29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, in the m atter of the approval by the Senate of Bills for Supply to the Australian Government, certain decisions and declared intentions of Senators of the parties of the Opposition in Parliament are placing in jeopardy the welfare and basic human rights of those citizens who are aged or disabled and thereby dependent upon pensions payable by the Australian Government.
Your Petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon all Honourable Senators to forthwith determine as a matter of urgency that approval of the Bills for Supply be no longer delayed in order that the Government shall continue to adequately provide for the welfare rights of Australian citizens.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Wheeldon.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government-
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
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Mulvihill.
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 we are fearful that any further delay by the Senate of the Loan Bill and Appropriation Bills will bring Australia into a constitutional, economic and social crisis, leaving indelible scars on our democratic institutions.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should proceed forthwith to allow passage of these Bills so that the government, legitimately formed by a majority of the members of the peoples’ House (the House of Representatives) may proceed with its administration without further disruption.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Greenwood, Senator Poyser and Senator McAuliffe.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government and refers to the growing apprehension as to what the Government proposes with regard to the trading banks of this country. I ask: Does the Government propose to direct banks to advance money to the Government? Does the Government propose to direct the banks to advance money to public servants, government contractors and others? If so, what security is the Government proposing to offer? Will the Leader of the Government accept that there are hundreds of thousands of depositors in this country who are entitled to have answers to these question and to have them promptly? Will the Minister give an answer?
– If there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who want an answer to that question, let me assure Senator Greenwood that there are millions of Australians waiting for an answer from the Opposition as to whether the growing apprehensions in the Australian community are to continue because of the attitude taken by the Opposition. So far as the arrangements that may be entered into with the trading banks are concerned, I indicated yesterday the basic scheme which the Government is considering. I understand that both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer also gave some indications yesterday as to what that scheme will be. I have nothing further to add to the comment that I made yesterday, except to say that I am quite sure the Government will not be forcing anybody to do anything. The Government has stated on numerous occasions that it would never act outside the law or the Constitution, and I am quite sure that in this particular case the same rules will be abided by.
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State. On Tuesday, when the Minister introduced the States Grants Bill, the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill and the Local Government Grants Bill, he expressed the Government’s keenness to receive early passage of these 3 pieces of legislation. Am I correct in assuming that by way of special grant $36. 3m was provided for Queensland, $2. 5m was provided for South Australia, and over $79m was provided for local authorities throughout Australia? Will the Minister say why he was keener than usual to secure the early passage of this legislation?
-Three Bills were presented by me to the Senate on Tuesday. A request was made to the Oppositionand acceded to- that the Bills be treated with expedition. Those Bills provided grants to the States and local government. The States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill made available some $36. 3m for Queensland, as Senator McAuliffe said, and $2. 5m for South Australia. Under the Local Government Grants Bill, $79.9m- a record amount and 42 per cent more than the amount made available by the Government last year- was provided for local government purposes. The other Bill was the States Grants Bill. As I mentioned in the second reading speech on that Bill, it brought about changes in the financial assistance grants arrangements. Provision was made in that Bill for grants of $220m to be paid this year over and above those that would have been payable otherwise under the existing legislation.
The main reason for the keenness of the Government to have the legislation passed expeditiously, of course, is that most Australians today are concerned with the serious and difficult problems confronting Australia and the Government in particular as a result of the attitude of the Opposition in the Senate in constantly deferring consideration of the Appropriation Bills. Of course, this is causing great hardship and is likely to continue to do so in the future. It has been the desire of the Government to ameliorate any hardship that is likely to be caused by making available this sort of money to the States and to local government organisations so that they will be cushioned financially at this particular time. I appreciate that the Opposition co-operated with the Government in providing an early passage for those 3 pieces of legislation. I would hope only that it would do so in regard to the Appropriation Bills.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can he say whether the Prime Minister is aware of contradictions in statements by principals in the overseas loans affair made by way of statutory declaration and evidence before the Bar of the Senate? Has the Minister also noted the assertion and denial about secret meetings in the Adelaide bush in June and August attended by a highly placed Government official? As the Prime Minister has already sacked two senior Ministers over the loans affair, is he concerned now to establish where the truth lies? Which course does he intend to follow to find the truth?
– There have been so many statements made on this matter, each contradicting the other, that it would be impossible for anyone to be able to recall them all. But one of the most recent statements that I can recall is that by Mr Karidis who came before the Senate as a witness contradicting, and in fact I think denying, certain statements which appeared in the statutory declaration of Mr Khemlani which was tabled in the Senate the day before yesterday.
– So it is possibly all false.
-Yes, and I think it would be impossible for anyone to make any sort of a judgment as to the truth or otherwise of what is contained in Mr Khemlani ‘s statement. I am quite sure -
– This is a judgment, is it?
– No, it is not a judgment. I am just saying that I do not know whether it is possible to say that. Of course, the Opposition has had the right to bring Mr Khemlani before the Senate. But we are really only going over the same grounds which have been the subject of questions, answers and debates for so long. What the Government has done all along is to provide to the Senate and to the House of Representatives the maximum amount of information possible in respect of this whole matter. I am quite sure that if the Opposition wishes to proceed with the motion that it has on the notice paper for the formation of a committee, Senator DrakeBrockman will be able to draw his own conclusions from the evidence that is placed before that committee.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. Because of the Opposition’s attitude of continuing to defer consideration of the Appropriation Bills in this Senate, has it been necessary for the Government to restrict travelling entitlements and provisions for members of Parliament, including senators? Have there been complaints from members of the Opposition in another place that Ministers and office holders have not been affected in any way? I further ask: Did the Prime Minister recently say tha t the matter was under further consideration? -If so, has the matter been resolved?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDQuestions have been asked in another place as to the effect of restrictions on travel, etc., on Ministers and office holders. On 23 October the Prime Minister, in reply to a question directed to him in the House of Representatives concerning restricted services for members of Parliament said that the position of office holders on both sides of the House was under consideration. This is an area of joint consideration. My colleague the Minister for Administrative Services and Leader of the House, Mr Daly, and I, as Special Minister of State, have conferred and have now determined that in view of the Opposition ‘s decision to defer consideration of the Appropriation Bills funds cannot now be provided, except as follows: Travel will be provided for senators and members to and from Canberra once a week. Travel entitlements of former officer holders still in the Parliament will be equal to travel entitlements of private members. No travel entitlements will be available for wives of senators and members, including wives of Ministers and office holders. Travel entitlements for Ministers and office holders will be available only when necessary for the discharge of their responsibilities. Not more than 50 per cent of non-Canberra based staff of Ministers and office holders will be entitled to travel to Canberra each week.
In order to conserve funds further the following additional arrangements are to apply forthwith: With respect to staff, no new appointments may be made to the personal staffs of Ministers and office holders without the prior approval of the Special Minister of State. Funds are not available for the provision of short term supplemental staff and assistance, for example, from secretarial agencies. Funds are not available for new arrangements for the purchase or hire of office equipment for Ministers, office holders or former office holders. The provision of newspapers and periodicals at government expense has been suspended in respect of senators and members, including Ministers and office holders, except in Party rooms at Parliament House. These emergency measures will be reviewed at frequent intervals by my colleague, the Minister for Administrative Services, and myself, in the light of changing circumstances.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Police and Customs. I ask the Minister whether he recalls that on 12 June 1975, the then Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Senator James McClelland, said:
In any event we have the spectacle of Sir Frederick Wheeler conducting his secret investigations of Mr Khemlani.
The former Minister said that Sir Frederick Wheeler was unable to come up with anything damaging to Mr Khemlani. He further said:
I may add, by the way, that the Government has made its own inquiries about Mr Khemlani.
He went on to say:
Mr Khemlani is a reputable member of the firm of Dalamal and Sons, an old Pakistani firm centred in London.
I refer to the Minister’s statement at question time yesterday in answer to Senator Mulvihill:
I am querying whether Mr Khemlani ‘s statutory declaration is truthful.
Is this an indication that the Minister has doubts about the veracity of his own Government in June 1975? In answer to the question yesterday the Minister said:
From reading the statutory declaration, I think the thing which my Department must be interested in is the contradiction between what is stated in the statutory declaration and the statements made by My Karidis who was on oath when he appeared before the Senate.
Does the Minister intend instructing his Department to make further inquiries with respect to Mr Karidis?
– One becomes corrupted by one’s environment. During the investigation into Mr Khemlani in June it appeared that he had all the trustworthiness to approach those he knew on the possibility of a loan. We found that he developed some bad traits when he associated with the Liberal Party and that Party protected him. We have reached the stage where he has had secret rendezvous with high Government officials up a tree somewhere 20 miles out of Adelaide. The statement made today by Mr Karidis was that on that occasion he drove Mr Khemlani around his various building sites. Mr Karidis said that the only people to whom Mr Khemlani spoke were workers employed by Mr Karidis. Before that he did not know that he had a high Government official working on his staff. If Mr Khemlani is correct, a high Government official was employed by Mr Karidis. There was an endeavour to get Mr Khemlani to deny that Mr Lynch was paying his fare. He tried to borrow $300 from Mr Karidis in Adelaide to come and see Mr Lynch. This is the man the Opposition is trying to champion today. I stated yesterday that we were checking the inconsistencies in the 2 sworn declarations to see whether the Statutory Declarations Act has been breached. The position today, in view of the reply of Mr Karidis, is that we can pinpoint which statutory declaration was incorrect. Mr Karidis added today that the falsities in the statutory declaration brought him to the conclusion that there could be very little truth in it.
– I ask whether the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence has been drawn to a report in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 30 October 1975, alleging that Lavarack Barracks at Townsville is to close as a result of many senior officers resigning. I ask further whether this allegation is correct. If it is not, what is the future of the defence force in the area?
– I have seen the statement and can state that there is no foundation for the allegation. It should be realised that the defence investment at Lavarack Barracks is more than $60m at current day values. In addition, a $3m expansion program is planned for the area. It may also be of interest to make mention of the extent of defence activity and involvement in the Townsville area. The Royal Australian Air Force base at Garbutt and the various Army installations represent a total investment of about $ 1 40m. The pay packets of the Services personnel and civilian work force exceeds $620,000
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer him to a question I asked previously with regard to the payment of unemployment benefit to farmers. As many of these people are receiving no income and could be deemed to be unemployed in this respect, can the Minister indicate what progress has been made in his discussions with the other Ministers involved, to which he referred at that time? Have any conclusions yet been reached?
-The matter to which Senator Bessell refers was raised by him some weeks ago in the Senate. It has been raised by a number of other people. It seems to concern particularly farmers engaged in the beef industry although a number of other people in local areas have been involved. I think Senator Bessell originally referred to King Island. The problem is a very complex one because the sort of principle which would apply to the payment of unemployment benefit to farmers who still may well have quite substantial assets although they are not in a liquid form could well apply to people engaged in all sorts of businesses which may not be making a profit. A number of discussions on this matter have been held between officers of my Department and the Department of Agriculture. Subsequently, as I think Senator Bessell would know, the Industries Assistance Commission has presented a report relating to assistance which could be given to non-viable beef producers. I have a copy of the relevant extracts from the report with me but rather than take the time of the Senate in reading them, if Senator Bessell were prepared to see me privately at some time that we could mutually arrange- I know that he has an interest in this matter- I would like to talk to him further about it.
Although the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on beef producers is of assistance to beef producers, there are other farmers who are not beef producers but who for various reasons, sometimes for local reasons, are in a similarly difficult position to that of the beef producers. I would like to have a conversation with Senator Bessell, knowing his interest in the matter, and to show him the documents I have. I would be very happy to listen to any suggestions that Senator Bessell might make because I am finding it an extraordinarily difficult problem to unravel and I think this is recognised by farmers’ organisations who appreciate that there could be a lot of anomalies in the payment of unemployment benefit to people who do own a farm.
-Mr President, I should have indicated earlier that Senator James McClelland, the Minister for Labor and Immigration, will not be able to attend the Senate today. Questions which would have been directed to him should be directed to me.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I understand that late last year an international priority paid mail service was introduced for urgent mail to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Has the Australian Postal Commission any plans to extend this service to other countries?
– Since that action was taken, several countries have expressed interest in the service which currently provides for delivery of mail within 48 hours to many places in the United States of America and selected cities in the United Kingdom, and a reciprocal service to Australia is available in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Feasibility tests are being conducted in relation to extending the service to Hong Kong and Singapore and there is every indication that this will be possible.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. I refer you to yesterday’s Senate Hansard at page 1802 where under the heading ‘Answers to Questions’ there appears the statement: ‘The following answers to questions were circulated.’ I also refer you to page 1 804 where there is an answer to question No. 850 standing in my name and to page 1803 where question No. 846 appears in Senator Durack ‘s name. No answer to question No. 850 was circulated to me on or before yesterday’s date and 1 am led to understand by Senator Durack that no answer to his question was circulated to him until this morning. On reaching the Senate this morning I found an answer to question No. 850 on my desk. Since the right of senators, should they wish, to have a question on notice read in the Senate demands that the answers be circulated before they appear in Hansard, would you undertake to examine the situation and report to the Senate on the practice being followed and how it might be tightened?
– I can assure Senator Baume that I will examine the situation relating to replies to questions on notice. While on my feet I also draw attention to the fact that some honourable senators feel aggrieved that they are unable to ask questions during the hour set aside for question time. I make a request to Ministers to defer their long replies, which amount to Ministerial statements, to the time set aside for the making of such statements, so that the opportunity may be given to every honourable senator who seeks the call to ask at least one question during question time. 1 certainly will take up the matter which Senator Baume has raised to see that we get replies to questions on notice back into proper order.
– I ask the Minister representing i:he Treasurer whether he is aware that the Deputy Premier of South Australia, Mr Des Corcoran, told the South Australian House of Assembly on Tuesday last that the State was facing an emergency of an order not experienced for almost 20 years because of the expected second largest River Murray flood on record. As local government bodies, fruit growers and dairy farmers adjacent to the Murray in South Australia will face a very dangerous and serious financial situation because of this projected flood, can the Minister say whether the Australian Government will be prevented from acceding to any requests from the South Australian Government for supplementary financial and physical assistance, in addition to that which the State Government has already announced, to carry out flood prevention measures if honourable senators opposite continue with their refusal to allow the Appropriation Bills to proceed to a vote?
– Yes, almost certainly such assistance will be affected by the refusal of the Opposition to pass the Appropriation Bills, lt is customary under the joint arrangements between the Federal Government and State governments to finance jointly disaster relief works. I am not sure of the actual mechanics and of the proportions which now apply, but most certainly the relief which is needed in South Australia will be seriously affected by the present impasse in the Senate.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that in the Kwitze’s Museum at 78 Wellington Road, South Portland, approximately 13 Aboriginal skulls are being displayed and that the proprietor is charging people so much to go in and view the skulls? He has a notice in front of them stating where they come from. I ask the Minister whether he will make investigations into this matter to see what action can be taken to ensure that these skulls of Aboriginal people are returned to their natural burial grounds and are not displayed for the amusement of people.
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I think that he, like myself, would be very much concerned if there is some display. Perhaps it has some educational value rather than for amusement. Nevertheless, as there is deep religious significance about the bones of Aboriginal people I think that if the skulls can be identified as Aboriginal and if their place of origin is known, they should be returned to that place. I shall get the
Minister to make every investigation into the matter.
-Can the Postmaster-General advise whether there have been any further developments in the manufacture of public telephone units which are not so susceptible to vandalism? If so, how many such units have been installed in South Australia?
-Presently 5000 subscriber trunk dialling coin telephones are being purchased in Japan. They are being received progressively and are being distributed in large numbers already. Some 67 have been established in South Australia. The unit which is available offers a high degree of security against theft and vandalism. Recently, specifications for the unit were revised to incorporate even greater security requirements. A modification which is to be made to the unit is presently being considered. The unit is regarded as being equal to any other unit of its type in the world. It is simple to operate.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Despite any arrangements which the Government may be negotiating with the trading banks at the present time, does the Minister agree that there will be no constitutional authority to spend such funds until Appropriation Bills are passed by both Houses of the Australian Parliament and have received the assent of the GovernorGeneral? Are the banks to be expected to advance money in such circumstances without any parliamentary appropriations or assurances of parliamentary appropriations to meet repayments?
– The Government has sought the proper legal advice in its consideration of the Government’s capacity to continue paying for its goods and services. The SolicitorGeneral and the Attorney-General have been consulted, and the best legal advice available to the Government has been seriously considered. I can only repeat what I said yesterday, that any action taken by the Government will be with that advice in mind, and whatever appropriate parliamentary authority is needed will be sought.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs is concerned with the problems in Lebanon. My question arises out of” a very deep concern over the past weekend of a resident of Devonport about the welfare of members of his family in Beirut. 1 guess that that sort of concern is felt by many people throughout the land. I ask the Minister: In view of the apparent success of the latest moves to bring about a cessation of fighting in Beirut, can he provide any additional information concerning the welfare of Australian citizens in Lebanon? Is he able to give any sort of assurance which would allay the fears and apprehensions of former Lebanese citizens, now Australian citizens, who have families in that country?
-The latest situation is that there has been a respite in the fighting in Beirut since last Friday. There is still no sign of any permanent improvement in the situation. The Australian Embassy is continuing to advise Australians that if their presence in Lebanon is not essential they should consider leaving now while civil air services are available. The Embassy will do what it can to assist our citizens in whatever circumstances may develop, but those circumstances may well be such as to make ineffective some of the plans that we have made. So I repeat what I said on 30 October in reply to a question asked by Senator Marriott, that Australians in Lebanon should make their own plans in good time while circumstances allow.
It remains a matter of concern for the world that the situation in Lebanon should have been seized from the hands of the elected representatives, and that the Lebanese experiment in multicommunal democracy should have been brought by violence to the brink of failure. On 30 October the Secretary-General of the United Nations made a statement calling on the leaders of all parties to the conflict in Lebanon to put an end to the bloodshed and to turn to the ways of peace and conciliation in settling their problems. Dr Waldheim said that such a move by the Lebanese leaders would find warm support in the United Nations and in the world at large. I know that such a move would find warm support in Australia, especially among our fellow citizens- there are many of them- who have family or other connections in Lebanon. They will be feeling this tragedy more than most and hoping more than most for the return of peace and prosperity to Lebanon.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. No doubt the Minister will realise the importance of air transport to and from Tasmania and appreciate that any increase in air fares is detrimental both to the economy of the State from the tourist point of view and to those Tasmanians who need to travel from the State. I ask: Will the Minister confirm that, if the Government proceeds with its cost recovery program and loads all that cost on to the domestic airlines, air fares will need to rise some 15 per cent to 20 per cent? Will the Minister agree that already, following the recent rises in air fares, the rate of increase in Trans-Australia Airlines passengers is far below what is needed for a viable operation and that any further increase in air fares will lead to retrenchments by that company? Finally, will the Minister also agree that the inflexible pursuit of the policy of cost recovery will price flying beyond the reach of the average citizen and that only the very rich will be able to afford to travel by air- something, I would have thought, which was completely contrary to Labor policy?
-As Senator Townley well knows, this subject was canvassed at the meeting of the relevant Estimates Committee and the officers present explained what was the Government’s objective in relation to the target for the recovery of costs. It was explained to Senator Townley, as he well knows too, I think, that Australia is in no different position from every other country in that international operators whose countries are members of the international body are already facing a problem similar to that faced in Australia.
The task of recovering a greater amount of the funds that are required for aviation services was started in the time of the last Government. The only one who can say whether the target which was announced by the Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, regarding recovery is to be maintained is the Minister himself, and I will ask him about that matter. On the other aspect, it is true that traffic can be affected by any increase in fares and that the recovery of the cost of administering the system would add to the costs. But I put it to the honourable senator that already what the Opposition Parties are doing at present is seriously imperilling not only the aviation industry but also, of course, the whole of our economy. So, I cannot see any source of satisfaction to the honourable senator in talking about the burdens imposed upon airline organisations. In respect of the other questions, I will ask Mr Jones whether he can supply me with direct answers so that I can give them to the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to the ludicrous charge made by Indonesian sources that Australians are supplying arms to the Fretilin forces in Portuguese Timor? Is there any truth in these exaggerated claims that contrast sharply with the obvious fact that Indonesian regulars, as well as arms, warships and helicopters, have been supplied by the Indonesians to the so-called UDT and Apodeti forces? Is there any reason to doubt the Minister’s reply made last month that there was no truth in the allegations? In view of the repetition of the allegations, would the Government give consideration to placing these serious charges before the United Nations with a view to investigating them as well as establishing the basic fact that it is Indonesia itself which is breaching the peace in Portuguese East Timor?
– I have seen the reports in several newspapers this morning. They are not the first such reports; I expect that they will not be the last. Like earlier versions, they are neither firm nor clear as to their source. Like much of the propaganda we have seen on this issue, the respect accorded to truth seems minimal. We have no information which would confirm the reports. I therefore must approach them with the utmost scepticism. The Government’s position is that we would not permit the export of arms to Portuguese Timor. We have taken steps to ensure that this will not occur. As I told the Senate last month, we would regard it as absolutely deplorable if there were any substance in the reports. We do not favour- I do not apologise for repeating this- the involvement of Australians in a private capacity in any military activity abroad. The newspaper reports this morning claimed that this matter had been raised already with our embassy in Jakarta. It is true that the Indonesian authorities have referred to reports of military assistance to Fretilin forces. No evidence has been furnished in support of any such claims. We are following this matter up with the authorities in Jakarta.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the statement put down yesterday in the Senate as a result of the opinion given by the Attorney-General on the issuing of radio licences under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that there are many legal opinions which place great question upon the legality or otherwise of the issuing of licences under this Act. Also as a result of his own statements in which questions are raised with regard to the previous methods by which the Minister has issued some of these licences, will the Minister now table the opinion given by the Attorney-General?
– Originally Senator Young asked questions of Senator Douglas McClelland and me as far back as May when the committee on ethnic stations was being set up. Later, in September, he raised the question of legality -
– I asked you a long time ago as well.
– I had asked before that, too.
– There is quite collective thinking on this side.
– I am identifying Senator Young’s question with what he did, because I understand that he is -
– He is the shadow Minister, is he not?
– That is right. I am answering Senator Young as the shadow Minister, which I understand he is. The critical question was asked on 4 September. It became apparent that a number of people were asking questions, as the honourable senator did, and seeking to test the legality of the issuing of such licences. As a result I took it upon myself to undertake with the other Minister to get an opinion or advice from the Attorny-General’s Department. As the honourable senator knows, that took a bit longer than I had expected. But we acted upon the opinion, and I issued a statement about it yesterday. I suppose it is fair to say that as a result of that advice new licences when they are issued will have attached to them the definitions to which I referred in the statement. So in the statement which I issued the honourable senator has substantially the advice which was received from the Attorney-General’s Department. I do not think that I am in any position to give to the honourable senator the document which contains the opinion. I do not know of any other Minister who has ever done anything like that.
If Senator Young is making to me the representation that some of the licences have not been legally issued and should be withdrawn, or if he is proposing to me that the other Minister might consider a new form for issuing licences or new restrictions or definitions being attached to licences, or even something in relation to the public program involved, I would be only too happy to consult with Dr Cass about such matters.
I conclude by saying that I do not think that Senator Young, as I understand him, is proposing any restrictions in respect of the program of the Government. If he is, he ought to say so and ask me to consider that matter. That I think is the position in which we find ourselves. I will consider whether the written opinion might be handed to Senator Young. I think that he has received substantially the advice which we were given. He has seen, too, the report that the Ministers and the Government are prepared to consider whatever points he has raised. If he has other points which he wants to put to me, I will be only too glad to consider them on my own or with the other Minister.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the presence outside Parliament House yesterday of Mr A. T. Franz of Bega who claims that for the past 15 years he has been receiving an invalid pension amounting to some $30,000 to which he says he is not entitled? Will the Minister give to the Senate the facts of this matter?
– Apparently Mr Franz was waiting for me outside the front of Parliament House yesterday but I unintentionally evaded him by coming into the building by a side entrance. I have seen his photograph in this morning’s Canberra Times. The photograph shows him sitting outside Parliament House saying: ‘I am receiving money under false pretences’. Mr Franz says that he has received some $30,000 by way of invalid pension during the past 15 years, and that it has been paid out falsely, because he was declared to be an invalid in 1960 but was not given substantial reasons for the decision. I am not entirely sure that I understand what his complaint is.
The fact of the matter is that Mr Franz is not in receipt of an invalid pension or any other pension which is administered by the Department of Social Security. Apparently Mr Franz receives fortnightly income from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, which I do not administer. I do not know what his complaint is in that regard. I would only say that it is rather unusual to find people complaining about receiving their superannuation. Generally I have found that their complaint was that they were not receiving their superannuation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it not a fact that at the trial of an Australian citizen, Marko Nazor, in Yugoslavia recently a representative of the Australian Government was in attendance? Is it normal procedure for such an official of the
Australian Government to write a report of any such proceedings that he attends? Was such a report written in this case? Will the Minister table the report, if one was written, in order that the people of Australia will know why an Australian citizen who returned to Yugoslavia for a holiday has been imprisoned for a period of 3 years for offences allegedly committed in Australia? When will the Labor Government begin to protect Australian citizens who travel in socialist countries?
– I ignore the last gratuitous comment that Senator Chaney added to the question. There is no foundation for it and no truth in it at all. No, it is not normal procedure for anybody to attend a trial, particularly in Yugoslavia when it is a secret trial. The previous Government never did anything about this matter. It never obtained permission, as we did, to have somebody attend such trials. That was a breakthrough, after years of lethargy and apathy by the previous Government. It was agreed that the trial should be secret. Mr Nazor agreed that it should be secret.
-He did not have much choice, did he?
– He had every choice in the world. He did not have to say that he agreed that the trial should be secret. He could have complained about that. Senator Greenwood ought to know that.
– Freely and voluntarily? Are you satisfied about that?
– If a man is in court and is asked whether he wants a secret trial and he says ‘yes’, could he not say ‘no’?
– In a communist country! If you expect us to believe that you are gullible.
-Mr Nazor agreed to a secret trial. That is the fact of the matter. Whatever interpretation Senator Rae, Senator Greenwood and Senator Chaney want to put on it is their business, but that is the fact. It is a fact also that Mr Nazor pleaded guilty to the charges. Apparently, Senator Greenwood likes to write something into this. I am stating the facts. Of course our officer wrote a report on the matter. What does the honourable senator think the officer would do? Does he think that the officer would go to the court proceedings and not report back to the Departmen t? What sort of a childish question is that? The next childish question Senator Chaney asks is whether I am going to table the report. Of course I am not going to table it.
– Because you would never do it when you were going on with your nefarious business. How could a department or a ministry ever be run if everything that came into the department was going to be tabled, particularly with the cock-eyed approach the Opposition takes to those sorts of things?
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt: What effect will the continuing deferral of the Senate’s approval of the Appropriation Bills have on the restoration of the Tasman Bridge and associated works? If delay is occasioned by the Opposition’s action is it considered that this will cause added and unnecessary hardship to eastern shore residents of Hobart and inconvenience and loss to all residents of Southern Tasmania?
-As I understand the position, sufficient money would be available through December for the preparatory work which is being done to reconstruct the Tasman Bridge but after that, unless the Appropriation Bills are passed, it is my understanding that work will have to cease on the Tasman Bridge.
– Are you not asking the trading banks for the money for that?
– I am not aware of the precise details which are involved in the Appropriation Bills concerning the bridge but it is my understanding that if further funds are not forthcoming very severe hardship will be caused to the contractors who are currently engaged in the reconstruction work.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence: Has there been any build up in our armed forces this year? If so, for what reason has that taken place? Secondly, what plans has the Government for any reorganisation of the armed forces during the period in which the Government plans to govern unlawfully and without the approval of the Parliament?
-As Senator Rae well knows, the position in relation to defence targets has been explained many times, as has what I consider to be one of the greatest achievements of the Australian Labor Government- the introduction of a new relationship between the pay scale and the improved defence forces retirement benefits; also the reorganisation and integration of the Defence Department, which Senator Rae’s Party opposed in this place but which fortunately was approved with the assistance of other honourable senators. The Minister for Defence has explained already the sort of problems which will arise as a result of the actions of the Opposition. I think that Senator Rae ought to be more concerned about his own actions in voting for the Opposition to stop funds that are necessary -
– Answer the question.
– That is the real position. Senator Rae should be more conscious of the immediate effects of his action in preventing the defence forces of Australia from operating satisfactorily in situations which might be called ‘critical ‘ at the present time. That responsibility is at the Opposition’s doorstep and not ours. I think that in respect of the general tenor of the targets of the defence forces I should get the figures, which are on record, from the Minister for Defence, Mr Morrison. I shall then give them to the honourable senator.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. May I ask whether the Minister will answer the question instead of lecturing me? Will he answer the question: What plans has the Government for any reorganisation of the armed forces during the period to which I referred?
-The plans for the reorganisation are already well known to the honourable senator because they were discussed in this Parliament not more than a month or 6 weeks ago.
– What are they?
– I do not need to repeat them. Senator Rae can read Hansard. He voted against the plans of the Labor Government to make perfect an integration scheme which was first raised by General Morshead back in the 1950s during the currency of the LiberalCountry Party Government. This Government perfected that scheme. At the present time the organisation of the defence forces is more efficiently based than at any time in the post-war years. If the honourable senator wants figures relating to targets, recruiting, enlistment, retention and the bonus payment of $1,000 for servicemen who want to have a second term- a provision which was introduced by this Government, not by his Government- I will get them from the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Has his attention been drawn to the letter published this morning in the Australian Financial Review from Mr
Bevan M. Roberts, General Manager, Kawasaki Motor Cycles (N.S.W.), Sydney, complaining about the time and money consuming processes of the Prices Justification Tribunal in investigating a possible case of over-charging? As Mr Roberts has included the text of a letter he received from the Tribunal asking for information on a charge of $4 for fitting a tube to a motor cycle, does the Minister agree with Mr Roberts’ apparent view that the Tribunal should not be concerning itself with such a comparatively minor matter?
– Hear, hear!
-My Department has drawn to my attention the letter referred to by Senator Drury. Despite Senator Webster’s interjection of ‘Hear, hear’, I must say that I am grateful to Mr Roberts for drawing the attention of the community to the conscientious efforts of the Tribunal to protect the interests of Australian consumers. Such matters may be of a minor character to certain people, but in the aggregate they represent the whole interests of Australian consumers, and particularly the Australian workers. I will not comment, of course, on the details of the particular matter which is the subject of the Tribunal’s inquiry. It is for the Tribunal to decide whether Mr Roberts’ explanation, whatever it may have been- and he does not say- is satisfactory. I suggest that the Tribunal is doing a great service to the community in investigating complaints of this kind. In its annual report for the last financial year it was pointed out that the Tribunal had received about 600 complaints from consumers and in some sixty of those cases price reductions followed investigations. In some cases consumers actually received refunds from those about whom complaints were lodged. I certainly do not think consumers would regard this as in any way at all a waste of time and effort on the part of the Tribunal.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. I refer to the discussions with the trading banks that are taking place today in Canberra at the request of the Government. I ask: Does the Reserve Bank approve of the steps the Government is taking in this matter?
-I can say only that the Government has consulted the Chairman of the Reserve Bank.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Will the Minister advise the Senate of the total cost so far of repatriation benefits paid to personnel who served in the Vietnam war?
-Mr President -
– He cannot find the answer.
-As a matter of fact, I can. I did not think that I was going to be able to but it suddenly came back into my mind. Since 1966 some $14m has been provided by way of benefits to Vietnam veterans and their dependants. Death benefits amounting to $1.6m, incapacity benefits amounting to $8m and medical treatment costs amounting to $4.2m have been paid. In the last financial year, 1974-75, $300,000 was paid by way of death benefits, $2. 2m by way of incapacity benefits and another $1.2m for treatment benefits. This is a commitment which will continue for years as a result of the actions of the previous Government in conscripting soldiers to go to Vietnam. A very large burden of cost, apart from the suffering which the Opposition has already inflicted on the Australian people, will have to be met by way of payments by the Australian taxpayers for many years to come.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. Is it a fact that in the 3 months ended 30 September this year Government outlays have been $4,948m as compared with $3,438m in the previous year, that is to say, an increase of approximately $ 1,500m in 3 months? Has he made any estimate of the savings that will accrue from the curtailment of travel of members of Parliament and staff which has been in effect in recent days and is continuing? Will he give that estimate to the Parliament? Is this not a petty, paltry, cheeseparing and nibbling operation originating from spite against opposition to the Appropriation Bills?
-The figures cited by Senator Wright in the first part of the preamble to his question relating to expenditure for the first 3 months of this year have not been brought to my attention other than in the Appropriation Bills which I certainly have seen and which I wish members of the Opposition would study more carefully. I undertake to obtain the figures in relation to the estimated saving as a result of the announced curtailment of travel. I will certainly have those figures referred to the Parliament. As a matter of fact, I have already asked my officers to do this. However, I assure the honourable senator that under the existing votes for travel by Ministers, office holders and others, funds are getting very tight indeed. This action has not been taken out of a petty, paltry, cheeseparing, nibbling attitude as mentioned by Senator Wright. He will realise that it is directed at Ministers as well as office holders.
– My question is to the Minister for Social Security. He will be aware that the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has threatened legal action against the Government unless an arbitrator is appointed to settle the 4 matters still outstanding following consideration of the report of the Joint Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits which dealt with pricing arrangements. He will also be aware that the original agreement of 1972 between the Government and the Pharmacy Guild that an arbitrator be appointed without delay was confirmed in February 1973. Will a decision be made before the expiry tomorrow of the 21 days notice given by the Pharmacy Guild that unless an arbitrator is appointed legal action will be taken?
-Senator Sheil spoke to me about this matter yesterday. It is a matter with which I am connected only in a representative capacity. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Health. I have asked the Minister about Senator Shell’s question. The Minister’s answer is that he is aware that the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has threatened legal action against the Government unless an arbitrator is appointed to settle the matters in dispute. The matter is at present being given close considertion. The Minister for Health has informed me that at this stage he is unable to say what the decision will be or when it will be made. I can only assume that, if the Pharmacy Guild does intend to abide by its ultimatum and if a decision has not been made by the Minister for Health by tomorrow, a writ will be issued and the matter will be settled elsewhere. I am afraid that this is a problem upon which I can shed no light, other than to provide the answer which has been given to me by the Minister for Health.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to passport control. By way of preface I refer to the famous film and novel The Day of the Jackal in which British criminals use a certain method to circumvent passport controls. I relate that to the context of Australian passport controls. Did a recent court case in Sydney indicate that some United States criminals are using the same method to circumvent our passport laws?
– The question of entry into Australia is one which concerns my colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration. In the particular case to which Senator Mulvihill referred, the charge concerned the utterance of a false statement as to the marital status of the applicant and not, as reported in the Press, a forged passport application. With regard to the general question raised by Senator Mulvihill, I should point out that maximum attention is given to maintaining the integrity of the Australian passport against forging, unauthorised deletions, additions or other alterations.
– I present the report of the Australian Meat Board for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1975.
For the information of honurable senators I present the following documents:
The report of the Commission on Advanced Education for 1976-1978.
The recommendations of the Commission on Advanced Education for 1976.
The report of the Committee on Technical Teacher Education for 1976-1978, and
Two ministerial statements relating to these reports.
The report of the Commission on Advanced Education is tabled in substitution for the draft version of this report tabled in the Senate on 1 1 June 1975. Due to the limited number available reference copies of the report of the Committee on Technical Teacher Education have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Schools Commission Act 1973, I present the report of the Schools Commission for 1976-1978. This report is tabled as substitution for the preliminary edition of this report tabled in the Parliament on 3 June, 1975. A small number of amendments of an editorial nature have been made in the report now being tabled.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949-73 I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the year 1974-75.
– I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to Thailand, Japan and the Philippines. I move:
In doing so, I would like to point out that this delegation was led very capably by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Gordon Scholes. I think it is worth while drawing attention to the fact that the delegation was primarily a fact finding mission. It considered that its duty was to observe political, economic and social structures in the countries it visited, to study trends in these areas of community activity, and to show Australian interest and goodwill by discussion and exchanges of views with the people and authorities directly involved. I think that at the time the delegation went to those countries it was a very unusual time following certain incidents in that area. The delegation was very interesting indeed. Then the report adds:
There was added value in the visits in that we had the opportunity to visit Australian aid projects in both Thailand and the Philippines, and to gain firsthand knowledge of these exercises in regional co-operation. We believe that members of this Parliament should have a full understanding of the impact and success of Australian aid programs as described in the text of our Report, and we invite them in particular to take note of the included newspaper editorials which express better than we can the importance placed on these programs by the recipient countries.
I have- read those quotations from the report of the Speaker, the Honourable Gordon Scholes, who was the l eader of the delegation. I point out that there was an interruption during the delegation’s tour caused by the special meeting of the Parliament and that Senator Gordon Mcintosh of this chamber on the Government side took over the leadership in the absence of the Speaker. I pay tribute to the leadership of that delegation, by both the Speaker and Senator Mcintosh. As the deputy leader I introduce the report.
– I would like to add my support to the remarks made by Senator Wood on the report and point out to the Senate that the delegation was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the north-east province of Thailand where we were able to get into proper perspective the many problems of provincial civil administration of refugees in that area. I think Australia has much to be proud of in respect of its agricultural aid programs in Thailand and the Philippines.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
1 ) That, unless otherwise ordered, the times of the meeting of the Senate next week shall be as follows:
-Is it desired to postpone or re-arrange the business?
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLAND (New South Wales- Special Minister of State)- I move:
– The Opposition will not oppose the motion. There may have been an expectation that we would oppose the motion today and bring on the motion standing in my name relating to the setting up of a select committee. That motion has been stood over for a number of reasons, one of which is that I understand that all the exhibits in connection with the statutory declaration will not be available until next week. Another reason which I put to the Government is that a very interesting situation has developed, namely, that there has been a statutory declaration tabled in this Parliament and certain denials of the contents of that declaration have been made- not on oath- by Mr Karidis and maybe others. I put to the Government that it ought to consider whether to have a judicial inquiry into whether a false declaration was made or someone perjured himself before the Senate.
– That is not important enough.
– It is an interesting one. I put it quite seriously to the Government because the select committee to be set up could well find itself involved in those very questions and it would be better in our view if those questions were sorted out by a proper tribunal. Therefore, in order to get an indication from the Government of its attitude on the subject, we will not oppose Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s motion today. I understand that the Government cannot give an answer forthwith. It would be ridiculous of me to expect an answer forthwith. But I indicate that once all the papers are available, if after due consideration and if by next Thursday the answer is that the Government is not interested in this matter, then a select committee may well have to be set up.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received from the House of Representatives Message No. 406 in the following terms:
Mr President, the House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the House of Representatives, having considered Message No. 285 of the Senate:
re-asserts that the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 for the reasons given in the Senate resolutions is not contemplated within the terms of the Constitution and is contrary to established constitutional convention;
denounces again the blatant attempt by the Senate to violate section 28 of the Constitution for political purposes by itself endeavouring to force an early election for the House of Representatives;
declares that the Constitution and the conventions of the Constitution vest in the House of Representatives the control of the supply of moneys to the elected Government and that the action of the Senate constitutes a gross violation of the roles of the respective Houses of the Parliament in relation to the appropriation of moneys:
re-asserts the basic principle that a government that continues to have a majority in the House of Representatives has a right to expect that it will be allowed to govern;
declares its concern that the unprecedented and obstructive stand taken by the Senate in continuing to defer the passage of the Bills is undermining public confidence in our parliamentary system of government, and (0 again calls upon the Senate to pass without further delay the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1975-76 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That consideration of Message No. 406 from the House of Representatives be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
Declaration of Urgency
- Mr President, I declare that the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 [No. 3] and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 [No. 3] are urgent Bills.
Motion ( by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That the Bills be considered urgent Bills.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
I would not anticipate a lengthy debate on this motion. The Opposition has not opposed the motion that these Bills be considered urgent Bills. It is not often that this step is taken in the Senate- and rightly so.
– It is only taken to get urgent passage.
– Yes. When a government determines that there ought to be urgent passage of a Bill this is the mechanism which a governmentany government- uses. But it does so only when there is a matter of genuine urgency about the legislation. I do not think anyone in Australia will deny the urgency of the passage of these Appropriation Bills. I put it to the Opposition that, if it accepts the basic fact that this is urgent legislation, this legislation ought to be given to the Government. We have seen many instances in the past, particularly during the 1950s and the 1960s, of the government of the day declaring legislation to be urgent. In fact, the guillotine was applied- it was not opposed by the then Labor Opposition- to the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1960-61, which related to works and services, and the Supply Bill 1961-62. It is significant to consider the action or the attitude of the Labor Opposition at that time, which is analogous in principle to that of the Opposition at the present time. The degree may be different because the degree at the present time is of much greater severity than it was at that time.
I do not think there is any need to debate again the arguments as to whether these Bills ought to be passed. We have been through all that on so many occasions. We have all heard the arguments so many times. I simply put it to the Opposition that we once again ask it to accept its responsibility. The Australian people are looking to it for a more responsible attitude towards the affairs of this nation. On all sides now, even within the Liberal Party, criticism is being directed against the Federal Opposition and against Mr Fraser for the action which has been taken. I thought it was most significant that this morning’s Press reports the comments of Sir Thomas Playford, the former Liberal Premier of South Australia, who I understand has advised the South Australian Liberal senators to pass the legislation. I am sure that it is an example of Senator Hall’s good sense and the reason why he was able to stand out in the Liberal Party in South Australia that he not only has accepted that advice but also has carried it into action here in this Parliament. I hope that this will be the last occasion on which we will have to put these Appropriation Bills before the Senate. I feel some apprehension that it may not be; but eventually, one way or the other, the Opposition will have to pass these Appropriation Bills. The sooner it does so, the better.
– I do not quite know what Senator Wriedt means by ‘one way or the other’. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who is a great admirer of Mrs Gandhi, might resort to her methods. I suppose that would be covered by the term ‘one way or the other’. Subject to receiving a ruling from you,
Mr President, I indicate at this stage that the Opposition will not be opposing the motion moved by Senator Wriedt. We had already decided this morning that my colleague, Senator Cotton, would be the only speaker from this side of the chamber on the Appropriation Bills, would speak for about 10 minutes, I think it was estimated, and would be moving an amendment. As I understand it, the motion for the second reading of the Bills is to be put at 2.30 p.m.
– Committed at 2.30 p.m.
-That is right. The ruling I seek from you, Mr President, is this: If Senator Cotton moves an amendment to the motion for the second reading, that amendment is put before the motion for the second reading is put.
– That would be following the normal procedures.
– Thank you, Mr President. On that basis, we certainly have no objection to the times set down by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt). I imagine that the Bills will come on for debate shortly. In fact, they could be disposed of well before lunch, as far as the Opposition is concerned, because Senator Cotton will be brief in his remarks.
– He will shame you.
-No, because our attitude -
– What are you going to do?
– I thought we were just being co-operative. I wish you would make up your mind.
– But you are in 2 minds.
-Oh! May I comment on one aspect. Senator Wriedt has referred to the letter from Sir Thomas Playford. It is amazing who quotes whom in this game. Sir Thomas was a Premier of South Australia for a very long period. I do noi: know why he is so praiseworthy all of a sudden. I thought it was often said that he stayed in office by somewhat improper electoral means. At one stage he was the arch enemy of those who propounded alleged electoral reform; next minute, he is a hero because he supports the Labor Party. All I can say as to Sir Thomas is that he has most likely been in some sort of decline ever since he chose his successor who certainly sent a Government and a Party which had been in power for 24 years or 25 years into Opposition. So his choice at that stage in that political area was not so good.
– Who was his successor?
-I have forgotten-some insignificant bloke who had an election 12 months early on a non-issue and lost, and wondered why. Therefore, I put it to the Government that Sir Thomas Playford ought not to be paraded too much as a supporter.
– You do not think much of him; is that what you are telling us?
-Not really. I must go and dig up some time what the late Mr Chifley and the late Mr Curtin said.
– You have not had much luck with Premiers of South Australia?
-No. You have not either.
– Yes, we have been very successful.
-He did not have much to beat originally, did he? When Mr Dunstan first became Premier, he did not have much to beat.
– He is hard to beat now though.
– There we are, Mr President. As the Government wants a decision arrived at quickly, we are prepared to assist the Government in getting to that stage.
– I thought that I would say a couple of words in support of the motion too and agree with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) on that part of his otherwise rather deplorable speech. I do not believe that it reflects any credit on Senator Withers that he should state that Sir Thomas Playford has been in a decline. I am certain that, despite the political differences which occur across the broad section of the South Australian community, Sir Thomas Playford is held in high esteem by Labor, Liberal and Liberal Movement voters, regardless of their own political position and the way in which they have voted at elections. It was a tribute to that man that he was able to obtain a consensus of support for what he did in South Australia regardless of any defects in the political system which stood behind the boundaries of the electorates of the lower House in our State.
Let me say quite briefly that I do not like the speeches that Senator Withers makes in this place. Of course, I have yet to hear him make a worthy speech with noble motives. He again adds to that continuing list of words that are chronicled in Hansard, and which illustrate Senator Withers’ background. I can say this: The day that he is able from any equal basis to comment on Sir Thomas Playford ‘s service to this country will be a day that we all look forward to but do not expect to occur. As regards Sir Thomas choosing his successor, no one knows what Sir Thomas’s views were on that matter and no single person in this Australian community, I believe, knows how Sir Thomas voted on the choice of his successor. I put that on record before Senator Withers attempts to smear other great people in this community.
– I regret that the name of Sir Thomas Playford has been bandied about in the Senate this morning. Sir Thomas is a very dear and old friend of mine. I worked with him for 9 years in the House of Assembly in South Australia. I had noted his work before then. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest statesmen Australia has ever had. I pay my tribute to him. He is a remarkable man, both physically and mentally. I make no bones about the fact that on occasions I have consulted with this gentleman and have always found him to be an open-minded and very great man. I just want to pay my tribute to him in the present circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, I do not expect to have to intrude into the lunch break in order to keep honourable senators here to make up the time for which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) has asked. He does not need to ask for this time at all. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) reminded him, we have no wish to engage in long speeches to waste the time of the Senate, as the Government has been doing on this issue. We have agreed that the matter should be disposed of quickly. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate wants to make these Bills urgent Bills, we agree to make them urgent Bills and we are not excited about that. We think that perhaps it would be a good idea for the Government to consider the way in which it is handling its own affairs in this chamber. It, as the Government, is in charge of the notice paper; that responsibility belongs to the Government. It is the job of the Government to dispose of the matters on the notice paper. There are 97 matters on the notice paper now, plus 18 notices of motion. If the Government stopped all its fooling and fiddling around it could get rid of those matters on the notice paper very quickly and then go to the people. Why does it not do that? Quite clearly we will assist the Government in getting this business through quickly. The amendment which is now being circulated is the same amendment, it is in the same form, as the amendment that we moved previously. I move:
As there is some limitation on our time, I do not need to speak on this matter at great length, nor do I intend to do so. But I wish to observe to my colleagues in the Senate that the reason why the Opposition has taken its position is because of the incompetence of the Government, the economic mess that it has created, the unemployment that it has brought about, the inflation that it has engendered and the state of lack of confidence and disaster in which the Australian people find themselves. This has all happened because of the acts of the present Government. We believe that the time has come when the people should be given a chance to judge whether the Government is capable of taking the country into any kind of recovery- we do not think it is- or whether the country will get into further trouble by the Government’s maladministration. No doubt as time goes on we will hear reference to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. I wish to refer briefly to his latest published comment which was made to the Economic Society in Victoria on 23 October last. The Governor of the Reserve Bank said:
Although current economic conditions are not our main theme tonight, some things should perhaps be said before we pass on. In terms of what the community has come to regard as normal, economic conditions in 1975 are very difficult; a complex set of strong forces, some of which have acted in opposing directions, have carried the economy quite a distance from a normal or equilibrium position. Registered unemployment is far higher than in other post-war years; inflation is rapid; business investment and confidence are low. Output has been below levels attained a few quarters ago. Against these dismal facts, one area of strength is the balance of payments; unlike chronic earlier experience, it is not at this time a serious concern..
That was stated by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, a man for whom I have tremendous respect. He was speaking publicly to the Economic Society, so one is entitled to make his remarks known more widely. He was stating the view that he holds- I am sure that the Reserve Bank also holds it- concerning the economic conditions, the business conditions and the employment conditions in this once great country. When one considers that remark and talks about people who have an interest in these matters and who claim to have a detachment, one is looking at a scene in which every Australian, I think, is filled with dismay. It is no good the Government, having created this awful economic mess- it created it without any doubt by itself, unaidedcoming along and saying now: ‘It will all be better later on’. The Government is not even saying that it is sorry. It is saying: ‘It will be better later on if you leave it to us’. There is no evidence to indicate that it will be better later on. This is a government that has placed a continuous overstrain on the resources for quite some time. It has produced economic danger. It has put the business sector into a total loss phase. It has made massive errors in its Budget calculations, and I think those calculations will have to be made again once more. It has produced record unemployment and record inflation. It has produced in Australia a world lacking in confidence and lacking in investment, with nothing but gloom ahead. That is the Government’s record.
Over and above that- this is not the subject for consideration today because it is a matter for a longer debate- we need to give serious consideration to what this Government is doing with the money supply. I can deal with that perhaps for the fourth, fifth and sixth times on the Appropriation Bills. The expansion of the money supply by this present Government- I have evidence of this that I can demonstrate later- will produce not a recover)’ or an improvement, but further stages of difficulty and danger. I speak quite dispassionately as an Australian as well as an Opposition senator who is in a state of very considerable alarm about this whole position. That is why the Opposition believes that the Government should go to the people. The quotation by Thomas Paine on today ‘s desk calendar reads:
Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.
This Government is an intolerable government. It has a remedy in its own hands, under section 57 of the Constitution, to do something about the matter. There has been clearly a failure to pass the legislation. The Government, if it believes that it has a real record behind it and that it has the competence, is capable now of taking itself to the people and asking them to confirm or deny that the Government has the ability on its record to get this country out of the trouble in which the Government has placed it. To me it is quite clear that there is an awful mess and that the Government has constructed it. It has done it over 3 years. The time has come for the Australian people to judge the Government, its record and its ability. It is for that reason that the Opposition takes its stand. The amendment that I have moved covers the situation quite fully.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
- Mr President, as has been stated by the Leader of the Government in the Senator (Senator Wriedt), this matter has been discussed very fully, and repetition should be avoided. I desire to say just a few short words about this matter. We definitely have a constitutional crisis on our hands, and we also have a political crisis on our hands. I was prompted to speak because of the answer which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) gave to a question in the other House yesterday morning. I am inclined to the opinion that the action which has been taken by the Oppositionthe present Government when in Opposition in 1970 by endeavouring to prevent supply- was contrary to the Constitution. I wish to make reference to the matter. I preface my remarks by reading the reply which the Prime Minister gave to a question yesterday morning. Mr Whitlam is recorded in Hansard as having said:
I believe the people have made it quite plain and I believe before very long the Senate itself will accept that the Senate is not entitled to usurp the money powers of this Parliament. Section S3 of the Constitution lays down the Senate’s powers as regards money Bills. It says it cannot initiate them. It says it cannot amend them. It says that it can request the House of Representatives to amend them and that the House of Representatives may accede to that request or may reject it. Section 53 of the Constitution, it will be noted, does not expressly say that the Senate can reject money Bills.
Actually the Constitution goes further than that. Firstly, the Parliament of Australia consists of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Of course, the GovernorGeneral acts in the place of the Queen. It is recognised that this Parliament shall be a 3 tier parliament: The Governor-General, the Senate and the House of Representatives. But section 53 of the Constitution is very explicit with respect to money Bills. It reads as follows:
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
This is a saving clause which is put there for a specific purpose but it definitely suggests a very complete implication that the Senate is not the controlling element as far as Appropriation Bills and money Bills generally are concerned.
I should like to see this matter referred to the High Court. We have referred many matters of a trivial nature compared to this to the High Court. We have on our hands a constitutional crisis. We have on our hands a party political crisis. This situation was brought before the Senate in 1970 by the then Opposition, the Labor Party, and was furiously and strenuously opposed by the Government of the day. We have today a situation which is exactly the same as arose in 1 970 but in which the parties are reversed. Surely the time has arrived when it is necessary to have this position clarified.
- Senator, did the High Court not rule recently on this very point?
– I do not know.
– Well you should know.
-I do not know. But the fact remains that it is very evident that the position is such that the Senate cannot override the House of Representatives in the matter of Appropriation Bills.
– That is not correct, senator.
– I can understand normal English. I can understand written law. There is no doubting the fact that it was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that that should be the case. Indeed, we find here today, as we have found all along the line, that this sort of thing would not have applied but for the party political influences coming into effect. I agree wholeheartedly with the opinion expressed by the Prime Minister in resting on section 53 of the Constitution in the stand that he has taken on this matter.
– I should like very briefly to refer to the matters raised by Senator Bunton. It is rather touching that he should rest his interpretation of the Constitution on the opinion of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who, in my view, can scarcely be regarded as a non-partisan figure in this debate. I remind Senator Bunton that on 30 October, a couple of days ago, I referred in this chamber, as did other senators, to the decisions of less partisan gentlemen- the judges of the High Court- on this very point. I repeat to the Senate the brief quotations from the judgments of Mr Justice Stephen and Mr Justice Gibbs in the litigation with respect to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. I suggest that each of these judges is a rather better authority on what section 53 of the Constitution means than the Prime Minister. Mr Justice Stephens said, in referring to the Senate:
It has full power of initiation, rejection and amendment of bills coming from the House and even in the case of money bills has the right freely to request amendments or to reject outright. These powers, unusual in a modern upper House, reflect the federal character of our polity.
Mr Justice Gibbs in the same case said:
The power of the Senate to reject a proposed law- a power implicit in its position as one of the chambers of a bicameral legislature- is left untouched by section S3 so that the Senate may reject any proposed law, even one which it cannot amend.
I think it is a great pity that this Senate is treated to the opinions of the Prime Minister, which are essentially political opinions, and that they are put forward as a basis of interpretation of a section of the Constitution on which this Senate is basing its action. Personally, I prefer the opinions of the judges of the High Court to the opinion of the Prime Minister.
– I support Senator Bunton ‘s remarks. I do so because I believe the intention of those who framed the Constitution was that the Upper House, the Senate, should not reject money Bills. As I understand it, further evidence will be forthcoming soon to back up the view that significant authorities associated with the drawing up of the Constitution certainly never envisaged that it should be used in this way.
– You should read Quick and Garran.
– I think that Senator Shell’s remarks that I should read Quick and Garran will be significant later because, as I said, I believe further evidence will be forthcoming. Nevertheless, regardless of what the legal technicalities may be, I would understand that the practical result of the Opposition’s move in the Senate has been to settle this issue. This will be seen in a few weeks’ time to be the fact of the case. We will not need a referendum to obtain the approval of the Australian electors to settle the issue that the Senate should not again venture on this course because the Opposition has settled the issue. If there is one good service the Opposition has done it is to settle this matter of stability for future Australian governments because if a party such as the Liberal Party, with 60 per cent of the Australian public behind it, according to the opinion polls, starts off on the course of rejecting the Budget and fails- as it inevitably will fail- no other party in the future will ever try to do the same. If such a major base can be demolished in 3 weeks, it is obvious that the lesson is there for all to see. So forgetting the technicalities, or whether Senator Bunton has legal qualifications or whether other forthcoming studies will prove that he is right, the Opposition has settled the matter out there in the political forum of this nation. It has settled the issue for all time. The Opposition- the Liberal Party- which stands up so often and so vocally for the rights of the Senate has destroyed the function of this House ever again to oppose a money Bill. That will be the practical result that no one will deny in the future.
I do not want to speak at any length. I just want to raise a practical issue. I understand that at this time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is consulting with the Governor-General. I am told the consultation began at 12 o’clock. The Leader of the Opposition said, something like 10 days ago- I should not want to be held to the exact day- that he would abide by any advice given to him by the Governor-General. I think it is wrong to involve His Excellency in any predictions, as the Leader of the Opposition did in presuming that the Governor-General would have to do certain things. I do not want to be involved in that argument. But as a practical matter it seems that if the Leader of the Opposition made that statement a few days ago and if he is now in consultation with the Governor-General, one could expect that it is more than simply an invitation to have morning tea. I suggest that it is rather fruitless to proceed with this debate when the Leader of the
Opposition is in consultation with His Excellency. I cannot see why this subject cannot be put off until we see what the Leader of the Opposition is going to do about this very unsatisfactory position in which he has placed himself. There can be no doubt that the public is not behind the honourable senators here who refuse Supply. 1 think that all those who study the general community at a local level will understand that their support on this issue will not grow but will continue to diminish.
The funds which come from Government and support so much of the private sector will dry up. Whilst the Government may be able to make some sort of semi-satisfactory arrangements with the trading banks to meet the fortnightly requirements of public servants and those people who are dependent on government for their salaries, it is not plausible that the whole spectrum of government responsibility will be met satisfactorily in this way. So the pressure which is so evident to members will grow in a practical sense. While it may not be at the highest of levels, I remind honourable senators of that little rule which is impressed on all members of Parliament of all political parties when they first enter politics: The most significant nerve in the electorate is the hip-pocket nerve. That is put to all as the first elementary lesson of politics, and it is that nerve which the Opposition has now set twitching and which of course will go into a spasm when the money is really cut off because of the Opposition ‘s action here.
I suggest that the Opposition, without a lot of fanfare, ought to prepare itself to take the action which is inevitable. Every communication coming through to me- or nearly every one, certainly 95 per cent- says that it is inevitable. A letter which I had here the other day was typical of the hundreds of letters that I and I am sure all members of Parliament have received. It stated:
On behalf of myself and my family, we thank you for your condemnation of Mr Fraser for his attempt to overthrow our elected government.
That is only a short letter but it is so representative of what the public is thinking- that Mr Fraser is overthrowing our elected government. That is what the public is thinking. I join with Senator Laucke in saying that I do not believe in introducing the names of great people, but in South Australia today an overwhelming majority of people would agree with what I am saying and with the general tone of the letters to Senator Bunton and I am sure to other honourable senators. The Opposition simply has to extricate itself from this position. There is no satisfactory end to a long-term confrontation. To deny that and to get up and vehemently criticise people does not change the facts. Those of us who have been in politics expect personal criticism. But all that does nothing but put a smokescreen around the inevitable conclusion that must be reached, that has to be reached. It is simply a matter of how, and that is a problem for the Opposition because it got itself into this position. I suggest as a practical measure: Why not wait until this afternoon? We are doing nothing else of any use. We are not even doing anything of any use in this debate. We are simply stalling day after day. Why not wait until this afternoon and see if there is any result? If there is no result, the Opposition can go ahead and knock it all out again, but at least it might save one more turn of the merry-go-round which the Upper and Lower Houses are riding.
-Mr President, I did not intend to rise in this debate, but I remembered an old aphorism that prompted me to rise. It is shameful to be silent and let barbarians speak. That was said when the barbarians came to Rome. I have listened to Senator Bunton and Senator Hall, with their references to interpretation of the Constitution and the historical documents which surrounded its origin. I rise to protest at the impertinence of indirect insinuations as to what they were without any knowledge and, I suggest, without either of them ever having perused anything but the utterance yesterday of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), which was a hypothetical addendum to an extraordinary viewpoint that Sir Richard Eggleston put down a week or two ago and as to which I have searched in vain to find any text which supports it in the slightest degree.
– We will help you out on that.
-I will be most obliged. As to Quick and Garran, in their writings on the Constitution at that time they completely and absolutely support the legal power of the Senate to reject money Bills, that is, to reject a Bill for the appropriation of money for the ordinary annual services of the Parliament. The Senate has no power to amend such a Bill, but we are dealing with two Bills, Appropriation Bills both, but divided into two for the very purpose of recognising the distinction that exists between them for the purposes of the Senate power. It was a committee of this Senate which in 1954 insisted upon that division, and the Bills are divided into two solely because we have different powers of amendment in respect of one from the other. In respect of Appropriation Bill (No. 2) we have unlimited powers of amendment, and in respect of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) we have power to send repeated requests for amendment. Section 53 of the Constitution states:
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
– Equal power, not greater power.
– Indeed. Listen again to that great observation- equal power but not greater power. I ask you to listen, Mr President, take it in and give it full understanding. Yes, equal power- that is to say, the power to assent to or reject a Bill, exactly in the same way as the House of Representatives, the Bill having originated there, has the power to assent to or reject; not one iota greater, and, in that respect, not one iota less, but equal power. I hope that that point is cleared up.
The thing that really brought me to my feet was the impertinent suggestion of Senator Hall as to visits being made by the Leaders to Government House. Under our Constitution, the Governor-General is an executive officer. He is the head of the Executive, and it is centuries since he or the sovereign he represents presumed to enter into the legislative province of this Parliament in respect of either House. But he has high executive functions, and they were amply illustrated when the last double dissolution was called. In April 1974, as reported in the official papers, Mr Whitlam referred to refusal of Supply and said:
Such a refusal to supply the Government with the money it needed to carry on its normal services would have made Parliament unworkable. Accordingly I informed the House that if the Senate rejected any money Bill I would tender the advice to the Governor-General to dissolve both Houses of Parliament simultaneously.
That was acknowledged on all sides as good and proper advice. The official papers continue:
His Excellency accepted my advice, subject to his receiving an assurance that adequate provision existed for the carrying on of the Public Service in all its branches from the time of dissolution until the time of the assembly of the new parliament.
Everybody accepted that as an appropriate discharge of His Excellency’s responsibilities in the performance of his high executive functions. Those functions can be defined as having a Parliament which can ensure that the functions in all the branches of the Public Service can be carried on with moneys provided by Parliament. Those are the functions of the Governor-General; and it is not for me to say anything about them, other than that those functions are to maintain the Executive and the Public Service. Such maintenance requires that there should be, with forethought, a government which can command
Supply from the Parliament to carry on without dislocation or diminution the proper public services of this country. A moment’s reflection would remind anyone that, when the Houses of Parliament are deadlocked as they are upon these Bills, the only solution that can be provided for that deadlock is to consult the people.
If the people are for the Labor Government in the great majorities that have been suggested, what an easy ride home the Government would have by accepting the situation upon which the Opposition has placed its confidence, namely, that the people ought to be consulted as to whether this Government is entitled to the supply of money by us- the people who are representatives elected from the taxpayers who provide the money. Having regard to the Government’s incompetence and corruption, we say that it is not entitled to be given money further to carry on government, until and unless it receives an endorsement from the people at a ballot. It is no part of the Governor-General’s function to give advice as to the way any member of this Parliament votes. It is an infantile and petty suggestion and a piece of presumption and impertinence the like of which has not been paralleled to suggest that parliamentary debate should be adjourned upon a speculation that the Governor-General would presume to give legislative advice when his only function in this respect is an executive one.
- Senator Wright, in typical fashion, is showing the old conservatism that day after day is seeping out of the ranks of the Opposition. He rises in the Senate and argues on the basis of legality after legality and legalism after legalism; but he forgets that, by their very action of deferring consideration of these Appropriation Bills, he and his fellow members of the Opposition are drying up the economic lifeblood of the country. I am amazed at the incredible action of the Opposition this morning. This is the fourth time that the Appropriation Bills have been dealt with in the Senate. After 3 occasions on which there have been detailed and lengthy contributions to debates by honourable senators from all sides of the chamber, by sheer weight of numbers as a result of the death of one member of our Party the amendment moved by the Opposition has been carried.
This morning Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, declared the Appropriation Bills that we are now debating to be urgent Bills. He moved that they be considered urgent Bills. When that motion was put by you,
Mr President, there was not one dissentient voice. It was agreed by every member of the Senate that the Bills are considered to be urgent Bills.
– Actually, I said ‘ No ‘.
-Do I understand that Senator Rae does not consider them to be urgent Bills? Do we have that on the record? Apart from Senator Rae, who apparently does not consider them to be urgent Bills, every member of the Senate agrees that these Bills are urgent Bills. The purpose of having Bills declared urgent is to enable their urgent passage to take place.
– Or rejection.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Wright says, ‘Or rejection’. I say to Opposition members: ‘Have the courage to reject if you want to reject’. But they have not even got that courage. After agreeing that the Bills are urgent, they have moved the amendment to the effect that the Bills be not further proceeded with, etc. That is another deferral, another putting off of the day. This is incredible conduct on the part of the Opposition. It is only putting another nail into its coffin so far as the Australian public is concerned. It was suggested by Senator Hall that we should defer further consideration of these Bills until some time this afternoon. The Government does not agree with Senator Hall in that respect. We have said that these are urgent Bills. The Senate has said on the voices that they are urgent Bills. Yet the Oppostition persists with its declaration of deferral.
This is not the first time that an Appropriation Bill has been declared by a government to be an urgent Bill. It is recorded at pages 299 and 300 of Mr Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice that the Menzies Government, practically year in and year out, declared Appropriation Bills to be urgent Bills. The Menzies Government declared those Bills to be urgent Bills because the Government of the day wanted the economic lifeblood of the nation to flow and because it wanted to get early and urgent passage of those Bills. I intend to read into the Hansard record the details as to when the Menzies Government declared urgency in regard to Appropriation Bills. It did it in relation to the Appropriation Bill 1952-53, the Appropriation Bill 1954-55, the Appropriation Bill 1955- 56, the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1954-55, the Appropriation Bill 1956- 57, the Appropriation Bill 1957-58, the Appropriation Bill 1959-60, the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1960-61 and the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1960-61. The declaration of urgency was made practically on an annual basis because there had been delay in the Senate. In the discussion of the various Appropriation Bills, the then Government, almost on an annual basis, declared the Bills to be urgent because that Government wanted the early passage of those Bills.
The members of the Opposition in the Senate this morning, by their votes taken on the voices, declared these Bills to be urgent. But, immediately Senator Wriedt moved the motion for the second reading of the Bills, we had to put up with what is becoming now a perennial amendment. The members of the Opposition have been shown up again. They have shown that they are not prepared to seek amendments. Apparently, they cannot find anything wrong with the Budget. They are not prepared to reject, they are not prepared to oppose. All they are prepared to do is to seek deferral. We suggest that they be shown up for what they are.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cotton’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Cotton’s amendment) be inserted.
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.
Sitting suspended from 12.52 to 2 p.m.
Debate resumed from 5 November on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr President, I notice you looking at the Government benches and seeing only one Minister and one Government senator present in the chamber. It is regrettable that Government senators are not attending to their work properly today.
– Order! If the honourable senator draws attention to the state of the House I shall take notice of tha t.
- Mr President, if you want it to be done formally, I shall do so. (Quorum formed)
– I am pleased to see Government senators coming into the chamber. The economic situation in this community is such as to demand that all those who have influence within the Australian Labor Party should listen to and take note of all comments relating to the Australian economy. Judging by the past 3 years of Labor administration, particularly in relation to economic matters, it is very evident that the Government’s advice from all quarters has been very remiss. We are debating 3 taxation Bills cognately. When I spoke on these Bills yesterday I pointed out that the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) had suggested publicly that there would be a tax benefit of about $205m to taxpayers this year. However, the fallacy of this claim is very evident from page 105 of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech which shows that net revenue from payasyouearn taxation increased from $4,238m in 1973-74 to $6,07 lm in the following year. Although the Treasurer has suggested that the wage earners of this community will save through the new tax arrangement that is being introduced, the fact is that on his own estimate the year 1975-76 will bring in $2,61 lm more than in the previous year. The Treasurer’s estimate for 1975-76 shows that pay-as-you-earn taxpayers will pay $8,683m.
In dealing with taxation generally, one notes the escalation in total tax revenue in the past 3 years of Labor rule. The yield rose from $ 10,800m in 1973-74 to $14,084m in the following year and the estimate for the current year is $ 17,608m. Quite amazingly the wage earners in the community have been tricked, I believe, by the present Government into believing they would pay less tax on their wages. They thought that they had elected a Government which believed in direct taxation and not indirect taxation, but they find now that they will pay nearly 70 per cent more in total taxation this year compared with last year. In the minds of many of us is the thought that perhaps the Government has encouraged inflation with that very result in mind. I am not one who is prepared to say that the Labor Government has acted without thought. Certainly it has made great mistakes.
– I thought the increase in wage tax was 43 per cent not 70 per cent.
– I have indicated the total taxation revenue, Senator Wright.
– You should make it clear.
-Yes, I appreciate your point. I made the point last night that the average taxpayer has been called upon to pay 43 per cent more tax under each of Labor’s last two Budgets. That will come out of the workers’ pockets. It is surprising what the wage earner will take from the Labor Party. It is necessary that one understands that there is deception, even in the speeches that have been made in this place by Government supporters, as to what the impact of this new tax scale will be. As I read the second reading speeches and attempt to understand the Bills before us, benefits generally will be lowered to most income earners. To me, the general change in taxation is unacceptable. I cannot imagine that the flat concessional rebate which is being brought in will improve the circumstances of anyone other than those who have made no attempt to make the normal prudent provisions that they should be making each year. For instance, no benefit will accrue to those who have made provision for their future through insurance policies. Of course, that may be a Labor Party aim- that people should not care about looking after themselves financially in future years. The intention of the Labor Party is to bring in some national scheme whereby everybody will be looked after from birth to death. That is probably what the Government has in mind in amending the taxation legislation. But there is no doubt that it will be harmful to those who have attempted in any way to provide for themselves and who have made responsible payments out of their actual income.
The Labor Party has introduced stupid propositions and one can see where they originate. A year ago the Government introduced an unearned income tax. What fine words were uttered then! We heard backbench members and front bench members of the Government saying that those who had unearned income should be taxed at a different rate from the poor wage earner. I do not know whether their vision was such that they realised what they were doing at the time. I am a little inclined to think that they did not know what they were doing. The effect of that particular tax has been demonstrated by the drop in the production of buildings for rental. People had little incentive to invest their surplus money or savings in flats, houses, maisonettes or dwellings of any kind for rental. Previously property was regarded as an acceptable and a profitable avenue of investment in a time of severe inflation. Now the unearned income tax finds itself in disfavour with the Labor Party. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer dealt with this in only 3 lines.
He said that the property tax surcharge which applied for the 1 974-75 year was not being reimposed. In my view, that demonstrates something of Labor’s attitude over its period in office. It has thought up and introduced schemes which have been a great disaster for the people, in some cases a disaster which will show up only in future years. They are schemes which obviously have been damaging to our economy. I do not think anybody would view them otherwise. The ill consideration which Labor gives to its changes makes one question whether they are changes brought about by Labor’s stupidity or whether it is Labor’s intention to bring about complete disruption in our society.
One would have imagined that one of the main aims of Labor when it came to office would have been to see that the jobs of wage earners, the ordinary working men in the community, were protected. When it came to office I suppose I held in the back of my mind some idea that it would do as Mr Whitlam had proclaimed and set out to help the less fortunate in the community. I remember dozens of statements being made which suggested that the main plank of Labor’s platform would be to see that there was full employment. What a disgrace this Government has been in that respect. There has been a rise in unemployment over the period Labor has been in office. The Government has taken action which has totally wrecked some industries. I well recall the comments of leading unionists in the footwear, textile and clothing industries who were complaining bitterly, as best they could against their own Party, about the stupidity of the action which the Government took against those industries. I recall Labor’s great declaration that it was setting out to restructure industry; but what it set out to do was to abolish industries in this country, something for which the whole community will be paying for many years.
It is interesting to note that the Government’s intention was that goods from overseas would come in at a much lower cost which would give great savings to the community. We have not seen that occur in one instance, so far as I am aware. I have heard claims from the Government that the mark-ups by some retailers have been so great and consequently their profits so great on imported goods that Labor’s scheme and hopes for cheaper imports has been wrecked. It had always impressed me that Mr Hawke was a director, in addition to holding the other positions which he holds, of that large Australian Council of Trade Unions store in Melbourne. That was a store which could have stood out and demonstrated Labor’s tactic to achieve lower prices. How wonderful it would have been if we had seen that ACTU store selling these imported goods at the low figure Labor wanted, with little profit margin, and attracting business while the big multinational store down the road was unable to do the same because it was looking for higher margins. Not in one instance of which I am aware- I have visited that store on many occasions- have I seen its goods displayed at a lesser figure than those in the stores of its competitors around Melbourne. It has been a complete trick of the public. The
Government has wrecked the Australian economy in so many areas and it will take many years of sensible government to recover from it.
If one listens to some of the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) now one gains the impression that there is some suggestion that the profit motive is attractive. There has been a direction to the Prices Justification Tribunal that it must take profit into account. How amazing it is to find that out after 3 years. One can only point to how ignorant is the base of the Labor Party in these matters, as is demonstrated by these tax Bills. The Government is waking up too late to the problems within our community. I noticed in one newspaper- the Sydney Sun of Tuesday, 4 November- a report of suggestions by 2 leading Adelaide economists, Mr P. Bentley and Professor R. Blandy, in an article they wrote in the Australian Bulletin of Labor. The article stated that inflation and unemployment have been most severe in Australia and more so than in most other developed countries in the past 18 months. The article continued: in the past year, Australia appears to have fared worse in unemployment increases than any other economically advanced country.
This follows a period of relative stability in relation to other countries during the past 10 years.
In addition, inflation in Australia has become progressively worse compared with other advanced countries.
The economists went on to castigate the Government for what it has done in Australia. The effect of one of the Bills before us is to lower company tax by 2Vi per cent. I congratulate the Government for at least considering that private enterprise needed some encouragement along those lines to enable it to have a reserve to meet the after-effects of the year’s trading. Profit is a very important motive, as is the gaining of income. If the way in which Labor members of Parliament are trying to hold on to their $20,000 a year salary, and Ministers their $40,000 a year salary, is a reflection of the attitude of the individual to gaining an income, one realises that profit is a very important motive. Very few members of Parliament from the Government Party could earn $5,000 a year in business, which is a reflection of the way the Government has dealt with the economy over the past 3 years. A 2Vi per cent drop in company taxation will be very acceptable to those who are profitable, and they are the key words in any proposal of this sort. Companies have to earn profits before they can take advantage of that 2Vi per cent taxation reduction. It appears to me that the Government has considered only the effect of this proposal on public companies. The 42’/: per cent taxation rate is something which all company directors would embrace. I know of no man who is not anxious to make a profit and pay taxation on it, provided that taxation is levied reasonably. That is one of the problems we face today.
I deal now with the proprietary company. I brought this matter to the notice of the former Treasurer, Mr Crean, when he in his wisdom escalated the taxation on proprietary companies from 35 per cent, as it was when Labor took over, to 47 & per cent, which was the rate which Labor announced for all companies. I had no great consideration for Mr Crean ‘s ability as a businessman or economic manager. He undoubtedly is able to express himself on how the economy should fare, but it never struck me as impressive that, after being a member of this Parliament for most of his life and receiving the very substantial income that we all get as members of Parliament, he could proudly say that he never had sufficient money to purchase a motor car or to pay off his own home. It seemed to me that there was something crazy about his economics.
There is something crazy about the economics of a man who has lifted taxation on proprietary limited companies to the level of public company taxation without taking other steps. The Australian Labor Party has been pronouncing that we must buy back Australia and that we need to get rid of the multinational companies. Over the years it has uttered other stupid and irresponsible words. In my opinion it is necessary for the proprietary limited company to be given some advantage over the large unlimited company. The unlimited company is not required to pay out any of its profits to its shareholders although there is some pressure upon such companies to compete in the market, and they have a responsibility to return to their shareholders some level of profit for their investment.
I plead with honourable senators on the Government side to take into account the situation of the proprietary company. The small proprietary company has a great need to conserve its funds. I think that if a proprietary company is profitable it is well able to pay out 42.5 per cent, but I doubt that the Government gives much recognition to the incidence of Division 7, section 104, of the Income Tax Assessment Act which requires that over 50 per cent of the undistributed profits of a company after it has paid its primary tax must be distributed to its shareholders by some method or that amount will incur an undistributed profits tax. Can anyone see rhyme or reason for that? Why in today’s climate, when one is looking at a revision of taxation, should the small proprietary company be taxed at the same rate as public companies and then be forced to disgorge over 50 per cent of the balance of its profits or incur another 50 per cent taxation? That seems to me to be crazy thinking.
I plead with the Government to look at this matter. The Government should attempt not merely to maintain the present level of employment but to lift it so that Australians of the future will have some opportunity to be employed in a variety and diversity of interests. The Government should allow a residue of profit within the small company so that it can grow, so that it can be a challenge to the unlimited company, and so that it can resist the challenge of a takeover by others. It is absolutely necessary to devise schemes whereby some residue will be left for capital growth. The Treasurer’s statement this year about depreciation will be of some benefit.
Reference has been made to double depreciation. Such references are as big a confidence trick on the community as any others I have heard many Ministers utter. The situation now is that any statement which comes from the Labor Ministry has to be queried before it can be believed. There is no provision for double depreciation in this measure, but there is provision for accelerated depreciation in the writing off of certain types of equipment. One thing which does not come quickly to people’s mind when they deal with depreciation or the writing off of plant and equipment is that they never really write it off. After one has supposedly written off depreciation either at normal rates or at double depreciation rates one would get, if one were to take the present tax scale, the benefit of writing off 100 per cent of the item at 42.5c in the dollar. Today in a time of severe inflation that is questioned by most authorities.
I know of no area of business where, in recent years, one could contemplate the purchase of a piece of equipment which one could depreciate at 10 per cent or 1 5 per cent per annum and now be attracted by an accelerated depreciation of, say, 30 per cent in the first year and perhaps in successive years and still cope with the replacement of that equipment in future years. I can think of one item in particular, but I suppose the same would be true of nearly every piece of equipment coming out of the steel industry these days. I take the example of a fork lift truck. Three years ago one would buy a quality truck for about $11,000. Today it would cost over $23,000.
Honourable senators will quickly realise the effect this will have on a business which is attempting to replace or to write off a piece of equipment. One gains a 42.5 per cent taxation benefit on the original purchase amount, but when the article comes up for replacement one has to pay more than double the original price. I suggest that the Australian Labor Party should look back at some of the provisions which were established by the former Liberal-Country Party Government. Surely the main reason for suggesting that there should be double or accelerated depreciation was to encourage the purchase of equipment and so gain work or accelerate work within the engineering field. Encouragement is necessary for entrepreneurs to purchase new equipment. Australia will be a better place if farmers, manufacturers or others in business can see their way clear to decide within the next year or so to replace aging equipment with new equipment. That is the way to get employment into our factories. We must attempt to get money rolling. We must attempt to improve the output of the businesses in our community.
The former Government allowed an initial depreciation of 40 per cent. It then allowed one to depreciate the cost of the item over its expected life. The effect of that was to write off 140 per cent of the value of the article over a few years. I recommend to the Government that it look at that proposition or perhaps even devise some scheme which is more attractive. The average Australian businessman is most anxious not only to stay in business but also to see that he has the most modern business so that he can compete with others in the community. The problem of replacing capital items which I have just mentioned is the greatest problem which is besetting businessmen at the present time. The problem is perhaps greater in the field of trading and in the replacement of stock. I do not know whether this has ever entered the heads of honourable senators on the Government side. I remember quite well that Senator Gietzelt, who will follow me in the debate, has complained in the Senate that shopkeepers have remarked their goods by a substantial percentage and has said they should be stopped. He said it was a terrible thing to do. I remember Senator Gietzelt taking up this point and saying that it was very bad. Undoubtedly he has never had the experience of being associated with a trading organisation in these times of inflation.
What has occurred under Labor, and never under any other government, is that an item which has been purchased at, say, $1 and has been marked up by 30 per cent or 40 per cent for resale to cover the cost of labour and the ongoing costs of administration, whatever they may be, and sold for, say, $1.30 has had to be replaced at a cost of $1.50. Any person involved in economics in any v/ay at all would know that it would not take too many years, in times of inflation of 1 5 per cent to 20 per cent, before a firm would go out of business. That sort of thing is happening today because of that factor. When I was with the managing director of one of the largest merchandising organisations in Melbourne- the very limits of his stock figure will indicate that he is a large trader- I said that inflation is an enormous burden for the small retailer in these times and that the replacement of stock is an enormous burden. I asked him: ‘Where is one able to find one’s new money?’ Honourable senators should think about what I just said about the problem which is faced in one year by large organisations. He replied: ‘You think that you have troubles. My company has a $35m stock and sundry debtors list. From. 1974 to 1975 it cost my company $6.5 m just to keep the same physical level of stock. ‘ Any thinking person would know that in times when inflation is running at 15 per cent to 20 per cent for 2 or 3 years, a company is faced with an impossible burden unless it is willing to sell some of its capital assets, unless it is willing to borrow from the bank, which borrowing it will have to service, unless it can borrow, if it is capable of doing so, from its shareholders, or unless it can raise new capital. That sort of situation is one of the key factors in businesses- at least those in the trading field- going out of the game today.
Of course, their problems are not just associated with the actions of the Labor Government, although Labor encouraged the escalation in wages in its first year in office. However, the Government is now saying that it wants to dampen down that escalation. It has even tricked the working public at the present time in relation to the latest consumer price index figures, because they do not take into account medical fees. As I see it, that is just a joke, but apparently it is working with the labour force. Businesses today have to meet compensation payments and they have to give their employees 4 weeks’ annual leave, which was granted only last year and which again has to be faced by many businesses in December of this year. That is going to be a very telling time. They have to meet also the payment of what I regard as an unreasonable loading of 17 Vi per cent payable to most wage earners when they take their annual leave. All of these things will result in greater unemployment in our community in the next 6 months. The bookkeeping costs for governments are growing every year. I believe that those companies which are appointed by governments- this applies to both State and Federal governments- to be tax collectors, as they are at the present time, should at least be compensated for the work they do.
I believe that the Labor Government would be well advised to note some of the comments that have been appearing in the various news media since the time it came to office. We know that Labor originally was totally opposed to profit. By being totally opposed to profit, of course it is cutting its own throat because it is denied the ability to tax those business concerns which make a profit. I would have thought that the encouragement at the outset of the greatest level of profit by any business concern, so that the people of Australia shared in at least 65 per cent of the profit margin calculated at the end of the year, was one of the most wonderful things that we could do and indeed was one of the underpinning factors of our renewed social welfare system.
But the comments of the socialists do not indicate that. I think the Labor Party is riddled with the hard left socialists both in this place and in another place. We heard the comment today that the present situation is not the fault of Labor and its administration; it is the fault of the system. We know that Dr Cairns and others are anxious to change the system. We well remember when Mr Crean made that wonderful statement that the Labor Party saw the opportunity to divert money from the private sector to the public sector. What disaster that policy has brought on the community. I suggest that anyone in business ought to be very alert, because although there may be some minor advantage under the present Government, the Labor Party has one aim in view, and that is the total socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. That is the system which the Labor Party wants, and it is that system which will progress while the Labor Party holds the reins of office in this Federal Parliament.
One can see the outcome of such schemes even in Britain today. One reads of the disease and the malaise which has overcome the British community. A great change is taking place at the present time. I notice that Mr Wilson has said that the most important factor at the moment is to attempt to encourage private businesses back into the field. Having put them out of business, in the same manner in which Labor is doing it in this country, having criticised the entrepreneurs, having criticised the managers, having criticised profit, having criticised overseas investors, those people who have the same sorts of stupid views in Britain are currently changing those views in the hope that they can encourage the British entrepreneur and the British manager to invest money so that jobs will be created. Wherever one goes one reads of the problems that have faced business.
That is the case even in relation to the Prices Justification Tribunal. I heard a Labor senator today pointing to a letter which appears in today’s Australian Financial Review. It talks of the abject stupidity of the Prices Justification Tribunal taking up the query of a man who said that he had been charged $4 to have changed the tube on his motor cycle. He wondered whether the Prices Justification Tribunal would care to take up the matter. The Prices Justification Tribunal sent out a letter, as it does, asking the person who did the work to give details of the time required to fit a tube of that type, the hourly service charge rate applicable to the fitting of a motor cycle tube, and the reasons why he considered a charge of $4 for the fitting of a motor cycle tube justified. That is the sort of thing that businesses have to put up with.
– Where did you get news of that?
– A Government senator very correctly raised the matter today as being one of the things which appeared to be ridiculous to him. When he made the comment, I said: Hear, hear! ‘ It just typifies the sorts of things on which we are expending money in these times. I know of businesses which have had queries made similar to that. When the business has answered the query the Prices Justification Tribunal apparently does not come back again, which is something that I suppose one might hope for. That sort of thing costs thousands and thousands of dollars. It costs a business a percentage of its profits to spend time in attempting to answer the queries of the Prices Justification Tribunal or of the Trade Practices Tribunal. For those bodies to make their findings, the cost to industry is great.
– As a private individual I got slugged $13 for an hour’s work, with no material involved, by a member of the Plumbers Union.
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raises a very important matter. I have heard members of the Government slating up hill and down dale members of the medical profession for the fees that they charge. It is my view that the medical profession is one of the most wonderful and most responsible professions in our community. When a doctor comes to attend my children, I find that I receive a bill for $6 or $7 for each visit. I do not know whether that is the figure today. But if I call a plumber to fix a washing machine, I find that that person wants $10 before he will walk in the door. A similar charge is made in respect of fixing a television set. No comparison can be made between the ability and the responsibility of the doctor and the tradesman. I do not criticise those who are in those trades; basically, set rates for their services apply. If one wants a television technician, one is free to call that technician or to try to fix the television set oneself. But there is no substitute when the services of a medical man are needed and charges for medical services have continued to be reasonable.
I again say to the Labor Government that it should read very carefully the public company reports which are being put out at present. Labor should read what the managers of these businesses are saying. For heaven’s sake, let us not get to the situation where in its aim for socialism Labor says: ‘We have the answer. We believe that Government instrumentalities are the best thing for this community’. Let me illustrate how such instrumentalities are not the best for our community. Mr Kennedy and his Australian Postal Commission have lifted the price of a stamp by 70 per cent- is that not the increase, Senator Bishop?- without reference to the Prices Justification Tribunal. Of course that is not needed; the Post Office needs to set such charges to try to remain profitable. It must have those funds. Can any honourable senator point out one Government instrumentality or trading organisation that today is being run at a profit? I mention in this respect those instrumentalities engaged in shipping. I mention also the communications field, although I am probably wrong in that respect as the Telecommunications Commission is probably very profitable. But in trading organisations throughout Australia in which the Government is involved there is not the interest or the activity which is demonstrated by private entrepreneurs to ensure that there is a profit. That is what these taxation Bills deal with.
– Since motor insurance has been taken over by the State Government in Tasmania, the premium has gone up from $12 to $56.
-It is difficult to work out the percentage increase in what Senator Wright says, but it would be very high.
Let me refer to and quote from the annual report for 1974-75 which was published on 27
October- quite recently- of the Australian Industries Development Association. Honourable senators will see that the members of the Council of the AIDA are some of the greatest businessmen in Australia. I quote from page 1 of that report:
In just under .’I years, industry policy mismanagement by Government has turned a reasonably dynamic manufacturing sector into one that is running down. The policies causing this condition are defended by Government as being designed to bring about a beneficial ‘restructuring’ of industry. Since the ‘restructuring’ in the manufacturing sector is moving almost entirely in the one direction- that of industry destructionthe question must be asked whether the Government believes that manufacturing industry is expendable?
The conclusion is fast being reached by many people in industry that what appeared to be and were accepted as being policy errors caused by bad advice and bad judgment are occurring far too often.
May I interpose the comment with respect to bad advice and bad judgment that whenever economic advice is to be taken by Labor it brings Mr Hawke up and a closed circle of Ministers speaks to him. If the outcome of that advice is what we see in our society today, I think the Government ought to change its management consultation. The annual report of the AIDA continues:
Lessons do not seem to have been learnt from past mistakes, and Government continues to talk about restructuring and retraining, while industrial activity declines and unemployment reaches figures surpassed only in the great depression.
The report continues:
Some people are inclined to question whether these circumstances are the result of well-intentioned policy errors due to bad advice and bad judgment, or whether what is happening to manufacturing industry is part of a deliberate plan related to eventual nationalisation of important areas of industry. Some see the stage being set for a Government declaration that private enterprise is failing to produce the goods and provide the employment, and that Government must step in.
I say again that that is the view that I have of Labor’s aim. The report continues:
AIDA is not prepared to go that far. It believes that the present Government was swept into the national mess that it has created through a combination of an exuberant pursuit of its ideology, and bad advice and bad judgments which appeared to fit in with that ideology. AIDA is prepared to believe that the Government now is genuinely trying to extricate Australia and itself, at least in the economic sense, out of the mess largely of its own making.
But if the Government is going to achieve that, it will have to undo the damage done by some gigantic errors of judgment over the past 3 years. To do that, and to get things moving forward, it will have to listen to people in industry- to repeat, listen, not pretend to listen- and act on. the advice being given.
There is much in that report which is in the form of advice for people who will listen.
I believe that one of the most outstanding companies in Australia is Brambles Industries
Ltd. The Chairman’s address on the occasion of the completion of 100 years of service to Australian industry by that company, in common with I think nearly every other report by a public company, criticises the Government. It is hard to know which are the best extracts to quote from that report. I take my quotation from page 3 as it relates to the Bills with which we are now dealing. The Chairman of Brambles Industries Ltd in his address said:
To the cost of tax, inflation and industrial unrest has been added the substantial increase in the cost of management, legal and accounting time, and other charges, to deal with a whole procession of additional requirements resulting from Government intervention, through such vehicles as the Trade Practices Commission, Prices Justification Tribunal and other legislative measures.
This address goes on to deal with some of the issues facing private enterprise. It states:
The level of profits upon which private enterprise is assessed for income tax purposes invariably exceeds the audited figures arrived at after adopting proper commercial criteria required by the accounting profession. This means that tax payments are higher and, in effect, results in a transfer of real resources to the private sector.
One could go on at great length. I go on now to quote -
Government senators- Spare us.
– … the most up to date facts to which Government senators who are interjecting could listen, if only they would listen. Government senators smile and laugh. Very little concerning business is going through their heads at the moment although they may be thinking of legal matters. If one wished to refer Government senators to the policies that have depleted manufacturing industry one could do no better than to suggest that they should read thoroughly the report on Policies for Development of Manufacturing Industry, presented in October 1975 by the Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry, commonly known as the Jackson Committee. Honourable senators should realise that Mr Hawke was a member of this Committee. In the part headed Summary and Conclusions and sub-headed Industry is Unhealthy and in Crisis he was willing to agree to this statement:
Australian manufacturing industry is in acute financial crisis. Unemployment is high. Factories are running below capacity. Many firms have borrowed to the hilt, with capacity under trust deeds and credit standing eroded. Their profit record and prospects make it hard to raise equity. But their need for cash increases, to finance stocks that are slow to sell and that cost more because of inflation. Some firms are in serious financial trouble; some are closing.
There is in this day and at this time a most difficult situation for industry.
What is the real aim and thrust of the Labor Government. If that Government does not change its tactics, it will see the people who put it in office- that is, the labouring sector of the communitygreatly harmed in the coming months and perhaps in the coming years. It will be impossible for any government to reverse what has been done. The 3 tax Bills are not opposed by the Opposition, but that does not mean that we support them. The honourable senators opposite who are trying to interject probably do not understand. I received a letter from Mr Kennedy of the Post Office in which he said that the Opposition supported the break-up of the Post Office in the way that it has been done. I had to point out to him that if the Opposition does not oppose measures that does not necessarily mean that the Opposition supports them. I hope that honourable senators opposite will accept that view. Some benefits will flow from these Bills. I endorse the Bills.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, it is good to know that the Opposition is supporting the 3 taxation Bills that are before the Senate.
– They are not opposing them.
– The Opposition is not opposing the Bills, to use the words of the previous speaker, Senator Webster. The Opposition does not intend to vote against the legislation, even though it has produced all sorts of arguments in both the other place and this chamber to suggest that there are some deficiencies in the Bills. It is interesting that the Opposition is putting itself in the position where it is not opposing the Bills because they are revenue Bills of the Australian Government. This stand contrasts very considerably with the opposition which the same parties have offered to the Appropriation Bills which relate to the expenditure side. However, I suppose that we can be thankful for small mercies. Even though many words have been spoken by the Opposition, when the vote is taken at least the new deal for taxpayers that is inherent in this legislation will be adopted by the Senate and therefore will become law.
In my view honourable senators opposite have given us something of a thesis on economics. They have lectured us at length about the deficiencies within the economy and have, not applied themselves to any considerable extent to the substantial benefits that will accrue to the community as a result of the passage of these 3 Bills. I think it has to be said from the beginning that the Budget itself- of course, these taxation
Bills are an integral part of the Budget- contains substantial and sweeping changes to the income tax to be paid by persons in Australia. I think other speakers have described it as being one of the most important reforms in the post-war years. The Opposition has criticised the changes in concepts in the Income Tax Bill. I wish to deal substantially with that part of the legislation because I think that that is the most substantive part of the 3 Bills that are before us. It is the part which will provide most benefit for most people.
The Opposition had the opportunity, during 23 long years, to bring about the changes that need to be made in the personal income tax structures. Apart from appointing Mr Justice Asprey to conduct an inquiry into taxation in the dying days of the McMahon Government and making one minor amendment to the income tax laws in 1954, I think it can be said in a rather general way that the previous Government made no substantial change or alteration in the tax system between 1949 and 1972. In some years when the economy was in a somewhat tight position and it was necessary to get more money into circulation, there was some minor reduction in income tax- I think to the extent of 2 lh per centbut once the economy got back on to its feet, in the view of the Government at that time, that concession was taken off in the following year.
I think that we are concerned about the purpose of taxation. There is no doubt that governments the world over use income tax as the base of their taxing systems. Of course, the purpose of taxation is to redistribute resources and incomes and to provide community and public servicesto take money out of private sector spending and to put it into public sector spending. That is the purpose of taxation in its philosophical sense. Sometimes when I hear members of the Opposition speak in both this chamber and the other place I wonder whether they are aware of their own parties’ policy on taxation or whether they are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. The purpose of this legislation is to bring about more equity in the income tax field. The Liberal Party, in its policy and platform, says that the achievement of its tax system should bring about an equitable system of taxation as between taxpayers in a similar position, and that the tax burden upon individuals should have regard to their ability to pay. It goes on to say that there is a need to have regard for the redistributive aspects of incomes and that this should be a pertinent factor in relation to the Australian Government’s activities.
When we consider the failure of the Opposition to change the tax structure during those long years in which it had undisputed sway in the national Parliament, and the degree to which community facilities suffered from the lack of Australian Government funds, we can understand why the Whitlam Labor Government has sought, in its Budget strategy in 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76, to bring about a transference of funds, through the taxation system so that public sector deficiencies, which were a feature in the post-war years, would be redressed, the imbalance would be recognised and the Government would be able to allocate sufficient funds to enable public services and public works to be provided in order to make up the leeway that was obvious to every person in Australia.
We do not make any apology for the fact that, in a period when there is obviously excess money in the community, tax money should be collected for the purpose of redressing the deficiencies in the areas of education, sewerage, roads, the National Estate and so on, in respect of all of which I need make no more than a passing reference, and of providing the essential welfare program which has been a characteristic of this Government ‘s policy during its term of office. We believe that the Opposition, in not opposing these Bills, at least is recognising its own limitations of the past and the fact that the Australian people want the Australian Government to become more financially involved in providing public services for the Australian people.
The Income Tax Bill will bring about some very important changes in the tax liabilities of the average Australian. Whilst it is true that the changes in the tax system will bring about a situation where some people will pay more, the fact is that a greater number of people will pay lessand that is obvious. Mr Fraser, Mr Lynch, honourable senators who have taken part in the debate on the economy and even newspapers in their editorials have referred to the need for restructuring the tax system in Australia. It is obvious that if there is to be a restructuring some people will pay more and some will pay less. The fact is that about two-thirds of all taxpayerssomething like 3 million Australians- will benefit from this new personal income tax scheme. It is an essential part of the strategy of the Budget on this occasion to place within the community sufficiently more funds to enable consumer demand to be stimulated and to enable those on lower incomes, who are disadvantaged most by inflation and by the old tax scales, to have more money to put into circulation. I think it is important to note that something like half a million Australians will be placed outside the tax scale with the passage of this legislation.
That means that in the 3 years in which we have had a Labor Government something like 600 000 people will have been placed below the minimum taxation level into a position whereby their personal tax liabilities have been eliminated.
I referred to personal income tax being the base of the taxing system but of course other avenues of taxation are available to governments. Governments can increase, decrease or maintain the existing form of indirect taxation. It can increase excise and other duties. But it must be said that it is in the area of income tax that inequities are most pronounced. There had been certain adjustments under the old taxation system but not sufficient to satisfy the Labor Party. This legislation has the effect of redressing inequities which existed in some of those areas which are long overdue for reform. The Government regards this Income Tax Bill as a reform which could be described as radical. It is innovative and it recognises views that have been put to the Government over a considerable number of years by the Australian Council of Trade Unions whose submission to the Government was considered very seriously and was adopted substantially in the 1975-76 Budget.
The rebate system, which is the basis upon which the taxation system will now operate for persons, replaces what very readily can be described as an inadequate, unfair and in many cases discriminatory concessional system. The system that is now envisaged in this legislation is much more equitable and much fairer. I think it has to be said that this legislation will introduce a system which will be much fairer for the average taxpayer. I do not think any honourable senator can disagree with the statement that under the old system which is to be replaced extra benefits were given to taxpayers in the higher and middle income groups. There is abundant evidence to show that the difficulties which existed under the old system forced the lower income groups to pay a disproportionate share of their incomes in tax.
This Government sought in its previous Budget, as it does in this Budget, to redress that and in fact to equalise the concessional areas of deductions which had grown over the post-war years to such an extent that they inverted the original concepts and in fact were giving considerable financial benefit, week by week, to those who were on higher incomes. All of us know that persons on higher incomes were able to spend money on medical and other insurance and in other areas in such a way as to get about two-thirds of their outlay back in their tax cheques at the end of the financial year, whereas those on a lower income who were paying payasyouearn tax were not given the same access to concessions. I think it has to be said that from now on no one will get extra benefits. All taxpayers under this legislation will be equal. I think that is a very important part of the legislation. It is a very important principle in line with the Government’s general egalitarian policy of creating a much more equal society.
This legislation does not deny some of the basic recommendations of the Asprey Committee, nor does it reject in entirety some of the important recommendations of the Mathews Committee related to taxation. All taxpayers, whether they are large or small income earners, will receive a minimum rebate of $540 per annum, which represents some 40 per cent of $1,350. That represents an important and tangible benefit for something like 3 million taxpayers in Australia. We can add to that other important proposals that are contained in the legislation: The rebate for sole parents- deserted wives or deserted husbands or persons bringing up a family on an individual basis and without the assistance of a married partner; the increased dependants’ allowance, which is over and above the rebate system; and the home mortgage interest rebate which has been maintained in the Budget. I think it ought to be acknowledged by the Opposition that these proposed concessions do give to that section of the community which we represent- that is the overwhelming majorityaccess to a great number of benefits which did not have quite as much significance under the old system as they do under the new.
Of course, in addition to the $540 rebate which will be available to all taxpayers, the deductions which applied for expenses incurred in earning an income will be retained, as will the zonal allowance, which is an important concession for those living outside the main centres of population, and the existing concessions as they relate to spouses and children, gifts to charities and school building funds, as well as the deduction for interest on home repayments to which I have referred already. These concessions will remain within the system and clearly represent a very important benefit to the average taxpayer. I agree with the preceding speaker when I say how pleased we are that in this Budget and in this legislation the property tax, or unearned income tax, to which Senator Webster referred in his contribution, has been abolished. The consequence of this, of course, is that a tax which was introduced a year or two ago has been recognised as being iniquitous and has been abolished.
A lot has been said about the tax structures and about the need for reform of the tax scales. There has been a lot of public comment about this matter. I think it has to be said, in fairness to the Government and to the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) that this legislation does represent a very important breakthrough as far as the average person is concerned. It is interesting that so much Press comment has been made over the years on the tax scales and about the Australian Government being the principal bogey man as far as tax is concerned. A closer examination shows that this is not the case and that in fact both State and local government taxation has risen in the period 1949 to 1973-74. 1 do not have the latest figures, but an examination does show that the percentage increase in the Australian Government’s collection of tax is much closer to the average weekly earnings percentage increase than the tax collections of all of the other arms of government. I am talking, of course, of State and local governments. It is interesting to note that in 1948-49 the average Australian was paying $125.87 a year to the Australian Government and $15.52 a year to the combined State and local governments. The average weekly earnings at that period were $17.70. It is interesting to note also that the latest figures I was able to obtain show that on a comparative basis for the period 1973-74 per capita taxation paid to the Commonwealth had reached $823.06 a year whereas the combined State and local government rate had increased to $235.37 a year.
The percentage increases show that Australian Government taxation- taxation under even the Labor Government, of which speakers have been quite critical- had increased by 554 per cent whereas taxation by State and local government authorities had increased by 1 ,4 1 7 per cent, and the average weekly earnings in the same period of time had increased by 567 per cent. When one examines average weekly earnings and the people’s tax indebtedness to the Australian Government, it is clear that it is not the Australian Government that should be criticised and pilloried in respect of income tax and taxation generally. One could talk a great deal about the inequitable system of allocation of funds from the Commonwealth to the States which has brought about that inverted position as far as State and local governments are concerned. It is interesting to note, that people on the average weekly wage paid 5 times more tax under the first Budget of this Government than they did under the last Budget of the Labor Government in 1949.
The whole objective of this legislation is to redress that situation and bring about a much better and more equitable system. In this legislation the Government seeks to introduce a tax scale of 7 graduations ranging, I think, from 27 per cent up to 65 per cent. So instead of having the dozen or so graduations which hitherto have appeared on the back of the tax form, taxpayers will now be put into 7 categories. Taxpayers will be in a much better position, particularly when one bears in mind that the rebate system which will replace the old concessional deduction system for the majority of tax deductions will give the greatest benefit to people earnings from $4,000 per annum up to the annual equivalent of the average weekly wage. Senator Guilfoyle, when speaking yesterday in this debate, seemed to be somewhat surprised to find that there were so many people on that minimum salary of slightly in excess of $4,000. I suggest that the honourable senator should look at the award rates of pay for many hundreds of thousands of people. Great numbers of unskilled workers are receiving a net income of between $4,000 and $5,000. It has to be recognised that in this legislation the Government is trying to improve the whole personal tax structure and has set itself the objective of giving relief to those who are most in need.
I want to say a few words about the Liberal Party’s new federalism policy as it relates to taxation. I find it difficult to comprehend the objectives which the Liberal Party has set itself in the area of taxation. In the document ‘Federalism Policy’, which he issued in September, some 6 weeks or so ago, Mr Fraser said:
The Liberal and National Country Parties view as the main objective of government the creation of a society and an environment in which individuals may best fulfil themselves.
When one reads through a lot more of the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Fraser) one finds running through them a desire to minimise Government, involvement in welfare and public sector activity and a desire that people should be able to do what they want to do with their own money.
I do not want to go into the whole area of the development of our infrastructure, with so many petty restrictions and so much difficulty for the average citizen, but I think that the proposition advanced by the Liberal and National Country parties as a viable one ought to be debated publicly. The liberalism statement goes on to say:
The Liberal and National Country Parties propose to ensure the States permanent access to revenue-raising through personal income tax.
If one is able to read into this statement a proposal to use personal income tax as a substantive part of their federalism policy, if the Opposition parties are going to say that personal income tax will be the basis upon which some distributive powers will be given to the States, if they are going to continue to make available to the States the right to levy their own income tax, then it is clear that the average taxpayer in Australia will be paying a great deal more in personal income tax.
I find it difficult to understand the strength of the argument and the length of the argument that has been produced here and in the other place, when the Opposition criticised the Government for the very sweeping reforms which are inherent in this legislation. The Government was criticised, particularly in the other place, for its failure at this stage to take up tax indexation. The Government recognises the desirability of tax indexation, but surely it has to be said that in this period of economic tightness it is beyond the Government’s power. It would not matter whether there was a Labor government or a Liberal government in office at the moment; it would be beyond the powers of a government to introduce in the Budget at this time the new concepts of taxation indexation. The country just could not afford it. It is clear that if there were to be any change in the tax system involving indexation, it would be almost impossible to realise those objectives without its costing the income side of the Budget about $ 1,000m.
The Opposition has been talking about supporting the principles of tax indexation. It has been talking about the principle of letting people retain sufficient of their income so that they can spend it in the private sector. It has been talking about cutting back public sector spending. I challenge the Opposition to the view that the Australian people do not want Australian Government funding to go in larger sums to the State and local governments but they do want larger sums of Commonwealth funding to go to the areas of education and public works in the total sense as well as to the improvement of the welfare programs. In point of fact, I find it ironical that honourable senators, time and time again particularly over these last few weeks when there is a tightening of money because of the Opposition’s attitude to the Budget in denying us the expenditure funds, have risen to their feet and asked why money is not being available for particular activities in their areas or States or why more money is not being made available for particular public sector activities.
Even in the local newspaper in my area, I read of Liberals complaining because the Government is cutting back on the Regional Employment Development scheme, because the Government is cutting back on funds that it has made available to the Australian Assistance Plan or because the Government is not meeting all of the demands of the local communities for additional sums. As late as last week there were statements made by Liberal Party candidates criticising the Australian Government for not making available sums in excess of $100,000 in the area of Sutherland for the purpose of carrying out some vital and important public facility works. It just does not make sense that we have Liberals at the lower level contradicting their brothers at the national level and, in fact, insisting upon funds being made available for public sector activities whilst their colleagues here at the national level are urging all the time for a reduction in income for the Australian Government and a cut in expenditure by the Australian Government. I think that we have argued at great length in the past about the need for the Australian Government to give even more funds to the States and to make even more funds available for local government.
Only this week we passed the Local Government Grants Bill. That Bill made available $79. 9m to the 800 local government authorities. Honourable senators paid tribute to the fact that this expenditure for the second year in succession represents a whole new area of Australian Government involvement. I have never heard any honourable senators opposite suggest that we should be cutting back on the fourfold increase in expenditure in the area of education generally, both in the public sector and the private sector. The suggestion is always being made that we ought to be cutting back on income tax. Mr Deputy President, in your contribution to the debate you spoke at some length about the need to increase the reduction of In per cent on company taxation which is dealt with in the Income Tax Bill at present before the Senate. You said that this should be done in order to encourage private companies and to get some response from private sector activity. I say that you cannot have your cake and eat it too. On the one hand, we cannot be exceeding, respecting and considering the demands for more funds. Every State Premier, whether he is a Labor Premier or a Liberal Premier, has been consistently asking the Australian Government for more funds. We cannot supply these funds, we cannot talk about tax indexation and about giving more money back to the taxpayer when, in fact, the Australian taxpayer does not need more money, for instance, to buy a new motor car. I submit that the Australian taxpayer wants more money to be spent on better roads. If it were a question of whether the Australian taxpayers were to have more money in their pockets to be able to purchase new motor car at the present greatly increased price or having much better and safer roads on which to drive, I am sure that the overwhelming majority of Australians would opt for the alternative of, for instance, taking a year longer to purchase a motor vehicle in order that better roads could be provided. Better roads can be provided only from Australian Government expenditure.
Mr Deputy President, I would not seek to speak for the length of time that you did in order to debate these Bills. But I think something has to be said in order to put the record straight. You quoted from a document of the Australian Industry Development Association. I submit to you, Mr Deputy President, that you ought to look at the report which that Association submitted to your Government back in 1969 in which it referred to the fact that the rundown in manufacturing industry began in 1967. So when we came to power in 1 972, manufacturing industry was already in a very serious state of decline. No doubt, you can recall that your Government in 1972 recognised the need for some activity in that sector. Certain steps were taken in that Government’s last Budget, the 1972-73 Budget, to try to get some private sector stimulation. It is wrong that the Opposition should suggest that everything that is wrong with this country, that every problem that is facing both the private and public sectors, is attributable to what has happened during the last 3 years and to the fact that we have had a change in government during that period. There is abundant evidence in all the reports- the Jackson Committee report, the Industries Assistance Commission reports and the AIDA comments- which have been consistently before governments over the last seven or eight years to indicate that there has been a natural decline in private sector activity in Australia. Even though the present Government has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars into private sector industry in the forms of incentives for export and investment allowances, in fact, the decline commenced in those years when your government, Mr Deputy President, was making available great sums of money and giving handouts to the private sector.
It needs to be emphasised time and time again that the very simple solutions that the Opposition puts to the Senate and to the Australian people have very little substance in fact. The endeavours of members of the Opposition to try to suggest that these Bills do not go far enough do not bear any examination at all. In fact, the Bills deserve and warrant the enthusiastic support of the Opposition. Because they are an integral part of the Budget, I would hope that when the Opposition finally agrees to pass the 3 Income Tax Bills honourable senators opposite might reflect this weekend upon the need to adopt the same constructive attitude in terms of their voting powernot their speaking power- in relation to the Appropriation Bills.
– The Senate is in a cognate debate considering the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1975, the Income Tax Bill 1975 and the Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1975. The Bills deal with the raising of revenue through taxation, with the deductions to be allowed to individuals and the ways in which company taxes are to be raised. The Bills are wide in scope and I think that it would be profitable to concentrate in my contribution on those provisions which relate to the raising of personal income tax. It is necessary first to comment on a few things said by Senator Gietzelt in his contribution which he just made. There was a considerable lack of detail and documentary support for many of the things he asserted. I am not in the position to deny some of the things he said. But it would have been good if he had provided tables and figures to back up some of his arguments. When he talked about substantial benefits to the community, I hope to be able to demonstrate that these substantial benefits will be provided by way of increased tax to be paid by many Australians, particularly by the poor, the weak and the aged. It is difficult for such people to see any substantial benefits flowing to them. They will be worse off under the Income Tax Bills which we are now considering.
Senator Gietzelt offered a few comments on the federalism policy of the Opposition. He admitted that he did not understand this policy. That may be. The State Premiers certainly understand it. The Premiers of the non-Labor States and the leaders of the non-socialist parties in the other 2 States have all enthusiastically endorsed the policy with its provisions for income tax sharing and for guaranteed finances for State and local government. It is quite unreal for people to argue that this policy will result in double taxation. It will have no such effect. Senator Gietzelt should not have asserted that it would result in something which was clearly not stated in the policy. If we examine the trend of personal income tax raisings in Australia since 1954-55, we discover that while average earnings have increased the amount of tax raised as a percentage of earnings has increased even faster. The marginal tax rate has increased very quickly. I have a table which I have previously made available to Senator Wriedt, to which he had no objection. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
-I thank the Senate. This table shows that average earnings in Australia have risen from less than $1,800 in 1954-55 to more than $7,500 in 1974-75. The amount of taxation expressed as a percentage of earnings has risen from 5 per cent of earnings 20 years ago to almost 17 per cent of earnings now. Australians have been paying a greater percentage of their earnings in tax. Their marginal tax rate has gone up to 38 per cent- 38c in the dollar.
– Did you say 28 years ago?
– For each year over 20 years. The table will appear in Hansard. I draw attention to the comparison that can be made between the tax rates and the taxation on individuals in the last Budget introduced by a Liberal-National Country Party government, the Budget of 1972-73. In that year the tax on average earnings was $743 for a man with a wife and 2 dependent children. Today that person on average earnings will be paying over $ 1 , 200 in tax. The Labor Party, as a government, has proved to be a rapacious tax gathering government. We are told in this Bill that the Government proposes to restructure the taxation rates.
It is interesting to note the admission of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Senator Wriedt) in his second reading speech and the memoranda which accompanied the Bills. The memoranda state:
The new rates will be higher on so much of taxable income as is no greater than $6,000.
I was immediately impelled to ask the question: Who are these people whose taxable income is no higher than $6,000? Who are the people who, on the Government’s own admission, are going to be worse off under this new provision? It is very hard to get exact figures. The Legislative Research Service was able to tell me only that it guessed that about 55 per cent of taxpayers have an income which is below $6,000. About 55 per cent of taxpayers are the people who, on the Government’s own admission, may have to pay more tax under this provision. If that is the case it is very hard to justify these proposals as any kind of saving to the low income earners in Australia. I sought more information on exactly how many people were involved. I refer to the paper on the new personal income tax which accompanied the Budget Papers. On page 6 of that document is a graph which shows the number of taxpayers in each income group. It is very hard to make an accurate extrapolation, but it would appear that in 1975-76 1 100 000 taxpayers will earn less than $5,000 a year. There are probably another one million taxpayers who will earn less than $6,000 a year. It is hard to be exact from this table, but the figures indicate that approximately 2 million Australian taxpayers earn less than $6,000 per year. These are the people of whom it is said in the Minister’s second reading speech that generally tax rates will be higher on so much of income as is less than $6,000. Let us be quite clear on this. There is no tax saving for certain groups of Australians. They are faced with an increased load, on the Government’s own admission. Let us examine what is going to happen this year.
I turn to Budget Paper No. 4 which states that the Consolidated Revenue Account anticipates increased receipts by virtue of pay-as-you-earn taxation and taxation from individuals of over $2,600m, which is an enormous increase in taxation. Taxation receipts during this financial year will rise by 34 per cent and receipts from payasyouearn taxation will rise by 45 per cent. It is very hard to tell people that there is any kind of taxation saving to them if we are taking from them an extra $2,600m. Between 1972 and 1975 we have had 3 Labor Budgets, I think. We have certainly had 2 formal budgets and a mini budget. Personal income tax has risen by 140 per cent during this time. People in receipt of wages and salaries have had taken from them over the last few years an ever increasing percentage of their pay as taxation. Pay-as-you-earn deductions have increased at a rate twice that of the increase in average weekly earnings.
In presenting tables and comparisons the Government has sought to show the tax rates for the last year and the tax rates for the present year for people earning the same salary. This is an invalid and corrupt comparison. Salaries will not remain static. The Government’s policy recognises this. Provision is made for a rise in salaries, and estimates are given that they may well rise by 20 per cent or 22 per cent. The figure mentioned in the Budget Papers is a rise of 22 per cent. To work out what is going to happen for any individual taxpayer, we need to examine the income last year and the equivalent income in the current year in terms of its purchasing power. I take the Government’s own estimate of what the inflation rate will be and what the rate of salary increase will be. This was the figure given in the Budget Papers. A salary of $5,000 last year will become a salary of $6,100 in the current financial year. If we compare the tax payable on these 2 amounts we find that the taxpayer will pay more tax. He will pay considerably more tax than he paid last year. I take the example of a low income earner who was earning $5,000 last year. Let us say that he is a man with no children. His tax last year would have been $550. It will almost double to $1,055 in the present year. For a taxpayer whose only increase in salary will be an increase allowed to keep him at constant purchasing power the figure will double from $550 to $1,055. That rise will take the average tax rate for his earnings from 1 1 per cent to 1 7.3 per cent.
Take a taxpayer with a wife and 2 dependent children who .is on the same income. His tax will rise from $217 to $305, again a significant rise in tax. He will have gained nothing in real purchasing power. He will have had a rise only in terms of indexation, in terms of the Budget rises to which the Government has already drawn attention. The Government had the effrontery in the
Budget Speech, when referring to the taxation adjustment, to state:
This will protect low income earners from the impact of the higher marginal rates at low income levels.
It will not and it does not protect low income earners. In fact, they will pay more tax. The people at that kind of income level are the poor and needy in our community. The Government is playing a cruel trick on these people. I ask honourable senators to look at some of the other measures in these Bills which will affect low income earners. The age rebate, which has been referred to by several speakers in this debatethe rebate allowed to aged persons who are men aged 65 years or more and women aged 60 years or more and the wives of some of these personshas been abolished. This also will have an effect on the amount of tax that people will pay. Again it is an allowance that has been taken away from low income earners. It is an allowance that will be missed by these people. This will have the effect of increasing their tax payments.
This is the Government which imposed the surcharge on tax in respect of property last year. The Government, having recognised that that tax was utterly negative, destructive, improper and inappropriate, has now decided to remove it. It is removing the age rebate. It has told us in the explanatory memoranda that it does not matter and that the taxpayers will not be any worse off. In a moment I will examine that to see whether people will be worse off. On the new scales, low income earners in Australia will pay more tax. They will be the aged, especially the single aged and the aged who have no dependants. They will pay more tax. The pensioners will pay more tax. With the abolition of the age rebate, they will be worse off even if they are allowed the rebate of $540 to which other honourable senators have referred. I have had another table prepared and it has been shown to Senator Wriedt. It shows the effects of the new tax rates on pensioners or persons over 65 years with no dependants or with a dependent wife. I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
– The table shows the position of people on low incomes, people earning between $60 and $90 a week-$60, $70, $80 and $90 a week. They are the low income earners in our society. The table makes allowance for the effect of the loss of the age rebate. The table makes allowance for the rebate which they will be given. The last 3 columns of the table show the amount of tax paid last year, the amount of tax to be paid this year and the amount of tax increase. Significantly, every one of the pensioners in those groups- whether they receive $60 a week, $70 a week, $80 a week or $90 a week and whether they are single or have a wife paying tax- will pay more tax. For example, the tax paid by a person earning $60 a week and having had some considerable deductions, will increase from $9 in the last tax year to $162 this year. That is scant justice for- pensioners in those circumstances. In the same way, pensioners on $70 a week will see their tax go up by anything from $82 to $303. The rises in each case is significant. I was unable to demonstrate one instance in which taxpayers in these circumstances would gain any benefit or any relief.
Let us be clear about this matter. In each case we have made allowance for the concessional rebate of $540 which the Government has so generously made available to them. The Government has given, in the examples which it published, carefully distorted examples. For example, in looking at the 1974-75 examples it carefully arranged to overstate the amount of tax to be paid last year by understating the average deduction situation. I did not list, in the examples which were given on Budget night and soon after, the kind of person who had deductions other than just dependant deductions. Most Australians have other deductions. They were not shown in the examples we were given. The facts are quite simple. The low income earners will pay more. They will be worse off if they are on a constant income, as I have just shown in the table which I have had incorporated, and they will be worse off if their income rises in accordance with the indexation guidelines. Let us consider the income earners who perhaps are not quite so far towards the lower end of the scale and whose incomes range between, say, $5,700 and $7,000 a year. It is a group that is getting close to the average earnings. We can tabulate the effects of the new tax scales on people who have no dependants or those who have a dependant wife. I have prepared another table which I seek leave to have incorporated in Ilansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
– Very simply, this table also shows that, between the salary ranges of $5,720 and $7,280 a year, as weekly income rises from $ 1 10 to $ 140 a week all groups of taxpayers will pay more tax. They will be small amounts, but the people will pay more. I have not attempted to give illustrations which involve 2 dependent children. Those examples have been given before and they are the examples used by the Government. For the middle income earners- the person who is earning $ 10,000 a year now and will earn $12,200 a year, using the Government’s announced increase in wages- his tax will rise from $2,300 a year to $3,400 a year. He will pay more tax and his average tax rate will rise. The average tax rate and marginal tax rate will rise for that taxpayer. Even the higher income earner, the man who is on $20,000 a year, will find that his tax last year of $7,220 will rise to $9,624 on the income he will recei ve when indexation is applied to the wage he receives. His marginal tax rate will be 60 per cent and his average tax rate will increase from 36 per cent to 39 per cent.
There are many young people in Australiamany single Australians- who are on low incomes. They will all pay more. I refer to the apprentices, the young shop assistants and the students. They are the people who will have to pay more as a result of these Bills. It is difficult to understand how the Government can really claim that it has brought about a sweeping reform that will be welcomed by most Australians. I will be delighted if the Minister can demonstrate to me, during his summing up, how the Australian on a low income will be better off. He will not be better off. The Australian on a low income and the pensioner will be worse off under these scales. What has happened is that the average income earner has been benefited and the low income earner has been hit. In the second reading speech we were told that there would be losers and there would be gainers under the proposed system. We are used to the fact that the losers are usually people at the high end of the scale. This must be a truly remarkable set of taxation reforms and taxation Bills, because the losers are concentrated very heavily in about 2 million taxpayers at the bottom end of the scale. Of course, Ministers of the Crown on $35,000 to $40,000 a year will be all right; any effect on them will be minimal.
– Where did you get the figure of 2 million taxpayers?
- Senator Walsh interjects. Had he been present at the beginning of my speech he would be aware that I carefully explained to honourable senators where the figure came from. If he reads Hansard tomorrow he will find out. The Liberal and National Country Parties have made it clear that we seek to provide an extra $500m in tax relief- $500m, not just the $205m which this Government is offering in a full tax year. We have made a commitment to tax indexation and have taken some account of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee. I draw the attention of the Senate to paragraph 27 of the Mathews report which says:
The view is widely held that failure to adjust the progressive income tax schedule for the effects on inflation will lead to acceleration in the rate of wage increases.
Until there is some basic correction of this type we will find that the tax scales we are looking at will be inflationary and will increase the effects of inflation in our society.
I would like to offer now a few comments on the tax credit system which the Government has introduced. On superficial examination there is some attraction to a tax credit or tax rebate system on the basis of so many cents in the dollar. I use the word ‘superficial’ because the individual taxpayer whose salary is increasing in a time of high inflation will, as a result of indexation, lose some of his residual spending power. With a deduction system such as we have been used to, as salaries rise income earners keep an increasing amount of their salary for their own use and though their tax will rise, as I have shown in one of the tables I have presented, the amount of tax they pay will be minimised. Under the proposed tax credit system this will not happen. As wages increase deductions will remain constant, the amount of money remaining for the taxpayer will be less, and the .amount he will pay in tax will go up because it will represent an effective tax rate of 60c in the dollar on every dollar on which he is claiming deductions. This person will find that his tax is increasing at a much faster rate than it might otherwise have done. Tax credits will mean more tax in the long run. They will mean less value to ordinary Australians from concessional deductions.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Senator Wriedt), in his second reading speech, constantly spoke of gainers and losers. The gainers will be the privileged groups in Australian society; the losers will be the poor, the working man, the pensioner. The strong unions will gain. When we look at who is going to be pleased with these new tax scales we find that it will only be the strong and militant unions who have been able to keep the salaries and wages of their employees at or above average earnings. The poor Australian, the weak Australian, the pensioner, the single Australian, the person in the lower income group or anyone with a rising income will find little joy in these taxation measures. There is no way in which a government can come before us and tell us it will take an extra $2, 600m from us in tax and then try to pretend that we have in some way seen some kind of taxation reform. The Opposition does not oppose the measures. It simply thinks that they are a sham and that Australians when they look at their pay packets will realise that they have gained nothing and that the Government has continued to increase its overly large share of Australian income tax.
- Senator Wriedt has been called to a Cabinet subcommittee meeting and it is therefore my responsibility to reply to the debate on behalf of the Government. We are discussing 3 income tax Bills in a cognate debate. The Opposition is not opposing any of the Bills, although some objection has been offered by honourable senators opposite to some of the proposals in them. As was said by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) when he introduced the Bills in the House of Representatives and by Senator Wriedt in his second reading speech in this chamber, the paramount objectives of the Government in introducing the new personal income tax proposals are twofold. One objective is to achieve a more equitable distribution of the burden of taxation that is borne by individual taxpayers, especially in single income families- that is, the worker who has a dependent wife and children. The other objective is to reduce marginal rates of tax at the level of average weekly earnings. The simple fact is that for a person earning around about the average weekly wage the marginal rate of tax will go down from about 48c in the dollar, as it is now, to about 35c in the dollar.
As Mr Hayden pointed out about 3 million Australians, or about two-thirds of all taxpayers, will receive substantial tax cuts under the Australian Labor Government’s new personal tax scheme. The Australian family man with a dependent wife and 2 children will be able to earn more than $100 a week free of tax. In addition, about 500 000 taxpayers will be freed of taxes. The tax grab from overtime payments and other additional earnings will be slashed by almost 30 per cent for the average weekly wage earner, and parents without partners will receive a special tax reduction of almost $4 a week. This scheme is designed to bring about a more equitable distribution of the burden of tax that is borne by individual taxpayers and to reduce marginal rates of tax at the level of average weekly earnings. Certainly in those 2 respects the legislation now before the chamber achieves those objectives.
Having made those points and realising that the Opposition is not offering objection to these 3
Bills, the rest of my comments will be cut substantially. However, I wish to make some observations on some of the remarks that have been made by honourable senators during the debate. Senator Guilfoyle referred to the minimum taxable income and suggested that the 500 000 people who would benefit from this raising of the minimum taxable income would have incomes under $2,520, but the fact is that the 500 000 people will also include people with dependants who have a minimum taxable income in excess of $2,520. Senator Guilfoyle appeared to be talking about single people and taking them as a guide but the simple fact is that people earning up to $5,000 a year with dependants could well be freed of taxes. For example, a bread winner with a dependent wife and 2 children, who was referred to, I think, by the honourable senator, will be freed of taxes on an income of $5,229 or less. Senator Guilfoyle also suggested that in material that was circulated with the Budget the proposed tax after the $540 rebate had been compared with tax formerly payable before allowing for concessional deductions. While the table circulated on Budget night compares the tax formerly paid by taxpayers with no concessional deductions with the proposed tax after allowing for the general rebate, it also compares the tax payable under the old scheme with that payable under the new system for persons with concessional deductions equal to specified percentages of net income.
Both Senator Webster and Senator Guilfoyle referred to the cost of the new personal income tax system. I think both of them suggested that the new personal income tax system will result in an increase in taxation revenue rather than in an annual reduction of $205 m as is indicated in the Budget Speech. Senator Baume, during the course of his remarks, indicated that on his mathematics a number of people will be losers. The amount of $205m of course is the amount by which the revenue, on a full year basis, will be less than it would have been if the old system had continued in operation. This was made quite clear in the second reading speech of the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2).
I revert to the minimum rebate. It has been said that the provision of a minimum rebate of $540 for taxpayers whose eligible rebatable expenditure is $1,350 or less, will operate as a disincentive to saving through life insurance and will discourage families from spending on the education of their children. It is not thought that the rebate system will have that effect. The better view is that persons who spend relatively small amounts on life assurance or to educate their children include, as a general rule, those who are not financially able to do otherwise. It is difficult for the Government to accept the proposition that people will ignore the benefits of life insurance, for example for the reason only that the payment of premiums may not result in any reduction in tax payable, or that people, able to purchase their own homes, will refrain from doing so because a question mark hangs over the tax saving they may achieve by paying council rates. Senator Webster suggested that while the 40 per cent initial depreciation allowance was available under the income tax law it permitted industry to claim 140 per cent of the cost of eligible plant for income tax purposes. I suggest that Senator Webster was under a misapprehension when he said that.
– I did not say that; I said that that is what was available under the previous Government.
-All right. Senator Webster said that that was available under the previous Government. I am suggesting that he was under a misapprehension when he said that that was available under the previous Government. In fact, only the remaining balance of 60 per cent of cost could be written off over the effective life so that, with the initial 40 per cent allowance, the total deductions for depreciation could be no greater than 100 per cent of the cost of the unit concerned. I think Senator Webster might have been confusing the allowance with the old investment allowance which effectively enabled one to write off 120 per cent. That provision was introduced in 1970. It existed until 1 973 with, I think, one break during the course of the Gorton Government. But as far as the initial depreciation allowance is concerned, the simple fact is that only the initial 40 per cent depreciation allowance was available and then only the remaining balance of 60 per cent of the cost could be written off over the effective life of the equipment. Mention was made of the Mathews Committee. All I say is that my colleague, the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, referred at some length to the Mathews Committee in his Budget Speech when he presented the Budget to the Parliament on 19 August. I briefly read that section of his Speech which states:
We shall, of course, keep the question of business profitability and liquidity under careful notice but, in all the circumstances, we have turned to the other alternative in this area which was mentioned by the Mathews Committeenamely, a reduction in company tax.
The Government has decided to adopt this alternative and proposes to reduce the general rate of company tax by 2.5 per cent to 42.5 per cent. The new rate will apply to 1974-75 income and will cost an estimated $ 120m in 1975-76.
We have also decided to continue the system of doubled rates of depreciation beyond 30 June 1975 and extend it to all sectors of commerce and industry. We have here taken note of the Mathews Committee’s advice that:
Accelerated depreciation and investment allowances are appropriate policy options for a government which wishes to influence the level or the pattern of private investment . . .
The doubled rates of depreciation will be made applicable to all new plant other than motor cars and utility trucks, including plant used in industries such as transportation and construction that were excluded from the 1974-75 double depreciation provisions and from the investment allowances granted from time to time by the previous Government. The first cost to revenue of this proposal will fall in 1976-77 and will approximate$75m.
Our decision to opt for double depreciation rather than the indexation of depreciation allowances as recommended in the Mathews Report reflected our view that it was desirable to introduce immediately a clearly understood aid to business investment. The indexation recommendation would introduce some complex new elements into the depreciation provisions and there is a need for further study as to how a practicable and equitable scheme might be worked out.
Meanwhile, the double depreciation provisions will without delay greatly help the business sector in the planning of its investment and cash flows.
As I have said, about 3 million Australianssomething like two-thirds of all taxpayers- will receive substantial tax cuts under the Labor Government’s new personal taxation scheme. The Australian family man with a dependent wife and 2 children- the worker- is able to earn more than $ 100 a week free of tax. It is estimated that about 500 000 Australians will be freed of tax. The tax grab which has existed from overtime payments and other additional earnings will be slashed by almost 30 per cent for the average weekly wage earner. Parents without partners will receive a special tax reduction of almost $4 a week. I commend these Bills to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 28 October on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 28 October on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 16 October on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not object to the Bill to repeal the Cities Commission Act 1972-73. However, I would like to make a few observations on the Bill and on the circumstances surrounding this event. My colleague in another place, Mr Wilson, has outlined at some length our views on urban development. The repeal of the Cities Commission Act is one of 3 proposals announced after what might be called one of the many nights of the long knives that have been associated with the last few months. That announcement followed the events of 5 June, the night on which Mr Cameron and Dr Cairns were demoted. On that night 3 announcements were made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Those announcements were that the Cities Commission would be abolished, that the Social Welfare Commission would be abolished, and that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation would have transferred from it to the Department of Minerals and Energy the minerals research laboratories and the solar energy research unit. Those proposals represented a retreat from the open government to which this Government had been committed.
The Cities Commission first saw the light of day as a child of the McMahon Government when it was called the National Urban and Regional Development Authority, which was set up in the last few months of existence of the last Liberal-Country Party Government. It was actually set up following a statement made by Mr McMahon on 19 September 1972. It had no chance to function effectively, and the Labor Government kept the Authority operating after it came into office. Then in 1973 it formed the Cities Commission to carry out certain functions.
In its 1972 and 1974 policy speeches the Australian Labor Party made some quite interesting promises regarding what it would do for the cities, and the Cities Commission was one of the vehicles by which that was to be achieved. The Cities Commission was charged with a number of functions, including the drawing up of plans for the Albury-Wodonga program, the drawing up of plans for other growth centres, and doing a number of other jobs which are worth referring to later. The Commission was actually created in October 1973 to supplement and expand the work which had been done by the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. It took as one of its first tasks the expansion of activities in Albury-Wodonga- activities which have now come a long way towards fruition and which represent one of the areas initiated by the McMahon Government before it left office.
The second reading speech which Senator Cavanagh delivered in this chamber when introducing this Bill offered the comment that the creation of the Cities Commission had the effect of keeping NURDA in existence with a different name and with a different composition, but with the same functions. So we see the Labor Government here maintaining one of the bodies which we set up, allowing it to do its job and allowing it to carry on. In the short time that it has been in existence the Cities Commission has produced 3 annual reports which in themselves have been significant. For those of us interested in this area they have provided important reading. The Commission has set out a new cities program. It is a pity that that new cities program got such little support from the Labor Government, and it is a pity that the major recommendations in that program have so far not been acted upon.
The Cities Commission has produced a number of papers, and it is interesting to note that it has not been critical of the Government in the same way perhaps as the other independent Commission referred to in the Press release of 10 June- the Social Welfare Commission. It is interesting to note, however, that both of these Commissions have been set down for disestablishmentthe Cities Commission apparently because its job has finished and the Social Welfare Commission because it dared to be critical of the Labor Government and, of course, because the Social Welfare Commission did a truly surgical job on the Government’s half baked proposals contained in the National Compensation Bill. It is worth asking then: Why has the Cities Commission been set down for disestablishment? It is not every day that we see the Government destroying one of the bodies it set up only some 2 years ago.
The second reading speech is again instructive. The Government’s view is clearly that the work load of the Cities Commission has been reduced. Its view clearly is that the Department of Urban and Regional Development has grown in strength and capacity and can now take over the functions of the Cities Commission. What we are seeing then is a transfer of functions from what was an independent body which was able to operate on its own and make recommendations to a Minister outside departmental guidelines to a bureau within the Department and within the bureaucracy.
It is interesting to look at the question of regionalism and the 2 streams of activity which have come to bear on it- one stream from the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the other stream from the Social Welfare Commission. The Social Welfare Commission, as you know, Mr President, has set up the Australian Assistance Plan. Under that Plan were established a number of Regional Councils for Social Development. These councils emphasise local involvement of citizens in decision making and planning and the involvement of citizens in innovation and in the spending of money. The other stream came from the Department of Urban and Regional Development through the Regional Organisation of Councils which operated at a larger level than did the Australian Assistance Plan. Nevertheless, it operated and set up some structures which were able to operate within local communities- structures to do with the dissemination of information, structures to do with the local planning and involvement.
For a while the Department of Urban and Regional Development actually functioned to help grass roots participation. It is no secret that there has been a battle within the Department of Urban and Regional Development over the last 2 years. It is no secret that a fight has gone on between that group of people who could be called the DURD centralists and that group of people who could be called the devolutionists. It is also no secret that within the Department of Urban and Regional Development the centralists won. Over the last couple of years we have seen a diminution in the number of programs which emphasise local involvement; we have seen a drawing back by DURD towards decision making in Canberra; and we have seen efforts by DURD to centralise decision making and authority.
We know that the battle has been resolved in favour of the centralists. We are to see the destruction of the Cities Commission, and the decision to phase it out is merely one expression of that resolution. We have seen a reduction in the number of programs run by DURD at grass roots level. The Cities Commission is to be abolished, and interestingly the Department of Urban and Regional Development is now moving to try to influence the Australian Assistance Plan, which is really none of its business, by means of letters which it is writing in an effort to urge the Regional Councils for Social Development to coalesce and to join more closely with the Regional Organisation of Councils which DURD has set up. What we are seeing is the first of a series of moves designed to bring the Regional Councils for Social Development up towards DURD regions and to establish at those regional levels rather tighter and more complex administrative structures than we would like to see.
I am disappointed that the Labor Government, which genuinely tried initially to set up programs to emphasise local involvement, seems to be moving away from them. I have had letters from presidents of Regional Councils for Social Development expressing their concern at the activities of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and at the letters that they have received urging them to join together so that there will be only one Australian Assistance Plan structure in each DURD region, and urging them to co-ordinate far more closely with the DURD structure and the ROC or the Regional Organisation of Councils. I do not think that in the long term that will aid grass roots participation. I do not think that it will aid the kind of function for which the AAP was established. I do not really think that it will aid any kind of grass roots DURD programs. It is interesting that, when in the examination of the Estimates I tried to raise with the Minister for Social Security (Senator Wheeldon), under whose authority the Social Welfare Commission works, the fact that letters had been written to the AAP groups and that letters had come from the Department of Urban and Regional Development, no answer was forthcoming; no comment would be made. It is very difficult to find out exactly what pressures are being brought to bear at present to make a more centralised structure out of the Australian Assistance Plan regions.
Our worry is that with the destruction of the Cities Commission we will see a loss of a certain degree of independence which that Commission was able to exert; we will see the traditional bureaucratic structures more firmly in charge of the kinds of jobs which the Cities Commission formerly did. The fact that the Department of Urban and Regional Development is now able to take over these functions is not in itself a good reason for giving the functions to the Department. A decision might equally have been made to take the functions away from the Department and keep them with the Cities Commission. But it is for the Government to decide which way it does it. If the Government is moving towards a more centralised way of administration, that is its right. I remind the Senate that the Cities Commission had some achievements and that those achievements were not inconsiderable. It investigated the feasibility of the growth centres. It developed a pilot project for the Holsworthy area. It planned the rehabilitation of the Glebe lands in Sydney, a project in which we have been very interested. The Cities Commission submitted detailed proposals for the urban consequences of the development of the Pilbara region. It had been involved in the production of a plan for Darwin; this happened before cyclone Tracy. The Cities Commission has done quite a few jobs. Some of them have now been translated into programs such as the AlburyWodonga program.
The Cities Commission’s existence may have been short, but its existence has not been without distinction. Perhaps its functions are now being taken over, but we would like to place on record our belief that the Commission has performed a useful role. We record also that it arose out of a structure established by the last Liberal Government and carried on- we acknowledge this- by the Labor Government which followed. We are pleased to see that many of the projects in which the Commission interested itself have now come some of the way towards fruition. We believe that the Cities Commission has had a record of achievement. It is with a slight sense of sorrow that we do not oppose this Bill.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for not opposing the legislation and for assisting in its speedy passage. I think that what the Cities Commission has done has been recognised. I do not think that it is right to believe that the Commission cannot continue to progress as it has done because it is now to become a part of the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Because of the duplication that occurs as a result of having the Cities Commission and the Department, it is necessary to have one body for this purpose. The Department of Urban and Regional Development has been established; and it is essential. I remind Senator Baume, who led for the Opposition, that he has been a senator only under a Labor Government. Obviously before he became a senator he did not study politics. Had he done so, he would know that for 23 years the previous Government talked about decentralisation and suddenly, just before it was defeated at the House of Representatives elections in 1972- a fortnight before, I think- it set up an organisation to consider decentralisation. But in 23 years it had not done a thing about decentralisation. Our cities and urban areas were cluttered up. This government took a realistic view. The legislation to set up the Cities Commission was passed by this Senate when it was returned to the Senate after the rejection by the House of Representatives of some amendments requested by the Senate.
Senator Baume has mentioned some of the activities in which the Cities Commission has engaged, such as the Glebe lands study, the Pilbara area investigation and the report on Darwin before cyclone Tracy. These activities speak wonders for what the Commission has done. The Cities Commission was established using the machinery of the then existing legislation. Now we have a Department. Although the previous Government had legislation dealing with such activities, at no time had it established a department or was there a Minister to administer specifically that legislation. The present government set up the Department of Urban and Regional Development which has grown in success to the point where it can take over the work that the Cities Commission was doing. It will be the responsibility of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Being under the charge of that Minister, the bureau will be responsible to the Parliament as the Minister from time to time will have to answer in the Parliament for the activities of his Department.
The Cities Commission has been active, as we have seen and as Senator Baume has said, in the Glebe lands matter, the Albury-Wodonga growth centre and the Bathurst-Orange growth centre. Assistance has been provided in accordance with State plans for Monarto in South Australia. All of these undertakings have been achieved under the present Government. The honourable senator raised a question concerning the Councils for Social Development. These are purely State instrumentalities which are developing; they are not Commonwealth bodies. These activities are carried out by the States. Those bodies are going ahead as fast as possible. It is on the record that, as promised in the Labor Party’s policy- speech in 1972, for the first time this Government has done something about decentralisation. It has done something to solve the problem of the overcrowding of the inner metropolitan areas of our capital cities. Therefore, with the contingent support of the Opposition in this program, we hope for bigger and better achievements in the future in this area of activity under the Department of Urban and Regional Development.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 5 November on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will be pleased to give this Bill an expeditious passage through the Senate. I say briefly that the Bill’s objectives are commendable. It aims to make an agreement with the New South Wales Government whereby a major pollution problem arising from the Captains Flat mine waste dumps will be overcome. I think everybody in the Senate knows that the Molonglo River, Lake Burley Griffin and the Murrumbidgee River were threatened with pollution from these dumps. I am pleased to note that the New South Wales Government is bringing to fruition a contract to have this work done. Without further comment I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– It is pleasant to see that the Opposition is at last supporting some expenditure by the Government on necessary works. I wonder what different principle is adopted which enables Senator Carrick to get up in his place and say how good it is that this Bill supports the good work of the abatement of pollution. For some reason he believes that the purposes involved in the Appropriation Bills are of lesser material importance to Australians than are the purposes of this Bill. I cannot see that difference in worth. It illustrates the barefaced, cynical attitude, and the grab for power surrounding thai: attitude, in the Opposition’s refusal to support the Appropriation Bills. Of course, I join in support of this Bill. I only wish that the Opposition would come to its senses and support the major financial Bills before the Senate.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for the speedy passage of and for the approval that it is giving to this Bill. In reply to Senator Steele Hall, I point out that Senator Carrick and I have demonstrated the unity and co-operation that exist between 2 statesmen. The difference with the Appropriation Bills is that I never had the carriage of them on the Government side and Senator Carrick never had the carriage of them on the Opposition side. If we had had the carriage of the Appropriation Bills I am sure that the present problem with them would never have arisen. There is complete co-operation between Senator Carrick and myself. On those occasions when we have the carriage of Bills there is never a dissenting word. I thank the Opposition for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This morning there was published in the South Australian Advertiser and in other newspapers around Australia an account of Sir Thomas Playford ‘s belief that the Opposition should pass the Appropriation Bills in the Senate. The significance of his advocacy of that course is that Sir Thomas, throughout a long and distinguished career which was sometimes controversial, never relented in his determination to maintain the superiority of the lower House over that of the upper HouSe in the Administration over which he presided in South Australia. His party room meetings were never of a joint nature. Never did the members of his Party in the Legislative Council in South Australia form government policy. Never did they become involved in any decision which was taken by a meeting of the members of his Party in the lower House, which was the supreme policy making meeting for the Liberal-Country League in Sir Thomas Playford ‘s Government.
This morning Senator Wright took umbrage, in a most flamboyant fashion, at Senator Bunton ‘s advocacy that section 53 of the Constitution meant that the Senate was acting, at least in the spirit if not in the law, against the provisions of that section.
– In contravention.
– In contravention of that section. In his usual way Senator Wright retorted with a good deal of abuse, but there was little substance in his argument. I promised then to make available to him some additional matter which might help him to make up his mind in regard to the Constitution and the propriety or otherwise of the Senate ‘s action. This afternoon I wish to quote from a memorandum of Sir Samuel Griffith who rose to be the Chief Justice of Australia. In fact, he was the first Chief Justice of Australia. He was a very eminent Australian. I should like to read this fairly brief memorandum which is available from his collection of papers and which, I understand, was sent to the Governor-General in 1919. At least the copy of this memorandum has on it the stamp of the Governor-General’s office. It deals specifically with the question of contest between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Sir Samuel Griffith said:
Under the Australian Constitution the Senate and House of Representatives have equal authority, except as to one matter of procedure. But a working rule has for the present been adopted, based upon what is called the theory of Constitutional Government, which lays down that the continued life of an Administration is practically dependent solely upon its enjoying the confidence of a majority of the House of Representatives, and that it is sufficient if it enjoys that confidence without regard to the views of the Senate. It may be that in the future some modification of this working rule will be found necessary, but for the present it must be taken as we find it.
Sir Samuel then went on to deal at some length with section 57 of the Constitution which deals with disagreement between the Houses which leads to a double dissolution, with a period of 3 months between the presentation of the relevant Bills and the double dissolution. Whilst it is not relevant to the present conflict between the 2 Houses, I think that this memorandum ought to be completely read into Hansard. It reads:
An occasion for the exercise of the power of double dissolution under section 57 formally exists whenever the event specified in that section has occurred, but it does not follow that the power can be regarded as an ordinary one which may properly be exercised whenever the occasion formally exists. It should, on the contrary, be regarded as an extraordinary power to be exercised only in cases in which the Governor-General is personally satisfied, after independent consideration of the case, either that the proposed law as to which the Houses have differed in opinion is one of such public importance that it should be referred to the electors of the Commonwealth for immediate decision by means of a complete renewal of both Houses, or that there exists such a state of practical deadlock in legislation as can only be ended in that way. As to the existence of either condition he must form his own judgment.
Although he cannot act except upon the advice of Ministers, he is not bound to follow their advice, but is in the position of an independent arbiter.
In determining whether to follow it or not he should have regard, amongst other things, to the time that has elapsed since the last General Election of the House of Representatives, the state of the parties in each House, the probable consequences of refusal of the advice tendered by his Ministers, and, in particular, whether their resignation would follow the refusal, and, if so, whether there is any reasonable probability that another administration could be formed in the existing Parliament which would be able to carry on efficiently the functions of Government without dissolution of the House of Representatives. The circumstance that the existing House of Representatives was or was not elected during the term of office of the advising Ministers is also a relevant circumstance. Further, having regard to the importance of holding an even hand between contending parties, he should anxiously consider whether the acceptance or refusal of the advice tendered would be likely to give an unfair advantage to any party.
If, on being satisfied of the existence of either of the two conditions first stated, and on consideration all these matters, and such other matters existing in the particular case as appear to him material, he forms the independent opinion that it is desirable for the efficient conduct of the government of the Commonwealth that both Houses should be wholly renewed he should grant the double dissolution, but otherwise should refuse it.
The considerations applicable to a dissolution of the House of Representatives alone are in many respects of a different character, but the element of the duty of independent exercise of discretion on the part of the GovernorGeneral is common to both.
I completed that statement with reference to section 57 simply so that no one could claim that the relevant clause was taken out of context. But as I mentioned, the reference to this present conflict is contained in the first part. I repeat what was said:
It is sufficient if it enjoys that confidence without regard to the views of the Senate.
I would hope that Senator Wright would know far more about Sir Samuel Griffith than I would because of Senator Wright’s legal standing of which I have none. Sir Samuel Griffith was a very eminent Australian. The Australian Biographical Dictionary contains a very long and praiseworthy history of his life’s work. The biography commences as follows:
GRIFFITH, Rt. Hon. Sir Samuel Walker, P.C., G.C.M.G., LL.D., Qld. . . . first Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, one of the greatest Australians; . . . For 15 years G. sat continuously for N. Brisbane; from 1 879 to 1 883 he led the Liberal Opposition; from Nov. 1883 te June 1888 he was Premier;
– Most of us know this.
– I would have assumed, Mr President, from Senator Wright’s remarks this morning that he did not know it. He showed extreme ignorance of this point and I thought that, not being of the legal fraternity, I might remind him of what the legal fraternity thinks of this particular practitioner of the law. Perhaps Senator Wright does know of it. I consider it to be some degree of arrogance of him to suggest that everyone else ought to know it. The Australian Biographical Dictionary continues:
The biography goes on at great length. I shall read the last portion of it, which I believe is relevant:
He was a fellow of the Senate of Sydney Univ. from 1904. Sir Robert Garran … the Federal Solicitor-Gen., said Sir Samuel was one of the greatest men Aust, has ever produced, and one of the few Austn. Judges who actually sat on the Judicial Committee of His Majesty’s Privy Council. His wide acquaintance with constitutional practice, his broad grasp of the principles, and his keen powers of analysis were invaluable in laying down the lines of the interpretation of the Federal Constitution. His name will go down in history as that of a great constitutional lawyer, who founded on an enduring basis the traditions of the great Court over which he presided with such distinction for more than 1 6 years.
I think this particular part of the biography is valuable for our present considerations:
When Premier and contemporary with Parkes … he vigorously espoused the cause of Austn Federal Union. He presided at the Federal Council meetings at various sessions and was Vice-President of the National Convention held at Sydney in 1891, over which Parkes presided. In that historic assembly G. was Chairman of the Sub-Committee which drafted the Convention Bill embodying a basis for constituting the Commonwealth. That Bill of 1891 was in the main G.’s personal work. Upon it Sir Samuel stamped the impress of his constitutional mind- in itself sufficient to give him enduring fame- and first draft though it was, the Bill of 1891 in its main outlines was accepted as the framework and basis of the Constitution drafted by the National Convention of 1 897-8, and finally approved by the people as the charter of Federal Union.
That person who had so much to do with the formation of the Constitution just before he resigned set out his views clearly as Chief Justice in a memorandum which I have read to the Senate.
I suggest that the net is closing on the outlaws in the Opposition who will use any device, which in this case is the death of a Labor senator, stealthily in the night, as it were, to sneak up on the Senate and take unfair advantage of that death. There is no way that honourable senators here may squirm under that assertion or claim that there is something wrong with it. It is absolutely correct and honourable senators here will not reject the Bills. They adopt their attitude on that death and they go against the most eminent jurist that this country can provide. It will do little good for Senator Wright to get up here and personally vilify the people who disagree with his view, as his Leader, Senator Withers, did today with respect to Sir Thomas Playford. That will not convince this Senate nor the public of Australia of the correctness of his attitude.
It is rather surprising, of course, that Senator Withers should fake that view. It just so happens that Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, who agrees with Senator Withers, is one year younger than
Sir Thomas Playford. Does that in some way alter the area of decline which Senator Withers claims on behalf of Sir Thomas Playford? It is indeed a very sad and sorry Opposition that sits on this side of the chamber and I urge its members to take note of eminent lawyers who are far more objective and fair in their presentation than those who pretend that they know something of the law and who sit on this side of the chamber.
-l shall not detain the Senate for very long but I do wish to refer again very briefly to the matter that was raised on the adjournment of the Senate yesterday, namely the increase in third party insurance premiums in Tasmania. I wish ‘ to inform the Senate that in today’s Hobart Mercury there is a report of an official statement by the Attorney-General of Tasmania indicating that increases of more than 70 percent will occur from the beginning of December. I propose to read the introductory paragraph and the concluding paragraph and then to seek leave to have the report incorporated in Hansard. The first paragraph reads:
Premiums for Tasmania’s no-fault motorist insurance scheme will increase by an average of more than 70 per cent from the start of December.
The concluding paragraph, referring to the State Attorney-General, reads:
He predicted that if costs kept going up there would have to be another rise next year.
In view of the official confirmation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission report on Canberra radio yesterday morning, I submit to the Senate that it was grossly unfair of Senator Wright yesterday to refer to that report as garbled, as one of muddled ignorance and as one that was biased towards party political propaganda. I seek leave to have the extract from the Hobart Mercury of today incorporated in Hansard, Mr President.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, it is so ordered. (The document read as follows)-
FAMILY CAR $56.6
By Wayne Crawford
Premiums for Tasmania’s no-fault motorist insurance scheme will increase by an average of more than 70 per cent from the start of December.
The biggest slug will be against motor cyclists, who are involved in the bulk of claims under the scheme and will have to pay premium increases of up to 166 per cent.
The new rate for motor cars has been set at $56.50- a 62 per cent jump from the current rate of $35 set at the start of no-fault last December 1- plus the $2 stamp duty, taking the total to $58.60 a year.
Drain on fund
Largely, the Government has itself caused the need for the increases. Public hospital bed fees have risen by 1 19 percent since no-fault was introduced causing what the AttorneyGeneral, Mr Miller, described yesterday as ‘a drain on the (no-fault) fund’.
Mr Miller announced details of the increases yesterday.
The Government order allowing them was gazetted yesterday.
The new rates will apply from December 1.
Examples (not including the stamp duty) are:
Motor car $56.60 (present rate $35), light goods vehicle with a capacity up to 2 tonnes $46.20 ($29.40), heavy goods vehicle with a capacity over 2 tonnes $56 ($35), small motor cycle up to 250 cc $43.80 ($21), large motor cycle over 250 cc or with side car $56 ($21), taxi or hire car $93.40 ($56.40), drive yourself vehicle $130.60 ($77.80), light trailer or caravan $9 ($8), heavy trailer with capacity over 1 tonne $56 ($35 ), trade plates $56 ($35 ).
There will be a special concession rate for pensioners of $36.90, which exempts them from paying the no-fault component of the premium.
Mr Miller said Tasmania’s premiums were still well below other States.
In Victoria the annual no-fault premium varies from $9 1.60 in the metropolitan area to $7 1.10 in the country. Mr Miller said that was expected to rise by 60 per cent soon.
The rates in South Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, where no-fault does not apply, were $7 1, $83. 1 5 and $82.30.
Mr Miller said increasing costs in many areas, particularly in medical treatment, had forced the increase in Tasmanian premiums.
He predicted that if costs kept going up there would have to be another rise next year.
-I wish Senator Everett had informed me that he was going to raise this matter again. Suffice to say that even now he suppresses the main fact. The main fact to which I called attention was that it was not an increase in the private industry insurance third party premiums but that it was an increase in the no-fault premium charged by the Motor Insurance Board under whose legislation the Tasmanian Government insurance has a monopoly. The article to which Senator Everett refers which appeared in the Mercury points out that the increase which is of the order of 70 per cent in the one jump this year is due in the main to charges which the Government itself has increased in relation to hospital expenses. But there is a lingering suppression of the fact that the approach of the socialist is first to starve private industry into unprofitability, supplant it with a government monopoly and then try, by a whole heap of innuendo and half stated facts, to disguise the fact that it is the government monopoly that is creating these charges. It is lifting the premiums from what they were when private industry was operating compulsory third party insurance- $12 per motor car 2 years ago- to a premium now of $56.06 per motor car. So much for Senator Everett. Now for Senator Hall.
We have an example of abysmal ignorance in Senator Hall coming in here with the bibliography and the life history of Sir Samuel Griffith. Anybody of any experience whatever, except an infant, would know that Chief Justice Griffith was a most outstanding Chief Justice who pioneered the High Court to its elevated position from which it went on and on to gain prestige in the juridical circles of the world. Chief Justice Griffith, as Senator Steele Hall said, was the chief architect of the Commonwealth Constitution, ably assisted by Sir Edmund Barton and Mr Justice Andrew Inglis Clark of Tasmania, those 3 persons being the chief draftsmen of the first draft of the Constitution. But one would not expect an ignoramus who, with all the charm of novelty, reads this historical -
– Order! Senator Wright, I ask you to refrain from using that word. I declare that to be an unparliamentary word.
-Mr President, I pause for reflection. One would not expect Senator Steele Hall to interpret any concise memorandum of Sir Samuel Griffith intelligently or tolerantly. Sir Samuel in this memorandum stated: a working rule has for the present been adopted, based upon what is called the theory of Constitutional Government, which lays down that the continued life of an Administration is practically dependent solely upon its enjoying the confidence of a majority of the House of Representatives, and that it is sufficient if it enjoys that confidence without regard to the views of the Senate.
That has been a working rule adopted without exception, so far as I know, throughout the whole period that I have been in this Senate and before.
– Until 1975.
-Not at all. Senator Cavanagh comes in and apparently is persuaded by Senator Hall that Sir Samuel Griffiths was there directing himself to section 53. Sir Samuel Griffiths there was simply directing himself to what happened on many of the occasions when, during government in Canberra, money Bills were defeated in the Senate by the Labor Opposition combined with others. It was never thought in those circumstances that that was a want of confidence in the government for which it should resign. Mr Menzies stated that on several occasions, and on some of the occasions when I voted against the Government I had the extreme pleasure of saying that I agreed in that proposition. But so superficial and without knowledge is the use of this precedent by the great statesman who lauds Sir Thomas Playford from South Australia- and let me put in parenthesis that I subscribe to everything Senator Laucke said this morning with regard to Sir Thomas Playford in eulogy of him and in maintenance of his prestige- and so void is Senator Hall of intelligence or knowledge that he thinks that statement has reference to a section 53 situation.
It will be noticed that the Chief Justice is not on record here as interpreting section 53 as denying to the Senate the constitutional right to reject a money Bill, whether it be one which is amendable or one which is not amendable. It will be noticed also that the Chief Justice refers with very grea t care to the working rule in a practical way that has for the present been adopted, no doubt with a full knowledge that Sir Robert Garran, writing in his text both before and after the Constitution, referred to the rule that on confidence in the House of Representatives, then referred to as the popular House, under the theory of responsible government, depended the life of a government. But Sir Robert Garran said that, having regard to the money powers that had been incorporated in the Constitution, that very well might change with experience, and responsibility would have to be recognised by the
Government to the Parliament- the House of Representatives and the Senate.
I take no more time in this preparatory lesson for the benefit of Senator Hall, due to the fact that I would inconvenience the Senate. Even Senator Cavanagh, who has not been very courteous to me, I would like to convenience so that he can get away. All I add, after noting the meaning of that part of the memorandum, is that it then goes on- and Senator Hall read every syllable of it without apparently understanding its relevance- to section 57 of the Constitution solely in repect of the nature of the discretion and judgment that the Constitution implies in the Governor-General. It does not refer to the Constitutional powers between the 2 Houses but simply lays down Sir Samuel Griffith’s views as to the principles by which the Governor-General should guide himself in a double dissolution situation. In relation to the 2 1 Bills which still await a double dissolution, quite apart from the Appropriation Bills, that part of Sir Samuel Griffith’s text is a matter which I hope is being very carefully studied in the highest halls of wisdom of government in this country. I trust that Senator Hall will pursue his constitutional ruminations over the weekend.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Australian Aircraft Industry
Health of Former Prisoners of War
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Tourism and Recreation has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Tourism and Recreation has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What aid, direct or indirect, has been offered or is proposed to be offered to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, to assist in the reconstruction of South Vietnam, after the victory of the forces of liberation this year.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and Australia ‘s appraisal of those requests. To date the PRG has requested aid from the Australian Government to the value of $A2m to assist in the reconstruction of South Vietnam. A ship loaded with wheat and milk products recently arrived in Saigon.
– On 8 October Senator Sim asked the following question, without notice:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs in reply to a question I asked on 1 9 August as to who was exercising real authority in South Vietnam replied that South Vietnam was largely, with some qualifications, administered by military management committees and that no date had been set for the forma) assumption of control throughout the country by the People’s Revolutionary Government. On 27 August I asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senatethe Minister for Foreign Affairs being absent- and I referred to a reported statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the PRG and the Foreign Minister of North Vietnam had stated that the reunification of Vietnam had now been accomplished and that the official statement was only a matter of procedure. How does the Minister reconcile his reply of 19 August and the reply to my question of 27 August when the two governments- that is the PRG and the Government of North Vietnam- continue to function separately and when on 19 August the Minister acknowledged that the PRG was not exercising authority in South Vietnam? I further ask: Is membership of the World Health Organisation and of the World Meteorological Organisation by the two Vietnams an indication of their separate entities as a government? Is the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is also recognised by United Nations agencies, also a legitimate government?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As indicated in my answers to Senator Sim ‘s questions of 15 July and 27 August, the Provisional Revolutionary Government is widely recognised as the Government of the Republic of South Vietnam. At least 75 countries have now extended recognition to the PRG, and 104 countries recently voted in favour of the admission to the United Nations of the Republic of South Vietnam when the General Assembly called on the Security Council to reconsider its earlier veto.
The present information available to the Australian Government, and this is not first hand as we are not yet represented in Saigon, is that the administration of South Vietnam remains temporarily in the hands of the authorities referred to in my reply to a question from Senator Sim on 19 August.
Membership of the WMO is open only to States, territories of States and UN Trust Territories. At the last WMO Congress, held in April/May this year, the DRV was admitted to membership and the PRG was accepted as the appropriate representative of South Vietnam (which had been previously admitted).
WHO membership is open only to States. The DRV was admitted to membership at the World Health Assembly last
May. The PRG delegation participated fully in the meeting, taking over the seat of South Vietnam.
In the light of their membership requirements, the acceptance by both the WMO and the WHO of separate Vietnamese membership is at the same time an acceptance of their separate existence as States.
The Australian Government does not recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation as a government.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 November 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19751106_senate_29_s66/>.