29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 8 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government-
To depart from its 1972 election promise that basic pensions would be related to average weekly earnings and never be allowed to fall below 25 per cent thereof, and
To increase postage costs and the costs of installation and annual rental of telephones, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decisions (a) and (b), and to determine
That pensions be related to average earnings as promised by the Prime Minister in his 1 972 policy speech, and
That no charge be made for installation or rental on the telephones of those pensioners entitled to a P.M.S. card.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following pet ition from 256 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
On the day of remembrance of the deportations without trial of the inhabitants of the Baltic countries, we, the undersigned ask the Senate to request the Government to revoke de jure recognition of the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by the Soviet Union.
According to the Charter of the United Nations the Baltic peoples are entitled to self-determination and any foreign occupation of these countries is unlawful and thus should not be recognised in law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 53 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:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
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 Senate will reject the 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 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.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Poyser.
-Will the Minister for Police and Customs advise the Senate whether he or his Department deleted certain names from the list which he tabled yesterday of beneficiaries under the superphosphate and nitrogenous fertiliser bounty scheme? Is it not a fact that the Department of the Capital Territory is and was a very substantial purchaser of superphosphate and should have appeared on the list? Can the Minister explain why the Department’s name did not appear on the list he tabled yesterday?
– No names were deleted from the list. The list, as given, was a list of names supplied by the producers who received the bounty payments giving details of sales to one purchaser in excess of 400 tons in the relevant year. I do not know whether the Department of the Capital Territory purchased in excess of 400 tons in that year. If it did, I do not know why its name was not on the list, but it was not supplied by any of the producers who were asked to supply the information. It may be that the superphosphate it purchased was from a source from which we did not seek information. That may be the answer. However I shall find out from the Department the amount of superphosphate it purchased in 1973.I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has now recognised that there should be full publication of these names. If there has been an omission, I am prepared to rectify that deficiency and make every name available.
– My question is to the Minister for Social Security. Can the Minister provide information on the use being made of the telephone interpreter service? Does he believe that the expense of running the service is justified? If so, does the Minister feel that this service should be extended as soon as possible to other capital cities?
– I think that with the large number of immigrants in Australia, many of whom speak only a limited amount of English, it is necessary that there should be some sort of interpreter service for them, particularly when they are asking questions which to them can be very complicated and when they are not aware of the laws relating to social security in Australia and what their entitlements are. The first telephone interpreter services were opened in Sydney and in Melbourne in February 1973 and a further service was started in Perth in March 1974. From the very start a great deal of use was made of this service and it has steadily increased. Up until 31 July 1975 the 3 services between them had dealt with 130 000 calls. The average number of calls answered monthly by each of these 3 services which have already been established has been: Sydney, 1893; Melbourne, 2261; Perth, 653. The major languages which are used by people who try to make use of this service are Greek, Italian, Spanish, SerboCroatian and Turkish. The service used to be known as the emergency telephone interpreter service but it has now been extended into a general information and referral service in some 50 languages and dialects. Based on the experience which we have had in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, it is hoped that the service can be extended, at least to the other State capitals. Although this program was deferred for a time I am now very pleased to be able to say that we have been able to allocate sufficient funds to establish the service in Brisbane and Adelaide. Staff is at present being recruited to handle this service in those 2 cities.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer whether it is a fact that income tax refund payments to Australian citizens are substantially delayed this year. Does the Minister acknowledge that income tax which has been paid in excess of the amount required by the Government is the property of the citizens of the Commonwealth and that this money should be paid back to the citizens immediately? Is he aware that many taxpayers who normally have their excess income tax payments refunded to them in August have not received their money? I ask the Minister: Is the reason for this the fact that the Government has over-expended its money by some $ 1,000m in the first 2 months of this year? Will the Minister make a statement on this to the Senate?
– I am sure that it would be customary for the Australian Taxation Office every year to expedite taxpayers’ refunds as much as it possibly can. I am not aware of any specific circumstances this year which would in any way vary the intention of the taxation authorities to do that again. I find it very difficult to believe, if there is any delay, that it would be for the reason suggested by the honourable senator. However, as this is a matter of direct concern to the Acting Treasurer I shall refer the matter to him. If I can obtain further information I shall forward it to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Police and Customs. I refer to the recent episode involving certain Australian tourists in Bangkok being arrested on charges of drug peddling. It is in that context that I ask the Minister: Does his Department visualise an educational program in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs to warn Australian travellers that the possession of an Australian passport does not mean that they can indulge in this practice to get a few dollars on the side and then expect the Australian taxpayer to pay for our embassies to be involved in court proceedings?
-The number of young Australians who go overseas and find themselves in conflict with the law of a country because they have become carriers of drugs- not necessarily users- is of concern to the Department and, I think, to all honourable senators. It is not coincidence that I have here a poster dealing with this subject. The honourable senator gave me prior notice that he would ask this question. My Department has a poster for exhibition in all our embassies throughout the world. It is in cartoon fashion and tells the sad story of Bruce, a young Aussie boy who went overseas to find out what it was all about- and certainly did. He got into trouble for carrying drugs. There is a warning at the bottom of the poster of the penalties which vary from country to country for this offence. In most countries the offence carries a fine or imprisonment or both. Drug trafficking in some countries carries the death penalty. We are doing all that we can to educate those who are going overseas. In addition, there is available at the embassies the publication entitled ‘Traps for Travellers’, which lists the penalties imposed for carrying illicit drugs into certain countries.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Government is considering using the Treasurer’s Advance Account to finance large increases in the costs of the Regional Employment Development scheme and Medibank? Is it a fact that these costs were underestimated in Supply Bill (No. 1)? Is the Government considering bringing in an additional Supply Bill to cover these extravagances before the Appropriation Bills are passed?
-Last year in the Senate we had a very long discussion about the Treasurer’s advance. I believe that a very full explanation of the options available to the Government in the use of those moneys was given to the Senate. I hope that we will not have to go through that again this year. It was my understanding that the Senate as a whole agreed that the flexibilities which have been always available to a government in the use of the Treasurer’s Advance still apply. I suggest that the question of whether the Treasurer would see fit to use moneys for purposes of augmenting schemes such as the RED scheme is a matter for his judgment and for him to decide in the months ahead. I suggest that it would be quite impossible for either myself or the Treasurer to state at this stage the specific purposes for which he intends to use those advances.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Can he inform the Senate of the current position in relation to the proposed purchase by the Australian Army of Nomad aircraft?
-Whilst my colleague the Minister for Manufacturing Industry is primarily responsible for the project, including manufacture and sales of the aircraft, the Department of Defence has been and will continue to be the sponsor of the project because the aircraft meets a military need and, at the same time, keeps in being essential aircraft industry competence, skills and technology. The Nomad project includes the production of 11 aircraft for the Army. The first military version is scheduled for delivery later this month. Following trials and evaluation by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army, a second aircraft will be delivered to the Services about July next year. The remainder of the Army aircraft are scheduled for delivery at the rate of two a month from August to December 1976.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration in his capacity as the Acting Attorney-General. I refer to the report of the working party on territorial criminal law which contains a draft ordinance which would change in regard to a number of matters, particularly sexual matters, the current law in the Australian Capital Territory. I ask the Minister: Will he clarify what the Government’s intentions are with regard to that ordinance? I do so in the light of the fact that the Attorney-General tabled the ordinance and asked for comment; that he, the Acting AttorneyGeneral indicated in answer to a question last week that the Government was proposing to bring in an ordinance; and because of the statement made by the Prime Minister today in which he appears to disown the report. Can the Minister explain whether the Government does propose to do anything, or what the Government’s intentions are?
-The Government, at this stage; hasno intentions in relation to the report of the working party.Ido not think that Senator Greenwood is entitled to take any comfort from the fact that a working party brings in recommendations which displease him, which do not express the policy of the Government and about which the Government has not yet formed any conclusions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. I understand that a special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council was held last week to discuss the problems of the beef industry. Can the Minister outline the outcome of the meeting?
– Such a meeting was held last Friday- actually in this chamberspecifically for the purpose of considering the beef crisis in Australia. A proposal was put forward by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr Crawford, for a floor price scheme for beef. That was quite widely reported in the press. An alternative proposal was also put forward by the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries. It was not possible at the meeting to reach unanimity and such schemes would require the co-operation of all States. One State in particular was quite adamantly opposed to any floor price scheme being introduced for beef. The result has been that the Council will await the outcome of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the beef industry, which I currently expect my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland to have in his hands within a fortnight.
– Which State was opposed?
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration and refers to the statement of the Minister yesterday that unemployment ‘could approach 400 000 members of the labour force in 1976’. I ask: When was that departmental estimate made available to the Minister and to the Government? Was the information available to the Government prior to the preparation of the Budget? If so, why was it not incorporated in the Budget? Does the Minister intend to rest upon the expenditures and initiatives of the Budget? Alternatively, does the Minister intend to introduce supplementary measures? Are the basis and strategy of the Budget not now, on the Minister’s figures, in ruins only 3 weeks after the introduction of the Budget?
-The answer to the last part of the honourable senator’s question is no. The information on which I answered a.question yesterday became available to me yesterday. If the honourable senator were to read the Budget, and its accompanying papers carefully he would see that the. prognostications contained in my answer to the question yesterday are not necessarily inconsistent with the forecasts in the Budget. The Treasurer’s speech on the Budget, in effect, predicted that there would be a gradual reduction in the unemployment figures over the first 6 months of next year, culminating in a figure of some 225 000 unemployed at the end of the current financial year.
It does not take much of an examination of the figures to ascertain that implicit in that figure is a figure something like the one that I announced yesterday for unemployment in January because it was well known to the Treasurer and it was well known to anybody who gave any thought to these matters that there would be a record number of school leavers coming onto the labour market in January and February. The figure of 400 000 that I quoted yesterday, which I admitted was only an estimate, is not a figure that will last for any great length of time. After all, the figures relating to the unemployed go up temporarily every January. We hope that there will be a rapid absorption of large numbers of unemployed into the work force over the first few months of next year. I repeat that there was no contradiction- a minor disparity only- between the figures that I gave yesterday and the figures that are implicit in the Budget.
In any event, if the country were to be favoured with a Fraser budget instead of a Hayden budget the unemployment figure of 400 000 almost certainly would be doubled because Mr Fraser has announced that he would propose to cut an extra $1 billion off Government expenditure. If honourable senators opposite were to do their sums they must understand the implications for unemployment in such a drastic cut. The Budget attempted to draw some sort of a balance between getting the economy back on the road and making some attack on inflation. It was a responsible effort to achieve both of those aims. The alternative proposed by the Opposition would produce a much worse result. So we see no need to recast the Budget. Far from the Budget being in tatters, we believe that time has proved that it is a responsible Budget and that time will prove that it is the best Budget possible in the present economic circumstances.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that several days ago I rang Superintendent Daniels at the Western Australian police headquarters in Perth and found that at 1 5 second intervals there was a beep tone which, according to the Postal Department’s manual, indicates that the conversation is being recorded? Is it a fact that telephones used by Western Australian police officers are subject to interception and, if so, how many, at whose request and on whose authority?
– I can answer only in respect of those provisions of the Telecommunications Act and of the general by-laws which refer to approved connector recorders, and this answer relates also to questions which have been put by the honourable senator to my colleague, Senator James McClelland, who drew my attention to this matter yesterday. I have seen the Press comments about it. Included in the Acts and by-laws of the Commission are provisions in similar terms to those which existed in the previous legislation, including authorisation to lease approved connector recorders to any subscribers. By-law 19 and by-law 216 particularly refer to these devices. The policy that this Government is applying in respect of the matter originated as far back as 1964, when the legislation was introduced by the then Government. It provided that an approved recording device could be leased to any subscriber but that there had to be a distinctive recording tone or a beep.
Honourable senators may have seen in their telephone directories instructions relating to the use of a telephone. Under the heading ‘Learn to recognise these tones ‘ it is stated:
Recording tone: a short ‘beep’ tone heard on your telephone line about every IS seconds means that the person with whom you are speaking is recording the conversation. If you do not want a record made of what you are saying, ask the person with whom you are talking to disconnect the recording machine. When he disconnects, the signal will no longer be heard.
In respect of the latter part of the honourable senator’s question, any department is dealt with on the same basis as an ordinary subscriber. 1 am informed that applications have been made by the Western Australian Police Force and approval has been given to install these devices. The only authority which can approve their installation is now the Australian Telecommunications Commission, which was formerly the Australian Post Office. At the present time the police department has a number of these devices installed and I understand that one of them is connected to the telephone of the inspector concerned.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that police officers in Western Australia have recording devices attached to their telephones by the order of their superior officers, the permission of the superior officers would be required to remove those devices. What protection is afforded to the ordinary person who telephones such an officer?
– That question is one that I cannot answer. It may be one that should be directed to Senator James McClelland, who represents the Attorney-General. Under the Australian Telecommunications Commission Act and by-laws, which are the same as those which applied under the old Act and regulations relating to the Postal Department, there is power to grant approval for the use of various connector recorders. There are other powers which may be administered by the Attorney-General under another Act, and I think that the question the honourable senator asks me covers an area into which I cannot intrude. It might be better for him to discuss the matter with the appropriate Minister.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the hardship which will be felt by patients in Victorian nursing homes arising from the decision to peg the maximum intensive care subsidy at $109.90 from 1 November 1975? Does the Minister understand that the Commonwealth-approved fees for Victorian nursing homes which provide the required standard of care have resulted in an average weekly fee of $171? Is the Minister able to offer any review of this decision? What is the Government ‘s policy with regard to the recommendations made in the report of the Hospital and Allied Services Advisory Council?
– I am aware that there is hardship in this area. I am aware that there is hardship in a great many areas. I do not think the social welfare which is provided in this country, not only in this regard but also in a great many other regards, is anything like what ought to be provided in a country as rich as Australia. I think Senator Guilfoyle knows why we pegged this figure. We pegged it because we have been cutting back on public spending to the best of our ability and this is unfortunately one of the areas which have been affected. Particular hardships are constantly being reviewed by me and by officers of both the departments which I administer. If Senator Guilfoyle can provide me with some specific instances which she thinks should warrant my personal ministerial intervention, I will so intervene. All I can undertake to do in the meantime is to tell her that I am aware of the hardship, that I am watching what is happening in this area, as is my Department, and that as soon as we possibly can we will do something to improve the situation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to the Budget Speech statement by the Leader of the Opposition that he would abolish the Australian Legal Office in the event of the Opposition becoming the government. I ask the Minister whether he can tell the Senate about the survey conducted by Australian Nationwide Opinion Poll and whether that survey indicates widespread community support for the Australian Legal Aid Office? Will the survey results be made available to the Senate?
– Knowing the interest which the Opposition and especially some of its legal members take in all the activities of the Australian Legal Aid Office, I had prepared some figures on the survey which has been referred to by the honourable senator. This was a survey conducted by the Australian Nationwide Opinion Poll- a poll which sometimes comes up with results adverse to the present governmentcovering a wide range of matters. The poll indicated that 94 per cent of Australians consider that there is a need for the Australian Legal Aid Office. On a party basis- I think this is particularly interesting to the gentlemen opposite who are so eagerly watching public opinion at the moment- the figures are 95 per cent Labour Party supporters and 94 per cent LiberalCountry Party supporters. Those who saw no disadvantages at all in the Australian Legal Aid Office scheme were 7 1 per cent, whilst only 3 per cent of all people opposed the office for what might be called Party philosophical reasons. The ANOP described these figures as quite extraordinary and stated that seldom do research figures show such massive convergence on an issue. Other figures in the survey are highly significant. Just over one in three people- 36 per cent- see themselves as likely, or quite likely, to seek the help of the ALAO. A further 40 per cent see themselves as possibly seeking the help of the ALAO. These figures hold throughout the range of economic circumstances. Thus almost 2 persons in every five in households whose incomes exceed $10,000 per annum say they would be likely or quite likely to use the services of the ALAO. Only 2 persons in every eleven say that they are not at all likely to do so. The point is of course that the Australian people across economic and party boundaries not only recognise the need in an abstract way for the ALAO-
– It is very extraordinary with a question without notice to have a written answer.
– I acknowledge that I prepared myself expecting a question from somebody such as yourself, senator. Unfortunately, you do not seem to have been very curious about a survey which is favourable to the ALAO. One-third of those polled see themselves as actually or potentially seeking its help. That confirms the expert advice which the Government obtained from the Australian Legal Aid Review Committee and the Commissioner on Law and Poverty. Currently the office is handling inquiries at the rate of 1 4 000 per month and that figure is still growing. As to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, the report of the Australian Nationwide Opinion Poll will be made available to honourable senators immediately following the recess.
– I refer the PostmasterGeneral to postal by-law 222 which prevents residents of Australia from mailing postal articles outside Australia for transmission to Australia in certain circumstances, one of which is if the mailing is part of a large lodgement of articles. I ask the Postmaster-General: What is the criterion adopted by the Australian Postal Commission for a large lodgement of articles, and will the Commission widely publicise and make known to potential users the criterion which it is adopting?
- Senator Durack ‘s question seems to me to be a proposal to encourage people to avoid the laws of the land which this Parliament has approved, but I will answer the question.
– I am asking you for a criterion.
-Yes, I know, but the honourable senator has raised a question which has been ventilated in the Press in recent days about groups of people who are out to subvert and to avoid the postal tariff proposals which have been put up by the Commission and authorised by the Government. Somebody said yesterday- I think it was Senator Jessop- that they are entitled to beat the system. If people try to beat the system obviously all that you do-
– I did not say that. You misrepresent me. I said that they have to do something to prevent themselves going broke under your Government.
-Ah! That is what Senator Jessop is saying. Yesterday almost every speaker from the Opposition side said that the Government ought to be cutting public expenditure. Yet, with very few exceptions, they also argue that we ought to be providing more subsidies.
– That is not so.
-Senator Wright interjects and says that it is clear.
– Why debate the matter? We are dealing with questions without notice.
– Of course it is clear. I think it was necessary to say those things first. It is quite improper for people to state publicly how to beat the system. We do not want that situation. I suggest that upon reflection nobody would want a situation where that position might obtain. Postal by-law 222 picks up article 14 of the final protocol of the Universal Postal Union Convention which deals with the arrangements between member countries. It applies this as part of the domestic law. There may be differences between the wording of by-law 222 to which Senator Durack referred and article 14 but the effects are the same. Over the years the Australian Post Office always has reserved the right to return mail to another country. The situation is not new under the Commission and is consistent, as far as we are concerned, with article 14. I know there may be some argument about what is a large or small lodgement. I will ask the Commission to take notice of Senator Durack ‘s question.
- Senator Wright wants to answer the question.
-If Senator Wright would like to have a go it is OK. I think I am justified in answering the question this way. I certainly shall direct Senator Durack ‘s question about a definition to the Commission to see to what extent this matter can be more tightly defined. I suggest that what is happening in the public arena is that in the face of the tariffs people are trying to find a system to avoid them. If they do that then obviously, in the long run, any government would be up for a greater subsidy to keep the system going.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I ask the PostmasterGeneral specifically whether wide publicity will be given to the criterion of what is meant by a large consignment?
– I hope that my comments this morning will get wide publicity. I will try to get the Commission to define it. Maybe wide publicity might be given to the Opposition’s viewpoint about the extent to which it would subsidise the operations of the 2 commissions. I have probed this matter and I have run it in this place. Nobody has yet said: ‘Yes, we will put in $100m’. All that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said the other night was that he might consider re-imposing the television and broadcast listeners’ licences to get some of the money to reduce the tariffs; $67m. We have not done it.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: In view of the current interest, both in top level salaries and in the cost of health insurance programs, can the Minister confirm that the Director of the Hospital Contribution Fund of Australia in New South Wales, Mr Turner, and the General Manager of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd in New South Wales, Mr Cade, have recently had salary increases raising their annual earnings from $3 1 ,500 to $50,000? Can the Minister present the Senate with a run down of the salaries and allowances of executives of all or any of the major private health insurance funds?
-Yes, Mr President, I have in fact noticed that these gentlemen are now receiving salaries of $50,000 a year. I have noticed also that those newspapers which, whenever a rise in parliamentary salaries takes place, refer to a pay grab have not referred to any pay grab by these gentlemen; nor, indeed, when they refer to a pay grab by coal miners or members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union have they ever felt prompted to remind their readers of the salaries which are being received by these individuals in hospital or medical benefits funds. The funds are not obliged under the National Health Act to give me that information but I think that this is a matter of public interest and I intend to write to the funds and ask them for details of the salaries and allowances which their executives receive and of any recent changes in the salaries and allowances.
I think these are matters that ought to be known publicly. Our salaries are known publicly and I think these executives’ salaries ought to be known publicly as well. They are functioning under the National Health Act and I believe that the people are entitled to know what they are getting when they pay their money. I have noted also how the officials of these funds have said that they have a very keen sense of public responsibility. I am sure that with such a keen sense of public responsibility they will feel a responsibility to the public to make this information available.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd of Burnie recently have had to lay off considerable numbers of employees as a result of production cuts caused by overseas competition. Is it a fact that contracts were let recently by the former Postal Department for the purchase of $2m worth of paper for use in new telephone books? Is it a fact that of those contracts $1.5m relates to a Canadian multinational, MacMillan Bloedel Pty Ltd, and only $278,000 to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd? Why could all of the paper not have been purchased in Australia, thereby preserving Australian employment opportunities?
-Only last week-it may have been the week before last- a deputation led by Mr Ron Davies and including representation from the management of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd met Mr Lionel Bowen, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, and myself and we again discussed what orders might be placed with the paper mills for paper required for the production of telephone directories. The honourable senator probably knows the background of this matter. As far as I am aware, the Australian mills have not had the particular machinery capacity required to supply the orders which have been placed by the Australian Post Office in the past. Consequently, the Australian Post Office was required to depend on supplies from overseas to ensure publication of the directories. So, in the first place, negotiations took place for international supplies of paper which were necessary to back up the system in Australia. I think this is the third time that we have discussed this matter. I have recommended to the Telecommunications Commission that it should place another order with Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd.
I think that if honourable senators were to talk to the management of that company they would find that these people are quite happy with the arrangement and appreciate the general capacity issue that was behind our placing orders outside Australia. This was indicated at our discussions with them. I should be interested to know whether the enterprise is so equipped that in the future it will be able to handle the total requirements of the Telecommunications Commission. I am sure that Mr Lionel Bowen would be interested to know that also. According to the information I gained during our discussions, at this stage the company is not in a position, because of the reasons mentioned by Senator Rae, to meet these requirements. I suggest that, in the circumstances, the Telecommunications Commission has acted favourably towards the company. The order could well have been stood over for the time being for financial reasons. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd has been advised and I thought the honourable senator knew about this.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government: Is the Minister aware that the multinational pharmaceutical company, Roche Products of Basie, Switzerland, supplies valium to its wholly owned Australian subsidiary at $4,900 per kilogram even though the cost of production is only $ 1 70 per kilogram? Is this not an exploitation of our taxing system in that a higher import price affects the profitability of an Australian company, the Australian consumer and the national health scheme to which the company is a major supplier? Will the Minister cause an investigation of this nefarious practice to be launched with a view to eradicating this rip-off of the Australian people?
– If the information in the honourable senator’s question is correct, obviously it would be a gigantic rip-off of the Australian consumer. I do not know that the Australian Government would have the constitutional power to exercise any control over such an activity except possibly through the Prices Justification Tribunal. I would imagine that the question should really be directed either to the Minister responsible or perhaps to the Treasurer. However, I will take the matter up in the first instance with the Treasurer and see whether he can obtain some information for us.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. I refer to the Minister’s reply to my question yesterday in which he said he was not in a position to give a technical answer on the work which may be being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation on alternatives to superphosphate. In the light of the admitted need for some phosphorus supplement in many farming areas and the enormous increase in the price of superphosphate, can the Minister give a non-technical answer to the questions: Is the CSIRO in fact doing work in this field? Has the Government initiated or encouraged any research by any body- the CSIRO or anybody else- or any action by the States either to devise substitutes for superphosphate or to enable a more efficient assessment to be made of superphosphate requirements and the more efficient utilisation of superphosphate by farmers?
– Any questions on the CSIRO are outside my portfolio so I could not even give a non-technical answer. I will ascertain from the Minister concerned what work may be under way in CSIRO. The only information that I have had of the nature mentioned by the honourable senator concerns some research being done in the United States and I am not aware whether it is being pursued here in Australia, but I will find out.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration whom I ask: Has the Government’s attention been directed to claims that the Australian Council of Trade Unions at its congress next week will reject the Government’s wage indexation policy because of the non-introduction of tax indexation? What has been the actual response of the trade union movement to tax changes in the recent Budget?
– I have seen reports which purport to claim that a committee of the ACTU has made a decision which will be put to the full meeting of the ACTU next week and which it is alleged amounts to a rejection of the Government’s wage indexation scheme, but I do not accept that such a construction can be put on what I have seen reported in the Press about this matter. I do not claim to have seen the full text of the alleged resolution, but nothing that I have seen supports the proposition that the Executive of the ACTU is refusing to co-operate with the Government’s wage indexation policy. The tax changes introduced by the Government in the Budget were very considerable and constituted a major social reform. The full implementation of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee may have been desirable but would have been, from the point of view of the management of the economy, totally irresponsible. In the circumstances, the major reform of the tax scales has been welcomed by the ACTU. The submission of its advocate in the national wage case only last Friday was quite unequivocal. At the hearing the advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Jolly, stated:
The trade union movement hence understands and accepts the decision of the Australian Government to radically reform the personal tax schedule rather than introduce tax indexation this year, both reforms being out of the question financially. We accept the lack of tax indexation this year after noting that Mr Hayden has referred to the fact that indexing of the new scale will thus be available as an option next year’.
Mr Jolly also stated:
So far as this year is concerned, I mention that the new scale will actually reduce marginal tax rates of taxpayers on average weekly earnings by more than would be the case if the present scale were indexed. That is, what we propose will produce a better result than tax indexation so far as the ‘ marginal tax bite ‘ is concerned.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Media whether he has seen an article in today’s Daily Telegraph in which it is stated that the journalists employed by the Australian Information Service are to concentrate on publicising the Government and its policies within Australia at a cost of at least $6m to the Australian taxpayers. Are the matters stated correct? If not, will the Minister state the facts in relation to the directive given to the journalists and to the committee now looking at an internal role for the Australian Information Service, and also the estimated cost of this sneaky Government propaganda exercise?
– I have seen the article to which the honourable senator refers. I do not know whether the details set out in the article are correct. I understand that my colleague, Dr Cass, was asked a question in another place in relation to this matter at question time this morning. Dr Cass has said that he will be making a statement on the matter in the near future. I therefore suggest that we await Dr Cass ‘s reply on the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport:
Can he say whether the program under the MITERS scheme has been approved for South Australia? Will he inform honourable senators what amounts were allocated for 1974-75 and for the current financial year?
-The MITERS scheme is, of course, the Minor Traffic Engineering and Road Safety Improvements scheme, funds for which have been provided to most of the States. In 1974-75 a total of $1.5m was allocated to South Australia out of a total of $8m which was distributed through the various States. This financial year another $ 1.5m has been allocated to South Australia. However, additional funds might be forthcoming as a result of the extra $64m provided for roads in this year’s Budget. Discussions on the division of the amount as between categories are still proceeding.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs sighted Press releases in which solicitors involved with the Aboriginal Legal Service have called for a royal commission into relationships between the Aboriginal community and the police forces? Will the Minister inform the Senate what action he intends to take through his Government to institute a nationwide royal commission into the alleged discrimination by law enforcement agencies against Aboriginal people?
-I have seen Press reports. I have also seen a copy of the report by 18 lawyers from New South Wales on allegations about police relations with Aborigines. I have also seen a Press statement by the Minister in which he supports the appointment of a royal commission. He is looking at the matter of a royal commission at the present time. I have also made a statement that while I would not be opposed to a royal commission I have some doubts as to its value in relation to the general, overall accusations against the police. I do not accept, from my experience, that policemen simply go out to end boredom at weekends by bashing up Aborigines. I do not think the accusations can be substantiated. When I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I found it more suitable to set up inquiries into particular incidents which occurred. A royal commission was set up to inquire into the incident which occurred at Laverton in Western Australia. We hope that the results of that inquiry will be fruitful and that better relations will be established between the police and the Aborigines. This is one of the big problems. We also face the constitutional problem of whether the Commonwealth has the right to establish an inquiry into the behaviour of State police. Whilst the Commonwealth has a right to look after the interests of the Aborigines, some restrictions are placed on it so far as making inquiries into the actions of State police is concerned. It would be far better to hold such an inquiry with the co-operation of the States, but the responsible Ministers in the 2 States concerned, Queensland and New South Wales, are opposed to the holding of such an inquiry.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Can he advise the Senate of any initiatives or proposals that are currently being considered for the treatment of the disastrous effects of trachoma amongst Aborigines?
-The Minister for Health recently gave me some information relating to efforts to eradicate trachoma which, as Senator Keeffe has said, is a disastrous disease. It is predominantly found in the arid areas of Australia. Its incidence is much higher amongst Aborigines than it is amongst white Australians. The Department of Health did draw attention to the problem of trachoma in a statement which it made to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. At that time discussions were already in progress between the Department of Health and the College of Ophthalmologists, the purpose of which was to develop some proposal aimed at minimising the effects of this disease. I understand that only yesterday discussions were held with a representative of the College of Ophthalmologists for this purpose.
Any proposal that the Australian Government decides on in this matter can be developed only in consultation with the State health authorities. We hope that constructive suggestions on this matter can be put to the States in the near future. In the meantime, as far as the development of means for the eradication of the effects of trachoma is concerned, it is hoped to involve as many Aboriginal organisations as possible, including the National Aboriginal Congress and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, to ensure that as far as possible there is a 100 per cent coverage of all the people who are concerned. We feel that this is something in which the Aboriginal organisations themselves not only could but should play a role as this is a disease which primarily affects their people- at least, much more than it does any other section of the Australian people.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. Is it a fact that the funds to be made available to co-operative housing societies in Victoria in 1975-76 have been reduced from the amount of $69m sought by the Victorian Government to $29m? Does the Minister agree that the reduction of funds available will mean that many prospective home owners will have to wait an indefinite period before their applications can be considered? Does the reduction affect some 120 housing societies in Victoria which are providing loans for those people in the middle income group who are ineligible for housing commission homes and who are unable to service higher interest loans from other lending institutions? How does the Minister see the likely effect of this severe cut in funds on employment in the home building industry?
-This year there was not available for distribution to the States the amount of finance that would be required to catch up on the lag in the field of welfare housing. Nevertheless I have no knowledge of there being a reduction. I thought the allocation was in excess of last year’s allocation. I do not know whether the particular difficulties that Victoria is experiencing are peculiar to Victoria. I think that there is an acute shortage right throughout the nation of welfare housing. I shall take up the matter with the Minister and see whether I can get a detailed reply for the honourable senator as to the situation that exists in Victoria.
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State. Because the Minister has the responsibility for national museums and national collections I invite his attention to the fact that the anchor of Captain Cook’s Endeavour was found near Cooktown about 4 years ago and ask: What action has been taken to preserve the anchor? Is anything being done to arrange for the anchor to be put on public exhibition?
– It is a fact that the anchor of the Endeavour was found near Cooktown during the Christmas period some 4 years ago- 1971- and that after a time it was moved to the Materials Research Laboratories in Melbourne, which were then known as the Defence Standards Laboratories, where the necessary conservation and restoration work has been carried out. That process was completed just recently. A final decision as to where the anchor eventually will be placed will be made when the Government receives the report of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections that it has established. Pending receipt of that advice the Materials Research Laboratories have advised me that the anchor should be moved as little as possible and that it should be exhibited only indoors, preferably where some degree of air conditioning or, particularly, humidity control is available. It is feared that if those conditions cannot be met the condition of the anchor would be likely to deteriorate. I am anxious to get the anchor on exhibition publicly as soon as possible. Unfortunately, so I have been assured, there are no museums on the eastern coast of Australia that comply with the requirements recommended by the Materials Research Laboratories. However, the Materials Research Laboratories agrees that the anchor might safely be displayed for a time in Melbourne, where humidity is not a major problem. Arrangements are now in the course of being made for a suitable place to be found for it. I hope to be able to make an announcement on the matter in the near future.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Education inform the Senate how many 1974 school leavers returned to school because they were unable to find jobs? Did they create accommodation, teaching or school administration problems? What will be the position this year when the number of school leavers reaches a record of 230 000? As it has been estimated that at least 80 000 school leavers will be unable to find jobs, will the schools be capable of accepting them back in 1976? Has the Government conducted a survey to determine the extent of the problem and how it might be overcome? If not, will it do so quickly?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDNaturally the honourable senator will be aware that the information that he has sought is not available immediately to me. Therefore I ask him to place the question on the notice paper.
– I ask the Special Minister of State: Has it been the practice of the Industries Assistance Commission to release draft reports in respect of some of the inquiries that it has undertaken? Will the Minister agree that the release of these draft reports enables all sections of the industry involved, including the trade union movement, to comment on its findings before final reports are presented to the Minister by the Industries Assistance Commission? Will the Minister consider asking the Industries Assistance Commission to look at this matter to see whether the principles of releasing draft reports can be further extended?
-The Industries Assistance Commission’s practice of releasing draft reports is a comparatively recent innovation. The first draft report released by the
Commission for public comment was in connection with the aluminium industry. To date the Commission has released only certain draft reports, in the generality involving the larger inquiries it has undertaken, and has used the release of those draft reports as a trial of its new system. From the comments that have come to me from a number of quarters, particularly from industry quarters, I believe that this development by the IAC has proved very successful. It has been well received by witnesses who have appeared before the IAC at its inquiries, as well as by other parties who may be interested in a particular report. For those reasons I have asked Mr Rattigan, the Chairman of the Commission, to consider adopting this practice generally because I consider that the advantages apply to all reports.
I can tell the honourable senator that I have recently also had general discussions with members of the Temporary Assistance Authority. Whilst there is no provision in the Act at present for the Temporary Assistance Authority to present a report to the Parliament on its activities, I have suggested to it that it should present a report. I have suggested that it should do so by about the middle of November of this year so that the report will be available to the Parliament and be able to be considered by the Parliament before the end of this sessional period. Henceforth I hope the Authority will see its way clear to present an annual report as at 30 June of each financial year.
-On 3 September, Senator
Marriott asked me, in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Transport, 3 questions concerning the carriage by Trans-Australia Airlines of passengers free of charge. In respect to the first 2 questions I inform the honourable senator that this information is considered by TAA to be commercially confidential because of its possible value to competitors. However, I can advise him that most free of charge travel is on a space available’ basis. Also, in the minority of cases, where firm bookings are required these are directed to those services which are not at peak times so that paying passengers will not be turned away.
I might add that free of charge travel on TAA is strictly controlled and is authorised only by senior TAA executives after a careful evaluation of each particular case. Examples of the free of charge travel that may be authorised are:
The third question asked on what basis is free travel available to TAA employees and their families. I am able to inform the Senate that after 10, 20 and 25 years of service TAA employees are entitled to 2 free travel tickets for return flights of 800 kilometres, or to the nearest capital city from which they are based, and there are also related family concessions. I am also advised that employees of Ansett Airlines of Australia are entitled to comparable free travel benefits.
-On 27 August Senator Davidson directed a question to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Media in relation to the subject of ethnic radio. Senator Davidson’s question and my reply to that question appear at page 277 of Hansard of 27 August 1975. I undertook in my response to Senator Davidson at that time to obtain additional information from my colleague the Minister for the Media. I am now further advised as follows: The honourable senator will recall that I stressed in my original reply to his question that it was necessary to consider the personnel of new advisory committees and to organise staffing, programs, etc. in order to keep station 2EA and 3EA on the air. Since then the personnel of the national committee and of management committees for the Sydney and Melbourne stations have been announced. The National Director is Mr Brian White, a consultant to the Department of the Media, and a small group of people have been seconded from the Department to provide administrative support. The hours of broadcasting and the program content of both stations are being extended considerably.
The meetings to which Senator Davidson referred were simply program planning meetings at which Mr White met the broadcasters from the Sydney station 2EA. The first meeting, which was held on 19 August, involved Greek, Italian, Yugoslav, Maltese, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic broadcasters. Subsequent meetings were held on 25, 26, 27, and 28 August and Mr White met broadcasters from the Melbourne station 3EA on 3 September. Again let me repeat my original point that the committee which was set up to advise the Minister on the initial 12 week experiment is yet to report. Its report is awaited with interest; it will be considered together with the survey of ethnic listeners being conducted by the Department of the Media before decisions are made about the final form of organisation to be adopted.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Dairying Research Act 1972, I present the annual report of the Dairying Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Annual Report of the Director-General of Health for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Wheeldon requesting his discharge from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senator Gietzelt to be a member of the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
That Senator Wheeldon be discharged from attendance on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and that Senator Gietzelt be appointed a member of that Committee.
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:
Honourable senators will recall that on 1 7 April 1975 I introduced a Bill to provide for the restoration of the Tasman Bridge following its collapse into the Derwent River after the S.S. ‘Lake
Illawarra’ had collided with it. The Bill was passed by both Houses of the Parliament and received the Royal Assent on 19 May 1975. The Tasman Bridge Restoration Act 1975 provided for the establishment of a joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission to superintend and direct the combined salvage and rebuilding operations.
Honourable senators will also recall that shortly after the disaster, the Australian and Tasmanian Governments agreed to establish a joint expert advisory committee on a second Derwent crossing. This committee recommended, inter alia, that concurrently with repairs to the Tasman Bridge, provision could be made for it to be widened to provide a fifth traffic lane. Acceptance of this and other recommendations of the committee was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Premier in a joint statement on 20 June. It is proposed to make use of the roadway both on the eastern and western side of the gap in the Bridge for fabrication of some elements of the new superstructure and for erection work. It is therefore necessary for the widening and reconstruction work to be closely co-ordinated and it is considered essential for both projects to be under the control of the one authority in order to avoid difficulties which could arise if 2 authorities were to be operating in the same area at the same time.
Accordingly, the Prime Minister agreed with the Premier of Tasmania that the work involved in widening the Bridge should be undertaken by the Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission and that the Government of Australia would meet the cost of this work estimated to be $3m. The Australian Government, at the time of the Bridge disaster, undertook to reimburse the State of Tasmania for the full amounts of expenditure incurred by it and its authorities which are accepted as attributable to the Bridge collapse and reasonable. The Government has already provided significant assistance to Tasmania for a wide variety of emergency measures which have alleviated the hardship being experienced by the residents of Hobart, has provided materials necessary for a temporary crossing of the Derwent, and has agreed to meet the cost of constructing a second Hobart Bridge. The Government believes that the expenditure proposed in the Bill now before the Senate is in keeping with the spirit of its commitment to Tasmania.
The Bill now before the Senate provides for approval of a supplementary agreement between Australia and Tasmania to structurally modify the Tasman Bridge to accommodate 5 lanes of traffic concurrently with the restoration of the
Bridge to full operational condition. The agreement empowers the Commission to perform any functions additional to its present role to enable it to complete its task, subject to the same conditions and powers it exercises under the Tasman Bridge Restoration Act 1975. 1 should point out to honourable senators that funds for this work are provided in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 under division 964 item 03. The works proposed will greatly enhance the carrying capacity of the Tasman Bridge when reconstruction is completed and will do much to reduce traffic congestion in the period between reconstruction of the Tasman Bridge and completion of construction of a second crossing. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 9 September, on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That, unless otherwise ordered, on Thursdays when Estimates Committees are programmed to meet, the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 12 noon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, in view of the fact that there is a luncheon at 12.30 p.m. for Mrs Suzman of South Africa and that Senator Sheil is about to resume his remarks in the Budget debate, I suggest the sitting of the Senate be suspended until the ringing of the bells.
– The sitting of the Senate is suspended until the ringing of the bells.
Sitting suspended from 12.20p.m. to 3p.m.
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Senate take note of the Papers.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment-
At the 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 program 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
5 ) it fails to restrain Government spending ‘.
- Senator Cavanagh, when the debate was interrupted last night you were speaking on a point of order. Do you wish to proceed further with that point of order?
- Mr President, I think I should continue with the points I was raising. Standing order 406 prohibits any senator from reading his speech. Although the Standing Orders have been amended in another place, this House has religiously stuck by that standing order as it was thought that it destroys a good speech to read it all.
– You want to have a look at the picture from this side of the House. You are only heaping coals on your back benchers’ heads.
– Secondly, a breach of this standing order permits a senator to display himself as a maverick by reading a statement which may or may not have been prepared by him. I think Senator Marriott agrees with me that it is wrong for a senator to read his speech. But he justifies it in this case because there are a number of senators on this side -
– I believe in being fair to both sides.
– I do not think the honourable senator would expect me to raise a point of order against an honourable senator from this side of the chamber. I acknowledge the right of the honourable senator to raise such a point of order against a member from this side. I was not the first to raise this matter. Since my raising this point of order a night has elapsed in which this matter could have been considered. The only question is whether the honourable senator was reading his speech or studying copious notes.
– It is presumption on your part to say he was reading a speech.
– Now, settle down.
– Fancy an impudent man saying to me: ‘Settle down’. It is just presumption.
– Order! The Senate will come to order. I call Senator Cavanagh.
– I sympathise with your difficulty this afternoon, Mr President, after our attending the reception that was held during the luncheon period. Senator Wright claims it is a presumption on my part that Senator Sheil was reading his speech. I ask you, Mr President, to consider the speech being made by the honourable senator in question and if, in your opinion, he is in breach of standing order 406 1 ask that he be told of the standing order and asked to desist from reading his speech. I am not opposed to the use of copious notes but I think it became obvious to every honourable senator what was going on last night. I think that in the preservation of good debate in this House any honourable senator, from either side of the House, should desist from reading his speech.
– To enforce standing order 406, which states that no senator shall read his speech, would mean that I would have to cut across rulings that have been given as long as the Senate has been a Senate. I think the objective of the standing order was that speeches should not be prepared by someone outside the Senate for a senator to stand up and read. During the course of the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh he mentioned that he wants to see that we are fair to both sides and that he was not the first to raise the issue. That is quite true. I want to be fair to both sides. Both sides do refer to notes while they are making their speeches. I do not think that any senator is influenced by people outside. They make their speeches according to their own will and their own conscience and that is the way the Senate should function.
I do not think the honourable senator was reading his speech in the strict sense of the word. I did not see him hold the speech up in his hands to read it. He was glancing down at his desk and then looking at the Chair and to other senators. I would like the Senate to be tolerant on this matter. A senator may like to refresh his memory on points and carry notes with him. On the other hand, every senator has the right to draw attention to this standing order if he feels that it has been transgressed. I will rule in that way.
-Thank you, Mr President. Before continuing my remarks I would like to thank the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) for the courtesy he showed me before lunch in granting the lifting of the Senate so that my speech would not be interrupted again. For the benefit of Senator Cavanagh, I should like to tell him that all the notes I have here are my own work and if he calls them copious notes he has a different idea of notes from mine. After the very nice lunch we had for Mrs Suzman I perhaps feel a bit more kindly disposed towards the world and maybe we will treat the Budget a little more kindly, too.
As I was saying last night, Mr President, this Budget can be nothing more than a crude hoax. Undoubtedly it has taken a lot of preparation and it has cost a lot, too. It is a very clever political document, but certainly it bears no relation to reality. For example, the Government was granted money last July to carry it through till November. It has already spent all that money and more, and right now many Commonwealth departments are in debt and asking for time to pay. So how can the Budget relate to anything? I say the Budget is a cruel, costly and useless hoax. Far from relieving inflation, this Budget is likely to make it worse. Taxes have been increased, no matter what the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has said. After all, he is only the newest Treasurer. This is the third Budget presented by this Government and by many different Treasurers. Indeed, one Treasurer did not even present a Budget. But the lessons from the first 2 Budgets have not been learned.
As shown by the figures in the Budget, the situation with regard to the taxes received has been reversed from that in previous years. The taxes received from companies and self-employed people have been constantly reduced over the last 3 years, and the taxes received from wage earners have gone up and up and up until now 3 times more tax paid by wage earners is being received by this Government than before. This means that an opposite situation obtains at the moment: Wages and taxes have gone up but the profits of business have come down. The reversal is indicative of the massive fall in profits of the private enterprise taxpaying section of the community. The profits have been transferred into wages and the Government has made a tax grab of those wages while crumpling the business that earns the profits. When profits fall, taxes fall, and the sooner that this Government learns this the better, if it wishes to pursue the withering policies it has.
If the Government thinks that it can feed and grow on inflation it is living in a fool’s paradise. The Government has used inflation as a weapon- a very effective one too- to destroy our means of exchange- our money. It is a weapon which disrupts families initially by forcing mothers out to work for money and eventually by undermining the basic security of the home. Inflation has been a devastating weapon cruelling the business community. How can anyone budget to develop a business when there can be no accurate forecasting of future costs? On the other hand, because of competition private enterprise operates on a very small margin of profit but not a large one, as the deceitful argument of socialists supposes. When the massive armament of government is turned against the delicate flower of private enterprise, then it rapidly wilts and this is what has happened in Australia. Our private enterprise is struggling to survive. Governments do not create wealth; they consume it. This Government is consuming the people’s wealth and it is consuming it for no useful purpose. We are being researched, investigated, controlled, planned for and directed beyond all bounds of reason. This Government has abrogated its duty to govern to this plethora of commissions. The administration of the country is constipated with the impaction of nearly 50 costly commissions, nearly all of which are unnecessary and, as I said last night, the pipeline could do with a good enema.
Mining men have been the front row men in the development of every country. They were the front row men in the development of our country. But look at mining now, and drilling for oil and gas. These industries are recoiling and punch drunk from the belting that this Government has given them. On top of this no new ventures have been started in the country. We have reserves of fuel in the country for barely a week or two. We could be immobilised in a few weeks.
– I would like to draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery of the Swedish Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and Regional Policy led by the Chairman, Mr Karl Erik Eriksson. On behalf of honourable senators I extend to them a warm welcome to the Australian Senate and hope that their visit to this country will be both rewarding and enjoyable.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– On top of there being no new ventures in the country, a country which, as I said last night, is an Aladdin’s cave of resources, we are in a desperate position for fuel. But I ask: What chance would a country like Australia, a big country, with few people and huge resources, have if it were challenged in the World Court by a small country with a huge population and no resources?
– You said that last night.
– I am reminding you of it. It is true. We would be ordered to develop these resources and then we would have trouble about foreign ownership, conservation and the protection of our environment. How much say would we have? Very little indeed, particularly when this Government has run down our defence forces. I notice now the Government has introduced an export tax on our coal industrytaking the whole profit from the industry. How can anyone develop a country when the Government squeezes industries like that? Do honourable senators opposite expect the Japanese to pay the new export tax and feed it straight into Government coffers?
Our drastic unemployment situation, which is already 3 times that which could be considered acceptable, is about to double shortly in spite of the fact that there are special unproductive Government schemes hiding about 40,000 unemployed at the moment. If our figure of unemployment reaches half a million that would be 8 per cent of our work force and that would be a more desperate situation than existed in the Great Depression. Female unemployment at the moment is far worse. It is standing at 6 per cent at the moment and is grossly understated because it does not include wives who have an employed breadwinner husband. The Government should take action and start removing itself from our economy and let us get on with the business of living. The Government should not be doing things for people that they can do for themselves. It should concentrate on its proper roles of defence and the maintenance of law and our rights, instead of neglecting our defence and attacking our laws and our individual rights. The huge tax rip-off this Government has literally stolen from the people has been frittered away in the pursuit of social reform.
– I raise a point of order. Yesterday I raised the point of order that the honourable senator was reading his speech and you, Mr President, have ruled on that. However, he is now subjecting us to the indignity of reading the same speech for the second time. He now enters into another breach of the Standing Orders, that is, tedious repetition. If he were worth while listening to, perhaps we would listen to him a second time, but since he produced so much rubbish on the first occasion I do not see any reason why he should flout the Standing Orders and repeat the rubbish a second time especially when proceedings are being broadcast.
- Mr President, I suggest that -
– Order! Are you speaking to the point of order?
– Yes, I am speaking to the point of order. I am asking you, Mr President, to be more percipient and to recognise that the raising of this point of order is a pretext to put forward propaganda by Senator Georges while the proceedings are being broadcast to the people in the country who do not see what is going on and who do not see the way in which Senator Georges comes in here late from lunch and makes these irresponsible, reprehensible imputations against Senator Sheil whose speech is remarkable for its lucidity and logic. For us to be treated under the pretext of a point of order to a suggestion that this is repetition shows the inadequacy of Senator Georges’ understanding. I draw your attention, Mr President, to the requirement, I suggest, of the Chair to protect Senator Sheil from such irresponsible interventions.
– On the same point of order–
– Order! I intend to give a ruling on the point of order. The Standing Orders of this Senate provide complete protection for the speaker who is addressing the Chair. The Standing Orders also provide that the speaker should be heard in silence and that interjections are highly disorderly. The whole list of Standing Orders is there to protect the speaker. The tradition of this Senate has been for the Presiding Officers to be quite generous in allowing debate to flow but at the moment when the speaker cannot be heard or his train of thought is being interrupted it is the responsibility of the Presiding Officer to give him protection. I am now asking honourable senators to refer themselves to the Standing Orders and to give to Senator Sheil the right that he enjoys under the Standing Orders. If they do not I will have to interpret the Standing Orders much more strictly than I have done in the past.
– On a point of order. Under standing order 421 I refer you, Mr President, to -
– Order! I have just given a ruling on standing order 421. You cannot canvass my ruling.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Wright.
– You cannot claim to have been misrepresented until Senator Sheil completes his speech.
– But surely -
– Order! That is the Standing Order. I call Senator Sheil.
– Something I am saying must be niggling the members of the Government. As I was saying, Mr President, the huge tax rip-off literally stolen from the people by this Government has been frittered away in the pursuit of social reform which I submit is not a proper role of government. The massive reduction at this stage in the funds provided for medical research is an inhuman act. Not only will we be robbed of the fruits of this research but also we will be lining up with the socialist states in the world which have not produced one new medical or pharmaceutical advance in the last 50 years. When the effects of inflation are taken into account -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order again under standing order 42 1. 1 refer you to the second paragraph in the first column of page 654 of yesterday’s Hansard. Senator Sheil is reading the same remarks which he made last night in this debate. What he is saying now is identical with what he read to the Senate last night. This situation comes within the ambit of standing order 421 which relates to tedious repetition of an honourable senator’s speech. I shall read to the Senate what Senator Sheil said.
– Order! Senator McLaren, 1 have taken your point. I ask Senator Sheil, if he is referring to notes as he has said he is, to continue with his speech.
- Mr President, in speaking to that point of order I point out that I happen to have yesterday’s Hansard in my hand. I dispute the truth of the last statement of the intervention. Senator Sheil is not repeating what he said at page 654 of Hansard.
– Order! I have listened to the points raised by honourable senators on both sides. I ask Senator Sheil to continue now with his speech.
– I was hoping that any repetition that does appear in my speech is not tedious. It is like a piece of music; if it is good, it is OK to hear it a couple of times. When the effects of inflation are taken into account many existing research projects will have to be scrapped and with the standstill in university funding many of their research projects will have to be scrapped. The constriction or rejection or non-acceptance of many other projects will be inevitable. Many research workers will lose their jobs. Effective research teams build up over many years.
- Mr President, again I raise the same point of order. Despite your ruling Senator Sheil today is continuing to read the exact words which he used last night and which are recorded in yesterday’s Hansard at page 654. I repeat them as recorded, despite what Senator Wright has said. These are the words which Senator Sheil is using:
The Government’s standstill in university financing will scrap many of the existing projects in this respect.
– Order! I am asking Senator Sheil to observe the Standing Orders. He is observing them by making his speech in his own way. I ask that he be allowed to continue with his speech without interruption.
-Thank you, Mr President. 1 seem to be annoying Senator McLaren. Many effective research teams have been built up painfully over many years. They will have to be disbanded because of this reduction in research funds. A large amount of capital already invested in expensive equipment will be wasted because of lack of use or under-use and also through lack of staff. The effect on the morale of research workers has already been shattering. Their prospects for any career in research in Australia have been discouraged and they will seek work elsewhere in more hospitable countries and be lost to Australia. As a direct result of this Government’s restructuring of our economy in favour of Government enterprise and opposing private enterprise we are breeding a race of bludgers and parasites, waiting on a Government handout.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. This is the first occasion since I have been in the Senate that 1 have raised a point of order. I feel that we can no longer accept the repetition of last night’s speech which we are hearing today. I refer to the first column of page 654 of the Senate Hansard of 9 September. Senator Sheil is repeating, word for word, what he said last night. Therefore I ask you to rule that this is a repetition of what was said last night and that the honourable senator is out of order.
- Mr President, I ask you to refresh your memory. Last night when Senator Sheil used those 2 words ‘bludgers’ and ‘parasites’ I objected to them. I said that he ought not to use those words. He has now repeated the exact words. I find them, used in this place, to be offensive. I seek their withdrawal. I did not seek their withdrawal last night but I objected to the 2 words ‘bludgers’ and ‘parasites’. The honourable senator has repeated the offence.
– Living on the immoral earnings of a woman is what ‘bludger’ means.
– Exactly. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has denned what ‘bludger’ means. I think it is to the detriment of the dignity of the Senate to have those words used last night and repeated today, especially when we are broadcasting. I seek the withdrawal of those 2 words.
– I think we want to get some logic into this matter. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber are asking the honourable senator who has the floor to obey Standing Orders. Mr President, I think you must agree that every honourable senator has a responsibility to obey Standing Orders. The disagreement seems to be on whether in fact the honourable senator is obeying Standing Orders. Mr President, when I raised standing order 406 which provides that an honourable senator is not permitted to read his speech, you upheld the point of order but you disagreed with me on the question of whether he was reading his speech. I ask, as I have done on another occasion, that under standing order 364 Senator Sheil at the conclusion of his speech table his copious notes. Then we can see whether my observation on his actions was false. We can compare those notes with Hansard. The second question which comes along is whether there is a tedious repetition.
– I did not say it was. I said the second question is whether this is tedious repetition. It is rubbish because it is disputed that that is the second question. This is the question which Senator McLaren raised as a point of order. Mr President, you have to consider whether the honourable senator is offending against standing order 421. In relation to the tedious nature of the speech, I think that everyone, other than a loyal supporter of the Government benches, will agree that everything in the honourable senator’s speech was written by someone without the capability and decency of Senator Sheil because he used the term bludger’, etc. We have to put up with this. It is tedious. Is it repetition? Senator McLaren has quoted from yesterday’s Hansard. We are hearing the speech which was given last night, either because that is the best part of the speech and it has to be repeated today on the air or the honourable senator mixed up his pages. Perhaps he does not realise that he is making the same speech which we had to suffer last evening. I suggest to you, Mr President, that obviously the honourable senator cannot read a speech. Obviously he cannot weary us with tedious repetition. Mr President, it is for you to decide on each occasion whether the honourable senator is doing this. I think you would be greatly assisted if you got last night’s Hansard and read it as the honourable senator is making his speech. You can see then whether there is any validity in Senator McLaren’s point of order.
– Whose time is this? Is it the Minister’s or Senator Sheil ‘s?
– It is mine at the present time. Mr President, I leave the matter with you. I ask you to make your observation of the actions of the honourable senator to give a ruling in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– Firstly, I must refer to the objection that Senator Georges took to the words used by Senator Sheil. They were not directed towards any honourable senator. I do not know whether either of the words could be called objectionable. They are ordinary words found in the dictionary. They were not directed towards any honourable senator. Standing order 421 states that the President may call the attention of the Senate to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition and may direct a senator to discontinue his speech. Honourable senators on the Government side have drawn attention to their view that this is a tedious repetition of your speech, Senator Sheil. It is not my intention to ask you to discontinue your speech, but I hope that you will not repeat, if you can avoid it, the same matter and the same words that you used in your speech yesterday. I call Senator Sheil.
-Thank you, Mr President. I have had to repeat a few of the points that I made last night in order to put the right construction into the speech and get the message across to Government supporters. 1 think it seems to be succeeding because they are listening very carefully to every word I say. If they do not believe they have created a handout mentality in this country, they should have a look around the Gold Coast in Queensland to see the hundreds of people who are collecting unemployment benefits and who are banding together to rent houses. They are living on the dole. There are people in North Queensland living on the dole in communes. There are people on the island of Bali living on unemployment benefits on the Government handouts.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
I do that because of the continual interruptions to which Senator Sheil has been subjected. I do not say that the period of 1 5 minutes is accurate because I am not sure what the time was. I put a limitation on the extension of time. That is why I have moved that Senator Sheil be granted an extension of time.
– I propose to move an amendment to Senator Greenwood ‘s motion. I move:
I do so because I feel that Senator Sheil has recapitulated- to say the least- a great amount of that to which he alluded yesterday. The sitting of the Senate was suspended at 12.20 p.m. in order that Senator Sheil would be given uninterrupted time -
– Yes, uninterrupted time.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Wright has interrupted as much as any other honourable senator if I might interpolate. I suggest that 5 minutes extension of time would be more than adequate to compensate Senator Sheil for any extravagance on the part of honourable senators.
-I suggest that if the Government is willing to allow Senator Sheil an extension of time for a further 5 minutes- uninterrupted- we need not have a debate about the matter. I will concur with the amendment moved by the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland) and withdraw my motion.
– Order! The question is that Senator Sheil’s time be extended for a further 5 minutes. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary, no. I think the ayes have it.
-I thank the Senate. I will see whether I can finish my remarks in that time. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has now recognised that he is suffering from this commission constipation. He proposes to shelve reports from the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, the Social Welfare Commission, the Hancock Commission, the Toose Commission, the Priorities Review Staff and probably many others. He seeks to gain a spending pause by referring all these reports of various committees to an interdepartmental committee- that is yet another committeeheaven relieve us from committees, and a bureaucratic one at that- with no reference to the desires of the people.
The Regional Employment Development scheme is now in its death throws but it has been a costly illness. The National Employment Training scheme survived its birth pangs with a massive transfusion of taxpayers’ money. It is now going downhill fast. School cadets corps have been disbanded, which is a retrograde step, on the grounds that only 16 per cent of schools have them and that they do not result in the production of a highly trained military machine. This seems to me to be a complete reversal of socialist philosophy. In other words, school cadets corps would be retained if 90 per cent of the schools had them and they resulted in a military machine. In socialist countries, 100 per cent of schools have military training for boys and girls and they do result in the production of a formidable fighting machine.
The socialists running our outfit must be the real armchair variety. In the last 2 years this Government’s spending has gone up by twice the rate at which the people themselves have been spending. I ask honourable senators to note that I say it has gone up; it was already high but it has gone up by twice the amount which the people themselves have spent. Government employment has gone up at a huge rate while private employment has fallen. I repeat: Government produces nothing but it can consume everything. This Government is on the way to doing that while we teeter on the brink of disaster with the gaping jaws of Medibank yawning beneath us. We do not know yet what a voracious appetite Medibank will have.
The home building business in Australia has been reduced by about one-third. It is plagued by shortages, expensive tradesmen, inflation and high interest rates. People are unable to borrow sufficient money. They cannot pay back from their pay packets enough to pay off their loans, and the Government is taking bigger and bigger bites out of their wages. The only thing we have not got a shortage of is government. Old bureaucrats never die, they simply spend away. The abolition of private property is also a socialist policy. One only has to go to a socialist state to see the end results of this blistering policy. There are no private cars, no private land, no private business, no private homes, no holidays, no dances, no parties, no wedding parties, and there is complete censorship of books, operas and plays. These are replaced by a short list of revolutionary material. Decadent Western music and literature are forbidden by law. All religion is forbidden by law. God is forbidden, Buddha is forbidden, and Mohammed is forbidden. They are not only forbidden but also they are ridiculed.
Trade unions exist in the socialist state to ensure that the production teams meet the production goals given to them by the state. It is no wonder that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who is also the President of the Australian Labor Party, has not told us about that. The trade unions in Australia have now engineered themselves into a position of being a second government. They have this Government fawning before them. They even go so far as to direct the Government as to what action they will or will not permit. I am sure we could have better relations between labour and management if we could start the Government on the road to reducing its role in the economy so that once more money will have value and stop these discreditable taxes and indirect taxes on petrol, posts, telephones, liquor and cigarettes. If we can get the Government out of here and off our backs and out of our pockets -
– Order! The honourable senator has exhausted his time.
- Mr President, under standing order 364 1 ask that the copious notes to which Senator Sheil referred be tabled. In fairness to Senator Sheil, whom I do not think would disobey the Standing Orders, I think I should give him the opportunity of proving that he did not do so by asking for the tabling of the notes.
- Mr President, not only do I have no objection to tabling the notes but also I am so pleased to find that Senator Cavanagh is so interested in what I had to say that he wants to read my speech. I am quite willing to let him have them.
-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Wright, who indicated that I was late from lunch. One thing that is obvious, Mr President, is that I did not attend the same lunch that Senator Wright attended. I was in Parliament House half an hour before the bells began to ring and I was working in my office. It is quite unfair on the part of Senator Wright to imply that I was late from lunch and to imply all those things that he implied.
– I will try not to delay the Senate for too long, Mr President. I will certainly not try to match the metaphors, the alliteration, and all the other methods used by Senator Sheil to demonstrate his point. I believe that this Budget debate, like all Budget debates, has ended up in an endless sort of talk fest. Some of us enter into it with fire in our souls and some of us are ticking over with statistics and all sorts of facts. Others pump the parish pump vigorously, although I think very little more of substance than water then comes out of that parish pump in this place. Some of us, especially those of us who are about forty-fifth or fortysixth on the list of speakers, enter the debate somewhat reluctantly.
I believe, and I think most people here believe, that after 3 or 4 people have spoken on each side on any subject practically everything that can be said has been said. I think Senator Cotton was right when he called the Budget debate an annual ritual. I think he also called it the equivalent of an annual ticket dance. The only thing that I can suggest to Senator Cotton is that perhaps we should hold a ticket dance every night in King’s Hall when the Budget debate is going on. That would give us something to do and it may help to reduce the Budget deficit, which seems to have become a common factor in Budgets throughout the years. But with Senator Cotton, Mr Crean and others outside of this Parliament, I question whether this is the right way in which to go about budgeting and planning the country’s affairs. I am sure that for many items, as it has been said previously, budgeting and planning once a year is not a sufficient length of time and that for other items it is too long.
I sometimes wonder whether we do not try to cram too much into the annual Budget. The speech describing it lasts for only 1 !6 hours. The Press blows it up for a few days and then tends to lose interest. I am just wondering whether there is not a better way of going about the matter. I am not saying that I know a better way. I am not an expert on this subject but, unlike many others, I am prepared to admit that I am not. I think there must be some better way of doing what has to be done. I will give Senator Wright some credit for at least putting some interest into this debate last night. Prior to that the debate seemed to be petering out. But I think that Senator Wright was a bit unfair last night to the Press.
– God help us!
-I think that Senator Wright was particularly unfair to the member of the Press who was sitting in the Press Gallery at the time.
– Look at the attention you are getting from the Press.
-I think the first thing that Senator Wright should remember is that the attendance of members of the Press in the Press Gallery depends upon whether the newspaper owners employing them and their editors tell them to be there. I think it is a bit unfair to blame the individual who is present in the Press Gallery. I hope that Senator Wright is not suggesting that we should dragoon members of the Press into listening to us. God forbid. The main reason why members of the Press are not present is that they are bored stiff. I would be bored stiff if I had to sit in the Press Gallery all the time and it is obvious that most members of this Parliament are bored stiff because they do not come into here and listen to the debate. But for Senator Wright to suggest yesterday of all days that the absence of the Press and the standard of the Press was creating a danger to parliamentary democracy in this country was, I really think, a bit rich, especially as yesterday was the day on which we saw what the Premier of Queensland and his Government did to the democratic process.
– And all of that is front page news in the eyes of the Press.
– It was front page news and it should be front page news because what was done yesterday to parliamentary democracy was worthy of reporting whereas what Senator Wright and 1 say probably is not.
– I will concede that as far as you are concerned.
– I give Senator Wright credit for adding a lot of interest to the debate last night, but I must help Senator Wright because he was misled by Senator Withers last night, I think perhaps unintentionally. I know that I am being pedantic, but the statement They now ring the bells but they will soon wring their hands’ was actually made by Sir Robert Walpole at the outset of the war of Jenkins’ Ear and not by Chatham. I realise that I am being meticulous, but I should hate to think that Senator Wright would ever quote that incorrectly at the Sandy Bay Returned Services League or somewhere else.
I think the Budget debate does give us some help. As Senator Wright pointed out last night, some very good points are brought out and some factors are raised that many of us do not consider often enough. I think it was very good to hear Senator Donald Cameron bring out and demonstrate the inadequacies and the inequities in the wage structure of this country. It has also worried many of us that the man who keeps the car on the road, the man who repairs the truck and the man who repairs the large transport vehicles frequently gets $20 a week, as is the position in my State, and sometimes gets $30 a week less than the person who drives the vehicle, who has not had 5 years training and who is quite incapable of repairing it except in very minor cases when it breaks down. I think that this whole maldistribution of wages has crept up in the last 10 or 15 years, despite the arbitration system. I do not think we can entirely blame the arbitration system for that state of affairs. But the facts are that the discrepancy exists.
What Senator Wright and others on the other side of the chamber did not point out is how they would correct the inadequacies that exist. I do not really think that people like Senator Wright and Senator Withers are suggesting that we should scrub the trade unions and scrub the arbitration system and go back to the law of the jungle I realise that Senator Sheil would prefer -
– I did not suggest either of those things.
-I said that I would not suggest that Senator Wright would suggest that, but I think the problem is a difficult one. I think Senator Wright knows that it is a difficult problem. I am sure he does. I think that we will have to look at the problem bilaterally and together and see what we have to do about it because the inequities are there and they are very bad.
I found Senator Sheil’s speech to be very interesting. I have often criticised Senator Sheil for being the representative of the ultraconservative group in this House and, indeed, in this Parliament. I think his speech was very interesting for some of the things that he said in view of the fact that we now have in this country a new Party, an ultra-conservative party, called the Workers Party. The Workers Party grew out of the General Practitioners Society, of which Senator Sheil is an honoured member. The Workers Party has put out a manifesto which in all ways is really no different from the sort of stuff that Senator Sheill turned out last night and repeated today. For instance, on page 653 of yesterday’s Hansard Senator Sheil is reported as having remarked:
The huge tax rip-off that the Government has literally stolen from the people has been frittered away in the pursuit of social reform, which I submit is not a proper role of government.
I emphasise the words ‘social reform … is not a proper role of government’. By way of interjection Senator McLaren said:
What is the proper role of government?
Senator Sheil said that it was defence and law. That hardly seems to me to be the policy of the Liberal Party of Australia and I doubt very much whether it is the policy of the National Country Party of Australia. I would like to quote from page 4 of Volume 1 No. 1 of the Workers Party’s manifesto. These words appear:
The Workers Party advocates that Government power should be gradually reduced till the Government is responsible only for the defence of Australia (non-existent at present), for the protection of honest Australians against criminals (at present the police are handicapped by unnecessary laws which restrict individual freedom), and the maintenance of a legal system to protect individual liberty and the rights of individuals. Individuals have no rights to own anything at the present time . . .
That sort of back to Adam Smith, back to the law of the jungle, philosophy is obviously the philosophy of Senator Sheil. It is the philosophy he has expounded before in this place, and I think that if Senator Sheil were at all honest with us all he would join the Workers Party and become its first representative in the Parliament, at least for a short time.
I found some of the language and some of the metaphors used by Senator Sheil also potentially revealing. Words like ‘fungating plethora of commissions’, ‘constipation’, ‘enema’, ‘fornicating on the foreshores’, and ‘brooding impotence’ may be very revealing to some people and perhaps would be more appropriate on the pages of Psychopathia Sexualis than on the pages of Hansard. However, I have no desire to go into the tirade of Senator Sheil. He is typical of the free market men who demand sternly that the free market place is the place where wages and prices are best fixed, but at the same time demand protection, bounties, subsidies and cheap public utilities for their own supporters. They tend to proclaim individual freedoms, that freedom of the individual means all, but then they bay for harsh censorship laws, conscription, restricted immigration based on racial grounds, and the flogging and gaoling of people like homosexuals.
I think the most significant thing about them is that they demand freedom of choice, but it is always freedom of choice for those who can afford it and they deny freedom of choice or even freedom of opportunity to the poor and to those who cannot afford it. These people are found mostly in the National Country Party, and I recall the description in John Heller’s book Catch 22 which summed them up very well when Major Major’s father was described as a typical mid-west farmer who believed that all government aid is socialist, except that which is given to the farmers, which is just. I do not believe that anyone who thinks wants to turn the clock back so that we have a philosophy of a political future in which Adam Smith is the god and it seems that Ayn Rand is the new messiah. The LiberalCountry Party coalition before this Government came into office did not want that sort of philosophy, but it is obvious that Senator Sheil and some of his colleagues in the National Country Party- certainly all his colleagues in the General Practitioners Society and in the Workers Party- wish to foist on us that sort of policy.
This Budget had to be framed in circumstances of economic difficulty, both here and abroad, and no one on this side of the Senate denies that. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) and the Cabinet had to work within constraints to present a Budget which would not reduce the money supply in a severe, drastic or sudden way, causing severe recession; nor could they attempt to buy their way out of this, as is being done in some countries, thereby causing intolerable inflation.
Government spending in this country had to increase in the last 3 years. It had to increase in order to bring our social welfare payments up to somewhere near the level of comparable countries. In 1971 and 1972 we were below even countries like the United States, and far below Canada, which is usually considered by many honourable senators opposite to be one of the greatest free enterprise countries in the world. The percentage of gross domestic product Australia spent on welfare was far below those countries and people were not getting a fair go. Education was the Cinderella of public spending in this country, and drastically increased expenditure was needed merely to create a base on which we could form a decent education system and give everybody equality of opportunity. Health expenditure and health delivery services were not good, despite the proclamation made by some members of the medical profession that we have the greatest health service in the world. Our infant mortality rate was far below that of countries comparable to Australia. Our longevity rate was too low and our morbidity rate was too high. What was worse, in the early 1 930s and the preceding years Australia, together with New Zealand, was amongst the top two or three countries in the world when parameters like this were considered. We were always amongst the top two or three countries in things like infant mortality. Now we have dropped to fourteenth or fifteenth. Our infant mortality rate is not only worse than that of Sweden, which we expect to be high, but it is worse than the rate of Japan,
Greece, and Great Britain, whose health scheme is so often condemned in this country.
The Government apologises for none of this expenditure because its philosophy is that people in a society like ours should have as equal as possible an opportunity to lead a satisfactory and satisfying life. The concept that people should live in the straits in which Professor Henderson’s Commission of Inquiry into Poverty demonstrated they do live should be abhorrent to all of us and we should do something about correcting it. Mr Fraser, in his philosophical discourse to the National Press Club, informed us that freedom to spend one’s income is just as important as freedom of speech, of religion and of association. But the people described by Professor Henderson in his report, the people described for years by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and more recently by the Social Welfare Commission and other organisations, have no freedom to spend their income because it is so low they have only sufficient or less than sufficient for their most rudimentary needs. I think the reply by Mr Fraser in February to a question in the Financial Review: ‘Who do you see as the group most in needs of Government help in Australia today?’ is most enlightening. His reply was: ‘Private enterprise’. To hell with the people the Poverty Commission talks about. To hell with the people the social security people are trying to do something about. Help the insurance companies and other people, who can spend vast sums upon political campaigns, and do not worry about those people who live in this poverty-stricken state.
I should point out that the Henderson Commission was set up by the previous Government and some of the statistics it used precede this Government. There is no suggestion in the Henderson report, as was suggested by one Opposition senator, that things have become drastically worse in the last 3 years. The Melbourne University social welfare unit reported back in 1965 and 1966 the sorts of things that Professor Henderson has reported and it had been going on for years. When we come to consider the Opposition’s attitude to this Budget and the attitudes put by Opposition senators in this debate, I find it very difficult to follow their arguments. As I said before, some of the good free market men like Senator Marriott demand higher and higher subsidies on all sorts of goods and services. They then complain that the free enterprise Press- and Senator Wright joined in this- had been too kind to the Government over the Budget. Then, of all things, Senator Marriott resorted for his quotes to that journalistic garbagecan, the Melbourne Sunday Observer, which I must admit he carefully denied buying. He said he found it on an aeroplane, I believe. Senator after senator complained bitterly about the increased levy on oil and every one of them did this in the certain knowledge that in May last year the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) advocated the doubling of the price of oil per barrel. Apparently, this was to be done not to help the people in the community, but to help the oil companies. Apparently when this was suggested it was said it would not have had any effect on the community, it would not have flowed through the community, but of course any levy put on by the Government does.
Another honourable senator complained bitterly that the education lobby, as it is called, was too quiet after the Budget, that it should have howled the Government down, that it should have demanded more money. I suggest the reason is that they recognise that some constraint was necessary in the community and that the cut is a cut in the increase in expenditure, not in last year’s expenditure. They also realise that the onset of a conservative government in this country will result not only in an actual cut in expenditure but also in a reallocation of the funds available to some of those schools which need it least.
I think one of the most surprising statements was Mr Fraser’s statement announcing the impending dissolution of the Australian Legal Aid Office. Over 100 000 people who have benefited from it have demonstrated the need for that office in the community and have demonstrated that there was a great gap in that area. Just blandly to announce that it would be wiped out if this Government were defeated was, I think, an extraordinary statement. The war lobby which is led by some people in this place demands increased defence expenditure, the rural lobby demands subsidies and bounties, and in the same breath people are demanding cuts in Government expenditure.
I think the most ironical thing is the report, which is not denied anywhere that I can find, that Mr Fraser is contemplating a levy to finance Medibank, the very levy that his colleagues in this place refused to pass when we tried to pass it. I suggest that there is no coherence in these contradictory claims. But that is not enough; the extra-parliamentary Liberals are joining in, giving advice and handing out advice on how to do things. People such as Michael Baume and John Valdar have weighed in over the months giving advice all over the place and telling the Government what to do. I need not tell anyone that the former was a partner in a business that could not manage its own affairs. He seems to have gone quiet. The latter was once a great proponent of self-regulatory stock exchanges in this country and a great enemy and attacker of Senator Rae and his committee on the securities and exchange industry. He now advocates the gaoling of some of Mr Baume ‘s partners for insider trading. One wonders whether he does that from principle or whether he just wants to protect his job.
If we listen to all those people, social welfare and educational expenditure would be nil, subsidies to primary and secondary industry would be enormous, and the unemployed, in the words of Dr Yuill, one of the founders of the Workers’ Party, would be given a few vegetables and left to fend for themselves. Many people question the priorities of various aspects of social welfare in this country. I think Senator Baume made a particular point of this. I agree with some of his queries about priorities but I think we must point out that while we have our present social welfare system priorities in this field remain a matter of individual judgment and the final result must come from compromise, no matter who is in Government. It must come from compromise between people with differing views. I agree with some of Senator Baume ‘s priorities; others I do not agree with. He rates the expenditure of $ 10m for a cadet corps, which is of nil military value according to the report and which applies only to a minority of students, as a higher priority than the spending of a similar amount on hearing aids for the deaf in this country. I just do not understand that system of priorities.
I think I should point out to Senator Baume and others that this Government is not satisfied with the priorities and is not satisfied with the system of social welfare in this country. I do not think any of us are. I hope both sides take note of the views given by Professor Henderson and his Commission, by the Priorities Review Staff, by the Social Welfare Commission, by people such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence and by others who are working in this field and have been pointing out the inadequacies and the fallacies of the present piecemeal system which leaves great gaps and which results in social welfare funds going to those who need them least rather than those who need them most. Until we get a better system it is important to deal with the present system. We must modify it.
If Senator Baume ‘s priorities are different from mine or from those of this Government, that is a cross we will have to bear; it is also a cross that any alternative government of which he is a member will have to bear. Whether his priorities are different from conviction, as I am sure most of them are, or whether other people’s priorities are different because various groups have their ear at a particular time, we will all have different ideas on what should be done. We must all look at the social welfare system. For instance, I make no bones about the fact that I disagree with some of the ideas and some of the priorities of both parties. I think both parties should look very carefully at the policy which we have in common- the policy that we should abolish the means test for receipt of the old age pension for those above 70 years of age. Both parties seem to have that as a top priority. It seems to be an election gimmick; we seem to have put it above the needs of all sorts of other groups in the community. I think we must be honest with ourselves and look at the policy. This Government has had to delay the implementation of that policy. I know that people on both sides frequently disagree with it.
I think we must look at the possibility of setting up an income support system so that there will be no need for the various categories of pensions and no need to put people in little groups, to give them pensions without any co-ordination and to give them bits of extra subsides to make up for the inadequate pensions. If we do not look at the whole system and get it changed we will continue in the piecemeal gimmicky way we have gone for years and years. By setting up the Henderson Commission the previous Government started the inquiry; the present Government has continued it by setting up the Priorities Review Staff, to look at this system and the Social Welfare Commission. Although Senator Sheil thinks all this is too much investigation and too much prying into our affairs, it is not so. We must look at the results and get a proper coherent plan out of them.
Perhaps the most difficult thing has been to draw up this Budget under the constraints of inflation, economic slow-down and wage increases which provide insufficient return to those who need them and get them. Because of these constraints we had to slow down in many fields, but Mr Hayden and the Cabinet, I think to their credit, and in contra-distinction to Senator Wright’s views, started a reform in the tax system which I think is most important. I think it is a long awaited reform. I think the advantages of the new tax system are firstly its simplicity compared with the old. It is interesting to remember that when the system of tax rebates was changed in 1951 or 1952 to the system of tax deductions, it was claimed that that new system would be more simple. Now apparently those people who know have changed their views. I think it is demonstrable that the new system is more simple to carry out. It is more simple for those who have to fill out their forms, lt is more simple for those who have to collect the tax.
I think the second important part about the new tax system is that it does remove the necessity for some half a million people to pay tax. I think the effective increases in family allowances which aid the large family are very important, because it has been demonstrated by every inquiry in this country that in this area lies the greatest need. I think the change from deductions to rebates for families is more meaningful for the low income earners. Of course it means that some high income earners may pay more tax. I doubt whether any of us- certainly none of us on this side- will not agree that the system had become lopsided and should be changed. Oneparent families are helped. That is the second group of families in which Professor Henderson points out that there is great need to overcome poverty; it is the forgotten group in our society. Nobody- least of all Mr Hayden- is suggesting that these reforms are the ultimate or that new reforms will not be necessary. Of course he was limited by the constraints under which he had to plan this Budget. Any of us can do what Senator Wright did, pick out an odd example here and there and go chasing hares all over the place. Certainly some people, particularly the better-off single people who at present have deductions not for dependants but for other things will pay more tax. Certainly those people without dependants will pay some more. Very few will pay very much more. Some 2-income families will pay more but 2-income families still will be better off. They still will have a considerable advantage over the single income family at the same level of income. There will be cries of anguish from people like Senator Martin who want to protect the same old vested interests, especially the insurance companies.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-Mr President, like the previous speaker, Senator Grimes, I do not intend to take up a great deal of the Senate’s time this afternoon, but I want to say that I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by my Leader, Senator Withers. At the same time I feel I would be rather remiss if I did not make some brief comments on the Budget. The present Budget, for which we, the Opposition, and the people of Australia waited so eagerly, was heralded as being a concerned Government’s attempt to come to very real grips with our flagging economy. The brainchild of a fearless Minister who bulldozed Medibank through against the overwhelming weight of public opinion, the man whom the Government lauded as the economic saviour of our nation, has arrived with all the impact of what one can only term a lead balloon. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) delivered this abortive attempt in the other place with tongue in cheek, I am sure, as his voice rang with a promissory note. With such short-sighted measures he has placed our great nation further in hock and sought to obscure the Budget’s shortcomings with bland promises of a much sought tax relief.
Since delivering this epic the Treasurer has retired, one can only say, to lick his wounds after being harassed by Mr Hawke and castigated by Dr J. F. Cairns. No doubt he is bewildered by these attacks from his colleagues. He no doubt is also reflecting on his own precarious position as Treasurer No. 3 of Australia, a position which seems to rest on the whim of the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. He no doubt is bemused by this great economic brainchild, which has been exploded by every well-known economist and exposed in this chamber and in the other place by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as a shoddy attempt to stabilise our economy. That in reality is not the situation as we see it. I and, I am sure, many other Australians are wondering where was all the fire and zeal which the Minister called upon to force Medibank upon the unreceptive Australian public. It certainly was not evident in this Budget that he has brought down.
This Budget, at best, could be described as a political compromise, and a very weak one at that, by a Government which, due to its waning popularity, is loath to take the necessary and somewhat unpopular measures to combat the very real problems of inflation and unemployment. I am sure many Australians will agree with me, when I categorically state that these ills which presently beset our economy have been created by this Government’s lavish and reckless spending. Might I further emphasise that remark by stating that I was most disappointed with the Treasurer’s performance in the Budget. 1, like many Australians, have always held the Treasurer in the highest regard as a man of principle, a man above political compromise, a man of integrity and a man who would place the nation’s need above and beyond any party loyalty. I also have the greatest regard for Mr Hayden ‘s economic ability and I am quite confident that he was aware of the remedies needed to stabilise our economy. But much to my surprise and, I think, Australia’s disappointment, Mr Hayden chose the course of compromise and showed that he placed this above statesmanship. It was a sad day indeed for Australia. May I commend the following quotation to the Treasurer and all members of the Government for their honest and sincere consideration. It is by that well-known American poet, essayist and diplomat of the 19th century, James Russell Lowell. I quote:
Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is a temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship.
The Budget is a mere stop-gap measure and is nothing more than the old sugar and castor oil ploy by which the Government is once more attempting to dope or to dupe the Australian people. The Prime Minister and his advisers underestimate the people of Australia. I know, and I am sure you would know, Sir, that there is a present awareness in all walks of life that there is something drastically wrong with our economy. I am certainly no economist. However, one does not have to be a Rhodes Scholar, like Mr Hawke, to work out that even with an increased pay packet the purchasing power of the dollar has greatly diminished. One only has to look around to see the vast number of people unemployedthe highest since the great Depression of the 1 930s. No one has to tell me much about those days because 1 was a young lad during the depression years. I know what it felt like to be one of those living under the conditions of that era. One looks around today and is reminded of the worst industrial unrest in the history of this grand nation. The workers, God help them, are at the mercy of this Government which proposes to represent them. To me and to many workers today that representation appears to be a joke. This Government is at present fully committed to policies which are designed completely to erode all those democratic rights which we as a nation fought two major conflicts to preserve. This Budget promises the people the world and gives them nothing. Almost before they get anything the Government takes it away. The Labor Party is suitably named as it labours to give birth to the embryo of socialism.
All this talk about reduced taxation is grossly misleading in my opinion, as pay as you earn taxation for the average Australian will rise by some $ 1 86 this year. I will concede that there is relief for those people on incomes of less than $5,000 a year, but in the light of spiralling incomes this relief is limited to but a few. I sincerely state that any person expected to exist on this wage in the present economic situation should have this relief as of right and not as a concession of a government using their plight as a political gambit. I do not need to read any lengthy treatise on the social and economic plight, which is that of the worker today. I would remind honourable senators on both sides of this House that until 4’/2 years ago I was a bridge carpenter- and proudly one- bringing home a pay packet from which I provided the then accepted every day necessities of life, admittedly with a few luxuries for a family that I had to rear. I was by no stretch of the imagination wealthy. But under a coalition government and the stable economy which it engendered I provided- and, I submit, provided adequately- for my family.
What about today under this Government? To retain some form of decent living would require a second pay packet. Today it is becoming a very essential factor in our society that the wife has to work to provide those every day accepted luxuries which the working man could once enjoy under the stable government that we enjoyed for some 23 years. It is a case of the old adage of the dog chasing its tail because the great tax reform greatly reduces any advantage even of 2 incomes. This economic evil which forces both parents to work to make ends meet is one of the main causes of the breakdown of the family unit as we once knew it and it throws open the doors to those numerous social evils which beset our present day society. Where are the increases in child endowment which are long overdue- those benefits which would ensure that the woman who wishes to stay at home and raise her family in the age old tradition is not disadvantaged. Every step the Government takes seems to me to encourage the working mother and completely destroy the home unit. This happens in communist countries to create a community where people are completely dependent upon the Big Brother state to provide. I and many Australians rue the day that this ideology should ever manifest itself in this our beloved Australia.
Let me return to the other grossly unjust aspect of this Budget- the indirect taxes, once again designed to unfairly affect the wage earner. If by chance the wage earner is in the tax bracket in which he receives some tax relief, it is quickly ripped off him by other snide means. How many average workers smoke? If the worker does smoke, his cigarettes are up in price by 6c to 9c. If he drinks, his beer is up and if he drives a motor car his petrol is going up. These are not luxuries at all as we understand the word in Australia, but are the basic entitlements of the wage earner. The tax on beer, wines, spirits and cigarettes is estimated to take $600m from the taxpayer- the average worker- the man who has contributed through a long life of hard work to rear a family. It seems to me that the warning on the cigarette packet could easily be changed to ‘Smoking is a wealth hazard ‘, rather than a health hazard.
So let us once and for all explode the myth that the Budget will give any relief whatsoever to the wage earner. The Government has not only discriminated against the wage earner. It has also plundered the private sector. It has shaken to the very roots the confidence of the private sector and has so systematically and callously destroyed this confidence that it will take even a responsible government some time to regenerate it. What steps did the Budget take to adopt the measures proposed by the Mathews Committee which would have brought $ 1,200m relief? It rejected the findings of the Committee and instead reduced company tax by a mere 2Vi per cent from 45 per cent- a relief of some $120m. Even to the elementary student this is only 10 per cent of the amount proposed under this Committee’s report. This is trifling relief even in view of the fall of $ 1 .3 billion in company income last year. So, Sir, I ask you: Does this display responsible government or any genuine attempt to inject confidence into the private sector?
If this is not enough, consider the crude oil levy which is estimated to cost some $ 100m to the private industry. The Budget, in my opinion, has failed miserably to help to stabilise the economy of this country. There is only one way to bring back some sanity to this nation’s economics and to the things that are important to the people of Australia and that will be by a change of Government, which we will see in the very near future.
– I rise conscious of the fact that some 50 or more speakers have spoken already on the Budget debate and it is indeed hard for the Senate to maintain any sense of sparkle while 50 of its number deliver themselves of their wisdom on the economic management of the country. For all that, I welcome the opportunity to take part in what is a very important debate. If there is one thing in Australia that is of general interest at the moment it is the state of the economy and I think the great and besetting interest in politics which we see in Australia at the moment is a function of the uncertainty that people feel in the economic sphere. 1 suppose that every Budget has to be looked at in its economic context, and the economic context of this Budget is very clear. It is a context of very high inflation, a rate at which this Government ought to be, and I suspect is, ashamed, and it is in the context of a level of unemployment of which this Government is, I am sure, ashamed. When one looks at those 2 factorsthe factors of inflation and unemployment -one can see that this Budget is critically important to all Australians.
The damaging effects of inflation are now acknowledged even by this Government. I think it is generally conceded that those who tried to put together some assets, to have some savings, have been severely damaged. People who might wish to own their home have been severely damaged, and we find that Senator Wheeldon, the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, even says that at the present rate of inflation you cannot plan social welfare. So we are in a situation where all sorts of people are under stress and are being damaged by the fact that our currency is simply losing its value.
Unemployment is something of which this Government ought to be aware because so many of its representatives have come from the union movement, and the Government ought to know that to the individual unemployed person there is a loss of dignity, to the unemployed person’s dependants there is a loss of dignity, and there is often real physical hardship. These are things which we in Opposition are entitled to be angry about, the people of Australia are entitled to be angry about, and honourable senators opposite, the representatives and supporters of a Labor government, ought to be ashamed about. I suppose one of the features of the economic debate in Australia for some time now has been the whinging attitude of Government supporters that of course it is not their fault. It is all the fault of external circumstances. Australia is in exactly the same condition as are comparable countries.
I would like very briefly to refer to some of the things this Government has done which in my view, Mr Acting Deputy President, have substantially contributed to the unfortunate situation that we are in at the moment. I would like to suggest that if you look at just 3 areas most people who are not forced to support this Government would agree that things could have been much better. The areas I would ask honourable senators to consider are the areas of wages policy, of minerals policy and of Government expenditure and the limits on Government expenditure.
Early in the life of this Government which now admits, of course, that excessive wage increases are at the heart of its economic problems and at the heart of the inflationary problem, we had the very strong assertion that there should be an increase in the share of the national economic cake being taken home by wage earners. In the field of the Public Service where, of course, the Government has the greatest influence there was the proud adoption of the pacesetter principle, principally by Mr Cameron but he, of course, was merely acting as a spokesman for the Government. I believe a great deal of the runaway wage inflation we have seen in Australia over the last few years can be attributed to the quite unreal wage expectations which this Government fostered early in its life and particularly through the pacesetter principle.
– Do you not think that the labourer is worthy of his hire?
– I think the labourer is worthy of his hire, but like your Treasurer now, I believe that when the labourer gets more than he is producing then, in fact, we are headed for economic disaster. A little later in my speech, for the benefit of Labor members opposite, I intend to cite with very great approval some of the more recent statements of the Treasurer which indicate a very great conversion to a point of view that I and many other Liberals have been putting forward for some time. I will refer to my maiden speech last year- I am sure no one else has ever bothered to do the same since it was made- and honourable senators will find a surprising parallel between what I said then and what Mr Hayden is saying today. If Mr Hayden takes a year to catch up with me, one who is unlettered in economics, then God help the country. In the field of wages, I say that the Government bears a large share of the blame. It established the pacesetter principle of ‘Let us go; let us all get more’ and wages outstripped the ability of the economy to pay. The Government concedes that, so Labor members opposite should not interject when I merely underline it now.
In the field of mineral development, we in Western Australia saw for many years the benefits of an expanding mineral production. Australia as a country is, of course, resource rich and it is a country in which the problems of development are not so much the problems of the Government having to do too much but the problems of ensuring that the Government does not interfere too much. When one thinks of the possible developments that were on foot in 1972 in Australia and what has happened to them, then I think one can again sheet home to this Government a lot of the blame for the flaccid economy that exists in this country today. Look at the oil and gas prospects off the North-West Cape or north-west shelf of Western Australia. That was a great prospect for the prosperity of the whole of Australia. It was a marvellous opportunity to increase our independence in the field of energy and to lift the standard of living and hence the standard of welfare of all Australians. That project is moribund. Its capital costs are increasing by leaps and bounds, and nothing is happening. I suppose I am a little more conscious of this than most because one member of my family was a geologist working on that field but he has been sent to America because the company said to him: ‘We have no use for you here, boy’. If the damage that is done to the country is not underlined when the young people who are involved in its development are forced to go overseas, then nothing will underline it.
I point to the possibilities we had for uranium development in the Northern Territorydevelopments that by now could have been brought to fruition. Where are they? They are still locked up, and this Government, despite its brave words and the plans and half-starts that it has announced, has done nothing. Those developments by themselves would have put a completely different complexion on the Australian economy today.
– What about conservation, senator?
– I do not believe that conservation should be ignored. I point to the possible nickel developments in Western Australia which, again, are lying locked under the ground because inflation and the whole attitude of this Government have made development uncertain and unlikely to occur. So, in that field I would suggest to honourable senators opposite that the productive ability of the Australian economy has in fact been cut back. Whereas Labor came so proudly into government with these great social experiments promised to us all, it came on the basis that those experiments would be paid for by increasing productivity. Had it allowed productivity to increase perhaps it could have done it. As it is, Labor has sought to have the gravy without the meat that produces the juice for the gravy.
Let me look at the field of excessive Government expenditure. We are again dealing here with an area in which the Government itself concedes that a balance between Government expenditure and private expenditure must be retained. Quite clearly, the reckless attitude of this Government towards increasing Government expenditure over the last 3 years has been a substantial contributing factor to the mess we are in today. So I point to these 3 things, not because
I suggest they tell the whole story, but because I think they are clear examples of areas in which alternative policies were available, in which alternative policies were advocated by the Opposition, and in which the Government ploughed ahead and made disastrous mistakes for Australia. So I am contemptuous of efforts simply to say that it is not Labor’s fault. I believe it is a cowardly bleat. I welcome the greater courage which is being shown by some members of the Government now in facing up to economic reality, and in particular to the sort of efforts which are being made by Senator James McClelland to introduce some rational views into the area of wages. If those men are not supported by their own Party- I sometimes wonder whether they will be- then of course this Government will become an even more hopeless proposition than it has been to date.
I do think there is a beginning of rationality in this Government. I do not wish to praise it too much, but I do think some of the things that we, as Liberals, have been saying for some time have at last come home. Our quarrel with this Budget, of course, is that this Government has not gone far enough along the road to ensure that it will succeed in reversing the position. I rather see it as a man who has decided to jump across a chasm, runs forward, takes a flying leap and then half way across changes his mind and says: ‘No, it is too far, I should go back’. I am afraid that that is what has happened to this Government. It has stopped; it is in mid-air, and I suspect it is about to plummet out of sight into the chasm. I do not think there will be many mourners at the funeral. The Budget Speech is interesting for a number of reasons, one of which is that it contains a statement that confidence in the private sector is essential. This is the first of the passages that I would like to quote from the Treasurer’s Speech. He said:
This Government is committed to the present ‘mixed economy’ framework. We want to strengthen that framework. To reduce unemployment lastingly, recovery in the private sector is essential.
I am quoting the Treasurer’s words. He says: Recovery in the private sector is essential’. A little later in the Speech, of course, he talks about the dramatic need for confidence. He says that there will be recovery in the private sector only if there is confidence in the private sector.
-Who said that?
-That is the Treasurer. We get this proposition being put forward by the Government and I am very glad that it has put it forward. It is the private sector which needs to be strengthened if unemployment is to be beaten and if the economy is to be put in better shape. The private sector requires a return of confidence. There, I suppose, lies one of the tragedies of the story because in the Age of last Tuesday- a paper which is often cited with approval in this chamber by honourable senators opposite- we find the results of a poll. Only a quarter of the Australian electorate thinks the Hayden Budget will have a favourable effect on the nation as a whole. The article states:
The latest Age poll has found that 43 per cent of voters believe that when the provisions of the Budget are put into effect, the country will be worse off. Twenty-eight per cent think the Budget will not significantly alter the country’s economic condition.
So we find that some 71 per cent of the population believes that this is at best a neutral Budget and it is more likely a damaging Budget. If that is the view which is held in the community, then how in the world does the Government expect to find a return of private confidence? It seems to me to be quite impossible. It is just not going to happen. That is one of the reasons why I have very serious reservations about the Budget and why I wonder whether for Australia ‘s sake this Budget ought to be allowed to be put into operation. We have a situation where the Government acknowledges that tax is too high. The public sector has taken too much. Yet we find, when we look at the pay-as-you-earn statistics which have been referred to on a number of occasions in this debate, that notwithstanding the taxation changes which have been made, in fact pay-as-you-earn taxation will rise by, I think, $2,700m. This is in an economy where the Government is trying to restore confidence to the private sector. Quite honestly, I cannot see how rational men can arrive at that sort of reasoning in company with that sort of arithmetic.
I say, therefore, that the rather more daring alternative Budget in which the proposals for greater cuts were put forward by Mr Fraser, represents a minimum approach to this problem. It represents not an extreme approach but a minimum approach to doing what the Government says needs to be done, namely, restoring private confidence. There is no basis for confidence under this Government. We know that it has changed direction too often. It has changed course; it has changed Treasurers; it has done things which I believe destroy the ability of the community to respond with confidence in it. Although of course a little heat develops in these debates, I say that with some sorrow because I think Australia deserves better than to be governed by a Government in which its people have no confidence.
I remember that when I applied for endorsement with the Liberal Party I listed one of my interests as mining. That is an interest which seems to have become rather submerged here. But I thought that in a sense that interest showed itself when I managed to go through the Budget and extract some gold out of the dross. It shows really what is my interest in mining- simply the fact that you go through an awful lot of rubbish and every now and then come across something valuable. I would like to cite some of these things which are valuable purely because I think it is important that, since the attitude of the community is so important in the economic recovery of Australia, we should make it clear where we as an Opposition do not differ from the Government. It is not our job to confuse the public mind. If the Government is putting a correct proposition which we would have to support if we were in Government our job is to support it, even though we may be in Opposition. I read from the Budget Speech where the Treasurer stated:
Some sacrifice and patient restraint is called for from all of us in our demands for more resources, whether it is additional public services that are wanted or higher personal incomes.
That is a statement from which I do not believe any government of ours could escape, any more than the Government which we have at present can escape. We find that the Treasurer goes on to say:
We expect that as the expansion of public sector activity is restrained, the opportunities for private sector expansion will improve, though full responses to greater room for growth may take time to develop.
That statement again is valuable because it contains the realisation that it is the restraint of public sector expansion which is essential to a restoration of opportunity for private sector expansion. Therefore, I adopt that statement. I congratulate the Treasurer for making it. I merely regret that he has not followed through the logic in the figures that follow. We find later in the statement reference to wages and salaries. The Treasurer said:
If wages and salaries continue to outstrip productivity increases, the productive capacity of the economy will decline and we shall all eventually be worse off.
I suppose that statement could have drawn a jibe or an interjection from Senator McLaren if it had been made this time last year. That is why I am particularly pleased that, on this occasion, I can quote to honourable senators opposite the words of their own Treasurer because they are words that I am sure we would be using were we sitting on the benches opposite. We find that the Treasurer goes on to say:
Again, that is a frank statement and a description of what has occurred in Australia. Of course it is a guide to all of us in deciding what remedial action ought to be taken. I suggest again to the Senate and to the odd commercial traveller who may have his car radio on that it is this sort of principle with which we should all be agreeing, and the logic of which we should be applying to the economic situation.
The other very valuable thing that is contained both in the Budget Speech and in some of the statements that have been made in the Senate, particularly by Senator James McClelland, relates to the whole problem of increasing public expenditure without people realising that that public expenditure comes out of their pockets. I think there has been a degree of political courage, if not the same degree of political wisdom, shown by the Government in the proposition which has been put forward in the Budget Speech and elsewhere that for the purpose of wage indexation increases in prices resulting from tax measures should be discounted. In other words, the Government is saying: ‘We admit that our tax measures are a factor in forcing up the cost of living. But we are saying to you that what we want to do is take your spending power from you to spend on your behalf because we can do it better, more equitably and in a way that is more socially desirable. ‘
I do not believe the Government has a prospect of enforcing wage indexation on a basis that discounts cost of living increases due to tax rises. That is why I doubt its political wisdom. The importance of the situation is this: It underlines the fact that it is the taxpayer, the individual worker who is paying for what the Government is offering. This time last year I remember saying to the Senate that I thought the central dishonesty of a bad Budget was that there was still the impression that people were getting something for nothing. I welcome the Government’s withdrawal from that proposition and its frank statement that it is the taxpayers of Australia who are paying for all the goodies. That will make the taxpayers of Australia, I am sure, a good deal more cautious about the goodies that are offered. Quite clearly they will exercise a far more vigilant eye on Government expenditure than they might have done a year or two ago.
There are two other aspects of the Budget which I would like to touch upon briefly in the time I have left. The first is that I think there is a very dishonest feature of this Government in some of its postponements of programs which have been accompanied by a firm commitment to action in the next Budget. The reason why I suggest that that is dishonest is because I do not believe that one in ten of honourable senators opposite believe that they will be sitting opposite when the next Budget is brought down.
– We will rely on your integrity.
– With or without integrity, as Senator Button calls it, I do not believe that this Government is showing any of the features of a government that is able to survive. I do not wish to go into the general question, but I do wish to say that I believe that portions of this Budget have been based on the proposition that we shall probably have to face the music next year, so the Government has said: ‘Let us make it as difficult as possible’.
The 2 areas to which I refer are, firstly, the field of education and, secondly, the field of the abolition of the means test. In the field of education, I refer to page 8 of the printed Budget Speech for those who wish to check. We find that the Government steps back from the principle of triennial financing and it says that notwithstanding that that is a very good principle, the Government cannot afford to do it now. But we find that the Government will go back to triennial financing in January 1977. That is very handy. Even if this Government lasts the longest that it can possibly last, we find that it will be responsible only for a few months of the next period of triennial financing. The Government does not say: Well, we cannot afford it so we will put it aside and reconsider it next year’. It undertakes in this Budget a firm commitment to resume triennial financing in a way which I think indicates that it expects to lumber us with it. My personal view, I must say, is that we should retain triennial financing. The difference is that we have got to ensure a far greater input from government into the commissions which do the triennial planning to ensure that they are given very clear indications of what the budgetary possibilities are before they draw up their final plans.
The other area to which I wish to refer was touched upon by Senator Grimes. I agree with a good deal of what was said by him about the abolition of the means test. I think that both the Government and the Opposition have got themselves into a rather difficult situation over this area, which is of considerable electoral significance. The situation really is that we now have various expert groups in the social welfare field advising us that it is simply not possible to have all the desirable assistance that there is for the really poor in Australia and at the same time to have universal social services. That problem, I think, has to be faced by both the Government and the Opposition. This Government has carefully duck-shoved the issue by simply saying: Well, we cannot afford it now but we will certainly do it in 1976, the next time round’. That is fine, but I believe that if the Government was being honest it would simply say: ‘ We will examine the position in 1976; we certainly would like to do it in principle but whether or not we can do it will depend on the budgetary circumstances of that time’. That, I think, would be the least the Government could say, to be honest in that particular area.
Another matter upon which I wish to touch was also mentioned by Senator Grimes. I refer to the field of legal aid. I welcome the opportunity to speak about this matter, because it is something in which I have a considerable interest, and I would very much dislike the statement of Mr Fraser to be misinterpreted. Mr Fraser listed the Australian Legal Aid Office as one of those areas in which a saving could be made. He referred to the abolition of that Office. I think it is very important to stress that what we are talking about here is not the abolition of legal aid but the abolition of the Australian Legal Aid Office.
The ways of providing legal aid in Australia are many and varied, but what this Government is clearly demonstrating is a preference for providing legal aid through a Commonwealth bureaucracy. That is the fundamental point of difference between the Government and the Opposition on this issue. The Opposition is committed to providing legal aid. Very often the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) carries into this chamber the Liberal platform and ‘The Way Ahead’. They contain clear commitments in the field of legal aid. The Opposition believes that, as much as possible, legal aid must be insulated and removed from government.
Even former Senator Murphy acknowledged in his early speeches in the field of legal aid that it is fundamental to the freedom of the individual and it is fundamental to the democratic system in Australia that people should have access to legal services which are quite independent of government. It is no good this Government saying: Well, of course that is all right because we can ensure that the service is independent by putting a bit in an Act of Parliament which says that it is independent and that professional rules apply’.
But of course the budgetary power of government and the general influence of government over a statutory body is well known to honourable senators. The complaints of Professor Sackville about the contents of the Legal Aid Bill are an indication that the points I am making are not points of a tory or a conservative in this field. There is a very real concern on the part of people who are anxious to see that the community is given an adequate legal aid service that that service should be much more independent of government than this Government seems to be prepared to make it.
I point to the fact, as a sign of bad faith on the part of the Government, that whereas 2 Budgets ago it made an allocation of $2m to supplement the private legal aid schemes in the States, in the last Budget it reduced the allocation to $1.3m although ultimately it was increased to $1.5m. We find that in this Budget the allocation is to be Sim. So the hard-pressed private legal aid schemes in Australia are in fact being diminished by the Government as it tends to expand its Government service. That is a tendency about which, as a lawyer and as a Liberal, I am seriously concerned. Therefore I hope that the Government, even while it remains in office, might take a second look at its approach to legal aid and put more emphasis on ensuring that independent legal services are available generally to the public.
The debate has been long. As I said earlier, I welcome the opportunity to have participated in it. I think that the very sad thing about this Budget is that if the sentiments contained in it had been in the hearts and minds of the Government supporters when they were elected in 1 972, they may well have gone down in history as a great reformist and most successful government. The terribly sad fact of the matter is that they will go out of government sooner or later as a rather unfortunate joke. This Government will be remembered for its promises which never came to fruitition. I believe that it is a great shame that there was not a little more common sense in the Government and a little less brilliance.
– in reply- I am the 48th speaker, I think, in the Budget debate this year. It has been the longest Budget debate that we have witnessed in the Parliament for at least 10 years. The significance of that, of course, does not escape the Government. It is literally impossible at this stage for new material to be introduced. I was pleased with one of the final comments of Senator Chaney before he resumed his seat, when he paid a very nice backhanded compliment to the Government by saying that had this Budget been brought down in 1972 we would have gone down as one of the greatest Governments in Australian history. Perhaps we can apply it to this Budget and the same prediction can be made.
After listening to the various contributions which have been made in this debate and also to the comments which have been made outside this Parliament, I think the essential feature of the Budget is the fact that the Budget shocked the Opposition. It was not believed possible in the economic circumstances prevailing in Australia that such a Budget could in fact be brought down. There were 2 basic assumptions made by the Opposition and, I think, by much of the Press at large before this Budget was presented. It was expected that in every possible area the Government would slash expenditure; that it would cut everything to the bone; that it would magnify many of the problems which we have experienced over the last 12 months or so; and that much of the Government’s activities would be discontinued. Alternatively, it was expected that the Government would not have the courage to take the steps that it has and in fact that it would go on increasing the deficit in order to maintain its levels of expenditure.
Of course, the Budget turned out to be neither of those 2 things. Instead of the horror Budget which some anticipated we have a heartening Budget. I was interested to note this morning, in one of the editorials of the daily Press, that very term being used- a heartening Budget. I will come back to that later. Instead of increased taxes we have reduced taxes. Instead of retreating from the great initiatives that we have taken in a whole range of areas- in education, in social security, in Medibank and so on- we have continued our advance in those areas. Instead of increasing the deficit to $5,000m, as we were told by some people would happen, we have actually reduced the deficit- and by about $2,000m at that. The Opposition found itself robbed of what it thought would be a trump card. Thus we had the horrid, badly researched response in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Of course, that was the reason why we found that there was great concern in the Opposition’s ranks when the Government decided not only to wipe off the collection of $200m in personal income tax from the taxpayers of Australia but also to wipe off any requirement for 500 000 Australians who previously had to pay income tax to pay that tax.
– But what did you take from them in other directions?
-I know that honourable senators opposite hate to hear those things said and repeated, particularly when the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast, because they are trying to sell the false story that we have in fact increased taxation whereas in fact we have reduced personal income tax- for the second time since we have been in office- by a total of $700m and we have reduced company tax twice by an amount twice as much as honourable senators opposite increased it; yet honourable senators opposite have had the temerity to sit in this chamber and talk about being the friends of the private sector. I will deal with the private sector in a moment.
– You are the biggest rip-off merchants in the world.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order!
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I knew that an effort would be made to drown me out when I said those things. 1 will say them again. We have taken $700m off personal income tax in this country and we have twice reduced the rate of company tax.
What was the position leading up to the Budget? In 1974 we found ourselves in a state of monetary restraint. It was essential that we did that. We had too large a money supply in Australia. Even though all governments depend upon their economic advisers, particularly the Reserve Bank of Australia in this area, it may be said that the monetary restraint was held on for too long. In March of 1974 it was increasing by no less than 24 per cent. Six months later it had a negative growth rate of 9 per cent. It is quite true to say that that did affect the Australian economy. It was intended and necessary to dry up some of the liquidity that was in the Australian monetary system at the time. But at the same time there was a world-wide economic downturn. It would be idle to suggest that as a result of that downturn we also suffered a downturn. There was world-wide unemployment and world-wide inflation. As Senator Chaney has just said, it would be foolish for anyone to suggest that what has happened in Australia has been the result solely of that factor; but it would be equally idle to suggest that it did not affect our economy. For example, in 1974 alone we imported $8 billion worth of goods. The net price index increase in that year alone was 30 per cent. Does anyone suggest that that would not affect inflation in this country? Of course it would.
The Government was faced with the choice of either continuing to contract expenditure or to expand it. By expanding it, of course, we created a deficit. We were not the only country to do that. All the comparable countries of the world did it. The United States of America did it to the extent of a deficit of $80,000m in order to re-stimulate its economy. Britain did it, Germany did it, France did it and Italy did it. It was necessary for them all to do it. We were caught in exactly the same position.
No government likes to have a budget deficit -of course not. What a government has to do is to ensure that there is sufficient economic activity to employ the resources of the nation. For some reason or other the Australian Government has been the subject of condemnation because it has allowed a deficit to appear, but it was necessary to do so. We took stimulatory action by supporting the States with the provision of additional money for the budgetary problems which they had. Additional hundreds of millions of dollars were made available to the States. We supported the wool industry. We reduced taxation, as 1 have just mentioned. All of those measures were taken to ensure that the Australian economy would come back to a state of economic growth. No government has an easy task to perform in doing that.
There is no doubt that we were in a serious position in the latter part of 1974. We noticed that there had been an increase in unemployment in this country combined with a high inflation rate. This Budget is an attempt to overcome the problems that occurred in Australia in 1 974. The degree of restraint is reflected in the increase in domestic outlays of 23 per cent, which is half the rate of increase in the last Budget. No clearer example could be given of this Government ‘s acceptance of its responsibility to reduce the amount of expenditure. Despite that reduction in the increase in domestic outlays the payments to the States and to local government are up by 32 per cent and the cash benefits to the Australian citizen are also up by 32 per cent. Why should any government be the subject of the criticism that we have heard during the course of this debate when it has taken the steps that are necessary to overcome the problems?
I want to deal now as briefly as I possibly can with the individual items that have been included in the Opposition’s amendment. The first point raised is that this Budget does not provide an adequate program to defeat inflation. The first and most important step that was taken by the Government was to reduce its own expenditure. We have just been told by a previous speaker that the Government is to be condemned because it has retracted to some degree some of the undertakings that it gave 2 years ago. Of course we have had to reduce the rate at which we have been trying to achieve the things that we set out to achieve- the abolition of the means test, for example. If we were to maintain these programs at the rate at which we initiated them obviously we would have had to have maintained the higher rate of Government spending. It has been accepted by all speakers in this debate and by outside economic commentators as well that constraint in Government spending is central to an anti-inflationary Budget at this time.
We have been told also that the Budget does not relieve the unemployment situation. In this area I would agree that the Government does have a very real problem. Inflation is now showing signs of easing- the rate of increase is not as great as it was- whereas in the area of unemployment we have a continuing problem. The Government, of course, is taking all steps possible to ensure that we can stimulate employment, especially in the private sector. Retail sales, for example, have grown very strongly in the last 6 months and consumer demand is increasing at a very significant rate. That will help to run down the stocks of industry in order to create opportunities for greater production at the factory level.
I want to deal now with what seems to me to be the most important aspect of the amendment, that is, paragraph (3), which says that this Budget does not restore confidence in the private sector of the economy. I suppose, as I mentioned earlier, that no government will be able to restimulate the private sector overnight. But, in view of the efforts that have been made by this Government in the last 12 months, we are seeing very definite signs of the private sector coming back very strongly. In fact, I was very interested to read only today that the gross operating profits of companies in Australia have increased in the last 12 months by no less than 26 per cent. That is not an unreasonable level of profit. That is not the point that is being made, but it is hardly a figure which would suggest that the private sector is in a state of decline. In fact, its profit margins improved much more dramatically in the first 6 months of 1975 than they did in the past 3 years. The Government has taken action through the Prices Justification Tribunal to ensure that the Tribunal takes into account the profitability of the companies that place submissions before it, and the effect of that action is now being felt. The June quarter of this year showed an increase of 37 per cent in the gross operating surplus of companies in Australia. I do not think it is logical for that to be ignored. The Government has endeavoured to bring the private sector back to a state of reasonable profitability, and it is doing so. The company tax reductions which were initiated last year and continued in this Budget mean savings of at least $ 1 50m to companies.
It is interesting also to consider the effect of the Government’s activities in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and in other fields to bring down the rate of increase in incomes in this country. Whereas the actual increase in wages and salaries in the September quarter of last year was 10.8 per cent, which was a very large increase, in each subsequent quarter the figure has come down to 4.9 per cent, 3.2 per cent, and 1.1 per cent in the June quarter. A dramatic increase has taken place in consumer spending. There was a decline in the September 1974 quarter and in the December 1974 quarter, but in the March quarter the fruits of the Government’s activities started to become apparent and there was an 8 per cent increase in that quarter, followed by a 9 per cent increase in the June quarter. All of these things suggest that the series of actions taken by the Government is allowing the private sector to move back into a state of confidence.
The question of new capital expenditure by industry should also be borne in mind. Again, we have been told that industry will not invest, it has no confidence in the future. But what are the latest figures available and what do they indicate? In the June quarter of this year, net capital expenditure by the total manufacturing sector in Australia was up by no less than 27 per cent. I will run down the list of individual industries and indicate their position, which the Government’s opponents have said is so parlous. In the textile, clothing and footwear industries there was an increase of 1 8 per cent, in the paper and printing industries an increase of 73 per cent, in the chemicals, petroleum and coal industries an increase of 28 per cent, and in the basic metals industry an increase of 97 per cent. I do not wish to labour the Senate by reading all the figures, but those are sufficient to show that the effect of the Government’s activities over the past 12 months is now being felt, and felt quite clearly. Despite the criticisms that have been made of the fact that the Government has found it necessary to slow down the rate of activity in some areas, the Government has not lost sight of its eventual goals, of the need to achieve the initiatives which it originally set out to achieve.
The whole thrust of the Budget, as the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has pointed out, is to nurture the Australian economy through what is now a gathering momentum. The Government would not wish to see a repetition of an accelerated recovery, which in all probability would create greater problems in the future. But given the attitude of the Government, given the assistance it has made available to industry and to the general redistribution of resources in this country, I believe that the Government can say confidently that the economy is moving back into a state of growth which will utilise to the full the resources of this country. We have all heard before the confident statements from the Opposition benches: ‘ We will do this to you; we will do that to you.’ History will tell us what will be done, and I suggest to the Opposition that overconfidence at this stage is not of great help to it. I can recall the over-confident stories of early last year, and we know what became of them.
The important point on which I will close is that without doubt the Budget which has been brought down by this Government is the most responsible Budget for many years, as Senator Chaney, the Liberal senator for Western Australia, said before he sat down. He complimented the Government on this Budget, and I think that probably his words would carry more weight than mine. Certainly I believe this to be a good Budget, but it is interesting to hear a Liberal senator make the same comment about it. I am sure that time will reveal the strengthening of the economy under the policies of this Budget. I ask the Senate to reject the amendment moved by the Opposition.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Withers’ amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 September on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As most honourable senators know, Bills similar to this Bill have come in at varying times in past years. A similar Bill has not come in every year, nor has one come in at the same time in various years. I draw to the attention of honourable senators who have an interest in this matter the attachment to an answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) to a series of questions in which he indicates the range of dates on which this type of legislation came in. A Bill of this type was introduced in March 1962. In other years such a Bill came in in November or September and not at all in the years 1964-65, 1968-69, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1971-72, and apparently 1973-74. Therefore, one can see that this type of legislation is irregular both as to amount and timing.
As I have mentioned previously, the second reading speech was not terribly satisfactory. It is a very short Bill; it contains only 5 clauses, two of which are of any consequence, the others being of little consequence. As far as I can see, both the Bill and the second reading speech were treated by the Government with a mechanical approach. I do not think that was satisfactory from the point of view of both the Senate and the amount of money that is involved. Nowhere in the second reading speech was any case made out for urgency in financing the size of deficit in respect of which this Bill is part of the general program. Perhaps these matters are not so momentous when the amounts involved are small, such as in 1961-62 when the amount was $47m and in some years when no such Bill was introduced.
Last year the amount involved was $956m and this year the amount, as transferred, is estimated at $1,1 52m. The amounts are beginning to become quite large. Therefore more time is necessary and more attention is to be given to this matter.
– Would not the underlying principle be the same?
-If the underlying principle is the same you would not have the variation as to time and amount throughout the years, nor would you have some years with no Bill such as this. I do not think it is strictly correct to say that the principle is the same. What is of concern here is the massive size of the deficit last year, the potential deficit this year, the method of financing that deficit, and the apprehension that the Opposition had, as did many other people, about all this. That apprehension was heightened by the very strange behaviour in regard to the overseas loan raising affair which I said then, and say now, in my view was part of the general problem or general approach of trying to fund and finance deficits. If we look at the total deficits program, firstly, last year finished with a deficit of $2,567m and the estimated deficit for this year is $2,800m. We are looking at a total deficit of $5,367m. I am referring to round figures only for the sake of speed and the convenience of my honourable colleagues. I am leaving out all the noughts and millions involved.
When you look, therefore, at a program for which the current year’s deficit is estimated to be $2,800m and you know that last year the estimate in effect was magnified 5 times in error, from $570m to about $2,600m, you have apprehensions at the beginning of the financial year about the value and accuracy of the estimating. Therefore the Senate ought to be concerned about the whole level of the financial approach to this underlying problem of how to handle this magnitude of over-expenditure. When you think about the fact that 2 months of the year have now run, you can look at the table, issued I think yesterday, which sets out the Government’s financial transactions for the first 2 months of the current financial year. Bearing in mind that it is estimated that there will be a total deficit of $2,800m for the year, a year of 12 months ending next June, we find that the figures now available, under Government print, show at the end of August a figure of $ 1 ,0 7 1 m.
Honourable senators will appreciate that this relates to only part of the year and other things have yet to happen. The situation may improve but, on the other hand, it may worsen. There are some calculations available which show that the deficit will be something in the order of over $4,000m by the end of December but will then gradually rectify itself. But at the end of 2 months there is a deficit of $1,07 1 m as against the full year’s program of $2,800m. That deficit has been financed by running down the available cash, again very heavily, and at the same time using a certain amount of loan proceeds in Australia, and by paying back a little bit of the Treasury notes that are outstanding. I will refer to those later. Therefore, I think underlying this again is the massive size of the deficit last year and the pending deficit this year. How is this to be financed overall? Let us consider the strains this may put on the system and the dangers it may place on the financial solvency of Australia. All of us should be concerned and apprehensive about this situation.
Therefore J hold the view that Parliament in these circumstances ought to be apprehensive. The Senate should be careful and watchful and it is time for it to use its inspectorial powers, if that is the best way to describe them. That was the reason, as I said earlier, for our questions on 29 August which were dealt with on that day. As I said then, the Government would appear to me to be out of cash. I think that statement has proven to be substantially true by the end of August. However, it is not out of credit. No government is out of cash. The Government itself can create credit; it does create credit. But 1 believe it should not do so in massive amounts without some understanding by the Parliament and some oversight by the Parliament. If we look at the Australian scene and at the national securities on issue, the Government securities on issue, we find that of the Australian total debt at June 1975 the Commonwealth or Australian Government debt is $5,956,152,000, of which $3,086,216,000 is made up of Treasury bills or short term debt. This seems to me to be a rather strange way to go on. At the same time, the debts of the Australian States are nearly twice as large at $1 1,813,759,000. 1 have this table which also indicates the debt per head of population, and I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard because it may make it easier for those who wish to follow this matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-On 2 September the Leader of the Government in the Senate was good enough to bring back some answers to the questions asked on 29 August and they were satisfactory to some extent, and helpful, to some extent, but they were not wholly informative. They did not cover the full situation. In some particular areas one began to develop some further apprehension and concern about, for instance, what was the truly liquid position of Australia at the end of August. What was the accurate position about the Commonwealth loan? Was it the success it was claimed to be? How much money went into the long end of the market and how much into the short end of the market? Who put the money in? In effect, how much new money turned up and how much was what I call ‘switching around’? There was some concern about the general problem of the relationship to the Loan Council and the loan and financial agreements which, from my point of view, are still not entirely satisfied.
- Senator, do you say that you have not got the answers? You asked a series of questions. Are you claiming that you have not got precise answers to the questions that you asked?
- Senator, I appreciate very much your continuous interest and your wish to help, but if you will let me proceed the whole scene will become clear. To repeat, what I am saying now is that on 29 August 10 questions were asked. On 2 September we received answers to those 10 questions. Following on from that we held the view that there was a need for more information, more specific detail, and some clarity in some of these areas which are still of concern. Accordingly, the Minister arranged for some senior Treasury officials to have a conference with a few of us on the morning of 3 September. We had a long discussion and indicated the areas of our concern and apprehension. We indicated our wish to have more information and we roughed out a series of questions which we have been since polishing up. We thank those officers and the Minister for making their services available to us.
We have drafted an additional series of questions which we believe would help to clarify this matter for us all. I have them available and they can be circulated in order that my honourable colleagues will have access to them. At this point of time I will read them because I think it may help people to realise some of the problems we see. These are the additional questions.
Does the consultative process still have application?
Those are the extra questions to which it would help us greatly to have answers. I imagine it is possible that the Treasury officials are a long way towards having them ready. It is stated in the previous series of answers that the Government intends to have practically no overseas borrowing and it is noted also by the Opposition that since the overseas loan transaction- that strange one- there has been laid down a series of very distinct, definite and positive rules about the raising of overseas loans by Australia. They seem to me to be very good rules. They ought to clear up any problems in the future. They are now established as rules, whereas apparently previously they were not.
The position of the States vis a vis the Commonwealth is concerned in this whole matterwhether the States in effect are being treated fairly by the Commonwealth or vice versa. That needs further elucidation. There is the matter of the loan agreement, the Australian Loan Council and the national debt sinking fund. It is worthy of recollection that a consolidation of the national debt sinking fund, the national debt and the National Debt Commission was the product of what used to be described as a profligacy in the States in the 1920s. It was necessary for the Commonwealth to move in and pick up the total debt, co-ordinate the borrowing, control it, create a sinking fund and repay it regularly to establish national credit. That is what happened, hence the loan agreement, the Loan Council, the consolidation and the sinking fund. It might be fairly said by the States at the present time, with the deficit the Commonwealth is now mounting, that their financial futures may be placed in hazard under the loan agreement and the sinking fund if the Commonwealth itself is profligate, as the State may say they are not. I am not saying this is the case. I am saying these are points that are being raised and thought about and that are of concern to those who are looking at this prediction.
When one talks about financing these deficits one is talking about- as the answers illuminateeither using domestic borrowing, not overseas borrowings, or having access to the credit pool created by the Government itself. Therefore, it is essential I believe for there to be a great degree of confidence in the Australian community if the people who have savings are to take those savings out of one place and put them in domestic loans in another place. Otherwise we will be back to where we started, where these deficits will have to be financed by the printing press- by the expansion of credit by the person who has access to that credit- and this has very great dangers if not regulated. So I believe the loan result does stand some challenge. I believe it is not as satisfactory as it has been stated to be. The amount of money involved looks good. But when one looks at the amount of actual money that went into the short end of the market and the money that came from the traditionally genuine lender, exclusive of government institutions and banks, the result is not as encouraging as one would like. If these deficits are to be financed by long-term domestic borrowings there has to be confidence in the lenders, who are voluntary lenders, and we have to play a part in making sure that confidence is justified.
If honourable senators have looked at some of the indicators of availability of funds they will all realise that the savings bank deposits of $ 13,000m at the latest recording have grown from about $ 11,000m in 12 months. Obviously people still have a high saving habit and the money is available for people to lend if they are satisfied that the loan is justified and that the Australian Government is running things properly. That is a matter about which the Government has to satisfy the people. In going through this I have been doing quite a lot of work and I have looked at a lot of documents. One document that interested me greatly for later discussion concerned the national debt, which is in the hands of the National Debt Commission. This Commission is responsible for sinking fund repayments and its Commissioners are the Treasurer of the Austraiian Government, the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, the Secretary of the Attorney-General ‘s Department, a representative of the States and the Secretary of the Auditor-General’s Department. In my innocent fashion I look at those people and I say to myself, in the context of the national debt now existing, that they would appear to be trustees on behalf of the States, the Commonwealth and the people and therefore will be looking at the debt structure on the basis that perhaps they are not responsible for raising this large debt but that clearly they have responsibility for seeing that it is properly paid off under sinking fund arrangements. I should think the representative of the States ought to be looking at this pretty critically in the light of the size of the deficits that require financing as time passes.
I have looked also at the report of a series of eminent senators, two now deceased and two with us- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, Senator Wright, the late Dame Ivy Wedgwood and the late Honourable Colin McKellar- in which they consider dealing with Appropriation Bills. This matter will come up later on. I note from their report that they recommended that defence expenditures should be excluded from what might be called ‘capital works and services’ and should be treated as ordinary annual services of the Government. I think one would have to study this fairly carefully because when one looks at Appropriation Bills Nos 1 and 2 and studies the Defence Department’s own estimates one finds all sorts of strange items that appear to be ordinary annual services. One finds things like buildings $75m, housing $40m, acquisitition of sites $2m and equipment, etc. $38 1 m. If a lot of that is not capital works I am mystified. I am sure there are good reasons why it was done like this. However, the total defence expenditure appears in Appropriation Bill No. 1 and is therefore not subject to amendment by the Senate. But without any doubt at all that expenditure includes a huge amount of capital works. I believe this aspect needs to be clarified later, perhaps in other debates, by those honourable senators who have studied it more intimately. I think there is some confusion between those 2 areas. I have always believed that this was a serious matter and should be debated seriously.
I believe that generation of credit without limit by an Australian Government ought not to be allowed by the Parliament without some scrutiny and the Senate has a responsibility here. I also believe that if the Australian people have money in savings banks, which they want to invest voluntarily in domestic loans, that is without exception. It is their privilege and their responsibility to do so but in no way should they be compelled to do so. They should be satisfied it is what they want to do. So I have a clear view that the generation of excess credit, which is not satisfied in the end by proper borrowings, is full of the greatest dangers to the currency’s stability and the long term security of the country. It ought to be put under a check situation. The money supply figures need further clarification and examination. I say to my honourable colleagues that that is as brief as I can be. I am hoping that the Minister will be able to let me have some answers to the further series of questions, either now or later. I would then be quite content to be very brief indeed, Senator Devitt could have his dinner whenever he likes and other colleagues could take an interest in this matter. I feel I can add very little more except perhaps to comment on further questions when they become available.
– It was my understanding when the second set of answers to questions were sought by the Opposition that, after I had obtained the answers, and given a copy to Senator Cotton, that information would be tabled and incorporated in Hansard. It seems to be rather pointless to debate this Bill now because I understand that Senator Cotton has indicated that the Opposition wants time to consider these answers, as they did in respect of the first lot of answers. So I think that perhaps the best thing we can do is for me to seek leave to have these answers incorporated in Hansard, to move that the debate be adjourned and to seek leave to continue my remarks.
-Is leave granted to incorporate the answers in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Additional questions raised by Opposition Senators on Loan Bill 1975
What is the reason for the urgency of the Bill? (Why should it be passed before the Appropriation Acts for 1975-76? Is it needed urgently because the Government is running out of cash balances and needs to borrow to finance expenditures?)
How much Defence expenditure is authorised in Supply Act(No. 1) 1975-76?
Could a table be prepared for the years 1969-70 to 1975-76 showing Consolidated Revenue Fund expenditures, Consolidated Revenue Fund receipts, the amount of Defence expenditure transferred from CRF to Loan Fund, other net transactions of the Loan Fund and net transactions of the Trust Fund.
What are the specific authorities under which expenditures have been charged to the Loan Fund from 1974-75?
Under what authorities can Trust Fund moneys be used in the Loan Fund?
Can moneys currently in the Loan Fund and which were raised for other purposes be drawn on to meet Defence expenditures?
What is the Loan Council program for 1975-76?
Are there any resolutions of the Loan Council relating to Defence loans?
. What credits are, or would be, available in the Loan .
Fund which can be used for Defence purposes?
Does the ‘Gentlemens Agreement’ require consultation with the States concerning borrowing for Defence purposes?
b ) What are the precedents?
Does that consultative process still have application?
In what years did the CRF have a surplus and what amount?
To what extent do the August loan proceeds relate to long term borrowings and short term moneys? How much long and short term moneys were obtained from banks and other institutions?
1 . Does the Government have some overall target for the rate of growth in the volume of money (M3) during 1975-76?
If the answer to question 1 1 is yes, what is the level of the rate of growth referred to in that question?
In reference to the answer to question 7 (f) given previously, can the Government give some quantitative indication on what might be regarded as excessive reliance on the use of cash balances in financing the deficit?
What would happen if the domestic market cannot finance the $2,800 million deficit?
What Acts authorize re-issue of Treasury Bills mentioned in Clause 3 of the Loan Bill?
What is the amount borrowed under this section 3 since 1969-70?
Have any previous Loan Bills been unlimited in amount (save to the extent of appropriations for Defence expenditure)?
What are the possible amounts which could be considered by the Treasurer at the time of borrowing:
moneys lawfully available for expenditure from the CRF in financial year ending 30 June 1 976;
b ) expenditure authorized to be made from CRF in that year
consequent deficit between (b)-(a)?
Question 1. What is the reason for the urgency of the Bill? (Why should it be passed before the Appropriation Acts for 1975-76? Is it needed urgently because the Government is running out of cash balances and needs to borrow to finance expenditures?)
Answer. A Loan Act of the type proposed cannot be retrospective in its effect; it can only apply to Defence spending from the date on which the Act receives Royal Assent. The Bill aims to meet a prospective deficit in the CRF by transferring Defence expenditures from that Fund to the Loan Fund. On the basis of the estimates shown in Table 3 on page 10 of Budget Document No. 4, the currently estimated CRF deficit, in the absence of the proposed Act, is $1,1 52m. This compares with total proposed appropriations for 1975-76 under the heading Department of Defence of $1,71 lm. A large proportion of Defence expenditure will, therefore, need to be charged to Loan Fund. Given that the effect of the Act cannot be retrospective it needs to be enacted at an early date to permit charging of Defence expenditure to Loan Fund to commence.
Early introduction of a Loan Act is not unusual where a need to charge a substantial proportion of Defence expenditure to Loan Fund is anticipated. For example, the Loan Act 1967 was introduced on 6 September 1 967.
The Bill should be passed before the Appropriation Bills 1975-76 for two reasons:
The figures set put above imply that a proportion of Defence expenditure authorized in Supply Act (No. 1) 1975-76 will need to be charged to Loan Fund; and
The technical reasons for the Loan Bill 1975 to be enacted as quickly as possible are the only reasons for its early introduction. Early enactment of the Bill is not required to avoid a shortage of cash balances. There are standing authorities that can be used for borrowings in the financing of temporary shortages of cash within the financial year.
Question 2. How much Defence expenditure is authorized in Supply Act (No. 1) 1975-76?
Answer. Under the heading ‘Department of Defence’ Supply Act (No. 1) 1975-76 appropriates a total of $660,691,000.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750910_senate_29_s65/>.