)-
– The report is, I believe, a very -
– A point of order, Mr Chairman.
– Order! The senator is making a personal explanation.
– A point of order!
– Order! I will explain it. The senator stated that he wished to make a personal explanation. In no circumstances, Senator Rae, must you debate the question.
– I do not propose to debate it.
– Make quite clear where you have been misrepresented, and that is where it finishes.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. That is all I wish to say. I claim that I have been misrepresented insofar as my name has been used in any way to support this type of legislation. I believe that the report to which reference has been made is a very strong case for reform of the securities industry, but not for the nationalisation of the mining industry. Any suggestion that I support the nationalisation of the mining industry through this legislation is a gross misrepresentation.
Mr KEATING (Blaxland)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
Opposition supporters- Apologise!
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been equally misrepresented. I referred to what was a select committee of the Australian Senate -
– A point of order, Mr Chairman!
– . . . which was termed -
– A point of order!
– Constantly, over the years, you have ruled -
– Order! Just a minute! There is no need for the honourable member to shout. I can hear him quite plainly without the need for him to shout.
– The honourable member for Blaxland is presently debating, not claiming misrepresentation -
– I have not heard the honourable gentleman yet. I call the honourable member for Blaxland.
- Senator Rae has implied that, in the debate, I mentioned his name improperly. In the debate I referred to details of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange which has been termed the ‘Rae report’, because Senator Rae was a chairman of that Committee. Evidence was given to that Committee under the privilege of Parliament and companies were required to produce truthful evidence. I quoted faithfully from the evidence in the report to substantiate the arguments for and the relevance of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. It is grandstanding in the extreme for Senator Rae to get up and to try to make a personal explanation on that point.
-Order! No debate is allowed in a personal explanation.
- Mr Chairman, as the first senator to take part in this debate I wish to register a very strong protest on behalf of the Opposition at the fact that this Bill comes before the Joint Sitting at all, or that it was ever used as a ground to justify seeking the double dissolution of this Parliament. When the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, introduced the debate on this Bill this afternoon he gave the legislative history of the measure. He presented the facts as they were: That the Bill was rejected for the first time by the Senate on 2 April 1974, passed again by the House of Representatives on 8 April 1974, and rejected again by the Senate on 10 April 1974. We see that there was a passage of only 6 days between the rejection of the Bill for the first time by the Senate and its reintroduction in the House of Representatives. As we all know by now, under section 57 of the Constitution 3 months must elapse after the Senate’s first rejection or failure to pass a Bill before it can be commenced again in the House of Representatives. But the facts are that this Bill was reintroduced in the House of Representatives only 6 days- in fact 3 sitting days- after the first rejection by the Senate. If 3 days can be 3 months, then under this Government the Constitution under which we operate is really in jeopardy. But I suppose that that is the sort of arithmetic we have come to expect from the Minister for Minerals and Energy. He is a slow learner.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) promised several weeks ago to table the advice that he and his Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) gave to the Governor-General that this Bill had failed to pass the Senate or had been rejected by it within the constitutional provisions. That advice clearly has been flouted by the very statement made here this afternoon by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The Prime Minister has changed his mind and in fact has refused to table that advice. We on this side of the chamber maintain with the greatest vigour at our disposal that that advice to the Governor-General was wrong when it was given as a basis for the double dissolution and it was wrong again when it was given as a basis for the Joint Sitting of the 2 Houses of Parliament. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill comes before the Joint Sitting at the specific direction of the Governor-General, and that is why we are taking part in this debate. But no participation in this debate by the Opposition is any admission that the Bill is properly before the Joint Sitting.
The Minister said, furthermore, that this Bill comes before the Joint Sitting with some specific mandate from the electors of Australia. He said that it had been passed on all these occasions by the House of Representatives and had been rejected by the Senate- as indeed it was rejected again by the Senate after the election, and with very good reason. Whatever the result of the election on 18 May, whatever small majority the Government has in the House of Representatives after that election, it does not have the numbers in the Senate. The Government did not gain a majority in the Senate. It did not receive any socalled mandate in the Senate on 18 May. As long as that position remains, as long as we of the Opposition have the authority from the people of Australia that we obtained on 18 May, we will take the stand that we have taken on this and other Bills and we will take that stand on other Bills in accordance with our principles and our philosophies.
This afternoon a very interesting speech was made on this Bill by no less a person than the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia (Dr J. F. Cairns). He spent most of his time regurgitating the tired old Fitzgerald report which was conjured by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and leaked out to the Press in dribs and drabs at the beginning of the last election campaign. In relation to the Fitzgerald report the Deputy Prime Minister said something which I thought was an interesting revelation of the socialist obsessions with private companies and mining companies. It was also an interesting revelation of the ignorance of those who want to govern this nation from a centralised bureaucracy in Canberra. He said that so powerful was the Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd- he spent a lot of time analysing its financial transactions- that the Hamersley iron ore province in Western Australia was named after the company. The Hamersley iron ore province is the great iron ore province of Australia extending over many square miles of the Pilbara region of Western Australia throughout the Hamersley Ranges. The Hamersley iron ore province takes its name from the Hamersley Ranges, in which and through which there are vast quantities of iron ore explored for and developed by tremendous private investment, encouraged by Liberal governments in the past. Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd gets its name because it was the first company to operate in that region. It certainly is not fact that the region was named after the company but the complete reverse. That is a clear revelation of the socialist obsessions and the ignorance of centralised thinking in Canberra.
I turn briefly to the Bill in the short time that is available to me. This Bill is presented by the Minister for Minerals and Energy and supported by the Government for 3 purposes: Firstly, to spend funds on the exploration for oil in the offshore areas of Australia; secondly, to develop, the Government says, the on-shore mineral resources in Australia- not just energy resources but minerals generally; and thirdly, to assist many small Australian mineral ventures. It will do all these things, so it is claimed by the Minister, by recycling savings resulting from the withdrawal of tax concessions by this Government about 12 months ago. The capital available for all these great endeavours-for the exploration for oil, for the development of minerals on-shore and the assistance of Australian mining companieswill come from these savings, which will amount to $50m or $60m a year. That is what the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will have available- a miniscule sum of money. If we are ever to bridge the ever-widening gap between our oil resources and our oil needs within the next 10 years off-shore oil exploration alone will require at least $200m a year and probably $300m. But this Government believes in its fancy that a sum of $50m or $60m a year will be sufficient not only to explore for oil but also to engage in all the other activities involved in mineral exploration throughout the nation and to assist Australian mining ventures.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who spoke ahead of me, must be living in a complete dream world with his conception of what the Petroleum and Minerals Authority can do. What is this Authority? It will be comprised of 5 persons-a chairman, an executive director, the Secretary of the Department of Minerals and Energy and 2 others, one of whom, under Government policy, will be a trade unionist. All minerals exploration, mineral development and all the other activities such as refining, smelting and trading in minerals will be under the control and domination of a body of 5 people- a centralised bureaucracy in Canberra consisting of 5 people, two of whom will be civil servants and one a trade unionist.
- Mr Mundey?
- Mr Mundey maybe. This is the Government’s mining policy. This is the Government’s solution to the problems of the great mining industry of Australia. All these problems will be solved by $50m administered by 5 people, three of whom have no knowledge or experience and are not likely to gain any knowledge or experience of the great mining industry with its technical and capital requirements.
I am sorry that I cannot pursue further the extraordinary powers which will be given to this Authority but I am glad that they have been covered by speakers earlier in this debate. In concluding I content myself with saying that 25 years ago the people of this nation completely rejected the idea that the nation’s banking system should be nationalised. I have no doubt whatsoever that the people believe as strongly as they did 25 years ago and that they will not tolerate the nationalisation of the mining industry.
-This Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill will receive the support of this Joint Sitting and of the nation despite pending High Court litigation initiated by the supporters of vested interests who sit opposite. My Government’s policy is to ensure that this country’s mineral resources and its surrounding offshore areas add up to a national asset, the value of which is scarcely calculable in money terms. The manner of its appropriation, the rate and volume of its exploitation and the need and level of its conservation must meet national priorities. Our resources must be evaluated on and at a national level. This Bill gives legislative effect to these criteria. Our natural resources are not the exclusive preserve of State governments whose responsibility is limited by geographical boundaries which were fixed by imperial legislators 2 centuries ago. Often the sole reason for their exploitation stems from the need to shore up a shortfall in State treasuries and because of agreements which are made principally with overseas corporations. These agreements are frequently written in terms and conditions which are scandalous sell-outs. Nor are these resources the exclusive preserve of boards of directors closeted in board rooms in London, New York or Bermuda where profit is the sole determinant.
We categorically state that these resources are the exclusive preserve of the real owners and the real keepers of our national estate, who are the people of this country. We talk about scandalous sell-outs. Let us have a look at the position. I vividly recall the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) making statements about the terms of returns to States in royalty payments. If ever there were a scandal in this nation in terms of the pay back by mining corporations it is in 2 areas in Queensland, namely, coal and bauxite. We ought to remember that in Queensland, on production figures, coal is controlled 88 per cent by overseas corporations and bauxite is controlled 100 per cent. When the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) alluded to the grip that is on coal in Queensland he was referring to Utah Mining Australia Ltd. That company was floated in Queensland on the basis that it had total ownership. Such a scandal was raised in Queensland that the Queensland Government was forced to put pressure on Utah and insist on at least a 10 per cent Australian equity.
This year in the Bowen Basin that combine will extract 18 million tons. If my figures are correct, at $20 f.o.b. per ton that will give the company a return of $360m. If we rip $7 a ton out of that, this will give the company about $125m in profit. It will be second only to Bougainville Mining Ltd in New Guinea. Let us have a look at the royalty payments. I have done some exercises from 1 97 1 to 1 973. 1 am not well versed in the up to date figures in Queensland because they are increased only in the last week, but until recently they were a national scandal. When the LiberalCountry Party Treasury White Paper was brought down in 1971 the Federal Government indicted the Queensland Government for a wholesale sell-out on royalty payments. During the years 1971 to 1973, 52.5 million tons of coal were produced at a value of $434m. The royalty received by the Queensland Government was $2,235,000. That represented a value of .5 in percentage figures of the value. If over that period the calculation had been based on 7.5 per cent, which is the normal royalty paid on iron ore in Western Australia, the Queensland Government would have secured a royalty return of $32m.
If we turn to the question of bauxite we see exactly the same scandalous figures. At Weipa in that 3-year period production was 25 million tons with a value of $126m. From royalties $ 1.75m was received. If those royalties had been calculated at 7.5 per cent the Queensland Government would have gained a return of $9.5m. In that period of 3 years the Queensland Government has socked $37m as a nice gift to the multi-national corporations. Honourable members opposite are interjecting. I assume they are talking about railway charges in Queensland. Do I understand them to be suggesting that Queensland is the only State which inflicts royalty charges on freight rates? It is not. Every State in the Commonwealth does. A lot could have been done over that 3-year period in Queensland with $37m. The Queensland Premier comes to the Premiers’ Conferences and pleads poverty. It would be much better if he pleaded poverty to his multi-national friends.
Reference has been made to the operations at Hamersley and I should like to add my humble, constructive contribution. Hamersley Holdings Ltd is almost totally overseas controlled. It has an 11.5 per cent Australian equity. It invested $522m over a period of 7 years but 75 per cent of that money was provided from Australian sources- from funds generated from sales of premium share issues to the public. However, what has not been brought out tonight is that because of the very structure of the shares $370m has been paid to overseas shareholders and $90m to Australian shareholders. An interesting feature about the Hamersley project upon which this House and the nation ought to reflect is that all the management and expertise have been supplied by Australians. The project was an outstanding feat of engineering in Australia. It got off the ground from nothing to large-scale shipments within 2 years. The whole operation was planned and executed by Australians. Had this legislation been on the statute book at the time Hamersley commenced operations we would have had considerable benefit from the 5 million tons of minerals extracted in the intervening period. Instead a bonanza has been handed to overseas corporations.
In the limited period remaining to me I should like to refer to a matter that should be of great concern to this nation, particularly in view of the oil energy crisis which commenced last November. The legacy that the previous Government handed to this Government in terms of liquid hydrocarbons is a scandal. Australians have an equity in the Bass Strait fields of 42 per cent; in the Perth basin 14 per cent; in the Carnarvon Basin, 14 per cent; in the Cooper Basin 37 per cent; in Palm Valley 1 0 per cent and in the greatest off-shore set of tenement leases in the world, the north-west shelf, 15 per cent. Another aspect which has been of significance in the United States of America and which is almost scandalous in Australia relates to the field of refining technology. Who owns the bulk of the refining installations in Australia? Overseas corporations do. The only equity that Australia holds in the vast number of refineries in this country is 10.6 per cent. What worries me above all is the world situation. I think supply will be perhaps the most difficult factor.
I should like to devote my remaining time to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) concerning the United States. He said that there is no grip by multinational corporations in the energy sector in the United States. There is a lot of concern in the United States at the moment. Four States have indicted multinational corporations for collusive practices. The top 20 companies account for 94 per cent of crude reserves; 70 per cent of production; 86 per cent of refining; and 79 per cent of sales. That is hardly a fair exercise in private enterprise. Likewise there is a startling revelation as to control of energy components in the United States. The top 25 oil corporations control 84 per cent of oil, 72 per cen t of gas, 50 per cent of coal, 80 per cent of atomic or nuclear power and 60 per cent of electric power.
-Just table the figures.
-If the honourable member wishes me to do so I will. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has said that we are indeed rich in energy resources. We are amongst the world’s 5 major producers of bauxite, iron ore, tin, silver, lead, zinc and manganese. However, if we follow the course of the United Kingdom and the United States in mindlessly plundering our raw reserves or, what is worse, do what the parties opposite were doing and, in effect hand the reserves over to others to plunder, we shall deserve to sink to the same wretched position as other countries have found themselves in.
I conclude by saying that this legislation gives effect to the understanding given by the Prime Minister in his policy speech in 1972. He said that the Government was determined that the Australian people should be restored to their rightful place in their own country as owners and keepers of the national estate and that control of the country’s national resources should be vested in the people as a whole.
Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Is the Prime Minister seeking leave?
-Yes, I seek leave.
– The Prime Minister is seeking leave. Leave is granted.
-Senator Durack misrepresented me. I believe it was quite unintentional because he would not have had the opportunity to hear what I said corcerning the tabling of the double dissolution documents in answer to a question last week in the House of Representatives. I shall quote from the Hansard of the House of Representatives. On 10 July 1974 I answered a question by the right honourable Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, in these words:
The documents leading up to the double dissolution of the Parliament are being printed and I hope to table them next week.
On 30 July I answered a further question by Mr Anthony in these words: 1 have decided not to table them until after the conclusion of any litigation or until the time within which one could expect litigation to take place has elapsed. The matter has been discussed in the Senate. My reasons for not tabling the documents at this stage are that in view of subsequent statements which were made by, I think, the right honourable gentleman -
That is Mr Anthony- but certainly by some of his colleagues and by one or more State Attorneys-General, it became clear that there was likely to be litigation concerning those matters. In those circumstances, I did not believe it appropriate that the course of action taken by the former Governor-General should be called in dispute in the Parliament or in public; secondly, I did not believe it appropriate that the Australian Government’s brief should be delivered to its opponents.
- Mr Chairman, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Have you spoken in this debate?
– I ask for leave, on the basis that I have been misrepresented.
– Is leave granted?
Government senators and members- No.
– I claim to have been misrepresented. I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Leave is not granted.
– All right; leave is not granted, as you say.
- Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. The honourable senator claimed that he had been misrepresented, and he asked whether he could have leave to make a statement.
– No, not leave to make a statement; leave to make a personal explanation.
– That is so. I invite you, Mr Chairman, to accept this submission: If a member of this Parliament in this Sitting claims that he has been misrepresented he is entitled to make a statement without asking for leave.
– On the point of order, Mr Chairman -
– Order! I think I can clear up this matter to the satisfaction of the Joint Sitting.
– On the point of order, Mr Chairman -
-Order! I will clear it up. Just wait a second. The honourable member seems to be very impatient. Where a matter is not covered by the rules that were accepted by the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Senate Standing Orders shall apply. Unless Senator Greenwood has spoken in the debate on this Bill, he cannot make a personal explanation until such time as he gets leave of the Joint Sitting to do so.
– He asked for leave.
-It is quite clear. He asked for leave and it was refused.
- Mr Chairman, I rose to speak on the point of order. My point of order was that the Prime Minister himself had not spoken in this debate -
– He got leave of the Joint Sitting.
– Accordingly, if leave was given to the Prime Minister, the same right surely must be extended to a member of the Opposition.
– Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member will resume his seat. He is the Country Party soprano. We get sick of listening to him.
-You gave the Prime Minister leave.
– I did not give him leave. It has nothing to do with the Chair. Your Party gave him leave.
– Why did you not give another person leave?
– That has nothing to do with the Chair, and the Leader of the Country Party knows it only too well.
-Mr Chairman, we are debating the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. This Bill provides an opportunity for us members of the Opposition to explain, albeit briefly, to a wider audience why we believe that the Petroleum and Minerals Authority would not be in the best interests of Australia. Many complex legal, economic and political matters are involved. My purpose, in a few minutes, is to try to distil the main ingredients and to examine them as plainly as possible. I leave the question of the constitutionality of the Bill to others. I think it is important to adopt that approach because of the attempt by the Government, particularly by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is sitting at the table, to conclude 3 things: Firstly, that the Government has some sort of a mandate for this proposed legislation, secondly, that the proposed Authority would be in real interests of the Australian people; and thirdly, that any opposition to the Bill is unfair or perhaps improper.
The mandate doctrine does not exist in Australian politics. Electors cannot know of every item in the platform that is put forward by a party. They cannot be said to agree to every item in a party’s program. As I have said in this Parliament and will keep repeating for as long as that assertion about the Government having a mandate to do certain things is made: There is not one constitutional authority to which the Government can point- the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is a Queen’s Counsel- who will maintain the mandate doctrine in our system of government. The only sort of mandate which the Government can claim is in relation to a referendum. The Government has put 6 referendums to the people and they have all failed. So that is one reason not to support this Bill.
Secondly, is the Bill really in the interests of Australia as we have been told so often it is? I believe analysis shows, even if it should be that this Bill proves to be constitutional- that is a matter for the courts to decide, not for anyone to say what he thinks will happen- that it gives practically uncontrolled power to the proposed Authority and to the Minister and the Government and provides for practically no parliamentary oversight. Indeed, this proposed Authority really is not an independent authority at all because it must accept the instructions of the Government. If one sets up an authority one envisages something with some sort of autonomy, but in this case the Minister can tell the Authority what to do in almost all circumstances. The minerals industry in Australia has been carried on by the private sector with conspicuous success and to the great benefit of all Australians. It is neither necessary nor desirable to commit public moneys in such a high risk area. Is the taxpayer to be forced to do so against his will? The efficiency of an industry, masterminded by the present or any future Minister for Minerals and Energy is surely equally questionable.
The Bill is unfair. The Bill enables the new Authority to compete on unequal terms with private enterprise. Where has the Government’s great aim of competition gone for which it argues so fiercely in favour in relation to the trade practices legislation. The Authority will not only lay down the rules but it will administer them as well. It will be a highly privileged competitor. It will be exempt from State royalties and taxes. It will have power to acquire exploration areas, even when these are held by others. It will have power to acquire an interest in any actual or proposed mining venture upon its own terms. It will have access to all the data required to be made available to the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Department of Minerals and Energy. It will have unlimited powers in relation to the terms under which it can employ staff. It will be able to negotiate contracts abroad, secure in the knowledge that, with the Minister behind it, it will not be prevented from honouring them by the imposition of export controls: no private miner has this security. It will be able to bypass the normal channels of government which bear responsibility for Australia’s continuing relationship with its trading partners and other nations of the world.
If we are really in an age of resources diplomacy- I gather that the Prime Minister himself seems to have retreated considerably from his first assertions- then the control of Australia’s external relationships should continue to be vested as previously in the professional officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and not in the Authority.
Risk is the essence of the mining industry. This Authority will bear no risk whatever. The funds of the taxpayer are a bottomless pit to those who see only the attractions of the theories of government ownership, which have been steadily discredited since 50 years past.
The Bill ignores State and individual rights. The Authority will be able to disregard completely State mining legislation and the existing rights acquired under it by private citizens. It will have power against the wishes of the occupier to explore, occupy and mine anywhere in Australia, including areas already held under lease and worked by State authorities, private companies or individuals. It will have power to interfere with exploration or mining activities already being lawfully carried out to the extent necessary for the reasonable exercise of the rights and performance of the duties of the Authority. It will be up to the unfortunate individual interfered with to show that the extent of interference was unreasonable. He is therefore guilty until he proves himself to be innocent.
This Bill further asserts powers that conflict with the rights and the laws of the States. It asserts powers to take over mineral projects and unrestrained discrimination in its favour against private mines found and developed by high risk private capital. Exploration for minerals is a high risk, high cost, highly skilful occupation. This authority makes the taxpayers compulsory participants. The risk, cost and skill together must warn anyone familiar with the impetuousness of this Government, its lack of efficiency, its concentration on tomorrow’s headlines rather than on careful planning and hard work, that it will not work in practice. This Authority will fail, and it will spend huge sums in the process.
– Like the Arts Council of Australia.
-Like the Arts Council of Australia- I agree. Australia on its own does not have enough funds and skills and the Government does not have enough administrative ability to find and then develop the mineral bodies, including oil and gas needed for the 1980s, as we now live on the discoveries and developments of the 1960s. All the emotional appeals to nationalism and Australian ownership will not prevent the failure of the Authority. It will not find one new deposit. It will not develop those found by others efficiently or economically. It will only take over and make worse.
Since 1972 the drop in exploration in this country has been dramatic and mining is far less economic and so has discouraged growth. That is the practical result in spite of the fine speeches. The Minister for Minerals and Energy in his speeches has in fact admitted this; but he attempts to justify it by saying things will improve. Rubbish. It is another triumph of hope over experience by that Minister. He speaks of co-operation with companies. But everyone knows that his methods and his personality make that impossible. It can be seen from his speeches over many years- and I remember well when he sat on the Opposition benches- that he hates all sections of the private sector. He is a dyed in the wool socialist and an implacable nationalisation seeker. In any case, let everyone be clear that ownership by the people and control by the people is very often propaganda for control by a government and by its Ministers.
We have heard from the Minister a stream of abuse of mining companies, Australian companies, large ones, small ones, overseas companies. Multi-nationals- that is the great evil of which we hear. We heard the previous speaker misrepresenting the position about multinationals. This Government today reduced the deposit requirement for imported capital to 5 per cent. The previous speaker believed his own party’s propaganda- a dangerous thing to do. He made a speech which might have sounded well when the deposit was 33 per cent; but he is a little bit behind the times.
Let us have a look at the results. We have always known that we have had huge mineral deposits in Australia. Broken Hill of course was an early one; then came others, and then Mt Isa. Those were the days when we had a continuing deficit of our balance of payments on current account; but as a result of Government encouragement in the 1950s exploration and development took place with high risk capital which opened up many areas.
Indeed, an explosion of interest took place and by the mid-1960s our balance of payments was permanently reversed by exports of iron ore, bauxite and coal and we cut down our imports of petroleum to 68 per cent at its high. We received gains of export income. We have seen built towns, roads, railways, ports, schools and community centres which belong to the State but which were paid for by those companies. A moment ago we heard some talk about freights in Queensland and Western Australia. Those railways were built by the mining companies but are owned by the State and the companies pay freight to the State for the use of those railways.
When a mining company makes no profit, we incur no cost. But when it does make a profit we get 50 per cent of that profit in taxation- income tax, withholding tax, royalties and payroll tax. It is a sort of share farming agreement.
– How much did you get?
-It is no use interjecting to try to show that this country has not received tremendous advantages, because it has. It has received material advantages, social advantages and employment advantages. High wages on which income tax has to be paid are received by individuals who work in those areas. There has been decentralisation in a way that this country has never seen elsewhere. There has been no other form of decentralisation that is comparable with it. In these days it is fashionable to criticise all those things. All we have had from the other side of the chamber has been criticism of these tremendous projects.
The Fitzgerald report was ostensibly objective but it omitted many aspects from its evaluation. It can be seen from the way in which the report was leaked to the Press for days during the middle of the last election campaign how the Government tried to build up hate against investment of this type. I, as a member of Parliament, could not obtain a copy of that report in order to examine its objectivity for 10 days or 2 weeks after parts of its contents had been leaked to the Press. It was a propaganda document; at least it was used in that way. Yet we have seen benefits flow to many areas not mentioned in the report- engineering supplies, building, and transport. An infrastructure of $450m has been built in this country. I repeat that $450m has been spent in this country and practically all of it on decentralised projects.
I conclude by saying that there is substantial reason for opposing this Bill. All the false talk about mandates and ownership by the people is an attempt to bolster up a basically weak case. The proposals contained in this Bill are against the interests of the Australian people. Our opposition to it is based on that belief. We have every right and every duty to oppose the Bill.
-The Government should be delighted that the Opposition has taken the stand that it has on this matter. During the last 2 elections one of the major issues was who owns Australia. That was particularly in evidence in the election on 1 8 May last. I was not surprised by some of the attitudes evinced by some honourable members and senators opposite, but I was rather dismayed by their lack of awareness of the issues involved and the reasons why the Government is acting in this manner. I am very surprised that they do not really understand the true nature of the multi-national companies. I am disgusted with the Opposition’s attack on Tom Fitzgerald. His report was not a propaganda report. I think that to criticise Fitzgerald personally is to insult him.
– Who was he working for?
– He is a public servant and he is working for Australia. Let us look at the Bill. The concept of the Bill is simple. It seeks to create a government oil company which is capable of undertaking the full range of petroleum activities from the point of exploration to the point of distribution, to create a government mining company which is capable of undertaking mining activities from the point of exploration to the point of refinement of the metal, and to create a government authority to assist companies which are undertaking any of the activities which the Petroleum and Minerals Authority can undertake.
In relation to that matter let us look at clause 8 of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. Clause 8 (a) is directed primarily at those Australian mining ventures which, having discovered a mineral resource of definite potential, are unable to finance the further exploration and development necessary to complete the economic viability of the discovery. Those companies would normally look to a larger operating company for the necessary help. But Australian companies have a limited capacity and willingness to take on new ventures of that type. Therefore they find themselves turning to overseas companies, which thereby secure an interest in our natural resources. To replace them the Government has decided that the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be authorised to assist those ventures. The decisions of the Authority will be based upon the merits of each proposal brought before it.
Clause 10 to the Bill refers to the duties of the Authority. It will be required to conduct its operations in a proper and workmanlike manner and, in accordance with good industrial practices, to look after the safety, health and welfare of persons engaged in those operations. It will be required to interfere as little as possible with navigation, to have regard to the conservation of the reserves of the sea and the sea bed, to have regard to operations being carried on by other persons engaged in similar activities and to consider, in the exercise of its functions, factors connected with the ecology and the environment. Because the Authority is not subject to the mining codes of the States it has a series of duties imposed upon it by clause 10, particularly clause 10 (3). The imposition of these duties would appear to place a greater burden upon the Authority than simply compliance with State laws. The test for the latter is simply: Has one complied? In the former, the test is whether in all circumstances the Authority has acted reasonably.
The Authority is not subject to State law because its powers flow from the Constitution and it would be a denial of the Constitution to make the exercise of its powers subject to a State. I ask the House to compare it to the defence power. As State mining laws do not apply it is necessary to give the Authority alternative means of gaining access to areas for its activities; hence the declaration provisions in Part VI of the Bill and the powers of entry in clauses 13 and 14. Much has been made of the powers of the Authority in clause 12. Of course, they are far reaching for 2 very good reasons. The Government wants to enable the Authority to behave and conduct its business in the same manner as any oil or mining company. These provisions simply reflect those powers which the articles of association of any oil or mining company would contain. The Government would not want to limit the means of assisting companies other than to make gifts or simply pay subsidies. It was suggested during a previous debate by one speaker that the elimination of assistance by way of financial grant or subsidy left only expertise to be provided by way of assistance. This is, of course, nonsense as the powers to lend moneys, underwrite shares and give guarantees will clearly indicate.
It is ridiculous to suggest that these powers are capable, in practical terms, of being used to nationalise or socialise any more than the comparable provisions in the articles of association of a company. Of course, the company can acquire shares in any company, for this is the normal means by which oil and rnining companies undertake certain aspects of their business. It is on exactly the same footing. If it was not on this footing it would not be a competent company. It would not be a company that in fact could compete. The electorate I represent contains 14 large coal mines, with more being developed, thanks to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Conner). At least 3,000 men are engaged full time in the industry. I am proud to represent coal miners. The miners themselves see the need for the Australian Government to identify the national interest in respect of the exploitation of minerals and energy in this country. They see the need for Australian people to have a share in that exploitation and they see the need for the development of a national policy for minerals and energy. They see these needs not just because it is their labour which wins the coal but because by working in the industry they know more than most of us what has, what is and what can occur in it. Above all, they believe- like I think all Australians would- that this land is ours, that we have a responsibility to future generations and that the sell-out of” our resources must be stopped.
The major company involved in mining in the electorate of Macarthur is the 100 per cent overseas owned company Clutha Development Pty Ltd. The coal Clutha produces in the Burragorang Valley is exported. The miners themselves are not anti-Clutha. Neither am I antimultinational corporations. As yet no money has been returned to the United States by Clutha. However, the main competition for export markets, particularly before the Labor Government came to office, came from another overseas owned company. It was the Utah Development Co. and it mainly mines in Queensland. This is the company to which Bjelke-Petersen has handed some 2,000 million tons of reserves which are worth more than $2 5 ,000m. Prior to this Government taking office we had the situation whereby Clutha and Utah were cutting each other’s throats competing for export markets with our coal. The stage had been reached where the viability of Clutha was threatened by the success of Utah. What the miners and I asked during 1971-72 was: If we reversed the situation, would the United States Government allow 2 companies from Australia to come to its country’s shores, mine coal entirely for export and then engage in competition for overseas markets to the detriment of local industry? What I say to those opposite is that no sensible sovereign government could possibly think of allowing this to happen. Yet the Opposition when in government did.
The former Minister for National Development, Sir Reginald Swartz, came to my electorate and assured the miners there that little could be done about the situation because Utah was mining in Queensland and it was up to that State to decide. I believe that the former Department of National Development was not only misnamed, but as it was structured it was completely inadequate for the task of guiding Australia’s mineral development. With the establishment of the Department of Minerals and Energy and with the influence of Rex Connor all export contracts were scrutinised using powers available to the Australian Government and the industry is now returning to sanity and there are now long term prospects for it. So much for not being able to do anything about the situation.
We all know that a favourable vote on the motion which will be put at the end of this sitting tonight will not see the Bill in the clear. It will again be opposed in the High Court. The obstruction by the Opposition, especially the Senate Opposition, to this Bill is well known. Again tonight we have heard the same old arguments trotted out. In all the arguments that have been put forward by members of the Opposition there has not been one word, not one policy and not one matter raised in terms of a viable alternative policy. It is just simply opposition- opposition to the concept, opposition to the philosophy, opposition to clauses or opposition for opposition’s sake. What the Opposition wants to go back to are the days of ‘nothing can be done’. The opposition to this measure is not just conservative reaction, not just sycophancy, not just well meaning stupidity but ideological opposition that I believe blinds itself to the situation of Australia and to the shape of contemporary international industrial society. To my mind this ideological opposition is basically un-Australian. The Opposition would rather sell us down the drain due to its belief that any development carried out by anyone must be good as long as the Government does not do it or does not know about it. In other words, in government the Liberal and Country Parties did not believe in governing and out of government they do not believe in allowing the elected popular government to govern. As I said, there has not been one word from the Opposition of any viable alternative to keep Australia for Australians.
Minerals and energy are very much part of modern industrial society where multi-national companies now play such a large part. Old ideas of competitive capitalism have long passed. Indeed, many of the complexities and perplexities of inflation defy classic economic resolution because the rules themselves have changed. Particularly in the minerals and energy sector of industry most costs are financed from profits, tax manipulation or interdivisional transfers within multi-national companies themselves. This is accomplished to such an extent that traditional fiscal and monetary policies implemented by mere nation states have little effect other than to help the same companies to eliminate lesser competition.
Just as the Australian people almost wholly financed our oil refining capacity in the 1 950s via the manipulation of import prices for oil, the Australian people have almost wholly financed much of the mineral development of Australia in the 1 960s. So much for the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill taking taxpayers’ funds and all the pious words spoken about that. That the Opposition did not know about the process under way in this latter period is well evidenced by the Fitzgerald report and to some extent by the Rae report on securities and exchange. What these 2 reports have shown above all else is what mugs the members of the Opposition were with respect to the mineral development of this country. I do not know whether one can quantify the position or not, but from my reading of the Rae report, the Australian Government virtually financed much of the stock boom, perhaps to the value of some $50m.
The essential issue is what return are the Australian people going to obtain from the exploitation of the country’s own natural resources? The Fitzgerald report has shown that the Australian Government has finished in the red from its relations with the nation’s most profitable and heavily foreign owned industrial sector. Not only that, but with existing concessions, we are further financing the same companies to expand at a rapid rate to a stage where, unless we act, we will have no options in the future.
When I speak of multinational companies, I do not wish necessarily to attribute to them improper motives, capriciousness, dastardly acts or menacing aims. They are a phenomenon of the present century and are organisational forms with which governments have not yet effectively grappled. They have skills and abilities that few of our own companies can match. Many multinational companies are far bigger than many nation states. What is of concern is that it is nearly impossible for governments to find out what multinational companies are up to and whether they are acting in the national interest. Major companies in key industries have enormous power of persuasion with the people and with legislators.
Let us look at the energy crisis. ‘Crisis’ is a word, the currency of which is greatly debased. One of the in phrases that anyone can use is ‘the energy crisis’. It can be shown that the so-called energy crisis in the United States of America is really a business crisis or, more properly, a policy crisis. The current energy crisis in the United States is the fifth annual energy crisis. The story changes each year. This year, the villains are the Arabs, when in truth the largest oil companies, acting in cahoots with an administration which is now passing judgment on itself, are promoting a crisis in their own interests. The use of this term first arose in 1969 when, following the most profitable decade in the history of the oil industry, that industry faced problems in relation to the environment, import quotas and the oil depletion allowance.
Yet, the oil companies have always bounced back. The top 8 oil companies now have 64 per cent of known reserves; the top 20 companies have 94 per cent of known reserves. It is the gas stations owned by the smaller companies which are closed in the United States. These same massive companies are moving into all energy sources fields. For example, the Exxon company recently purchased 7 billion tons of coal reserves, the Occidental company bought out the Island Creek coal company and the Atlantic-Richfield organisation became the second largest holder of federal coal leases. The top 25 oil companies in the United States now control 84 per cent of all oil, 72 per cent of all gas, 54 per cent of all coal and 80 per cent of all atomic power, together with 60 per cent of all electric power in the United States. These are the sorts of companies with which this Government- this nation statehas to grapple. For these reasons, I consider that the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is a first step in gaining access to knowledge that will allow us to help our own companies to compete on equal terms with these multinational companies.
– It will not have escaped your notice, Mr Chairman, that the Opposition is opposing this measure. We believe that it is unnecessary. We believe that it is unwise. We believe that it is motivated by an approach to the problem that is based not upon rational, reasonable thought but upon prejudice, a certain amount of blind hate and a fair amount of lack of knowledge. I do not intend to speak at great length tonight. On our side we have a great surplus of people who know something about this subject, while on the Government side there is a great deficiency in this respect. I will be endeavouring to be as brief as I can in order to give some of my colleagues a chance to participate in this debate.
We have a different approach to this matter from that which the Government has laid down. Our approach will be illuminated as I proceed in my brief remarks. We do not operate on the basis of prejudice, dislike or a degree of hate of people or groups. We operate on the basis of what is the best action to take for the country, given the country’s range of problems, its range of resources and the range of opportunities available at a point of time in its history. Unlike a number of those who have participated in this debate, I came from a mining town. I am a boy from a mining town. I married a girl from a mining town. Our fathers worked on the mines. My grandfather worked on a British mine. I say to the assembled gathering that there are many more people on my side of this Joint Sitting who have worked with their hands than there are on the Government side. We are far more practical. Many of us- far more than on the Government side- have worked with our hands.
Let me look at the state of Australia as it was when it was handed over to the present Government after what those on the Government describe as a period of 20-odd years in which the job of government was not well done. Australia at the time of the change of government was a most powerful country- strong in reserves, strong in resources, strong in its export position and great in its balance of payments situation. In a little over 18 months the Government has knocked off one-third of the reserves. That is not a bad effort.
I want to refer to a statement by the Treasury which has some relevance to the mining industry. In its bulletin of October 1973, referring to the Australian balance of payments position- a subject that the Government has forgotten about but which will loom large in its life and in that of the Opposition- it says:
Over the past decade Australia’s balance of payments has been transformed. In the early 1960s there was much pessimism about our ability to finance the imports of goods and services we needed for continued economic growth and to maintain adequate foreign currency reserves. Since then the balance of payments has strengthened remarkably. The rapid development of the mining industry has played a big role in this strengthening.
That is a fact of life. The people whom the Government abuses and condemns and the situation which the Government thinks is no good at all is a situation that gave many honourable gentlemen opposite their chance for growth and opportunity for better living standards and resource accumulation. It ill behoves the Parliament of Australia to condemn the mining industry and those people who risked their arms, chanced their opportunities and made something useful out of the resources of this country.
I believe there is trouble ahead. I do not like having to say these things, but the Government has embarked on a range of economic policies that are bringing this country close to a point which most of us consider very alarming. I believe that in Australia at the present time there is a crisis of confidence amongst decent, Godfearing, hard-working people- trade unionists, small business people and people in rural industries. The Government has brought on a crisis of confidence by incompetence. There is no doubt about that. It is talking about doing all kinds of things with imports. Today imports are 73 per cent above the figure of 12 months ago and a great flood of imports is moving towards this country because the Government cannot stop them. They are committed under irrevocable letters of credit. The country is faced with problems of employment and the danger of unemployment, all brought about quite unnecessarily.
In this particular measure the Government has a policy which is based largely upon a combination of vanity and some stupidity. It is taking economic nationalism to absurd limits. I suggest that the country is rapidly reaching the stage where the Government will have to abandon a lot of its extravagant ideas and become much more practical. It will have to revive Australia’s growth and activity. People will be wanting to encourage the mining industry to get back on its feet and do something positive about creating employment, about further processing and about further development. These are the real things that will concern this country far more than a Joint Sitting which is debating things that have been debated 3 times already. The real issue this country faces is some willingness and preparedness by members of the national Parliament to talk together about their country’s accumulating range of problems and to try to find some sensible solution to those problems. The problems are growing. They are becoming more acute. The Government has contributed to them.
Let us look at some solutions and stop taking absurd positions such as the Government has taken in this measure. I suggest that this is what the Government will have to consider most seriously. The Opposition of this Parliament will play its part in any constructive measure designed to put the country back on its feet, to solve its problems and to help people to achieve a better standard of living and better opportunities. We have heard all kinds of remarks about overseas capital. It is no secret that the Government has condemned the use of overseas capital. Its own people have made it abundantly clear that over the next decade Australia will require $ 12,000m of overseas capital to maintain the investment rate. It has been admitted freely by Government speakers and by anybody else who knows about this, that our saving rate is high. It is not the highest in the world. It is very high, but that saving rate comes from a combination of people buying homes, superannuation funds, life insurance and things of that kind. We are probably at the top of our investment capacity to finance our development growth if we take it from some other section where it is now. We need overseas capital. We will continue to need it and we should get it on regulated and satisfactory terms, but we cannot do without it. I think this is demonstrated by the fact the Government has had to announce tonight that it has reduced to 5 per cent the restrictions on overseas capital coming into Australia. It was 33 per cent. That was a mistake in judgment, so the Government brought it back to 25 per cent. It is now 5 per cent.
Once again the Government has had to pick up the Opposition’s economic policy that was laid down quite a while ago. Steadily and progressively the Government is being forced to pick up the Opposition’s economic policy, section by section. This is a further example of it. I think it is admitted by you all through another body engaged in this exercise that there is some doubt about the constitutional base. That is for testing in another place at another time. We believe an approach to this problem could be generated at a different level. That could be the approach that we ourselves will be seeking to establish when, without any doubt, we are called upon once again at a certain point of time to take over the operating of a country that should never have been economically destroyed but will be. Let me suggest what you could do constructively. It would be an alternative approach. You would expand the Australian Minerals Council conceived and brought into being by the honourable David Fairbairn. You would seek to do that progressively and capably. You would join the Commonwealth arm, the State arms and industry in a state of co-operative action in the style of operating a federal system by getting the people to work together and not in hostility.
Without any doubt you would expand the Bureau of Mineral Resources on a search and find operation totally and you would encourage it to operate. You would encourage industry to come to Australia to process further, to search further and to find under proper conditions of regulation and examination. You would restrict the activities of government as far as possible to the following areas: supervision, regulation and protecting the public interest. That I think would be an approach that would work. I think the Government will adopt it in the end anyway. I recommend it to the Government because it is picking up our policies piece by piece as it goes along. It is useful for the Government to know that it has another one it can gather in.
There has been some virtue in these 2 long, interminable days of debate because senators have had an opportunity to see their colleagues in the House of Representatives at work in this chamber. Members of the House of Representatives perhaps have had a chance to see some of us more closely than they otherwise would. If I were to criticise the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia it would be on the ground of the remoteness of the 2 chambers from each other and a failure to understand what is happening. There has been talk in this chamber in the last 2 days about Senate obstruction. This is just not true in the mind of any responsible senator on either side. The Senate is a House of review. It has its own mandate. It has its own job to do in the Australian national Parliament. It should concern itself with the welfare of the country and be as bipartisan as possible, which it is in its committees. It should deliberate and take time to deliberate. It should change where it can and believes it should, and where it believes things are wrong it should refuse. That is what it ought to do and, as a senator, I hope it continues to do so. It has concern for the States which founded the Australian Parliament and to which it belongs, and it has concern for the nation. It operates in a different style but with just as much responsibility, and that is why it refused the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill and will continue, in my view, to do so. Somebody made a comment about which I was really quite put out. He said that the Senate is not elected democratically.
-It is the basis of the Australian Parliament.
-I quite agree, Senator Wood. As usual, you come up with the most pertinent observations. Not democratically elected? Senator Murphy and I have a million people voting for each of us. That is acknowledgment of popular will, surely, is it not? Senator Murphy will be upset about being accused of not being elected democratically. I am, too. I just want to say one more thing before I sit down. Parliament is in danger of becoming a high class debating society when it will be a place of decision if it is properly handled. If I may say so, gentlemen, with respect, the best place of decision in this Parliament in Canberra is the Senate.
-I felt very happy about coming into this debate until I was almost reduced to tears by the previous speaker, Senator Cotton. From now on he will be known as the pick and shovel senator. He dug holes around the lectern and the next speaker from the Opposition side will need to watch his step. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, which I strongly support in all its facets, has been before Parliament on 3 previous occasions. It was debated in the House of Representatives for 6 hours 17 minutes and in the Senate for 11 hours 44 minutes. In other words we have spent a total time- excluding this debate- of 18 hours 1 minute debating this Bill on 3 different occasions; namely, 4 December 1973, 8 April 1974 and 10 July 1974. We have been forced into a Joint Sitting because of the stubbornness of the people on my left who decided that they did not lose the last election even if they did not win it. They are fighting a rearguard action because of the masters behind them. The money spent on this Joint Sitting would have provided 30 houses for Aboriginal families, 2 medium sized pre-schools, half the price of the new plane the Premier of Queensland wants to buy, half a mile of bitumen surface, one olympic swimming pool or one high school library. If members of the Opposition want to interject I shall give them a little bit of their home history in a moment. It was Cicero who said: ‘The good of the people is the chief law’. We have come to this Joint Sitting as a last resort in order to get our legislation through.
Who forced these people on my left to put the taxpayers of this country to this expense? Mr Acting Chairman, I shall tell you. It is the companies who sit behind them and who direct their every thought and action. They are the people they defend. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) stood here today with crocodile tears coming from his eyes because he made that great bloomer during the election campaign when he virtually promised the oil companies: ‘Return our Parties and we will increase the price of oil per barrel as it comes from the wellhead.’ Of course, the motorist would pay.
– That is untrue.
– It is not untrue. That is completely true. It is the motorist who would pay for it. The workers of this country were to subscribe SI, as a minimum, for every gallon of petrol. I shall name these bankrupt companies. Exxon, which is known as Esso Australia Ltd in Australia, for the last year on the figures which are available to me made a profit of $2,440m. Texaco made a profit of $ 1,292m; Standard Oil California $842m; Mobil $842m; and Standard Oil (Indiana) $5 lim. These bankrupt oil companies to which the Country Party had committed itself to increase prices at the wellhead are the companies which are directing the people on the left hand side of this chamber now. In private industry profits are the main thing. Profit is the only good that members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party have ever heard of. This country has oil and natural gas which provides approximately 50 per cent of our energy. It is not like the stink gas which comes from the Country Party. In addition to this we have natural oil which supplies some 70 per cent of our needs. At the current rate of consumption our natural gas resources will probably last for the next 30 years plus. It was the Fitzgerald report that exposed the hypocrisy of people on the Opposition benches. I will not go into that report because of the shortage of time; in any case it has been adequately covered by previous speakers from this side of the chamber.
Why all this great fear of government participation? I will tell people why there is a fear of government participation in industry even though such a system operates in countries like Canada, New Zealand, Japan, France and Italy. Those countries are not worried about government participation in natural gas and oil projects but members opposite fear it because they believe it will take profits away from their friends. I quote now one paragraph of a statement by the Anglican Bishop of Gippsland, Dr Garnsey, who recently said:
All natural resources are the gift of God; private ownership of them is against natural and public interest.
Gippsland’s oil and gas resources should be securely placed in the hands of the Australian people.
He continued on similar lines. No doubt in the book of members opposite Dr Garnsey would be a communist. ‘Communist’ is a favourite word that members opposite try to bring back into the parliamentary vocabulary. In a previous speech in the Senate on this particular Bill I referred to the Petroleum Information Bureau. I have had the courtesy of a letter from the Bureau. I will not quote it all because of its length. The letter was in reference to a statement I made and which appears in the Hansard report of 23 July 1974 at page 357, if anyone cares to look it up. The Bureau wrote:
We do not comment on government policy in relation to petroleum exploration and production, whichever political party is in power, though we may report events that follow from the implementation of government policy.
I am pleased to see that at least one section of the industry has some interest in this matter. There are a number of other matters on which I should like to enlarge but time is limited. However I do want to refer to some of the rackets that go on with respect to the oil industry and the mining industry generally. Again, on this occasion, I quote Byron who said:
For what were all these country patriots born? To hunt, and vote and raise the price of corn.
I am not referring specifically to members of the Country Party but if the cap fits they can wear it. I refer briefly now to that very close friend of mine, the Premier of Queensland, known in some circles of the Country Party as ‘The Flying Peanut’ and in other circles, not religious circles, as ‘Holy Joh’. He is used to taking matters to the High Court. He has said that if this Bill is carried at this Joint Sitting he will take it to the High Court, although he was unsuccessful in his previous application a few days ago. In 1962 Mr Justice Taylor brought down a judgment. Because of the lengthy nature of that document I will quote only small sections of it. It concerned a mining exploration agreement in which Mr Bjelke-Petersen was involved. He - undertook to purchase from taxpayer 51 per cent of the issued shares in a company to be formed for £12,650 and to pay him 5 1 per cent of the deposit and first year’s rental paid by him
The judgment goes on to show how money was shifted from one bucket to another.
- Mr Acting Chairman, I rise on a point of order. What has this to do with the Bill. Will you bring Senator Keeffe to order? What has Mr Petersen’s private life got to do with this Bill?
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)- Order! Your point of order is being considered. I ask the honourable senator to continue with his remarks but to connect them to the subject matter of the Bill.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Chairman. 1 refer now to other sections of this law report. It is not the private life of a man in public life when he is able to fiddle the mining shares, but I will make these references -
- Mr Acting Chairman -
– Do not be so thin skinned, for goodness sake.
– Again on a point of order. I think, in all decency, that statement should be withdrawn. Senator Keeffe has accused the Premier of Queensland of fiddling with mining shares.
-Do you agree?
– I definitely agree that he has never done a dishonest thing in his life.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)- Senate standing order 418 states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament of any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
Senator Keeffe may continue.
– I withdraw the word fiddle ‘ and say ‘ manipulated ‘. I want to say -
- Mr Acting Chairman, I object to the reference. He is getting away with murder. There is the same inference and he is being smart. He is well known for this sort of conduct.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- I have given consideration to the honourable member’s point of order. I ask Senator Keeffe to connect his remarks to the Bill and to avoid any reflections or imputations against any member of a State Parliament.
-In my most academic language, I shall rephrase the whole statement and read from the document compiled by Mr Justice Taylor. I hope that this satisfies my jackinthebox mate who is continually objecting. On page 29, the Australian Law Report of 1963 states:
It was, of course, urged that the appellant did not obtain the amount in question for the sale of an interest in the authority; he obtained it, so it is said, for the sale of 12,650 shares. But, as so clearly appears, this is pan only of the story -
– You tried this 2 elections ago.
-Of course, he got involved in this High Court case because he was trying to dodge taxation. Mr Justice Taylor said, when he found out that he was trying to dodge taxation -
– Who was this?
-This is my close personal friend, Holy Joh. Mr Justice Taylor said:
In these circumstances, I am satisfied that the amount in question represented profit arising from the carrying on or carrying out of a profit-making undertaking or scheme within the meaning of s. 26 (a) of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act and, as such, it formed part of his assessable income. That being so the appeal should be dismissed.
This was signed by Mr Justice Taylor. I have been provoked into this and I am sorry about it. On previous occasions in the Senate I have asked for another mining company- the Nickelfields company- to be investigated. Two senators were involved. Senator Wood remains a member of the Senate. The other senator involved has retired. I asked for this company to be examined by the Rae Committee. It was never examined by the Rae Committee because on that Committee Opposition senators protect their friends too.
Unless this Bill is carried in its entirety and unless it is put into operation, rackets will go on indefinitely in mining in this country. This is the chance for the Australian people to own some of their own property. As Bishop Garnsey said, it was given to them by God and it is not to be dissipated at the hands of racketeers who seem to be able to engage in this industry indefinitely and without much control.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)- I call the honourable member for Kennedy.
– Tell us how many shares you have, Bob.
– I will tell you what, Mr Speaker -
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- My title is ‘Mr Acting Chairman’.
– I am sorry, Mr President. In view of your excellent impartiality I should like to give you your correct title. In answer to the interjection by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) let me say that I would have great pleasure in swapping my shareholding for his. I am sure that I would be much better off financially. I am quite amazed- despite all the things I have heard of Senator Keeffe- that he is capable of devoting an entire address on an important occasion such as this to an attempt to absolutely mutilatewhat a futile operation that would be- the character of the Premier of the State which annihilated the Labor Party at the last election. The influence of the man is such that every night, when I go down on my knees and say my prayers, I say: ‘Please God, may the Labor Party never take Senator Keeffe away from North Queensland’. Our majorities go up and up when
Senator Keeffe gives vent to the sort of spleen to which he gave vent tonight.
Tonight most of us were listening to a news broadcast which was interrupted by a news flash which was of tremendous importance to this nation. It told us 2 things. The first was academic, if you like, but it was that the 331/3 per cent deposit which those who wished to bring overseas capital into this nation had to lodge with the Reserve Bank, which had been reduced to 25 per cent, tonight was reduced to 5 per cent. Two things happened. Immediately was exposed the shabby deceit or shabby frustration of the mining industry of this nation by what was an attempt to freeze and eventually wipe out private enterprise in this nation, or at least that section of it that was stimulated by foreign investment.
We heard this great hymn, this great tirade, this great deceit- a grand deceit among many grand deceits- of telling the Australian people that this country was being sold down the drain, that it was being sold out to multi-national companies, and all the other things-the type of thing that Senator Keeffe raised tonight- that Government supporters throw into the ring. Successive speakers on the Government side have talked about multi-national companies. In one blow they have conceded that Australia is being brought to its knees by the economic situation which exists here, and they have gone back crawling and asking that foreign capital be brought back into this country. I wonder what sort of a reception their appeals will receive. I am very doubtful about what reception will be given by the people whom the Minister for Minerals and Energy has constantly insulted- he is known for it. I do not say anything personal against him, but he is now identified in foreign money markets as the man who has brought this country to the status of a banana republic.
The Bill before the Joint Sitting has been subject to much debate. I think I could safely say that most Government supporters have never intelligently visited a mining centre in their entire careers. I am rather proud to say that about 16 members of my Party visited just about every mining operation in Australia only a few months ago. We discussed the particular problems not with the multi-national companies but with the people involved in the mining industry at all l evels. What a great aura of gloom hangs over the whole of the mining industry. It is an industry which two or three years ago was vital to this country. It was bringing tremendous wealth to Australia. It was growing and it offered tremendous possibilities for young people who were prepared to go to the frontier-type towns which were growing up in themining areas. Government supporters would have you believe that they have won the support of the average working man, the small miner, the fellow who slaves underground. They have not.
If anyone says that what I was saying is untrue he should look at the results of the last Federal election. He will find that not one electorate which has a mining centre in it did anything but considerably lower the vote of those candidates who stood for the Australian Labor Party. It is quite a remarkable thing that in the electorate of Kalgoorlie there was a tremendous swing in votes against a man who was highly regarded in that area but who had one great burden to carry. I do not know whether the Minister for Minerals and Energy went out to support the Labor Party candidate in the electorate of Kalgoorlie, but the very fact that the Minister and his policies were involved was nearly enough to put the Labor Party candidate out of office.
– He won by 500 votes, did he not?
-That is right. If one goes through the whole list of electorates in which there are mining areas one finds the same sort of situation because the people in those areas are not being deceived I suppose that if one wants to speak with authority on a particular matter one can do one of three things. One can be informed by the records which are available. One can get information through government departments, but that is an operation which seems to have ceased these days. I believe that the Bureau of Mineral Resources is looking for something to do as it does not seem to be involved any further in the mining industry. There will be 5 men on the Authority, and I would not let three of them examine a specimen of copper that I brought down the other day because they would probably think it was a lump of copper or something like that.
The people in the mining industry are fully aware of the way in which the control of this great industry will fall into the hands of a group of bureaucrats thousands of miles away. We have in charge of the whole operation a Minister who is obsessed with one particular thing. I do not know where he was briefed. I do not know whether he went to Chile for that purpose. I do not know whether he went to some of these little experimental countries where they are putting in this new nationalist, all-embracing type of socialism.
– I think it was Patagonia.
-It could have been Patagonia, I am informed by my friend from Queensland who does know something of the mining industry. Is it little wonder that the Government is now crawling back to the people who are capable of bringing tens of millions of dollars into this country to give us at least some reservoir of finance to restore the economy of this nation? If the Government has any doubts about what I am saying, let me refer to the capital investment figures prior to its taking over of the economy of this nation, prior to the beginnings of the conditioning of the industry to being crushed by the Bill before the House. I will list the capital cost of the particular investment which applied to each mineral or group of minerals.
Until 2 December 1972 the capital investment in bauxite, alumina and aluminium- the alumina family, if you like- was $ 1,297m; the investment in coal- one commodity-was $207m; the investment in copper, lead and zinc was $603m; the investment in iron ore was $ 1,472m; and the investment in nickel was $390m. That makes a grand total of no less than $3,969m. But apparently we do not want any longer the customs of the people who are prepared to make these investments. We do not want that sort of investment in this country. If the Minister went out to Mount Isa and told that to the people I represent I think he might find a deep shaft and a long rope waiting for him.
We are in the throes of an energy crisis. In other words, all restrictions should be lifted from the development of, and more specifically, the exploration for further possible deposits. Just leaving the subject of oil for a moment, I would point out that there is a crying need for uranium throughout the world at the moment. I only wish to heaven that I had not had reduced to 10 minutes the time available to me because there is so much I could say about this matter. I ask the Minister how much uranium we have sold over the last 12 months. Have we sold one ounce of uranium? The Government has deprived this country of tens of millions of dollars of income because it has not permitted a company even to take out a bulk specimen. I ask the Minister to deny that or at least get one of the Government speakers to deny that the Government will not permit any company in Australia even to extract a bulk specimen of uranium ore.
My time is running out. I wish to set out very briefly the discouragements which would cause people to reject utterly this Bill. The background of this Bill shows that this discouragement has been built up by this sort of legislation or this sort of thinking. The first discouragement was the termination of the petroleum search subsidy. What a great blow that was at a time when we were facing an energy crisis. I do not know whether we will be able to get out of this city tomorrow. We cannot hitch-hike because no one has any petrol. We cannot get a train because there are no trains running. I do not intend to walk to Cloncurry, let me tell you. The second discouragement was the termination of the tax deductions for share subscriptions. Investment inside Australia had to be discouraged, and the Government succeeded admirably. I suggest that honourable members and senators have a look at the share market today- or do not have a look at it as they will not sleep tonight.
The third discouragement was the banning of farm-ins. This is the one that really gets me, because I have spent a lifetime with the small gouger, who is now a slightly bigger gouger and who is now perhaps a participant in a small mining company. The Government has succeeded in destroying the hopes of that man. The reason the Government has done so is that it has destroyed the junior Australian companies and their shareholders’ confidence as well as giving overseas companies the message that they were not wanted. Our own Australians were not wanted. That is how it is. I would say in conclusion- I have to conclude- that your Bill, your stinking, socialist, anti-Australian Bill, is not wanted.
– At the outset I want to say to Representative Katter that when he talks about Australianism many new members in this Parliament- people like Representatives Mathews and Lamb- are here because the conservationists in this community are sick of being trampled by the mining lobbyists. So when the honourable member is talking about political dividends, the very fact that these men are here is significant. As for Representative Katter’s concern about royalties in mining communities, I have been advised by Representative Fitzpatrick that he obtained 75 per cent of the vote in Cobar; so that refutes his stupid reasoning. The reason why I enter this debate is very simple. 1 believe that the creation of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will mean that with an overall national plan those of us who are conservationists can work with the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, because we will implement a sane plan. To those people who jeer about that I say just look at the situation that has resulted from their bungling of the Top End national park. For years Mr Fairbairn and others talked about it. At least under Mr Connor, who is emulating
Stewart Udall and other famous American Secretaries of the Interior, the mining companies will not dictate to us. Of course, they would like to.
I invite honourable members to look at the situation in the electorate of Robertson. Certain interests there are so petty and mean and so antiAustralian that just because there happens to be a large cluster of red gums in that electorate they have taken us, the Australian taxpayers, to the Privy Council to try to achieve some cheap commercial advantage. Yet members of the Opposition have the effrontery in this chamber to shed crocodile tears about mining company morality. I notice that my colleague on the other side, Senator Davidson, is present. I use the word colleague’ in the broad sense; perhaps in the sense of Senate comradeship since we were both members of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. What was our experience as a result of going all over the Commonwealth? We saw these graveyards of broken promises by mining companies. This Government has inherited a serious problem in the Molonglo River just because the Lake George Mining Co. welched on an agreement made 20-odd years ago. That is the sort of thing that Mr Anthony talks about. He defends these buccaneers; that is all they are and all they always will be. In the Parliamentary Library one can read the history of the battle for Lake Superior in the United States. There have been injunctions, actions by 3 State legislatures and an action in the United States Supreme Court- and the mining companies are still going on with their pollution methods.
As an Australian I want to see an effective marriage between conservationists and mining interests. But I know that if every mining company gets in for its own cut, conservation will suffer. The master plan that we have for the Top End national park in the Northern Territory will be a tourism gem but it will come about only when mining companies know that there is a bit of muscle in Canberra and that they are not going to push people around. It is remarkable that I should have to stand here tonight and hear this vilification of Mr Connor and Senator Keeffe. The history of the United States would have been a lot better if a conservationist in the person of Senator Edward Muskie had been elected President instead of what did happen. One reason why he was brought to his knees was that the wicked mining lobby tried to defame him. If Senator Wheeldon was here he would concur to the hilt in what I am saying. It is of no use anyone trying to intimidate Mr Connor, Dr J.
My illustrious colleague from Queensland, Senator Keeffe, dealt very effectively with what happens when one has weak sister Premiers. The Opposition has talked about making readjustments. What has happened to the Premier of Queensland? He has now had to trim his sails and seek a greater royalty because of the way in which certain companies welched on Queensland. Honourable members and senators opposite talk about electoral respect for the Labor movement. There is a growing Australian nationalism which is against Australia becoming a gigantic quarry. I wish to make one final point. When the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution visited the Northern Territory it found out after persistent investigation that even a Government authority- I say this advisedly- in the Australian Atomic Energy Commission had polluted the Finniss River. I indict Mr Fairbairn for the failure of his Government to curb those sorts of pollution excesses? I entered this debate as a conservationist. I want to see a planned economy. I have confidence in Rex Connor. I believe that Rex Connor will maintain the same high standard as has been maintained by such Secretaries of the Interior in the United States of America as Stewart Udall.
-A great deal has been said during the debate today about the so-called Fitzgerald report. The Government would be extremely naive if it were to adopt a report such as that as holy writ. It is a report which was prepared quite hurriedly by one man. Unfortunately, however genuine the person who prepared the report may have been, it has been used as a political stunt by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). Obviously there are very many errors in it. It needs a critical and impartial assessment by, I would suggest, such bodies as the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which does not seem to have very much to do at present, and the Treasury as well as academics and accountants. It might even be a good idea if a Senate select committee were to have a look at it. It is no use our debating something here until we get the true facts about these things.
I have seen suggestions that the Fitzgerald report is completely at variance with the facts. For example, mention is made in it of but no amount is added for what the mining companies pay in the way of State royalties. That amounts to $263m. That was not counted in the Fitzgerald report’s final additions. There has been a saving on the provision of infrastructure. Another $240m at the very least should be added for such infrastructure. Had the mining companies not done so the Commonwealth, the States or local government authorities would have had to provide that sort of infrastructure. Something like $ 1 50m has been paid in taxation on mining dividends. The withholding tax on interest and dividends could amount to $40m. Perhaps that may be a little high. I want to know where the truth lies. I do not want to have to rely on something that was hurriedly assembled for the Minister to leak to the Press 1 5 days before he made a copy of it available to me or to anybody else so that the Press could get a good run out of it. I and one of my colleagues were criticised for not having read it but how could we read it when we could not even get hold of a copy of it?
One could go on. Revenue is generated by the industry to the order of something like $165m through a tax on private royalties, additional payroll tax and additional income tax. That is extra revenue over and above what would normally be paid. So that all told it looks as if the mining industry may have made a contribution to welfare during the 5-year period referred to of something to the order of $700m and not, as the Minister has claimed, as if a contribution has been made to the mining industry of $55m. But again what is needed is an impartial assessment. Let us not forget, however, that the laws under which the companies now operate were introduced in 1916. Many of them were transferred from the States and they have been worked over by every government since. In particular, the late Ben Chifley altered the laws quite considerably. Many of the laws now applying taxation, for instance, to the companies concerned were laws implemented by Ben Chifley.
Tonight we are discussing a Bill to set up an Authority which will explore for and develop our petroleum and mineral resources. We of the Opposition, of course, are completely opposed to the Bill. We are not opposed to a government organisation competing on equal terms with private enterprise nor is private enterprise opposed to such a government organisation. But this Bill, if it passes this Joint Sitting and the High Court, will give a government instrumentality enormous powers possessed by no other instrumentality, public or private. There is a vast gulf between the 2 major parties of this Parliament. One, of course, stands for private enterprise and the other stands for socialism. We believe in just rewards and returns for the nation through taxation, royalties, payments for leases and all those many other ways in which the nation gets its return. We believe taxpayers funds should not be used on speculative, high risk enterprises. If funds of this size are available to the Government they should be used in areas to which private enterprise is not attracted such as social security, child care centres and the abolition of the means test.
Under our system of encouragement mining flourished. Oil, gas and minerals were found in vast quantities. But look at the situation today. It really is appalling. During my last year as Minister for National Development in 1969, 263 oil wells were drilled to total depth. Last calendar year, under the present encumbent, the number dropped to just over a quarter of the 1969 figure namely 73. The footage drilled for the 6 months to June last was slightly less than half that drilled during the last full calendar year. So, it looks as though this year the amount of drilling undertaken will be even less than that of last year. And goodness knows, that was little enough. Twenty one rigs are available for drilling on-shore in Australia’s 3 million square miles- few enough by any standard. Only 2 of these rigs are working today, while a third is listed as active, meaning that it may start drilling again sometime. Four rigs are drilling off-shore, compared to the 7 rigs that were drilling off-shore when we went out of office. Recently when I asked one senior oil executive how the future looked, he said: ‘Grim’. But of course he used the great Australian adjective before the word ‘grim’.
Let me repeat that, under our system of encouragement, mining flourished. Oil, gas and minerals were found in vast quantities. True, some of our resources got into the hands of overseas owners. Was this such a tragedy? We received royalties and taxes. We had exports in vast quantities and as a result our overseas reserves built up. Those reserves have now been run down at such a rate that the Government had to take panic action today. We had a reduced bill for our imports. Oil alone would cost us some $300m a year if we had to import it from overseas, but of course we have a major self sufficiency which enabled us to avoid rationing when many other countries had to introduce rationing. The state got technologies, employment, access to overseas markets and decentralisationso many things came out of this flourishing mining industry which we left when we went out of office in 1972. Two government instrumentalities, the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Bureau of Statistics, have said that 35 per cent of the mining and minerals industry was overseas owned. But of course the Government have complete control over these companies, as well as over all others. It issues the leases, licences and the permits to the mining companies and determines under what conditions they are issued. Secondly, the Government has control over exports and over imports. It can determine whether the price is adequate and whether the destination is correct before it determines whether it will allow exports. The governments have complete control over taxes and royalties. I mention the fact that the mining industry has paid great amounts in recent yearssome $700m in the last 5 years- and we know that these amounts will be increased now that the deductions available to these companies have mostly been taken up and the companies will now be paying full taxation at a higher rate than they would have paid if they had had no deductions at all. Of course, governments set conditions of employment. Almost all companies in Australia today are Australian managed.
We had a flourishing industry. But, of course, Labor wants not Australian ownership but State ownership or socialisation. Labor has done everything it could to bring the companies to their knees, and unfortunately the first companies that it has succeeded in bringing to their knees have been small Australian owned companies. Let me list some of the firms that have pulled out recently. Of course, this would be a very short list because there are many more. The firms that have pulled out of oil search in Australia recently include the Gulf, Continental, City Service, Ocean Venture, Sun Oil, Union Oil- which was the first company to have a commercial field in Australia although West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd was the first company to discover oil- and Tennico companies. Companies which have wound down and are on a care and maintenance basis include the Planet, Tricentrol, Marathon Oil, Phillips Australian and Canadian Superior companies. More importantly perhaps than anything else, Australian firms or Australian based firms that have gone overseas rather than put up with the Minister’s policies- which have been aptly described by some of my colleagues as the policies of a banana republic- because they reckon that when they go overseas they are dealing with governments with which they can deal, which is not the case with this mob, include the Australian Oil and Gas, Australian Associated Resources, Alliance, Beach, South Pacific, Endeavour, Broken Hill Pty, Magellan, Hartogen and Target companies. Think of how much oil search we would be getting in Australia if these firms were operating in Australia and were not scattered around the world as a result of the actions of the Minister.
The Minister said in his second reading speech:
We will consider assistance to the many small companies and syndicates that have used up their capital.
Why do they need assistance? The answer is, of course, because the Government has discouraged oil search, firstly, by terminating the subsidy; secondly, by terminating the tax deductions for share subscriptions; thirdly, by banning farm-ins; fourthly, by imposing the 25 per cent bank deposit freeze on overseas funds, which it has just had to lift; fifthly, by terminating the tax exemption for petroleum dividends up to the amount of the capital expenditure; sixthly, by the decision to acquire the North- West Shelf gas at the wellhead; and, seventhly, by the creation of a general air of apprehension and uncertainty by attacks on the industry and in particular on overseas companies. We all recall the fantastic statements made by the Minister, such as ‘mugs’ and hillbillies’, ‘ripping and raping’, ‘flogging off the north-west’ and all that sort of stuff. What magnificent language to come from a Minister of the Crown.
This Bill seeks to give the Authority sweeping powers of entry and occupation, irrespective of other title to the land. Clause 14 (6) states:
In this section, a reference to land includes a reference to land owned or occupied by a State.
So, not only private land but also State land is covered. Thus a justice of the peace from anywhere- he might even be from Canberracan issue a warrant allowing the Authority to enter land to explore for or carry on operations for the recovery of minerals. The word ‘minerals’ means virtually every substance in the nation. Let me quote its description. The word ‘ minerals ‘ is described as sand, clay, stone, earth, gravel, minerals- that is described as ‘a naturally occurring substance or mixture of substances’- coal, timber, wood or other materials or other things. Members of this chamber with legal experience would probably say that that would probably cover everything that is likely to be discovered in Australia. So, a justice of the peace, without knowing whether the land is occupied, authorises the Authority to prospect or mine. The Authority, by notice published in the ‘Gazette’ declares an area of the Australian continental land mass to be an exploration or production area.
What security of tenure has a State or a company? I invite honourable members and honourable senators to consider State mining operations such as that undertaken at Morwell and company operations at Mt Tom Price, Hamersley and Mt Isa. As I read the Bill, the Authority can not only take over any of those operations but also perform the functions conferred on it ‘so as to facilitate trade and commerce with other countries’. There is virtually not one mining company in Australia which is not carrying out commerce or trade with another country. We know that Australian mining companies trade with Japan, and many other countries.
I see that the time available to me in this debate is nearly concluded. I point out that the provisions to which I have just drawn attention mean that a company can be taken over by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. But the Minister seeks even further powers. The Authority can acquire mining undertakings. The Authority can underwrite the issue of shares or debentures. The proposed $50m annually to be spread between the search for and the production of oil and minerals is chicken feed. We need, in the search for oil alone, about $250m annually. The Opposition is totally opposed to this measure.
-Mr Acting Chairman, were I able to understand what the previous speaker said I would probably take some time to reply. It was such a pedestrian load of gobbledegook that I do not think it would be possible for anybody to reply to that hotchpotch mixture of figures and understatement of facts. I think it is about time that the purpose of this Bill was restated. Previous speakers have already said that the Bill has been debated over a lengthy period in this place and in another place. It is in fact a Bill to establish in Australia a Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
The many hours of debate that have taken place in the House of Representatives and in the Senate have apparently been wasted because no member of the Opposition parties has yet been persuaded by the unanswerable logic of the Labor Party’s case. The best defence that these recipients of part of the rewards reaped by these overseas exploiters can put forward is that the Bill is wicked socialism and enshrines socialist principles. My view is that if the Opposition is to speak about socialism and wicked socialist principles with regard to this Bill it ought to be charged with gross misrepresentation. If any of the measures proposed in this Bill are socialist either in their inception or in practice I am afraid I have wasted a lot of my time trying to learn what socialism really is. The Bill seeks to establish an Authority which will set about exploring for minerals and petroleum in exactly the same way as those people who support the concept of private enterprise are doing now in the sea around Australia and on the land. All that this Bill seeks to do is to add another explorer, if we like, and an entrepreneur to the field except that this proposed Authority will be owned by the people of Australia.
In trying to gain some enlightenment on this very complex subject I turned to a debate which took place in this chamber on 1 1 July 1974. In that debate Mr Anthony, who is the Leader of the Australian Country Party and the right honourable member for Richmond, said among a number of things that the Bill gives unfettered enormous power to an Authority, a Minister and a Government over which the Parliament has little scrutiny. I do not know where that right honourable gentleman has been spending his time. It seems to me that if a Minister in this Parliament or the Government is not under scrutiny, I wonder what the heck the Opposition is doing in this place, why its supporters ask all the questions that they do ask and why they engage in debate. Nobody could be under closer scrutiny than the very fine, honourable, respected and revered Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the very fine, honest, respected and revered Government that we have governing this country at the present time.
– You are over-doing it a bit.
-It is true. I wish that somebody could show me that the same sort of scrutiny exists for Esso-BHP or for any of the mining companies in the electorate of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). If they can show me that there is any sort of scrutiny over the activities of those people- the same sort of scrutiny as the Minister and the Government receive- I would be very pleased to hear it. So far I have not heard anybody say that. A lot has been said about the high risk capital involved in this industry. I ask: Where does the high risk capital come from? I suppose it comes from 3 sources: It probably comes from reserves, it probably comes from an issue of shares and it probably comes from profits. Let us look at profits. Reserves are undistributed profits. I suppose that those who buy shares are the gamblers in the community, and they have been caught and had their fingers burnt.
But when we are talking about these things we are not talking about the capital of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, of Esso or of the mining companies. Are we not talking about the price the consumer pays for the end product? Does the consumer not pick up the tab? Is this not the case everywhere? The consumer wears 2 hats. He is the user of the product and also the payer of taxes. So we are right back to the good old backbone of this country- the working class taxpayer. The Opposition is talking about his capital being at risk if the Government becomes involved in the matter. His capital is the tax that he pays anyhow. Carried to its nth degree, as is the intention of the Government, the consumer- namely, the taxpayer- will pay a lower price for the product that he receives in the long run. So the Opposition is talking about taking it from him with one hand and giving it back to him with the other. The argument about risk capital being involved is a completely and utterly facetious argument. It is facetious to say that the Australian Government is acting irresponsibly in using its great resources to do a job.
Do not forget that there are many authorities existing that could move into this area straight away. Anybody who believes that Australia is without experienced and skilled people is deluding himself. It is essential that this legislation be passed. I have a rather sneaking suspicion that when the vote is taken later this evening it will be carried and the legislation will become law. The Bill is written in language which is very easy to understand. Members of the Opposition apparently have found it very confusing, especially members of the Australian Country Party. That is not surprising. They find everything confusing. One of the reasons -
– I cannot understand your explanation of risk capital.
-Hullo. Who woke up the honourable senator from Tasmania?
– You did.
-That is not surprising; you sleep rather lightly. One of the reasons given in clause 9 of the Bill for establishing the authority would, I think, endear itself to those jingoistic drum-bashers who sit opposite us. Amongst other things, it says: for the purpose of ensuring the availability when a state of war, or danger of war, exists, of adequate reserves and supplies of petroleum, petroleum products, petrochemicals,, minerals and refined substances capable of being used for the purpose of the defence of Australia.
If we look at that clause alone what do we find? Those who sit opposite are always telling us that we are always at risk. We find that at present these very critical things in a critical period are in the hands of the private enterprise system and the Government has no control over them at all. Honourable gentlemen opposite stand in this place and say that they oppose this Bill purely and simply on the ground that it is not in line with their singular and very archaic free enterprise mentality- a system that has never worked anywhere in the world and that is proving daily around the world how bad it is. It is falling to pieces in every country in the world, and Australia is no exception.
How can you make a bad thing good? Those who sit opposite are constantly trying to do that. They would support a private enterprise system to the complete exclusion of any sort of participation by the Australian Government. Did they not do this with Trans-Australia Airlines? Did they not hamstring TAA? Was it not they who said that TAA could not fly aircraft intrastate although its competitor- I use that word loosely when speaking of these people- could fly aircraft anywhere at any time? Did they not place a restriction on the use of machinery owned by TAA without any such restriction applying to its free enterprise competitor? So when they talk of this measure being some sort of threat to the free enterprise system we must conclude that they are speaking with their tongue in their cheek, because it cannot possibly be said that there is any risk to the free enterprise system. I always thought that a free enterprise system relied greatly for its existence on competition. I did not think that free enterprise was afraid of a competitor, but it seems that amongst those on the other side of this place there is a fear. They are afraid of the Australian Government going into opposition with free enterprise in a fair, businesslike and competitive way with no advantage to the Australian Government enterprise. In closing off, I am reminded of a poem by Henry Lawson, A Word to Texas Jack’. The final stanza of that poem, with a few alterations, reads:
But when they are gone, as we are not, we find that when they go,
They have left behind no larnin’ - but have carted off our dough.
– I rise tonight at this late hour to oppose this Bill. I must remark that most of the authority for the establishment of a Petroleum and Minerals Authority seems to have taken the nature of abuse. I do not believe that abuse is proper justification for any authority, whether it be this one or an authority in any field whatsoever in the area of our endeavour. I oppose this Bill in the first place, and very simply in my view, because there is absolutely no need for such an extraordinary monopolistic, tax-fed, privileged giant as this Authority can well become. There is no need for this sort of extravagant authority in order properly to control and direct the important areas of our economy. Such an authority with such extraordinary and privileged powers could be justified only if in fact the concern of the Government, the establisher of this Authority, was not control of those industries but the ownership of them. In that sort of circumstance, most definitely, that sort of authority would indeed be justified.
The Authority involves a vast measure of contribution from taxpayers’ funds, in spite of what has been said, in extremely high risk areas of research in extremely high risk enterprise. It is extraordinary to imagine that sums in the vicinity of $200m a year could be envisaged for this sort of unnecessary involvement in government ownership at a time when this very Government has arbitrarily, by the stroke of a pen, taken away $ 1 30m from the area of child care, and has taken away, by another stroke of a pen, $28m which has been directed to keep some sort of balance in the price of petrol throughout this vast community, throughout this vast economy. In view of the actions which the Government is so commonly, so quickly and so constantly taking it is an extraordinary thing that it can find justification for the expenditure of this sort of money.
I have no argument at all with the necessity for government to have a proper measure of control over such things as the Australian equity in these and other industries. There is no argument about the need for control in those areas. There is no argument about the need for the Government to control the exploitation of the resources of our nation. There is no argument about the need for a government to control the economic and social conditions within an industry. But I suggest that in order to have this proper measure of control there is ample legislative power within the present construction of our Constitution, and through taxation and other means. By these means we can control national resources at a developmental level or at whatever level one can think of.
The powers for satisfactory and suitable control as they stand today are well within the province of the Government without introducing extraordinary measures such as those which are envisaged in connection with this Authority. The measure of the government in a democracy surely must be its capacity and performance in preventing exploitation, whether it be exploitation of individuals, groups of individuals, of resources or indeed of freedom itself. Sometimes I wonder whether there is sufficient prevention of exploitation from this Government when one can read- as we read just recently- that the builders labourers’ representative in this country announced to the Australian Government and people that in the near future there would be a national strike organised by his communist friends. I suggest that this is exploitation of freedom which a responsible government should take some very strong measures to control. As I said earlier, ownership is not necessarily in order to control an industry, industries or the people of the community properly. Because this sort of legislation is unnecessary I am led to believe that within this legislation and at the back of this envisaged Authority there must be an attitude which is not really basically concerned with control as a proper and necessary institution or measure.
I believe that in some real measure there must be an ideological base. I believe that this is concerned with the concept of government moving to a position where it becomes totally the master of the people and not the servant of the people. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill has 2 basic functions. In the first place, it envisagesthis is the area to which I have the greatest objectionthe establishment of a vertically integrated company with the power to enter, to research, to develop, to trade in, to transport and indeed to market anything in the area of petroleum and minerals in this country. Even a vertically integrated company with vast power may be bearable in a certain context, but this is a company with vast, privileged powers. There is a distinct difference between a government instrumentality which enters into a field to exercise a measure of control in an unprivileged or a normal across-the-board situation and an instrumentality which enters into that field in a totally privileged position. This Authority will know no bounds when it comes to establishing its own capital- its working capital, its initial capital. Indeed, if it makes a loss, I understand that it can recoup it from government funds.
With its second province- the province of advice and regulation- I have no argument at all. I believe that this is the proper province of this sort of authority. However, I have severe objections to the Authority on a number of other grounds. I have objections to the giant Authority which I described in the first place as a tax fed, monopolistic, octopus-type institution. I object because it is, in fact, moving into an area of competition from a totally privileged position. This is unacceptable. A mere act of gazettal and ratification by a justice of the peace is sufficient to allow this Authority to move into and operate in any declared area. In this sort of circumstance compensation, presumably by way of royalty, is to be totally decided by the Authority itself. There is no yardstick for the assessment of this sort of compensation and no guarantee that it will be available at any specific time. In this Authority there is also an immense challenge to the sovereignty of the States. Such a challenge is becoming all too common these days. This is one more effort to take government away from the people.
Time is short, and in closing I draw attention to the fact that this Authority will have access to unlimited capital on which it will pay no interest and for which there are no terms of repayment. Yet magnificent and important export industries, such as the wheat and wool industries, find extraordinary difficulty in getting even a guarantee of finance, let alone capital, in terms which are infinitesimal compared with the terms related to the proposed Authority. I oppose this Bill on the ground that the 2 functions envisaged for this Authority are totally incompatible.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) might have had the honour to be the first speaker from this side in this historic Joint Sitting, but I take some pleasure in being our last speaker and sweeping up the crumbs. In my view, all 4 debates of this 2-day Joint Sitting of this Australian Parliament have possessed 2 clear characteristics. The characteristics are clearly illustrated in the arguments which have been made in relation to this Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. The first characteristic is the belief of the Australian Labor Government in the will of the majority of the Australian people prevailing. We do not believe in surrendering to sectional interests. We believe in the community interest- an interest arrived at in a democratic way. We saw that illustrated in our electoral Bills and in our health Bills, and now we see that same characteristic illustrated in this Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill.
Until the election of the Australian Labor Government to the treasury bench in this Parliament there was precious huie, if any, application of the community interest to policy making in this enormously important mining sphere. There was a lack of overall Australian Government policy. The former Liberal-Country Party
Government had allowed the Austraiian rnining industry such an enormous amount of freedom over its operations, including the writing of long term contracts and the unilateral determination of export prices, that in some cases policies were being followed that were harmful instead of helpful to our nation. The welfare of the Austraiian people was suffering instead of benefiting. The Fitzgerald report, which has been mentioned on a number of occasions in this debate, has indicated this so clearly. This was not the fault of the miners. This was clearly the fault of our conservative predecessors. They had the responsibility for the guidelines. They neglected that responsibility.
The Australian Labor Government rejects such a laissez-faire philosophy. We have set about formulating and implementing, under the Minister for Minerals and Energy, a national minerals and energy policy of which the establishment of this Petroleum and Minerals Authority is only a part, although a vital part. We believe in economic planning. We believe in long term planning for orderly development. This is what we are seeking to achieve in this Bill. Without such orderly development we in the Australian Labor Party cannot hope to achieve the welfare policies that we are so bent on achieving. I refer to the national superannuation scheme, the rehabilitation and compensation scheme and other welfare policies that we want to achieve.
I make the point that this is democratic socialism and we are proud of it. But let us be clear that this is no State monopoly. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority is no State monopoly. Our health scheme is no State monopoly. Both are examples of public enterprise in healthy competition with private enterprise. There is merit in both systems. There is even more merit in one being in healthy competition with the other. Ours is a mixed economy and is likely to stay so in the lifetime of any one of us in this Parliament. There is room for both public and private participation in all spheres so long as it is clearly understood that democratic socialism means that the private sphere must work within national indicative planning guidelines. We must have national planning by a national government relating to national issues in order to maximise the national cake for the benefit of all, not just the few.
Overlaying all of this has been the surge of Australian nationalism. This has been sufficiently dealt with in this debate and there is no need for me to repeat it. This brings me to the second characteristic of these 4 debates. I refer to the obstructionism being inflicted on this country by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition. Members of the Opposition will not admit that they have been electorally defeated. The Prime Minister opened his remarks to the Joint Sitting on this note and I am going to close it on this issue. They are piqued. Like the small boy who could not get a kick they want to tuck the football under their arm and go home. They will not play the game. In short they want to bring this country to its knees. Under our out-of-date for the 1970s form of government, with the States warring with the Australian Government, a hostile Senate with extraordinary powers able to frustrate the will of the popularly elected House of Representatives, members of the Opposition have plenty of opportunities to practice this obstructionism. Their attitude is that they shall not practise restraints. They say: ‘We want others to do so in other spheres, but not us. We must have powers even though in the process Australia suffers.’ In the minerals and energy field and in the attitude to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill we see the characteristics of the Opposition well manifested.
I am not going to state that there has not been a downturn in some areas of minerals and energy activities and in oil exploration in particular. The vast majority of the blame for this must be directed to the Opposition in this Federal Parliament. The Australian Labor Party’s aims, backed by the majority of the Australian people, are clear. We want a healthy, viable Australian minerals industry. We want it working for the welfare of the Australian people. To the greatest extent possible we want it owned and controlled by the Australian people. In many areas within this mining sphere the vehicle for achieving these aims is this Bill. The obstructionism to this Bill resulting from the Opposition’s attitude has brought about the down-turn in the minerals and energy activity. This dog in the manger attitude we have witnessed is not shared by people outside this Parliament. The Australian Petroleum Exploration Association has gone on record as saying that it wants this Bill passed. I end on that note because it proves the 2 characteristics which I said underlay all 4 debates. One is that we need the economic planning of this Bill and the other is that it is mere obstructionism at this stage which is preventing this Bill from becoming law.
– I move:
It is not anticipated that the sitting will continue for a lengthy period. I have discussed the matter with the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who is in charge of the conduct of business on the Opposition side. Certain formalities may be necessary and we want to complete them tonight.
-The Opposition has no objection to the procedure that has been outlined or to the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the House of Representatives (Mr Daly).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Chairman, in winding up this debate for this side of the chamber I begin where the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) left off. Throughout this Sitting it has been the constant charge of Government speakers, beginning with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), that the attitude of this side of the Parliament has been blind obstruction’. That is not so. I remind the Australian people that 250 pieces of legislation, in round figures, were introduced into the Parliament last year and that the great bulk of them were passed into law. These 6 Bills found their way to this Joint Sitting and they are opposed even in this last hour by the Liberal and Country Parties, not out of wanton obstructionism but because this side of the chamber, representative of opinion held over a wide spectrum of the Australian people, believes that they are bad in principle and are likely to detract from the effectiveness of our parliamentary democracy.
Coming to the Bill, the Opposition subscribes in every way to the 2 main bases, the 2 essential propositions from which the Bill before the Sitting springs. The first of these is the critical and increasing importance of energy in the modern scheme of things, and especially so for Australia as an island continent. We recognise this as clearly and explicitly as the Government professes to do. Indeed, given the present and continuing run down in exploration and mining activity, we see the matter as urgent, but the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) gives no evidence of seeing it that way. It reminds me of that story so current last year about the chap who said to a topmining executive: ‘Cheer up. Things could be worse.’ So he cheered up, and sure enough things got worse. And they do to this day. The second basic proposition- if anything the more basic point- is the legitimate national sentiment of the Australian people, that Australians should be in the vanguard of the development of this country and that there should be a maximum of Australian ownership and control of our industries and resources.
There is no way- just no way- in which the Government can pretend to be more concerned about Australia, about the development of Australia, and about the true welfare of the Australian people than this side of the chamber. What is happening in the country right now? There is the worst inflation, the worst wave of industrial strikes, with virtual industrial breakdown and the threat of widespread unemployment. This Joint Sitting may be historic after all. Notwithstanding all the anti-climax, it may be historic in its irrelevance to the frightening situation that prevails in Australia and to the bankruptcy of the leadership and the example that this Canberra government is giving to the Australian people. How we are going to get home tomorrow is one question in point!
So I readily aver- the Opposition avers- that increased Federal Government oversight and control of the energy and minerals industry in Australia, and indeed increased Government muscle in negotiations especially with overseas interests, is both desirable and inevitable. What is in dispute in relation to this Bill is the degree and the manner of Federal Government intervention. That is what the argument is all about. The key point is that while we want a maximum of Australian ownership and control of our industries and resources, we also want to ensure that the momentum of the full and continuing development of the country is not held back. For that purpose we want a real, effective and productive partnership betwen the Government and industry- both Australian industry, capital and enterprise, and overseas capital and enterprise. As my good friend and colleague, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), has so often said in this chamber, there is no other way. It is ‘not on’ that the Government can do it on its own, even though the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said here this afternoon that it could.
But how is such a partnership to be achieved under the shadow of this instrument of truly awesome power that is now before the House? How is the $250m to $300m of high risk capital, which the best and most informed estimates suggest is necessary to achieve a high degree of self sufficiency in Australia in the coming decades, to be forthcoming if private enterprise is to be called upon to operate in the context of inferiority and uncertainty which would be established by the enactment of this measure? So the real danger at this time in the history of this country and, indeed, in the history of the whole world, when exploration for and the development and recovery of energy resources is of increasingly critical importance, is that the performance of the industry in this country will be diminished by proceeding in the way the Government proposes.
I said that the Opposition has been charged with obstruction. Let me remind the Joint Sitting, as it is very relevant to the issue, that the week before last, after a debate which the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) described as a very constructive one’, in this very chamber the Government and the Opposition concurred in the passage of a Bill to enlarge the capacity and scope of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. What further instrument does the Government require for the production side- as distinct from a Petroleum and Minerals Authority which perhaps could act in the role of independent regulator, co-ordinator and adviser to the Government? The establishment of an Australian exploration and mineral resource development enterprise of the largest dimension is now, or soon will be if the AIDC legislation is passed, within the will and capacity of the Government and the nation.
But, of course, the AIDC is subject to certain constraints, such as the imperative to proceed as part of or on a joint venture basis with an Australian free enterprise company, with the need to divest which has now been written back into the legislation, and so on. That gets to the nub of the difference between those on this side of the chamber and the Government. The Government is interested in government action and Australian ownership, as government ownership, as an end in itself. That is the socialist objective of this Government. As my friend, the honourable member for Stirling, has so often emphasised, we on this side are interested in fostering Australian free enterprise exploration and development of our resources, although certainly with an increased measure of Federal Government coordination and direction and, indeed, direct participation. To do this by Australian free enterprise and with Australian ownershipownership either by individuals or by companiesis the proven method by which to achieve this objective. So we reject the Government’s approach.
The Bill provides for the setting up of an Authority which, in short, has excessive and unreasonable powers conferred on it. It is inequitable and out of consonance with the requirement for a maximum effort in the development of energy resources in the interests of this country and, indeed, the whole world. The Opposition is opposed to the measure. But why prolong the proceedings any further. Now the numbers will determine the matter, but in the end, ‘magna est
Veritas et praevalebit ‘-truth is great and will prevail. The Minister and his followers behind him are like ‘greyhounds in the slips straining upon the start’- sorry, the vote and the finish. So be it. Let the vote be taken.
– The debate having concluded the question is:
That the proposed law, namely the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973, be affirmed.
Pursuant to rule 1 1 the Joint Sitting will divide.
Ring the bells.
The Joint Sitting divided. (The Chairman-Hon. J. F. Cope)
– Order! The result of the division is ayes 95 and noes 91. I declare the proposed law affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by section 57 of the Constitution.
– I have received the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General:
Proposed Laws intituled:
Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973 Senate ( Representation of Territories) Act 1 973 Representation Act 1973 as last proposed by the House of Representatives and as affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives at the joint sitting convened by the Governor-General pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution by Proclamation dated 30 July 1974, having been presented to the Governor-General for the Royal Assent, His Excellency has, in the name of Her Majesty, assented to the said Laws.
Government House, Canberra 2600. 7 August 1974.
– Before declaring the Joint Sitting closed, I wish to thank members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives for their co-operation in the orderly conduct of the business of this historic meeting of both Houses of the Parliament. I wish also to record appreciation of the contribution made towards the smooth working of the meetings by the Party leaders and parliamentary officers in both houses. The preparation of the rules under which the meetings were held was largely carried out by them and it is appropriate that I should particularly name the Leader of the House in the House of Representatives, Mr Daly, the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Douglas McClelland, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Withers, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Sinclair, the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, and the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mr Parkes.
I also record appreciation of the work of the many officers responsible for the detailed arrangements of the sittings, including the officers of all parliamentary departments- Mr Bridgman, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and his staff; Mr Atkinson, the Government Printer, and his staff who have been working under very difficult conditions; and the officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the coverage given these proceedings by radio and television. I have written to the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs expressing to them my personal appreciation of the efforts which they and their organisations have made in facilitating the televising of the sitting.
I personally thank my colleagues, the President of the Senate, Senator Justin O’Byrne, the House Chairman of Committees, Mr Scholes, and the Senate Chairman of Committees, Senator Webster, for the assistance they have given me in sharing the responsibility of presiding over the proceedings. If there are other Joint Sittings in the future, it is my hope that the procedures and precedents we have set may be found to be useful and proper. Above all, I trust that we have faithfully upheld the high traditions of Parliament.
The deliberations of the Joint Sitting are now concluded.
Joint Sitting concluded at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 August 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740807_senate_29_s60/>.