29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, left Australia on 29 August 1975 to lead the Australian delegation to the Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders which is being held in Geneva. He is expected to return to Australia on 16 September 1975. During his absence the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, will act as Attorney-General.
– I present the following petition from 1 9 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Parliament should pass the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Corporation.
That an Australian Government Insurance Corporation will benefit all Australian women and men by offering equal opportunity for employment and insurance cover.
That there is a need to establish in Australia National Interest Insurance so that cover is available against natural disasters.
That the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will fairly compete with the general and life insurance companies thereby benefiting the industry and the policy holders.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will pass the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Baume, Senator Walsh (2 petitions), Senator Durack, and Senator Webster.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Lead to nationalisation of the Insurance Industry.
Provide no better insurance service to the public than that already provided by the existing 45 life offices and 260 general insurers.
Provide the opportunity for that office to obtain general and superannuation business by the application of Australian Government financial and verbal duress on State government’s local and semi-government bodies, Australian or State instrumentalities or any other body, or their employees, which is funded by the Australian Government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your Petitioners therefore humble pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Have a serious effect on the private sector of the economy by the passing over of further funds to be controlled by the Government through its instrumentalities.
Provide no better plan for the establishment of a National Disaster Fund than provided by the insurance industry in its submission to the Treasury in October 1974.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will pass the Bill without further delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Coleman (3 petitions).
To the Honourable President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That present and- proposed development of limestone mining at Precipitous Bluff, tin mining at Coxs Bight, woodchipping in the remaining native forests and damming of South West rivers to produce power, will significantly affect the wilderness quality of South West Tasmania necessitating extensive road systems and damaging irreparably one of the last great wilderness areas of the world.
Your petitioners.’ therefore humbly pray that the Senate will protect this national heritage by refusing Australian Government financial assistance to any project which will further alienate this wilderness and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Everett.
– My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the statement made by the Leader of the Government last Thursday that he had received from the Minister for Police and Customs information about 400 users of superphosphate so that he could respond to a Dorothy Dix question about Opposition members who received the superphosphate bounty. He will recall that he engaged in what he acknowledged was a bucket tipping exercise to tell some of the truths about the Leader of the Opposition. In view of the fact that the information collected came from confidential sources, will he disclose what threats, intimidation or other means were used to get that information? What information has, in fact, been collected? Was it collected simply for the smearing measures to which he resorted? Will he tell the Senate what other confidential information about Opposition members has been collected? ls he prepared to say when and how it will be used? Is the reason for this invasion of privacy and misuse of authority to engage in personalities simply a reflection of the Government’s inability to match the Opposition in argument?
– It was quite obvious last Thursday that the subject matter of the answer I gave concerning superphosphate bounty payments hurt some members of the Opposition. They were accurate figures, to the best of my knowledge, and the information was obtained some time ago.
– For what reason? Simply because it was necessary for the Government to understand the distribution of the bounty during the time this matter was being considered. The Government was entitled to know and to have the information before it as evidence of the inequitable nature of the distribution of the superphosphate bounty. The example that was given surely was a classic case of just how inequitable the distribution system has been in the past. To my knowledge the information was not given under any form of duress. It was not my personal responsibility to seek that information. I am quite prepared to discuss the matter with my colleague Senator Cavanagh to see whether he has any objection to the information being tabled.
– I will make a copy available to Senator Greenwood if he desires.
- Senator Cavanagh has indicated his preparedness to do that. I am quite sure that under no circumstances was any threat or duress used. The unfortunate part is that the information which was provided hurt, and it hurt in the right place.
-Has the Minister for Labor and Immigration recently initiated action on behalf of the Australian Government with a view to settling by negotiation the strike by members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union which has disrupted restoration work on the damaged Hobart bridge for more than 10 weeks? If so, what are the details? Is the Australian Government prepared to exercise its legal powers as far as possible in an endeavour to negotiate an end to the strike and thus reduce the hardship and inconvenience to eastern shore residents caused by delay in repairing the Bridge?
– I had an opportunity while in Hobart last Friday to observe at first hand the disruption of the life of the city of Hobart caused by the long drawn out strike on the Tasman Bridge. I was informed while I was there that the head contractor, John Holland (Constructions) Pty Ltd, was proposing to withdraw from the site. Of course this would be a tragic event which would condemn the people of the city of Hobart to having their city cut in half for an indefinite period. Accordingly, when I came back from Tasmania I contacted the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr Justice Moore, and asked him to make available the services of a commissioner, Commissioner Judith Cohen, who has been closely associated with the dispute, in a further attempt to find a solution to the dispute. His Honour informed me that he would make Commissioner Cohen available and that she would be in Hobart tomorrow in an attempt to settle the dispute. The Australian Government has a special interest in the settlement of the dispute and, indeed, in the union’s claims as the Australian Government will be footing the bill for the repair of the bridge.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the Government’s attempts to find a more even society by disclosing payments being made to members of Parliament. Is the Minister prepared to include, with the list of amounts being paid by a subsidy or bounty that is to be tabled in the Senate, the amounts being paid from the public purse to the wives of leading Ministers in this Government, as well as to their relatives or to their friends, because of their holding several positions at the one time while their husbands are receiving incomes of $40,000 or $50,000?
– There appears to be a new-found purity, a new-found morality, on the part of certain members of the National Country Party in particular who I would think should be the last people to moralise in this Parliament about statements made by members of the Government. Firstly, I did not give any undertaking that I would table anything. I said that I would consult with my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, to see whether or not there was any objection to the material being tabled. I personally would have no objection myself.
As to the other matters raised by Senator Webster, I am not going to say whether the Government will table information of that nature. The Senate Estimates Committees are designed to allow honourable senators to seek information on matters of Government expenditure, and I should think that that would be the proper place for Senator Webster to seek the information which he is looking for. I certainly would not commit the Government to making some overall sweeping commitment that all figures and all matters of this nature would be made public. I suggest that if Senator Webster wishes to pursue the matter he should do so in a proper place, and that would be through the Estimates Committees.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that Quick and Garran state that ‘it is a principle of the Constitution that the representation of States in the Senate should be maintained, as far as possible, with unbroken continuity, and that no State should be, for any time longer than absolutely necessary, short in its representation and consequently deficient in its political strength in the Council of States’? Is it not a fact that on a previous occasion when a casual vacancy was caused by a resignation the Liberal Party submitted only one nomination, that the Queensland Government requested only one nomination, and that the sole candidate put forward on that occasion, Senator Bonner, was selected? Does not the delay in choosing a senator to replace the late Senator Milliner lessen that State’s representation in this place? Is there anything that the Minister can do to speed up the filling of the vacancy?
– It is a well known fact that the Queensland Premier will take any opportunity to try to create embarrassment for the present Australian Government, even to the point of being completely stupid in many of the attitudes which he expresses. I might add that I was interested to readjust recently a comment by one of the Queensland newspapers which normally supports Mr Bjelke-Petersen, namely, the Queensland Times of Ipswich. That newspaper made this comment:
Mr Bjelke Petersen is waging a lone war and one doomed to inevitable defeat, just as his ridiculous stand on Medibank was doomed to defeat.
Several other Queensland newspapers and, I might add, the Liberal Party Leader in Queensland have taken a position on this matter and have indicated their very great concern and their opposition to the stand being taken by Mr Bjelke-Petersen.
In a letter that he wrote to Mr Jack Houston, the Queensland Leader of the Opposition at the time of the resignation of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, Mr Bjelke-Petersen had this to say:
I have asked the Queensland division of the Liberal Party of Australia to advise me, as quickly as possible, of the name of the person they wish to nominate on this particular occasion. As soon as I am in receipt of the name of this nominee, I shall advise you accordingly. . . .
It is quite obvious since everything was then being expressed in the singular, that Mr BjelkePetersen considered it sufficient to have one nomination when he was filling a Liberal vacancy. Suddenly a Labor vacancy arises and now he demands 3 names. I believe that the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party is sticking firmly and correctly to its position of nominating one person.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: ls it a fact that new housing commencements are the lowest for 10 years and that 6000 fewer homes will be built in Australia next year because of actions taken by the Australian Government? Does the Government intend to continue to use the housing industry as an economic regulator, with disastrous consequences to that industry and the economy as a whole?
– I agree that completions of houses in Australia are not as high as we would wish them to be. On the other hand, I remind Senator Cotton that approvals for housing are running at record levels and never in the history of this country has a Federal Government made so much money available to the States to stimulate their housing programs as this Government has done. Completions are not as high as we would like them to be because of the grossly over-heated state of the industry 12 or 18 months ago. The important point, as I have indicated, is that approvals are at record levels and this will determine the recovery of the housing industry in the months ahead.
-I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration a question which relates to his immigration responsibility. Is the Minister aware of a charge made by a section of the media that the Australian Government has done ‘embarrassingly little’ to assist people from Timor who have fled their homes because of the conflict in their homeland? What is the Minister’s assessment of the Australian Government’s efforts to assist these people?
– I am aware of a charge that has been made by a certain television commentator which is reported in this morning’s Press, to the effect that the Australian Government has done precious little for people wanting to get out of Timor. I must confess that I am totally flabbergasted that such a charge could be made. The facts of the situation relating to the Timor refugees completely belie that criticism. Australia has accepted freely every one of the evacuees who fled Timor and landed on Australian soil seeking help and who, for whatever reason, does not wish to return to Portugal at this stage. If Senator Webster, who is attempting to interject, wants to hear this information perhaps he will stop muttering. If he were to restrain his neanderthal grunts he might hear something. In total, 2235 people have come to Australia from Timor since the first evacuee ship reached Darwin on 14 August. Some 629 have been or are being repatriated to Portugal while the remaining 1546 have been allowed to stay. Of these, more than 1000 have been relocated in Government hostels in the States or given into the care of relatives who are already living in Australia. Those placed in hostels have been provided with every assistance possible. They have been housed and fed and with the assistance of voluntary organisations, to which I pay a tribute, have been provided with clothing which they needed so desperately in our climate.
In many instances, through the work of the Government’s officers and in co-operation with welfare agencies, families have been united. Evacuees have been helped in their efforts to find work and already some are in employment. Arrangements are being made for these people to be given intensive English instruction to help them in their employment. Others in the hostels will soon begin tuition in English at various levels. On arrival in Australia a number of evacuees were found to be in poor health and are now receiving special medical attention. I should like to stress that there could not have been closer co-operation between the Australian Government and the Portuguese consular representatives throughout the relief emergency. The assistance given by voluntary welfare organisations has been magnificent, as has been the assistance from the people of Darwin who themselves are already suffering great deprivations. I would add that in this close working relationship of Government, private bodies and consular staff there has been no taint of criticism of Australia’s efforts to assist the evacuees.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs what requests, if any, whether for manpower, medical supplies or other assistance, has the Portuguese envoy, Dr Santos, made to the Commonwealth Government with respect to the current crisis in East Timor? Secondly, what offers of assistance, if any, has the Commonwealth Government made to the Portuguese Government on this matter.
– Discussions were held yesterday between Dr Santos, the Australian Prime Minister and also the Minister for Defence. I am not aware of any specific requests that were made insofar as assistance is concerned. I am not quite sure what Senator Carrick means by ‘assistance’. I presume he is referring perhaps to medical or even military assistance.
– I specified manpower, medical assistance or other assistance.
– I am sorry but I cannot give the honourable senator the specific information required. I will refer the matter to the Prime Minister as acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. The only thing I add is that the Australian Government is not prepared to take any specific action until it is quite clear that its action would be under the authority of the United Nations or with the blessing of the United Nations. The Government is not prepared to take any unilateral action which could only exacerbate what is already a difficult position in Timor.
– Have you asked the United Nations?
-I cannot tell the honourable senator offhand whether any specific approach has been made there either, but I will endeavour to get a fuller answer from the Minister concerned for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration whether the article appearing in today’s Australian newspaper alleging that coal miners in New South Wales southern districts have been taken off unemployment benefit on the Minister’s instructions is correct. Is it true that many coal miners in Queensland are currently receiving unemployment benefit? I further ask the Minister: Will he clarify the position in relation to coal miners’ eligibility for unemployment benefit in the circumstances that currently prevail in New South Wales and Queensland?
-At the outset I should point out that the final responsibility for the determination of eligibility for unemployment relief rests with my colleague the Minister for Social Security, although for many years it has been a practice in matters where there is any doubt of eligibility for advice to be tendered by the Minister for Labor. As far as payment of unemployment benefit to miners in southern New South Wales and Queensland is concerned, there was consultation between the Minister for Social Security and myself before the decision not to pay unemployment relief was reached. However, tomorrow both the Minister for Social Security and I will be meeting in Canberra with representatives of the South Coast of New South Wales Trades and Labor Council and the Miners Federation and the whole situation as to the payment of unemployment benefit to the miners will be finally resolved after that meeting. My Department has been advised by the Department of Social Security that no miners have knowingly been paid unemployment benefits in the current situation, either in southern New South Wales or in Queensland.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. On all Medibank claim forms appears the following statement: ‘It is not necessary first to pay your doctor and then claim Medical Benefits. If you wish you may lodge your unpaid account with Medibank and have the benefit cheque drawn in the name of the doctor who provides the service. ‘ I ask: Is this not a misleading statement when the General Manager of Medibank wrote to all doctors stating that from 1 July 1975 a doctor has 3 methods of billing patients: Firstly, cash on the spot; secondly, patient claims first then pays the doctor; and thirdly, direct billing of Medibank? Does not this statement contravene the Trade Practices Act and therefore become illegal?
-I have heard a number of criticisms of Medibank but I had not heard so far that it contravenes the Trade Practices Act. I agree with Senator Sheil ‘s assertion concluding that there are 3 means whereby any patient can make use of Medibank. I am not familiar with the statement to which the honourable senator has drawn my attention, but certainly there are other ways in which one may obtain Medibank benefits, such as by obtaining a doctor who bulk bills, by paying the doctor, as Senator Sheil has said, and then advising Medibank which will reimburse the patient for 85 per cent of the bill or so much as would leave him with the margin which is payable under the legislation. Alternatively, the other course is to obtain a cheque from the Health Insurance Commission payable to the doctor. Any information which indicates that there is only one way in which Medibank can be operated is obviously misleading information. I will need to have a look at the form. I must say that this is the first time I have been advised that the form specifies only one means whereby one can obtain Medibank payment. If the form does mislead people, there must have been a number of oversights by people who have been reading the form. I shall look at it and I will let Senator Sheil know whether the problem which he appears to have seen is in fact there.
– My question is to the Minister for Social Security. Has he seen reports of statements by the Opposition shadow Minister for Social Security during the weekend about the Opposition’s attitude to Medibank? Is the Minister aware that the shadow Minister for Social Security wants to abolish Medibank if the Liberal Party is ever returned to government? Is he also aware that the Leader of the Opposition does not agree with his shadow Minister but in fact is anxious to continue Medibank? Is the Minister aware of reports that Mr Chipp has since stated that he would wish to abandon the agreements already made with 4 State governments about the hospital side of Medibank? Can the Minister tell the Senate what the effect of these conflicting proposals would be on Medibank and on the medical services available generally to Australian citizens?
– I raise a point of order. I want to know whether the honourable senator can vouch for the authenticity of the statement from which he has just quoted because my information is that it is a tissue of lies.
– There is no substance to the point of order. The honourable senator is entitled to seek information from the Minister during questions without notice.
– I do not really quite know what Mr Chipp said. I have always found Mr Chipp a most amiable person but he seems of late to have been speaking with a forked tongue. The results of the various proposals which he appears to have been putting forward and about which Senator Poyser asks me would be that Medibank would continue and also that it would stop. He seems to have said both, insofar as I can follow what he has been saying over the weekend. One newspaper that I read reported that he said it would be abandoned and the other said that it would continue. Senator Jessop, I notice, says that it is a tissue of lies. I would be grateful if he could tell me which one is a tissue of lies- that it will continue or that it will not continue. Either one of them is a tissue of lies or Mr Chipp is in need of some medical attention himself for acute schizophrenia. I do not invariably rely on the Sydney Daily Telegraph since its pages do not have quite the authority of the Mosaic tablets, but according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph a spokesman, whatever that is, for the Leader of the Opposition- I take it by ‘Leader of the Opposition’ it means Mr Fraser- said that Medibank had been passed 3 times by Parliament.
– A spokesman?
– I do not know why Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is so upset about this.
– What about this spokesman? We see statements by Government spokesmen every day of the week.
-Yes, I know. We all have problems with spokesmen from time to time. The spokesman that I am coming back to now, that is, the spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition, said that the Medibank legislation had been passed 3 times by the Parliament and had been endorsed twice by the Australian people. I must say that if that is what the spokesman did say, then indeed Mr Fraser has a very percipient spokesman and what he said is no less than the truth. The fact is that if Mr Chipp were to proceed with his program, if there were to be that unfortunate set of circumstances which would give rise to a government in which Mr Chipp would replace me in the office which I occupy at present, it would completely destroy the anticipation of those people and those States who have built up expectations that there will be a system of free hospital and medical attention throughout Australia. That is a system which, despite all of the criticisms which have come from the Australian Medical Association and the General Practitioners Society and those who represent them, has growing acceptance not only amongst the Australian people generally but also amongst the medical profession.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. Standing order 100 provides:
In answering any such Question, a Senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
The Minister has been going on in a manner to which we have become accustomed in which he roams at large. With respect, he has been debating the answer to the question. When he talks about something having growing acceptance among people whom he regards as authorities, then it appears to me that he is going far beyond a simple answer to a question. Moreover, in answer initially to Senator Poyser the Minister said that he did not know what the position of Mr Chipp was. How then can he answer the question except by this debating method? I submit that the Standing Orders ought to be upheld and the Minister restrained.
– I am aware of the terms of standing order 100. These are very important questions and I ask the Minister to be as brief as possible in answering them.
– In conclusion I merely say that with regard to bulk billing, because that is implicit in part of the question asked by Senator Poyser, in July 41.2 per cent of the claims which were lodged under Medibank were bulk billing claims. In August this had risen to 43.8 per cent of claims. I think those figures speak for themselves.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Is it a matter of concern to the Government that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates that 30 000 specialist beef producers will be unable to carry on because of the severity of the current recession in the industry? Does the estimate indicate that the Government’s assistance to the industry, which was described last week by the Minister as being a great deal over the past 18 months, has been paltry when compared with the need? When does the Government expect to receive the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on the beef industry? What proposals will the Government put forward at the special meeting of the Agricultural Council?
-I saw the Press report referring to 30 000 specialist beef producers in Australia. That is quite contrary to the information which I have been given. I do not know whether the Press has made another of its errors. In fact there are between 16 000 and 17 000 specialist beef producers in Australia who may not be able to carry on. The great bulk of them are in Queensland. To suggest that the assistance which has been given by the Government is paltry in comparison to the need does not stand up to investigation. As I have pointed out in this place on 2 occasions in the last fortnight, the money which has been made available through the joint scheme between the federal and State governments has not been taken up by the beef industry. I point out that that money is being made available at an interest rate of 4 per cent. Of the total amount of $42 m which is available under that scheme, only about $12m has been taken up at the present time. It has been said: But they are not able to take it up’. If that is the case, then perhaps someone can explain to me why the $20 m originally appropriated by this Government at commercial rates of interest has been largely drawn on.
The financial assistance which has been made available is not being utilised as quickly as the Government anticipated. We would have thought- I am sure that all the State governments would have thought as we did- that those moneys would have been exhausted much more quickly than they are being exhausted. It is not a matter of anyone not being aware of the problems in the beef industry. I believe we have done all that we could reasonably be expected to do. The only other matter that we can await, as Senator Maunsell has pointed out, is the Industry Assistance Commission’s report. I do not know when it is due. I assume it is due fairly soon. When it is received it will be given proper consideration by the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture. He will be aware of the views expressed by the Opposition spokesman on customs and excise, Mr Adermann, as set out in the statement headed ‘Tax Averaging ShockAustralian primary producers again have been singled out for vicious treatment’. Can the Minister say whether this statement is correct? If it is not, will he state the correct position concerning taxation averaging for primary producers?
– The primary producer is in exactly the same position as any other taxpayer; he will benefit from the taxation reductions which were foreshadowed in the Budget and which will apply from 1 January next year. To suggest that the primary producer is disadvantaged in any way is not true. The averaging provisions will apply exactly as they have applied since 1951. They have not been varied. In fact the rebate system will assist the primary producer in taking advantage of the averaging provisions of the taxation Act.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in that capacity and as the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. What is the proposed status of Sir Lenox Hewitt as a servant of the Government, apart from his position as Chairman of Qantas Airways Ltd? Is he still a member of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Pipeline Authority and the petroleum and minerals company set up by the Government? Is he taking a leading part in negotiations with oil companies in regard to a new pricing agreement for Australian crude? Is it intended by the Government that he will continue to occupy these positions?
-I could not possibly answer that question. I will have to refer it, I think to the Prime Minister, to get an appropriate answer.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation been drawn to a news item in today’s Canberra Times about errors which have been discovered in the records of his Department as to the location and service of certain Army and Royal Australian Air Force units? Can the Minister give an assurance that action is being taken to rectify any errors? Can he assure us also that no veteran will be disadvantaged, as a result of such errors, in any claim he may make?
-Yes, I have seen a report in the Canberra Times that apparently there was an error in the record of a veteran’s service with the Royal Australian Air Force. This error was discovered by the investigation which followed an application by this veteran for repatriation benefits. The discovery was brought about because a repatriation board was investigating his claim very thoroughly. I suggest that errors could occur anywhere. Certainly when one considers the vast number of people who have served in the Australian armed forces and the huge number of people who are eligible for repatriation benefits, the number of errors is of a very small order. This error was discovered by the Department. It seemed to me to be hardly a newsworthy item, but I can assure the honourable senator that the error was detected by the Department. I think that the number of occasions on which anyone can complain of such errors having been committed by the Repatriation Commission or any of the officers of the Commission would be very small indeed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer him to his reply last Thursday to a question by Senator Davidson in which he referred to the Government’s immigration policy and said:
No distinction is made on the basis of origin, colour, race or creed in respect of the skilled people that the country is still seeking.
Is it not a fact that a distinction has been drawn by the Government in the case of certain refugees from South Vietnam who have been requested by the Government to give a written pledge or undertaking not to take pan in political activity in Australia? Is not such a requirement a distinction based on either race or creed? Does the Minister agree that this requirement is a dangerous innovation which infringes the rights of the people concerned and the political freedom of all Australians?
– I understand that this question has been answered in some detail by the Prime Minister in another place, but seeing that it is directed to me I suppose I can give the honourable senator the benefit of my views on the action that has been taken in respect of these people. I think that what motivated the Government in asking these gentlemen for these pledges- I understand that this is not entirely an unprecedented act but one which has some precedent in the lives of previous governments- was not any desire to discriminate, but after the long, dreadful war which has caused us to have refugees from Vietnam at all, a war which was enthusiastically supported by our opponents, a war on which they constantly poured fuel, a war which they assisted to prolong, we are anxious that those whom we receive from that unfortunate country should not form a tiny enclave in this country to plot against the Government which has been set up in Vietnam.
We are familiar with the fact that the Opposition parties constantly make common cause with those from other countries who hope to stir up a resurgence of hostilities in the countries from which they came. These people constantly attend at what they call Captive Nations meetings and encourage people from small countries to believe that somehow or other they will lend them military aid to restore the boundaries of countries which have long since been changed. It is to guard against encouraging the Opposition to think that the presence of a small number of fugitives from a discredited regime in South Vietnam would get such encouragement that the Government has sought reassurances from these people in this case.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Does not his answer indicate that there is in fact a discrimination on the basis of creed in this case?
-No, there is a normal precaution to preserve this country from being embroiled in the quarrels which were so eagerly fermented by the Opposition over a long period with total disregard to loss of life, damage to property and exacerbation of long standing national hatreds.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation give any details of the effects on the repatriation appeals system of the changed policy whereby determining authorities give reasons for their decisions when deciding on entitlement for veterans? Has this reform of the repatriation system, which was introduced at the instigation of the Labor Government, been an effective one?
-The practice of introducing the giving of reasons for rejection or acceptance of appeals is something which had been advocated for a long time by the Returned Services League, although some other veterans organisations appear to be opposed to it. The Government felt that the representations of the RSL were justified and we have introduced this system of giving reasons. The main argument for it is that in something which is a quasi-judicial matter people who are seeking lawful entitlements are entitled to know why their appeals are successful or unsuccessful. I suppose that of lesser importance, but still of great importance from an administrative point of view, has been the fact that a lot of people were just taking a sort of punt in appealing, not knowing what was really going on with regard to decisions which had been given to them.
One of the things that we have found since the giving of reasons has been introduced is that there has been a substantial decrease in the number of appeals to the Repatriation Commission from decisions of Repatriation Boards. In fact, in the last quarter there was a decrease from 1584 appeals to 1202 appeals, which is a very significant decrease. I have found also that this seems to be giving considerable satisfaction to the people who are either repatriation beneficiaries or who think they ought to be repatriation beneficiaries in that the number of letters of complaint addressed to the responsible Minister has decreased. No former Ministers for Repatriation are present, but everybody would know that a very considerable volume of letters used to come in from people complaining about the way in which they had been treated by boards and tribunals. Now that the reasons are being given the number has diminished very greatly indeed. So, on the whole, this has proved to be a very satisfactory innovation by the Government.
– Is the Acting AttorneyGeneral aware of reports that a pastoral letter has been issued by the Most Reverend Thomas Cahill to all Catholics in the diocese of Canberra drawing attention to the proposals to legalise incest in the Australian Capital Territory between relatives over the age of 1 8 years? Will he agree that the concern of the Archbishop is proper and reasonable? Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government does not intend to make incest legal?
-I am aware of the pastoral letter referred to by the honourable senator. I would suggest to him that he should defer his own indignation until he has had an opportunity to read the document upon which the pastoral letter was based. It is a document which stemmed from a law reform commission.
– Has it been tabled?
-No, it has not been tabled yet. I am sorry, it stemmed not from a law reform commission but from a working party of the Attorney-General ‘s Department. It is not the adopted policy of the Government.
– Why did the AttorneyGeneral alter some parts of it but not this part?
– I am rather surprised that the question was asked by Senator Baume. I had expected Senator Greenwood to be the one who would be frothing at the mouth over this matter. I suggest to all honourable gentlemen opposite that before they pass judgment upon what at the present time is merely a draft code they await a further discussion of the matter and await the introduction by the Government of this draft code into the Parliament in the way of an ordinance. They will be given plenty of opportunity to debate the matter, to give the Australian public the benefit of their lofty thoughts on the matter of incest and all other matters and to have the matter considered in a calm, rational, unexcited, unhysterical way. But, as of now, it is not the adopted policy of the Government; it is merely a working draft that has been put to us for consideration.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. The Acting Attorney-General referred to a document in answering my original question. I ask: Is he willing to table the document?
– I do not have a copy of the document and I was not referring to the document, so I am not under an obligation to table any such document.
– You were holding a document.
– I was holding a different document with which I was momentarily confused and which I will be tabling this afternoon. It so happens, if the honourable senator and other honourable senators cannot contain their impatience about what the draft paper has to say on the question of the alleged proposal to abolish incest -
– That was not quite the question. Is that another paper you are reading from?
-No, I am reading from some notes that I had prepared in anticipation that this question would be asked. There is nothing exceptional about that. There are some matters about which it can be confidently predicted that we will get either premeditated or hysterical effusions from honourable senators opposite. If the honourable senator would like to know a little more about the draft proposal to abolish incest as a crime for adult persons, I am in a position to tell him something about it. It might be said that there now appears to be general agreement among authorities that there is insufficient evidence to justify, on genetic grounds alone, treating incest as a crime. I am not talking about whether it is morally reprehensible, a subject for indignation, something which displeases us all and a centuries old taboo. I am talking about the question- one to which I would think a previous AttorneyGeneral would be prepared to turn his mind in a calm way- whether incest can any longer justifiably be treated as a crime among people over the age of 18. Traditionally, incest has been treated as a crime primarily for the protection of children from the depredations of their elders. There has been a growing belief that for those over the age of 18 incest should no longer be treated as a crime.
– You are justifying it now?
-That is the primitive approach of a man who calls himself a lawyer. Senator Greenwood would know, as a previous Attorney-General, that until 195 1 it was a very limited offence in the Australian Capital Territory, namely, that of carnal knowledge by a father or stepfather of his daughter or stepdaughter of or above the age of 10 years and under the age of 16 years. Amendments in 195 1 included the crime of incest but so far as I am able to ascertain there has been no prosecution for that offence since the amendments were made.
– Maybe that is because there is a law against it.
-I commend Senator Greenwood for the calm with which he, as a lawyer, approaches these questions. There is no desire by this Government either to advocate, promote or condone incest.
We are facing up to the social fact that making incest a crime for people over the age of 18 years is at least something which grown men should examine calmly. I repeat what I said originally: There has been no decision taken by this Government in the matter. A proposal has been put forward by a working party along these lines. We, as people who take reform of the law seriously, are seriously examining this matter. We leave it to honourable senators opposite to approach these problems frothing at the mouth. We prefer to think about them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs. By way of preface I refer to several earlier demonstrations of dogs trained to detect smugglers of hard drugs. Does the Minister feel that dogs from the Holsworthy army establishment in New South Wales now are of a strain which will overcome the lack of continued concentration that was manifest in earlier litters used on this project?
– When I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse I saw the dogs of the Department of Customs and Excise at work trying to detect packages containing drugs. As members of that Committee will be aware, I was not impressed with the work of the dogs although I think there is some psychological effect on the illicit importer of drugs. I know that the excuse has been used that the dogs’ concentration is very limited and the question also has been raised of how long the dogs can work at sniffing drugs. The Department is of the belief that the dogs now being obtained from the Army base at Holsworthy are being bred specifically for detection work. It is believed that these dogs might be better suited for the detection of drugs. It is thought that, because of their breeding, the interest of the dogs in sniffing drugs will be more sustained than was the case with dogs which were experimented with in the past.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation been drawn to conflicting statements made by the former Minister for Housing and Construction, Mr Les Johnson, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, concerning the nomination of a representative of the Returned Services League on the board of the Australian Housing Corporation. Is he aware that Mr Johnson announced in Hansard on 4
March this year a firm commitment to provide on the board of the Corporation a representative of the Returned Services League so that the interests of ex-servicemen would be effectively safeguarded? I ask also whether he is aware that on 19 August, in an answer to the shadow Minister for Housing, Mr McLeay, Mr Uren said:
The Government has no commitment in this respect. The nomination of the Returned Services League of Australia was considered by Cabinet. It made its decision. At no time was there any commitment by the Government to the RSL.
Mr Uren suggested that that was ‘a falsity’. Can the Minister inform the Senate which statement was correct? If Mr Uren’s statement was correct will the Minister take action to see that the RSL is represented on the Corporation to protect the interests of ex-servicemen?
– I would like to be able to help Senator Jessop with this question but I am afraid that it does not fall within the ambit of my responsibilities. I am not responsible for defence service homes or the Australian Housing Corporation. I suggest that he should put the question on notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
-Did the Minister for Agriculture see a recent Press statement by the Opposition spokesman on agriculture, Mr Sinclair, claiming that Labor leaders have misled dairymen by stating that the $ 19.2m appropriated in the Budget for dairy adjustment was additional to the $2 8 m originally allocated for this purpose? Does the Minister know which Labor leaders made the alleged statement, as claimed by Mr Sinclair, and what are the facts concerning funds for dairy adjustment?
– No such statement was made by any Labor leader. It is one of those fictitious things plucked out of the air to make things sound good. An amount of $ 1 9m appeared in the Budget for the dairy adjustment scheme. That appropriation was for moneys currently under application but which have not yet been paid out. It is normal for those moneys to appear in the Budget during the currency of the scheme. It is quite misleading to suggest that there has been any action by the Government not in conformity with the undertakings we gave in respect of the scheme. It was a 2-year scheme and it has operated for 2 years. The industry is the subject of an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry at the moment and continued assistance will be considered when the Commission’s report is put to the Government.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. If the Minister does not have the details in his possession I would appreciate it if he could obtain them for me. What was the cost of operating and maintaining Essendon airport in the financial year 1974-75? What revenue was obtained from the airport in that year? How many aircraft movements were there in that year? Under the policy of full recovery, what justification is there for retaining Essendon airport as an aviation asset?
– I do not have those figures available. The last information I saw about Essendon showed that it was very well used by light aircraft, by business jets and by freighters. I will attempt to get the information for Senator Sim during the week.
-Can the PostmasterGeneral give any further information about the validity of allegations made by a Sydney company that letters for local delivery in Sydney are being sent via Samoa at a cost of only 7’/4c?
– Since that statement appeared in the Press I have asked the Australian Postal Commission to make inquiries. It has been advised that the Samoan authorities have no knowledge of any such mailing and that the date stamp which was illustrated was not the official Western Samoan postmark. Presently the Postal Commission is monitoring all the mail from Samoa and there is no evidence to indicate that any such system is in operation. The illustration also showed the incorrect postage if it was a Samoan stamp.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. What specialist training courses are currently available for teachers in Aboriginal schools or schools with large Aboriginal enrolments? Which of these courses are supported by Australian Government funds? What steps, if any, are being taken by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to ensure that all teachers of Aboriginal children are specially trained for the task?
– The question implies that the teachers of Aboriginal children require to undertake a specialist training course. I doubt that very much. I do not know which schools are training teachers to teach Aboriginal children. As the honourable senator would know, the Kormilda College and the Alice Springs College in the Northern Territory have introduced bilingual classes for the purpose of teaching tribal Aborigines in their own dialect. Such a class has been introduced also in South Australia. I shall try to find out from the Minister whether any further information is available on the matter of special tuition for teachers who specialise in teaching Aboriginal children.
-Has the Special Minister of State seen a report in the Australian Financial Review suggesting that the prices charged by statutory bodies should be made the subject of reference to the Prices Justification Tribunal? Is it possible for the Tribunal under the existing legislation to undertake this task?
– I did see the report and the suggestion which is the subject of Senator Donald Cameron’s question in an editorial in the Australian Financial Review of yesterday. The simple fact is that none of the Australian Government statutory bodies is subject to the Prices Justification Act which gives the Prices Justification Tribunal jurisdiction only over foreign corporations trading in Australia and trading or financial corporations that are incorporated under Australian State or Territory legislation. The Australian Government derives its power for the establishment of the Prices Justification Tribunal under, I think, section 5 1 (v) of the Australian Constitution.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Environment aware of the increasing world-wide concern at the widespread release to the atmosphere of chlorinated fluorocarbons, especially from aerosol sprays? Can the Minister advise what action he will take in this matter?
-The Minister for Environment has told me about the United States report which was issued in June. He states that there is increasing world-wide concern over the release of chlorinated fluorocarbons, especially from aerosol sprays. The reason for this concern is the theory first advanced 12 months ago that fluorocarbons may substantially deplete the stratospheric ozone levels and thus allow increased amounts of harmful ultra-violet radiation. The Minister states that the Department of Environment is maintaining a close watch on the results of overseas studies as the theory, in his opinion, is not yet proven. The most recent authoritative report by the United States federal task force on the inadvertent modification of the stratosphere has suggested that action to prohibit the release of fluorocarbons should be deferred until the results of a further study by the National Academy of Science has become available. I shall ask the Minister whether he can add any further information in reply to Senator Keeffe ‘s question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Taking into account the fact that the Treasurer announced in the Budget that although no new Regional Employment Development scheme grants will be made available, can the Minister indicate whether or not the grant already approved for the King Island Council to continue its water reticulation program will in fact be granted? Has a decision yet been made on this matter, particularly in view of the difficult employment situation on the island?
– I am not familiar with the specific scheme mentioned by the honourable senator- that is, the King Island Council scheme- but I will have a look at it. It is a fact that a considerable number of Regional Employment Development projects which have already been approved had to be cancelled in the light of the reduction of the amount of money available under the RED scheme as provided by the Budget. I cannot tell the honourable senator off the top of my head whether the King Island scheme is one of those, but I will make inquiries about it and let him know.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for the Media recall my question to him earlier this year, during his tour of duty as Minister for the Media, relating to the reported proposed abolition of the religious department of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Is the Minister aware of the widespread concern which religious leaders and the religious Press have publicly declared in relation to that report? Because of that concern and the fact that the Minister undertook to obtain information concerning it, can he indicate whether the report is correct?
-At the time that Senator Davidson directed his question to me I was the Minister for the Media. I think I indicated to him that a bishop had raised the matter with me and I had undertaken to obtain information from the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission because the
Government had adhered to and was adhering to the principle that matters for the ABC were to be determined by the Commission itself. I undertook at that time to obtain additional information for Senator Davidson. Shortly after that time there was a Cabinet reshuffle and I was appointed as the Special Minister of State. However, I have been in touch with my colleague Dr Cass, the Minister for the Media, who advises me that the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whom he has consulted on the matter, has replied in the following terms: It is usual for the Commission progressively to review the operation of each of its specialist program departments and in accordance with this practice the Commission is now engaged in a review of religious broadcasts. However, the Chairman of the ABC has assured Dr Cass that no decisions have been taken regarding the matters raised in Senator Davidson’s question.
-On 20 August Senator Baume asked me a question without notice concerning the textual disparities between the Treasurer’s printed Budget Speech and the speech which I presented in the Senate. Formally, the Treasurer’s Budget Speech is the second reading speech introducing Appropriation Bill No. 1 in the House of Representatives, it being the constitutional prerogative of that House to initiate appropriation Bills. It has been the practice for many years to present a shorter version of the Treasurer’s speech to the Senate simultaneously. Of course in preparing a shorter version of any statement some of the detail will be lost. However, care is taken to ensure that the essential features of the Budget as outlined in the Treasurer’s speech are not omitted from the Senate speech. The normal practice was followed this year. An abridged version of the Treasurer’s speech was prepared for delivery to the Senate. There was certainly no intention to conceal from the Senate the changed arrangements for the funding of education in 1975-76. Not only were these details set out in the full speech presented by the Treasurer but also they were provided in the statement attached to the Budget Speech and in Budget Paper No. 8-Education 1975-76. All these documents were made available to honourable senators on Budget night.
I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I have some further information in answer to a question raised by Senator Baume on 27 August concerning airmail services to and from Lord Howe Island. I am aware of the concern by the elected committee of Lord Howe Island concerning the irregularity of mail services. Following the cessation of the flying boat service to the Island a wide variety of arrangements has been necessary to continue the mail service. As well as the North Coast charter airline operating twice weekly out of Port Macquarie a Sydney based airline operates nights to Lord Howe Island to a timetable that varies in frequency according to the demand for its services. Officers of the Postal Commission have now completed a study of available transport facilities. Arrangements will be introduced as soon as possible for either airline to carry standard letters and other mail paid for at airmail rates on whichever flight provides the best service.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966-1967, I present. the fifty-second annual report of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I present for the information of honourable senators the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Crafts entitled ‘The Crafts in Australia’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a paper dated July 1975 prepared by the Priorities Review Staff entitled Possibilities for Social Welfare in Australia ‘.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-1966 I present the tenth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Panel to Advise on Arrangements for Amalgamating the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education dated August 1975, together with a statement by the Minister for Education on that report.
- Mr President, may I suggest that we have a motion that the Senate take note of the paper?
-Mr President, if it be the wish of Senator Guilfoyle that the Senate take note of the paper I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission entitled ‘Gas Fired Instantaneous Water Heaters (By-Law) ‘dated 2 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 16 (2) of the Social Welfare Commission Act 1 973 1 present a report by the Social Welfare Commission entitled ‘Care of the Aged’. I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-This report is the result of a major inquiry into accommodation and related services for the aged, which was initiated in June 1973 by my predecessor as Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. The committee of inquiry which was appointed in June 1973 consisted of two commissioners of the Social Welfare Commission, the Rev. Keith Seaman, Chairman, and Mr Greg Sullivan, Q.C., and Mr Jack Lucas of the Department of Social Security. The Committee issued an interim report on 30 November 1973. The Committee made its final report to the Social Welfare Commission in July of this year and the report now being presented incorporates their findings and the comments of the Social Welfare Commission on the question of care for the aged.
The Commission’s report recommends a major change in the orientation of Government programs for the aged and emphasises the provision of supporting services to enable old people to remain in their own homes rather than entering institutions prematurely. The report is a most comprehensive document and will need to be given detailed consideration by the Government before any proposals can be reflected in new legislation and amendments to existing legislation. The cost of the proposal requires further study. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 1 present the report of the Law Reform Commission on complaints against police. I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-This is the first report of the Law Reform Commission and on behalf of the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) I wish to commend the Commission on the expedition with which the report was prepared. On 16 May 1975 the Attorney-General asked the Commission to inquire into and report as to the appropriate legislative means of safeguarding individual rights and liberties in relation to the law enforcement process by the Australia Police under Australian and territorial law. This report examines the procedure for the investigation of complaints against the police. The Commission is preparing a further report on criminal investigation procedures.
In the course of its inquiry the Commission received a number of written submissions and took evidence in each State, in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The expedition with which the Commission approached this reference is all the more commendable as three of the 5 commissioners who joined in signing the report were part-time members of the Commission and the fourth member, Mr Gareth Evans, was engaged in full-time work with the Commission for a period of only one month.The recommendations of the Commission will now be examined by the Government.
-I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to arrangements between the Whips on Thursday, 28 August.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable senators will recall that there was a vote taken almost at the time of the adjournment on Thursday, 28 August. I sought the eye of the President but he had a statement to make and I was unable to make the appropriate statement at that time. Mr President, by arrangement between the Whips in the Senate, Senator Sheil did not vote in divisions on Thursday 28 August to compensate for the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Milliner.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill 197S. Foreign Takeovers Bill 1975.
National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits Charges) 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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
The legislation which I now introduce is historic -for Papua New Guinea, for Australia, and for the European civilisation from which we Australians spring. For this is almost the last episode in the great post-war, post-imperial exercise of European decolonisation. By an extraordinary twist of history, Australia- herself once a colony- became one of the world’s last colonial powers. By this legislation, we not only divest ourselves of the last significant colony in the world, but divest ourselves of our own colonial heritage. It should never be forgotten that in making our own former colony independent, we as Australians enhance our own independence.
Australia was never truly free until Papua New Guinea became truly free.
The purpose of this legislation is to enable Papua New Guinea to become independent on 16 September 1975, the date nominated by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. The legislation includes four Bills which are associated in various ways with Papua New Guinea’s move to independence. I shall deal with each of the Bills in turn.
The proposed Papua New Guinea Constitution does not depend for its validity on enabling Australian legislation. The Constitution of an independent Papua New Guinea is not to be dependent on an Act by another Parliament in the way that the Australian Constitution depends on an Act of the Imperial Parliament- the Parliament of Westminster. Consequently the Papua New Guinea Independence Bill is a short one. Clause 4 provides that at the expiration of 15 September Australia will cease to have any sovereignty, sovereign rights or rights of administration in Papua New Guinea. This will enable the Papua New Guinea Constitution to come into effect the next day as the supreme law of Papua New Guinea.
Clause 5 of the Bill repeals the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-75 under which Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea have been jointly administered for the past 26 years. It also ceases the extension to Papua New Guinea of every Act and Imperial Act which hitherto extended. The Papua New Guinea Constitution will adopt those Acts and Imperial Acts which Papua New Guinea wishes to continue as laws of Papua New Guinea.
The Bill represents the culmination of threequarters of a century of association of the Australian Parliament with the development of Papua New Guinea. It is the end of a long chapter. We believe it is also the beginning of a new, a better chapter in the continuing story of the association between our two nations. That association, as far as this Parliament is concerned, began on 12 November 1901 with a resolution that Australia should assume responsibility for the administration of what was then British New Guinea. Subsequently, of course, Australia assumed responsibility for the administration of what had been German New Guinea, first, under a League of Nations mandate and, since 1946, under the present United Nations Trusteeship Agreement, which Australia will discharge in full when Papua New Guinea becomes an independent nation on 16 September.
I now came to the other Bills.
- Mr President, I understood that we were using this procedure in order to expedite the introduction of the legislation. However, I should think that Senator Greenwood is technically correct.
– Put all the messages down.
-Very well, I shall introduce all the messages.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I will defer the reading of the second reading speech.
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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to defer the reading of the second reading speech.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I defer reading my second reading speech.
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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I indicate that I have dealt with the second reading speeches on two of these Bills.
– This Bill gives effect to an announcement the then Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in matters relating to Papua New Guinea made on 1 6 September 1 974 that Australia would hand over to Papua New Guinea the administration of the Pocklington Reef Islands. These islands are a small uninhabited group 130 kilometres east of the southeastern tip of Papua New Guinea. The Bill provides for the islands to be brought within the territorial scope of Papua New Guinea, so that at independence that country will exercise full sovereignty over the islands. The Bill also gives Papua New Guinea authority to enact off-shore legislation in the area around the islands. Papua New Guinea already has authority to enact legislation dealing with its off-shore adjacent areas as denned in the Australian Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, but these adjacent areas do not include Pocklington Reef Islands. Clause 4 of the Bill amends the present authorisation and enables Papua New Guinea to enact legislation dealing with off-shore areas other than those to which the Australian Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act applies.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the continuation of the Australian Government guarantee, provided for in section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act 1 949- 1 975, in respect of loans raised by the Papua New Guinea Government from Australian and PNG sources prior to independence until such time as the loans in question have matured and been repaid. I would mention that loans Papua New Guinea has raised from overseas sources are guaranteed until final maturity under separate legislation. The guarantees to be continued by this legislation and those provided in respect of overseas borrowings have assisted Papua New Guinea in undertaking its borrowing programs.
I come to the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1975. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973 to introduce the new staffing aid arrangements which have recently been agreed between the Australian Government and the Papua New Guinea Government.
The Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973 established the Australian staffing assistance group as the framework under which former permanent overseas officers and contract officers from Australia could continue to serve in Papua New Guinea after self-government. Following a recent review of the future of these arrangements, it has been agreed with the Papua New Guinea Government that the direct employment by the Australian Government of the 2700 members of the group- some of whom occupy senior and influential positions in the Papua New Guinea Public Service- is not in the immediate or long-term interests of either government, and should be discontinued. Accordingly, the 2 governments have agreed that the group be wound up on 30 June 1976 and that new arrangements be introduced as from 30 June this year to encourage those officers in the group whose services are still required to transfer over to direct contract employment with the Papua New Guinea Government as soon as practicable.
The Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1975 seeks to modify the present employment security scheme arrangements for those members of the group who agree to transfer over to direct contract employment with the Papua New Guinea Government. Most of the necessary changes required can and will be made by amendment of the existing regulations made under the Act. These will be explained in detail in due course.
I turn finally to the Social Security Bill (No. 2) 1975. The object of this Bill is to amend the Social Security Act to enable former residents of external territories, including Papua New Guinea, to qualify for social services pensions if they come to Australia to live. It is proposed that residence in an external territory other than Norfolk Island will count as residence in Australia for the purpose of satisfying the residence qualifications for Australian social services pensions. Residence in Norfolk Island is excluded from the ambit of the Bill in view of the recent appointment of a royal commission into matters, including social security matters, relating to Norfolk Island.
Most Australian expatriates living in the Territories will have already satisfied Australian pensions residence requirements. There are, however, many people who have lived in external territories for many years, sometimes for most of their lives, and who, if they were to come to live in Australia, would not be residentially qualified for Australian pensions under existing legislation. I am sure honourable senators will agree it is appropriate that the valuable contribution made by these people to Territory development should be recognised. The estimated cost of the proposals in this Bill is $750,000 for the balance of the fiscal year 1975-76 and $lm in a full year. I commend these Bills to the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer) -On all 5 Bills?
-I seek it to apply to all of them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Chairman, when we were last considering this Bill at the second reading stage- I think it was at about 4.50 p.m. last Thursday, just prior to my motion being put and subsequently defeated that the Bill be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence- it was suggested that we might come back today with some amendments to the Bill. I inform the Committee that the Opposition has looked at this proposition and has decided that this is a Bill in respect of which we just have not the resources or the capacity to get into the amending stage. We serve notice that this Bill has some unsatisfactory features and that when we come back into government- it will not be long- we will set about to amend the Act and to so rearrange it as, whilst preserving the essential features of this legislation, will do away with some of the undesirable features which we see in it at the moment. I just indicate that to the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) and to the Committee.
– I believe that one of the most unsatisfactory features of this question is, as I said on Thursday, the failure of the Opposition to come forward with amendments to support its general vague criticisms of the Government. I believe that the debate last Thursday ended with a reference to a defence council. My own remarks were directed in this area. I think most of the criticisms that I could discern, which could be distilled to any recognisable form, would be satisfied to a large measure by the emergence of a defence council. I suggested that during the weekend the Opposition, if it were interested in the criticisms that had been made, might be able to evaluate the effectiveness of a defence council as a way of bringing together in a more formal manner various areas of defence and thereby still the criticisms that some areas of the defence forces may be subjugated to others without being able to meet with others and put forward their views.
As I understand that some discussion has taken place on this question, 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop) whether he can offer the Committee anything by way of the provision of a defence council. I understand that a meeting similar to a defence council has in fact been in progress during the term of office of the present Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) and of former Ministers for Defence. Can the PostmasterGeneral indicate whether there might be some formalisation of a defence council?
– The suggestion made by Senator Steele Hall in fact had been considered during the reorganisation proposals. Honourable senators may have noted that in paragraphs 325 and 326 of his report Sir Arthur Tange referred to a recommendation that he had made to the Chiefs of Staff about the setting up of a possible defence council. A summary which was prepared following certain discussions states:
In both Great Britain and Canada defence councils formally exist but are not used to any significant extent. In New Zealand the Defence Council as such appears to exercise in fact only limited authority. The question of a defence council in Australia was considered in the development of the new organisational proposals.
This was indicated in the paragraphs in the report to which I have referred. Since the debate on this question took place in this chamber Mr Morrison has considered what has been proposed. In view of the suggestion, if necessary the Government will advance a proposition which does not need an amendment of the legislation currently before the chamber. For many years section 28 of the Defence Act has contained the following provision:
The Governor-General may constitute a Council of Defence, which shall have such powers and functions as are prescribed.
This provision has not been altered in the current amending legislation. However, Council of Defence Regulations do exist. They provide for a very high level membership, with the Prime Minister as Chairman, and including other senior Ministers as well as the Chiefs of Staff. The Council has not met for many years, if indeed it has met at all. It seems basically to be a form of War Cabinet for consideration of major defence issues. It is proposed to repeal these regulations. A council of defence under the existing section 28 ( 1) of the Defence Act could be set up with functions and membership more closely related to the defence council which is currently being advocated by a number of people who have contributed to the debate on the organisational proposals. I have an outline of the possible membership and functions of such a council of defence.
This draft has been discussed informally with the Attorney-General’s Department, which is generally in agreement with the suggested provisions. It should be understood, however, that in view of the Attorney-General’s Department it would not be valid to provide for the membership by regulation as section 28 (1) of the Defence Act contemplates that the GovernorGeneral would make such appointments by an executive act and not by exercising his power to make regulations. The proposal is, therefore, that the functions and frequency of meeting would be provided by regulation and that the members would be appointed by an OrderinCouncil. Section 28(1) of the Defence Act provides:
The Governor-General may constitute a Council of Defence, which shall have such powers and functions as are prescribed.
The Government proposes to repeal the existing Council of Defence Regulations and to reconstitute the Council of Defence with the following membership: The Minister; the Minister appointed to assist the Minister for Defence; the Secretary to the Department of Defence; the Chief of Defence Force Staff; the Chief of Naval Staff; the Chief of the General Staff; and the Chief of the Air Staff. The Regulations will provide that the function of the Council will be to enable the Minister, in consultation with the other members of the Council, to consider matters relating to the control and administration of the Defence Force and the respective arms of the Defence Force. The Regulations will provide that the Minister may from time to time convene meetings of the Council but shall convene at least 4 meetings of the Council in any one year. Mr Morrison has indicated that he is prepared so to act.
– I believe that the commitment now of the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) to the establishment of a Council of Defence that will meet at least four times yearly in some measure meets the criticisms that have been put to me personally by people interested in the defence forces and in some measure meets the criticisms that have been put here generally by the Opposition. Opposition senators are interjecting. Despite the interjections, I believe that it does because members of the Opposition have in the main not pinpointed any direct faults in this legislation but have dealt really with the relationships within it between the armed Services. I should think that the commitment to the establishment of a Council of Defence is at least one step further towards meeting the criticisms that have been made. I thank the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) for the commitment he has given on behalf of his colleague.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 August on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Madam Acting President, I seek leave to make a statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Last week Senator Cotton on behalf of the Opposition sought certain information concerning this legislation. That information is now available to me. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
MONETARY IMPACT OF THE BUDGET
Information sought by the Opposition
The Acting Treasurer has provided me with the following answers to the questions raised by Senator Cotton in the debate on the Loan Bill 1975 on Thursday 28 August 1 975.
Question 1. Does the Treasurer confirm the actual total financial deficit on Government transactions for the year ended June 1 975 was $2,567 million?
Answer. As set out in ‘Statement No. 5- Budget Result, 1974-75’ on page 110 of the Statements attached to the Budget Speech, the actual budget deficit for the year ended June 1975 was $2,567 million.
Question 2. Does he confirm it was financed or funded as follows?
Answer. The table reproduced in the Senator’ s question does show how the deficit for 1974-75 was financed. That table appeared on page 1 1 7 of the Budget Statements as part of ‘Statement No. 5-Budget Result, 1 974-75 ‘.
Question 3. What was the total of unused cash balance at 30 June 1975?
Answer. At 30 June 1 975 the Australian Government cash balances stood at $764,95 1 , 806 as set out in the Statement of Treasury Balances at 30 June 1975 appearing on page 2 of The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ended 30 June 1975. That Statement was tabled in the Senate together with other Budget papers on 1 9 August.
Question 4. What was the cash deficit of Governmentfinanced transactions for month of July 1 975?
Answer. The cash deficit on Australian Government financial transactions for July 1 975 was $651 million as shown in the Australian Government Statement of Financial Transactions for July 1975 which was published on 18 August 1975.
Question 5. What is the estimated financial position for Government surplus or deficit for the month of August?
Answer. Information is not yet available to determine the overall deficit for the month of August. In relation to cash balances, however, I would expect an increase to have occurred during the month of August given the record August loan result and the fact that a company tax instalment fell due during the month. It is anticipated that the results for the month of August 1 97 5 will be published in the usual monthly Statement of Financial Transactions in the next few days.
Question 6. How were the subscriptions to the last loan derived:
Answer. As the Treasurer announced on 26 August total cash subscriptions to the Australian Government loan which closed on 2 1 August amounted to a record $68 1.7 million. As to the sources of these subscriptions:
Question 7. How does the Government propose to fund or finance the deficit for the coming year now estimated at $2,798 million. The balance and details of the various areas outlined below would be a valuable help in analysing this position:
d) Net changes in Treasury Notes on issue:
Answer. Comments on each of the items listed by Senator Cotton are as follows:
These comprise loans raised overseas for the specific purposes of financing purchases of aircraft for Government airlines and for defence purchases. It is estimated that there will be only small net drawings (about $2 million) for the airlines in 1975-76. No new drawings under credit arrangements for defence purchases are planned for 1975-76. Repayments of previous drawings are estimated at $33m.
Present plans envisage that only small amounts will be raised overseas in 1975-76. Small refinancing loans to cover maturing debt are planned, together with a borrowing of about $50m for on-lending to the AIDC which is provided for in the Budget. Although overseas borrowings have the effect of helping to finance the deficit, they have not- and would not- be undertaken specifically for that purpose.
The Government will be endeavouring to finance as much as possible of the deficit through the sale of government securities. Because sales of securities to the banking system do not impinge on the money supply (the banks merely exchange one asset for another), sales to the non-bank public are most desirable. What the actual level of sales will be is difficult to predict because, in pan, it will depend on general monetary conditions which are influenced by a whole host of factors, many of which (such as export prices and incomes) are outside the Government’s control.
The August loan result, however, constitutes a good start towards meeting the Government’s objective of large sales of bonds to the non-bank sectorapproximately $300m of bond sales were to the nonbank sector.
Net change in Treasury notes on issue:
These securities are available on an ‘on tap’ basis. The take-up of them by the non-bank public depends very much on short-term liquidity and on expectations. It is, therefore, particularly difficult to predict. The range of Government securities runs from 13 week Treasury Notes to 20 year bonds and investment in Treasury Notes rather than Government securities and vice versa will depend largely on the preferences and expectations of the particular investors. These expectations can never really be predicted, least of all in present circumstances.
For the same reasons as for sales to the non-bank public, it is not possible to predict the likely take-up of Treasury notes by the banking system.
As has been indicated earlier, one of the Government’s objectives will be to maximise sales of bonds to the non-bank public. To achieve this, bonds will have to be maintained as an attractive investment option. In these circumstances net sales to the banking system will probably also be considerable. ( 0 Use of cash balances with the Reserve Bank.
This is a residual. It is the method used to complete the financing of the deficit. The Government will be endeavouring to avoid excessive reliance on the use of cash balances in financing the deficit.
Overall, I would emphasise the point that the prospective financing transactions which will go toward meeting a Budget deficit cannot be predicted with any degree of accuracy and that for some years it has not been the practice to attempt to include what purports to be estimates of prospective loan raisings from various sources, Treasury Note issues etc. in the Budget papers. By way of illustration, Statement No. 3 attached to the 1 972-73 Budget Speech states that ‘ Net loan proceeds and the net change in the Treasury Note issue in Australia cannot, however, be accurately estimated in advance. Nor can the changes that may occur in holdings of Commonwealth securities by the public, on the one hand, and by the banking system, on the other, be predicted accurately’.
Question 8. This question sought details of the transactions under the procedure outlined in this Bill for the years 1970 to 1975.
Answer. The information sought is as follows:
Question 9. Is there a proper constitutional base for this proposal?
Answer. The Solicitor-General and the AttorneyGeneral’s Department have stated that the answer to this question is yes. They have provided the following comments by way of explanation.
Clause 3 of the Bill would provide specific Parliamentary authority for the proposed borrowing. Section 51 (iv) of the Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to ‘borrowing money on the public credit of the Commonwealth’. The basic constitutional requirement of Parliamentary authority for the expenditure of the moneys borrowed would be satisfied by clause 4 of the Bill. Under that clause, the moneys borrowed would be applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for services specified under the heading of the ‘ Department of Defence ‘ in the Supply Act (No. 1) 1975-76 or in a subsequent Act. Section 51 (vi) of the Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to the defence of the Commonwealth.
Reference has been made in the Parliament to the procedures to be followed within the Treasury in relation to these loan moneys. The procedures are specifically prescribed in sections 55 to 59 of the Audit Act 1901-1975. Under section 55 a separate account is to be kept in the Treasury of all moneys raised by way of loan and which are paid into the Commonwealth Public Account. For purposes of that Act, the account is called ‘the Loan Fund’. Section 57(1) provides that it shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the Loan Fund ‘ except under the authority of an Act or under the authority of section 57 itself.
These provisions have appeared in the Audit Act in substantially similar terms since the original Audit Act 1901. The provisions are fully consistent with the requirements of sections 81 and 83 of the Constitution relating to public moneys. In particular, they are consistent with alternative views of section 81 of the Constitution, namely, (a) that the revenues or moneys’ to which section 81 refers do not include moneys raised by way of loan (see, for example, Quick and Garran, Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth (1901), at page 811); and (b) that the revenues or moneys’ to which section 81 refers do include loan moneys and that the payment of the moneys into the special account known as ‘the Loan Fund’ as required by the Audit Act meets the requirements of section 8 1 .
Question 10. Is this proposal in breach of the Loan Council Agreement and its arrangements?
Answer. No. Clause 3(8) of the Financial Agreement states inter alia ‘Loans for Defence purposes approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall not be included in the Commonwealth’s loan programme or be otherwise subject to this Agreement’.
Question 8 in Senator Cotton’s list seeks details ‘Of the transactions under Loan Act procedures for the years 1 970 to 1975. The restricted number of years shown may present a misleading picture of the extent to which Loan Act procedures have been used. Similar information for the years 1961-62 to 1975-76 is presented below.
– I wish to say, very briefly, that I believe the Acting Treasurer (Mr Crean) has given a full reply to the questions which were asked by Senator Cotton. I hope that the contents of that document are adequate for the Opposition’s purposes. However, I have no doubt that
Senator Cotton will indicate his attitude in due course. I want to indicate also that the Government remains ready and willing to provide additional information if that is sought by Senator Cotton.
– I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) and the Acting Treasurer (Mr Crean) for the provision of this information which I have had only a very brief chance to look through. The document contains quite a lot of detail. I think it would be appropriate if the Opposition were to take more time to study the information provided and perhaps to have the opportunity of talking to someone from the Treasury about it. Accordingly I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 August, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Senate take note of the Papers. upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment-
At end of motion add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis because:
1 ) it does not provide an adequate programme to defeat inflation;
it does not relieve unemployment;
it does not restore confidence in the private sector of the economy;
it does not provide real tax relief to provide a proper basis for wage and salary restraint; and
it fails to restrain Government spending’.
– It is perhaps appropriate that I should commence my speech in this debate on the Budget with the words of the previous Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, Mr Bill Morrison, when he said:
Consumers are the largest but regrettably the least organised economic group in the community. Every one of us by definition is a consumer from when we get up in the morning and squeeze our toothpaste until we go to bed at night and turn off the lamp, but more often than not we are quite ignorant of our rights and privileges as consumers.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this year’s Budget, particularly to the man and woman in the street, is the appropriation of $1.12m for consumer protection. That amount will enable the Government to bring into operation a number of measures that are designed to give the consumer the assurance that the money that he or she is spending is being well spent. In the previous Budget there was an appropriation for consumer protection but it was nothing of the magnitude of the present appropriation. Consumer protection is long overdue, as is the establishment of an Australian consumer protection authority. It will be recalled that that was announced by the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) a few days ago.
Effective consumer protection is something for which Australians have been waiting for a long time. If we were to look at the definition of consumerism I think we would find that it relates to the concern of a group of people that some of the products they buy do not necessarily come up to safety or performance standards. Perhaps the word ‘performance’ is as relevant in this context as is the word ‘safety’. Consumerism is not new. It is certainly not new in Australia. It has been operating effectively for the last 8 to 10 years with a number of groups which work on a voluntary basis. Of course the Australian consumer organisation has been formed for a much longer period than that. Perhaps consumerism could be described as being something that is rather like Topsy in that it just grew, but it is here to stay. This injection of funds into specific areas of consumer protection will ensure that it stays. It will provide a form of consolidation and continuation for groups throughout Australia. While those groups may go under a variety of headings, they are all basically concerned with consumer protection. They see the problems that the ordinary consumer experiences on a day to day basis possibly even more so than the consumer affairs bureaus or the consumer protection authorities in the States would see them. The words used by the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, Mr Clyde Cameron, must give those groups in particular a great deal of heart. They will certainly strengthen the consumers themselves. At long last we have a situation in which a need has been defined and positive action is now to be put into operation.
We are all well aware of the existence of the State consumer protection authorities, the consumer protection bureaus, the Consumer Affairs Council and the Commissioners for Trade Practices. What we have not had before but are going to have now is a body that will establish not only safety standards for the goods that we buy but also performance standards. I refer honourable senators to a booklet entitled ‘Standards and the Consumer’. It poses the question ‘What is an Australian standard?’ and states:
A performance standard is a set of requirements with related test methods that ensure that a product will perform satisfactorily in its intended use. Such a standard has, as its objective, the specifications of fitness for purpose.
This is something we have not had before. We have all had the situation in our own homes and with our motor vehicles where we have made a purchase which we honestly believed to be a good purchase at the time only to find that there was no performance standard established and certainly no performance warranty had been given.
We have all come to accept that warranties and guarantees provide a great deal more protection for the manufacturer than they do for the consumer. Unfortunately, that is a fact of life. It is equally unfortunate that consumers have come to accept it as inevitable. Similarly, we have come to accept a certain code of advertising which perhaps is just inside the existing legislation, but only just inside. We have come to accept that if we buy an appliance for our home, whether it be a major or minor purchase, and it turns out to be faulty the manufacturer feels responsible only insofar as repairs are concerned. He feels no responsibility to replace the article even if found to be faulty as soon as one attempted to use it.
How many honourable senators in this place today have not heard or even experienced a problem with appliances in the home when the consumers have actually returned the goods to the store only to be told that the warranty or guarantee entitles them only to have the appliance repaired? In most instances, it is supposed that they will be quite happy to foot the bill for the labour of that repair. Possibly one of the reasons for this attitude of consumers, manufacturers, and retailers alike is that our marketing methods have changed so drastically over the years. I can recall my parents often referring to the ‘good old days’ and the small corner store. I think, possibly, the retailer at that time saw his role as a purchaser on behalf of the consumers and he gave his personal guarantee on products. Today, retailers are more than likely sellers on behalf of the manufacturer. If that manufacturer is not prepared to stand behind his warranty or guarantee, the retailer certainly does not feel that he should shoulder the responsibility.
Senator Martin spoke in this place last week about realities. The reality of this situation is that in the very near future the people responsible for the manufacture of consumer products will have to tell the consumer a great deal more about their products. They are going to have to tell us what performance we can expect from their products. They are going to have to tell us what is contained in their products. They will have to establish safety standards. They will have to be a lot more open in their style of advertising than they have to be now, even with the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. I hope that, with the establishment of the Australian consumer protection authority and the establishment of consumer standards and product information standards, there will be a much more critical appraisal of the type of advertising which we permit now, even though we admit it is just on the borderline.
We have only to look at the first annual report of the Trade Practices Commission to see the type of complaints that are being received by that body. Similar complaints are being received by the State consumer proctection bodies. We find that in the first 8 months of its operation, from 1 October 1 974 to 30 June 1 975, it received a total of 1161 complaints and 20 per cent of those, or 346, related directly to motor vehicles. The report does not say whether they were used vehicles or new vehicles. That is not the question I am raising at this point of time. The question I do raise is that we have a major problem with our road toll throughout Australia. Yet we are prepared to tolerate a situation in which a quarter of the total complaints received by a national body in an 8-month period relate directly to motor vehicles.
The Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) in his speech to consumer organisations not long ago claimed that the complaints to the State consumer protection authorities in relation to motor vehicles had been as high as 80 per cent. But we have a problem with the manufacturers of these motor vehicles who are not necessarily prepared to come out openly and admit that they have put faulty vehicles on to the market. We have only to read the Hansard report of the grievance debate in the other House on Thursday of last week to establish the type of malpractice that occurs. We are indebted to the honourable member for Swan, Mr Adrian Bennett, for drawing attention to this matter. He referred specifically to a publication put out by the Car Consumers Association of Victoria. The particular publication was entitled ‘The Secret Repair Policies of Car Manufacturers’. Mr Bennett states, on page 394 of Hansard of 21 August 1975:
Car Consumers’ Association wishes to advise owners of the existence of a GMH policy relating to the extension of cover of Trimatic Transmissions from 12 months, 12 000 miles to 3 years, 50 000 miles. This policy only applies to vehicles built before June 1974 fitted with Trimatic Transmissions. If need of such a cover arises, contact your GMH dealer.
That was contained in a public notice that was published in the Age in Melbourne on Thursday, 15 May 1975. There would be a lot of people who actually own such vehicles who would not be aware of that report. I ask: How many of them would read the public notices in the Melbourne Age, particularly if they happen to live in Western Australia in order to find out that they had an extended policy? Mr Bennett continued:
It has been drawn to my attention that up to 500 000 consumers who have bought these vehicles over 6 years could be eligible but unaware of this policy. I am also given to understand that these repair policies apply to other makes of vehicles. I feel that there must be some way in which to give wide publicity to this situation as in up to 60 per cent of Holdens fitted with Trimatic transmissions faults have occurred and the usual repair cost of the Trimatic can be between $325 and $375, and perhaps more in some States. This is particularly appalling for the average working man who is faced with the cost of repair of one of these transmissions.
I question whether they would even know that it was going to cost them money. I would question how many times in 6 years a car could, and possibly does, change hands.
However, we sit back and we say: ‘That is all very well. General Motors-Holden’s have put an advertisement in the Melbourne Age on Thursday, 1 5 May. Obviously their intention is good ‘. I do not believe it is good. If they were at all concerned they would be endeavouring to find the owners of those cars. Even if it did take some time, the repairs could be carried out without more costs being added to those of the consumer who happened to purchase a vehicle and who thought at the time that it was a good buy. No one in this House or in the other place could discuss a problem experienced by any consumer in relation to a motor vehicle without referring to the specific problem of Mr and Mrs Oros of Red Hill in the Australian Capital Territory. I understand honourable senators received correspondence on this matter some time ago. Possibly some honourable senators have ignored it. Let us see what Mr and Mrs Oros had to say. Their problem was that they bought a car which cost about $1,500 and then, at the end of 5½ years, they had had to spend $8,500 on repairs. In correspondence to me, they said:
Almost everybody to whom we have related our saga asked one of the 2 questions:
To me, that is just shelving the responsibility. Does any honourable senator suggest that they should sell their faulty motor car to someone else and let someone else pay the additional expenses? Mr and Mrs Oros go on to say:
Perhaps somewhere in this country of ours there does exist an individual who may wish to raise a voice of indignation. We do not believe that ours is an isolated case.
We do not seem to have proper consumer protection laws.
Perhaps it is high time to have one- and let it be an effective one.
We believe that we ‘ordinary’ citizens are just as important as the National or International matters.
I have to agree with Mr and Mrs Oros. Ordinary citizens are just as important as national or international matters. They should have some form of protection to ensure that the money they are spending is being well spent. I wrote to the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs because of my concern with the problem facing Mr and Mrs Oros. I was informed by the Commissioner on 5 June this year that the bureau had commenced investigations into the complaint but was preempted from finalising these when the case was heard in the Canberra Court of Petty Sessions on 14 October 1974. The outcome of that hearing was that judgment was given against Mr Oros and he was ordered to pay a total of $309.38 plus costs. This man had in all innocence purchased a motor vehicle which he considered would give him a certain amount of service. It did not. He had it repaired and the repairs were faulty. He paid for them and subsequently he was taken to court. In respect of this faulty car which cost him something like $8,500 after 5Vi years he was ordered to pay a further $309 by the court. It is obvious to me that our court and our legislation need changing. Perhaps we can assume that something more comprehensive will be done with this consumer protection legislation.
Referring back to the annual report of the Trade Practices Commission I find that the next highest list of complaints received by the Commission in that 8 months period related to household appliances. Of a total of 1,661 complaints, 256 related specifically to household appliances. Any housewife or homemaker, call her what you will, will tell you about her vacuum cleaner, her steam-and-dry iron, her food mixer and her pop-up toaster that neither pops up nor toasts. She will be only too happy to tell you about the attitude of manufacturers when she tries to get service on her washing machine, her drier or her stereogram when she honestly believes that it is covered by warranty. She will be only too happy to tell you also about her complaints with foods and beverages.
Food and beverages just happen to be the next highest on the list of complaints received by the Commission. In all probability she will tell you that she wants more information about the food she is buying. She may even be aware enough to realise that there has to be a system, some type of system somewhere, which can operate for open date coding. We have a variety of coding systems in Australia at the moment. I imagine that the most popular would be the Julian system which is a combination of letters and numbers, none of which anybody seems to understand apart from the people who put them on the packages in the first place. I know of health inspectors in Western Australia who have gone around supermarkets checking the freshness and the quality of goods and who have been unable to understand the type of open date coding systems being operated at the moment. They do not mean much to the person who is buying the food and who wants to establish that the food being bought is nutritional.
In the list in the Trade Practices Commission’s annual report there are 24 categories and another group simply called miscellaneous. Even in the miscellaneous section there were 62 complaints and that heading could cover a wide range of services or products.
I wonder whether, even with this provision in the Budget, Australia will become the enlightened consumer protective country it should be. If honourable senators look at the publication called ‘Consumer Register’, published by Virginia Knauer’s department in America- for those who do not know, Mrs Knauer is the special adviser to President Ford on consumer affairs and the Director of Consumers Affairs at the White House- they will see that this organisation calls for not only public support and comment but also participation in any of the projects being undertaken. The one I have here invites consumers to participate in the development of standards for swimming pool slides. It invites comments about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s intention to require special closures on all preparations containing what could be considered lethal doses of drugs in order to prevent children being able to easily avail themselves of those drugs. There is a wide range of other subjects including distilled spirits, silver plated hollow ware, toy safety and register results. I query whether our legislation will go far enough to protect consumers in Australia.
Mr Clyde Cameron has stated that it is his intention that the Australian Consumer Protection Authority will continue to put our pamphlets of the nature of those that I have here. There are a number of them but they do not appear to reach the people who need them. One is headed Children’s Car Seats and Car Harnesses’ and I suggest it should be freely available from the manufacturers of the recommended seats and harnesses. Another is entitled ‘Clothes burn- so do kids! ‘ This is a multi-language type pamphlet which states what products you can buy with safety. It also relates to the type of labels that are to be required. There is another pamphlet entitled ‘A guide to storing food’ and another entitled ‘Don’t poison your family’. They set out how to keep food fresh. These are necessities in this day and age where a lot of people work a lot of the time and have to take advantage of prepackaged goods because of the time consuming demands on their availability to maintain a house.
I shall conclude by quoting from Mr Clyde Cameron’s paper which he presented some time ago. In it he quoted Dr Jeremy Mitchell, Director of Consumers Affairs of the U.K. Office of Fair Trading, who said:
The main aim of many consumer groups has been simply to help the consumer make sensible choices from among the goods and services already available. Very often, this has involved excessive concentration on testing expensive consumer durables.
The situation in Australia at this time is as here stated and I hope it will be changed in the very near future. I commend the Budget and I reject the amendment.
– The Whitlam Government’s approach to the Budget of 1975-76 is very much like the rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. There is no definitive action to avoid the dangers ahead, dangers that in other places are recognised. We have only the superficial acts and the soft answers. Therefore we must start with these questions in our minds. How shall we treat and how shall we assess this Budget? Is it to be taken as a document of good faith? Is it to be taken on face value? Are the assumptions in it to be accepted as being the valid and bona fide intentions of the Government or are they simply, as with the 2 previous Budgets of the Whitlam Government, meaningless things, something to get over this awkward period of August-September so that a new and unco-ordinated spending spree can go on for the rest of the year? On this test the whole Budget must rest.
The Senate and the people of Australia now know that the Budgets of the past have not been bona fide. They were not meant to be taken seriously. In fact they were broken as to their premises within weeks of being pronounced. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Crean) said only days after this Budget that very soon it will be necessary for the Government to increase its spending beyond the Budget to meet unemployment. So quite clearly the assumption of the Government is that this document is to be surpassed. Let us test it. It is good for our immortal souls to go back to the Budgets of the past. I was regaled by looking at the Budget Speech of 1974-75. 1 can hear now the honest indignation in the voice of the then Treasurer- the Treasurer but one past- when he said that ‘the Government was not prepared deliberately to create a level of 4 per cent or 5 per cent unemployment, or perhaps even higher’. Those figures come out of the Budget of last year. Deliberate or not, that is precisely what it did; it created unemployment in excess of that level. Wherever one looks in this Budget, one finds, except for a clear expression of intention to wipe out profits, glib statements. In the light of all the statements that are being made in another place now on so-called tax reform, the vital need for it and the great distortions of the scales that have been in existence up until now, perhaps one should read the words of the Treasurer in his Budget Speech of 1974-75. Having done the old trick of making some cuts in income tax and then imposing indirect taxes far in excess of those cuts, he said these words:
Taken together, our tax measures constitute major reforms. They will make the tax system fairer and more equitable. The great majority of wage and salary earners, and especially low-income single-income families, will pay less tax as a result.
If what the then Treasurer said then was right, what the present Treasurer (Mr Hayden) and his Government have been saying in recent days has been absolutely wrong, because the whole of their argument has been that the Budgets of the past have so distorted the tax scales that they have been grossly against the middle and low income earners and something ought to be done. In the face of the fact that the tax cuts of last year amounted to $ 1,000m, and in the light of this year’s great reform, that ‘something’, incidentally, is that tax cuts are to be $120m or less, as we shall see. One can go step by step through the Budget Speech of last year and one can look at the present Budget. I want to test the present Budget and its bona fides. The Treasurer’s Speech on the present Budget contains some towering words. Incidentally, the most beautiful phrase goes like this:
Our reforms are enduring; they will not be reversed. Now we propose to pause to take stock of the achievements.
One ought to have 2 minutes silence for such a grand thought. Indeed, it would have been far better had the Government paused instead of taking its disastrous actions. We are asked to accept the present Budget on 2 main assumptions. The Budget Speech states:
On the economic front, inflation is this nation’s most menacing enemy. We aim to curb it. Unless this aim is achieved, the nation’s productive capacity will run down and job opportunities will diminish.
– That is right.
-Senator Wheeldon says: That is right’. I hope he will be equally helpful in acknowledging the premises of his Government, and I shall invite him to do so as I go along. The Budget Speech also states:
Our present level of unemployment is too high. If we fail to control inflation unemployment will get worse.
Is that right?
– Of course that is right.
-Senator Wheeldon says: That is right’. I invite him to look at the supporting documents of the Budget, because they are based on 2 stated premises. One is the growth in employment. It is stated that the growth in the workforce, in employment terms, will be one per cent this year, whereas in another place it points out that the growth in the number of those available for employment this year will be between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent. So quite clearly the Budget Speech says that there will be an increase in unemployment- that is by the Government’s own statement- at the end of this year. Is that right, Senator Wheeldon? That is right. One observes the modified rapture. We shall try again. The Budget Speech says that we must cut down on inflation, but it predicates that costs across the board shall increase by 22 per cent to 23 per cent. How do we cut down on inflation, which is now running at 17 per cent, if costs are going to increase by 22 per cent to 23 per cent? Is that right, Senator Wheeldon? The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) needs to acknowledge those things which are the basic truths.
In this quarter of this year the consumer price index increased by between 3 per cent and 4 per cent. It is true that the cost of the indirect taxes and charges now being imposed by the Government will cause the consumer price index to rise, as indicated by the Government Statistician and others, by 5 per cent or more by the December quarter, and that is right. That is what they say. The State Budgets, when they are introduced, will cause it to increase even further. My own mathematics show that a consumer price index increase of more than 5 per cent in December will result in an inflation rate of more than 20 per cent in December- even higher than now. So the Government’s assumption in relation to inflation must in itself be wrong. We have a Budget which says in its first pages that the Government intends to reduce unemployment and to lower the inflation rate; then in the small print- that is the small print which Senator Button invited us to read the other day- we are told, by the way, that when the year ends there will be more unemployment and a higher inflation rate.
That is what is contained in the document itself. It is a curious document because, with the help of the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) when speaking in a debate very recently, I found an interesting thing. Honourable senators will recall that during the debate on the Defence Force Re-Organization Bill I quoted the salaries of Service officers and of civilian staff. I pointed out that if those figures were adhered to there would be a severe cut-back in the numbers of servicemen and of civilian staff. In fact, if one allows for the 22 per cent wage increase, there would be a need to reduce the number of servicemen by something like 1 5 000 in order to observe the Budget estimate. Indeed, the salaries of servicemen show a 5 per cent increase on those of last year and the salaries of civilian staff show a 2 per cent increase on those of last year. To that the
Postmaster-General, representing in this chamber the Minister for. Defence (Mr Morrison), said- and I take it.that this is holy writ- that I should have realised that the figures in the Budget were based on . present costs. In other words, they are based on the wages and salaries being paid now and not those that will be paid in one year’s time, not at the level to which they will accelerate. So the Minister cannot have it both ways. If Senator Bishop means what I have suggested he means, then clearly, in order to sustain the number of servicemen and civilians, the amount of expenditure under the relevant part of the Budget must increase by $50m to $60m. I invited the Minister today to acknowledge that the cost given is not really as the Minister pointed it out.
Let me make another point, because this Budget reveals a fascinating situation. I set out and added up the total identifiable items of cost related to telephones and postage in the Budget for all departments and authorities. I found that in fact the Budget provides for an increase of less than 10 per cent on last year for those items. However, every authority says that the impact of the increase in stamps from 10c to 18c and the increase in telephone call charges from 6c to 9c will require a rninimum increase in expenditure of 50 per cent, and that is a conservative cost estimate. What does it mean? Does the Minister say that government departments and authorities intend to cut by half the number of items posted and the number of telephone calls made? Are they going to do that? Let the Minister tell us what is the situation in view of the figures I have given. Of course, what the Government has done is produce a Budget which means nothing. The figures in relation to 2 fundamental items are demonstrably wrong in that they are similar to those in the Budget of last year. In fact, somebody said of the Australian Labor Party’s Platform that it is like the platform on the back of a bus; it is meant to get in on but not to stand on. There is no doubt about that at all. In the light of this I was reminded of a very old 16th century saying which says that he who bulls the cow must keep the calf. Having bulled the cow on bloated pastures the Government must now keep the calf. That basically is the picture of this Budget.
Are we to accept an assumption of a Budget which last year provided for a deficit of $5 70m and was out by a mere $2,200m?- a minor error; a record. This year the Government says in effect: ‘Are we not clever? Do you know that if we had kept up that pace we would have had a deficit of $5,000m? We are not going to do that; we are going to cut it back to the greatest record ever, but it will not be $5,000m’. Quite clearly that assumption is false because when the figures for expenditure in July came out what did we find? We found that for the month of July there was a deficit of $756. lm. As everyone knows, the Supply requested for the 5 months was running far ahead of the expenditure of last year. Last year it was said that expenditure would run at 32.4 per cent ahead of the figure for the previous year, but it happened to run at 46 per cent- only an error of arithmetic- and Supply itself ran faster still.
In August when the figures come out, quite clearly they will show increased expenditure again. So again 1 ask the Minister. Is the Government going to keep the deficit as it is; is the Government going to cut back even further for the 10 months ahead to allow for its over expenditure in July and August? The public ought to know, and is entitled to know, these basic matters. On its own assumption of what will happen to inflation and unemployment, this Budget is a self-defeating document in that it says inflation is too high and unemployment is too high but at the end of this year they will both be higher still. I have demonstrated also, expenditure by expenditure and item by item, that the Government does not intend to keep to the Budget. Or does it intend to cut the number of servicemen and civilians in the defence forces? It would be very interesting to know the answer to that question.
This Budget is also presented at a time when self-oblation and self-confession are good for the soul because now every one of the dogma and the mouthings of the Government since 1 972 has been shown to be false. I now quote from 2 documents- the reports of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Economic Survey in Australia of July 1 975, and of the International Monetary Fund Survey of 28 July 1 975. The Government’s total alibi until now has been that inflation was imported, largely by wicked multinationals no doubt. The other day, however, Mr Whitlam got annoyed and said that it was not imported but was due to undue wage and salary demands. I looked up what Mr Whitlam said when we joined the OECD. What he said in effect was: ‘You ought to do this; it is a thoroughly reliable and authoritative body. What it says will be of great value and of great truth’. Let me quote what the OECD said. In the introduction to its survey it states:
As in most Member countries, there was a marked weakening of demand and activity in Australia during 1974 and in the early part of this year and unemployment rose to record levels for the postwar period. But despite the fact that the world oil price increase had only a minor direct effect, inflation accelerated- fuelled by rapidly rising wage costs -to the highest rate experienced since the Korean boom.
On page 1 5 the survey stated:
As indicated earlier, Australia’s experience last year in regard to price stability was again unfavourable in comparison with the OECD area as a whole, while the rate of wage increases was one of the highest in the area.
It went on to castigate Australia for this. The international Monetary Fund survey stated:
However, only part of the Australian economy ‘s weakness can be attributed to external causes, such as the slump in wool prices in 1974 and the exclusion of Australian beef from its major markets- Japan, the United States and the European Economic Community. With about two-thirds of its petroleum requirement covered by indigenous crude oil, the direct impact on the Australian economy of the oil price increases has been modest and in the medium and long term Australia stands to benefit from the energy crisis with its abundance of energy resources such as coal, natural gas and uranium.
I interpolate to ask the Senate to note the final sentence. It reads:
The origins of the Australian recession are therefore to be found in domestic developments.
So quite clearly both the OECD and the IMF said that the unprecedented trouble Australia is now experiencing has been self inflicted, that the causes are domestic and originated in the Government and are entirely unnecessary and should never have occurred. The fact that now good programs have to be cut back across the board is directly to be blamed on the Government and nobody else, because the Government has created unemployment and the inflation. The Government now says that the situation will get worse and it is doing nothing about it.
I want now to state the great fallacy of the Budget. It is contained in the text of the Budget and needs to be looked at closely. In recent months the Prime Minister and others have suddenly discovered that the private sector needs sustaining. Last year’s Budget said that it could be dispensed with and that it was time to have a go in the public sector. Perhaps the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation does not remember. I quote from last year’s Budget Speech:
The relatively subdued conditions in prospect in the private sector provide the first real opportunity we have had to transfer resources to the public sector.
I do not know which Treasurer made that statement. I always get mixed up because I cannot tell to whom the statement of Brutus should refer when he said of Julius Ceasar:
As he was valiant, 1 honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him.
Should that refer to Mr Crean or Dr Cairns? Never mind. Certainly the Prime Minister accepts the Brutus syndrome- ‘as he was ambitious, I slew him’. But honourable senators will recall that Brutus was an honourable man. In the Budget of this year reference is made to the need to stimulate the private sector. The Prime Minister has said now that it is important not to attack company profits too much- ‘do not pick on them too much because we need them a little and we are going to stimulate them’. I want to draw the epitaph in 2 sections of the Budget. I refer now to the Budget purely as a stimulant to the private sector. In the Budget Speech the following words appear:
With the exception of business investment expenditure, which remains the weakest area of prospective demand, other components of domestic spending should show a strengthening trend . . .
I repeat that the statement is that there will not be a strengthening trend in business investment expenditure. Of course that is precisely true.
I looked at what is going to happen to company tax. It is clear that if the private sector is to employ more people it will have to expand and make more profits. Its expansion will be the measure of whether it is going to take up people or not. In 1974-75 company tax revenue was $2, 358. 8m. The estimate for this year is $2, 160m, which is $ 198.8m less than for 1 974-75. Lest the Labor Party or its Ministers get into a frenzy about this, I point out that after taking away the $120m reduction that the Government said it was going to make in company tax, it is still saying that it will harvest $78m less in company tax this year. So the private company area is going to be less profitable and perforce it must employ fewer people. In 2 parts of the Budget the Labor Party, having said that inflation is going to increase and unemployment is going to increase, says that it recognises that business investment expenditure is not going to strengthen and then it says that it recognises that private companies and public companies are going to weaken. I invite the Government to point out the defects in this analysis because one could go step by step by step through the whole issue.
This Budget goes further than being merely a shifting of the deckchairs on the Titanic, it goes far further than that. It is introducing a new form of dogma. I noticed that the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation looked somewhat surprised when I referred to dogma. I think that basically the most important things that have been said in recent days to assist the understanding of the Australian people of the intentions of the Government are contained, firstly, in the Chifley memorial lecture of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and, secondly, in the penultimate paragraph of the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden). Since the Minister raised his eyebrows when I mentioned dogma, I remind him of what I think Chesterton said: ‘Dogma does not mean the absence of thought but the end of thought’.
– Chesterton, you may remember, was advocating the value of dogma.
– Chesterton was the great destroyer of dogma. He said, the honourable senator may recall: ‘No one should say “My country right or wrong”; it is like saying “My mother drunk or sober”.’. He was in fact the superlative destroyer of dogma. But let me continue in the Chesterton vein. The Prime Minister, . in his Chifley memorial address, argued that Australians are not in future to look to the size of their take-home pay or the amount of money they have in the bank to decide how well off they are or how many goods and services they have or how free they are. That is not the test for the future. He went on to say, as may be seen at page 6 of the Chifley memorial lecture:
The quality of life depends less on the things which individuals obtain for themselves from their personal incomes and depends more on the things which the community provides for all its members from the combined resources of the community.
– Who pays for that?
-Senator Guilfoyle quite properly says: ‘Who pays for it?’ This is called forced payment by the taxpayer and I propose to demonstrate in a moment how this is like the Army when it says: ‘We want 3 volunteers- you, you and you’. This is the same kind of compulsion as the Army uses. It is a kind of ‘voluntary’ service that the Labor Party understands. The Treasurer went on with what I think is one of the most forbidding statements in the Budget Speech. He said:
In drawing attention to these price effects, I add that it is the Government’s firm view that, for the purposes of wage indexation, increases in prices resulting from tax measures of the sort that I have announced should be discounted. It would be self-defeating if the system of wage indexation were to attempt to insulate the community from tax measures designed to redistribute resources for the benefit of the community in the form of improved public facilities in fields such as education, health, welfare, personal benefits urban improvement and so on. These improvements must be seen as a real improvement in people’s living standards and are a non-money form of addition to their incomes.
I hope the Labor Party tells the fellows drinking their extra dear beer and smoking their cigarettes in the pub tonight that it has increased the taxation on those commodities but that really it has been done for their good because the Whitlam Government knows better than they do how to spend their money. That is precisely what this dogma, this absence of thought -
– If you had been in power you would have, had your sons in Timor.
– I take it that that interjection was to the effect that if we had been in power we would have been in Timor. If we had been in power we would have been looking now to help in real ways. I could not get an answer today from the Leader of the Government (Senator Wriedt) as to whether or not we intend to offer doctors, medical supplies and food to a people whom I know very well and amongst whom I have lived- a people who, I understand, have no doctors and no medical supplies and a people whose living standards are as low as any in the world. I thank the honourable senator for his interjection. When I pleaded today with the Leader of the Government to know what happened yesterday with Dr Santos- what he asked for and what our Government offered- I received the reply which I paraphrase: ‘We offered nothing. Do not think that we are going to intervene at all. We will wait until the United Nations gives its permission’. When I asked whether the United Nations had been approached I received the reply: ‘Sorry, I cannot tell you. I will have to go away and get an answer’. Yet the interjection was meant to be clever. Dogma is the end of thought’ Chesterton said.
We come to the lovely belief that Father Whitlam- Father Gough- knows best of all the people. I am in a good quoting mood today. When I think of the Prime Minister I think of Disraeli’s statement that: ‘He is a self-made man who worships his creator’. Indeed, it is an apt description. This self-made man who in his narcissism is looking at his own political navel in his worship of his own creator has forgotten the little people- the ordinary families. The proposition is an interesting one.
– The leprechauns.
-Perhaps Senator Wheeldon, who seeks to interject, will go along with it. Recently I asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) whether when his Government made its socalled social contract with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the trade unions and told them: ‘Look, if you forego over-award wage demands we will give you wage indexation’, he told them that his Government proposed that it would not be full wage indexation on the consumer price index but that indirect taxes and charges would be discounted. The Minister replied: ‘No, I do not think we did ‘. He then gave me a little lecture on socialistic dogma and said that he and his Government know better how to spend money than we do. If we want the trade union movement and the ACTU to enter a social contract with us then, first of all, in the homely phrase do we not have to be fair dinkum with each other? Is there now to be a snide trick with the Government saying one minute: ‘Come along son, join up with us in this and the CPI will take you a long way’, and then saying: ‘But we are going to discount indirect taxes and charges’?
I ask the Government whether it will also discount all the indirect taxes and charges that will be imposed by the State governments and local government authorities in the weeks ahead? Let us have an answer to this. Let us be honest. We on the Opposition side will, of course, be saying to the trade union movement, which gave us for most of the time a pretty fair go indeed because it had the lowest inflation rate the world had seen, the highest sustained level of employment and the highest home ownership rate: ‘Look, we want a proper arrangement and a proper understanding’. Is the Government now saying that it is also going to discount all State and all local government indirect taxes and charges? What a snide trick. Do honourable senators know what this means? Let us do our maths. It means that for the December quarter whereas prospectively inflation will be running at about 22 per cent the increase in wages will be based on an inflation rate of 12 per cent.
Father knows best. So I looked up the wages that fellows were getting when we were in office. I noted that in December 1 972 a fellow on the average weekly wage was getting $99.80. 1 think the average weekly wage last week was $ 155.90. That looks good- $50 more a week or $2,000-odd more a year. Then I did a little tax deduction sum. I used the papers the Government supplied me so that I could see how well off a person on the average weekly wage is today. As a matter of interest I point out that he would pay about $1,100 more in tax out of that $2,000 a year. Then I looked at the figures for sales tax, and excise on beer, cigarettes and petrol and I found that such a person would pay another $1,000 a year. So straight away with 2 items of taxation the whole nominal amount- not the real amount- of the increase in the average weekly wage was taken away. Leaving aside local government rates and all State government charges, quite clearly persons receiving the nominal wage alone when discounted- and we are invited by the Treasurer to discount- are worse off now than they were in December 1972, without making allowance for the fact that prices have gone up by 41 per cent in 21/2 years and 55 per cent in a little over 3 years.
So this Government is robbing the man on the average weekly wage. I invite Government supporters to tell this man he is better off and that whereas sales tax revenue amounted to $695m a year when we left office 3 years ago it is now $ 1,425m. He will feel quite bucked up if he is reminded, when having a beer and a cigarette before getting into his car, that when we left office excise receipts amounted to $1,1 82m a year and are now $2,480m. This Government, which pretends to give income tax relief to the people, puts more on beer excise alone than the piddling relief it gives in direct tax. Then having given, nominally at least, about $100m in direct tax relief this Government takes off $60 lm in indirect tax, and this is without taking into account that quaint little habit, which was displayed yesterday, of increasing postal charges. As from yesterday the postal rate for an ordinary letter went up from 10c to 18c and telephone calls went up from 6c to 9c. A New Zealand friend of mine said yesterday: ‘You know, I do not think New Zealand is such a bad country. I can still post a letter anywhere in New Zealand for 4c’. According to the gallup polls, the people there will kick the Labor Government out in November. The gallup polls show that there is a record slaughter awaiting the Labor Government in New Zealand. If this Government is going to claim responsibility for the rain, then let it take responsibility for the drought. If honourable senators opposite are saying that in New Zealand there is a Labor Government which charges 4c for postage stamps, what about the Labor Government here that charges 1 8c?
– It is a bigger country.
– My goodneess, they are really wonderful, are they not? I thought I could rest on my Julius Caesar quote, but how many honourable senators know John Dryden? The last quote reminded me of him. He said:
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Indeed one could say that today, one after the other, the interjections never deviated into sense. John Dryden has always been a favourite of mine. He improves as the years go by.
Here we have a new kind of dogma, a dogma which says: ‘Mr Whitlam knows better than you how to spend your money. He will take it and spend it better than you’. Two new dogmatists have come along. One is Mr Crean, the honourable man. Of course, they all are honourable men. Mr Crean must be good because he has been elected to a position in the ministry for the second or third time. He is now the Deputy Prime Minister. Is this just the way the Fretilins deal with the others inside the Caucus? One cannot tell. Mr Crean said recently in a burst of ingenuous innocence: ‘In my view there is no place for life assurance in our affluent society’. The Minster for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon), who nods his head, must now be suffering from delirium tremens because in all his lectures to us he has said that all he innocently wanted to do through the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill was just to introduce a little nervous competition here and there. He now finds that the Deputy Prime Minister says there is no place for life assurance in our society. I ask honourable senators to pause; the dogmatists are on the run.
A junior Minister named Mr Riordan has been having some things to say. He must be good because he has just been put in the Ministry and the paeans of praise have been rising. What has he said to us in recent days? He has said, in effect, that Australians have to get out of their heads the idea that the average person or the average family can in future own their own home and they have to get out of their heads this idea that they can live in a home of 1 11/2 squares. He says they have to get down to something like 7 squares. Even Mr Khrushchev in Moscow allowed for homes covering 8 squares. He was one up on Mr Riordan. Who would have believed that we would be back to the pink icing and the abolition of Father Christmas? The Labor Party has abolished everything else. It was Dedman who said that he did not believe in little capitalists. It was a communist union official in the Building Workers Union who in my presence said: ‘We do not want people to own their own homes because people who own their own homes are satisfied. We do not want satisfied people. We want dissatisfaction.’ That was said on a Labor platform and agreed to.
– Who said that?
– That gentleman is now dead. The fact is that a Labor Minister has said 2 things. He has said that it will not be possible for people in the future to own their own homes. In 1972 anybody on an ordinary wage could purchase his own home, but what is the position now, some 3 years later? Are honourable senators opposite going to lay the blame on world crisis? Are they going to say that the multinationals are to blame? Are they going to blame this on the fact that this Government’s own dogma has so wrecked the building industry and so corrupted their own thinking that they now have a policy which is against home ownership? If so, they should stand up and say so. This Budget itself is an indictment of the Government for its policies on home ownership. This is the dogma in this Budget. ‘We are going to spend your money better than you can spend it. ‘
The Budget says: ‘This is a Budget which brings in big income tax cuts’. It fails to say that what will happen in the course of this year is that the rip-off from the ordinary wage earner in pay as you earn taxation will be 43 per cent greater than last year and the total take will be $2,600m more than last year. This Government says that the taxpayer will be getting a benefit, but I again thought to myself: It might be that I am mean and nasty so I had better look and see what the records show because the Government usually invites us to look at what happened when we were in government. So I looked to the Budget that ended in June 1 972- the last full Budget of a Liberal government- and the take for PA YE was $2,858,775,000. That has now been more than trebled, because it is to be $8, 683m. It has more than trebled in the 3-year period, and this Government has the gall to get up and say that it is cutting taxation. Test it, go to it and have a look at it. I have always been very interested in Mr Whitlam, although not in a Disraelian fashion. I have been interested in Mr Whitlam ‘s driver ever since Mr Whitlam invited me to do so in his policy speech in 1972 and subsequently kept letting us all know that he spends the whole of his time, except for narcissism, thinking about his driver. Honourable senators will recall that that was the basis of his 1972 policy speech. But why his driver? Why should his driver be having a rougher time than Mr Whitlam?
I once looked at a very old Labor Party platform and it said that it disagreed with indirect taxation because it was regressive and hurt the lower income earners more than the higher income earners. That statement still lies in that document and it is still fundamentally true. It was the dogma of the Chifleys and the old fashioned Labor people, who really meant to look after the poor and the weak and the underprivileged, but not of this Government. How can Government senators get up now and shed a tear for Mr Whitlam ‘s driver when in fact the indirect taxation in this Budget- if one takes in beer, cigarettes, fuel, postage- is a rip-off of some $ 1,300m, compared to a nominal return of $l00m. I think we ought to be looking at Mr Whitlam ‘s driver because in fact it is now Mr Whitlam who is doing him in, who is giving him the rough time that he adjured us all not to do. So there it is. It is all right to put up postage from 10c to 18c, telephone calls from 6c to 9c, beer by 4c or 5c a 10 oz glass, spirits by lc a nip, cigarettes by 6c or 7c a pack, petrol by 8c a gallon, and by how much more after 17 September when the Government renegotiates the crude oil price? That is not to be read into the Labor Party platform, the platform which said, and said correctly, that if you want to hurt the little person you put on indirect taxation because he can handle indirect taxation so much less than Mr Whitlam can. I think that Mr Whitlam ‘s driver, however honourable he is in his job, deserves to be left out of Mr Whitlam ‘s treatises to the Parliament. I have no doubt that the good man handles his life-style better than Mr Whitlam ‘s presentation of that life-style.
So we have a Budget which starts off by stating that inflation and unemployment are the evils, but when one looks at the back pages one finds that both are going to increase. The Budget states that the lack of capital investment is a real problem, but when one looks at the back pages one finds that it is going to fall off and there is going to be less capital investment. The Government says: ‘You think that we have given you back some tax, but we have simply ripped it off you in indirect taxation. You think you have done well over the 3 years, but in direct and indirect taxes alone we have taken off you more than the difference between your nominal wage now and what it was 3 years ago.’ What a record the Government has when it can say that in its period in office unemployment has trebled. The Government says it is the greatest. Benjamin Disraeli would have been thrilled with that. He would have felt very good indeed. Inflation has quadrupled- multiplied by 4 times- in that period. In the last year government spending went up by 76 per cent; since May 1974 government employment has gone up by 6 per cent while private employment has gone down by 4 per cent. It is true, of course, that that could not have happened because one is invited to read the Budget and the Budget for 1974-75 stated: ‘We are going to peg the increase in the government service to 2.6 per cent and it will really end up as 1 per cent.’ The Government now says in the documents attached to the Budget: ‘Sorry, we meant 6 per cent’.
– How would you sum up all that?
– I would sum it up by saying that here is dogma at its worst, the belief that by democratic socialism- and I think that is how the Minister describes it- governments can take money from people and spend it better than they can. Is that the dogma, or does the Minister disagree with Mr Whitiam, because that is what Mr Whitlam has said he is going to do. I would sum it up by saying that that is what the Government said it would do, and the Minister needs no reminder of that because he encouraged me to remind him of what Mr Crean said. Mr Crean said:
The relatively subdued conditions in prospect in the private sector provide the first real opportunity we have had to transfer resources to the public sector.
That is how I would sum it up. I would sum it up by saying that unemployment has trebled, inflation has quadrupled, government spending in the last two years has increased by 76 per cent, government employment since May 1974 has increased by 6 per cent while private employment has fallen by 4 per cent, private fixed capital has fallen by 14 per cent in the past 15 months, and on the basis of the Budget it is going to fall further. That is the background against which the Government has brought forward its Budget.
If I am not mistaken, although I cannot find it in the papers, the Budget is really predicated on an estimated increase in total money supply for the coming year of the order of 15 per cent. If that is so, and let the Government deny it if it is not, the Government itself will absorb between 1 1 per cent and 12 per cent of that increase and there will be a great drought of money in the private sector. The same kind of announcements will be made as were made last year when, against all the advice from the Opposition, the Government put on a massive credit squeeze. It said: ‘We will fix the developers; we will fix the builders. We will get prices down and we will get more houses built. ‘ In so doing it cut out of existence 80 000 homes that ought to be standing today in this country; it put land throughout Australia at the highest figure and in shorter supply than it has ever been before because the Government knew best and withheld credit. The Government was elected on a policy of low interest. Mr Crean said in 1972 that he did not think interest rates should be more than 3 per cent or 4 per cent.
– Perhaps he meant per month.
– Yes. Interest rates are now 1 1 per cent or 12 per cent; that is only a slight error. Mr Crean must be good because the Government promoted him again. In that period of Vh years the cost of living has gone up by 41 per cent and housing has been destroyed. In every area there has been negative growth, not just minor growth but a reversal of growth. We are going downhill. That is the record which Mr Whitlam has said we should examine and that is the record on which the Minister and his colleagues invite the ordinary working person to agree that the Government can spend his money better than he can. Recently Mr Riordan said, among other things: ‘Why, we have only 150 000 extra unemployed. That is all, only an additional 150 000’. I remember a gentleman in another place saying that he would resign if unemployment reached- what?
-More than 200 000.
– More than 200 000. I thank my Leader. Although that Minister does not know it, he has already made an involuntary resignation. Never mind. ‘As he was ambitious, I slew him’. My Leader remembers his Julius Caesar. It is so nice- between Disraeli and Caesar we can have a lot of fun.
– You keep confusing Julius with Brutus all the way through.
– The Minister fails to understand that it is he, Caesar, and his Government who are dead. It is Brutus who is the activist at this moment in his blind mouthing again of dogma. ‘As he was ambitious, I slew him ‘.
– You have lost me there, I am afraid.
– You ought to join the Billy Graham troupe.
– A little spiritual emphasis on values would do no one any harm, including cynical Ministers who think that at question time they can take good values held by decent people in the community and play funny games with them. It would do some good if members of the Labor Party opposite understood that there are human values- there are needs of the heart, the mind and the soul- that are precious and are not to be assaulted any more than needs of the body are to be assaulted.
– Are you addressing your remarks to me?
-I invite he who feels the wound to take it. The Opposition has not come forward in a negative sense. It is true that for the past 2 years at regular 6-monthly intervals the Opposition has come forward with positive policies on the economic level which it said would help to restore the economy and give relief. It was laughed at by the Government and by quite a number of economists who now acknowledge that our policies were right. So we have come forward this time with positive policies to stimulate capital investment. There is nothing clever in the basic economics involved. If we are to get employment for people, clearly in the private sector employment must be a profitable pursuit. Enterprise must be a profitable pursuit. If a person invests $1, $10 or $1,000 and does not get back in dividend what he loses in inflation, clearly he will not invest. Today it is quite madness to think that people will put in long term in industry money which might get 5, 6 or 7 per cent dividend, which would be taxed, when they would suffer inflation at 17 to 20 per cent. The investment might be a loss. The first thing that must happen is that the Government must make investment profitable. A dollar of investment must increase in its real value after its use- otherwise there will be no such investment.
Clearly today the Government says that this year investment will be less. It says that company tax will be less. In its own statement it says that there will be a weakening or a fall-off in company investment. The only way in which the Government will get jobs and the only way in which it will get full employment and reduce inflation is to give stimulus to the private sector. Nothing in the Government’s policy has done that. Everything in the Opposition’s policy is aimed towards that end- towards restoring full employment, stabilising the economy and reducing inflation. The dilemma of the Government is very real because it cannot really attack the positive policies which we have put forward. Why can it not do so? Because they bear the imprimatur and total support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and they bear the signature of Mr Jolly. The advocate for the ACTU has signed the document. Many Ministers have said: ‘Yes, it would be a good idea to have tax indexation. It would be a good idea to do inflation accounting of stock. All these things would be a good idea.’ Not a whimper can come from the Government benches as to the merits of the policies which we are advocating because they are backed to the hilt by the trade union movement. Let honourable senators opposite attack the merits of our policies. What are they doing? They are getting into a corner and saying: ‘We cannot do it because it will cost too much, and our deficit will be too big’. What hypocrisy for a government to argue about the size of a deficit when it knows in its own heart at this moment that its deficit will be bigger. We have brought forward a plan to show that by maintaining the deficit at least as it is we can do the things we say and set this country on a course back to normality.
So at this moment we have a budget which is self-destructive. It says in its own print that things will be worse at the end of the year than they were at the beginning, that the methods employed will not achieve anything, that inflation will be higher, that unemployment will be higher, that capital investment will be lower and that private enterprise will be smaller in shape. Each one of those things is written into the Budget statements. The Government comes forward with nothing to offer in its place except some bad faith in that regard. We have come forward with a sensible and logical series of policies which have the full approval not only of the Mathews Committee but also of ACTU thinking and which make sense in themselves. They must be implemented if this country is to get back to stability.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support the Budget. After listening to the tirade of around the world conversation related by Senator Carrick, the previous speaker, quite frankly I think it is a pity that he and others on that side do not go out into the community and wail on the shoulders of the people and tell the pensioners in our society about this terrible Government and this terrible Budget. I have personal knowledge of pensioners in the community who for the first time in their lives have been able to put a few dollars into a bank account- something they were never able to do under the previous Government. Let us look also at the Budget allocation for education. We notice a 4-fold increase in 2 years. Go out and tell that to the thousands of students and the thousands of mums and dads who for the first time in their lives see some opportunity for equality in education across the globe instead of having opportunity centred on the private schools, as was the case in 23 years of Liberal-Country Party rule. Go out and tell those people who were not previously able to afford hospital or private medical insurance. Go out and tell them and get your answer from them as to what this Labor Government is doing. It has increased by almost $ 15m the Budget allocation in the field of health services, mainly to support Medibank. They are the people who will be answering at the next poll. They are the people who will see the benefits of what this Labor Government has done in 2 years. I am quite sure the Opposition realises that the sting has been taken out of its arguments by this very commendable Budget which has been brought down at a time of some economic stress in Australia. There has been a lot of wailing and bleating. The Liberal and Country Parties traditionally go to the wailing wall about unemployment. They rant and rave. No one bothers to look at some of the basic problems of and some of the basic reasons for high unemployment in western democratic so-called free societies.
– Imported now, he will say.
-Senator Townley is ranting on like some bull calf that has lost its mother. It is rather interesting to look at the Western democratic societies in the postVietnam era and co-relate what has happened in those societies in the wind down from Vietnam to the question of unemployment. In America, which is not at war, there is high unemployment. Australia no longer has troops in Vietnam, our 7000 troops having been withdrawn. There is no more killing, raping and murdering in Vietnam. There is high unemployment in Australia. Great Britain has been fraught with the problem of unemployment since she started to retract from her once colonial empire.
One is entitled to raise those points and ask, is it not the capitalist system that is causing the problem, not the other factors that the Opposition would like to attribute to it. We do not see high inflation rates in communist or socialist countries. We do not see high unemployment in communist or socialist countries. I wonder what the answer is. Also, we have to look at the extremely high rate of technological advance in society in the world today. As we travel around the community we see 2 men doing work in some areas of commerce and industry which, 40 years ago, would have been done by possibly 1000 men. Perhaps we no longer need to wonder why we have high rates of unemployment.
I am a little concerned that the trade union movement in Australia has not taken up the cudgels with an argument for earlier retirement of people from the work force. It seems to me to be totally wrong that an Australian male should be obliged to work until he is 65 years of age before he can retire and receive a pension, while thousands of teenagers are walking around the streets of this country looking for employment. I see no reason why the age for retirement could not be reduced by 5 years. By doing so we could provide employment for younger people in our society who have to make their way through life and who will become somewhat perturbed by having to endure long periods of unemployment. We wonder why we have rebels in our society. We wonder why in our society we have students and young people who drink and perhaps smoke pot or something else to excess. Do we ever bother to analyse the reasons why they do this? All we do is mouth a lot of hoary old phrases. I throw in that suggestion for what it is worth in relation to unemployment.
– It is not worth much.
-Senator Townley says that it is not worth much. At least I have made the suggestion. I have not heard anything half as profound coming from his brain since I have been here. Now I will move to another area. Last year the total Budget allocation for agriculture included an amount of $289m for the Australian Wool Corporation. Many primary producers and Liberal and Country Party supporters have been at the wailing walls of the rural Press of this country during the last couple of weeks bemoaning the fact that the Budget allocation for agriculture has been cut this year. One would almost think that their throats had been cut. The facts of the matter are that the amount of $289m was provided in the Budget last year to support the Wool Corporation. I might add that it was funded by a socialist government. Of course, the making of these complaints about the cut in the Budget allocation for agriculture is fairly traditional, because its suits the thinking of a lot of primary producers. They have always sought to capitalise their gains and to socialise their losses.
When we reduce the Budget allocation for wool by $209m, because it is the thinking within the wool industry that the demand for wool and the price for wool will increase, it makes a rather sizable dent in the Budget allocation for agriculture. The Government, with the benefit of the thinking from within the wool industry and of the experts whom it employs through the Public Service, believes that the Wool Corporation will not be required to concentrate so heavily in the purchasing area this year, and for that reason it has cut the Budget allocation for wool from $289m last year to $80m this year. I am quite convinced that should the need for further funds arise, because the predictions are astray, this Government will come back into that field. The Government’s endeavours in that field have represented the greatest move that has ever been made by any government in Australia to support the wool industry. That is something that our opponents can not deny in truth.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was speaking about what the Labor Government had done for the wool industry in Australia and had pointed out that in last year’s Budget a total of $289m was allocated to the Australian Wool Corporation to purchase wool because of the economic downturn in the textile industry throughout the world.
– But that was all by way of loans.
– I had also pointed out that that was the greatest project ever undertaken by any government in Australia in relation to the wool industry.
– At what rate on interest?
– In response to the interjections I most freely admit that that money was made available by way of loans, but by the same token it must be conceded that it was an allocation from a Federal Budget by a Labor government. It does not matter whether it was by way of a loan or a grant; the fact remains that $289m was allocated by the Labor Government, which is sometimes called by its opponents a socialist government, although I would not concede that point. Honourable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. The point is that to their way of thinking a socialist government in this country has contributed $289m to the great Australian wool industry, which is something that they were never prepared to do in the 23 years in which they were in government. The facts of the matter are that that $289m saved the wool industry of Australia from collapsing completely. I had also pointed out that in view of the projected improvements in the demand for and price of wool the Australian Government believes that similar funds will not be needed in the forthcoming year and that in view of the advice and information received a sum of $80m had been allocated for the reserve price plan for wool, I am quite convinced, as I said prior to the suspension of the sitting, that if more funds are needed the Labor Government- this so-called socialist Government- will support the wool industry.
I think I may have reached the point of saying that the drop of some $200m in support for the Wool Corporation has meant a large drop in the total Budget allocation to agriculture or primary industry in Australia. Of course, rural writers and the conservative elements in the rural community have gone to the wailing wall and have complained in large banner headlines that the Labor Government is denying assistance to rural industry. I do not quite know how they can equate that with what has happened in the past. I point out that in the current Budget increases have been granted in particular areas to people engaged in agriculture. For example, the Government has increased the funds provided for research and promotion. In its 23 years of rule the Liberal-Country Party Government propped up all types of industry for no reason other than the fact that the people engaged in those industries were its supporters.
I have watched the development of thinking within the rural community over the last ten or fifteen years and I have noticed that there has been a demand for more funds for research and promotion. I know perfectly well from my trips overseas as a parliamentarian that there are markets overseas. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) has been to the Middle East and has perceived that there are those markets, as was told to him prior to his going there. There are markets overseas and this Government is doing its utmost to get out and capture those markets. That should be the ultimate incentive to primary industry, not props at home.
The Government will also pick up the tab to the extent of $4m in respect of meat inspection costs. This has been a fairly hot potato amongst the conservative element of primary industry, particularly the conservative element in the membership of the National Country Party of Australia in this House. They have moaned like the proverbial bull calf that has been taken away from its mother, and they have bleated about the meat inspection costs and the levy that was placed upon the industry to cover those costs but, despite the levy that has been placed upon the industry, the Government will still pick up a tab for $4m to cover the ultimate costs in that area. The Government will pick up a further tab for $2m to cover the shortfall in the industry levy of 0.6c per lb. for the brucellosis and tuberculosis campaign. As is well known, the Industries Assistance Commission has a reference on this matter before it at the moment.
– Like the superphosphate one.
-If Senator Webster had been milking cows for as long as I have and had seen what has happened to the superphosphate subsidy he would not raise that matter, I think that the incongruous situation in regard to the superphosphate bounty and the superphosphate industry was answered in this House last week when it was pointed out that those who could most afford to pay for the superphosphate used were the greatest beneficiaries of the old superphosphate bounty. Quite frankly I think there is a case to be put for some alleviation of the problems experienced by the small producers who provide the bulk of the production of primary industry.
– What do you call the small producers?
– I am not prepared to go to the point of subsidising to the extent of $5,000 a year properties which are perfectly viable but whose accounts, if they happen to be owned by a company, show at the end of a year that they make a profit of only $400. We well know that those properties of 7000 and 8000 acres have made money over the years. When I talk of the small producer I talk of the battling farmer with a family who has always had it tough. The Government is searching for answers to the problems of those people.
Let me move to the dairying industry and point out that in the current Budget there is an allocation of $ 19m to complete the Government’s promise to provide $28m to that industry by way of interest free loans. I emphasise the fact that interest free loans are to be provided to the dairying industry by Senator Webster’s so-called socialist government. That is the greatest bonanza that the dairying industry has even received since a Federal Government has been established on this continent. Of course, the dairy farmers will clamour for it. There may be some problems. I think that there will be more clamouring for it than the money will cover, but that is another problem. In my own district alone some 1000 to 1500 dairy farmers have availed themselves of this opportunity to switch from water cooled milk or canned milk to refrigerated bulk milk. That has all been made possible by this so-called socialist government.
– No one on the other side of the chamber knows what you are talking about.
-They probably do not, but we will try to educate them. The terrible thing that has happened in Victoria with respect to the granting of this money- this interest free money- should be explained to the House tonight. The Victorian Government, which is a Liberal Government- in particular its Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith, who happens to be my local member, and its Premier, together with other members of it- has consistently slammed the Labor Government, claiming that it is antirural. The generous, so-called socialist government in Canberra has given $28m, much of it interest free, to the dairying industry, and what happens in Victoria? The Victorian Government receives a handout from Canberra and decides that it should not all go to the dairying industry. The Government of Victoria is going to get a cut of this. What does it do? The State Electricity Commission of Victoria, because it has had to extend power supply to dairies which have converted to refrigerated bulk milk, decided that it will make a charge. It decided that that charge will come out of the $28m that this socialist Government has given to the dairy industry in Victoria.
– That is the State Electricity Commission?
-Yes. Originally the charge was $85 per horsepower of the motor that was required to refrigerate the milk. The average motor is 10 horsepower. Ten horsepower motors were required for refrigerated bulk milk vats. The State Electricity Commission, the rural finance organisation in Victoria which handles the funds, and the State Government decided to get in on the act. As far as I can ascertain, they were successful in getting their grubby little hands on one million of those dollars which came from this socialist Government to the Victoria Government. The State Electricity Commission got hold of $ lm. The point about this is-
– I do not know what you are talking about.
-No, Senator Webster would not know. He is so far out of touch with the industry. The point is that it will cost every dairy farmer in Victoria who converts to refrigerated milk $800 to $1,000. It is rather interesting to read the Agreement in relation to Marginal Dairy Farms Reconstruction Scheme in Victoria in 1974. On page 14, referring to loans for the installation of vats, clause 1 5ba. ( 1 ) states:
Subject to clause 15bc-
I do not know whether that was before Christ or before someone else-
The Authority may make interest-free loans to the owners of marginal dairy farms for the purpose of-
meeting, in the case of a particular farm, the cost of the purchase and installation on the farm of a refrigerated vat of such size and standards as may from time to time be agreed by the Minister or a person authorised by the Minister for the purpose and the State Minister or a person authorised by the State Minister for the pupose, for the storage of whole-milk intended for use as fluid milk for human consumption or in the manufacture of butter, cheese or other products; and
Making such other improvements-
These are the important words- on the farm as are required to enable the whole-milk in the vat to be collected from the farm.
That is contained in the Agreement. But these grubby little Victorians under Hamer and Smith and their cohorts were not satisfied with that type of an arrangement. They wanted money. So, in effect, the Victorian Government and its instrumentalities have been responsible for ripping off from the dairy farmers of Victoria a sum of about $lm. They wanted some of the funds that this socialist Government- so-called by some people- this Australian Labor Government has given to the dairy industry free of interest. I think it is totally immoral of those people to publish their vilifications of this Labor Government in Canberra while they are prepared to get their grubby fingers on that type of money. That is bad enough where the State Electricity Commission- the instrument of the Victorian Government- is required to upgrade its facilities from 240 volts to 400 volts. That is necessary to supply the required electricity to the refrigerated vats on farms. But it goes even further than that. It has come to my attention that hundreds of farmers in my immediate area after the extremely dry period in 1967-68 decided to install irrigation plants. They bored for water. It was an expensive project but many of them were fortunate enough to strike flows of 20 000, 30 000, 40 000 or 50 000 gallons a year.
– It was a taxation deduction which you disallowed.
– It was a taxation deduction on which, in those days, the farmers were able to capitalise. That cannot be denied. When they struck that water and saw the benefit which could be achieved for their farms, they installed large electric motors. They upgraded the electric power supply to their farms. In effect, to install now a 10 horsepower motor to switch from watercooled milk to refrigerated milk would be like plugging in an electric shaver to one’s domestic supply. One farmer reported to me that he pays $14,000 a year in State Electricity Commission charges on his farm. Now that he has installed this refrigerated vat, despite the fact that the State Electricity Commissionthis instrumentality of the Victorian Governmenthas not had to lift one finger to upgrade the supply to that farm, he is still being charged $80 per horsepower for the motor installed. Others were promised that their electricity supply would be free of charge earlier in the scheme. The instrumentality of the Victorian Government has gone back on its word. It is charging them the same rate of $80 per horsepower. It is of no good for Mr Hamer, Mr Smith and their cohorts in the Victorian State Parliament to slam this Government- this socialist Government, this centralist Government as they refer to it- and at the same time to pluck out $ lm of the socialist funds that have gone to the dairy industry in Victoria. Which Government, in these circumstances, is being anti-rural? I leave that to honourable senators to judge.
I wind up on the note on which I began. I believe this is one of the greatest Budgets that has ever been introduced by an Australian Government if, for no other reason than a political reason: It has taken the sting out of our opponents. They are flailing and wailing around so forlorn that they do not know which way to turn. It has taken all the heat out of any talk of election in Australia. I think the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has to be complimented. Might I finish on this note -
-Senator Wright, no doubt, wants me to finish early because he is worried. During the couple of years that this Labor Government has been in power it has been more maligned, I suppose, than Jesus Christ himself. It has been more maligned than some of the great leaders around the world that history has ever known. One area in which we have been badly maligned is defence. The record will show that the comments I am about to make are true. For 23 years our opponents talked about the defence of Australia. What did they ever do? They sent boys through the barrel of death to Vietnam. That had nothing to do with the defence of Australia. Our opponents sent those boys to Vietnam to be slaughtered in the interests of everybody bar the Australian nation.
What does this Budget do for the defence of Australia? It purchases the first tanks that have been purchased since the Chifley Government ordered the Centurions- those clapped out tanks that were sent to Vietnam a few years ago. The defence of Australia requires tanks. This Government, after 25 years of Liberalism and conservatism, has got around to updating the tank equipment of the Australian Army. And what else? For all these years our opponents have talked about defence, but have they ever bought an anti-aircraft weapon? I remember when my younger brother was called up for service in the Citizen Military Forces. In those days I told him he was a fool. But he was full of vim and youth and thought he was doing the right thing for his country. Later he agreed with me that he had been a fool to join Bob Menzies’ boys. He recalls those days when there was this concept of the reds or the greens, or whoever they were. Some lads were sent in then with obsolete planes; others had 3.7 inch guns and Bofors guns which could not be brought to bear on the targets quickly enough. The Opposition parties have talked for years about the defence of
Australia, but it took this Government to move into the area of anti-aircraft weapons and to say that the Bofors guns, which were obsolete in 1945, are now completely obsolete. I think at some time or other the people of this nation will make a decision about who is playing with defence, who is playing with the rural industries, who is playing with health and who is playing with education, as against who is being completely honest about those things. I believe that in the ultimate the Australian people will answer and say that the Labor Party is honest. I support the Budget.
- Senator Primmer made a wide ranging speech, covering things from Victoria to Vietnam.
– The 2 Vs.
– I thought so. I wonder whether he agrees with me that his attack on the Victorian Government is part of the plan of the present Australian Government to attack the most successful government in Australia. The Hamer Government in Victoria will face the electors in May next year and it will be re-elected, as each Liberal Government has been re-elected in Victoria with an increasing majority. The things that are being said about the Victorian Government are said not only in the Senate but also by every Minister in the Federal Government at the present time. I also want to refer to that part of Senator Primmer ‘s speech in which he mentioned Vietnam. It is quite incredible that we should hear about Vietnam on each occasion that a speech is delivered by Government supporters. It is also incredible that the very people in Australia who could tell us something about Vietnam have been sworn to silence by the Labor Government. The people who have sought refuge in this country and who could tell us something about Vietnam are not allowed to speak. Freedom of speech in this country has been curtailed in respect of those people who could tell us something which would be of interest to us.
– Why not write to exPresident Nixon. He will be able to give you the facts.
- Senator Poyser, I will make my speech on the Budget in my own way. I will write to whomever I think it is appropriate to consult. Two weeks ago the Federal Government brought into the Parliament the Budget for 1975-76. It was expected that that document would chart the course for the Australian economy for the next 12 months and that it would be judged as a Budget that should have an important effect on the very great problems that face this country at the present time. I refer to inflation, stagnation and unemployment. Yet it must be conceded that the Budget will fail to deal with all those aspects and all those problems that face us now.
The Budget was based on a 5 per cent growth in the economy. This is somewhat remarkable when we recall that last year we experienced a minus 2 per cent growth. To cast a budget on that premise is to be extremely optimistic. Yet when questions were asked in the Senate on 27 August we were able to extract from Senator James McClelland, Minister for Labor and Immigration, the thought that if the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, were here he would gladly concede that the real state of the economy at the moment is one of recession. He said that he thought the beginning of wisdom was to confess our difficulties. Our difficulties are those of an economy still in a state of deep recession. I therefore question whether the Budget introduced 2 weeks ago will be the economic charter for this country for the next 12 months. When we look at the headlines we see day by day reference to the slump in industry. ‘Industry slump worsens’ is the sort of headline that is so familiar that it is almost recognised as being par for the course. To see a further round of industrial difficulties and a substantial curtailment in the number of companies which are able to survive makes us place in question the 5 per cent increase in the Australian economy on which this Budget has been based.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) makes remarkable statements from time to time. The one that I thought was quite remarkable was that in which he said that the tax changes could be more important than Medibank. Bearing in mind the difficulties with which we are confronted and the estimated $ 1,400m in this year’s Budget to cope with Medibank, I wonder how he can say that the tax changes could be more important. He made some sweeping statements about the vital tax changes and about the benefits that the Australian people would have from them. I find those statements somewhat inconsistent with all the figures that supported the Treasurer’s Budget. I do not think anyone contests that the Treasurer stated in his Budget that pay as you earn tax receipts in this year will increase by 43 per cent. How can the Government claim that these tax changes are to be of more benefit to the Australian people than Medibank, an expansion of expenditure of $ 1,400m, when we place into context that there is to be an expected 22 per cent increase in wages. There is something phoney about the tax figures and I believe that the Government ought to explain to the Australian people where the tax juggling has occurred. Whenever we investigate the figures we come up with the inescapable fact that there is to be an increase in pay as you earn receipts of 43 per cent on wages which are to increase by 22 per cent. It just does not make sense for the Prime Minister to talk of a tax readjustment as being more important than what the Government regards as the most improved social plank in its program for this year.
I want to refer to a statement produced by the Melbourne Age in my State. There is a whole page devoted to how people stand after Mr Hayden ‘s tax reforms. We can see how the new tax charges compare. One has to look very hard to find what group will benefit most, and which group will have a benefit which accords with the sweeping statement of the Prime Minister. I find that a single person earning $7,000 and having deductions of $850 will lose $5.68 a week. Such a person is not going to applaud these changes as being more important than Medibank. A single person earning $10,500 a year and with deductions of $900 will lose $ 1 . 1 6 a week.
– Tell us about married people with 2 children.
– Yes, I will tell Senator McAuliffe about married people. Those who have a taxable income of $12,000 will gain $2.35 a week.
– What about those on $10,000.
– Those on $10,000 will lose $1.16 a week. These are the tax adjustments that need to be placed in perspective. The other thing that ought to be brought home to the Australian people at the present time is that they need not expect this week’s pay packet to reflect the taxation adjustments because the deductions will not take effect until 1 January next year. By that time, with the increase in wages which is expected and on which the Budget is cast, they will be in a higher tax bracket, on a progressive tax scale and they will not have the $ 1. 16 benefit that I spoke about. These are the things that ought to be put into perspective. The tax benefits ought to be cast on the wages expected at 1 January next year, by which time the rising scale of tax will have absorbed the deductions that the present Treasurer claims have been given. I think it is important to look a little more closely at the taxation situation. I have before me a table which shows the pay as you earn tax component in total salaries and wages in Australia between 1972-73 and 1975-76. It shows that in the first year the pay as you earn tax component in total salaries and wages in Australia of $22,000m was 14.1 per cent; in 1973-74, on total wages and salaries of $27,000m, it was 15.4 per cent; in 1974-75, on $35,000m in salaries and wages, it was 17.3 per cent; and in 1975-76- these are the official Budget estimated figures- in total salaries and wages of $43,000m, the pay as you earn tax component will be 19.8 per cent. It is those figures which disclose the inaccuracy of the tables that we are being provided. The figures show that the pay as you earn tax component this year in the total wages and salaries of the Australian people is rising, and that is something that ought to be explained.
The whole of the Budget once again has been cast to exploit inflation and the increasing receipts that the Government will gain from this in terms of tax collected. But the more important thing that ought to be disclosed and which has not been referred to by the Treasurer is that there has been a fiddle with the new tax rebates. He has cited tax payable after deducting the universal $540 rebate, and he compares that with tax on income before taking into account the concessional deductions which we used to enjoy. We are not comparing like with like when we deal with the sweeping statement made by the Prime Minister that the changes in the tax system are the most important thing that has happened to us since the introduction of Medibank. The figure which is shown in the Budget in relation to Medibank is itself debatable. But a comparison of those 2 factors in this year’s Government program as being of benefit to the Australian people will need to be done at the end of the year, and such a comparison should not be based on the promises which we have heard.
I want to spend some of my time this evening talking about education, the matter with which I am most closely concerned on behalf of the Opposition. It is something about which the education lobby has been singularly silent since this year’s Budget was introduced by the Treasurer. It makes me wonder whether the education lobby which was so vocal prior to the bringing down of the Budget, which was such a pressure group throughout the term when we were in government and, when it suited it, during the term of this Government, is a Government lobby, a Labor Party lobby, or whether it is essentially an education lobby. If it is an education lobby, there ought to have been the headlines and the pressure with regard to what has happened to education in this year’s Budget. There should have been the screaming headlines that the Federal Government had thrown education into Umbo for the next triennium. There should have been the screaming headlines that this Government had reduced expenditure in real terms on all aspects of education. The Treasurer has glibly said that he has, in consultation with the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), deferred the programs of the education commissions. Those programs have not been deferred; they have been totally rejected by the Government. They have been disregarded by the Government. In fact, the Government has asked the education commissions to produce for it some new recommendations by March of next year to take effect from 1 January 1977.
We are talking a long way ahead when we talk in terms of educational opportunity because there is now no program for education after the end of this year. The Government produces figures and talks of expenditure in terms of $ 1,908m for this year, but I think it would be appropriate to look closely at what has happened and what will be the effect. One need go no further than read what some of the people who are vitally interested in education believe this will mean. It may be somewhat inappropriate for the Chairman of the Schools Commission to issue the sorts of Press releases that he has been issuing, but it seems that no one else is prepared to make them on behalf of the Government or of anyone who is close to educational responsibility. The Chairman of the Schools Commission, Dr McKinnon, has criticised the Federal Government for abandoning for a year triennial education spending. He said that it had produced one of the most important problems resulting from the Federal Budget- an increase in the uncertainty which is evident in schools and in systems.
The Premier of Victoria- I am sorry that Senator Primmer is not in the chamber to hear me say this- has said that it has virtually meant that he has had to curtail all of his education planning for the next triennium until he understands where the Federal Government is moving with regard to educational commitment. It seems appropriate that at a time when we have heard the vilification of the Hamer Government I should recall that just today we have seen the same politics being played by the Minister for Education against the Victorian Government and a statement by a responsible Federal Minister to the effect that he does not see why he should give funds to Victoria for education. What sort of discriminatory practice in terms of educational opportunities for the children of Australia is that? What sort of Party politics are being played with regard to the Victorian Hamer Government in using education as the means of disrupting the economic planning of that State Government?
What of the education lobby? The 2 major parent organisations- the Federation of State School Parents and the Victorian Council of School Organisations- have accused the Federal Minister, Mr Beazley, and the Victorian Minister for Education, Mr Thompson, of withholding information. What sort of basis have we constructed for the development of this country’s educational programs when there is a sense of rivalry between 2 Ministers who ought to have the same objective- the pursuit of excellence, quality and standards in educational opportunities? These things, I think, are the cause of disquiet at this time. I would like to see the Federal Minister for Education come forward with some information on his plans with regard to an educational program. Has he asked the 4 commissions which advise on education to reconstruct their recommendations within a different framework? Has he given them some economic constraints within which they must base their recommendations? Or, as we have heard, has he delayed the implementation of the recommendations so that at some time during the early part of next year, when he assumes that he will not need to implement them in budgetary terms, he can then commit future governments to a triennial planning program?
It has been said in the education lobby that this is why it is keeping quiet. It has been promised that some time early next year the Minister will adopt the recommendations and so commit future governments to them. I find that somewhat inconsistent with the Minister’s own attitude in regard to the libraries program which was introduced by the McMahon Government and which was nearing the end of its program this year. The present Federal Government did not honour the commitment of the libraries program, and at the present time many schools are uncertain as to whether the commitment of a previous Government will be honoured by the present Government. That is the sort of commitment we talk about in terms of continuity. That is the sort of programming that we would like to see committed at this time by this Government and not at some time when it is anticipated that it will be removed from office.
I believe that these things are important to those people who care about education. For no longer can there be stop-go programming because one of the things that this Government has prided itself on above all is that all levels of education are now subject to recommendations to government from statutory commissions. These statutory commissions have produced their recommendations, and of course, they are subject to political decisions in terms of economic constraints, of economic responsibility. I believe the Federal Minister for Education needs to clarify as soon as possible why the reports presented by the 4 commissions have been completely disregarded and why they have been asked for new recommendations.
The only State that I see being attacked by the Federal Minister is the State of Victoria, and that is because it has a government which cares about education. It is a State which is attempting to decentralise educational administration, a State which has many plans for the development of technical and further education. The sort of petty politics which is being engaged in and the statement released today to the effect that no funds could be given to’ Victoria because the Federal Minister did not believe that it was handling its responsibilities in the proper way is to be regretted. I would not have expected it to come from the Federal Minister for Education as we know him.
I want to say something about the impact of the Budget itself and to place it in the context of what we ‘ believe should be the fundamental attack at present on inflation. To have seen a Budget proposed that talks in terms of restraint and yet places us in economic difficulties for the forthcoming year is to be regretted. As a responsible Opposition we believe that a wholehearted national effort should be made to reduce the rate of inflation. If it is to be cut back, the overexpanded demands of Federal Government departments and Federal Government spending need to be looked at as a first priority. We question whether that has been dealt with in this Budget in the best way because, above all, confidence needs to be given for the development of capacity in the private sector to generate some new economic growth- the sort of growth on which the Budget was compounded but which I believe will not be seen in the forthcoming year and, as Senator Carrick has pointed out, the sort of growth that is not even anticipated in the documents that support the Treasurer’s Budget.
We are now firm in the belief that we must be taking some action to improve production and to revive the capacity for investment by the Australian people. That is not happening and it is perhaps intangible in the sense that one cannot create confidence unless there is a sense of responsibility between government and people. I would want to assist the development of such capacity in the forthcoming year and not to be playing party politics and in some way endanger that development of confidence. Unless we see from the Government some sense of responsibility it is extremely difficult to develop that sort of confidence in the private sector.
It was for that reason that we proposed in the alternative budget some measures that we felt would show the private sector that we recognised its needs and that we recognised the possibility of improving capacity for industrial development. These things have not been achieved. We believe that the present Budget will not achieve them. As we go towards 1 January next year when there will be school leavers and other people not able to obtain employment, we wonder just what sort of unemployment programs the Government will be introducing. Will they be the sorts of supplementary budgets that we saw throughout the whole of last year, with an increase in the deficit which has now been presented to us as being under $3, 000m but which could grow enormously as in the past year? Those are the matters that are of concern to the Opposition at present. That is why I support the amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and which expressed our disquiet.
I should like to think that this year Australia is facing a period of economic growth, greater stability and industrial development, further opportunities for employment and gainful development throughout all sectors of the community. I regret that the experience of the past one thousand and several days has not given me the confidence to believe that it will be achieved this year. For those reasons I support the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition moved.
– I rise to support the Budget and to commend the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) for bringing down a good and well thought out Budget. The Budget is neither cruel nor unfair. It protects the lower paid bracket, the large families, the pensioners, the sick and the disabled. The Government has a duty to protect and we are protecting against inflation those who are hurt most. There is nothing new about inflation. It is an inborn sickness of a laissez faire economic system that we inherited. We did not invent it; we inherited it. We will do all we can to make sure that those needing protection most in this laissez faire system will be protected.
We are not back in the Menzies era when that gentleman promised to put value back into the pound and inflation rose from 8.4 per cent to 22.5 per cent. There was no protection in those days for those on a lower income or those on a fixed income. There was no Medibank; pensions were nothing but a miserable pittance. There was very little assistance towards education; and housing could not have been at a lower ebb. I have no doubt that we will pull out of this world wide recession without losing the ground in the field of social security that was gained after 23 years of neglect.
Quite frankly I am sick of looking at the crocodile tears of the Opposition. That is what they are; they are only crocodile tears. When Opposition supporters start talking about sections of our community they should hang their heads in shame. For 23 years they sat on this side of the chamber and they never lifted a finger to do anything about the deterioration in social security in this country. Not one finger did they lift to try to stop it. Now they have the gall to say that this is a terrible Budget. It is high time that Opposition senators got out on to the hustings to ask pensioners whether they are prepared to turn the clock back 3 years; to ask the workers whether they are prepared to turn the clock back 3 years to the conditions they had then; and to ask the workers whether they are prepared to turn the education assistance program back 3 years. Why do not Opposition senators wake up to themselves and realise that they are not born to rule? They have to earn the right to rule and I do not think they have earned it.
Let us look at one or two of the achievements that show that we have earned the right to the confidence of the people of Australia. We have increased social security benefits at a very fast rate. We have abolished the means test for people over 70 years of age. The single rate pension for invalid and aged widows has been increased by 80 per cent between 1972 and June 1975. The married rate has increased by 74 per cent from $34.50 to $60 a week. During the same period weekly earnings increased only 52 per cent, as Senator Carrick said. He was quite right when he said that they rose by only 52 per cent but he neglected to tell the Senate that the consumer price index increased by only 41 per cent. Former class B widows have had an increase of 1 10 per cent and we have brought in supporting mothers’ benefits. Payments for children dependent on pensioners, on the unemployed and on the sick have been increased significantly. Parents of handicapped children now receive $10 a week.
When talking about the confidence of the public, who could have confidence in the FraserLynch alternative budget and the ideas of those gentlemen as to how to save government moneys? Let us have a look at some of them. In his earlier statement Mr Fraser said that the Government could halve the $2.8 billion deficit by not going ahead with Medibank at a cost of $ 1 .4 billion. That completely ignores the fact that between $900m and $ 1,000m would still need to be spent this year under the old private health insurance system. Mr Fraser claims that he would save $75m by zero Public Service growth. The only way in which he could cut the growth of the Public Service any more than the Government has done would be to break contracts and to lay off staff. He spoke of an estimated saving of $75m from a cut in the Treasurer’s Advance. That is a contingency sum and is not included in the Budget. Mr Fraser said that he would save by abolishing the proposed Overseas Trading Corporation but there is no provision for the Corporation in the Budget. He said that he would wind back the National Capital Development Commission works but the Government has already done that. Mr Fraser obviously has not thought out his alternative budgetary measures. The savings that he specified do not add up to $ 1 billion as he claimed.
Let us explore the hypocrisy of the Opposition’s attitude to the increases in indirect taxation. In this chamber the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) bemoaned these increases as inconvenient, inequitable or disastrous according to one’s income level. He said that the Government wished to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator. He had the temerity to ask whether these increases meant social justice and equity. That attitude coming from a party which has always sought and is still seeking to advantage the wealthy at the expense of the needy leaves me completely dazed.
The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Malcolm Fraser) took a similar attitude. Yet within days of his speech he conceded that for present planning purposes the indirect taxes were not touched. So the truth is out. The Opposition will retain the increases of indirect taxation. Yet their spokesman fulminated against the Government in the classic manner of putting a two bob each-way bet on it. There is no point in my going on any further with the Fraser-Lynch budget. I think it is just one huge joke. But it does serve to show the soundness of the Hayden Budget.
– Almost an Irish joke.
– Any kind of joke you like. It is just one huge joke. The Opposition is trying to make a mockery of the Parliament by dishing up a whole pile of figures that it is not willing to substantiate or to defend. I reckon that we should be most grateful for this Fraser-Lynch Budget because it shows the soundness of the Hayden Budget. One aspect of Mr Hayden’s budget is in line with American thinking. I quote from a background paper relating to America:
Leading administration spokesmen such as Treasury Secretary William Simon and Whitehouse economic advisor Alan Greenspan have been saying for months that they support a moderate rate of recovery-
Is this not what Mr Hayden is doing? that will protect the country from a new round of inflation.
Administration spokesmen argue that if the Government were to rush strong stimulative medicine to the economy at this time, the result would be a new bout of inflationary sickness and unemployment that would be even more severe than that during the past eighteeen months.
I suggest that if we followed the FraserLynchLynch, not L-i-n-c-h- line I am quite sure that we would land in the mess as outlined by the American economist. I support the Hayden Budget and commend to the Senate a real and true Treasury Budget.
– In discussing the Budget Papers for 1975-76 the Senate in fact is examining Labor’s second last Budget before an election must be held. It is an admission of failure and a totally destructive document. It is a cowardly evasion of the responsibilities which this Government has for the twin evils of inflation and unemployment, both of which it has created and for both of which it is responsible. The Budget represents a betrayal on the part of Labor. I remind honourable senators that the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, when speaking last year to the Australian Labor Party Regional Conference in Townsville after the presentation of his Budget had this to say:
I have long held the view that the Budget is not just an economic document but a declaration of the Government’s view of the kind of society we want and the kind of people we are.
He went on to say:
Nothing we have done has so clearly demonstrated, so clearly symbolised, this Government’s philosophy and concerns, its priorities and aspirations.
What have those been in the past year? They have been a rising rate of inflation and a whole group of people unemployed. This culminated with the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) telling us in the Senate on 27 August that the nation is now in a state of deep recession. Those were the Minister’s words and we were not in that state of deep recession a year ago when the Prime Minister told us that his Budget was a statement of the direction he wanted the nation to take. That is the direction it has taken. The 1974-75 Budget failed to solve these problems. It is a failure for the Government and it has led to a lot of continuing uncertainty for Australia and for all Australians.
So we come to the present Budget. We learned from the Prime Minister before the Budget was brought in that it was going to be the most thoroughly and carefully prepared Budget Australia had ever had. That was the Prime Minister’s boast. If that is what this Budget represents then it is a hoax, it is dishonest, it is deceptive and discriminatory. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) correctly identified high inflation and high unemployment as prime problems for Australia at the present time and we agree with him. Neither high inflation nor high unemployment was present in this country 3 years ago. They are both present now. Unemployment was not high one year ago. In fact, in the Budget Speech one year ago the then Treasurer, Mr Crean, told us that no Labor Government could tolerate a situation where we had 4 per cent, 5 per cent or even higher levels of unemployment. Yet unemployment is sitting at this moment at closer to 5 per cent than to 4 per cent- another impossibility’ which Labor said could not happen but which has come to pass and for which the people of Australia have to pay.
I remember that during the election last year following the double dissolution I had to fight against dishonest advertisements which were placed by the Prime Minister, stating that only he had reduced inflation by one-third. That was his claim. It was a false claim and it was proven to be false and dishonest soon after the election. It is still dishonest to say that this Government has any plans to reduce or control inflation. It has no better plans now than it had in May 1974 when it misled the Australian people and produced advertisements which were clearly untrue and misleading. They sought re-election on these advertisements. The Prime Minister has not reduced inflation and inflation in Australia certainly is not an accidental event. It is something which the Labor Party has made inevitable by the kind of policies it has followed. It has produced inflation. It has nurtured it and sustained it and this Budget does the same. The Government share of the gross domestic product is too large. Its expenditures are too great. It is too profligate. It lacks control over expenditure. It has increased its own spending by 23 per cent and predicted an inflation rate of 20 per cent, which is an increase. It shows no sign of reducing inflation when this is obviously a major national priority.
The Government may think that inflation in its hands is, shall I say, merely a drop in the buck. But I say that what we are facing is being broke with a lot of money in our pockets. We are all going to suffer for this. Businesses are suffering, producers, employers and pensioners are suffering, wage earners are suffering, the independent aged- the people who tried to care for themselvesare suffering. These people write and tell us that they cannot cope with inflation running as it is under a Labor Government. Yet this Budget does not attack inflation. The Government is just going to get fat on an increased share of the national product while the whole nation suffers and the weak receive less. The Treasurer understood this because in his own Budget Speech he said at page 3:
More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
This is the Government that predicts an increasing rate of inflation and that clearly expects, in terms of its own statement, that we will have more unemployment and more hardship in this country.
I had the pleasure recently of travelling to Launceston to take part in a by-election there. The visiting mainlanders were sent out doorknocking not a bad thing for them to do. I was sent to an area called Mayfield which has been a very strong Labor sub-division. Whilst I was door knocking there the people told me they were all going to vote for Mr Newman. I knew that one of 2 things was the case: Either they were telling me lies or we were going to get a landslide win. I asked the people what made them so certain that they were going to vote Liberal and they told me that they were worried about their jobs. At house after house I heard the same story: We are worried about our employment; we are worried about the situation at Coats Patons (Australia) Limited; we are worried about the situation at Repco Limited; we are worried about the opportunities to remain in employment. The people of Australia will not be fooled. They know what unemployment means. They know what lies ahead of them if this Labor Government goes on. It is Australians who want the right to work who will tip this Government out just as they tipped out the Labor Party in the Bass by-election, and they will reject the Prime Minister nationwide the same as they rejected him in the electorate of Bass when he went down to lend his support, the same as when he went to lend his support in the last Queensland State election when his Party did so well. The only election Labor has done well in was the South
Australian election in which the Prime Minister was not allowed to appear. I think that he should not be living it up at the moment travelling the world. He should be getting back here worrying about unemployment and helping Australians to get off the dole and to get back to work when they want to do so. The Treasurer himself had something to say about unemployment in his Budget Speech. He had all the homilies in it. He said:
To reduce unemployment lastingly, recovery in the private sector is essential.
Well, if that is the Treasurer’s prescription, what did he do to help the private sector? He did precious little. He did almost nothing. The private sector does not believe that the proposals of the Labor Party are going to help it. The private sector does believe that the proposals of Mr Malcolm Fraser are going to help it and it is enthusiastically endorsing the alternative Budget and the alternative economic policy put down by the coalition Leader in another place last week. There is bitterness amongst traditional Labor voters. It is interesting that the gallup polls at the present time show support for the Labor Party as below 40 per cent. If there is one issue that is keeping support so low, if there is one issue that took Labor’s vote down to 38 per cent in Bass it is the issue of the right to work, the issue of unemployment and the fact that Australians feel cheated.
If this Budget does not grapple with the 2 main problems, unemployment and inflation, it creates its own problems because it is a very destructive budget. It sets out to destroy a number of bodies which have been yielding valuable service in Australia. It sets out to disrupt programs which have been running well and it seems to be an act of blind destruction by a dying government. Senator Guilfoyle talks about the effects that are going to be felt in the field of education in which the Government has blithely abandoned the triennial funding program. It is worth while spending a little time now looking at some of the things the Government is going to do, some of the programs it is cutting and some of the organisations it is going to hurt.
I would like to start off by just talking briefly about Medibank. I can believe that Medibank, which has become the law of Australia, could be introduced by a Labor government but there is no rational reason why it has to be introduced all at once as it has been. Surely if the Government believes it has a mandate it still also has a mandate for economic responsibility. There was no reason why the Medibank program could not have been brought in in a staged fashion. There is no reason why it could not have come in over a period of two or three years. There is no reason why the medical side of Medibank could not have been brought in and then two or three years later the hospital side phased in. But no, this Government, faced with severe economic problems, has undertaken to spend an additional $ 1,100m according to its costing- its costing will be a gross underestimate- just to add to our problems and to make it quite certain that many other programs, education being one of them, are going to have to be abandoned or truncated, and all this in a country in which our July deficit was $800m compared to $180m one year ago. It is a Government that is actually running out of ready cash because it is spending so fast. I know that the operation of Medibank in New South Wales is already characterised by very slow payments. There is no 5-day turnaround. It is 4 weeks, 5 weeks, 6 weeks and 7 weeks before money is coming back and we suspect one of the reasons is that this Government has no ready cash and is delaying on its Medibank obligations as one rather cheap method of trying to make ends meet.
I was aware that Senator Wheeldon spoke at the annual meeting of the Australian Council of Social Service held one week ago. He made it clear in the speech he gave there that the Government is still seriously talking about introducing its national compensation scheme in the near future. For goodness’ sake, whatever the merits or the demerits of the scheme- we have never really debated them in the Senatesurely economic sense demands that this scheme cannot be introduced now. It is another example of an expensive program which we cannot afford at this stage. At least in respect of the national compensation scheme the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) did suggest that it be brought in in stages. What a pity that Medibank was not proposed to be introduced in exactly the same way.
Moving on to the question of pensions, we come to one of the really nasty parts of the Budget. The Government has elected to destroy some of the value of the pension increases. It has decided that pension rises from now on shall be not on the basis of increases in average weekly earnings but on the basis of alterations in the consumer price index. Senator Mcintosh was kind enough in his brief address to inform the Senate that the consumer price index has increased at a much slower rate than have average weekly earnings. So the new Government policy is going to mean that the pensioners are going to get less money than they would have got and the pensioners are the people who are suffering most in a time of high inflation. If honourable senators examine the Henderson report which came into the Senate last week, if they examine who are the people who make up the groups in poverty in Australia, they will find that the aged and the single parent family- in other words, people on pensions- are those who make up the largest groups in poverty. It is said that money is quite a good start in the therapy of poverty. Here we have a situation in which the Government is proposing that the rises it gives to pensioners are going to be less than they would otherwise have been.
The proportion of the rise in the pension will vary in the following way: Under the present formula whereby pensions are adjusted to average weekly earnings, pensions could have been expected last year to go up 27 per cent. In the last year, had we been using the consumer price index as the Government now proposes, pensions would have gone up 1 6.9 per cent. The pensioners would have got less. What it means is that pensioners in Australia can now look forward to only two-thirds of the incremental rise that they would have got under the Government’s old formula. What is interesting is that this represents a betrayal by the Government of a firm promise which was made before it came to government and before the 1974 election. It represents an abandonment of a group in society that is vulnerable and which does not deserve this kind of treatment. They are the group most vulnerable, the greatest group in poverty, and under this proposal that is where they shall stay.
If I talk about this Budget as being a destructive document and if I talk about the things the Government has done to destroy agencies, what it has done to medical research in Australia cannot pass unnoticed. Medical research in this country has always been modest in amount. We have always spent less on research but we have managed to produce far more than our share of Nobel laureates. We have produced our share of advances in world medicine and the amount of research we have conducted has helped to keep our own graduates in Australia to provide care for our own population. We find that this Government, which seems to find it possible to increase from $1.7m to $8.3m the amount it will spend on hearing aids and appliances, cutting medical research from $8m to $4m. It has cut $4m off a very modest medical research budget. At the same time, it has moved into the appliance area, which I should have thought was of a much lower order of priority. Why has it done that? Goodness only knows. I think it will emerge that this Government has made a mistake. I think it will emerge that it has been careless, and I hope that we will see an adjustment made to the Budget figures to give medical research more of a place in the sun, at least to bring it back to the $8m. If that happens it will suffer only in the fact that its grant will be discounted by inflation and fewer people will have to be sacked.
As things stand now, our small medical research establishment is faced with mass sackings, the closing down of units, the breaking up of teams, the abandonment of on-going research projects and the destruction of research that has been carried at a standard that has earned approval and commendation around the world. The destruction goes further than that; it goes to the Australian Council of Social Service, and that is almost incomprehensible. Here we have a Council which is actually a service delivery agency, bringing together many bodies to work out how they can best help society. They are the welfare professionals, the people who traditionally have spent their time actually in the field delivering service. We find that their grant has been reduced by half. It has been reduced by $85,000, while the grant in the line above that in the Estimates for some kind of university research has been increased by $85,000.
– Perhaps ACOSS made them a bit uncomfortable.
– I think ACOSS deserves a better fate, but it is not the only body to suffer. The Brotherhood of St Laurence, whose only crime is that it really helps people in poverty, which, as Senator Melzer would know, is running an excellent income maintenance project in Fitzroy, has had its grants cut out entirely. The International Social Service organisation is a body whose only crime is that it provides liaison for migrants who require social services. Migrants may be going back to Italy or Greece and may need help and that body will arrange for their welfare benefits to be dealt with. It has had its grant removed. All those grants have been removed, yet simply by doing without the increased allocation for nearing aids we could have given all of them their money and had some left over. There seems to be a misallocation of money evident all the way through this Budget. The Government also seems to find it possible to allocate from this Budget $231,000 for studies in recreation. There is no place for studies in recreation when we have to sack the staff of the Council of Social Services in Victoria and the Council of Social Services in New South Wales. Recreation is of a lower order of priority. It is better to keep the Brotherhood of St Laurence funded, it is better to keep the International Social Service going and do without grants for studies in recreation. But that is the way of this Government- no rationality, no sense, totally incomprehensible, totally irrational.
– Oh, rubbish!
– It gives to those who talk and it takes away from those who are delivering services. I have given you the facts from the Estimates, Senator McClelland, and they are facts which you cannot refute. Bodies like the Social Welfare Commission which actually do a job in correlating and evaluating welfare have been threatened with disestablishment. Here we have a Government that wants to destroy, and it wants to destroy all those bodies that seem to operate away from the centre, all those bodies that operate at a State level, all those bodies that operate at a local level. They are the ones whose grants have been cut. They are the ones that have been hit, and it is the bodies that can be funded centrally or operated centrally that seem to be carrying on. There is no good sense in what has happened to the Council of Social Services, there is no good sense in what happened to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, there is no good sense in what happened to International Social Service. I would rather do without the studies in recreation, thank you, if that is the choice given to us. It is simply a question of re-ordering our priorities. I am not asking the Government to spend more in aggregate; I am asking it to rearrange what it has done. I am asking it to hold back on some part of its Medibank program.
– What part?
- Senator McClelland asks what part. Before the honourable senator came into the chamber I had explained this at some length, and for those who keep the House the information is readily available. We could delay the purchase of a drug company for which we intend to pay $8.3m. We cannot afford the drug company this year. If the Labor Government wants to buy the Fawnmac group of companies then it should do so, but it should do it next year or the year after when it can afford it. That $8. 3m would have been much better used for some of the bodies that have been cruelly hit and cruelly treated by this Government.
– What about the shares in Wambo Copper?
-The shares in Wambo Copper, that is right. That is the same kind of thing and Senator Durack draws attention to it.
Of course, this Government does find itself capable of some quite remarkable items of expenditure if it wants to. We have just finished a year in which the Government managed to spend $800,000 for the Department of the Media on a publicity program for the machinery of government. We could have done without that and kept some of our other programs going. The Government now tells us that it intends to spend a further $200,000 from the current Budget on publicity for the machinery of government. Let the Department of the Media give up this little propaganda exercise and put that money back into something that will help people.
– What about your namesake?
– What about last year when the Government managed to put $200,000 into a contribution towards preserving a temple at Borobudur. I am sure the temple at Borobudur deserves preservation, but does it have to be done at the expense of the pensioners of this country getting the rise in their pensions which they were promised by people like Senator Poyser, our Victorian Labor senator who interjects. He is in the Government that promised people pension rises by average weekly earnings. Let him keep his promise and stop spending money on the preservation of temples. Let him stop spending $2,000 on providing muzakpiped music- for the Department of Manufacturing Industry. Muzak, I ask you! The Government is spending $2,000 on piped music, but the pensioners cannot have their money because Senator Poyser would rather have the piped music. He would rather have $7,000 spent on the hire of indoor plants for the Department of Overseas Trade. And so it goes on: $800,000 for a trade display in Peking; $lm for applied ecology; $50,000 to the Department of the Media to provide envelopes for publications which we do not want; $ 1 30,000 just to publicise the Department of the Media. The money is there. The money can be properly used without destroying half our programs. It is just that the Labor Party does not want to do that. The Opposition has an alternative program, and my leader presented it last week in another place. I should remind the Senate that that program will be well received. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in speaking last year after his own Budget had been presented had the gall to say:
Imagine what would have happened if there had been a Liberal-Country Party Budget. . . .
He was talking about the Budget he had brought down. He said:
There would have been no room for doubt or speculation then. We all know what their Budget would have done. How easy, how simple- how savage -
I do not have the Whitlam flair, but the words are just as nasty- that Budget would have been! Back to Draconian measures and conventional remedies- massive unemployment, bankrupt businesses -
– Break it up. You do not believe this.
– These are the words of your Prime Minister, Senator, your leader. bankrupt businesses, idle factories, indiscriminate monetary restrictions.
That is what the Prime Minister said last year and that is what he has given us. Those who read todays Australian would have seen that 3000 firms closed this year. In Victoria so far 1 1 79 companies have been removed from the State Corporate Affairs Commission register this year, which is more than the number removed for the whole of last year. In New South Wales 878 companies have been wound up. In Queensland 719 companies have been forced to close. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures knows where to put the blame. It puts the blame on the Government because of the impact of the tariff cuts, the inability of companies to pass on the cost rises, industrial disputes, the high cost of raising finance, the difficulty in obtaining finance and the loss of incentives. All are gifts from a grateful Labor Government, all leading to the closure of firms and to unemployment and inflation, the very things the Prime Minister decried last year.
I return to our program. We have a program to stimulate the private sector. We propose to implement the Mathews Committee report. We propose to implement the provision for personal income tax indexation and the company tax proposals. We intend to provide $500m for the reduction of income tax receipts in 1975-76. In the first year we intend to provide a 40 per cent investment allowance to supersede the accelerated depreciation allowance, and for 5 years thereafter a 20 per cent allowance each year. We intend to suspend for the present the quarterly payment of company tax. We intend to suspend the beef export levy, to reintroduce the superphosphate levy and to give beef producers and other rural people access to the welfare payments to which they are denied now. It is a funny thing that this Government has had the report of the Henderson Commission for some months. It knows that people in the rural areas are poor and constitute a poverty group but it has not let them get into the welfare system so they can receive the welfare benefits to which they are entitled. Mr Fraser will do so. We will cut government spending. We will get the country back on to a proper course.
Never let those of us who had to fight the election in 1972 forget what Senator James McClelland ‘s Party said in the little document it put out headed Economics; It’s Time. This is Labor economics. Labor gave us a diagnosis of the nation as it was in 1972. It is worth looking back on. It makes wonderful reading. It states:
Australia was first called ‘the lucky country’ back when wool and wheat were prosperous. We were so lucky that, even when wool and wheat struck trouble, we discovered that our country was a bonanza of minerals: Iron, coal, bauxite, uranium, copper . . . You name it, we ‘ve got it.
– That was under a Liberal Party government.
– That was under a Liberal Party government, as Senator Missen said. The document continued:
With this immense natural wealth, and our small population, we couldn’t go wrong, could we?
The London Economist had this to say. It is from Labor’s election manifesto. It stated:
Given anything like competent economic management . . .
I draw to the attention of the Senate the words competent economic management’- the Australians will be able to manage a growth rate of at least S per cent.
They cannot under Labor. I return to this document that Labor hawked around the community as part of its sales gimmick- the quick sale trick. It is too late after one has signed on the dotted line. The document continues:
We find people everywhere being hurt, having it really hard, without ever knowing why. Why, in the ‘lucky country’, are the sick, the old, the poor, the breadwinners on low incomes, the one-man farms and businesses being steadily driven to the wall?
Those people did not know anything then. They had not suffered 3 years of hard labour. I return to the document
Why has our rate of inflation grown so fast that the interest rate on money we save no longer even covers the loss from inflation? Why is everyone on a fixed income feeling the pinch?
We did not know we were alive until the Labor Party came to office. Labor really showed us what inflation was, really showed us how our savings could be eroded and really showed us how people could go to the wall when a Labor economy was allowed to operate. The document stated one other thing that is worth quoting:
Governments are only people. But if the people who make up Governments lose their way, become confused, forget what they’re there for; if they become tired, and dispirited and leaderless, then they cease to be a Government. They become a rabble.
I suppose that is about as good a description of the present Labor Government as one could ever get. I look forward with pleasure to a Senate campaign in New South Wales in which with any luck the Labor team, perhaps led by a Minister, will set out to see what it can do. At present, according to the polls, it holds 37 or 38 per cent of the vote. As leader of the Liberal-National Country Party team, with my colleague Senator Doug Scott, I will bring into this Parliament a new senator named Misha Lajovic, a migrant.
- Senator Melzer would not know him, but the Liberal Party of Australia is the Party that is bringing into this Parliament for the first time a person who came to this country from a non-English speaking country. He will come to this place after being 25 years in Australia. I am waiting for the Labor Party to show its democracy. Misha Lajovic won the Liberal Party preselection the hard way, after a 14-hour ballot. He will come into the Senate and, because we will give the Labor Party such a walloping in the half Senate election, we will bring in also a fourth candidate. I do not know yet who that candidate is. When he is preselected we will bring him in too, because with 57 per cent of the formal vote we can win 4 seats in New South Wales. It is budgets like this one which will spell doom for Labor and will make a victory for us inevitable. This is a very bad Budget. It is a Budget which does nothing for Australia. It betrays the weak. It is central control under the guise of social welfare, and anything that is not centrally controlled has been hit. It is financing the purchase of the nation by increased personal taxation, and the take on personal tax has gone up to over $8 billion. It is a game in which the Labor Government is legislating to break, to injure, to buy, to circumvent, to bypass, to coerce, to do anything as long as it gets control, destroys the private sector and brings in the democratic socialism of which Senator Wheeldon is so proud. The amendment moved by my Leader is a moderate and proper amendment. It points out that the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to attack Australia’s economic crisis for 5 very good reasons. I support all of them. I support the amendment. I condemn the Budget.
- Mr Deputy President, under standing order 364 I am asking that the document from which Senator Baume quoted be tabled. It is the document from which he was allegedly quoting something that Senator James McClelland said.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- No point of order is involved. Senator Baume did not say that he was quoting something that Senator James McClelland said.
– I am prepared to dispute that. He stated directly that he was quoting Senator James McClelland.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I heard the statement, and he did not say that.
– I take a further point of order, Mr Deputy President. I ask that the document be tabled under standing order 364.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I listened very closely to Senator Baume ‘s speech. Senator Poyser may not have heard it but Senator Baume referred to Senator James McClelland ‘s Party. He quoted from the document and indicated that it was a Labor Party document.
– I still take the point, Mr Deputy President, that I can ask that the document be tabled under standing order 364.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator, you will have to move that the document be tabled. If you wish to do that you may proceed.
Motion (by Senator Poyser) proposed:
That the document quoted from by Senator Baume during his speech be laid upon the table.
– I am perfectly happy to -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe that a seconder is required, but undoubtedly we have one.
– Certainly. I second the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It has been moved and seconded that a document be tabled.
– I think that Senator Poyser was quite in order in asking for the document to be tabled. Whether the document includes any statement by Senator James McClelland is not relevant.
– I believe that what Senator Baume was doing was quoting from what purported to be the Labor Party’s economic manifesto for 1972.
– Let him table it.
– I wish he would because I think all other copies have been destroyed.
– If it will enlighten the members of the Labor Party to read their manifesto again, I will be delighted to table the document. I ask only that they read it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order ! The document has been tabled.
-In rising to support the Budget I point out to Senator Baume that the Australian Labor Party has never had to resort to gimmicks to get votes in elections. The Labor Party puts up a policy to people. We do not go out for migrants, women, Aboriginals or 2-headed goats. We just go out for people who believe in Australia. In speaking to the Budget I should like to talk about education and to refer to Victoria which, according to a previous speaker, is a State that cares, a State that has done so much, the State which is the most progressive in Australia. Capital grants to Victoria in 1974-75 totalled more than 3 times the previous year’s grants. They totalled $58,653,000. This year that State is to receive $49,854,000, and not even with the mathematics that the Minister for Education in Victoria professes to follow could one describe that as a 60 per cent cut. Yet Mr Thompson has gone on record as saying that this Government has cut capital grants to Victoria this year by 60 per cent. But that is not odd when one knows a little more about the Minister for Education in Victoria.
The total for recurring grants to Victoria has increased from $72m to $93m. Yet the Minister for Education in Victoria goes on bleating about the fact that he will be able to do nothing for education in Victoria this year because he has not got the money. The total of general grants, the non-earmarked money for Victoria, has increased by $184m. This is 30 per cent more than Victoria received last year, and it could be spent entirely on education if the priorities in Victoria were as one would hope they would be. There is much talk about economic planning when it comes to managing governments, but when it comes to managing education in Victoria that is a great big giggle. The Victorian Government could not plan if it started now. I have had children going to school in Victoria for the last 25 years. When my eldest children started school in Victoria there was a boom. It was the baby boom that followed the war. We had to turn up at school 2 days before the commencing date to enrol the children. We had to ensure that our children had turned 5 years of age at a minute past 12 on a certain day; otherwise we could not get them into school.
That might have been understandable if a baby boom came along and the department was caught unawares. But one would think that a government which cared and which planned its economy would have seen from the figures that there was a boom coming in the schools. After these hundreds and hundreds of parents and children turned up at schools for the children to commence their first years of schooling, one would have thought that a government which cared and planned would have known that in 6 years time those children would turn up at technical schools and high schools and that it would have started to plan then to accommodate them. But no. When our children reached the age when they had to go to technical school or high school, what happened? We turned up in the same old queues and we met the same mothers and the same children. Our children still had to have the impossible qualifications- they had to have turned a certain age at a certain minute past a certain hour. So much for the planning there. One might have thought that a government could have been caught unawares then and that it would have planned for when those children went on to tertiary education. Surprise, surprise! There was no planning. There was the same hotch-potch of accommodation for children; there was the same hotch-potch of accommodation for their education.
Even in a State which cares as much about preschool education as Victoria does, if it had not been for the money that this Federal Government had given to Victoria we would not have been able to get our children into pre-schools. Honourable senators may be surprised to know that there are areas in Victoria where practically nothing has been done for education for a quarter of a century. I am referring not only to the depressed areas of Victoria or of Melbourne, but also to what are referred to as the affluent eastern areas. A new high school was to be built in one area. By September of the year preceding the year in which the high school was to be opened a spade had not been dug into the ground where the school was to be built. This happened under a Minister who has the infernal cheek to turn around and blame the Federal Government which has poured more money into education than he has ever dreamed of. He says that it is because of the Federal Government that he cannot plan a decent education for our children in Victoria.
In parts of Victoria there are still schools which can get no library grant or no additional assistance because the parents of the children attending those schools cannot raise the first little bit of money that is needed before the Victorian Education Department will match the grant. There are still children who go to schools that are a dust bowl in the summer and a mud heap in the winter. It is only because of the devotion and the inspiration of the teachers and the head teachers in those schools that the children get any sort of assistance at all. Many of them are migrant children. If it had not been for this Government which said that all children are entitled to an education, those migrant children would still be struggling along with no assistance whatsoever. As it is, so many of these migrant children still try to cope with English, which is a new language to them, in the laundry or the toilet or the cloakroom of the school into which they have been plonked.
I turn to technical education in Victoria. Technical education was not just the Cinderella of education in Victoria; it barely existed because, after all, the children receiving technical education came from families who did not matter much. Those children came primarily from areas in which there was a Labor member of Parliament and, after all, that other government was not going to help those sorts of areas. These were the children who were destined to be factory fodder, so far as the previous Government was concerned. After all, what sort of an education does a process worker need? He gets up at 6 o ‘clock in the morning and he falls into bed at 8 o ‘clock at night. What does he want to know about anything else that goes on in the world, or what else does he want to know about bettering himself in any way?
The Federal Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has gone on record as pointing out that the Victorian Government is the most incompetent of any government in Australia when it comes to constructing school buildings. He said:
No Commonwealth Minister for Education is justified in recommending capital grants for the Victorian Government until it rectifies the chronic incompetence which causes the cost of a state school to be 30 per cent to 50 per cent dearer than better buildings put up by independent schools in the same State. Victoria tolerates school construction periods by State Government authorities up to 5 years where private enterprise, exemplified in the Princes Hill school rebuilding, requires only 2 years. Victoria has demonstrated its callous indifference to the welfare of Victorian schoolchildren in authorising a challenge to the High Court to invalidate grants to non-government schools.
So much for this very caring Minister for Education in Victoria! To elaborate a little further, the Prices Hill school building was burned down by a firebug. The Minister in Victoria, when he went out to placate angry parents who wanted to know what he was going to do, said that of course he would have the building up in 2 years. He went back to his Department which said: You must be mad. It takes us at least 3 years and generally 5 years’. But because he had gone out and said to a group of parents that of course he would do it in 2 years, he took the construction of that school out of the usual channels and got the school built in 2 years. Surprise, surprise, there was a State election coming up. This is the Government which cares so much for the people of Victoria and which is so efficient that it has gone on record as challenging the Regional Employment Development scheme. It was the same Premier- Mr Hamer of Victoria- who, before the presentation of this Budget, loudly and long claimed that the Government must not cut back on the provision of money under the RED scheme, must spend even more under the RED scheme and must not take time off to judge just what that scheme has done for Australia and how much assistance it had been to be to people who are out of work but must go on pouring money into all the schemes that all the Liberal municipal councils in Victoria and the Liberal Government in Victoria had promoted. Where is the morality in that? On the one hand the scheme is challenged in the High Court and on the other there is a demand that more money be poured into it.
Another area that has received some attention in this debate on the Budget is the area of increased postage charges. I was intrigued enough about this matter to go back and find out just how much postage has been charged over the years in comparison with the amount of the basic wage. I discovered that in 1920, when the postage was 2d, the basic wage was $7; that in 1956, when the postage was 4d, the basic wage was $38.40; and that in 1971, when the postage was 7c, the basic wage was $93. In 1975 the postage rate is 18c and the average weekly earnings are $150. This is not a great deal of difference. When one takes into consideration the fact that this Parliament accepted the report that said that the Post Office should pay, it makes one think that one should have another look at how much we are going to pay for a postage stamp. Of course there will be a few people who will be experiencing difficulty paying 18c for a postage stamp, but I suggest that the difficulty arises not because they cannot afford it- I do not really believe that the ordinary person sends very many letters- but because they have been promoted into thinking that they are very hard done by.
Let us look at the people who have been vocal in their protests in this respect. Today we had socialites in Toorak in Victoria organising a demonstration outside the Toorak Post Office and claiming that on their fixed incomes they were finding it very difficult to cover the postage of their letters- presumably invitations to their dinner parties- and saying that in future they would have to deliver them on their trendy bicycles. A fat lot they cared about ordinary people being able to post letters to their ailing mothers or sisters. And what fixed incomes some of them would be on.
– What about the pensioners?
– How many letters do pensioners send to each other? Mr Hamer is another person who has complained bitterly because he will not be able to send out this year 800 Christmas cards that he usually sends out. Those 800 Christmas cards cost Mr Hamer $80 to post last year. This year it would cost him $ 1 44 to post the same number. The difference is $64. It makes one’s heart bleed to think that one might not get a card from Mr Hamer this year because on his salary he might not be able to afford to send one. Other people who have been most vocal about the postage rates are the Christmas card manufacturers. They are a group of people whose morals are very high! They promote the sending of cards for sore toes, the sending of birthday cards to third cousins twice removed, the sending of cards because of the occurrence of a rainy day in the week, and the sending of best wishes to ancient senators who have been dismissed from the Senate. What sort of hypocrisy is it for a card manufacturer to say that we are going to prohibit communication between people when all the card manufacturers have been doing over the years is taking the joy out of sending a message to a fellow human being and promoting greeting cards into a million dollar industry by pushing people into all sorts of stupid and impossible situations. Their cards have become more and more ridiculous, more and more expensive and more and more distasteful. Last Christmas one was lucky if one could find a Christmas card that cost less than 50c. Much to everyone’s surprise they have suddenly found that it is possible to produce a card that is cheaper than that. They are now talking about producing cheaper Christmas cards.
I turn now to the voluntary organisations that are producing Christmas cards as a method of raising money for all sorts of reasons. All I can say to the voluntary organisations which have become upset about the fact that they may not sell so many Christmas cards because people may not be able to afford the postage- which I dispute- is that there is a better way of doing the things in the community that should be done than by having dear ladies selling Christmas cards at extraordinary prices and then using the bulk of the money for the running of the organisations and a little of it for doing good. The world has gone past the day when one would take calves-foot jelly to deserving cases.
This Government believes that all children are deserving of education, irrespective of whether they are mentally retarded, and that it is the responsibility of government to provide that education and not the responsibility of flower hatted ladies. We believe that people who are in sad circumstances and who do not have enough money to pay rent or buy food or clothing should get it as a right and not in order to make somebody else’s conscience safe. That is why I say that those dear ladies who now find that they may not have a cause for which to run their bridge parties and for which to sell their Christmas cards should find something better to do in the community. By the way, the increased postage rates may even save us from the eternal Encyclopaedia Britannica brochures that appear in our letter boxes time and time again. I really feel that Encyclopaedia Britannica sank to the lowest depths when it had to use the Freedom from Hunger Campaign to distribute its brochures.
– It also sends you the bill.
– It inevitably sends one the bill, and the book if one does not watch out. This week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Fraser) came out and said that a LiberalCountry Party government would show more concern for the needy than the Australian Labor Party would. He promised people greater freedom and more choice under a Liberal-Country Party government. He said that the Government’s philosophy of trying to provide more and more services through government means higher taxes and a reduction of the incomes controlled by individuals. Mr Fraser and the Opposition Parties he represents presumably mean that the people of this country had greater freedom and more choice in the 23 years prior to the Australian Labor Party coming to office. He did not notice in that time that the needy should have been shown more concern. He and the Opposition Parties conveniently did not notice throughout all those years that the pensioners had to be assisted. This Government had to come into power before people realised that pensioners existed, that they were human beings and that one did not shoot them if they were old, cold and needy but that one had to give them an income and treat them like human beings.
Mr Fraser did not notice that the single mothers had children to raise and needed a pension and that their children needed to be treated like human beings, but now he says that the Opposition Parties have noticed. We are so pleased as must be the homeless people who for years and years had to rely upon the charity of all sorts of organisations or else sleep in a park and go hungry, and as must be the deserted children and the isolated children. After all, one would think that a Liberal-Country Party government would have taken into account that there are children, that there are parents and that there are women who live in extraordinarily isolated circumstances and who have as much right to a good education and to converse with their fellows as has anybody else, but what did it do about it? Honourable senators opposite are the ones who say that they speak for the country people, yet what did they do for them apart from providing the Leader of the Opposition with a superphosphate bounty?
The Government does not believe that we need agencies in every quarter of the globe to distribute the goods of this world to the people to whom it wants to distribute them. We believe that people have a right as human beings to be treated as human beings, to have an income, to go to a doctor when they are sick, to go to a hospital when they are sick and to have an education because they are human beings. We do not need a proliferation of agencies telling us where that aid is needed or to whom it should be given. On behalf of all those people- the aged, the isolated and the handicapped who through 2 elections and through 3 sessions of this Parliament assured us that they wanted a Medibank scheme and that they wanted it now- I ask this House to support this Budget.
-It is no wonder that members of the Government Party are reluctant to talk about the Budget. They talk about everything but the Budget. That is, of course, understandable. I think it is true that both the Government and the Opposition today face a challenge. That challenge is to present economic policies that would restore to good health a sick and shattered economy, an economy that is bedevilled by the twin evils of inflation and unemployment, but an economy shattered largely because of the policies that this Government has followed over the past 3 years. Even the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who seems to enjoy the superficial trappings of powers more than exercising the authority and responsibilities of power, has at last had the good grace to acknowledge this self evident fact.
However, it is all very well to acknowledge the fact. There is little evidence that the Government, having in some cases at last recognised the fact, accepts just how serious a state the economy is in. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) admittedly on several occasions has spoken of Australia being involved in a deep recession. Perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies. At last, there is at least one Minister who acknowledges this simple fact. However, it is one thing to acknowledge it and it is another to do something about it, to produce policies that will cure the situation. I think it is difficult to accept today that the people of Australia believe that a government which is capable of the irresponsibility and incompetence of which this Government has shown itself capable during the last 3 years is able to lead this nation out of the mess which it has created.
Perhaps the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) is entitled to at least some commendation. One must feel sorry for him because he did inherit a mess from 2 Teasurers whom the Prime Minister saw fit to sack. There is no doubt that Mr Hayden, within the limitations that have been placed upon him, has acknowledged some of the problems. That is something, anyway. He is faced with a situation of trying to remedy a condition brought about by the policies of previous Treasurers who seemed intent on creating economic chaos as they chased the pipe-dreams and fed the sacred cows of the Labor Government. All this has resulted in an unstable economy and a high, almost crippling, rate of inflation. It is among the highest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Yet, Australia has been largely isolated from the economic factors that have created a high rate of inflation in many of these countries.
I know that Senator Carrick drew our attention to the fact that the Prime Minister has now dropped this line and speaks of wages as being one of the major factors. I can remember in better days than now that every time the former Senator Murphy, when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate, was asked a question about the economic situation in Australia he would throw his hands up in the air and say: Well, what can we do about it? It is imported from other countries’. Senator Carrick quoted from the OECD Economic Surveys of July 1975. I have pointed out that the Prime Minister has acknowledged what a significant organisation this is. I think what is stated in the introduction of the Report is worth repeating. It states:
As in most Member countries, there was a marked weakening of demand and activity in Australia during 1974 and the early part of this year and unemployment rose to record levels for the postwar period. But -
This is the crunch- despite the fact that the world oil price increase had only a minor direct effect, inflation accelerated- fuelled by rapidly rising wage costs- to the highest rate experienced since the Korean boom.
That was in 1951. On page 15 of that report under the heading ‘Prices and Incomes’ the report states:
As indicated earlier, Australia’s experience last year in regard to price stability was again unfavourable in comparison with the OECD area as a whole, while the rate of wage increase was one of the highest in the area.
On the same page- I think this is a significant factor- the report continues:
Measures of domestic price movements indicated a marked acceleration of inflationary pressures last year- indeed, the rate of increase shown by the main implicit deflators of domestic demand at least doubled. While the rate of increase in the overall GDP price deflator for the OECD area as a whole rose from 8 per cent in 1973 to 14!4 last year, the corresponding figures for Australia were 1 Vh and 16½ respectively.
In the face of those figures and those facts, it can no longer be argued that Australia’s inflation has been imported. We have, as the report says, been largely isolated from the factors that have caused inflation in the member states of the OECD. Another factor which is very worrying and one about which the Government has done very little is private investment. Even the Treasurer, towards the end of his Budget Speech- rather plaintively, I thought- made a reference to it. He stated:
With the exception of business investment expenditure, which remains the weakest area of prospective demand, other components of domestic spending should show a strengthening trend . . .
At least, he acknowledged it, but he did nothing about it. No one could argue that a 2V4 per cent cut in company tax will inspire private enterprise to invest with any confidence for the future. At least the Government acknowledges this problem, even if it has done nothing about it. I suppose again we should be thankful for small mercies.
Before the introduction of the Budget, the Treasurer, in a number of statements, raised hopes that the Budget would in fact provide encouragement to the private sector which, of course, is responsible for the employment of some 75 per cent of the workforce in Australia. Unfortunately, the Treasurer’s words were stronger than his actions and the Budget has done nothing to restore confidence in the private sector. Until private business is given confidence the economy will not begin to improve and unemployment will continue to rise. Productivity is the key to restoring the economy. This fact is acknowledged by every advanced nation and Germany and Japan are prime examples but I do not think productivity merited even a mention in the Budget Speech. Speaking of unemployment, it is well to remember past days when we had an unemployment rate of 1.8 per cent and the squeals which came from the then Opposition about the misery that was being caused. But what hope have we -
– What year was that?
-It was 1969, 1970, 1971.
– What was the figure in 1 96 1 ?
– It was never much higher than 2.1 per cent. The publication of the Institute of Public Affairs, Facts, of April/May this year contained some interesting statistics. It mentioned that until recently Australia was one of two or three of the most successful countries in achieving full employment. It then quoted statistics on the percentage increase in unemployment for the latest available 12 months and I cite a couple of examples: Denmark was the highest with. 358 per cent and Australia had 272 per cent. Honourable senators should remember that that was some months ago and the rate has increased considerably since then. Germany had 163 per cent, Japan 41 per cent, Britain 28 per cent and Italy 3 per cent. Because of this Government’s ability to destroy the economy we have had an ever increasing level of unemployment. I do not know how Mr Hawke stands in the Labor Party but Mr Dunstan says that he will be the next leader. Mr Hawke seems to envisage a figure of 500 000 unemployed early next year. Having quoted those figures I want to come back to the question of productivity which is the key to the restoration of economic health. Unfortunately this dogma ridden Government does not seem to have even begun to understand this simple fact. Until the Government does understand it, or until such time as it is kicked out of office, there is no hope for the future. I repeat that the Budget gives absolutely no hope or encouragement for an increase in productivity. Perhaps it would have done the Treasurer’s heart good if he had gone to a country such as Japan which until recently had an extremely high inflation rate because of the energy crisis. Now, because of the co- operation of the Government, the business sector and the unions -
– Where was this?
– I am referring to Japan, Senator Georges, where the rate of inflation in the last 12 months has been reduced to 14 per cent.
– What sort of government does Japan have?
– It has a Liberal Democratic Government.
– What sort of system?
– The Japanese have a system which works very successfully. In that country it is recognised by the Government and by the unions- do not forget that, ‘by the unions’- that productivity is the key to success. The major objective of the economic policies of the most successful countries has been productivity.
– Which countries are they?
– I just mentioned two of them. If the honourable senator wants to look for more he can do so. They are two of the most successful countries in the world.
– Which countries are they?
– I just named Germany and Japan. If Senator Poyser wants to look for more he can do so. He should look, for example, at the United States of America were inflation is down to about 8 per cent. That too is a country which encourages productivity. I take it from the interruptions that what I am saying is hurting Government supporters. They realise the truth of what I say. If they do not, it shows what a hopeless situation we are in.
– You have to look further.
– It appears that this Government’s objective was just the opposite; hence the almighty economic mess that this country is in. It is unbelievable that the sound economy inherited by this Government in 1972 could be wrecked so quickly. If this Government had shown the same ability to build as it has to destroy, Australia today would possess a strong and stable economy.
– In what newspaper did you read that?
– That, my friend, came out of my little head. I do not have to rely on newspapers. Senator Poyser might have to do so. Probably he has to rely on the Red Flag or something like that but I do not.
– I have some very good quotes from Red on Mr Malcolm Fraser.
– That is interesting. The honourable sentator should use them. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Malcolm Fraser, has announced on behalf of the Opposition a policy which has been acknowledged as representing a viable and sound alternative to the policies of this Government. It is not my intention tonight to repeat the announced policy of Mr Fraser during his reply to the Budget but I do say that it placed empasis on the individual and expressed faith in individual Australians. This Government has no faith in individual Australians. We of the Opposition believe in the individual judgments of Australians. We believe that they are better able to make decisions as to their lives than any government of any political complexion. We will ensure by our policies that individuals will be given this opportunity. We believe that the private sector, given the right impetus and the opportunity to have confidence in the policies of the Government, will respond. We believe that Australians, given leadership, will also respond. It is the Government’s responsibility to provide incentives and to instil confidence by good management and sound policies. In that area this Government has failed dismally. Our alternative policies will stimulate production and investment. I have sufficient faith in the average Australian, even if the Government has not, to believe that we can stimulate production and investment if the challenge which faces us is put squarely to the average Australian and he is told that his expectations can be achieved only by a sound and developed economy, and by hard work and co-operation. It cannot be achieved by developing the welfare state and the welfare mentality which is the product of socialist thinking. It is demeaning for people to rely on everything from the cradle to the grave. I believe that the welfare state mentality is foreign to Australians. It is a false, vicious and degrading philosophy. It should be rejected, and we reject it.
I refer quickly to one or two specific items in the Budget. We heard Senator Melzer trying to justify the increased postal charges. What Senator Melzer did not acknowledge was the fact that the increased postal and telecommunications charges will be fuel for further inflation, as will the indirect tax on petrol which will be felt throughout the economy. The indirect taxes announced by the Government are inflationary in themselves. We welcome the income tax deductions but by January, because of the increase in inflation- inflation will be helped along to some extent by the indirect taxes- they will be nothing but an illusion and will be recognised as a 2-card trick. Unquestionably the petrol tax will affect costs throughout the community. They will be felt most in the less developed areas of Australia. I see Senator Poyser nodding his head. I presume that he is doing so in approval.
A further factor which has been a substantial element in the sorry record of this Government has been industrial turmoil. It will be recalled that in 1 972 Mr Whitlam and his cohorts stood up and said: ‘We are the people who can bring industrial peace. We are the only people who understand the worker. We are the only people who understand the unions, and they trust us’. What has been the Government’s record in this field? It has been a most sorry record. Mainly because of its policies, since it came to office, we have had nothing but industrial turmoil. Another comparison has been made in the April-May issue of the publication Fact’s of the Institute of Public Affairs from which I quoted earlier. We have the heading ‘A Tragic Record’. That publication printed the results of a survey of the major industrial countries conducted by the London Economist. Each country was classified according to the prospect of industrial unrest in 1975. The classifications go from great through good, fair, poor and down to grim and appalling. Australia’s ranking on that scale was among the worst. Finland was ranked as fair; Italy as appalling; Canada as grim; Australia as grim; the United Kingdom, which has a Labor government, as grim; New Zealand, which admittedly has a Labor Government but a more responsible one, as fair; and so on. The only countries which were ranked as being grim were Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. That is the record of a Government which claimed that it and it alone could bring industrial peace.
The statistics for 1974 show that 6.3 million working days were lost in Australia in 1974. The previous highest number was 4.7 million in 1917. The only other fact I can mention is that the total loss of wages in Australia in 1974, through industrial unrest, was $ 128m. That is the record of this Government which boasted -
– I thought you had sat down.
– No such luck yet. It boasted that it could bring about industrial peace in Australia. Its record is, to say the least, a sorry one. I turn now to one of the most tragic results of this Government’s policies, that is the plight of the small businessman. The importance of the small businessman has not always been appreciated not only by this Government but also by other governments. Official statistics indicate that 95 per cent of factories, retail stores, wholesale businesses and service enterprises are small. Big business is therefore heavily dependent on small business supplies, contractors and so on. Everyone, including governments, has an interest in the survival of small business. Today the small business community has difficulty in meeting commitments and in maintaining viability. Small businesses are able to live with a steady inflation rate of between 3 per cent and 4 per cent with growth conditions applying in the economy, but they cannot live with an inflation rate of around 17 per cent or 20 per cent when there is an almost nil growth rate.
– Is it 17 per cent or 20 per cent or 1 5 per cent or 1 4 per cent?
– I am just taking the present figure of 17 per cent. I will settle for 17 per cent. The expectation is that it will be 20 per cent or higher before long, but I will settle for the figure of 1 7 per cent. That is good enough. Surveys indicate that between 16 per cent and 17 per cent of small businesses are not achieving satisfactory results and indeed are financially vulnerable. Indeed, it is reported that some 3000 of them will have to close in the very near future.
– That was guesswork.
– It was a survey. It might be guesswork, but there are plenty of indications on those lines. If Senator Cavanagh would like to climb down from his ivory tower and get around the country and talk to small businessmen I am quite sure that he would realise the truth of that statement, because the indications are that under these pressures more and more small businessmen have decided that the struggle is just not worthwhile. Australia is losing the expertise and innovative drive of this sector. The Government, in its Budget and in its policies, has shown no acknowledgment or appreciation of this problem. In any other developed country- indeed, in the less developed countries- this situation would never have been allowed to develop. Recently Senator Cotton, on behalf of the Opposition, made a statement in which he outlined in general terms the type of attitude that we would be taking to restore the confidence and viability of small business men.
I wish to conclude my remarks by referring to the air navigation charges. Over many years- if Senator Cotton were here now he would acknowledge this fact -
– Where is he?
– Where are some of the people from that side of the chamber? Senator Cotton would acknowledge that when he was the Minister for Civil Aviation I was critical on many occasions of the ever increasing air navigation charges. I have always believed that it is a false policy. It has always been based on the claim that the user should pay for the service, and no one argues that a proportion of the cost should be met by the user. But, interestingly enough, the Airlines Agreement of 1973, in which this
Government altered the percentage from 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent per annum, states in clause 4:
For the purpose of more speedily implementing the Commonwealth’s policy of full recovery of the cost of facilities properly attributable to civil air transport and with a view to achieving the objective of recovering by the year ending the thirtieth day of June, 1 978, eighty per centum of the annual cost of those facilities-
The percentage was increased from 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent. It is very interesting to note that no one has ever defined the words ‘properly attributable to civil air transport’. I would suggest that more than 20 per cent of the facilities of civil aviation would be more properly attributable to defence. All the aircraft and aircraft facilites are a defence asset and could be used and indeed where necessary have been used for defence purposes. A very considerable proportion of facilities could be defined as being attributable to development. We all know that all the airlines run development services which cannot, do not, and probably never can pay. The airlines make up for the losses incurred on those services on their more profitable routes.
– Reg Ansett does.
– Not only Sir Reginald Ansett ‘s airline but also Trans- Australia Airlines run such services. Trans-Australia Airlines is in no better position than is Sir Reginald Ansett when it comes to that. I suggest that a substantial percentage of civil aviation facilities are attributable to defence and to development. It is high time that the term ‘properly attributable to civil air transport’ was defined, because I believe that the Government’s policy of trying to recover 80 per cent of the cost of those facilities is an absurd one. Aviation in Australia, perhaps more than in most countries in the world, provides an important, if not vital, transport link in outback areas. All the airlines provide an essential service to those areas. To many- this is particularly so in my own State- air travel is not a luxury but an essential means of transportation. As costs increase and as the airlines quite naturally pass on the costs to the user, air travel is going to be denied to more and more people who live in areas in which it is the only possible, successful and satisfactory means of transportation. Air travel is getting beyond the reach of many people, and the Minister’s unfortunate statement of some time ago that only silver tails travel by aircraft will indeed soon be a fact.
The other important factor is that the Government itself is one of the largest users of air travel. It is a case of the dog chasing its own tail; as the cost of air travel increases, so the Government pays more. I think it is an increasingly crazy policy. It is certainly time that a clear definition was made of costs attributable to defence and development and costs which are properly attributable to civil aviation. Australia wants tourism as one of its major industries and all we are doing by this ever-increasing rise in air fares is pricing ourselves out of the tourist market. I only hope the Government will take note of this policy. It is not a sound economic policy; it is an unsound economic policy. If we want aviation in Australia to continue as a growth sector it is about time we realised that it must not be priced out of the transport market.
Having said that, I can only express the hope that this Budget does succeed. The Treasurer is in some doubt. We share the doubt, but for the future of Australia one can only hope for its success. I do not believe it will be successful but I express the hope that it will be. I support the amendment moved by Senator Withers. My only complaint is that it is couched in too moderate terms.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) adjourned.
– I have received a letter from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory relating to the resolution of the Senate concerning the Northern Territory (Stabilization of Land Prices) Bill 1974. Copies of the letter have been circulated to honourable senators. With the concurrence of the Senate the letter will be incorporated in Hansard. Should any honourable senator wish to read the select committee report enclosed with the letter it will be available in the Library. Printed copies will be supplied to all senators when received from the printer. Is leave granted to incorporate the letter in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The letter read as follows)-
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Office Of The Speaker
P.O. Box 3721 Darwin, N.T. Telephone 812262 20 August 1975
The Hon. Senator Justin O’Byrne President of the Senate
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr President,
On 17 June 1975,I laid before the Assembly a letter from the Hon. R. A. Patterson, M.P., Minister for Northern Australia, conveying a resolution of the Senate relating to the Northern Territory (Stabilization of Land Prices) Bill 1975.
After consideration, the Assembly resolved:
That the communication from the Minister and the re solution of the Senate be noted and that this Assembly endorse and commend the Senate’s action in referring the matter of legislation on the stabilization of land prices to the Assembly.
That the following answer be made: “The Assembly criticizes the Northern Territory (Stabilization of Land Prices) Bill 1975 on the following grounds-
the stabilization of land prices in the Northern Territory is regional and not a national concern and is not a proper subject for legislation in the national Parliament;
the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 already contains sufficient authority for the investigation of land when it is to be acquired and Clause 8 of the Bill is therefore otiose;
an unwarranted interference with the right of a person to enjoy the use of his land could occur for many years if Clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill become law;
Clauses 12 and 13 completely remove the safeguard to the landholder presently contained in the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 that on acquisition, he will be paid just terms. Compensation is proposed by the Bill to be paid in accordance with the certificate of the Valuer-General, which is to be final and conclusive and beyond appeal to any court or authority.
The Assembly undertakes to examine the matter of securing the stabilization of land prices through legislation complementary to the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 after consultation with the Ministers and Departments concerned.”.
That a select committee comprising Mr Withnall, Mr Everingham, Mr Tambling and Dr Letts be appointed to inquire into the matter of providing legislation to secure land price stabilization complementary to the Lands Acquisition Act 1955;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit during any adjournment of the Assembly and to adjourn from place to place.
That the Committee report to the Assembly on the first sitting day in August 1975.’.
On Tuesday 12 August the Select Committee reported to the Assembly and I have enclosed a copy of that report with this letter. After considering the report the Assembly resolved ‘That the report be noted and that it be commended to the Australian Senate as the considered opinion and legislative proposal of this Assembly’.
The report has been sent to the Australian Government Printer and I have requested him to send copies direct to the Senate.
L. S. MacFARLANE
Senate adjourned at 10.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
b) There was no reference to administrative costs to the Australian Government in the offer.
Under the Regional Employment Development Scheme the Australian Government laid down guidelines regarding its operation, inter alia, ensuring that expenditure is concentrated where it is most needed, that is, where unemployment is greatest. Under the previous Schemes there was no provision for community groups to initiate worthwhile projects; this aspect has been stressed under the RED Scheme.
The RED Scheme has also required that at least SO per cent of grants for projects must be spent on the wages of unemployed persons; the persons must be registered with and recruited through the Commonwealth Employment Service.
As to the administration of REDS, State Committees (on which State Governments are well represented as well as the Australian Government) have played a key role in the approval of projects; they have had complete autonomy to recommend approval direct to the Minister for Labor and Immigration of all projects not exceeding $100,000 (approximately 90 per cent of all projects). In addition Federal Members have been involved regarding projects in their electorate.
At the end of June 1 975, 1 978 projects had been approved in Victoria, involving Australian Government assistance of $36,732,000 and employment for 13 767 unemployed persons.
The differences in approach between the previous Schemes and REDS speak for themselves.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1)I am informed that in the 12 months ending 30.4.75:
320 Chilean refugees came to Australia from neighbouring South American countries;
These were all awarded refugee status by UNHCR.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750902_senate_29_s65/>.