29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– With the concurrence of Senate leaders, I have arranged for photographers to take a number of photographs of honourable senators sitting in their places. The photographs are to assist the artist who is producing a painting of the Opening of Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen in February 1 974.
– I inform the Senate that the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, will be absent from Australia from later today until 1 1 May, during which period he will attend the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Jamaica. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, will act as Prime Minister until the Treasurer, Dr Cairns, returns to Australia on 30 April. Dr Cairns will then act as Prime Minister until 1 1 May.
Electoral Redistribution- South Australia
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of South Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs A. J. Walsh, G. H. Campbell-Kennedy and F. W. Summers, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on IS April 1975, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
Electoral Redistribution- Tasmania
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs J. R. Lennard, C. C. A. Butler and P. W. Fletcher, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on 17 April 1975, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
Electoral Redistribution- Queensland
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs I. F. Weise, A. B. Yeates and C. A. Hughes, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on 17 April 1975, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name of Kennedy be substituted for Flynn and the name of Forde be substituted for Glasgow.
-! give notice that 6 sitting days after today I shall move:
That the amendment of the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1975 No. 19 and made under the Customs Act 190 1- 1 974, be disallowed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Is the Minister aware that the AttorneyGeneral is appearing on television promoting the sale of a women’s journal because it contains a booklet on the Government’s Legal Aid Office? Does the Minister consider it proper that any Government Minister should, for whatever reason, promote the sale of private goods? Finally, can we expect other Ministers to take part in private advertising on the pretext of promoting their own pet schemes?
-The last time I can remember something of this nature occurring was when the wife of a member of the Liberal Party was advertising sheets. I do not remember that provoking any outrage on the part of the present Opposition. However, I will direct this question to the Attorney-General and let the honourable senator have a reply in due course.
-HALL- I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr J. Cairns, sign an agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth for the rental of a flat situated at Lachlan Court, Barton, Australian Capital Territory, tenancy commencing on 25 February this year? Will the Minister indicate in his reply the rental paid by Dr Cairns so that the extent of his direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the agreement can be ascertained? As the Minister is unlikely to have this material immediately at hand, will he reply urgently in writing during the recess so that any doubts about the constitutionality of this matter may be resolved as soon as possible?
-Senator Hall is quite right- I do not have that material at hand- but I shall obtain the information as quickly as possible and advise him accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the Minister have any report following the request I made to the Foreign Minister before he left Australia 2 days ago in regard to an up dated version of progress in the matter of peace in Cyprus?
-Unfortunately, I do not have any further information. I am aware that Senator Mulvihill inquired of the Minister for Foreign Affairs the latest position but I regret that I have not been able to obtain anything of a more up to date nature. In view of the fact that the Senate will go into recess over the next fortnight, if I can obtain that information I shall advise the honourable senator by letter if that would be suitable to him.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the question I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs on Monday as to why the Government had refused to allow Mr O’Donnell, an Australian born person, to come back to Australia from Rhodesia where he is currently working for the Government. Can the Minister say whether the decision to refuse Mr O O’Donnell entry into Australia was a Cabinet decision or whether it was a decision made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself? Is the Minister able to confirm whether the Government’s rejection was on the ground that it did not believe Mr O’Donnell had humanitarian reasons for wanting to return to Australia?
-I do recall the matter being raised but I have no more information than that which was given to Senator Greenwood at the time by the Foreign Minister. In view of Senator Greenwood’s continuing interest I shall refer the question to the Prime Minister and see whether he can supply any additional information.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the nature of Australia’s recognition of Cambodia? Who does Australia recognise in that country?
-The information I have is that Australia recognised the Royal Government of the National Union of Cambodia of which Penn Nouth is the Prime Minister. Prince Sihanouk is the Head of State. All the Ministers of that Government, which is the formal Government, are also members of the National United Front which is akin to a political party. It is correct that Australia conveyed to the Cambodian Government late on 16 April our intention to recognise on 17 April, and that a formal message was sent to the Foreign Minister of Cambodia on the morning of 17 April before we had the news that Phnom Penh had fallen. The reason was that while the Royal Government was not in complete control of Phnom Penh neither was the previous Government. Indeed, the previous Government had for all practical purposes ceased to exist, having passed to a military committee and with virtually all the members of the old Government having fled the country. In those circumstances there was clearly no point in continuing the recognition of that Government or of delaying the recognition of the new Royal Government. Australia kept its friends in the South-East Asian area fully informed of its intentions and received from them no counsels of delay.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Media. I ask the Minister whether he has seen a Senate committee report on all aspects of television and broadcasting, including the Australian content of television programs, page 18 of which states:
In the opinion of the Committee, there are good reasons why some FM stations at least should be commercial stations. There appear to be disadvantages in restricting FM services to public broadcasting and other non-commercial stations.
I ask the Minister whether he has also seen on the following page another quote from the Committee as follows:
It is obvious that many thousands of Australians listen regularly to commercial radio stations. Why should the advantages of FM radio be denied to these listeners?
Is it a fact that Labor Party policy states that no FM licences will be granted to commercial stations? Will the Minister make a statement to clarify the position, spelling out clearly whether commercial stations will be granted FM licences?
– I have seen the Committee’s report, which I think was tendered in the Senate last Thursday. I have referred the contents of the report to my Department, to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for advice and for the comments of the Department or of the respective statutory bodies. I have particularly noted the statement on page 18 that, in the opinion of the Committee, there are good reasons why some FM stations should be commercial stations. It is a fact, as the honourable senator has said, that Labor Party policy as declared at the Terrigal conference last February states that no FM licences will be granted to commercial stations. The honourable senator will know that Labor Party conferences are held in public and are open to all sections of the media. So it will be no secret to him that I, at the time that matter was being discussed at the Federal conference, expressed opposition to the proposed motion. However, the motion was carried and it is now Labor Party policy. At present, I naturally am bound by the Party’s policy and by the Government’s attitude, as is every member of this Party, and I certainly will be seeking my Department’s advice to see how the opinion- it is only an expression of opinion by the Committee- squares with the declared policy of my Party.
– I address my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I ask: Can the Minister say whether the provision in Australia for natural disaster crop and livestock insurance compares favourably with that available in other countries? Does the Minister consider this type of insurance to be an important means of ensuring the stability of farm income, which is essential to the wellbeing of Australian farmers?
– It is clear that farmers are particularly prone to hazards to which people in other occupations are not subject, such as drought, flood and hail -
– And to the Country Party.
– I cannot think of an adequate policy which would cover that hazard. It is necessary for them I believe, and the Government believes, that some insurance should be provided to cover these calamities which can affect them from time to time. So far as crop insurance is concerned, Australia does not rank favourably with at least some comparable countries. In fact, in the United States of America, a citadel of what is rather euphemistically described as free enterprise, Canada, Sweden and France, the crop insurance cover available to farmers is considerably better than that which is available to farmers in Australia. It would seem that over the years, particularly in view of the fact that Australia to a very large extent is an agricultural country, the insurers could have done a great deal more to provide this sort of cover than they have done. In fact very little has been done although there is at the moment some sort of experimental scheme in the State of Western Australia in the field of crop insurance. Because the private insurance industry has been so reluctant to go into this field it is proposed that when an Australian Government Insurance Office has been established, one of the first things which will be investigated by it is the provision of crop insurance.
So far as livestock insurance is concerned, I think one would have to be fair and say that throughout the world provision for this form of insurance would seem to be rather unsatisfactory from the point of view of farmers and that the situation in Australia does not differ very greatly from that in any other country. The Government certainly does take action to protect other industries. Very considerable subsidies are given to a great many industries and it would not seem unreasonable that we ought to be providing some assistance to the farmers in this country by way of insurance for their livestock. These are matters which provide one of the most fundamental reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office. It certainly would be premature at this stage to say dogmatically that crop and livestock insurance could be provided on an ordinary commercial basis. It may well be that crop and livestock insurance would have to be provided under the national interest provisions of the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill.
– That means that there would not be competition with the other insurance companies as you are saying there would be.
-Senator Greenwood says that there would not be competition. I agree with that remark. It may well be that the community will have to bear some responsibility for providing crop and livestock insurance. I would not run away from that possibility. We provide all sorts of assistance and subsidies for other people engaged in various industries and it does not seem to be unreasonable that at least there ought to be some very close investigation of the provision of crop and livestock insurance for Australian farmers. Coming back to the question of crop insurance, I repeat that in the United States of America, Canada, France and Sweden there is already a much better situation for farmers than there is in Australia. These are matters which are going to be dealt with by the Government and the necessity to provide these facilities for Australian farmers is one of the most important reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security whether he recalls my asking him in August last year a question in relation to special benefits for supporting fathers. Does he recall that in his answer in October he said that this matter had been under examination by the Department of Social Security for some time and that the examination was then nearly completed? Is it anticipated that the examination will show that single parent families, where that parent is the father, have a financial need at least equal to that of similar families where the supporting parent is the mother? Has the examination been completed? When can we expect a more specific announcement on assistance for supporting fathers?
– As honourable senators would appreciate, I always have a very clear recollection of any question that Senator Martin asks me. However, despite the inspiration of such an occasion, I would not be able to anticipate what the results of any inquiry may be. This is a matter for the Minister of Social Security and I shall refer the question to him for an early answer for Senator Martin.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that the Western Australian Liberal-Country Party Government recently issued an order which will have the effect of preventing the State Shipping Service from proceeding as far as Darwin in the future? Is he aware also that Darwin is still suffering severely from the effects of cyclone Tracy and that the cessation of the service will cause further disruption and misery for local residents? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of establishing the Australian National Line as a shipping service to all major ports in this area, including Darwin?
– My only comment is that anything that retards the re-establishment of Darwin and the provision of assistance to the community there is certainly bad. As everybody knows, the Australian Government has responded magnificently to the many requests for assistance in many forms. I shall take up the suggestion made by Senator Keeffe with the Minister for Transport and see whether I can obtain an early reply for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Did the Minister hear the comments of Mr Brian Beadham, Foreign Editor of the ‘Economist’, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program ‘A.M.’ yesterday morning, in which Mr Beadham said that, in his opinion, should Saigon fall, after a brief period there would be a purge of considerable magnitude of government and semi-government officials? Does the Minister agree with this statement, which unfortunately history records as the usual pattern in this type of situation? Will he and the Government do everything possible to minimise such action by the North Vietnamese forces?
-I did hear the report to which Senator Bessell has referred. Other reports have appeared in the Press. No confirmation of such reports has been given to the Australian Government. The Australian Government would deplore any such actions- that is, if they occurred. We hope that the North Vietnamese, or the forces associated with them, will treat their opponents with the human dignity that we would expect of countries which claim to be civilised, no matter what part those people have played in the events in Vietnam. The Prime Minister has written to the Provisional Revolutionary Government and also to the North Vietnamese Government in these terms.
I am quite sure that no member of this Senate would condone any acts of reprisal by either side in the conflict. There has been enough death and destruction in Vietnam. Enough atrocities have been committed by both sides and by intervening countries for many years in Vietnam. The slaughter of innocent people which has occurred has not started in the last two or three weeks; it has been going on for many years. A whole generation of Vietnamese have known nothing but slaughter and destruction. I assure the Senate that the Australian Government will take every step it possibly can to ensure that the killing and murder that have gone on for so long will come to an end, and come to an end as quickly as possible.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission sub-hires its television link between Sydney and Melbourne from the Channel 9 network? If so, does this mean that the link passes through the master control of Channel 9 before reaching the ABC? Does this mean further that ABC direct programs such as the ABC News’ and ‘This Day Tonight’ can use the link only according to the whim of the commercial channel? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether anything is being done to rectify this situation?
– It is a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Channel 9 network share the link on an equal time basis, Channel 9 is the hirer and the ABC is the sub-hirer. The link passes through the master controls of Channel 2 and Channel 9 and the operators of both stations, therefore, can view whatever is on the line whether or not it is going to air. I understand that the 2 parties concerned enjoy a working relationship, one with the other, which is based on co-operation. On many occasions one party has helped the other in times of technical difficulty. However, I am given to understand that the ABC expects to acquire a full time microwave link from July this year. If that microwave link is available to the ABC the share arrangement with the commercial channel, of course, will be terminated.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Security. Has the Government claimed that hospital treatment in standard wards will be free in those hospital systems participating in the hospital side of the Government’s health insurance scheme? Has Dr Everingham, the Minister for Health, now announced that Canberra residents treated in standard ward beds by doctors of their own choice will pay a hospital surcharge of $20 a day for their accommodation, and that free standard ward care will be available only to those treated by salaried doctors? Is this proposed surcharge a punitive imposition designed to discourage participation of non-salaried doctors in the hospital care of residents of Canberra?
-As I do not have an answer to this question readily available I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and refer to that Minister’s recent decision to engage a consultant to study private transport operations. Will the Government ensure that the problems associated with urban transport services will be closely looked at by the consultant group? I ask this in view of the fact that some private transport operators in some cities have withdrawn services, leaving unfilled gaps.
-Mr Jones recently announced such a study. I am advised by the Minister that the study will be undertaken in 2 stages. The consultants will first carry out a survey of all private operators in Australia looking at such questions as when and how they should operate. After this broad study a sample number of operators will be taken from the total number in urban centres where the population exceeds 30 000 and close examination will be made in respect of the social and financial implications involved. The Government is very concerned about the problems of private operators and will do what it can to assist them.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. The Minister will recall, I hope, that on 30 October last year I asked when the Minister expected the Toose Committee report on repatriation to be presented. At that time the Minister indicated that he hoped to have it ready by 3 1 March. As this time has long since passed and as Senator Wheeldon must agree that Mr Justice Toose has had ample time to prepare the report, can the Minister now say when the report will be tabled?
– I must admit that I do remember the question very clearly indeed and I do remember saying at the time that Mr Justice Toose had been asked whether he could present his report to the Parliament by 3 1 March. Since then I have had a number of conversations with Mr Justice Toose. I understand that he has had some difficulties in completing the report by 3 1 March, but he assures me that in the very near future the report will be made available and presented to the Parliament.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Minister in reply to Senator Steele Hall earlier today undertook to provide information in regard to leasing arrangements for a flat entered into by the Deputy Prime Minister. I ask: Has the Minister any information in respect of government housing loans made available to Mr Nixon, Mr Anthony and Mr Sinclair and of tenancy agreements in respect of Mr Holten and Mr Erwin?
– I think that I should draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that these matters will be referred to a Judicial committee. I think that we should show as much discretion as we possibly can in seeking information when we know that only last night it was proposed that a Judicial committee should look into these matters. I ask honourable senators to confine their questions to areas outside this one because of the delicacy of the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the North Vietnamese Government has continually insisted that negotiations for peace in Vietnam would be undertaken as soon as President Thieu had been removed? Has President Thieu now resigned? Is it also a fact that the North Vietnamese Government now demands that further conditions be met before negotiations commence? Does this not indicate further the insincerity and the dishonesty of the North Vietnamese Government in obtaining a political settlement rather than a military settlement?
– I think it would be appropriate for me to refer the question to the Acting Foreign Minister for a reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, refers to the Commonwealth Government’s extremely narrow and restricted guidelines for the admission of refugees from South Vietnam. Is the Minister aware that many South Vietnamese in Australia hold official letters from the Commonwealth Govenment approving the admission of relatives? Is he aware that the guidelines will prevent those admissions? Does the Government now repudiate its previous decisions on these matters? If so, why? Is the Minister further aware that the guidelines will divide immediate families? Is it not a fact that children over 2 1 years of age will be denied reunion with their parents in Australia? Since the division of families by wilful act of the Commonwealth Government will not only cause terrible anguish to all concerned but could threaten the very lives of those forced to remain in South Vietnam, will the Government immediately review its guideline policies? Finally, how does the Government reconcile its inhumane guidelines with its claim, as announced by the Minister himself this morning, that it is doing everything possible to save lives in Vietnam?
-I will refer the question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Has the Government abandoned any idea of restoring postal services on Saturday mornings? If the Government has not abandoned any attempt to restore them, what steps is it taking?
– As Senator Durack knows, like himself I am regularly engaged in consultations with the unions whose members work in the Post Office. He knows that that takes a great deal of my time. In fact, one of my ministerial staff is engaged full time consulting with them. As a result of this we have been able to minimise many industrial disputes. I am still pursuing some matters which are related to the Saturday morning issue which was raised by the honourable senator. When I am in a position to give him some further information I will do so.
-Has the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation seen a letter in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ from the President of the Australian Insurance Association in Sydney which suggests that because the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office will not be subject to the Insurance Act and the Life Insurance Act it will have an unfair trading advantage? Can the Minister tell us why the proposed Australian Government insurance office should not be subject to the same solvency requirements as are imposed on private companies?
– I have read the letter from Mr Grose who is the Managing Director of the Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Ltd and
President of the Australian Insurance Association and, if I may say so, one of the most reasonable representatives of the insurance industry with whom I have done business. Mr Grose has argued that because the Australian Government Insurance Office would not be subject to the provisions of the Insurance Act 1973 it would be placed at an unfair advantage compared with the private general insurance companies. I think it must be said that already the State government insurance offices are not subject to the provisions of the Insurance Act. I have not heard it argued so far that they are operating with an unfair advantage over the private insurance companies.
– Under the Constitution they cannot be subject to the Act.
– I am aware of that. I know that constitutionally they cannot be subject to it. Regardless of the reason, they are not subject to it. The point I am making is that nobody has argued that the State government insurance offices have an unfair advantage over the private insurance companies. The Australian Government Insurance Office would not be subject to the solvency requirements because clearly, in the same way as the State government insurance offices are guaranteed by the various State governments, the Australian Government Insurance Office would be guaranteed by the Australian Government. Such solvency requirements would be quite patently absurd. The insurance industry and the organisation of which Mr Grose is the President supported the establishment of the Insurance Act 1973 because it prevented the existence of fly-by-night companies of which we have seen a great many in Australia in recent years. The actions which were taken by the Australian Labor Party Government were of considerable benefit to the general insurance industry. I find it rather strange that the industry should now say that it is in some way hampered and hindered by the Insurance Act. I would be very interested to hear from the Australian Insurance Association some proposition that the Insurance Act 1973 be repealed. I would imagine that would be the last thing it would want.
– It has never suggested that.
– I know it has never suggested that. That is precisely the point I am making. Of course it has never suggested that the Insurance Act be repealed. The reason it has not suggested that the Insurance Act be repealed -
– I raise a point of order. I do so under standing order 99. We have heard similar questions asked of the Minister day after day. I make no suggestions that they may have been prepared questions. The Minister has used them as a vehicle for debating a Bill which has not yet been introduced into this place. I submit that is quite contrary to the provisions of the Standing Orders. The Minister is doing it again. He is arguing a case and debating a case. He is using this opportunity with a view to getting publicity for a measure which has not yet been introduced. Mr President, I ask you to rule the answer out of order because it is contrary to the Standing Orders and not a proper use of question time.
– Honourable senators know that Senator Wheeldon gives full explanations in answer to questions. If he would treat the point of order as a complaint that perhaps he extends his answers more than he need, then we would get on much better.
-Thank you, Mr President. I was answering an interjection by Senator Wright when Senator Greenwood raised his point of order. The short answer to the question is that the Insurance Act protects the private insurance companies. It does so by seeing that they are not subject to unfair competition from other private insurance companies which do not have the same solvency requirements as present companies. It would be absurd to insist that a government insurance office, State or Federal, which was guaranteed by the government concerned, should be required to prove solvency when everybody would know that it must be solvent.
-I ask the Minister for Agriculture: Is it a fact that there is an unsold surplus of one million tonnes of wheat from last season, which is approximately one-eighth of the Australian harvest? As this situation is due in no small part to the loss of sales worth $70m to Chile because of a union ban on wheat exports to that country, what is being done to overcome the impasse and to have sales to Chile resumed?
-There is a stock approaching one million tonnes of wheat in Australia at the present time. This was brought about largely by the excellent season that wheat growers had throughout the whole of the country and the Australian Wheat Board’s underestimate of the deliveries which would occur. It is true that the Australian Wheat Board had an order for 300 000 tonnes of wheat for Chile which could not be shipped because of a union ban on shipments to that country. I should say, firstly, that the reserve being carried forward this season is a good thing. It is more than was anticipated and certainly is not an embarrassment in the light of the general world food supply position.
So far as Chile is concerned, at the time I spoke to the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Souter, and also to Mr Fitzgibbon of the Waterside Workers Federation, I pointed out to them the need to allow that wheat to be shipped in accordance with the order that had been placed. Subsequent to that, the unions involved decided that they would not handle the wheat. I understand that an International Labour Organisation delegation has been in Chile recently and is reporting to the ACTU on conditions there. I have not received any final report, but I understand that it is not a pessimistic position and that it is quite possible that there will be a resumption of shipments in the near future. I cannot state specifically the latest position. I must confess that I have not looked at the matter for a couple of weeks. I shall do so and, if during the recess I can give Senator Laucke some more up to date information, I will do so.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that the Government is paying out huge sums of money to some companies in an attempt to subsidise employment? If so, who decides which companies should be subsidised? How much money has been paid or committed? Will companies which already have been forced to lay off staff be eligible to apply for retrospective assistance?
– It is true that the Government has already announced measures to assist certain companies to overcome difficult economic conditions which they have had to face. Of course, a limited number of companies in Australia have been in that category. I refer the honourable senator to the articles in this morning’s Press, for example, on the quarterly report of the National Bank of Australasia. This highly regarded economic survey shows that the expectancy of business for the current quarter is much better now than it was earlier in the year.
– Slightly better.
-Well, it is a matter of judgment, I suppose. I would read a 14 per cent increase in those who are expecting a satisfactory quarter as a very significant increase.
– I would not.
-Well, it is a matter of judgment. It is important that a government should assist major industries which employ many people, particularly when they are in areas such as Burnie in Tasmania where a downturn in the activity of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd can have a very detrimental effect on the whole town. Naturally, the Government must be selective. It must make sure that whatever moneys are made available to assist these companies will have the maximum beneficial effect, not only on the company but also on the people who are working for it and others who live in the area.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that the New South Wales current budget deficit is nearing $30m, or more than double the estimate? Does he deny that this situation, unless it is eased by the Commonwealth, will lead to a further stiff increase in State taxes and worse inflation? Has he called for a report from all State governments so that he can gauge the extent of their economic problems and the effect on the level of inflation next year? If not, will he do so as a matter of urgency?
-Yes, I did read the report this morning of the New South Wales Premier’s statement that at present it appears that the New South Wales State budget will have a deficit of, I think, $30m. Of course, the record shows that this Government has maintained the closest cooperation with the States during the past few months with regard to their financial problems. Only last February the Prime Minister called a meeting of all State Premiers. As a result of that meeting an additional $240m was made available to the States to meet the problems that they have met. In a wide range of areas there have been very big increases in Federal Government payments to the States. It should be borne in mind that even in the last Budget- there have been very big increases since then- total payments to the States by this Government were up by 38 per cent as compared with last year, which is probably the biggest increase on record. So the Government is not unmindful of these matters.
In November last year the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers inviting them to make submissions on the renegotiation of general revenue assistance programs. I understand that since then he has received replies from all the Premiers indicating their preparedness to enter into discussions on new arrangements for CommonwealthState financial relations, which will involve meetings of officials prior to the actual ministerial meetings. I am not aware of the actual time when the Prime Minister would be calling the first meeting, but the record does show that the Prime Minister could not have done more than he has done in conjunction with the Treasurer to alleviate the sort of problems which have been referred to by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government agree that much of the unemployment in the private sector of the economy is due to the Government’s action in attempting to transfer resources too rapidly from the private sector to the Government sector? Does the Government accept that the inflation rate of more than 17’/i per cent will increase even further if deficit spending is continued by the Government at its present rate? Does the Government accept that further inflation will inevitably lead to further lack of confidence in the private sector and a further increase in unemployment later this year?
– It would be interesting to hear Senator Townley ‘s analysis to support the first contention.
– It would be fascinating indeed. As we will be debating the Appropriation Bills later today, that will be an excellent opportunity for Senator Townley to give us a discourse on the effect of the so-called transfer of our resources from the private to the public sector of the economy. I look forward with great anticipation to it. The general decline in unemployment and the increased inflation are inter-related matters. As I have said on many occasions previously, and as Dr Cairns has said, inflation in Australia is increasing at a rate which obviously disturbs the Government. We have taken all possible measures to control it. I know that the Opposition, which of course includes Senator Townley these days, does not like to be reminded of the fact, which should be borne in mind, that Australia’s performance with regard to inflation is only marginally different from that of other countries of comparable economic development. It should be borne in mind also that we do import inflation.
– There is another expert throwing his head back. Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated the increase in import prices for 1974. We had a 25 per cent increase in the net import price of all goods into Australia. Is it possible for any government to escape the consequences of that import bill? Of course it is not. So we have to use every measure that we possibly can to keep these levels at the minimum growth rate. Nevertheless, we will not be irresponsible in ensuring that there is a proper supply of money to the private sector, and we will maintain employment at the maximum level that is possible under current world conditions.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the question that I asked on Monday relating to the admission of Vietnamese families into Australia, to the assurance given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs then that all the representations which had been made had been taken into account, and to the announcement made yesterday by the Prime Minister which does not seem to reflect that assurance. In view of public reaction that the criterion relating to admission of Vietnamese families as described is extremely restrictive, I ask the Minister whether the Government will give early consideration to reviewing the qualification and extend a greater humanitarian term.
-I ask that the question be placed on the notice paper so that it can be referred to the Prime Minister.
– Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that Tasfruit Pty Ltd, which is the sole fruit export licensee in Tasmania, has refused to ship apples of the sturmer variety which have been passed as. fit and eligible for export by inspectors of his own Department? Is the Minister also aware that the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation has been continuing to handle such fruit and, notwithstanding that, Tasfruit Pty Ltd is refusing to export the fruit? Can the Minister indicate why Tasmanian sturmer growers are precluded by the sole export licensee from exporting their crop?
– As I am sure Senator Rae is aware, the market for fruit depends to a large extent on the varieties that the buyers want. I would be surprised if the sturmer variety, for example, would be in the greatest demand at present. As I understand it, it is one of those varieties which in recent years has lost some favour in the European and United Kingdom markets. Tasfruit has to make a commercial judgment. If the market is not requiring that variety of apple, obviously Tasfruit will not ship those apples. I do not know whether there is any other reason Tasfruit would take that decision.
As regards Tasfruit being the sole exporter, that is something which was agreed upon by the industry when Tasfruit was formed. I am not aware that there are any major moves to break up the Tasfruit arrangement which has operated with reasonable success in Tasmania during the last three or four years. I do not think that generally the industry wishes to return to the alternative which operated in the past.
– My question to the Minister for Agriculture is relevant to a question asked earlier by Senator Laucke. Has the Minister seen the publication ‘Chile Today’, an official publication of the Government of Chile, which carries a report that the United States recently has sold a substantial amount of wheat to Chile on very favourable terms? Has the Minister been able to ascertain whether the report in this Chilian Government publication is correct? Could the alleged sale on the terms mentioned be more accurately described as a gift? Would the Australian Wheat Board be prepared to meet that sort of price in trading competition?
– It is true that this year Chile will import considerable quantities of wheat from the United States and also from Canada. I believe that this year the Chilean crop is a record crop. However, the conditions under which the United States ships wheat to Chile are extremely generous. I believe the financial arrangements attract only a 4 per cent interest rate and cover a 20-year period. It would be very difficult under our normal commercial arrangements to match those conditions. My understanding is that when the trade union problem is resolved the 300 000 tonnes to which I referred earlier will still be sought by Chile, but it is very unlikely that we would supply the wheat on the same terms and conditions as the United States is supplying it.
– I could direct this question to you, Mr President, but I think it is more proper that I direct it to the relevant Minister, the Attorney-General, through the Minister who represents him in this chamber. I mention that because I refer to the statement that you, Mr President, made about the setting up of a committee last night. I think you meant that we resolved upon a course whereby a judicial committee should be set up to inquire into circumstances relating to the constitutional provisions for disqualification. I ask the Minister representing the
Attorney-General whether the formulation of terms of reference and the arrangements for the appointment of that committee will be his responsibility. If so, can he assure the Senate that there will be expedition in the appointment because, if the restraint which you, Mr President, called for is to be proper, it is highly proper that that time interval should be as short as possible?
– It would not be proper for me to give any assurances to the honourable senator on behalf of the Attorney-General, but I will convey his remarks to the Attorney-General.
– I just add to that reply that the resolution of the Senate last evening had implicit in it the instruction to the Senate to set up that committee. Therefore, with regard to the previous question, I felt that matters that would probably come within the province of that committee’s investigations should be virtually subjudice here for the time being.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Is it a fact, as stated to be likely in a Melbourne newspaper this morning, that a Mrs Cohen, the widow of the late Senator Cohen, is to be appointed as a conciliation commissioner under the Conciliaton and Arbitration Act? What qualifications, as contemplated by the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, does Mrs Cohen have for this position? Would her appointment not be a further departure from the general rule which applied under the previous Government and which had the general support of the employer organisations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and the Public Service organisations, that persons appointed to positions such as these should be representative of or experienced in employer organisatons, employee organisations, or administration?
– The appointment has been made by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I will ask him to respond more fully to the questions asked by Senator Greenwood. I understand that in this particular case the appointment has been made in the light of the experience of the person concerned. I understand that Mrs Cohen is highly qualified. She is a lawyer and is highly qualified in respect of activities in the industrial relations field. I understand also that the practice adopted by the Minister, a practice which has been followed by this
Government and which was followed by the previous Government, has been to have regard to the experience of the person to be appointed and to the reaction to such appointment in the field where the appointee would require most experience. There has certainly been no departure from that practice. Some appointments in the past by Liberal governments were criticised, as everyone knows, by our people. I believe I should ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration to reply fully to the points made by Senator Greenwood, and I will do that straight away.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Has the Government decided to remove the office of the Australian Trade Commissioner from South Africa? Does this mean that trade with South Africa will suffer as a result? Is the Minister aware of the importance of South Africa to South Australia with respect to exports of motor vehicles and spare parts and the consequent damage that this action will cause this important South Australian industry?
-I will need to refer the question to the Minister for Overseas Trade for an answer.
– For the information of honourable senators I present to the Senate the report of the Interim Board of the Australian Film Commission dated February 1975.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators I present an interdepartmental committee report entitled: ‘Establishment of the Australian Government Insurance Office ‘.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Government Procurement Policy.
Reports on Items
– I present for the information of honourable senators reports on chain saws and chain saw engines and on certain plastic products of the Temporary Assistance Authority dated 1 1 March 1975 and 1 8 April 1975 respectively.
– For the information of honourable senators I present an interim report by staff members of the Bureau of Meteorology entitled: Cyclone Tracy’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a study by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd entitled: Townsville Economic Structure Study’. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this study have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Copies of a synopsis of this study are available from the office of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
– by leave- I move:
I wish to make a brief statement on the activities of the Committee indicating the reason why it seeks the extension of time. The matter of the clauses of the National Compensation Bill 1974 was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on 30 October 1974. By the Senate’s resolution the Committee was required to report back to the Senate on or before 30 November 1974. On 27 November 1974 the Committee was granted an extension of time in which to report until 30 April 1975. On 6, 7 and 8 November 1974, by advertisements inserted in 12 newspapers throughout
Australia, the Committee invited interested persons and organisations to make written submissions to the Committee by 25 November 1974. Prior to 27 November 1 974 the Committee had held 4 private meetings, 1 1 submissions had been received and 27 persons and organisations had expressed interest in making written submissions to the Committee.
After the extension of time in which to report had been granted by the Senate the Committee again inserted an advertisement in 14 newspapers throughout Australia on 2 1 and 23 December 1974 in which interested persons and organisations were invited to make written submissions to the Committee by 1 February 1975. Since 27 November 1974 the Committee has received a further 57 submissions, making a total of 68 submissions received since the inquiry commenced. In its interim report and in the December 1 974 advertisements in the Press, the Committee stated that it proposed to visit each State capital city to further its inquiry and to hear evidence in public. Since 27 November 1974 the Committee has held a total of 1 7 public meetings in Canberra and in each State capital city, at which it has heard evidence from 41 individuals and organisations. Most of the public meetings were held outside Canberra- five were held in Melbourne, five in Sydney, one in Hobart, two in Perth, one in Adelaide, one in Brisbane and two in Canberra.
In addition to the public meetings since 27 November 1974 the Committee has held one in camera meeting and 13 private meetings, making a total of 18 private meetings on the reference. Subject to the resolution of the Senate, the Committee proposes to hold 2 further public meetings in Canberra on 28 and 29 April 1975 and private meetings on the remaining days of that week. At the public meetings and at the in camera meeting evidence has been heard from various sections of the community, including all State government’s except Victoria, which has not yet made any oral submission, Australian Government departments, sections of the insurance and life assurance industry, trade unions, and the legal and medical professions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Provision of Postal Services within Australia and between Australia and Places outside Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
Mr President, as my second reading speech embraces the 3 Bills of which I have given notice and is 29 pages long, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– As this Bill is being introduced in the Senate and is very important, I suggest that the second reading speech be read.
-Mr President, this Bill is the first of 3 Bills which I am introducing to implement the Government’s decision to establish Postal and Telecommunications Commissions. As this Bill, the Telecommunications Bill and the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Bill are closely related I propose, with the consent of the Senate, in speaking to the Postal Services Bill to explain the provisions of all three. The purpose of the first 2 Bills is to establish two commissions -one to provide postal and related services and the other to provide telecommunications services, both national and international. It is intended that the commissions commence operations on I July 1975. Because these services are at present provided by a single department of state, except for the international telecommunications services which are provided by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, it is necessary to have a number of transitional arrangements. These are included in the third Bill- the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Bill.
The 3 Bills are the final product of a decision taken by the Government in January 1973 to establish a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive examination of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The Commission, which was chaired by an eminent Australian, Sir James Vernon, presented its report to His Excellency the Governor-General in April 1 974. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) subsequently announced the Government’s acceptance of several major recommendations made by the Commission. These were that the postal and telecommunications services would be separated and would in the future be provided by two statutory authorities which would be independent of the Public Service Board on matters of organisation, staff, pay and conditions of service. The Government also decided to accept the majority view of the other two Commissioners that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission should be incorporated in the new Telecommunications Commission.
There were of course many other important recommendations made by the Vernon Commission. Having regard to the size, scale and pervasive nature of the operations of the services involved, the Government established an interdepartmental working group to examine these recommendations in detail. As honourable senators would know, some of the recommendations called for quite significant departures from existing practices in regard to financing, tariff setting, personnel and industrial-arbitral arrangements. After consideration of the report of the interdepartmental working group the Government made a number of decisions which are now reflected in the Bills before the Senate.
This brief outline of the events preceding the presentation of the Bills should indicate to honourable senators that the issues involved have been the subject of extensive study first by the Commission of Inquiry and then by the Government and by its advisors drawn from a number of departments. I might add, too, that the major issues have also been the subject of continuing discussions with interested unions and staff associations. Interim Commissions were appointed by the Government in November 1974 and the members of both Commissions have also been consulted on the major issue. Honourable senators opposite will recall that I arranged also for senior members of my Department to discuss the issues involved in the Vernon Commission recommendations with a number of interested members of the Opposition.
Before turning to the 3 Bills, I should like to refer to some of the factors which led the Government to accept the major recommendations of the Vernon Commission. The Commission directed its attention to the question whether the postal and telecommunications services would be administered better as Departments of State or as statutory authorities. It also examined in detail the advantages and disadvantages of separating the postal service from the telecommunications service. The Commission engaged consultants to assist it in a number of its studies and made inquiries concerning practices and developments in a selection of other countries. The comprehensive analysis by the Commission is set out, together with its detailed recommendations, in its report. Amongst other things, the Commission pointed out that the basis for the provision of the two different services by one organisation was an historical development in Australia and that the prevailing trend overseas is for postal and telecommunications services to be substantially separate in their management.
The Government recognises the splendid service which the Postmaster-General’s Department has rendered to the people of Australia from Federation to the present day. There has often been facile criticisms of the Department and the staff but the facts are that a worthwhile task has been accomplished. This should not, however, be allowed to mask the major problems which face the Department. It is conducting two very large businesses which are essentially different in character and each with quite different challenges.
The postal service extends to every corner of Australia. Notwithstanding developments in other forms of communication, the mail remains a vital basic service. The postal service will continue to depend very largely on its labour force and in times of rising salaries and wages faces major cost problems. Private enterprise competes with the postal services through delivery services and courier services while leaving the less profitable and more difficult areas to the Postmaster-General’s Department. It must be emphasised too that in many of our cities with their congested streets the problems of collecting and transporting mail are increasing. Delivery areas have to be extended to cope with outer metropolitan development.
Postal services around the world face somewhat similar problems but few have the added challenges of vast areas and sparse population which characterise much of Australia. Everywhere in the developed countries attempts are being made to introduce modern mechanical equipment for the sorting and routing of the mail. In common with other areas where manual skills may be replaced by machines, industrial problems emerge which require attention in depth if staff confidence is to be retained and careers protected. The Government is convinced that the time has arrived when the postal service needs its own organisation and management.
On the other hand, the telecommunications service faces the challenge of providing services at a rate which will match strong community demand; it is involved in the selection and adoption of the very latest in technology; and it has to engineer complex technical networks, to introduce new services and to manage a massive investment programme. Australia has a soundly engineered telecommunications system employing assets which at present have a value of some $4,000m. In the current financial year, over $700m is being invested in a wide range of equipment, from telephones to cables to exchanges to microwave systems. Another factor which is not often recognised is that, despite the extensive capital investment, the telecommunications service employs a very large work force with a wide range of skills. Indeed some 85 000 of the staff of 120 000 in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be transferred to the telecommunications service.
For the telecommunications service also, the Government and the APO are convinced that the proposal for the creation of a separate service with its own management and organisation, as advanced by the Vernon Commission, is the correct approach. For both services, charged as they are with such important responsibilities on behalf of the people of Australia, a degree of freedom of management is considered most important. It is believed that this can be provided best by operation as a commission rather than as a department within the Public Service. This also gives the opportunity for people outside the day to day management to bring their experience to bear, as commissioners, on the complex problems of the separate businesses. The Minister responsible for the commissions will however retain control in a number of key areas. The Government sees the separation of the services and the establishment of commissions as important and indeed essential steps in ensuring adequate and efficient postal and telecommunications facilities in the future. Of course in the short term some additional costs will be involved in establishing the new organisations, developing the management systems, providing some additional accommodation and taking over from the Public Service Board and from several departments a number of functions which will become the responsibility of the commissions.
The Vernon Commission recommended a substantial strengthening of the organisation in a number of areas such as corporate planning, industrial relations and marketing. It would have been necessary to strengthen some of these areas even if the 2 services had continued to be administered within a single department. The Commission also recommended a revision of the present district organisations. The estimated cost per annum of additional staff and accommodation will be of the order of $3m for the Postal Commission and $6m for the Telecommunications Commission. The new commissions will give close attention to avoiding duplication of functions. It is envisaged also that, at least for many years, the postal service in particular will carry on many functions for the Telecommunications Commission on an agency basis. I point out that the establishment costs I have referred to above have to be seen against a total existing staff of more than 120 000 with an estimated wages and salaries bill for 1974-75 of almost $ 1,000m.
Honourable senators are aware of the great importance to the whole of the community of a comprehensive telecommunications service. Both the international and national systems are growing rapidly and their technologies are tending to draw together. Subscribers in a number of countries are already able to dial directly numbers in Australia and within the next few years a similar facility for dialling international numbers will become progessively available to Australian subscribers. In other words the national and international services are becoming increasingly parts of one system. We are now establishing a new organisation and setting the framework within which telecommunications will develop in the years ahead. The Government believes that there will be substantial advantage in accepting the majority recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry, that the international service should be merged with the national service. This will enable planning and development of all facilities to proceed on the basis of the best way of providing an integrated telecommunications service. The Government has taken a firm decision to merge the Overseas Telecommunications Commission with the national service. However, within the new organisation the staff providing the international services will retain their identity as a working group. The Government acknowledges the fine record of OTC and also recognises that the Australian network compares favourably with those existing in other advanced countries. The Australian Telecommunications Commission will thus have a sound base on which to develop a comprehensive total telecommunications service.
I turn now to the Bills themselves and will refer firstly to the Postal Services Bill. Honourable senators will note that a number of clauses in this Bill are identical to the clauses covering the same subject matter in the Telecommunications Bill. These subjects broadly refer to the constitution and meetings of the commissions, the staff of the commissions and the basic aspects of commission finances. Other parts of the 2 Bills are directed to particular aspects of the 2 services and reflect, as necessary and as far as practicable, existing provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act and the Overseas Telecommunications Act which are to be repealed. In order to expedite the business of the Senate I will refer to some common provisions in my discussion of the Postal Services Bill and will not dwell on issues which will be quite clear to honourable senators from the Bills themselves and the explanatory memoranda that are available. The authority providing postal services will be known as the Australian Postal Commission. It will have the responsibility for operating postal services and other ancillary services, including money transfer services, as presently provided by the Department. It will be empowered to operate a courier service and to act as agent for Australian Government departments, for the States and for Australian and State statutory authorities. In discharging these responsibilities, the Commission will be required to meet the reasonable needs of the Australian people for postal services.
The Postmaster-General’s Department is not subject to State and Territory laws and the Bills provide similarly for the commissions. The Department and later the commissions will continue to consult with the various State authorities and take due account of State objectives and requirements especially in, for example, the planning field. Both the Postal and the Telecommunications Commissions will be large property owners, and the Bills provide the necessary powers in relation to property transactions. Delegations from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) under the Lands Acquisition Act will be sought for officers in the services of the commissions. Major transactions and any compulsory acquisitions will however be dealt with by that Minister and his Department. Although services will be similar to those provided by the Department and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission at present, the Bills provide for a significant departure from existing arrangements in that both Commissions will be empowered to determine charges for their services. However, both Bills provide that in the case of certain basic services the determinations will be subject to ministerial approval. This is in keeping with the recommendation of the Vernon Commission and is related to its recommendation on ‘revenue foregone’. For the Postal Commission the basic services whose determinations will be subject to ministerial approval are standard postal articles and registered publications. Later when dealing with the Telecommunications Bill I will refer to the basic telecommunications services.
The recommendation on ‘revenue foregone’ was one of the measures proposed by the Vernon Commission to reduce the financial uncertainty faced by the managements of the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions. Its intent is reflected in both the Postal Services and Telecommunications Bills. These provide that where the Minister does not approve variations to tariffs for basic services to the extent a Commission recommends, the Commission will be entitled to claim from the Government, as a receipt not attracting interest, the amount of revenue foregone. As the clauses of the Bills dealing with this arrangement are somewhat involved I seek leave for a statement on procedures for determination of basic charges and assessment of ‘revenue foregone’ to be incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Is leave granted?
– How long is the statement? I ask the Minister to favour me with an answer.
-It is 3 pages.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTThere being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
PROCEDURES FOR DETERMINATION OF BASIC CHARGES AND ASSESSMENT OF ‘ REVENUE FOREGONE’
The procedure to be followed requires a determination of charges for the basic services to be sent in writing to the Minister, specifying, on the assumption that the Commission’s proposals are implemented: the date of operation; the proportion of the Commission’s capital expenditure which it expects to finance from its own revenues in the financial year; the amount of revenue which the Commission expects to earn in respect of that year.
The amount of revenue would be calculated having regard to the effect of all determinations, that is, those requiring the approval of the Minister and those which do not require his approval.
The Minister will be empowered to obtain from the Commission any information he considers relevant to its proposal to vary the charges (under the Postal Services Bill for standard postal articles and registered publications; under the Telecommunications Bill for standard telephone service rentals, basic call charges and telegram charges) and will give his decision or views in writing.
If the Minister has advised the Commission that he will not approve its determination to vary charges for basic services the Commission will be required to consider any suggestions made by the Minister and to reconsider its proposed expenditures and its proposals for varying its charges, including those subject to Ministerial approval. This review would be made having regard to the financial objectives of the Commission to seek to secure revenues in each financial year sufficient to cover all operating expenses and provisions for expenditure and to finance not less than one half of its capital expenditure.
If, after this review, the Commission submits to the Minister for approval another determination referred to in the Bill as the ‘second determination’, to vary the charges for basic services and the Minister again declines to grant his approval, the Commission becomes entitled to receive from Australia a payment to the extent of the revenues which it has been required to forego. This is subject to the Commission adopting those rates which the Minister has decided should apply.
This is in accordance with the recommendation of the Vernon Commission that the Commissions be compensated for revenue foregone as a result of Ministerial decisions on tariffs, and the Bill sets out the steps to be followed in the calculation of this revenue foregone. The steps are designed to ensure that the Commission receives no more than it requires and that the interests of the ‘ Australian taxpayer, who ultimately provides the compensation, are protected.
While one of the financial objectives of the Commission is to secure financing from revenues of not less than one half of capital expenditure, the amount provided by compensation would be sufficient to permit no more than one half of such expenditure to be so financed.
The amount is to be calculated after the end of the financial year when the revenues and expenditures are known but before the financial statements of the Commision are completed. The financial statements would take account of the full amount of compensation in respect of the year.
However, as it will be apparent when the Minister has not approved the ‘second determination’ that some compensation will be required, the legislation makes provision for advances to be made to the Commission by the Treasurer, subject to later adjustment when the precise amount is calculated.
The revenue foregone, which will not be repayable by the Commission and will not be subject to interest charges, would be the least of the differences between the actual revenue received in respect of the year (apart from revenue foregone) and:
the amount it would have required to meet its financial objectives. This takes account of what actually happened to the finances during the year;
the amount the Commission estimated it would secure if its ‘second determination’ had been approved. This recognises that the Commission should not be entitled to compensation to cover unforeseen cost increases and that the traffic forecasts on which the revenue estimates were prepared could prove defective. It obliges the Commission to relate its determination to realistic estimates and then live with the estimates it puts to the Minister until the situation is again reviewed;
the amount the Minister considers, after reviewing what happened in the year, the Commission would actually have received if he had approved the ‘second determination’. This permits the Minister to take account of changes in general economic conditions which may have caused traffic (and hence revenue) to be different from that estimated by the Commission.
– The legislation recognises the public interest in the need of each Commission to secure sufficient revenues to meet its obligations and provides for particulars of any refusal by the Minister to approve a determination to be set out in each commission’s annual report. I would expect that the financial, tariff and service policies of the commissions will be debated in Parliament at the time Appropriation Bills for capital advances and revenue foregone are debated.
As honourable senators will know, the Postmaster-General ‘s Department is Australia ‘s largest employer with a staff of more than 120 000; OTC has a staff of about 2000. Nearly 35 000 are concerned with postal services, the balance with telecommunications- apart from a small staff of about 250 engaged in the administration of the Wireless Telegraphy Act. Because all permanent officers of the Department- except those engaged in the administration of the Wireless Telegraphy Act- and OTC will be transferred to the service of one or other of the new commissions and all temporary and exempt employees offered employment in them, the staffing provisions of the Bills have been drafted to ensure that all staff of the commissions will enjoy terms and conditions of service no less favourable than those applying in their present organisations at the time of transfer.
Identical provisions are contained in both the Postal Services Bill and the Telecommunications Bill in the parts which provide for creation of a commission service. Each commission will be empowered to appoint officers under general conditions similar to those in the Public Service, with the exception that Australian citizenship will be an eligibility requirement rather than that of being a British subject. Each commission will also be able to engage temporary employees. As the commissions will be independent of the Public Service Board, the effect of the Bills will be to empower the commissions to perform within their services various functions, many of which are now the responsibility of the Public Service Board in relation to the Postmaster-General’s Department. These functions include the determination of conditions of employment, creation, abolition and classification of positions, appointments, promotions, transfers, prescription of qualifications and the conduct of examinations.
The establishment in 1946 of the present promotions appeal system in the Australian Public Service was regarded as a very important step in the interests not only of individual officers but of the service as a whole. Creation of promotions appeal boards for the 2 commissions is provided for in the 2 Bills. The grounds for appeal are the same as those applying in the Australian Public Service. Chairmen of promotions appeal boards will be appointed by the Minister, thus ensuring their independence. As in the Australian Public Service system, these boards will be completed by 2 other members, one nominated by the Commission and the other an officer nominated by the appropriate staff organisation. Other broad provisions on conditions of service, such as retiring age and staff discipline, are similar to those currently provided or proposed for the Australian Public Service. The commissions, however, will not have the power to retire compulsorily, solely on the grounds of age, officers aged between 60 and 65 years. Excess officers to be transferred with or without reduction in salary or to be retired, and officers who are considered to be inefficient or incapable of performing their duties and who are to be reduced in status, will have the right of appeal against such action. Furthermore, the disciplinary code is being introduced in advance of its adoption for the Public Service.
I turn now to the very important subject of industrial-arbitral arrangements. The Bills provide that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will have the responsibility for industrial disputes affecting the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will also make awards on wages and salaries and conditions of service and employment for the staff of the 2 commissions. As a consequence of this, the Public Service Arbitration Act will not apply to employment in the service of the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions.
The Postmaster-General’s Department is a massive user of capital- particularly in the provision of telecommunications services. The Vernon Commission was specifically charged in its terms of reference to examine the problems associated with the financing of recurrent and capital costs. In its report it recommended several measures designed to place future financial arrangements on a sound basis. The Government has accepted these recommendations and the provisions in the Bill give effect to this acceptance. No change is proposed from the existing principle whereby the Department borrows from Treasury for capital purposes and pays interest on these borrowings at rates and terms determined by the Treasurer. This means that both the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions will pay interest on past and future borrowings for capital purposes. In addition, in order to provide more flexible short-term financial arrangements, the commissions will be empowered to borrow from other sources subject to the approval of the Treasurer. A further aspect of the Vernon Commission financial proposals relates to internal financing. The Vernon Commission recommended that each commission should have an objective to finance from internal resources at least 50 per cent of its new capital expenditure each year. The Government accepted this recommendation and the Bill provides accordingly. In assessing its internal resources, a commission will of course take account of any revenue forgone it may expect to receive.
As honourable senators well know, interest payments on past postal losses have constituted a significant burden on postal service operations. The Government decided in accordance with the recommendation of the Vernon Commission to write off these losses thus enabling the Postal Commission to start with a clean slate in this regard, as distinct from paying interest on capital borrowings. Consistent with this view the Government has also decided that the Postal Commission should not be required to pay accumulated superannuation liabilities. The Vernon Commission concluded on several grounds that the commissions should not be subject to Australian Government indirect taxes, income tax nor State taxes.
The last Part of the Postal Services Bill contains several miscellaneous provisions which are also contained in the Telecommunications Bill. A large number of the Department’s staff is contributing to the Australian Government Superannuation Fund and the 2 Bills provide that the Commissions will be regarded as approved authorities under the Superannuation Act thus allowing Commission staff to remain or to become contributors to the Fund. Other Acts such as Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act, Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act and the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act will apply to staff of the Commissions. The necessary change will be made to the Regulations of the last mentioned Act.
Both Commissions will be required to make annual reports and to keep the Minister informed of their operations. For many years, the Australian Postal Institute has played a very special role in educational, social, sporting and recreational activities. The Bills will enable the Commissions to continue to sponsor the work of the Institute. In keeping with the Government’s support for the maximum use of negotiation and consultation between management and staff organisations, the Postal Services Bill and the Telecommunications Bill each provide for the establishment of a consultative council. Each council will consist of representatives of both the Commission and the staff organisations; the constitution and charter of each council will be developed in consultation with the unions and expressed in by-laws of each Commission. Under the Bill the Commission will be empowered to make by-laws in regard to a number of features of postal operations such as the receipt, transmission and delivery of postal articles, the sale of postage stamps and the provision of private bags. Finally the Bill provides that the Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with the Act. One of the important set of regulations will be in substitution for the current Officer’s Rights Declaration Act, which is to be amended shortly in its wider application. In its amended form it will then apply to the commissions.
I now turn to the Telecommunications Bill. As I indicated earlier to the Senate, I will not traverse again those provisions which are indentical to those contained in a number of clauses of the Postal Services Bill. The authority providing telecommunications services will be known as the Australian Telecommunications Commission. Its functions will be to plan, establish, maintain and operate both national and international telecommunications services. The Commission will be required to perform its functions in such a way as to meet the reasonable needs of the Australian people for telecommunications services. The Commission will be required to have licences under the Wireless Telegraphy Act for its radio communication systems.
Earlier, I described the authority of the Postal Commission in relation to the determination of tariffs. Similar authority is provided for in this Bill, and the Minister’s approval to the Commission’s determinations will be required for the following services provided within Australia: Local call charges, trunk call charges from both private services and public telephones and the basic charge for telegrams. Rentals for basic telephone services will also require the Minister’s approval. In the case of charges for international services, the Minister’s approval is required for rates fixed for international telephone calls and for telegrams.
The very nature of the telecommunications network requires the setting up, maintenance and operation of physical lines of communication on both public and private property. The Bill empowers the Commission to enter any property, either public or private, for the purpose of carrying out surveys or making any other examinations or tests and also empowers the Commission to construct lines and associated equipment such as conduits, cable pits and junction boxes on such property. The Commission may do so, however, only after notice in writing has been given to the authority or owner concerned. More extensive powers are to be found at present in the Post and Telegraph Act and the exercise of these powers is generally not subject to written prior notice. In establishing and maintaining the present telecommunications network the Department has always entered into full discussions with governmental authorities at Australian, State and local level and with the owners of private property before the work is put in hand. The Commission will continue this practice of consultation when giving the notice required by the Bill.
The provisions of this Bill for the staff of the Commission are identical to those I described earlier in regard to the Postal Services Bill except that, as necessary, particular provisions recognise the incorporation of the functions and staff of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission into the new organisation.
I have already discussed the financial provisions of the Postal Services Bill. These are identical to those in the Telecommunications Bill except in 2 respects. Firstly, determination of the assets and liabilities of the Telecommunications Commission includes a reference to the Transitional Provisions Bill which requires that the assets and liabilities of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission be brought into account. Secondly, past profits of the telecommunications service and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission will be capitalised and will become part of the borrowings on which the Telecommunications Commission will pay interest. I should add that the Government has decided that the Telecommunications Commission will assume responsibility for accumulated superannuation liabilities.
Wilful damage or interference with any telecommunications installation of the Commission is also made an offence under the Bill. The wilful obstruction of an officer or employee or an assault on an officer or employee in the execution of his duty is an offence under the Postal Services and Telecommunications Bills. It is also an offence for a person other than the Commission to construct, maintain or operate a telecommunications installation within Australia. Exemptions are granted to railway and tramway authorities, to holders of licenses under the Wireless Telegraphy Act and the Broadcasting and Television Act, to persons setting up installations wholly within their own premises and to persons authorised by the Commission to set up telecommunications services. The effect of the provision is that, subject to the exceptions I have mentioned, the Commission has the sole right to establish telecommunications services within Australia. Much of the telecommunications equipment of the Department is located in places where it could be damaged or its operation impeded by works undertaken by other authorities or contractors. The Bill provides that where a person causes damage to or interferes with the property of the Telecommunications Commission he will be liable to pay compensation to the Commission. A similar provision is included in the Post and Telegraph Act. The Bill provides, however, that it is a defence in any compensation proceedings if the person can prove that he took reasonable steps to inform the Commission of his intention to commence work which subsequently damaged a telecommunications installation.
Many of the clauses in the Miscellaneous Part of the Bill are identical to those already discussed in the Postal Services Bill. The more important of other clauses which relate specifically to the administration of the telecommunications service cover procedures for serving notice on owners of land on which the Commission may wish to undertake work.
The third Bill, the Transitional Provisions Bill, provides for a number of machinery administrative arrangements arising from the abolition of the Postmaster-General’s Department and establishment of the 2 commissions. Nearing vesting day of the Postal Commission a number of transactions such as issue of money orders-postal orders, sale of stamps and receipt of mail will be made by the Department under the Post and Telegraph Act. These transactions will be completed as relevant by the Postal Commission under the Postal Services Act. The Transitional Provisions Bill provides the necessary continuity for the changeover. Similar continuity is given to the Telecommunications Commission, relating to telegrams and to authorisations issued under the Post and Telegraph Act to erect and maintain telegraph lines. With the abolition of the Department and its existing administrative structure it is necessary to provide for the assumption of responsibility by the 2 Commissions for the administration of the postal and telecommunications services. Part III of the Bill will enable the 2 Commissions to commence certain necessary administrative action after the date of assent of the Act and before vesting day. These measures include determination of charges, submission to the Minister of estimates of receipts and expenditure for the coming financial year, creation of positions and the making of by-laws. The determination and by-laws of course will not come into operation before vesting day, but it is necessary to make these in advance so that the changeover to Commission status will be as smooth as possible. As indicated earlier to the
Senate, a large number of officers will be transferred to the service of the Commissions. Permanent officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department will be tranferred from the Australian Public Service to either the service of the Postal Commission or the service of the Telecommunications Commission. Permanent staff of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission will be transferred to the service of the Telecommunications Commission. Apart from the staff engaged in areas such as finance and accounting, personnel and industrial relations, the duties of the great majority of officers and employees of the Department can be clearly identified with either the postal service or the telecommunications service. Formal allocation of officers of the Australian Public Service working in the Postmaster-General’s Department to either the Postal Commission or the Telecommunications Commission will be determined in writing by the appropriate Minister. The Minister is given similar powers of appointment for officers of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission who will be appointed to the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
The Bill provides power for the 2 commissions to appoint an officer of the Commission to a specific position and to determine the classification of the position. Officers from either the Department or the Overseas Telecommunications Commission will not be appointed to positions of a lower classification or salary than they held in their present organisation immediately before vesting day. In certain circumstances higher duties allowances, previously received, will be continued for a limited period.
Honourable senators would appreciate that in organisations such as the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission there is at any one time a number of officers at various stages in the appointment or promotion processes. For example, some officers will still be on probation on vesting day and others will have been provisionally promoted but awaiting confirmation of the promotion. Others again will have been provisionally promoted but will be awaiting the hearing of appeals against their provisional promotions. As a corollary to this a number of officers will have appealed against provisional promotions of other officers. This Bill provides for protection of the rights of officers under all these circumstances.
On vesting day, a number of departmental officers will be on special leave from the Australian Public Service working with other organisations such as one of the United Nations agencies. The Bill preserves the rights of these officers so that they are not disadvantaged by virtue of being on the unattached list.
In order to preserve the short-term career prospects for officers of the Department transferred to the service of one of the commissions, the Bill provides that either commission may promote an officer of the other commission. As it is considered that a period of 5 years would be reasonable for such an arrangement, it is proposed that this transitional provision will expire on 30 June 1980.
The Bill provides for the preservation of all accruing credits for sick and recreation leave of all staff- permanent, temporary and exempt. Similarly the rights of staff on leave of absence on vesting day are protected in that the Bill provides that the leave is to be regarded as having been granted by the commission concerned.
Preservation of all rights of former employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd who became members of the service of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, is provided for in the Bill. The rights include pension, superannuation, retiring allowances and furlough. Protection is also afforded former employees of Cable and Wireless Ltd who became members of the service of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission.
There may at commencing day be some uncompleted hearings before the Public Service Arbitrator which affect staff in the new commissions. When these claims are determined it will be important that they have application in the commissions. This aspect is not yet covered in the Bills and will need to be the subject of an amendment.
The Department has at present, assets valued in excess of $4,000m. The Postal and Telecommunications (Transitional Provisions) Bill provides for the transfer as appropriate of these assets to the 2 commissions. Similarly duties, liabilities and obligations of the Department are transferred to the respective commissions. Rights property, assets, duties, liabilities and obligations of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission are transferred to the Australian Telecommunications Commission.
Until vesting day subscribers to the telecommunications service are bound by the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act and have an agreement with the Department for the provision of service. This Bill provides that the rights and responsibilities of both parties be carried over to the Telecommunications Commission under the Telecommunications Bill. These provisions include the recognition of payments made in advance by the subscriber and the payment to the Telecommunications Commission of amounts owing for the provision of service before vesting day.
As honourable senators know, the DirectorGeneral of the Postmaster-General’s Department each year submits a report through me to Parliament. With the repeal of the Post and Telegraph Act on vesting day this will be no longer required. However, it is important that Parliament be informed on the financial and other operations of such a large Government enterprise. Accordingly, the Postal and Telecommunications (Transitional Provisions) Bill provides for the Minister to make such a report. A similar provision is made to enable a report to be issued for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the period between the date covered by its last report and vesting day of the Telecommunications Commission.
Schedule 1 to the Bill provides for the repeal of the several Acts under which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission have operated. Schedule 2 provides for the consequential amendment of a number of other Acts. Amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act will mean that the Telecommunications Commission will continue to perform certain work on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Schedule 2 also provides for the repeal of certain sections of the Social Services Act and the Repatriation Act. On behalf of the Government, I point out that the recipients of pensions and other benefits under the Social Services Act and the Repatriation Act will not lose any of their present concessions or benefits. The Government will make appropriate arrangements with the Telecommunications Commission on concessions. Reimbursement to the Commission of the cost of the concessions will be made under the ‘revenue forgone’ provisions which will enable the Minister to indicate special classes of persons who will receive the concessions, for example, pensioners.
Naturally there are some amongst the staff who have doubts about breaking with tradition and forming new organisations to replace those which have stood the test of time. However, from my many contacts with management and with the unions, it is quite clear that those changes are both timely and desirable. They look to the future, confident that the provisions in the legislation now before the Senate will enable the best of their traditions to be preserved while giving new opportunities for providing the comprehensive communication services which Australia will require in the years ahead. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Provision of Telecommunication Services within Australia, between Australia and Places outside Australia and between certain External Territories and Places outside those Territories.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time:
This Bill seeks to establish a Telecommunications Commission to operate the national and international telecommunications services of Australia. I have explained the provisions of the Bill in my second reading speech on the Postal Services Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to enact certain Transitional Provisions consequential upon the enactment of the Postal Services Act 1975 and the Telecommunications Act 1 975.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks to cater for arrangements and requirements flowing from the abolition of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission consequential on the creation of the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission. I have explained the provisions of the Bill during my second reading speech on the Postal Services Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 1 3 May 1975 at 2.30 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President.
– I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate nominating Senators Drury, Durack, Georges, Greenwood, Walsh and Wright to be members of the Select Committee on the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1975.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
That the senators nominated be appointed members of the Select Committee on the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1975.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I request that the speech be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
-This Bill provides for references and appeals to a full bench of the Commission in connection with industrial matters concerning pilots, navigators and flight engineers within the jurisdiction of the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal. The intention is that flight crew officers should be put as nearly as possible in the same position as employees in the Commission’s jurisdiction. The effect of the application to the Tribunal of the reference provisions along the lines of those in section 34 of the Act would be that any industrial question before the Tribunal could be referred to a full bench of the Commission if the President of the Commission was of the view that a matter of important public interest was involved. The effect of the application of provisions along the lines of those in section 35 would be that arbitrated awards and a refusal to certify an agreement in settlement or prevention of a dispute would be subject to appeal to a full bench. As is now the position in relation to the Commission, certified agreements and awards made by consent, would not be subject to appeal.
To understand why there currently exists this anomalous position where the reference and appeal provisions apply to other employees coming under the coverage of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but not to flight crew officers, one has to go back to the establishment in 1967 of the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal as special machinery to deal with industrial disputes involving pilots, navigators and flight engineers in the airlines industry. The Government of the time was opposed, as is the present Government, to constituting special tribunals in the industrial field. However, there were very special circumstances to be dealt with. Following the Industrial Court’s decision on more than one occasion to impose the maximum penalties under the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act on the association covering air pilots, the pilots had broken away from the arbitration system in 1959. They had set up a new organisation, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, which they refused to register under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; and they had gone to great lengths to frustrate any attempts to bring them back within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It was in this context that the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal was established.
Under the Act as it now stands, the Tribunal alone is independent of the reference and appeal provisions. Presidential members as well as commissioners are subject to references and appeals, not only with regard to their work within their panels but also when they are assigned to specific industries under Divisions 2 to 5 of Part III of the Act such as the maritime industries, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and the stevedoring industry. The only specific industry under the Act which does not come within these provisions is the civil aviation industry with respect to flight crew. Moreover, the person who constitutes the Tribunal is also and concurrently a presidential member of the Commission. Thus we have the position that in one of his capacities the Tribunal is subject to the provisions, but not when he is acting in the other capacity.
If it is desirable that the knowledge and experience of a full bench- that is at least 3 members, 2 of whom must be presidential membersshould be available to deal with matters of important public interest and to protect parties to awards and the community against the consequences of possible error or misjudgement by presidential members of the Commission, it is equally desirable that that knowledge and experience should be available in relation to a presidential member of the Commission who constitutes the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal. The appeal provisions establish a means whereby a full bench can remedy anomalous or other defective decisions. The reference provisions are a means whereby general principles can be formulated for application in relation to matters of importance to the community in general and whereby disputes of major significance can be brought before a full bench in the public interest.
It is anomalous that only pan of a significant national industry such as the civil aviation industry is currently within the scope of the reference and appeal provisions. It is anomalous that some employees under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are covered by those provisions while others under that Act are not. It is anomalous that a member of the Commission acting in one capacity is subject to the reference and appeal provisions but not when he is acting in another one. The passage of this Bill will rectify these anomalies. At the same time, the opportunity is being taken to delete certain transitional provisions and to make some minor tidying up amendments to Part IIIA. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
A Bill to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act was introduced in another place on 3 October 1974. During the debate in that place, the Government took the opportunity to move certain amendments to the Bill, in order to clarify its main purpose. This was to ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had adequate powers to carry out its functions effectively to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programs are presented by the licensees of commercial broadcasting and television stations. On the legal advice provided to the Government, it appears that the Board may not have sufficient powers under the existing Act to properly carry out the functions entrusted to it by Parliament. The Government regards this situation as unsatisfactory, lt now submits the Bill in the form in which it was transmitted to the Senate on 12 November, 1 974- a form which on that occasion the Senate refused to accept, despite the fact that, as Minister for the Media, I had foreshadowed a major amendment that was designed to satisfy all major objections raised by the Opposition to the Bill.
Late last year, the Senate refused a second reading to this Bill, thereby denying me the opportunity of moving the foreshadowed amendment. It may well be that the same procedure is proposed with this Bill. In the circumstances, I believe I should explain that what the Government proposed on that occasion, and still proposes today, is that in the Committee stage of the Bill, an amendment should be moved to ensure that the Parliament itself should have direct supervision over the powers of the Broadcasting Control Board- or the Broadcasting Authority, as it is suggested it should be renamed.
Specifically, it is proposed that the powers to be granted to the Authority to determine rules and standards for programs, conditions for advertisements, and the hours of transmission of stations are to be subject to a provision that they may only be exercised in the same way as regulationsthat is, that any such determinations must first be laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament, and may then be subject to disallowance by either House. As I have said, on a previous occasion, the Senate voted to prevent an amendment to this effect being moved or discussed. The Government is of the firm belief that it should persist both with this Bill and with the proposed amendment.
I do not at this stage propose to reiterate the details of the Bill. I simply remind senators firstly that it is designed to clarify the powers of the Broadcasting Control Board. Secondly, I point out that clause 6 of the earlier version of this Bill has been amended to make it quite clear that the Authority may not discriminate against individual stations, and that clause 11 was amended to extend the periods for renewal of licences for commercial broadcasting and television stations from a period of from 3 months to 3’years to a period of from 6 months to 3 years. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
This Bill is in the same form as the Bill introduced in the other place last year. It is consequential upon the Bill I have already presented to the Senate proposing amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act, and involves machinery amendments to the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1964-1973. It provides for an appropriate method of calculation for a broadcasting station licence fee when the licence is renewed for a period other than one year. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
This Bill is in the same form as a Bill introduced in the other place last year. It is consequential upon the Bill just presented to the Senate proposing amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Bill is a machinery amendment to the Television Stations Licence Fees Act 1964-1966, providing for an appropriate method of calculation for a television station licence fee when the licence is renewed for a period other than one year. The opportunity has also been taken to make formal amendments to bring the wording of the Act into line with current practice. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-The object of the bill is to re-establish the Inter-State Commission in accordance with the provisions of section 1 0 1 of the Constitution, which states:
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
Honourable senators will note that the Constitution refers to the trade and commerce provisions and laws made thereunder. However it is not the Government’s intention at this time for the Inter-State Commission to operate under these provisions other than in the field of transport. I need hardly emphasise that transport is a wide and important activity. In 1972-73 it has been estimated that Government and private capital expenditure directly attributed to transport was of the order of $2,700m while current expenditure was approximately $2,200m. Recent figures will be considerably in excess of these amounts. The investment decisions which are made at the present time undoubtedly influence the overall character of personal, private and commercial transport for many decades ahead.
It is generally recognised that transport is a service function concerned with the efficient movement of people, freight and raw materials. Very few of these movements can, in fact, be completed with the use of only a single mode of transport and hence it is important that there is adequate co-ordination within, and between, the various modes of transport. But the history of transport in Australia is studded with examples of lack of co-ordination at many levels. I will mention 3 examples to illustrate my point. The differences in rail gauges is the most notable and long standing. Another is the differing approaches to road networks in the various regions, which we are endeavouring to rectify through road legislation. Then again approaches to vehicle dimensions and axle load limits are not standard. These are all instances of physical differences. There are other administrative and operational differences of equally serious concern.
Users of transport are often frustrated in attempting to obtain rectification of the problems they encounter. There is no single entity to which they can refer for positive assistance in the investigation of their complaints. Rather, they are faced with trying to obtain satisfaction from operator controlled organisations whose own interests are paramount. Furthermore, a great majority of the transport tasks require the use of more than one mode of transport and the user has a variety of operator organisations to deal with, compounding his difficulties. The Government has decided that these considerations call for the re-establishment of the Inter-State Commission. The deliberations which led to the drafting of the Constitution envisaged the role of the Commission as being complementary to Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary and the existence of a body of such stature, with wide powers to deal with the interests of all parties involved in or affected by, transport, has been a persuasive argument in leading the Government to this decision. Apart from one short period between 1913 and 1920, Australia has been without the Commission since Federation. It may well be that this omission is in itself one of the root causes of some of the major distortions which have occurred in the evolution of Australian transport.
The Inter-State Commission was first appointed in 1913 pursuant to the Inter-State Commission Act 1912. The powers given to the Inter-State Commission included powers of investigation over a very wide range of matters going well beyond matters relating to inter-state trade or commerce and power to determine a great variety of disputes, including disputes as to preferences or disadvantages given or made by any State or by any common carrier in contravention of the Act or the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce. The Commission was given wide powers to grant relief to the parties before it and was empowered to grant injunctions. In what is now known as the Wheat case- New South Wales v. the Commonwealth ( 1915)-New South Wales appealed to the High Court from a decision of the Inter-State Commission. Section 73 of the Constitution provides for appeals from decisions of the Inter-State Commission on questions of law. The Commission held that the Wheat Acquisition Act 1914 of New South Wales was invalid as contravening section 92 of the Constitution. The High Court, by a majority, held that section 101 of the Constitution did not authorise the establishment of the Inter-State Commission as a court and therefore the provisions of Part V conferring judicial powers upon the Inter-State Commission were invalid.
The Inter-State Commission continued to exercise some investigatory functions for a limited period after the Wheat case. However, by 1920 the appointments of commissioners had terminated by reason of the resignation or lapse of time. The Act remained on the statute book until 1950 when it was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1950. I would seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a paper containing the relevant extracts from the Constitution which relate to the Inter-State Commission.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
THE INTER-STATE COMMISSION
The Inter-State Commission is referred to in the following sections of the Constitution:
The High Court shall have jurisdiction, with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as the Parliament prescribes, to hear and determine appeals from all judgements, decrees, orders, and sentences-
Of the Inter-State Commission, but as to questions of law only: and the judgement of the High Court in all such cases shall be final and conclusive. 101. There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder. 102. The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State; due regard being had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connection with the construction and maintenance of its railways. But no preference or discrimination shall, within the meaning of this section, be taken to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the InterState Commission. 103. The members of the Inter-State Commission;
Shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council;
Shall hold office for seven years, but may be removed within that time by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity;
Shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix; but such remuneration shall not be diminished during their continuance in office. 104. Nothing in this Constitution shall render unlawful any rate for the carriage of goods upon a railway, the property of a State, if the rate is deemed by the Inter-State Commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of the State, and if the rate applies equally to goods within the State and to goods passing into the State from other States.
-This Bill does not cloak the Commission with judicial powers which the High Court found so objectionable with regard to the first Inter-State Commission. The provisions in the Bill are based on the Inter-State Commission being given adjudicatory, investigatory, arbitration and administration functions in respect of which it would be empowered to determine any necessary issues of fact, its decisions being appealable in matters of law to the High Court. Honourable senators might be interested to know the range of issues the InterState Commission could deal with under the four broad headings to which I have referred. Dealing first with adjudication, which represents a decision making role of the Commission, the Constitution through sections 102 and 104 gives the Commission a clear role to adjudicate on railway rates. Thus it would be able to deal with situations similar to those revealed in the 1972 Bland report of rates so set that interstate trade is disadvantaged compared with intrastate trade. A rail rate which is lower to a further port compared to the nearest port, which happens to be interstate, would certainly be a matter the InterState Commission would investigate and adjudicate upon.
This Bill gives the Inter-State Commission the power where it is equally sorely needed over all the other modes of transport and is not narrowly restricted to carrier operations. The efficient use of transport involves a proper understanding of the inter-relationships between the terminal, the way and the vehicular systems and the Bill ensures that the Commission is free to investigate all relevant aspects of the transport task.
Instances have been brought to notice where practices and charges differ markedly between different transport users for apparently the same service. Examples of the matters brought to notice are the preferential reservations of cargo space on ships, the provision of the same service at different rates, and variations in the availability of equipment.
The next heading is investigation, which is an exceedingly important function. It has 2 aspects. There is the investigation necessary before the Commission could reach a decision in an adjudication and the general investigation into broad industry or multi-modal issues which would generally result in recommendations. An example of a general investigation would be an assessment of the most appropriate mode to carry certain commodities in interstate trade. Thirdly, the expertise the Commission will acquire in the field of interstate transport will lead to requests that it act as an arbitrator between parties in dispute. For example, there could be a disagreement between Railways of Australia and freight forwarders over the rates to be charged for equipment. The Commission would be an appropriate body to arbitrate and it has power to enforce its decision. It would also be available to arbitrate on matters associated with the transfer of railway systems to the control of the Australian Government. Lastly, the Commission’s administration function is designed to draw upon its expert knowledge of requirements in transport arising from its investigations. It would be useful in reviewing the effectiveness of expenditure which the Government has provided to overcome a particular transport deficiency- for example, the provision of rolling stock. The procedure of the Commission will, of course, be established to a large extent in the light of experience as time goes on. However, the Bill establishes certain principles.
The Commission will be accessible to the individual, the man in the street, the small private company and the big corporation, any of whom may have an issue or a complaint to raise. I should stress that statutory authorities either of the Australian or State governments will also have access to the Commission. The Commission will be able to launch an investigation on its own initiative or in response to a complaint. It can receive requests for investigations directly from the States. It is its judgement alone whether the investigation will be launched. The third means by which an investigation may begin is upon direction by the Minister. Provision is made for investigations of the Commission to be amplified, should circumstances require, at the direction of the Minister. Proposed investigations must be notified to the public. The Commission will be able to sit as a Commission on the investigation or authorise one of its members, or member of the staff, or another authorised person to take evidence on behalf of the Commission and to furnish a report on the evidence. Witnesses appearing before the Commission will have the usual immunities. The Bill is designed to ensure that the private citizen may be heard. Upon assessment of the facts, the Commission may, according to its terms of reference, make a recommendation to the Government or proceed to adjudicate the issue and make an order which will have the force of law. The High Court will have jurisdiction on appeals on matters of law as the Commission’s decisions are final on matters of fact.
Under Clause 16 prosecutions can be instituted in the High Court for contravention of or failure to comply with an order of the Commission. Also, the Attorney-General may apply to the High Court for an injunction to restrain a person or body from contravening the Act, including orders made by the Commission under the Act. In the event that a State government were to fail to comply with an order, an injunction from the High Court could be sought if necessary under this clause. The Australian Government would of course be bound by the orders of the Commission. Because of the Commission’s special stature and expected capabilities it is well suited to undertake tasks extending beyond the investigatory and adjudicatory role I have referred to. The Government will ask the Commission to report from time to time on multi-modal transport issues. For example, the Government will want advice on the most suitable modes for the carriage of various types of freight and raw materials between interstate centres to determine rail, sea, road and air infrastructure requirements. The Commission, with its wide investigatory powers, will be an expert body well suited to provide advice to governments on such planning issues, and the Australian Government would expect that State governments will also be anxious to avail themselves of its services. The re-establishment of the Commission will, therefore, be compatible with our policy and a very useful source of advice. Indeed, during our period in office, and lacking an Inter-State Commission we have been obliged to establish individual commissions to inquire into particular transport matters where advice was required. As examples 1 instance the commissions of inquiry into the maritime industry and into transport disabilities in Tasmania. Such inquiries could in future be referred to the InterState Commission. This ability to refer would also obviate the administrative exercise involved in setting up individual commissions of inquiry.
To demonstrate the consistency and logic of our approach 1 will briefly outline the key elements of our transport policy. The policy is based on the belief that efficient transport can only be achieved where each mode is used for the tasks for which it is most suited. We believe that the beneficiaries and the users of transport should pay for the cost of that transport. Naturally there will be occasions when transport should be used to achieve other social or economic aims, but if this is to be done the cost of achieving those aims through transport should be clearly known, for those social and economic aims are direct beneficiaries of the transport system. A national transport approach is absolutely necessary if we are to meet the needs of the Australian community and permit the proper development of this country. The Government has amalgamated the 2 former major transport portfolios under the one Minister. This has brought together the former Departments of Transport and Civil Aviation together with Government’s transport operating authorities, Qantas Airways Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian National Line, and Comrail, and the Bureaus of Roads and Transport Economics. We propose to have an integrated transport budget and at the end of this year our financial assistance for roads and urban transport will be combined in one piece of transport financial assistance legislation for the period commencing July 1977. We have already initiated new roads legislation with particular emphasis on national highways, export and commercial roads and urban freeways. We also are preparing a proposal for the establishment of a Transport Accident Investigation Authority to take over the functions of courts of marine inquiry and other like matters. Honourable senators are also aware of our intentions in respect to the Road Safety and Standards Authority.
Apart from the major roles I have referred to, the Bill provides for a possible interstate licensing function by the Commission should circumstances warrant in the light of experience and the passage of appropriate legislation. The possible licensing areas described in the Bill include aircraft, vessels, vehicles or pipelines. It is not proposed that the Commission would set the safety standards or undertake the technical judgments required, and it would take note of the judgments of the appropriate authority. I have already referred to our intention to establish a Transport Accident Investigation Authority and accordingly it is, of course, inappropriate to allocate a transport accident investigation function to the Inter-State Commission.
Honourable senators will see that this Bill ensures that after a lapse of 50 years the InterState Commission will play the key role which is identified for it in the Constitution. The Government will complement the work of the Commission by continuing to pursue national transport policies. These influence and respond to the social and economic needs and objectives of both the private and public sectors. The Government will continue to provide such terminal, way and vehicular services as are appropriate for provision by governments and to establish and maintain operational standards. The Government will, of course, continue to encourage and promote socially and economically desirable transport developments and innovations. The Prices Justification Act and the Trade Practices Act both overlap into the ambit of the Inter-State Commission. It is the Government’s view that the Inter-State Commission, because of its unique stature arising from the Constitution, must be supreme. Such provision has been made in the Bill. But this provision will need to come into operation only if there is any conflict between the orders of the Inter-State Commission and either of those Acts. Otherwise those Acts will continue to be administered in the present manner.
These proposals seek to eliminate unnecessarily rigid procedures which tend to have been adopted in the commissions of some other countries that we have studied. The Bill will permit the Commission to adopt pricing guidelines to allow flexibility to operators of transport systems who are subject to its provisions. The Bill also eliminates the need for repetitive filing of rates. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an explanatory statement on the detail of the provisions of the Bill.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
NOTES ON BILL: INTER-STATE COMMISSION
The Bill is divided into six parts- Part 1, Preliminary; Part II, Constitution of the Inter-State Commission; Part III, Regulation of, and Powers of Commission in relation to, Trade and Commerce; Part IV, Investigations by Commission; Part V, Administrative Provisions relating to the Commission, and Part VI, Miscellaneous.
Part I incorporates five interpretative and clarifying clauses as to the operation of the Commission.
In Part II, provision is made for a President and four other members of the Commission who will bc of senior status. Qualifications called for are experience at a high level in industry, commerce, economics, law, public administration or some other field of substantial relevance. Salaries are specified in Part V.
In Part HI, Clause 9 exercises the power conferred on the Parliament by Section 102 of the Constitution. It forbids preferences or discriminations by a State by means of railways where adjudged undue and unreasonable by the Commission. The saving provisions of Sections 102 and 104 of the Constitution that regard shall be had to the financial obligations and developmental responsibilities of a State are preserved in Clauses 9 and 12.
Clause 10 prohibits undue and unreasonable preferences and discriminations in interstate and overseas transport in all transport modes, where so adjudged by the Commission.
Clause 1 1 provides that the terms and conditions on which a service by way of or in relation to interstate transport is provided shall be reasonable and just. The clause broadens the base provided by Clauses 9 and 10 for the work of the Commission.
By virtue of Clause 13, regulations may authorise the Commission to exercise statutory powers of other authorities or tribunals under any trade and commerce law, subject to the specified conditions. This clause is intended to cater for any future requirements that may arise.
Clause 14 sets forth the powers of the Commission to hold investigations, which the Government sees as the essential first step in the process leading to adjudications.
A wide range of subject matter could be investigated, including: any matters relevant to, or affected by, the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce (including matters relating to the operation and effect of laws and practices of the States) wilh a view to considering the necessity for new laws, or changes to existing laws, of Australia under the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce; any matters in respect of which an adjudication by the Commission is relevant to the operation of the provisions of this Bill; any matters relevant to the operation of Clause 1 1 ; and any matters in respect of which the Commission is authorised to exercise powers in pursuance of Clause 13.
Other parts of Clause 14 provide that the Commission may exercise its powers to hold an investigation on its own initiative or at the direction of the Minister, who may also extend an investigation by the Commission. The Commission shall conduct an investigation whenever it considers that this is in the public interest. Any person, including a State, may request the Commission to exercise those powers.
There is provision through sub-Clause 14(9) for publication of the Commission’s reports, findings and recommendations.
Sub-Clause 14 ( 10) contains the basis for issuance by the Commission of pricing guidelines, which are also discussed in connexion with the Commission ‘s Orders in Clause 1 6.
Sub-Clause 14(11) provides that a finding of fact by the Commission, following an investigation will be conclusive for the purpose of its Orders.
Clause 15 gives the Commission a potentially useful power to arbitrate, with the consent of the persons concerned, on any matter relevant to, or affected by, the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce.
Powers of the Commission to make orders are provided by Clause 16; and under Sub-Clause 16 (3) the Commission will have power to make orders if necessary following action pursuant to Sub-Clause 14(10), that is to say, in regard to pricing guidelines. An order of the Commission will have effect notwithstanding anything in any law of Australia or of a State, any act or thing done under such a law, or any contract. Substantial penalties are provided for non-compliance with the Commission’s orders. Jurisdiction is conferred on the High Court to hear and determine any prosecution, application or other proceeding and that jurisdiction will be exclusive of the jurisdiction of any other court.
Clause 1 7 provides for other powers of the Commission including, but not limited to, the issuance of licences or requirement of the Commission’s consent in regard to the engaging in, or the use of aircraft, vessels, vehicles or pipelines in inter-state transport. This clause is intended to cover any future requirements, when further legislation may be needed.
Under Part IV, Procedure at Investigations, beginning at Clause 18, the Commission is required to give public notice of its investigations.
The Commission would be empowered to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents and to take evidence on oath or affirmation. As a general rule, evidence would be taken in public but the Commission may decide, subject to the regulations, to take confidential evidence in private.
Remuneration and allowances of five members of the Commission are stipulated in Part V. Clause 26 provides that the President will receive a salary of $41,000 per annum, which is equivalent to a Justice of the High Court; and other members a salary of $35,000 which is equivalent to a judge. Clause 32 provides that a member shall not engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office without the consent of the Minister.
By virtue of Clause 33, three members will form a quorum at a meeting of the Commission.
Part VI deals with Miscellaneous provisions.
Transport pricing would be looked at by the Inter-State Commission as well as by the Prices Justification Tribunal. In cases where differences arise Clause 34 provides that the conclusions of the Inter-State Commission shall prevail.
Clause 34 also provides that the Inter-State Commission’s approvals will prevail in the area of trade practices. This will be an ultimate power which would not remove the presumption that the restrictive practices legislation will apply in the transport industry.
It is envisaged that the Inter-State Commission will be able to draw upon existing organisations of the Australian
Public Service for much of the senior support it will need in its investigations. However, provision will be made for a small secretariat in the Commission. Clause 33 provides that staff necessary to assist the Commission shall be persons appointed or employed under the Public Service Act 1922-1974. Sub-Clause 35(4) allows the President to engage other persons (such as consultants or assessors) to provide services or perform functions for, or to furnish advice to, the Commission.
Other machinery provisions are in Clause 38, which provides protection of members, representatives and witnesses and Clause 39 which will enable the Commission to authorize, if the need arises, a member of the Commission, a member of the staff or a person engaged under Sub-Clause 35 (4) to take evidence on behalf of the Commission and furnish a report on the evidence so taken.
Clause 40 provides for an annual report to be tabled in Parliament, which must include particulars of Ministerial directions, and Clause 41 provides for the making of regulations.
-I commend the Bill and remind honourable senators that it will bring into effect a body which is specifically provided for in the Constitution, one which has been said to be in the bond of the Federal partnership agreement and one whose absence has been sorely missed over a long period.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 April on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is considering a Bill for an Act to establish a Road Safety and Standards Authority. I am sure we all support the purpose of this Bill which has been outlined in the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop). Anything that can be done to reduce the tragedy of deaths on Australian roads due to the mounting number of accidents must be actively supported not only by members of Parliament but also, I believe, by every Australian citizen. It seems that despite police warnings, road safety council campaigns, automobile association encouragement to take more care on the roads, this tragic story of death on the road is being told. Day after day more lives are being needlessly lost on Australian roads. Last year, as the Postmaster-General said in his second reading speech 3571 people lost their lives on the roads in Australia. The awful fact that this is the fourth major cause of deaths in Australia and the major cause of deaths of males under 25 years must give us all grave concern.
– Cut down the speed.
-That is perhaps one of the recommendations that could arise as a result of the establishment of this Authority.
Sentor Durack- Ride a push bike.
– Yes, that is another possibility. I have maintained for a long time that we should have attempted to establish in Australia national standards governing traffic signs, traffic laws and so on. The Liberal Party in its platform points out that transport safety concerns all levels of government, and it must be given high priority by the Federal Government in its own areas of responsibility and in those areas where cooperation with the States is desired. Uniformity of driving codes, axle loads and other performance codes must be an early objective.
I think this Bill will give effect to that. It was with that in mind that the Liberal-Country Party Government set up a special committee under Mr Justice Meares with many eminent people on it including Mr Pak-Poy from Adelaide. The Committee presented a report to the LiberalCountry Party Government in October 1972. The Government of the day accepted the recommendation to set up a national office on road safety. I believe this Bill gives effect to that recommendation. I think that the Meares Committee deserves the congratulations of this Senate as it has outlined many ways in which we can reduce driving hazards on Australian roads. The Bill goes on to mention some of the objectives of the Authority among them being the elimination of noise pollution and air pollution, which also give us a lot of concern.
I should like to refer to the importance of visual efficiency with respect to road safety. Clear, efficient vision is an important requirement for accident free driving. Importance of vision in safe, accident free driving has been recognised in Australia by some organisations in the past. Over recent years the Australian Government, through the Department of Transport and the Australian Road Research Board, has provided a total of $250,000 for contract research investigations at the School of Optometry in the University of Melbourne. I think honourable senators will appreciate that some of the matters that have been researched are matters of great importance, matters such as the design and performance of visual screening devices; optimal cromaticity and luminescence of coloured signal lights; the effects of distracting information on visual recognition, and the visibility of roadside furniture. The results of these studies have been distributed to interested bodies such as the Standards Association of Australia, the International Committee on Illumination, the National Association of State Road Authorities and the Australian Committee on Road Traffic Devices. These are all significant authorities having the objective of reducing road hazards.
– To whose studies did you refer?
– I referred to studies being carried out at the University of Melbourne by the School of Optometry. The School of Optometry within the University of Melbourne also acts as consultant to the New South Wales Department of Main Roads, the Country Roads Board and the Road Traffic and Safety Authority in Victoria. The School of Optometry within the University of New South Wales has recently conducted research into the visibility of police motor cycles, visual standards for drivers and the illumination of the Cahill Expressway.
In 1963 the Australian Optometrical Association Committee on Visual Factors in Transportation recommended a desirable set of visual standards for drivers. Despite attempts to have these standards adopted by the various State licensing authorities, the visual standard required to obtain and then to retain a driving licence varies considerably from State to State. In New South Wales it is possible to obtain a permit to learn to drive at 16 years and 9 months. At that time it is necessary to submit oneself to a simple visual acuity test. The important thing is that no further supervised visual check is required until one reaches his eightieth year. In my view this seems to be quite extraordinary. Licenced drivers who hold blind pension entitlements have also been reported on the roads of Australia, and others who would qualify for the blind person’s pension have also been reported driving. There remains a great deal of investigation to be conducted in areas such as vehicle and pedestrian visibility. For example, reflective number plates are in use in the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania. Royal Australian Air Force vehicles and Army vehicles use them. In South Australia the use of reflective plates is voluntary. I understand that in Queensland P plates are of a reflective type. There is ample evidence that the use of these plates increases vehicle visibility at night. I wonder why these types of plates are not used in all States. The Authority we are now discussing could well consider the desirability of setting a standard of such plates throughout Australia. It could also examine the matter of visual standards for drivers before they are permitted to have a licence.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2. IS p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the importance of visual efficiency in relation to road safety and I advocated this particular Authority giving some attention to making an assessment of this matter with a view to formulating certain national standards that could be recommended to the States for adoption, because I believe that this is an important aspect of the matter dealt with by the Bill.
Finally, I refer to the attitude of other organisations interested in this Bill. I have had communications with the Road Safety Council in South Australia and with the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, and they support the Bill. The Council maintains that the Bill is a progressive move and will be a major step in the national co-ordination of road safety work, particularly in the area of research which is badly needed. For many years the Automobile Association of Australia has been pressing for leadership and greater involvement by the Commonwealth in road safety matters. The Association says that the Government should establish a department of accident prevention with its own Minister to provide a more vigorous and coordinated approach to research into road safety and road accidents and their causation. I believe that this is worthy of the Government’s consideration in the future.
Although in recent years there has been a more uniform approach to road safety at the national level through special advisory committees to the Australian Transport Advisory Council, the increase in accidents seems to indicate that much more could be done in this area. There is a need for greater Commonwealth involvement in road safety and I believe that we ought to encourage all the aspects to which I have referred in the individual State areas.
I know that the Minister has suggested an amendment to clause 15 (1). I believe that he has paid some regard to an Opposition speaker in another place, the honourable member for Parramatta, Mr Philip Ruddock. I commend the honourable member for suggesting that the clause ought to be amended. I believe that the Minister intends to comply with his request. I suggest to the Minister that perhaps some penalty should be prescribed in the event of a member sitting on a matter in which he has some pecuniary interest. There ought to be a nominal fine of, say, $20. However, if he wilfully sits on such a matter I believe the penalty ought to be higher- say, $500. I should like the Minister to consider that matter when replying. We support the Bill.
– in reply- I thank Senator Jessop for his comments, which indicate that the Opposition will support the Bill as did the Opposition in another place. The honourable senator has referred to several new matters, particularly of his own interest, in relation to the visual aspects of the issues we are discussing. I am advised by advisers to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) that research into these questions is vital and that presently studies at the College of Optometry at the University of Melbourne are being funded. Also consideration has been given to the question of reflective plates. That matter has been examined in the context of the establishment of the Road Safety and Standards Authority. Generally the Authority, as the senator has said, is a drawing together of recent developments and trends in this field.
The honourable senator rightly pointed to the more or less basic study entitled ‘The Road Accident Situation in Australia ‘, which was an important review issued in September 1972 by Mr Justice Meares. Certainly that is a basic document. The establishment of the Authority is more or less an attempt to ensure that every study and every action which might be taken in association with the existing authorities is undertaken. There is provision in the Bill for regulatory powers and for penalties. However, I am advised that these penalties must obviously be related only to the subject matters raised in the Acts. No doubt penalties would be applied to people who did not attend to their responsibilities in relation to certification plates or other standard procedures under the Act. With regard to the last question raised by the honourable senator, it seems to me that we had better canvass that matter. It seems to me that it is unlikely we could include a penalty provision now, but I will discuss the matter further in Committee. No doubt the Minister would be willing to look at the question separately and, by the time we get in Committee, we might be able to discuss it more fully.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Perhaps I should indicate to honourable senators that an amendment has been circulated which sets out an approach suggested by Mr Ruddock in another place. Later Mr Ruddock approached the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), who decided to consider amending clause 15, which deals with the disclosure of interest by a member, to bring it more into line with the corresponding provision in the Children’s Commission Bill. The existing working of sub-clause 15(1) follows that of the corresponding provisions of the Acts relating to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, the Australian National Railways Commission, the Australian Shipping Commission, and the Australian National Airways Commission.
Because the matter raised by Senator Jessop is new to me and to my advisers, the advisers consider that it might not be practicable now to provide for such a penalty. Perhaps the remedy should be that there ought to be an action to remove any person so offending. I undertake to carry Senator Jessop ‘s suggestion to the Minister for further examination and to let him know whether there is any amendment that might meet the kind of objection he has. I hope that he will accept that, because it will allow the establishment of the Authority to proceed. I seek leave to move together the 2 amendments I have circulated.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that the 2 amendments be taken together? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
In sub-clause (1), after ‘who’ leave, out ‘is directly or indirectly interested in a contract made or proposed to be made’, insert ‘has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered or about to be considered ‘.
In sub-clause (1), after ‘persons’, insert ‘and of which he is not a director’.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a third time.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a paper entitled ‘Principles to Govern the Transfer of the Tasmanian Government Railway Systems to the Australian Government’.
Debate resumed from 22 April on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a small Bill but it deals with a very important subject. Its object is to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act to permit the Government to appoint a part time Commissioner and Associate Commissioners for any period not exceeding 7 years. Under the provisions of the Act at present the Commissioner is to be appointed for a period of 7 years and there is an obligation to appoint Associate Commissioners. Under this Bill there will be no obligation to appoint any Associate Commissioners but there will be power to appoint up to two of them. The stated reason for this Bill is the fact that the construction stage of the Snowy Mountains scheme has been completed and now it is simply a question of maintaining the system. The control of the station and generation of power and the sale of that electric power is now in the hands of the Snowy Mountains Council, not in the hands of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority.
The role of the Authority is still very important, as the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) pointed out in his second reading speech. It has the responsibility of manning and maintaining the dams, of which I believe there are sixteen, and although it is not responsible for manning power stations it is responsible for financial administration. I am not quite sure of the ambit of the responsibility for financial administration and I would appreciate it if the Minister could enlighten me a little further. It is clear enough that there is still a very important role for the Authority and that it has a very great responsibility. Therefore, the Opposition is rather concerned that the position of commissioner should be considerably down-graded by this amending Bill although we do not intend to oppose it.
It seems to us that it is within the responsibility of the Government to say whether it wants a fulltime or part-time commissioner and whether it needs any associate commissioners. We in Opposition are not in a position to challenge the Government’s decision in this regard. However I think it would be irresponsible if we did not mention our concern about a situation whereby the Government would be in a position to appoint, for example, a part time commissioner on a year to year basis or some uncertain term. It seems to the Opposition that it may be very difficult to get suitable commissioners to take on a job on that basis. We are concerned that such an important organisation should have a commissioner appointed on such an uncertain basis. A 7-year term may be too long but I think that for whatever term the commissioner is appointed it should be a fixed term and the statute should say that he is appointed for whatever period is desired, 3 years or 5 years if 7 years is considered too long. Having expressed that concern held by the Opposition I reiterate that we do not intend to oppose the measure even though I cannot say that we support it.
– in reply- Senator Durack raised the general question of flexibility in the management structure of any statutory authority. We know that the purposes of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation have changed quite dramatically because the basic functions and objectives of the original Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority largely have been achieved. Quite possibly the Corporation will be required to do alternative types of work quite different from those originally conceived. I think it is a general principle, and a good one, to maintain flexibility in the appointment of officials at the top level. I also imagine that the type of undertakings in which the Corporation will engage will not be of the order of magnitude of what it did in the past.
I suppose it is fair to say that there is an area of legitimate argument as to whether the commissioner should be a full-time or part-time officer. It is not an easy judgment to make. If it were mandatory under the legislation that he be a full time officer that is the way it would have to be, but under the proposal put to the Senate there is to be an area of flexibility to appoint a person on a part-time basis if that were found to be the more desirable thing. In practice it is not likely that there would be a part time commissioner whose services were not available all the time and part time associate commissioners. In other words, one almost certainly would be working on a full time basis.
At present the Corporation is in a period of transition from construction to the manning and maintenance of the scheme. The general responsibilities of the Corporation are running down. Its functions are going to change and the areas of responsibility in which it will be working could not be described as clear. There will be a very significant shift in not only the nature of its work but also in the degree of its responsibility. Consistent with that outlook for the Corporation, the Government feels that this measure of flexibility in the 3 top management people should exist.
Despite the fact that I concede that there are arguments that can be advanced legitimately to the contrary of what is contained in the legislation, I suggest that it is not desirable that we should be rigid in the manner in which we appoint the commissioners now for future tasks of which we ourselves are not certain. Senator Durack has indicated that the Opposition will not oppose the legislation. Let us hope that the future will show that this judgment which is being made is the correct one. I have no doubt that, if the decision that has been taken proves to be impractical, the Government will stand ready to reconsider the legislation which I hope we will pass today.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 22 April on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
-In rising to speak in this debate, let me first commend Senator Bunton on the temperance of his maiden speech. I say that, remembering the extraordinary events which led to his appointment to the Senate. I am very much in agreement with his remarks regarding the importance of local government. I agree that local government is very close to the ordinary people, who understand it very well. But I do think the days have long gone when all that local government was expected to do was to make the streets, clean the gutters and empty the garbage cans. These days, it is expected to cover a very wide field. It is not always appreciated that the money which goes to provide for such requirements as libraries, home help services and assistance to aged people is much more than that which can be raised from ordinary rates. I believe that this Government has tried to do something directly to assist and fund local government. It has given a rebirth to local communities which now believe that they can get on with doing the job that their people want them to do. The Albury-Wodonga project is an example of decentralisation as decentralisation ought to be. Decentralisation is not achieved by taking a glove factory to a country town and leaving it at that. The point must be appreciated that, when large numbers of people are moved to other parts of the country, the services which they normally expected to find in the cities where they were born and bred must be provided.
As it is International Women’s Year, I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to various incidents which show how diligent a government must be and how difficult it is, until one actually has legislation to enforce an idea, to bring people to realise that they have a blind spot and that when it comes to matters such as discrimination between the sexes, unfortunately, a deal of discrimination still exists. The matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate concern discrimination against women. As this year has been designated International Women’s Year, it is well for governments to realise the extent of that problem. We have a retraining scheme which has been called the National Employment and Training scheme. This is a scheme under which women who have been out of the work force for some time may be retrained and then take their skills and knowledge back into the work force. It has been brought to my attention that in some areas the people who are interviewing women for this retraining scheme are getting very close to the knuckle by asking those women for personal details about themselves. These are personal details which no man would ever be asked to provide. When one woman went to be retrained, the person interviewing her asked whether it was fair that she be retrained as she may have more children and in that case the skills she acquired would not be used by the community. This woman pointed out that she had had a hysterectomy, so she was not likely to have any more children. The gentleman interviewing her then asked her for the name of the gynaecologist so that he could check her claim. No man in any circumstances would be asked for information of that type or be put through that sort of test if he was seeking retraining.
I am afraid that in many instances in which government departments appoint officers overseas women find it very difficult to secure such overseas appointments and married women find it practically impossible. In many instances, in interviews for such appointments women applicants are asked whether their husbands are happy about the prospect of their going overseas, whether it is the husband’s wish that the woman should go overseas and whether the husband will find suitable work and be happy in the country to which the appointee will be posted. There is no record of any wives ever being consulted about how they feel about being plonked down in some foreign country without any sort of assistance or company. Husbands are never asked whether their wives are happy about overseas appointments.
I turn now to a matter concerning superannuation which has been brought to my attention since I entered the Senate. I must admit that before my election I had never thought or worried about superannuation. Perhaps I should have; perhaps a number of other women in the community should have this matter brought to their attention, whether they like it or not. The position is that part of the husband’s salary has gone to provide for superannuation. The marriage has been a partnership. The wife has assisted in every way she can to make the husband ‘s career and work life satisfactory and happy. If the husband dies, the wife receives only a percentage of the superannuation payable to the husband on retirement; whereas, if the wife dies, the husband receives the full superannuation entitlement. Those of us in the Senate are emancipated, I suppose, because at least the legislation governing our retiring allowances refers to widows or widowers. Not many other superannuation schemes do this. If the person who is in receipt of the superannuation payment dies, the other party to the marriage receives an annuity of five-sixths of that payment. I cannot see how one partner who is left would incur any less expense than would the other. It is time that the world looked at the matter and realised that people are human beings and that the wife who is left does not pay any less for shoes or electricity, nor eat any less or travel on fewer trams or trains than would the husband.
I refer to a case in Melbourne at the moment. The Board of Works there obvionsly regards women as second class citizens. If women who work for the Board of Works marry they have to resign. They are then immediately taken back in a temporary capacity. A female employee who marries is required to resign and apply for reappointment to a temporary position even though she does not need to stop work. A female employee who marries and has to rejoin the Board as a new employee- despite no break in continuity of her work- is not eligible for annual leave until completion of 12 months service. Temporary employees- married women- cannot be members of the Board’s superannuation fund. Married women, as temporary employees, are not eligible for paid study leave. Again this is an example of how we can legislate against discrimination but we have to take the ideas right through the community. The same Board of Works lays down conditions of dress for its women employees to wear. Unless the women wear the uniform that is picked out for them they are liable to be sacked because it is said they are not amenable to discipline. I wonder how many men would agree to wear the one coloured suit and the one coloured tie day after day irrespective of whether they liked them and were comfortable in them. I wonder whether they would be sacked as not being amenable to discipline if they did not agree to wear these clothes.
I do not see how being told what to wear will improve work, efficiency or job satisfaction. I can see that where certain articles have to be worn for safety they should be, but in this instance there is no such thought. These women wear a blue dress and a blue cardigan probably because the members of the Board, being men, think blue is the loveliest colour. According to a spokesman for the Board of Works the thinking is that a single woman has greater claims to preference in employment. She has to provide for her future needs whereas a married woman is not even responsible for her debts. Why should the public purse be used to provide a benefit over and above the benefit which society would normally expect the husband to provide. Obviously this employer does not take into account the fact that so many families now are 2-income families and that so many women do not work to fill in idle hours; they go to work because they have to work. Work is a necessity to keep their families in the state in which the women think their families should be kept. It is no longer the position that husbands are always responsible for their wives’ debts, so the thinking of the Board of Works is out of date in that. It is not always possible for husbands to afford to ensure wives’ futures. I think it is a very stupid policy for people to adopt. Apart from the fact, I suppose, that a woman may want to be independent, while she is tied to those sorts of provisions she has not any hope of providing for her own future and being independent. She has no choice.
These examples give some idea of the immense problems that still have to be faced by this Government because for a long time nobody has worried about the real equality of women in the work force or in the community. I commend the Government for the steps it has taken to ensure that women are treated as human beings with equal rights. I refer to maternity leave and people with special rights for special purposes. I ask that we maintain our vigilance so that the examples I have cited, which I do not believe arise out of malice but arise out of ignorance, may be eliminated. In this regard, of course, we have established discrimination committees which are investigating these sorts of matters. I hope that a lot more information will come to light and that more people will speak out so that these sorts of stupid, petty things can be set to rights. We look forward with confidence to the day when women go forward, not as someone’s daughter, wife, mother or secretary but in their own right as whole and complete human beings with much to offer this world in general and our country in particular.
– The Senate is debating in cognate form Appropriation Bill (No. 5) and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) and Supply Bill (No. 1) and Supply Bill (No. 2). At the outset I particularly pay tribute to the maiden speech delivered in this chamber last night by Senator Cleaver Bunton. I record my tribute for both the quality of content and the quality of delivery. I think that all in this chamber must conclude that Senator Bunton brings to it the experience of some 50 years in local government and an understanding of the structure of government which cannot but do good in contribution to debate. I therefore commend him and his speech.
Appropriation Bills Nos 5 and 6 seek to add an additional $640m to the expenditure of the Government. In so doing, they take their place alongside a Budget in September last year of some $16.3 billion, a supplementary budget or two in the ensuing months- as the person who wrongly advised the then Treasurer to bring down a bad Budget in September then became the Treasurer- and then further Appropriation Bills earlier this year. The Government which said then that it would impose some restraint has increased the total outflow of revenue from $ 16.3 billion to now some $17.9 billion, an increase of approximately $1.6 billion, and the year is not yet out. Government expenditure has risen 45 per cent in one year- a colossal increase. It is important to note the 1974 report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an institution to which this Government subscribes and to whose conclusions the Government pays respect. The report said:
The available evidence suggests that the change in the rate of inflation has been the greatest in those countries where the increase in the share of public expenditure has been the most rapid.
Indeed, the OECD in its subsequent figures has shown that Australia has now almost the highest rate of inflation of any of the industrialised countries. The OECD predicts an extremely gloomy and record-breaking future for Australia. In looking at these Bills, I wish to take some of the claims of the Government and examine them. The Government, by its own wilful actions, has produced 2 things, firstly, the greatest unemployment since the depression years of the 1930s- unemployment of some 300 000 people- and secondly, the highest rate of inflation in our postwar history. At the last quarter inflation was running at an indicated 1 7.6 per cent. In that context Professor Arndt, a professor of economics at the Australian National University and a former prominent Labor Party member whom the Labor Party praised very highly said in recent days that if the Government did not cut its expenditure, inflation next year would run at a record-breaking rate of some 30 per cent to 35 per cent- a form of superinflation that would put us in the banana republic category. I assume that the Government respects the opinion of such a person as Professor Arndt. If it does not, let the subsequent speakers say that they discount Professor Arndt ‘s opinion.
As I understand it, the debating techniques of Government members have been this: Faced with record unemployment and record inflation, the Government would not concede to inflation but would do everything it could to reduce unemployment and therefore the Government would continue to spend in the government sector to spend its way out of unemployment. The Opposition concedes to no one the responsibility and the advocacy for full employment. The record of the Liberal and Country Parties in Government over some 20 years was unique. We achieved and sustained the highest rate of employment in any country in the industrialised world. The previous Government also had the lowest rate of inflation, some 2.5 per cent, of any industrialised country in the free world and one of the lowest interest rates of any country. These 3 very great achievements were allied with the highest rate of home ownership in any country.
Against that background we would say: ‘Yes, it is imperative that there should be a major attack upon unemployment. It is outrageous that a government which has deliberately created unemployment should continue to aggravate it.’ Let those Government supporters who follow me in this debate deny that they created unemployment, because it is recorded clearly that the Government set out to do so. The Government said last year that it would deliberately bring about a deflation and a collapse of the building industry. This is recorded in Hansard. The Government set out to do so by means of a credit squeeze and by denying money to the building industry. The Government also put up interest rates to make money too dear for capital investment. The Government also, through a Treasurer whom it acclaimed, cut tariffs by 25 per cent across the board and created record unemployment in the clothing, textile, electronic, furniture-making, footwear and automotive industries. Let those Government supporters who will follow me deny that the 25 per cent tariff cut created vast unemployment. Let them deny that the credit squeeze created vast unemployment. Let them deny that 25 per cent of all unemployment in past months has been in the building trade and that that unemployment was deliberately brought about by a credit squeeze and high interest rates. Let them deny that they created the inflation which they deliberately set out to create.
Let me give the Senate a classic example of the situation, namely, the change in interest rates over a 2-year period. In 1972 the long term bond rate was 6.01 per cent. In that year the 10 year bond rate was 5.78 per cent. Today the market rate is 9.5 per cent. The 2 year bond rate in 1972 was 4.68 per cent; today it is 8.55 per cent. In 1 972 interest rates on housing loans from savings banks ran at 6.25 per cent to 7 per cent; they are now running at 10 per cent. Housing loans from building societies ran at about 8.75 per cent; they are now 11.75 per cent. The overdraft rate at 7.75 per cent; it is now running at 1 1.5 per cent. Commercial lending rates have gone up to 1 8 per cent, 19 per cent and 20 per cent. This has happened under a Government that came into office with a pledge to reduce interest rates.
Against this background the Government deliberately set out to deflate the building industry, to create a cut across the board in the protected manufacturing industries of Australia. Those industries have not recovered from this. As I have said, it is documented that the Government stated that it intended to do this. Two arguments were put forward last night. One was that the Keynesian argument was being pursued by the Government and that it would work because the circumstances were identical to those which John Maynard Keynes, or Lord Keynes, advocated. I would be interested to know whether the government claims that it is using Keynesian economics and whether it regards the circumstances of today as identical with those outlined by Keynes.
Secondly, we were told last night that basically the present rate of inflation was due to the fact that an excess of money had been put into the public arena by the former Liberal-Country Party Government in the early 1 973 period.
-Well, put in in 1972 and injected throughout 1973. Since Senator Gietzelt nods his head, and if he assumes that that argument is correct, why then was the 1 973-74 Budget a major and massive expansionary one? Why then in the knowledge of this large injection of money into the community was there not a mopping up of money? Why then can one search Hansard reports and the public documents for the whole of that year and not find one complaint from the Government after it had taken over that there was too much money in the community? Why did the Government, when it came into office, start a massive spending spree during the first half of the year and overspend beyond the budgeting of the previous Government? If the thesis is that there was too much money and it was incipient in creating the inflation, why was it not dealt with and why did the Government throw petrol on the fires? I think that this should be nailed right now.
John Maynard Keynes put forward his thesis at a time when I was a student and when the world was in one of the greatest depressions of all time- the 1936-39 period. As an economics student I was able to study the practical situation of a great depression and I also had the privilege of learning something of that very great man. At the time interest rates were 1 per cent, 2 per cent or 3 per cent. An industrialist or a commercial operator had no problem in getting hold of money. Such people had no problem in getting a return on their money if money could be put into the community to stimulate people to buy their goods. Therefore the situation of the Keynesian times was that there was unemployment but absolutely no unwillingness on the part of the manufacturer- in fact there was complete willingness- and no obstacle placed in the way of the manufacturer setting to work to stimulate growth if he could get consumers to buy his goods. To say that the situation in which we find ourselves today is a Keynesian concept and to put more and more public money into the community in the face of the facts of life would make Keynes rotate in his grave, and well he would.
The simple situation is that this Government has costed the manufacturing industry out of profitable existence. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) have admitted that today the key to getting a restimulus of the community is to get profitability back into manufacturing. Does the Labor Party deny this? Are members of the Labor Party comparing the depression years when interest rates were 2 per cent or 3 per cent with the situation today where commercial interest rates are running at 17 per cent, 18 per cent or 19 per cent? Does the Labor Party not understand a simple fact- that if there is to be long term reemployment in the end that re-employment must be in the private sector, or does it say that it proposes to sustain indefinitely the 200,000 people who could be taken up now? Where is the Government to re-employ these people? Are they to be substantially re-employed in the private sector or in the public sector? It is quite clear that when industry faces, as it does today, inflation running at 17 per cent to 20 per cent and interest rates running at 1 1 per cent, 12 per cent or 13 per cent, it Will not attract capital investment because the return on capital is destroyed by the inflation of the day. Until such time as you can reduce inflation so that there is a net gain of profitability you will not restore incentive to industry or the conditions of re-employment.
The situation about which the Government is talking and which it is advocating- that is, that by a continuous infusion of government expenditure it will inflate itself out of unemployment- is the reverse of the truth. The higher the rate of the growth of public expenditure now, the higher the sustained unemployment in this country in the long run. That is true in the long run because high and record inflation will create and sustain record unemployment. Although in the month or two ahead there may be some minor resurgence in the unemployment figures, let nobody doubt that next year, unless real steps are taken to deal with unemployment and inflation, Australia will have the combined chronic situation of record unemployment and record inflation. If Professor Arndt is to be believed- and he is supported by an overwhelming number of economists in Australiathe Government will be facing a kind of inflation for the March- June period next year the like of which Australia has never seen. It is fascinating to note that not one economist in
Australia spoke out in contradiction of Professor Arndt. The silence of the economists, who are not noted for their silence in these matters, must be acknowledgement. I repeat this assertion because it is fundamental.
The Opposition is implacably committed to the restoration of full employment, which was its sustained policy. It knows that we cannot get full employment unless we can tackle inflation to such an extent that profitability is restored to those industries which are necessary for the reemployment of those who are unemployed. We read emotional statements in the paper by the Australian Labor Party people that they will not worry about inflation, they will not care how it goes because they are considering only the employment of these unemployed people. They are doing the reverse. The more they inflate, the more they disemploy. Keep in mind the fundamentals of this situation. The Labor Party created the unemployment and the inflation. Let us look at and test this statement. W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd in recent days published the results of a survey which related particularly to the building industry. If my memory is correcttrie survey is certainly supported by other surveysit indicated that the home dwelling construction industry would remain depressed for substantially the remainder of this year. Since it is axiomatic that one-quarter of all the unemployed come from the building industry- it is the building industry that is being destroyed- the survey shows a solid core of chronic unemployment which will persist throughout the year. I have cited the statistics in the Senate. We know that this year, on a projection from the past, we ought to be building 180 000 domestic dwellings. At the present rate of construction we will be lucky to build 105 000 dwellings. We will carry the lag of 75 000. In that time all those people who were deliberately put out of employment by this Government will be kept disemployed because of the quite stupid and quite narrow minded viewpoint of the Government on economics.
I put 2 points. Let nobody raise here Lord Keynes’s name in justification of the Government. To do so illustrates a complete misunderstanding of the facts. Let nobody talk about this inflation being created by a previous Government. When we left office the Treasury Paper of March 1 973 said- I wonder whether the Government will contradict it- that inflation was 4.7 per cent and falling. Was the Treasury wrong on this matter? In March 1 973 the Treasury predicted a fall, not a rise, in inflation. I repeat that if the Government wants to use and rattle round again that old chestnut that we injected too much money into the economy, why did not the Government pipe it out in its 1973-74 Budget? Why did the Government innate rapidly throughout the whole of the calendar year 1973? Let me illustrate the kind of record which this Government has in terms of housing. In 1974, the year just finished, building society loan approvals were down 39.8 per cent on the figure for the previous year. Savings bank loan approvals were down 13.5 per cent on the figures for the previous year. Cost of building materials in the December 1974 quarter was up 22 per cent compared with the figures for the previous December quarter. Dwelling commencements fell by 31.3 per cent between the December quarter in 1973 and the same quarter in 1974. Dwelling completions were 2.5 per cent lower in the December quarter than they were for the same quarter of 1 973. Dwelling approvals were 34 per cent lower in January 1 975 that they were in January 1 974.
This is the record of a government which states that it is out to employ people. This is the record of a government which is talking about full employment and which, if I may say so, finds cheer in the March quarter consumer price index- the CPI- which has just been issued. I read to the Senate an extract from the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of Tuesday, 22 April, which puts these things better than I do. This newspaper does not always reflect the Opposition’s views. It states:
On the face of it Dr Cairns, Australia ‘s Treasurer, is talking utter nonsense when he says, as he did yesterday, that the rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index is stabilising.
On an annual basis, the CPI released yesterday records that inflation is accelerating.
At the end of March it was running at an annual rate of 1 7.6 per cent. At the end of December the figure was 16.3 per cent- at the end of September last year it was 1 6 per cent and just 12 months ago the figure was 13.6 percent.
Let the Government speakers who follow say that it is wrong in this argument. Everybody knows that the Government has relied on one argument, and one argument alone, and that is that the figures for the March quarter were down on the figures for the December quarter. It fails to tell the public of Australia that the March quarter each year always shows a record low. Lest we should be using the wrong kind of figures, I remind the Senate that the figures for the March quarter this year showed a CPI increase of 3.6 per cent, compared with the March quarter figure for last year of 2.4 per cent. Is an increase from 2.4 per cent to 3.6 per cent a substantial increase? Could anybody possibly say that there is some stabilisation? In the face of the fact that the grocery industry or the food industry in Australia made an announcement in recent days that in the months immediately ahead the price of food and groceries would be rising by 20 per cent, could anybody say that there is any likelihood of a stabilisation of costs?
The Government is creating a socialist illusion. It has created this transfer by inflation of spending from the private sector to the public sector, because this is the socialist illusion. Inflation is an instrument of transfer. It is an instrument for using the phenomenal growth in the money supply to transfer expenditure into the public sector and to deny it to the private sector. The previous Treasurer, Mr Crean, said in his Budget Speech last year that this would be an opportunity to increase public sector expenditure. He saw in it a virtue. There is no virtue in a situation of gross unemployment, high inflation and mopping up unemployed people by employing more and more in the Public Service. The only achievement that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) seems to have made is to put more and more people into his own Department and to have more officials administering these schemes which are costly and achieve virtually nothing.
Against this background, let me set out the situation with which we are faced and to which Senator Cotton referred last night. He said that a projection of the estimated deficit this year, of between $2,300m and $2, 500m into the expenditure for next year would produce a deficit of about $4,000m. Allied to Professor Arndt ‘s figures, this is a devasting situation and one which cannot be allowed to continue. In the ordinary thesis of economics, it is not just the size of the deficit that matters but the relation of the deficit to the overall spending of the Government. In this case, the overall spending of the Government is increasing with the overall deficit. If, as I think Senator Cotton mentioned, there is some thought by the Government that it can finance itself out of a paper deficit by some increase in overseas borrowings, an agglomeration of Middle East loan moneys or something of that nature -
– Going to the Arabs.
-Yes, that will be an even-handed policy. I instance the Government’s even-handedness in Saigon and in Israel. The even-handedness of the Government’s economic policy will be to take some public works items out of the revenue accounts and put them into the capital accounts and then say: ‘See, we have reduced spending; we have reduced the deficit’. The simple fact of the matter is that if one borrows $2,000m from overseas and uses it for public expenditure one increases the paper money of the community just as surely as if one turned the handle. This is no idle situation about which we should talk and use any form of demagoguery. The fact is that we are moving into a year which every major economist has predicted could be a critical year for Australia. Australia, of all countries, has been virtually untouched by the oil crisis. As yet we have been virtually unharmed, although if we do not find more oil we will be greatly harmed. Only 20 per cent of all the commodities that we use are affected directly or indirectly by overseas prices; the other 80 per cent of commodities are produced in Australia. So, we ought to have survived the present world situation better than any other country.
It appears as though next year in the field of inflation rates Australia will be the record breaker. Honourable senators should remember the warning of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. We should reemploy people steadily and permanently. We should not just employ them on raking leaves or in public works programs which is merely pretending to give them jobs, or pay them for not working, as Mr Cameron’s mind runs to so rigidly these days. People should be given gainful, dignified and respectable jobs in which they can earn money, create for the community and put in all their efforts. If we are to do this, then we must, of course, look to commerce and industry. We must create a climate in which commerce and industry will regain confidence and in which investment will give a return and, in giving its return, create jobs for people.
The Labor Party is obsessed with its opposition to this thing called ‘profit’. The Government has a prejudice against this thing called profit’, along with its other prejudices. Incidentally, some of the Government’s prejudices seem to have disappeared now. We do not hear about the wickedness of foreign capital, because the Government might need foreign capital to balance the Budget. I take it that the Government will not knock back overseas money if it means that the Budget can be balanced. We heard all these shibboleths. As I said in the Senate only recently, what a long haul it is from a party that was elected in all sorts of cant and prejudice to one that offered the Leyland plant at Rosebery for purchase by the Communist Chinese Government. The Government believes that we should have no foreign ownership in Australia. What a lot of cant from the Party whose great Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, proudly acknowledged the
Australian car- the Holden- manufactured by General Motors-Holden ‘s Pty Ltd. It is the Party which now rubbishes General Motors-Holden ‘s. It now says that the Holden is not an Australian car and that General Motors-Holden ‘s is not an Australian company; it is a wicked multinational company.
-Isn ‘t it?
- Mr Chifley was wrong, was he?
– There were Australian shareholders then.
-So, Mr Chifley was wrong, was he? Look how honourable senators opposite rise now to the bait when I remind them of the days when good, decent, honest Labor men talked good, decent, honest things.
The Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) is in a frenzy because he does not know whether the Government will allow a Japanese company- a foreign company- to set up a plant to manufacture cars when already, apparently wickedly, we have the General Motors-Holden, Ford and Chrysler companies. Now we are to have another company. The Government is doing somersaults every day. I could not believe my ears when I heard it reported this morning that Dr Cairns, on his way elsewhere, to the dolce vita, had said that there must be some restraint in Government spending and some control of the amount of money in the public arena. Only 2, 3 or 4 days ago he said the reverse in another place. What kind of nonsense do we have at the moment? Our Ministers spend so much time overseas that they are expatriates. They ought, to be examined by the Standing Committee on National Development and Ownership and Control of Australian Resources because they seem to be more subjected to foreign control and influence than to Australian control and influence. What kind of a situation do we have when no one in the Government can articulate these things?
– Or in the Opposition.
-Senator Gietzelt acknowledges it. He says: ‘Yes; or in the Opposition’. He says that the Opposition is as bad as the Government because I said that no one in the Government has any policy.
– Do not misquote me.
-Senator Gietzelt is trying to talk himself out of it. He acknowledged that the Government has no policy. As Senator Gietzelt will be speaking after me in this debate, I ask him rhetorically: What is the Government’s policy to reduce inflation in Australia? I ask him to tell me and this Senate what are the specific points of policy to reduce inflation? What is the Government’s policy? Is it to resist foreign ownership and foreign capital? Is the Government going to resist the inflow of foreign capital? Is it going to reject foreign capital for its own public spending? Is it going to resist foreign owned, multinational companies entering the automotive industry? What is happening? Is the Government going to reduce interest rates, or is the prediction of W D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd and others correct that interest rates are about to rise again? Above all, do Senator Gietzelt and the Government reject Professor Arndt? Is Professor Arndt, formerly the god of economic theses of the Labor Party, wrong in his projection that inflation may be at 30 per cent to 35 per cent in the year ahead? These are the questions that should be asked and these are the questions that need to be answered. I am speaking in this debate on the Appropriation Bills only because, in an atmosphere in which Government spending has gone up by 45 per cent this year and in which it is predicted that Australia will be at a point of dire crisis next year, the Government must stand up and be counted with regard to its specific policies and must now articulate to us what it intends to do. The Government gets itself into a clever rhetorical situation. It says: ‘Every time you talk about steadying or restraining Government spending, you, the wicked Opposition, are talking about cutting things’. I suggest that the Government had better look to its own Prime Minister.
– What about cutting your time a bit?
-I know that it hurts and I know that Senator Poyser would like -
– I know that we have an agreement on speaking times, too.
– Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me say that no agreement was communicated to me, and I asked if there was an agreement. So perhaps Senator Poyser could tell me now, or privately, what this agreement is.
– I understood from your Whip -
– I do not want any side bargains at the moment. Let them do it behind the Chair. On a matter which is as important as this economic matter I will not be shoved off because the Government says that it wants to get home at 5 o’clock.
– Have a look at the baggage of all the Opposition senators downstairs.
– The hours of this session and the scheduling of this legislation were arranged by the Government. If ever there was a dilatory government which wasted the last few weeks and could not program itself so that it ran a bottleneck this week, it is this Government. This Government takes the blame if I am to be denied the right to talk here for the people of Australia who are unemployed or have been ground into the dust by high interest rates. I talk for a coalition Party which, in government, was responsible for the lowest unemployment ever, the lowest inflation ever and the highest home ownership ever. I am now talking to a government Party which on all these scores, to its eternal discredit, has the worst record ever.
– As I rise to take part in this debate on the Appropriation and Supply Bills, may I in the first place offer my congratulations to Senator Bunton who last evening made his maiden speech in this chamber? I believe that he chose a most pertinent subject. He chose to discuss the history and the importance of federalism in the Australian scene. I can think of no more appropriate time or circumstance for a senator in this place to talk about the concept of federalism, which is under some considerable threat today.
I have entered this debate to take the opportunity to expose further some of the appropriation and expenditure problems that are confronting many, if not all, shire and municipal councils in my own State of New South Wales in particular and across the whole of Australia. On Monday of this week I asked a question concerning the problems of these councils. At the moment the question is only partly answered. It was the opinion of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) that the question concerned 2 or 3 other departments. So it must have been a question of some importance and relevance to have been given that description. I believe that as Australians and as members of the Parliament in the national capital we must be aware that councils across the land, particularly in New South Wales, have already laid off significant numbers of people and are on the point of being forced to lay off further employees who have particular skills and, in many cases, long terms of employment.
There are 2 major inter-related reasons for the cut back and for the problems that these councils are facing in their major works of maintaining and developing the communication systems of this country. In the first place, their problems are related directly to the significant cut in the real allocations that have been made to them to cover in particular rural and country roads. In the second place, they are related to the very question to which Senator Carrick has been devoting himself so eloquently in the last few minutes, which is that in the last few months inflation in this country has been running at 1 7.6 per cent. That figure is right in the forefront of inflation rates in the Western world, and is a level of inflation which, as Senator Carrick has pointed out, has been born, bred and nurtured in this country in the remarkably short period of Vh years. Those are the 2 basic problems which are causing the troubles that these councils are finding in the execution of their work as the maintainers and developers of the communications system, at least with regard to roads, in Australia.
To illustrate the problem from the point of view of the cut down in allocations, I wish to cite briefly the circumstances of one typical shire council in the central tablelands area of New South Wales. Scores and scores of similar councils right across the land are in similar circumstances. In this council the allocation of funds for rural roads in the year previous to the current period was $ 1 20,000. In the current year the allocation has been cut to $70,000. That is bad enough in itself. But if we add to the figure of $120,000 an amount which will bring it up to a realistic figure of requirement, having regard to the inflationary content of the economy, that figure should be $ 1 50,000. So the council is faced with less than 50 per cent of its requirement to maintain only the status quo in the maintenance and the development of its road system. That circumstance is bad enough, but when one examines the consequences of that sort of cut in actual moneys available to that shire and realises that it is a common circumstance across the country, the situation becomes even more severe.
I would like to cite the sorts of matters which will illustrate the operations of that council as a result of its financial problems which are related to the Commonwealth Government funds available to it. In the current year there will be no new bitumen sealing in that council area. All reconstruction of gravel surfaces in preparation for intended sealing will cease. All reconstruction to upgrade gravel roads not intended for sealing will also cease. All maintenance gravelling previously financed from the grants maintenance percentage will also cease. The only types of work which is practicable from Commonwealth funds will be patching operations on bitumen roads and the maintenance of a resealing program on a 10 year cycle. Bitumen roads in that area cover approximately 123 miles of a total of 450 miles of roads. That is a pretty sad outlook for one shire council, which I believe to be typical of scores of others.
The other problem of shire councils with regard to roads in particular is the increase in inflation. This reveals itself in the costs which are a result of spiralling wages and salaries. It also reveals itself in the immense increase in the cost of new equipment and new capital assets. In the last two to three years the prices of the types of materials and equipment needed have spiralled to such an amazing extent that one must ask oneself the question: Is the Prices Justification Tribunal an effective restraint on prices, or could it be that competition within a proper measure of legal restraint is the most effective method of controlling prices that this country or any other country has found to this point?
In this context I shall refer briefly to some of the statements that the Minister for Transport, the Honourable C. K. Jones made, at a meeting in Sydney last Friday, in answer to many questions about local government finance. To a question concerning the amount of moneys available from Commonwealth funds for rural and country roads, he said that in fact 59 per cent of the total allocation of Commonwealth funds for roads was available for the construction, development and maintenance of rural and country roads. He compared this figure of 59 per cent with the figure of 45 per cent which was allocated for this purpose in the previous year, which was the last year of the Commonwealth aid roads grants. Because this figure of 59 per cent was repeated a number of times by the Minister I take this opportunity to indicate the deceptive character of that sort of figure. That allocation of 59 per cent, which is reputedly available for rural and country roads, includes an allocation of not less than 35 per cent which is available for national highways alone, so the reduction in the allocation for rural or country roads is from 45 per cent to approximately 24 per cent. This represents a significant and major cause of the problems that are faced by local government councils in their road commitments, to their ratepayers and to all other Australians who use their roads. The figure of 59 per cent is a totally deceptive one.
I make it quite clear that I, my Party and the Opposition have no argument with the concept of a national highways system. It is a most important development in the context of Australian road communications. If this system is to be financed by subtracting the moneys spent on it from the allocation made for other areas of road construction, it will create the very problems that are created now in local government areas. Once again I indicate that the suggestion that 59 per cent of the total allocation of Commonwealth funds for roads is now available for rural and country roads compared with a figure of 45 per cent previously is a mischievous distortion of the facts. In New South Wales there are about 104 000 miles of roadways. If one relates the national highway mileage of 872 miles hi New South Wales to that figure of 104 000 miles one finds that national highways represent about 0.08 per cent of the total road mileage in New South Wales. If it is thought that that is an unfair comparison, I will relate the national highway mileage to the mileage of rural arterial roads, classes 1, 2 and 3, which are really significant roads. There are about 20 060 miles of rural arterial roads in New South Wales. Relating the 872 miles to that we find that national highways represent about 4 per cent of the total rural arterial roads in New South Wales. So in actual fact, 35 per cent of the total allocation of Commonwealth funds for roads in New South Wales is being devoted to 4 per cent of the major roads in New South Wales, or 0.08 per cent of the total road mileage in that State. A similar circumstance undoubtedly would exist in the other States of the Commonwealth.
Having established the problems regarding road maintenance and development and the incapacity of councils to confront those problems because of those 2 major reasons- the cut in the allocation of funds and the inflationary circumstance caused by economic mismanagement- I will turn now to what, I suggest, is a constructive way in which to solve part of the problem. I refer again to the employment situation, and to the probability that in the near future considerable numbers of highly skilled staff with long experience will be laid off by councils. I suggest that it would be an intelligent and important move by the Government to ensure that the moneys provided under the Regional Employment Development scheme are made available to councils to enable them to maintain in employment those people threatened with redundancy, even if those people have to work for the councils within the guidelines of the RED scheme. I believe this would be somewhat unfortunate but, if that is the only way it could be done, it would be best to do it that way. In doing that the councils will save those employees from getting into an extremely difficult and unfortunate situation. The councils will prevent those employees having a break in their employment history. Consequently, the employees will not be faced with the problem of losing superannuation and long service leave entitlements.
If that sort of a solution appears to be an impossible one to the Government, I can only stress it is urgent that in the very near future the Government should make available special grants to enable these councils to retain their employees who have long service and considerable skills. I suggest also that by taking this course the Government would create the situation in which there would be a capacity to hold the rate situation, because the rate situation is a terrible nightmare to councils and, more particularly, to ratepayers. In Australia there is no capacity for ratepayers to bear a greater burden than they are already bearing. If the sorts of solutions that I have suggested were introduced, I believe that those councils at least would be able to maintain the status quo as regards the maintenance and development of roads, and that they would not be forced once again to attempt to raise their rates. In this situation it is crucial we realise that in this economy there is no capacity for the people to absorb still higher rates.
In closing, I shall make a brief survey of the industries in the major part of rural Australia to indicate still further the incapacity of Australians to bear a. greater rate burden and, consequently, the need for Government to accept its responsibility in this area of road maintenance and development. I need not concentrate on the beef industry. The conditions and the extreme urgency of the situation in the beef industry are well known. There is an urgent necessity for the Government to take a much closer look at this industry. Permanence is part of the scene in this industry. The present circumstances in the Australian industry, which basically are outside the control of the Government or the industry, must be overcome because no one would suggest that the industry does not have a real and profitable future for itself as an industry, and for the Australian economy as an economy.
I am glad, as every other member of rural society is glad, that there is a base, a form of stability in the wool market. We remember that that base was introduced into the market. Ofter I hear Government supporters talk about the value of this figure of 250c a kilogram for clean wool. Of course it is a valuable fact, but it is very much a minimum figure and we must not lose sight of that. We must remember, too, that this figure was introduced by the Australian Wool Corporation at a period when the world market price for wool had been allowed to fall to 235c a kilogram, or 15c below the basic block figure that was introduced into the market place. In fact, 4 months earlier than that there was considerable pressure on the Government to implement a 300c a kilo figure when the market price for wool was 315c. It is reasonable to assume that there would probably have been less certainty of having to buy in large amounts of wool when the market price was above the proposed minimum than when the market price had fallen to a point where it was 1 5c below the proposed minimum.
The wheat industry has enjoyed two good seasons and good world prices. It is just as well for the Australian primary producing economy that that is a fact. That is probably the only bright light on the present horizon but it, too, has to be looked at against a background of constantly rising costs and against a background of good harvests in the major producing countries of the world, namely, America, Canada, China and Russia. That could dramatically change the situation. In the minerals industry we have seen a disastrous decline. Because of the lack of compensation and incentive as a result of the Government’s economic policies, the Australian minerals industry is suffering an extreme period of depression. One of the significant, dreadful, and unbelievable features of this depression is that, with the Labor Government in office, the companies that have been most affected are the small and middle-sized Australian companies. These are the companies first to go to the wall as a result of the Government’s policies.
In aerial agriculture there is near stagnation. Because of the spiralling costs, machinery firms are seeing their rate of business fall away, and a general running down is found in the farm supply and general retail business. I want to make it clear that in these circumstances, as we are discussing appropriation and expenditure, it is important that we should look at the real circumstances of the economy we find around us, and I urge the Government to take particular notice of the areas to which I have referred, as they are among the most basic areas in this country’s economy.
– The Senate is debating Appropriation and Supply Bills that are designed to carry forward the Budget and the social welfare programs of the Government which were established in the 1974 Budget to which have been added new commitments the Government has entered into in the ensuing months. It is interesting that in this debate, and in the debate in the House of Representatives, no senator or member has been prepared to criticise the items listed in the Appropriation and Supply Bills or to suggest the deletion or reduction of those items. Rather we have been treated to the inevitable rantings and ravings of the knockers as frenzied speakers, one after another, have suggested that this Government has no understanding of the economic problems facing the country and is not endeavouring to face up to its responsibility to bring about the reallocation of resources and a more equal society.
Not one honourable senator has suggested that the defence quota in these Bills should be reduced, or that we should reduce the money paid to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Accounts, or to education areas, or to foreign affairs whether in areas of food assistance or aid to other countries. On numerous occasions honourable senators in this chamber have asked questions of the Government, suggesting that there should be some increase in these areas of public expenditure. Honourable senators who have raised local government questions and rural problems have themselves suggested some additional funding in those areas of public expenditure. Senator Carrick used his time, as he invariably does, to attack the basic policies of the Government in a most destructive way which does not assist the Government in solving the grave economic problems that face this country. At least Senator Carrick ‘s colleague, Senator Scott, admits that a problem faces the whole of the Western world.
Is it suggested by honourable senators that the economic problems that face this country are different from the economic problems that face countries that have conservative governmentsfor example, France or the United States. Do they suggest that governments with conservative philosophies are solving the economic problems in those countries, and that therefore the policies and philosophies of Opposition spokesmen in this country are capable of solving our problems? One must refer to the fact that the Opposition Parties have made many changes in their leadership in recent times. These changes have been made because those Parties have appreciated that the leadership was previously not making any impact and was not able to produce the sorts of policies designed to meet the economic wellbeing of this country. I suggest that, in his speech in the House of Representatives on 1 7 April, the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Fraser) has taken exactly the same stance as that taken in this place by Senator Carrick. Mr Fraser said:
In these circumstances, it is nonsense to suggest that the Opposition should say where and how it would curb the rate of Government expenditure when it comes to power.
Then, amongst a lot of philosophical meandering, he said: we would give high priority to allowing individual Australians a greater right to determine more of their own economic and social destiny.
Those fine words mean absolutely nothing. They are platitudes that have no consequence while those parties are in Opposition, and they would have no consequence should those parties, by some mischance, become the Government. Mr Fraser added:
We would give great priority to the continued improvement of education and to the provision of facilities for the disadvantaged. Their right to protection now- and following any further economic madness of this Governmentwould be preserved. We would give high priority to the right of the private sector to be able to make profits, whether they be large corporations or small one-man businesses.
So Mr Fraser echoes the same sort of mish-mash that was characteristic of his predecessor, Mr Snedden, whether as Leader of the Opposition Parties or as Treasurer. Of course, Senator Carrick lightly glossed over the fact that the increase in the money supply, which his Party was principally associated with in 1972, was a relevant factor in the inflation with which this Government has had to contend in its 2 years of office.
Without doubt in 1 972 the then Government increased the money supply by some 26 per cent. Undoubtedly Opposition members would have to concede that in the same period, in 1 97 1 -72, in which they had responsibility for the economy of this country they permitted an inflow of capital from overseas of more than $3,300m. So when we added this inflow of capital from overseas, as a result of favourable exports from our primary and secondary industries, to the increase in the money supply, it was inevitable that inflation would take off like a jet plane, and that is precisely what has happened. Honourable senators suggest that this Government is responsible for the present state of affairs, yet in 1973 we deliberately restricted the increase in the money supply to J per cent, compared to a 26 per cent increase in the preceding year. Senator Carrick went on to say that we were responsible for the credit squeeze. He cannot have it both ways. If we reduce the money supply in Australia clearly there is a shortage of money in circulation. Of course we are confronted with a position in a socalled free enterprise society in which a government has very limited powers and opportunities to control the private sector of the economy.
Like other honourable senators I am invariably restricted in debates on economic matters because of the excessive time that is taken up by Opposition senators and therefore I am restricted to only half the time that Senator Carrick had. I want to speak principally on the question of public expenditure and, I hope, to nail the lie put forward by the Opposition parties and their new found friend, the economist Milton Friedman, who suggested that the panacea for the problems of the economies of the Western countries resides solely in the area of reducing public expenditure. The fact is that when we examined public expenditure in Australia- I have been supplied with figures by the Statistical Group of the Parliamentary Library and I hope that honourable senators will take some cognisance of their reliability- the facts showed that the Australian Government is associated with only 35 per cent of public funding but the State authorities are associated with 55.6 per cent; the local authorities, to which today Senator Scott and last evening Senator Bunton referred, are associated with 9.3 per cent of public funding.
It is an incredible state of affairs that the senators from the parties opposite should take the view that all we have to do to right the state of the economy, which the Australian Government has very little power to determine because of the free enterprise philosophy that exists within this country, is for the Australian Government to reduce its expenditure. I put it to the Senate that this is a hypocritical and contradictory position to the philosophy even of the Liberal Party itself. I refer to the statement that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in June of last year when he suggested that if we were to curb inflationary trends in Australia it was essential for all governments to exercise some restraint in their public spending. Of course we all know that the Premiers, particularly the non-Labor Premiers, made a great hullabaloo about that advice which the Prime Minister gave at that time. I refer to some of their statement that have been published in the newspapers in the intervening few months. One report states:
The four non-Labor Premiers decided today to ask the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, for $420m more for the States.
Of this $300m would help them stop further increases in State taxes and charges and, when possible, enable them to reduce taxes.
The ‘West Australian’ of 5 February 1975 reported, referring to a statement by Sir Charles Court:
Western Australia will ask the Federal Government for about $30m-
Another article stated, referring to the meeting of the Premiers in February of this year:
Queensland’s success at the Premiers Conference on Friday was positive proof that negotiation could be more advantageous than confrontation, the Treasurer and Deputy Premier (Sir Gordon Chalk) said yesterday.
A jubilant Sir Gordon said Queensland had achieved what previously had been regarded as the impossible.
So one could go on from State to State giving example of what Mr Hamer, Mr Lewis and the other Premiers have said demanding financial assistance from this Government to expand their public works activities. Yet not once did we hear the Opposition senators suggesting to, or taking steps to influence, their State counterparts that they should exercise some restraint in this area of public expenditure.
The whole of the contribution in the House of Representatives and in the Senate by those who have taken the negative side, as distinct from the more positive point of view of the last speaker, Senator Scott, has been to suggest that the Commonwealth should in fact reduce its public spending. It is interesting that even in the $16 billion expenditure to which the Australian Government was committed in its 1 974-75 Budget program something in excess of $3,750,000 was earmarked to go to the States in direct grants. We are confronted with a situation in which unless we seriously control and exercise restraint on the growth of the money supply within our community inflation will take off again. These are the considerations which are exercising the Government’s mind at this time. If we were to increase the money supply to the degree which the previous Government did certainly there would be a continuation of the inflation which has been such a problem in recent years. A great deal more money would be circulating in our community than is there at the moment.
Of course this Government has taken quite energetic steps to see that capital inflow is restricted to exercise as much restraint as is within the powers provided by the Constitution to control the money supply within the community. It is not right for the Opposition senators to create the impression that the Government is responsible for the credit squeeze if at the same time they indicate that the Government should be increasing the money supply. If we increase the money supply, unless a great deal of restraint is exercised in this field, clearly the economy again will get out of focus. We cannot take much notice, I point out to Senator Carrick, of the predictions of Treasury. Even 2 previous leaders of the Liberal Party, both Mr McMahon and Mr Snedden, have pointed out the inadequate and incorrect advice given by the Treasury from time to time.
The Appropriation Bills will continue the social program of this Government. We know that the Bills will be favourably considered by the Senate because at long last the Opposition has seen fit to recognise its role in this place and to play a much more responsible part than it did in 1 974 when it stated that it would defeat the Government on the Appropriation Bills. I urge their adoption. I believe they will be pan of the program of the Government that will ultimately rectify the economic downturn which was the result not of this Government’s policies but of those of the previous administration.
-The preceding speaker, Senator Gietzelt, assured us that the Appropriation Bills will further the social programs of this Government and he lives blithely in the expectation that the Opposition will favourably consider those Bills. What language these hustlers from Sydney socialist conclaves indulge in. He said that the things done by the Government are the best it can do under the system. I ask: What system? Of course he refers to the free enterprise capitalist system, except insofar as the Government can convert it or subvert it to socialism in its worst form, as a most virulent disease. The Government attempts to inflict socialism upon the outgrowing produce of Australia, and delights in it. And now this Government is stinking in its melancholy rubbish. It is seeking to cast the innuendo that the time of its speakers is restricted on this debate. Why, Mr President? Because Mr Whitlam wants to take to the air tonight and the Treasurer of the day went overseas yesterday. Therefore, they remain mute and expect the Parliament to become impotent. The consideration of Appropriation Bills is the unique opportunity for an examination of the country’s financial predicament. For an Opposition to accept time limits on such an occasion, to me, would be most regrettable. The last year’s financial flirting in national policy has been really intriguing. If I were a writer of novels I would go to the facts, month by month, and they would make a fascinating and intriguing story. On 23 July 1974 the then Treasurer, Mr Crean, said:
Yet in the last 12 months inflation has ripped off well over $ 1,000m from the real value of savings bank depositsdeposits owned for the most part by the little people, the ordinary people of this country. That hidden and insidious tax, which of course falls also on all other savings through financial assets, goes largely unremarked.
This Parliament can sit in a year in which inflation is a danger threatening the destruction of the country, with a Press Gallery of two and a Press
Gallery not interested in the affairs of the country but interested only in test tube babies or obfuscated nonsense related to sex or something else. We accept that sort of thing with complacency. That is what Mr Crean was referring to. The point I want to make is the complacency of the Government benches, now mustering some three to listen to the debate, but no longer taking part in the debate, saying: ‘Rob $ 1,000m from the savings bank accounts of the country, the little people’. Senator Wheeldon sniggers and laughs in that almost congenital river of facial expression into which his perpetual sniggering has moulded him.
Last night or this morning we heard Senator Wriedt, representing the Treasurer, say that inflation had been imported. We know that at the end of December the national inflation, as registered by statistics, was 16.3 per cent. At 31 March the inflation rate was 17.6 per cent. Yet this Government can get meretricious publicity claiming that that is an improvement.
– The March hare.
-Quite right. The previous speaker said that inflation had taken a jet flight. I say that it has taken a flight among the bats going hell bent for the stinking gum trees.
– You are talking about the Country Party now.
-No, I am talking about the Labor Party. When it puts out lies of that sort, which even a kid could see through, there are people who print the material for the Press to perpetuate and propagate those lies- a meretricious Press that has no insight into or understanding of the realities which make this country. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ could take a lesson, because it is before the industrial tribunals now. It skated through the Prices Justification Tribunal only on the backs of the unions. When the unions supported its increases in prices, the good old socialist tribunal said ‘Of course’ to the Sydney Morning Herald’. But that will not always be the case, and it will not always be the case for others. They will fall victim to the evil that this Government’s policy is wreaking on the country.
Firstly, the Government took a courageous step and the Press reported it as a courageous step; but when has the Press ever reported the 25 per cent across the board reduction as a complete annihilation of Australia’s tariff policy? Why have we had a discerning Tariff Board and now an Industries Assistance Commission to listen to the individual affairs of industry after industry and to make selective judgments not only according to the circumstances of that industry but also as they alter from time to time? Yet under the Press of this country a government as gullible and ignorant as this one can introduce a 25 per cent tariff cut right across the board without criticism. This tariff cut has ruined the textile industry and almost ruined the motor vehicle industry. Now these geniuses are grasping for water in their efforts to get another multinational corporation established here and to succour the present multinational corporation, General Motors Holden ‘s Pty Ltd, with rebates of sales tax to keep it going on a day to day, feed back basis. General Motors-Holden’s is the company which the Government last year was castigating in terms from which one would have thought that the Government wished it would flee from the country.
Although the Government came in as a low interest rate government, what do we see? We see a doubling of interest rates- rates that used to be the badge of all the Shylocks in the country, the usurious commerce and everything that was odious. Of course, the Australian Journalists Association finds nothing to say with regard to interest rates. We do not need statistics. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd went on the market the other day and thought fit to offer not less than 13’/i per cent on term debentures. In my day, if a grocer had to pay 13Vi per cent on his stock or on his enterprise, he certainly would have gone broke, because he would have had to make his living over and above what he paid in interest, which is a cost to industry and which certainly is preventing entrepreneurs from continuing employment. When will this collection of gullible ignoramuses see the light? Cairns as a Treasurer! After Mr Crean made the statement to which I referred- a statement of insight and some faithfulness to policy, saying that in 12 months the savings bank depositors had lost $ 1,000m through the insidious and hidden tax of inflationwhat did we have? They assembled 24 strong in an economic committee under the presiding genius of Dr Cairns. They put forward the Budget that they were going to propagate, and of course the publicity was appropriately developed by their myrmidons of the Press.
Government senators- Ha, ha!
– Myrmidons is a very good word. They went into the Cabinet room, and Crean had only the rag tag and bobtail of a Budget left after Cairns had over-ridden him in the Cabinet and we had that deplorable Budget of September. A month later Whitlam was in a whimsy and did not know where he was. Some of
Cairns’ activities were devoted to the Treasury and finance, and Whitlam thought it was time to supplant Mr Crean with Dr Cairns. All things to all men when it is a question of money- Dr Cairns says: ‘I will not restrain Government expenditure if it will put only one man back into employment’. Well, if that is not a crazy outlook in these .circumstances when the Government had budgeted for an increase of expenditure of 34 per cent, now Dr Cairns has ratcheted it up on the ratchet principle.
– That is very unparliamentary language.
-The honourable senator will notice that I did not say ‘the racket principle’. On the ratchet principle it has gone from 34 per cent to 45 per cent in this day and generation. God help us. If my house were aflame and Cairns came with the fire brigade with his benzene quite obviously, yes, he would burn it down.
– Was this your house of ill-fame?
– I am not speaking now of government flats; I am speaking of the situation in relation to the economy. So we have the situation in which he is feeding inflation. We have endemic inflation- inflation of such an order that it is endangering the country. Those who now want to get alibis want to remember that in January this year the Prime Minister went on record and said that the cause of unemployment frankly was excessive wage demands. He said that inflation today was indubitably, primarily and almost solely due to wage claims and increases. He said also that excessive union wage demands had caused Australia’s unemployment and inflation crisis. He was even more specific. He said you could not blame Vietnam for the inflation in the Western world; you could not blame the oil crisis for inflation in Australia; you could not blame the takeovers- the takeovers about which we heard the pigeons fluttering in the dovecote in the previous 18 months- and you could not blame the currency rates for inflation. Last night it was said that we had imported inflation due to the fact that the Liberal Government had not properly and in a timely fashion altered the currency rates. Mr Whitlam went on and said that the blame had to be placed on wage claims.
Not only were Government supporters driven to that confessional. Subsequently they went to Terrigal. I do not know what terrible things went on there other than those that were published by the graces of the Press, but even so far as the Press provided an insight and an undistorted image of goings-on there, we have Dr Cairns saying that the system is our handicap but the Government has to support the system because profits in manufacturing and other industry are too low for entrepreneurs to continue to take the risk of costs and employment, and if the Government wants to create employment it has to enable private enterprise to get back to employment. We saw one Robert Hawke, President of the Australian Labor Party, being questioned on television. I forget who it was but it was the prototype of the Halfpennys or the Gietzelts or the Mundeys or somebody like that. Robert Hawke defended the situation that 75 per cent of our system was still private enterprise. He could scarcely reveal the undercurrent spirit he has that he hopes it will soon be converted to a more predominantly socialist structure but while we have 75 per cent unemployment we must try to play down those things that are damaging.
– Oh, break it down.
-I should have said 75 per cent private enterprise. Mr Hawke said that the Government had to play down those things which would damage its employment potential. How thoroughly carefree and pitiable is one instance of how the Government goes about doing it. The zinc works, finding its market subdued, it being the victim of a strike last year for 4 weeks- a strike encouraged by Labor politicians, the first strike in an excellent employment company in about 20 years or maybe 30 yearsfound itself on its knees in February this year and announced that it was necessary, if its costs were to be met, to retrench 400 personnel. So the Government made a provision in this Budget for payment to the zinc works company of some $750,000, the terms being that the retrenchment rate would be lowered as much as possible up to 31 August so that those employees could be filtered out gradually into other industries. Everybody sympathises with a graduated impact of that sort, but these people who sit opposite me in this chamber, at present some seven of them on the entire Government benches, are to represent an understanding of this situation. The Government decided to give that company $750,000 from its gradually valueless currency.
– Tell us what Friedman said about what happened in 1 972.
– It is just as well that Senator Walsh chipped in. I believe he is a farmer. He has referred to the superphosphate subsidy once or twice. I illustrate the complete stupidity and craziness of this policy by pointing out that the zinc works has been forced to suspend the superphosphate branch of its production. It was closed in February. That branch was responsible for employing about 100 personnel. Why? Because the geniuses who were advising tariff reform said: ‘If the Government provides a subsidy to produce superphosphate that will be money that the social services will not get. Cut it out.’
We warned the Government that the world price for superphosphate was about to increase. But that did not deter the Government. In the face of an obvious threat of increased prices for phosphate, the Government withdrew the subsidy and this resulted in the cost of the finished product, superphosphate, leaping by 50 per cent to 100 per cent. At present, it costs approximately $83 as against $45 previously. The consequence was that farmers, knowing that the subsidy was to be removed finally on 3 1 December, insofar as they could, stocked up on superphosphate supplies. On 1 January, we could scarcely see a truck coming in to get a bag of superphosphate. The price at which superphosphate will be offering for the next six or twelve months or even 2 years, together with the predicament in the general level of the rural economy, will mean that the demand for phosphate will be low. The necessity for the subsidy to be increased in those circumstances instead of, as sought by the disciples of Cairns, cutting it out was obvious. Although this would require the expenditure of some money, it is only a fool who advocates never spending money. If money is spent to produce and create the resources by which farmers can grow products, what is achieved is an economy in which money is being put to service as distinct from this situation where artificial employment is simply being promoted.
In every Labor State department the whisper has gone around: ‘Can you fill in a couple more jobs at this table; can you give a couple more people employment here?’, irrespective of the real purpose. We know that the size of departments is being inflated with artificial employment to try to get the Press to publish a false picture and not look below the surface. The Labor Government thinks that it can be just as superficial with regard to its presentation to the public as it is with the printing of money instead of producing goods.
These are the charges but for which I would not have risen. I will take only 2 minutes more and I do so out of deference to those who are to follow me in this debate. I wish to refer to the agreement that has been tabled today between Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government with regard to the takeover of Tasmania’s railway system. It is now apparent that the Neilson Government, horrified by the losses that it is making in its management, thinks that Tasmanian owned railways should be surrendered to the Commonwealth. It is a provision to this effect: From now on, the State railway management will be agent for and responsible to the Australian Government which will have full power on decisions concerning the operation of the railway including the services to be provided, fares and freight rates. The agreement then provides for consultation between the 2 governments and, in the case of any dispute as to the termination of railway services, arbitration.
Is that not typical of the Neilson Labor Government? Why have a government at all if it is to go to arbitration with the Commonwealth Government which supplies the money after that Government has given to the Commonwealth Government the power to say which routes and which rail services shall be run for the people of Tasmania? I bring that to attention while the iron is hot. The question concerns the right of Tasmania to control its railways. Provision is made in the agreement that the ownership of the railways and the fee simple of the freehold property of the railways are to be transferred to the Australian Government. Tasmania’s representation in the Senate is equal to that of any other State. In the other place, Tasmania has a representation of five out of a total number of 127. At present, unfortunately, Tasmania’s representatives there are 5 Labor ineffective representatives.
Can any Government justify a surrender of the power to control its railways as Tasmania has done when, if there is any justice in the country on the financial basis upon which States should be supported, this Commonwealth Government is bound to render financial assistance to Tasmania to enable it to run the railway services it thinks sufficient so that the economy of those railways is not too much out of line with other States. I submit that, in Australia’s predicament, the Opposition does not only not favour this Appropriation Bill but is deliberately critical of it; but as I understand the position of the Party, it is not proposed to reject the whole Bill. But I, for my part, will be submitting some items of obvious waste to the scrutiny and, I hope, the decision of this chamber.
-I rise to speak but very briefly on a subject that I hope I shall not need to raise again in the Senate. It is a subject which I have raised a number of times in the past. I feel that, at this point, just one more thing needs to be said in the interests of honesty and fairness to an individual outside the Senate who is involved in statements made here which, I believe, to have been not completely accurate. I am interested to note that in the appropriation for payments to or for the States there is at last some evidence of provision to give some assistance to Queensland in respect of this problem of locusts. It is not an issue involving a Federal subsidy and what that should or should not be that I raise. I wish to get into the Senate record a matter which I believe should be there and which came up in connection with this matter last year.
On a number of occasions, questions were asked in the Senate and on a couple of occasions there was a debate on this subject. On 1 1 July last year, I asked the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) a question relating to assistance to Queensland in the matter of the very serious locust plague which had broken out there. Some time later, on 16 October, Senator Milliner rose in the Senate and asked the Minister for Agriculture a question in relation to this matter. I think it is important that I give a number of quotations from Hansard including dates and other references so that the Senate may fully understand what I am talking about.
On 16 October, Senator Milliner asked the Minister for Agriculture this question without notice:
Has the Minister for Agriculture seen reports in the Queensland Press that the Australian Government, while assisting financially in the control of the plague locust, has refused funds to fight the spur throated locust swarms now threatening crops in Queensland?
What are the facts of the situation?
I shall give just part of the reply by the Minister. I ask honourable senators to believe that I am being honest and truthful about this matter. The reply was rather long. I refer only to that part of the reply which concerns me at this point in time. As part of his reply, Senator Wriedt said:
It is customary in relation to matters which are of concern within a State’s borders, and where that State seeks assistance from the Australian Government, that the State concerned approach the Federal Government on a Premier to Prime Minister basis. No such request has come forward to the Prime Minister in relation to this current outbreak in Queensland.
I must confess that at the time I was surprised by the answer. I understood that at that time an additional request had been made to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) along those lines. I subsequently spoke to the Minister outside the chamber and as a result asked him a question on 17 October on this matter. Part of the Minister’s reply is:
After I answered a question yesterday to the effect that no request had been received from the Queensland Premier, I learned that by a remarkable coincidence a request had come in that morning. Nevertheless, the presence of these locusts had been known for weeks and even months. The point I was making yesterday was that, despite Senator Martin ‘s question of perhaps 2 or 3 months ago and despite the presence of these locusts, no request had come from the Queensland Premier. I want to make that clear.
That day I placed a question on the notice paper in relation to this matter. I will discuss it later. Briefly it was pursuing the point of whether the Premier had in fact made a request earlier in the year or a number of requests for assistance, action which the Minister said had not taken place. On 12 November last year while debating Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) I referred to the matter of assistance to the Queensland Government on this point. In replying the Minister said:
In reply to some questions asked by Senator Martin over the past few weeks I indicated that the proper procedure should be adopted whereby the Queensland Government makes an approach to the Australian Government. Despite the presence of those locusts in Queensland no approach was made until a fairly late period.
At this point the record shows that I interjected and said:
The Premier claimed he wrote in April.
The Minister continued:
No approach was made until 16 October this year when the Premier of Queensland advised the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of the problem of locusts. There was no request for any financial assistance despite the fact that this Government is the first Federal Government in history to make finance available for the fighting of locusts in any of the States.
On 14 November, 2 days later, Senator Milliner again asked a question on the subject. I was absent from the Senate all day and had no opportunity to take the matter up at the time. Senator Milliner’s question was:
As opponents of the Australian Government are peddling stories in Queensland that the Premier of Queensland, the Honourable Joe Bjelke-Petersen, requested the Prime Minister in March this year to make funds available to combat locust plagues then threatening Queensland, will the Minister for Agriculture indicate whether such statements have any basis in fact whatsoever?
Senator Wriedt replied:
I did indicate during the course of a debate in the Senate on Tuesday that it was not until October of this year that any approach was made by the Premier of Queensland for assistance in respect of locust problems in that State. It is quite incorrect to say that any approach was made before that.
I repeat what I said a moment ago. At the time I had a question on the notice paper and in view of the content of that question there seemed to me to be no point in my pursuing the matter until I received an answer to my question. As I said, the question went on the notice paper on 1 7 October 1974. In late December, after the Senate had risen, I received an answer to my question by mail at my office. The answer to this question has never been recorded in Hansard. I want it to be recorded in view of the other statements that were made by the Minister on this subject on a number of occasions last year. I do not know that it is necessary for me to read through the whole question and answer. Part of the question related to correspondence between the Premier and the Prime Minister on this subject and other parts of the question related to the terms of agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments and costs. I should like to read out part of the question and answer, but I seek leave to have the total question and the total answer incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
asked the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The question of Australian Government financial assistance to Queensland for locust control has been raised on a number of occasions. I refer in particular to my comments during a debate in the Senate on Tuesday, 12 November 1974, which was related to requests for assistance to combat the current locust threat in central Queensland. The answers, Senator Martin, to your specific questions which concern the outbreak occurring in the autumn of this year are as follows:
On 10 April 1974 the Premier approached the Prime Minister for Australian Government assistance to help combat the outbreak of spur-throated locusts. He stated that ‘the basic requirement in locust control operations in central Queensland at present is manpower’ and ‘fifty two-man teams are considered the present requirement’. The Prime Minister on 1 1 April 1974 advised the Premier that 100 men and spray equipment would be made available.
– I wish to emphasise to the Senate certain parts of the question and answer. I refer to the first 2 parts of the question, which ask:
The relevant answers were incorporated a moment ago. The answers appear clear enough but do not square entirely with what the Minister said in several statements to the Senate. Some small elaboration is necessary. Honourable senators who have heard debates and questions on the subject will recall that the actual scheme which has been set up refers to a particular species of plague locust. There are four types of plague locust. I do not want to go into all those details. They have been covered many times. I believe that the impression has been tried to be given that it was firstly the Premier’s own fault. In fact my understanding of the correspondenceI am afraid I am not in possession of copies- is that the initial letter in March was a straight request for funds on a matching basis, if necessary, from the Australian Government. The answer referred to the Australian plague locust. Since there are four species of plague locust in Australia it is perhaps not unnatural to assume that while the Premier and the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries may well have been aware of the four species they were not aware that the terms of the answer were such as to duck an obligation and not to make the matter clear to the Premier.
– May I interrupt? Did the Minister answer Senator Milliner and say that no request at all had been made?
– The Minister was quite unequivocal in his answer, Senator Greenwood. He said:
It is quite incorrect to say that any approach was made before that.
He was referring to an approach made in October.
– There is a bit of explaining to be done.
– If I might explain just briefly- this is not entirely on the point- I acquainted the Minister’s office that 1 intended raising the subject in the Senate this afternoon and indicated that the Minister might like to be here to hear my speech. At the time of Senator Milliner’s last question on the subject on 12 November a State election campaign was under way in Queensland. In many ways it was a very unpleasant campaign, in terms of different individuals making statements and cross statements about what undertakings had been given between the Queensland Government and the Australian Government, what funds had been made available, on what conditions and to whom. In this case it is quite clear that the Premier sincerely attempted in March and April to act in the best way that he could. He sought funds. Funds were not given. Manpower was made available, but the cost of feeding and accommodating the men and of providing the means to combat the locust plague were not provided by the Australian Government. It just made men available. That was a help, but it was not in terms of the original sort of assistance that the Premier sought.
I think the Premier probably quite sincerely believed that his original approach had been rebuffed. It was only when the point was pursued at quite some length in the Senate later in the year that the approach was made in that specific form. There can be no doubt at all that, contrary to the sorts of stories that were attempted to be put across about the Premier last year, particularly during the State election campaign, he did sincerely make an approach to the Prime Minister in March and April. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to record that fact in Hansard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
– We now proceed to deal with the groups of departments covered by Estimates Committee A. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee A be passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
-We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee B. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee B be passed without requests.
– I rise in order to seek some information in relation to the estimates for the Department of Services and Property. I do not think the relevant Minister is here. Nevertheless, during the course of the discussion in Estimates Committee B of the estimates which are contained in the group the Committee of the Whole is now considering, I asked certain questions with regard to expenditure relating to the rental of premises with which the Department of Services and Property is concerned. I seek information, if it is available, as to when that information will be provided. I have looked through the report of the Committee and there appears to be no indication that any of the information is forthcoming or as to when it will be forthcoming. I simply ask the relevant Minister whether he is able to give any information.
– The relevant Minister is Senator Willesee, who, of course, is in Washington on Government business. I assume that he was the Minister who handled the matter when it was discussed before Estimates Committee B. The matter has not been mentioned to me or, as far as I know, to Senator Wriedt. All I can do is undertake to refer the matter to Senator Willesee and to see that the information sought by Senator Greenwood is provided, if it can be provided.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee C. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee C be passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee D. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee D be passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee E. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee E be passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee F. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee F be passed without requests.
– This is the group which deals with the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department. I desire to refer to some of the matters which are referred to in the estimates with respect to grants for legal aid. There is a sum of $250,000 which is sought as an additional appropriation for existing legal aid services. This is a matter upon which I sought further information from the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) who represented the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) at the meetings of Estimates Committee F. The effort to obtain this information was unsuccessful. But I think the fact that the effort was made and that the replies are not forthcoming warrants the matter being raised in the Committee of the Whole.
I speak specifically with regard to the State of Victoria and the fact that in February of this year a promise was made by the Attorney-General to the Victorian Attorney-General that the sum which was appropriated last year by the Parliament for existing legal aid services would be distributed, as far as Victoria was concerned, in a sum of $307,682. It was stated in the letter which was written on 12 February that the cheque would be despatched shortly. The exact words were:
A cheque will be forwarded shortly to the State.
I sought to have this matter clarified. I believe that it was sought to be clarified in the House of Representatives before the Estimates Committee met. I was aware, for example, that when the money had not been forwarded to the State of Victoria consultations took place at a departmental level between Victorian officials and officials of the Attorney-General’s Department. Victoria was not able to be given any assurance either as to when the money would be forthcoming or as to whether the Attorney-General’s promise would be honoured.
On 16 April I asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General in this place when the money would be paid to the State of Victoria. I think that the kindest thing that can be said is that the question was absolutely ignored and no answer was forthcoming. The Attorney-General was asked a similar question in another place and he indicated, after a vilification of the state of legal aid and its conduct in Victoria, that the Commonwealth had offered a sum of $307,682 to the State of Victoria. I make the point that the letter which I have quoted is not expressed in terms of an offer; it is expressed in quite clear terms, namely, ‘A cheque will be forwarded shortly to the State’. That undertaking followed this statement in the letter:
I have pleasure in advising you that I have approved a grant of $307,682 to the State of Victoria to supplement existing legal aid schemes.
Yet, having written in those terms, the AttorneyGeneral chooses to tell the House of Representatives that he has offered the State of Victoria that sum of money. He indicated further in his reply that the money was not being paid because he expected that certain conditions would be observed and, those conditions not being observed, it was implicit that the money would not be paid.
It certainly is true that in the letter which was sent to the State of Victoria a condition was expressed: The grant to Victoria was subject to, firstly, the condition that there should be consultations between representatives of the State, the Law Institute and the Australian Legal Aid Office to avoid duplication of the services of the Australian Legal Aid Office, including those provided by regional offices, and to ensure that the regional offices are used as agents for other legal aid services where possible and, secondly, some conditions with regard to accounting provisions. But it was apparent from the words which were used by the Minister- the honeyed words that suggested that all that was being looked for was some consultation- that unless Victoria did what the Minister required the money would not be forthcoming. I think the significant thing which ought to concern the Committee and which ought to concern us when we are considering appropriations, is that Ministers have no power to impose conditions upon the expenditure of moneys which the Parliament has passed without any conditions. Section 96 of the Constitution empowers the Parliament of the Commonwealth to make grants to the States on such conditions as the Parliament lays down. This amount of money was granted last year by the Parliament without any conditions to existing legal aid services. The Minister has used the power of the purse to impose upon the dispatch of this money to Victoria conditions which he has no authority to lay down. Is it any wonder that from time to time the States express their annoyance in fairly blunt terms at the way in which the Commonwealth is standing over them? There is no doubt that the Commonwealth is seeking to impose upon the States certain conditions by what I would call the standover tactics which gangsters of another country employed.
I raise this matter because I still believe it is important that Victoria receive the money which is to be forwarded to it for its existing legal aid scheme. The Minister, Senator James McClelland, is well aware of events which are imminent in Victoria. Indeed he disclosed them in the course of the estimates committee debate. He said that there will be problems in the legal profession providing the moneys from the aid funds at the level at which the funds have been provided in the past because of other commitments and other demands which will be made. The problems of the Victorian legal aid scheme appeared earlier this year. Last year Victoria was given $577,000 by the Commonwealth, without conditions, to supplement its existing legal aid scheme. This year it was stated that Victoria would receive $307,000 but it has not yet received it. Victoria had asked for $817,000 but the Commonwealth had cut that amount back by some $500,000. The way in which the Commonwealth is seeking to use the power of the purse is to augment and extend its Australian Legal Aid Office, and to do so by withholding money for the existing legal aid schemes which have been providing a service, and which will continue to provide an adequate service, if they are financed in the way in which the Commonwealth assured the State they would be financed in 1973. A lot can and will be said in future about the Legal Aid Office. I raise this matter in the hope that the Minister will be more forthcoming than he was in the Estimates Committee and will say when Victoria will receive its money.
– I wish to raise 2 aspects on this item. The first aspect is referred to in the supplement to the report of Estimates Committee F. It is headed ‘Questions asked by Senator R. C. Wright in the Senate Estimates on 17 April 1975’. Unfortunately those who prepared this booklet have not numbered the pages. Therefore they have exposed those who have to use it to a serious handicap. All I can say is what a Boadicean Briton in about 400 B.C. would have said, namely, it is about two-thirds of the way through the book. To have before us a book the pages of which are not numbered is the height of incompetence. The first matter which I wish to raise is the propriety of having this item in the Bill. This is a Bill which cannot be amended by the Senate. Therefore it should be framed in accordance with rules which have been strictly laid down hitherto as to the component items in this Bill.
That the Temporary Chairman leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary ChairmanSenator B. R. Milliner)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday, 13 May, at 2.30 p.m. unless sooner called together.
Senate adjourned at 5.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) In its report the Coombs’ Task Force suggested three possibilities with regard to Essendon Airport. They were:
The Government has adopted the course of deferring a decision until a full investigation is made of the major economic and social consequences of retaining or closing the airport.
The future of Essendon airport is a more complex problem than it would appear to be at first sight. Essendon, with other airports and the air transport operators in the Melbourne region forms an integrated system and thus, any decision on Essendon affects a number of other aspects of air transport as well.
Currently, Essendon airport is in active use by general aviation, and on a typical day, about 140 aircraft movements occur. During 1974 about 20 000 tonnes of general freight was forwarded through Essendon mainly to and from Tasmania. (For comparison the major airlines’ Tasmanian services carried 12 SOO tonnes).
I have not formed a firm opinion on the subject, but I understand that there are substantial economic, social and technical arguments for the retention of the airport and little if any advantage to be gained in closing it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
When does the Minister intend to answer Senate Question No. 90 placed on Notice on 24 July 1 974.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It was not possible to answer Question No. 90 until the results of cost investigation studies were known.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s quesion
Remedial Reading Facilities in Canberra
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education the following question, without notice:
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Education ask the Minister for Education to make inquiries and later inform the Senate whether, as alleged to me, there is a shortage of trained personnel and necessary teaching facilities in the Australian Capital Territory to help slow readers, particularly those in the 6 to 12 years age group? Can the Minister hold out any hope to the parents of these children? I understand that there is a cure for their handicap if specially trained teachers are made available.
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Programs in Remedial Reading in Government schools in the Australian Capital Territory are generally the responsibility of individual schools. Needs are defined and appropriate, action is taken by individual school staffs. ‘
All primary schools have remedial reading teachers provided for three half days each week. These teachers conduct individualised programs for children whose needs are not being met by the school program. Assistance in educational and psychological assessment is given by school counsellors or by the educational clinic. Surveys of the success of these programs were carried out late last year and the results are currently being processed. When these are available existing policy will be reviewed.
For children who do not make adequate progress in the school program, a placement at one of the two intensive reading centres is arranged. These centres conduct full time 4, 5 or 6 week intensive programs using special techniques. About ISO students in the 6 to 12 years age groups have undertaken these intensive courses which nave been very successful with improvement in reading age reaching 11.5 months in one instance.
There is a shortage of people with suitable training. To remedy this, the Interim A.C.T. Schools Authority has released a number of remedial teachers to undertake a course in special education at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, one unit of which is remedial reading. It seeks to recruit teachers with experience in the fundamentals of reading, especially those with an infants background. A short induction course is conducted and regular meetings of all remedial reading teachers are held. Courses in remedial reading techniques are also provided by the Teaching Resources Centre.
Facilities for remedial reading classes in non-government schools in the A.C.T. vary among schools. Some schools operate on a withdrawal system whereby students experiencing reading difficulties are removed from their normal class groups 2 or 3 times a week to smaller groups for special reading instruction given by a specialist teacher. In some cases students attend a 4-6 weeks intensive reading program. Where no specialist teacher is employed in the school students are given special attention by individual class teachers where necessary.
Shortages of Consumer Durables
– On 26 February 1975 Senator Gietzelt asked the following question, without notice:
Is the Minister for Manufacturing Industry aware that consumers are experiencing difficulties in purchasing a wide variety of goods, that large retail stores have allowed stocks to be depleted, and that consequently consumer durables, timber, nails, items of drapery and other locally manufactured goods are in short supply? In view of the unemployment position, can the Minister explain why manufacturers and/or retailers are not combining their efforts to provide consumers with a choice of goods? Will the Minister have his officers carry out a survey in the market place to verify these complaints and examine whether manufacturers and retailers are involved in some plan, action or conspiracy to reduce production and distribution in an effort to exacerbate current economic disabilities and embarrass the Australian Government?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In response to the honourable senator’s question I undertook to ask my Department whether a survey could be conducted into the availability of consumer goods in large retail stores. A survey of these stores has shown that the total value of their stocks is higher than it was a year ago. It would appear that the increase is due to price increases to a greater extent than to increases in quantity and some lines such as colour television are in short supply because of unexpectedly high demand. In certain other cases there have been shortages resulting from reduced production caused by liquidity problems and increased costs affecting manufacturers.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750423_senate_29_s63/>.