30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present a petition from Mr D. Sankey of New South Wales praying that the Senate will grant leave to inspect copies of minute papers and other papers relating to proposed overseas loans tabled on 9 July and 19 August 1975, and that these papers be made available for examination by the Queanbeyan Court. As the petition exceeds 250 words in length, I do not propose to seek leave of the Senate to have it read by the Clerk.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Danny Sankey of 18 Village Lower Road, Vaucluse in the State of New South Wales, Solicitor, respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioner has been advised that to pursue the said Court proceedings it may be necessary to adduce in evidence:
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your honourable Senate will:
Grant leave to your petitioner and his legal representatives to issue and serve a subpoena for the production at the said Queanbeyan Court of the aforesaid documents, namely:
And your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 2858 electors of Queensland:
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Queensland respectfully showeth-
That the three Service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I give notice of the following contingent motion:
Contingent upon the reappointment of the legislative and general purposes standing committees, I shall move:
That there be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, the following matter:
Australia and the Indian Ocean region.
– My question is directed to Senator Cotton in his capacity as the Minister representing the Treasurer. Can the Minister rationalise a recent Press statement by the Treasurer that the Government was encouraged that business planned a significant expansion of investment in 1976 with the recent survey of business opinion by the Sydney management consultants, PA Consultant Services Pty Ltd, which is sceptical that economic recovery will be any quicker under the present Government than it was under the previous Government? Will the Minister indicate what the early signs of recovery are?
-The world is now full of experts making predictions and gazing into crystal balls- mostly for substantial fees from their clients. There are a number of bodies endeavouring to look into the future of the economy. The Bank of New South Wales and the Chamber of Manufactures are one group. The ANZ Bank is another group. The National Bank and the Chamber of Commerce are another group. Various consultant houses are making comments. The Institute of Applied Economic Research in Melbourne is also doing some forecasting. It seems to me that the upshot is this: One is very unwise to try to predict the economic future of any country at any time. That ought to be demonstrated by the folly of the previous Government which tried to do so. We have the view that the economy is moving gradually, carefully and steadily into a much better position. Beyond that one would not wish to go.
-I have no personal knowledge of Arab money flowing into Australia. I suggest that should the honourable senator desire that sort of information he should seek it of another person in another place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to a public announcement which appeared in the Press this morning that General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd has an alternative plan for the manufacture in Australia of 4-cylinder engines. I ask the Minister: Has that proposal been put to the Government? If so, has any determination been made in relation to it? Is such a submission likely to delay the date of the Government’s determination of the Lonsdale issue about which the Minister spoke the other day? Does the announcement alter in any way the general trend of the Minister’s reply given last week to Senator Young?
-No, it does not alter in any way the general trend. It will not delay the consideration of the whole matter. The Department has for quite a long time been aware of the ideas of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd as to how it might carry out expansion programs. The matter has been under general consideration. One is trying to see to it that the total input of knowledge comes to hand before a decision is made which one expects will see certainty and continuity in the whole industry.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the proposed ban on the advertising of tobacco and tobacco products, planned to be introduced later this year. Since taking office has the Government received any information on this issue which would suggest that this proposed ban should not be imposed?
– In recent Press articles there has been some conjecture which suggests that the Government is reconsidering the ban on cigarette and tobacco advertising on radio and television. The complete ban will be phased in by 1 September 1976. As far as the Government is concerned, there is no consideration to reversing the existing policy. We believe that the danger which is recognised in relation to cigarettes and tobacco is such that it would be very difficult to support the reversal of the decision. Any conjecture which has suggested a change of attitude by the present Government has no foundation. With regard to advertising on other than radio and television, this is a matter that State Ministers for Health will be discussing at their conference this year with the Federal
MinisterforHealth.Ishallawaitwithinterestthe outcome of their discussions because it is fair to say that not much progress has been made towards uniform legislation in this form of advertising since it was first proposed that that would be a more ideal situation in which to live.
-Can the Minister for Social Security give the Senate some advice as to the future of the program supporting welfare rights officers, particularly in the various ethnic, welfare and other organisations?
– This program, which was for an initial period of 12 months, is something to which I have been giving some consideration in the past week or two. As it was for an initial pilot program, I will be interested to have some reporting back as to the success, acceptability and purpose of the welfare rights officers who have been appointed. If it is desired by the organisations whom they serve that this program be continued its continuation will be given sympathetic consideration by the Government in its attemp to provide the form of service which these officers have been able to give.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that the Australian National Railways Commission has decided to cut out Budd car services to Woomera from 12 March? Is he also aware that the aircraft services will be reduced from five to three a week from tomorrow? Has the Minister been informed that I have already written to his colleague requesting that the decision to cut down or phase out passenger services in the northern part of South Australia be reviewed? Can the Minister say what action the Government proposes to take to ensure that adequate public transport is provided to Woomera?
– I was made aware at very short notice that the honourable senator is concerned about this matter and has written to the Minister for Transport about it. I know no more than that. I share his concern about the way in which the services provided for people in remote areas are being cut down. I shall ask the Minister at the conclusion of this sitting what we can do to help overcome this position.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and relates to the inquiryintoFraserIsland.CantheMinister inform the House of the present state of that inquiry and of the present position of the Government in relation to the report of such inquiry if and when it is tabled?
-An inquiry into the environmental impact of the Fraser Island mineral exploitation was commenced sometime in 1975. An interim report was presented to the caretaker Minister for the Environment in November 1975. An announcement was then made that because the final report would be presented within a matter of a few months no action would be taken at that time by the then Government. I anticipate that the final report of the Fraser Island inquiry will be presented either by the end of this month or the end of next month. When it is presented, of course, the steps which will be taken are those which are laid down by the administrative procedures under the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. It was also indicated, not by direction but simply by a respectful inquiry of the Commissioners conducting the investigation, that they might say whether they could finish by 3 1 March of this year.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It is the policy of this Government to establish a rural bank to provide long term finance for primary producers. Has the Minister considered this matter in any detail yet? If so, will he give consideration to the situation in the United States of America and West Germany where, I understand, rural banks are run on cooperative lines and managed by the users of this facility?
-I know that the Minister has been investigating this matter and has had some discussion on it. I know that he and the Treasurer have been involved in looking at it together. I cannot go beyond that except to say, speaking for myself, that I have some familiarity with the land bank principle he is talking about and the general approach of co-operatives to the proposition of providing finance for primary industries and that I have very substantial interest in and sympathy for the development of co-operative movements. I shall take the suggestion forward.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. I preface it by reminding the Minister that recently he visited the Australian Institute of Marine Science at Townsville. I understand that he had indicated that he intends to restrain the budget of the Australian Institute of Marine Science by almost $500,000 in a full year. Can he indicate to the Parliament the form in which such financial restraints are to take place?
– I have visited the Australian Institute of Marine Science and noted the areas in which the complex is developing. It will be of great credit to this country when it is completed. Restraints are being imposed in all areas of government administration and the Institute is involved in such restraints. The present restraints will be associated more with the non-acceptance immediately of certain equipment that may be required and by deferring certain building on the Cape Cleveland area. The Institute is able to carry on quite acceptably at the present time although I believe that those associated with the work would all wish to acquire computer and other equipment which they feel is necessary. However, the Institute is progressing favourably and, as was noted when I visited the site, it is hoped that by July 1977 the building complex will be completed.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, is in relation to the conference planned for May this year to discuss the Australian Assistance Plan. Who is to attend this conference? Is it to be confined to members of regional councils for social development and officers of the department concerned and of local government? What consideration has been given to making it possible for members of Parliament to attend this conference and improve their understanding of how this program is functioning and how it might be improved?
– A wider range of people has been invited to the conference to evaluate the Australian Assistance Plan than was mentioned by the honourable senator. The representation at the conference will consist of representatives from the regional councils, from the initiating grants bodies, from State headquarters and the central office of the Department of Social Security and from other Australian Government departments which are involved in the plan. Some independent evaluators have been invited as well as a representative from each of the State governments. Parliamentary representation was not envisaged when we decided upon the membership of the conference, but I am happy to take the suggestion implied in the question that parliamentary representation would be desirable.
I take this opportunity to assure honourable senators and other members of the Parliament that I would be happy to extend an invitation to them. I shall ask my Department to do this in a formal way so that they can have an opportunity to indicate whether they wish to attend the conference, which is to be held during the first weekend in May, and take part in the discussion of the development of the Australian Assistance Plan. It has occurred to me that the only bodies which would then be left out of the conference would be local government bodies. Perhaps I should also say that consideration could be given to some representation from that tier of government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. No doubt the Minister has been advised that an independent member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has called on the Assembly to remain sitting until the Minister for the Northern Territory makes a statement concerning the availability or otherwise of loans for home builders. These low interest loans were to be made available to people in Darwin wishing to rebuild following cyclone Tracy. To relieve the uncertainty of people who have made arrangements for builders to commence work and who have arranged for bridging finance, and incidentally to assist the ailing building industry, will the Minister make a firm statement on the Government’s intention in this matter?
– I am unaware that an independent member of the Legislative Assembly has suggested that the Assembly keep sitting until something happens in this area. There is nothing that I can add to the basis of the question as to whether or not the Legislative Assembly should continue to sit. I have indicated the basis to the Senate previously.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that the Department of Transport recommended to the previous Government that the Commonwealth rail link from Larrimah to Darwin be closed? If this is so, will the Government ensure that before any action is taken consultation will take place between the Government, industry and the Northern Territory community?
-I know nothing of the matter that the honourable senator reports. It will be necessary for me to make an inquiry on his behalf.
– Will the Minister for Science, in the interests of the people of Queensland, consider the suggestions made in a speech by me, which is reported in yesterday’s Senate Hansard on pages 167 to 170, in respect of aerial cyclone reconnaissance and obtain for me an early reply in view of the urgent nature of the matter?
-The honourable senator is aware that all senators wait with bated breath for, and listen to, his remarks whenever they are made. In relation to his remarks about aircraft being used for cyclone surveillance, I assure him that that matter has been considered by the Bureau of Meteorology on a number of occasions. It undoubtedly was considered while the former Government was in power and it certainly has been considered by me while I have been looking after this area. It would be a most expensive operation, as the honourable senator may agree, and my understanding is that the results, although they can improve the quality of the report, do not necessarily add a great deal to the inputs into weather predictions that are available in other areas. I will get the honourable senator an answer to his query, and I will read with interest the Hansard report of his speech.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty to apply only from 12 February this year has prevented some farmers who took delivery of superphosphate before that date from having the benefit of the bounty? Is the Minister also aware that only some 1 8 000 tonnes of superphosphate was delivered from 1 January to 12 February by the South Australian manufacturers, which would have involved a bounty payment of some $2 12,500? If this amount is indicative of the proportionate amounts in other States, is it not a small percentage of the estimated $17m- $20m bounty for this calendar year? As the bounty is being operated on a calendar year basis, will the Government pay the bounty retrospectively from 1 January this year so that those users who purchased superphosphate from that date will not be disadvantaged?
– It is necessary always, when altering a benefits scale for anything, to have an opening day or a cut-off day. Retrospectivity has its great problems, as everybody would be well aware. The figures the honourable senator mentions may well be correct; I do not know. The assumptions he draws from the figures may be equally correct. Only the future will determine that. I think the honourable senator is entitled to have from the Minister for Primary Industry, not from me, some more detail about the general area of his question, and I shall get that for him.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the reduction in Government expenditure of about $300m in the financial year 1975-76 takes into account the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty and the proposed discontinuance of the beef levy which I understand the Government will now meet. How much finance will the Government have to provide to service the bounty on the one hand and the beef levy on the other this financial year?
– These questions are verging on the area of wanting to know what will happen in a Budget situation. It is not permissible for me to reply to such questions, even if I wanted. They equally verge on the policy area. They also call for precision in the answer. I could not to give that out of my own state of knowledge. I have knowledge of the matter, but I want to be more accurate than that. I shall obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface it by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware of the importance of the fishing industry to Tasmania. I ask: Now that the Commonwealth is in charge of the seas around Australia, has consideration been given yet to establishing fishery reserves in chosen areas around Tasmania and near other States, so that these areas at least will not be fished out and can therefore act as fish nurseries? If not, will the
Minister bring the matter to the attention of both the Department and the State governments?
-The honourable senator’s assumption about my lack of knowledge of fishing in Tasmania would have been accurate as at about the middle of January. Luckily for me, I was iri Hobart with a group of my colleagues from the State departments examining problems of industry and commerce as they affect the whole Australian scene. While we were there the Minister for Industrial Development in Tasmania, Mr Frost, raised this matter. We had quite a long discussion about the potential of Tasmania in the development of a fishing industry and what might lie ahead for the protection of the reserves offish and the breeding grounds available for the purpose mentioned by Senator Townley.
I think there is a future here for Tasmania. We undertook to examine the matter as a group with our officials. Some of that work has begun. I understand that there are further development possibilities if the Japanese, who use Hobart as a port, in due course could be persuaded to do some more on-shore processing. Honourable senators from Tasmania would be more familiar with that than I am, I assure Senator Townley that it is a matter which I think has a potential and which we should work on together.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As an indication of the Australian Government’s sincerity to combat white collar crime, will the Minister provide an explanation of the circumstances which enable former Sydney barrister and tenant basher Peter Clyne to continue to possess an Australian passport, mindful of his chequered career in Australia and his latest taxation evasion escapade in the United States of America?
-Due to some prior notice I dp have some information for the honourable senator.
– A Dorothy Dixer?
– The honourable senator genuinely seeks information and so he does not try to catch one by surprise. The note I have from the Department of Foreign Affairs states that Mr Clyne was issued with an Australian passport in Vienna in December 1972. This replaced a previous passport issued in Sydney in 1968. 1 further inform the honourable senator that the Government is not aware of any grounds sufficient to justify the passport being withdrawn from Mr
Clyne. Should the honourable senator know of any grounds which he believes would justify the withdrawal of the passport, I invite him to submit them to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As great concern has been caused in Tasmania over a statement by the Leader of the Opposition, reported in the Mercury on 24 February, that ‘Bell Bay should become Tasmania’s sole port and that either Devonport or Wynyard airport should be closed down’ will the Minister give an assurance to all the employees, industries and people generally dependent on the transport system involved that this Government fully supports the present system of both ports and airports?
-I understand that the Government of Tasmania, which is one of the few remaining Labor governments in this country, and its Premier Mr Neilson, support the general concept to which the honourable senator referred, that is, a 4-port situation in Tasmania. They see no wisdom in closing any ports for any so-called illusory economies that might flow out of such an action. I did have some knowledge of an earlier manifestation of the airport problem. In that respect, I could see no case for altering the present situation. Overall I think anybody who is fair minded would agree that Tasmania has particular and singular problems of communication and cost disparity because of freight difficulties. They should be taken into account in the whole Australian context of what might best be done to help that position. I do not think it can be walked away from by what might be called simplistic notions generated on the mainland.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, arises out of an earlier question from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. Did the Prime Minister on Monday night last have a conference with members of the board of the Australian newspaper to discuss publication of the article appearing in today’s Australian under the headline ‘Arabs in secret deal to pay ALP election bills’?
– Was it true?
-We will come to that. If the article is correct- I am told that it is the truth- who in the Liberal caretaker Government on or about 8 December issued orders from Canberra to the Australian embassy in Tokyo to give visas to 2 Arab visitors to visit our country? Who made the necessary arrangements for the 2 Arabs to pass through Customs without the machine pistols they were wearing being confiscated? As facilities contrary to Australian law were made available by the coalition caretaker Government to these 2 armed Arab representatives was this a Liberal ploy discussed with the Central Intelligence Agency to discredit the Australian Labor Party?
-I think the honourable senator asked 5 questions and I hope that I have written them all down. The first was whether the Prime Minister had a conference with the board of the Australian newspaper on Monday. I do not know whether he did. I have no knowledge of that. The honourable senator asked whether the article is correct. I have a briefing note here- I assume the honourable senator was talking about the article in this morning’s Australian which says that the Prime Minister has been advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs that 2 Iraqi officials arrived in Sydney on 8 December and spent 2 days in Australia. The Prime Minister’s advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs reads as follows:
It may be of interest that on 2 December our embassy in Tokyo informed us by cable of a proposed visit to Australia by 2 Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials, Mr Farooq Abdulla Yehya and Mr A. Ghafil Jassim. They are probably Farack Abdullah Yehya and Yassim Al-Tikriti. One of the declared objects of the visit was to discuss the establishment of an Iraqi Consulate-General in Sydney. We-
That is the Department of Foreign Affairs- sent a reply to Tokyo giving instructions about visa issue and indicating that we would welcome the visit. we’ again being the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The 2 Iraqi officials arrived in Sydney on 8 December and were met by a Foreign Affairs representative. They were also met by a Australian businessman, Mr H. Fischer, and during their stay in Australia were guests of Mr R. Scarf in Sydney. No contact was made by the visitors with this Depanment or our Sydney office. On 9 December the Sydney office telephoned them at the home of Mr Scarf. Neither official spoke good English. Mr Fischer (who was also present at Scarf’s home) was asked whether the visitors had come to Australia on official business. It was explained that the Iraqi Embassy in Tokyo had sought our assistance in facilitating their entry into Australia, and had advised that they might wish to discuss the establishment of a consular mission in Australia.
Mr Fischer told us that all matters pertaining to consular relations and establishment of consular missions were in the hands of the Egyptian Embassy. There were no proposals for the visitors to discuss such matters with the Australian authorities. (We-
Again that is the Department of Foreign Affairs subsequently discovered that on arrival they had described the purpose of their visit as ‘visiting relatives’.)
According to advice from the Egyptian Embassy they were intending to depart Australia for Hong Kong and Tokyo on 10 December 1975.
Honourable senators will note that there appears to be some inconsistency about the reasons for this visit. Visas were requested on the basis of setting up a consular mission. But on arrival here, the Iraqis said that the purpose was simply ‘visiting relatives’. The Prime Minister has asked for inquiries to be made about this discrepancy in regard to the purpose of the visit. That is as far as I can go in saying whether the article is correct. The honourable senator then asked a third question: Who issued the orders from Canberra? As I understand it, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra received a cable from the Australian Ambassador in Tokyo. It was processed within the Department under the normal procedures. It never at any stage reached ministerial level. I understand, from advice that I have been given, that where our ambassador abroad is assured by another ambassador that certain citizens of his nation, travelling on diplomatic passports, are travelling for a particular purpose, naturally the case is processed through the Department.
– These were directions from Canberra.
-There were no directions as such, as I understand it.
– The article is at fault?
-The article may not be correct in that instance. The honourable senator then asked a question about who made the arrangements about getting the machine pistols through Customs. I have no knowledge whether these 2 gentlemen had or did not have machine pistols. I do understand that if they did have diplomatic passports their luggage would not have been opened. Whether they had machine pistols or some of that crinkly stuff in their luggage, I would not know.
– They were wearing them.
-There is no physical search of people arriving in Australia. As I understand the airline procedures, on leaving Australia, whether one has a diplomatic passport or not, one must personally go through an electronic device to see whether one has metal objects on one’s person. There appears to be no advice that on leaving Australia they had on their persons any machine pistols. As to the honourable senator’s final question, I suggest that he should ask the people involved who saw the visitors, who may or may not have got the money, whether or not it was a Central Intelligence Agency plot.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications appreciate that in some areas of Adelaide within 4 miles of the General Post Office, Telecom Australia cannot provide new telephone services- even for urgent business purposeswithin a period of one year or more? Does he consider that this is probably the worst record for connections in Australia? Can he ask his colleague in another place to take urgent steps to provide emergency support for Telecom’s operations in South Australia- from other States, if necessary?
– It is my understanding that there are serious delays in providing telephone services in Adelaide and elsewhere. I will take up the matter with my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and direct his attention to the question.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen an article in the Australian Financial Review of 11 February 1976 which forecast that 546 tractors in excess of 162 kilowatts would be sold this year? Does he know that these units cost about $50,000 each, making a total of $27m, and would attract an investment allowance in the vicinity of $ 10m? Is it feasible, given the marginal taxation rates currently being paid by large wheatgrowers, that the loss to revenue from a $10m investment allowance could be as high as $5m. Does the Minister know that all these units are imported? Does he acknowledge, therefore, that this very expensive allowance cannot in this instance stimulate Australian manufacturing? If so, should this disguised $5m expenditure be seen as a manifestation of the Government’s determination to promote mad extravagance in the private sector, or is it simply a gratuitous handout to the rich?
– That is an interesting series of assumptions based upon a newspaper article that may, of itself, be incorrect. I do not think the honourable senator is entitled to receive a sensible answer to a question that hardly can be described as sensible.
-Could the Minister for Social Security explain the situation which exists with respect to benefits and pensions received by widows and supporting mothers when they undertake training under the National Employment and Training scheme?
– Those persons who are in receipt of supporting mothers’ or widows’ pensions and who do undertake training under the National Employment and Training scheme continue to receive their entire pension benefits without prejudice and receive also the training allowance of $23.40 per week. This places them at a somewhat advantageous position in comparison with other people who accept training under- the NEAT scheme and who have the total provisions of the NEAT scheme applied to them. In other words, those people who receive pension benefits and undertake training are able to retain their pension benefits and to receive the training component in addition.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Has the Australian Government closed down a number of Australian embassies- and foreign missions abroad, at which places officers of the Australian Information Service were stationed? If so, are these officers to be returned to Australia or are they to be transferred to other overseas posts? Finally, what action is being taken to secure permanency of employment for many of these officers, some of whom have been in the temporary employ of the Commonwealth Public Service for between 15 and 20 years?
-I shall have to seek detailed information on which overseas posts are being closed. Basically this is a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs so I shall obtain the information from him. I do not know why certain members of the Australian Information Service have been temporary employees for so long a time. If a reason is contained within the relevant Act for their not becoming permanent employees I can do nothing about it. If they have opted to remain temporary public servants that is their business. But I shall seek information as to how many employees are permanent and how many are temporary and as to what the situation is likely to be in the future
– In addressing my question to the Minister for Science I refer to his announcement of 4 February 1976 concerning a cut of $847,000 in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s budget for the remainder of this financial year. In the Minister’s Press statement of that date he agreed that these cuts would ‘create some operating difficulties’. Could the Minister advise the Senate exactly what difficulties are likely to occur and what effect this reduction in spending will have on businesses and organisations which rely on the CSIRO for scientific research assistance? ‘
– I acknowledge the honourable senator’s question. Generally when an organisation is running at a particular level of expenditure and has a particular level of employment any cutbacks must affect the organisation in some way. The reduction in expenditure by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has resulted in some areas in the retardation of research programs, in overtime not being worked on some programs and, indeed, on travelling, which is important to the programs of the CSIRO, being reduced. In my opinion some inefficiencies must result from such a cut in expenditure but I shall see to it that by good management these problems will be overcome. I think I can assure the honourable senator that the services provided previously by the CSIRO to industry will not in the end be affected.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Were any approaches made by letter by officers of the former Department of Urban and Regional Development to regional councils for social development inviting them to consider amalgamation within the regional boundaries set up by the then Department of Urban and Regional Development? Would this have resulted in a reduction in the number of regional councils for social development and also in each regional council serving a much larger population than at present? Has the Department of Social Security or the Social Welfare Commission studied any proposals for amalgamation of regional councils for social development with larger regional boundaries? Has the Department reported to the Minister and will the Minister inform the Senate of any opinion which has been offered from her Department?
– I am unable to give a complete answer to the honourable senator’s question. I will obtain the information he has requested and give a report to him personally at a later stage. I wonder whether my colleague Senator Greenwood has anything he would like to add, in view of the fact that part of the question referred to representations that may have been made from his Department to my Department?
– I am grateful for the opportunity accorded to me by my colleague Senator Guilfoyle. I was not preparing an answer, but I can assure Senator Baume that as far as my Department is concerned, no request of the character he has inquired about was made, though inquiries as to whether an amalgamation is possible have been pursued over the past year.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that in the United States people of the Mormon persuasion who do not smoke or drink but who have several wives are less susceptible to cancer than those who indulge, more or less, in these pleasures? Will the Minister make a recommendation to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that, as an alternative to the present slogan, these facts be used: ‘Medical authorities advise that smoking, drinking and monogomy are health hazards’.
– The honourable senator clarified his question somewhat with his suggestion of a slogan. I was going to ask him to which pleasures his queston referred. Could I just say that I am sure the Broadcasting Control Board will assert its independence from government in proclaiming any slogans that may be suggested in this chamber.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Will the Minister indicate what arrangements have been made to have social security benefits paid into bank savings accounts? In particular, I ask whether that service can be arranged through the Commonwealth Bank?
-A statement was released some time ago of the facilities that are now available for payment of social security benefits into banking accounts. Since the announcement was made by my Department several savings banks have offered their facilities to people who receive these benefits. To my knowledge, at the present time the Commonwealth Savings Bank has not offered this facility to people who receive benefits. I suggest that that is a matter for the Treasurer or for the Treasury to comment upon and I will refer that part of the question to the Treasurer for his decision. It is fair to say that it would be of great benefit to many people who receive cheques from my Department to be able to have them deposited in a bank, either a savings bank or a trading bank.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. In a recent Press release the Minister advised that funds provided for major education programs were essentially unchanged but that minor adjustments had been made to government spending in some areas. Will the Minister advise why the cuts had to be made in the innovation programs and were they made at the instigation of any of the State Ministers for Education and, if so which Ministers?
– The honourable senator previously asked me a fairly similar question to this. I undertook to give her some information and I will do so. The situation is that the total education program, which was the subject of considerable disruption between 1975 and 1976 due to the previous Government, was taken out of the triennium and made a single calendar year program for the year 1976. The Fraser Government has undertaken to maintain all the essential programs. I reiterate that. There will be no change in the year 1976 to the Universities Commission program, the Colleges of Advanced Education program, the Technical and Further Education Commission program or the Schools Commission program, with one exception. That is that some cut-backs have been made within the Department of Education itself where, in terms of upper ceilings, travelling and overtime, the ordinary restrictions have applied. But, so that there would not be any kind of delimitation at all of the quality of delivery of service to students at schools, colleges or universities, no cut-backs have occurred.
Within the specific innovations programs which started in 1975, from my recollection, and under which over a period there have been some 4000 applications, there will be some cut-backs. They will not apply to the innovations programs in schools They will apply to the programs outside schools. I repeat for the benefit of the honourable senator what I said to her some days ago: Under the previous Government there were some delays in getting the programs started. So, the cut-backs themselves will not have the same impact as before. Because the honourable senator asked previously for specific details as to numbers and the nature of the innovations programs, I will be happy to obtain them for her.
– I ask a question of Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As it appears probable that some States would be unlikely to join the Australian Dairy Corporation scheme for reorganisation of the dairy industry, would the Minister believe it likely that assistance could be given to those exporting States which do agree, which would participate in such a scheme, which are desperately in need of some scheme and which are currently looking to a season in which prices to be paid to suppliers could be in the order of 35c per lb without some scheme?
– I can appreciate the concern of the honourable senator; but I cannot answer a question like that one specifically without further reference to the Minister for Primary Industry. I hope that the honourable senator will appreciate that point. I will try to get an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister prepared to give precise details of where the mooted cuts in Australia’s foreign aid programs shall fall? Is the Minister aware of the concern that is being expressed by those Public Service officers who are involved in the administration of such programs at these proposed reductions in aid expenditure?
-The honourable senator will appreciate that, as I represent my colleague who is in the other place, I cannot at this notice give him the precise details for which he asks. However, I will seek from my colleague the information the honourable senator desires.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Has the Minister refused to authorise a number of important consumer protection prosecutions prepared by the Trade Practices Commission, as reported in the Australian Financial Review of today, 25 February? If so, why? And, if so, is the Minister’s refusal to prosecute consistent with his statement, also reported in the Australian Financial Review, that The Government’s main concern was to ensure that consumers were protected from the harmful effects of anti-competitive conduct irrespective of the source of that conduct’?
-Both the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Howard, and I are grateful for the question which has been asked because it provides an opportunity to right a grievous wrong. The statement which appeared in the Press this morning is, on the material supplied to the Minister and by the Minister to me, quite inaccurate. That report makes 2 statements which do an injustice to the Minister and, I think, grossly mis-state the position. It was said that there were 2 actions with which the Minister had not proceeded. One related to a tyre company, and it was said: ‘Mr Howard’s approval was not forthcoming as the case was dropped ‘. The other one related to a medical insurance fund, and it was said: ‘A case had been prepared but it was not approved by the new Minister’. I am informed that the Trade Practices Commission, which has the power itself to decide whether it will initiate proceedings, made a decision in the first case relating to the tyre company not to proceed. That was a decision of the Commission, and it was never even submitted to the Minister for his consideration. The second matter relates to an insurance fund. There are doubts which the Commission has referred to senior counsel to have resolved. This matter has not been referred to the Minister for his approval or otherwise. I hope that the writer of the article will have the decency to apologise in tomorrow’s newspaper.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he will use his advocacy within Government to have legislation brought down this year requiring all political parties to publish the major source of their election funds.
-The honourable senators asks me to give an assurance in relation to a matter which concerns Government policy. I do not think that is a matter which ought to be discussed at question time.
– I have given notice of a motion about it.
-I am reminded by Senator Douglas McClelland that he has a motion on the notice paper in order to raise this matter before the Senate. I think that Senator Steele Hall should contain his impatience until Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s motion is called on for debate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. Has work on the national animal health laboratories at Geelong been stopped pending a decision on whether the project will proceed? Is the Minister aware of the importance the primary industries of Australia place on the proposed facilities as a protection against exotic animal diseases?
– I acknowledge the importance of the proposal to build the animal health laboratories at Geelong. The work was proceeding to the stage of an evaluation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works prior to Christmas last year. At the present time the matter is being evaluated. There is discussion as to whether the project should be deferred. At the present time letters are passing between myself and the Minister for Primary Industry and between the departments.
The facilities must eventually be established. As the honourable senator knows, the proposal has been put forward for more than 10 years. I believe that the importance to this country of its exports and the health of most primary industries very much depends upon our having a top security animal health laboratory. Apparently, Geelong was regarded as an excellent site. I hope that the work will continue. It may be deferred for some months while an evaluation is made.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services, by reminding him that about 2 years ago the Labor Government approved in principle the development of effective archives legislation and that, I think early last year, the Labor Government approved the main elements which should appear in such legislation. I ask the Minister whether it is intended by this Government to proceed with the introduction of that type of legislation. If so, when is it likely to be introduced? Further, will the Minister ask his Department to look at the complete inadequacy of the archival arrangements, in northern Queensland at Townsville, particularly in order to ensure that the valuable work now being carried out there by officers of his Department is not wasted?
– This is an area within my Department in which I have a particular interest. Whether we will legislate is a matter of policy which will be announced in due course. I share the honourable senator’s concern not only for the conditions under which the officers work in Townsville but also in a number of other sites in Australia. Canberra is one place where I think the Department is disgracefully housed. How the officers perform as well as they do is somewhat beyond my understanding. Long range programs are set out for the setting up of a proper archival service within Australia. I hope that as soon as the economy improves and funds are available this is one area in which my Department will be making some fairly rapid, sensible progress.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. The Minister no doubt will be aware that Mr Justice Muirhead has again drawn attention to the inadequacy of the Fannie Bay gaol, calling it the worst institution of its type in Australia. Will the Minister give some indication of the progress of the Government’s plans to replace the Fannie Bay gaol with a more appropriate institution?
– I have not seen the Fannie Bay gaol since the cyclone, but when I as a member of the Public Works Committee was looking at a proposal concerning the construction of various ringroads around the gaol it appeared to me to be appropriate at that -time that the gaol be moved. Mr Justice Muirhead is a distinguished jurist with wide experience and his statement on the facilities at Fannie Bay gaol must be treated with respect. The problem at Fannie Bay gaol has been aggravated by the effects of the cyclone and the closure of the Gunn Point gaol last week due to a shortage of prison staff. Undoubtedly prisoner facilities and security at Fannie Bay gaol require improvement. The only satisfactory solution really is the development of some completely new gaol. Such a proposition is being considered at the present time. Tentative plans are for such an institution to be built on the outskirts of Darwin and for it to form an integral part of a modern correctional system for the whole of the Northern Territory.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that the Air Pilots Guild of Australia has warned that unless adequate action is immediately taken there is a grave risk of a collision between landing aircraft at some of Australia’s busiest airports? Has the Minister seen a copy of the letter forwarded to the Department of Transport by the President of the Guild, Captain Cameron, in which it is claimed that there are glaring deficiencies in the Department’s safety control of aircraft at Bankstown, Moorabbin and Parafield? Will the Minister advise the Senate what action has been taken to investigate these claims?
-It used to be said of Australian civil aviation that we had one of the safest, best controlled airport systems in the world. I think our record substantiated that claim. But the previous Government, for some strange reason, decided to abolish the Department of Civil Aviation. That was done under great protest from most of the operators- the airlines, the airline pilots, the navigators, the engineers and everybody associated with civil aviation. It was said that the air safety regulations and controls were diminishing progressively in their satisfactory performance. I think that may well be true. Certainly the letter from Captain Cameron to which the honourable senator referred would indicate that one section at least thinks that is so. I will certainly refer the honourable senator’s question to the present Minister, who, like myself, is well aware of the incompetence of the previous Minister.
– Can the Minister for Education confirm whether the plans to establish a regional education office in Armidale have been abandoned? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the education office will not now be established because of the failure of the Federal Government to keep its promises on education needs? Will the Minister undertake to carry out an immediate investigation with a view to establishing the office to which I have referred?
– I am not aware of any plans being abandoned with regard to the establishment of a regional office in Armidale. I would certainly reject outright any suggestion that the present Government has failed to keep its promises. If ever a government failed to keep its promises in the field of education it was the former Labor Government, with its splurge and its freeze. It cut into education violently in the August Budget of last year and, as a result, created great distortion and disruption throughout education in Australia. Let me make it perfectly clear: The only government that violently put its hand with disruption and distortion on education was the former Whitlam Government when, on 19 August of last year, it abandoned triennium budgeting and brought in only a calendar year budget. We keep our promises in the field of education.
– I direct to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development a question which is prompted by the word ‘abandonment’ used by Senator Carrick in the previous answer. Can the Minister say what has happened to the Great Barrier Reef Authority and what progress has been made to establish the consultative committee which supports such an Authority?
– I must say that I cannot give to the honourable senator the type of answer which he would like. Discussions have taken place with the Queensland Government since we came to power with a view to constituting the Great Barrier Reef Authority on a basis which would give to Queensland and to the Commonwealth relatively equal rights in its administration. I am not sure what stage these developments have reached but I shall examine the matter in the light of the honourable senator’s question and give him a fuller answer when I have the facts.
- Senator O ‘Byrne will be interested in this report. He asked a question on it last week. For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Maritime Industry Commission of Inquiry entitled: The Adequacy of Australia’s Ports.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I am very pleased that this report has been brought down. I would like to remind some of the new honourable senators that this report was commissioned in 1973 by the Labor Government. The Commission has fulfilled its terms of reference to report on the maritime industry. The investigations took the Commission as far abroad as Japan on 2 occasions. I hope that the report contains a comprehensive outline of the needs of Australian ports. However, I was very disappointed to hear the other day that the report excludes Tasmanian ports. That area has been covered by the Royal Commission on Tasmanian Transport under Commissioner Nimmo. He will be reporting shortly and his report is looked forward to very eagerly by Tasmanian people because of the general shipping and port position in that State. I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted;-debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on dyeline base paper dated 18 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 40 (3) of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-75 I present the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to paragraph 1 1 of the Third Schedule of the Airlines Agreements Act 1952-73, I present the annual financial report relating to the operation of air services by Ansett Transport Industries for the year ended 28 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled: Port Pirie- Economic Evaluation of Harbour Improvements. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads entitled: Report on Roads in Australia, together with a statement by the Minister for Transport relating to that report.
– Pursuant to section 24 (4) of the Metric Conversion Act 1970-1973 I present the fifth annual report of the Metric Conversion Board for the information of honourable senators, and I report on the operation of the Act. I ask for leave to make a statement concerning the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Honourable senators may recall that the decision to adopt the metric system followed a careful examination of the matter by a Select Committee of this House under the chairmanship of the late Senator Laught. I am pleased to see that one member of that Committee, Senator Sim, is still with us. Resulting from the recommendations of that Committee the Government introduced the Metric Conversion Act which was passed in June 1970. In his second reading speech the then Minister for Education and Science said that the Government had accepted the recommendation of the Committee that conversion should take place over a period of 10 years; that is to say it should be complete by the end of 1980. Today honourable senators have before them the fifth annual report of the Metric Conversion Board, and so we are at the half-way point. Accordingly, I thought it would be valuable for me to review briefly the progress that has been made so far.
There is no doubt that the world is rapidly moving towards the sole use of the metric system. I am sure also that honourable senators will be most interested to learn of the recent decision of the United States Congress to adopt the metric system. This is of great significance for Australia. At the time of the Senate Select Committee inquiry some 80 countries were classified as nonmetric, though some had indicated their intention to change. That situation has changed dramatically. Today only 5 small countries remain uncommitted to the change. These are Brunei, Burma, Liberia, Yemen Arab Republic and Yemen People’s Democratic Republic. These developments confirm the view that the decision to convert was correct and the Government intends to continue and complete the program in accordance with the original plan.
The Metric Conversion Board through the agency of its advisory and sector committees has developed some 140 programs. The development of those programs has been greatly assisted by nearly 1000 experts, both men, and women from all over Australia who have given their time and energies freely to the work of those committees. The Board estimates that over 100 programs have been virtually completed and all the remainder are in progress. Conversion is thus about two-thirds complete. It is evident also that progress has been better than was expected and that conversion will be completed within the 10-year period.
Honourable senators may also recall that conversion was to be effected on a substantially voluntary basis and that the costs of conversion would lie where they fall. This approach was based on the adoption of a 10-year conversion period so that individual sectors might plan their own conversion programs in such a way as to minimise any conversion costs by taking maximum advantage of natural obsolesence. With this in mind, even though two-thirds of our programs are complete, some sectors will need the remainder of the period to convert or replace long life items. Nevertheless, progress overall has been such that the public has been exposed to all the units that it will need to know for every day transactions.
I would like now to highlight some of the programs that have been completed and also to describe the further progress since the report was prepared some 6 months ago. In July 1975 all the road speed signs, both advisory and regulatory, were changed. This was a major program which was planned carefully and publicised well in advance. It is quite evident to anyone who drives around Australia that the motoring public responded to the change extremely well and without any difficulty. The conversion of petrol pumps to indicate sales in litres instead of gallons commenced in September 1 975 and is expected to take 18 months. This will complete the changes for road users.
Another important change was the advertising of real estate. The Real Estate Institute in conjunction with the Board and the newspapers agreed that as from 1 January 1 976 all advertising of real estate would be solely in metric quantities. A recent check on the metropolitan newspapers revealed that this agreement is being observed in 85 per cent of the advertisements.
In this context I would like to comment on the excellent co-operation of both the industry and the newspapers in bringing this change about. The Board is convinced that the decision to select a single ‘M’ day for programs such as this is important. It is furthermore satisfied that nothing is to be gained by advertising in both systems of units. Experience both here and overseas has demonstrated that the use of dual markings does not assist people to understand metric units since they will read only the units with which they are familiar and ignore the new units. The only way to help people to understand the new system is to expose them to it so that they learn through practical experience.
The first of January 1976 was an important day in the program for the marking of staple items which are prescribed by packaging regulations such as butter, margarine, flour, tea, etc. Previously dual marking of these commodities had been permitted but as from 1 January only sole metric marking is permitted. In addition most of these items are now packed in rational metric sizes.
Another important achievement was the adoption throughout Australia of a uniform building code. Each State has its own building code and previously there were many variations between these. This made it necessary for manufacturers to produce different versions of the same item for each State. Accordingly, industry had been working towards a uniform code for many years. The need to convert each of those codes to metric units provided both the impetus and the opportunity for all States to adopt a uniform basic code. I wish to record my appreciation for the work of the many Commonwealth and State authorities that came together under the aegis of the Metric Conversion Board to achieve, at last, uniform building regulations throughout Australia. The action illustrates some of the real benefits that have been derived from the conversion program.
All States and Territories have agreed that no new imperial scales would be verified after 1 March 1975 and that no existing scales will be reverified, unless they have been converted, after 31 December 1977. The Board is somewhat concerned at the slow progress being made towards the conversion of existing scales. However there are some bright spots, and South Australia deserves special mention. Because of the competitive pressures in a particular shopping area shopkeepers are often reluctant to convert. Accordingly, South Australia introduced regulations whereby metric trading zones are proclaimed progressively. In such zones metric units must be used in advertising. Both the industry and the public have accepted this approach which leads to more orderly marketing.
The Board has been conscious of the need to provide material to explain the system to the public. This has been done through literature and public meetings. The Board has prepared and distributed over 5 million booklets, 4 million leaflets and nearly one million posters. In addition the Board’s officers have addressed many public meetings all over Australia. The Board’s women’s adviser has been especially active in this way. The meetings have been well attended and despite some fears expressed before the change the public appears to have had little difficulty in learning to use the system.
The metric system was adopted partly because of the benefits that were expected to flow from it. Some of those benefits are apparent already and some industries have reported cost savings. The Victoria Housing Commission reported an 1 1 per cent saving in timber following the adoption of the metric timber framing code. Freight agencies reported easier operation and fewer errors following adoption of metric based charging schedules. The adoption of rationalised ranges of components has led to economies from a reduction in the number of sizes to be stocked in items such as steel, door hinges, oil cans and bottles.
In conclusion I should say a few words, too, about opposition to metric conversion. We cannot ignore the fact that people do not willingly change their habits. As with decimal currency, metric conversion is a major change culturally as well as technically. Naturally, there has been some opposition. Indeed, some people who appeared before the Senate Committee were opposed to conversion. During the last session of Parliament petitions requesting that the Metric Conversion Act be repealed were received. I think it important therefore to reiterate at this time that the Government is still satisfied that the decision to adopt the sole use of the metric system for measurements in Australia was correct. The Government is determined to complete the program in accordance with the original plan. Opponents of the system have generally argued that conversion is inflationary or that it is used to take advantage of the public. On the first point, no credible evidence has been offered to demonstrate that conversion is inflationary. Indeed the Prices Justification Tribunal has reported that metric conversion has not been a significant factor in submissions for price increases. At the outset the Metric Conversion Board was instructed to keep under review, and report to the appropriate authorities any attempts to take unfair advantage of the public through metric conversion’. The Board has received quite a number of complaints of this nature and has investigated all of them carefully. In virtually every case it found no evidence of any attempt to take unfair advantage of the public and any price changes reported have reflected the change in the quantity of goods in the metric pack or material and other cost increases.
Another suggestion has been that the metric system should be adopted only in those areas where it offers a clear cost advantage. In other words, they suggest that we should maintain two systems of measurement in Australia. I am sure it is obvious to everyone that this would be most uneconomical. Indeed it represents the situation that has existed in Australia for many years in which goods were imported from both imperial and metric countries and so factories and workshops have had to maintain the ability to deal with both systems. Honourable senators will find further details of the work of the Board in the report which I commend to their attention.
Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade
-I seek leave to present the report and the transcript of evidence from the former Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade into the prospects of trade between Indonesia and Australia.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I present the report and transcript of evidence of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade relating to its inquiry on prospects of trade between Indonesia and Australia.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
On 3 October 1974 I advised the Senate that in considering the reference by the Senate to the Committee, concerning the promotion of trade and commerce with other countries, the operation of international trade agreements, and the development of trading relations, the Committee would undertake an inquiry into the prospects for trade between Indonesia and Australia. The report embodies the findings of that inquiry.
The report had been completed and considered by the Committee well before the end of the previous Parliament, and was being readied for presentation to the Senate when dissolution of Parliament intervened. In accordance with the terms of reference the report confines itself to trade and matters affecting trade prospects. However, to avoid the possibility of any misinterpretation of the report in the light of recent events in East Timor, I would like to emphasise that all evidence in the inquiry was received, and the report compiled, before the situation in East
Timor came to a head. The report is based strictly upon the evidence received. Any inference which could possibly be drawn between the report and the East Timor situation would accordingly be quite unwarranted.
Apart from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia is Australia’s closest neighbour. The Indonesian archipelago, comprising some 6000 inhabited islands strung across our major trade routes to the north-west, is the largest island complex in the world. Indonesia is the world’s fifth most populous nation having an estimated population of approximately 130 million. She is accordingly a trading partner of considerable potential importance.
The most significant single commodity in Indonesia’s economy today is oil. As a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries Indonesia’s economy has benefited over the last 2 years from increases in world prices of oil. From being a country with external balance of payments problems, Indonesia now possesses adequate foreign exchange. Her known oil reserves are estimated to be sufficient for only approximately 20 years. She is accordingly seeking to broaden her economic base in accordance with national five year plans, and to diversify trading relations with her neighbours, including Australia.
Most of Indonesia’s close neighbours are members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. This Association, with Indonesia an influential member, is likely to become increasingly important for the economic growth and mutual defence of the region. Developments within ASEAN will inevitably have repercussions upon Australia. The maintenance of good relations with the members, and with Indonesia in particular, is accordingly of considerable importance.
In 1972 a new trade agreement was drawn up between Australia and Indonesia to supersede that of 1959. The first article of the agreement states that the 2 governments shall take all appropriate measures to facilitate, strengthen and diversify trade between the countries in respect of both traditional and potential exports. In furtherance of the trade agreement, and in view of the considerations outlined above, the Committee considered that a study of the prospects for trade, in both directions, between Indonesia and Australia would be most timely. This appears to have been confirmed by the considerable positive interest shown in the inquiry by private individuals, by industry and by Government departments.
The Committee has endeavoured to make an appraisal of the potential for future trade between the 2 countries, taking as its starting point past characteristics and present trends. Inevitably much of the report deals with the present situation and in particular with current problems. The Committee’s recommendations have been framed with a view to contributing, wherever possible, to a solution of some of these problems. Comments are made also in regard to other aspects of trade. The Committee trusts these comments will be received by governments and the business community alike in the constructive spirit in which they are offered.
The prospects for long term development of trade between Indonesia and Australia are good, particularly for the export of Australian goods to Indonesia. However, in view of Australia’s large and growing favourable balance of trade with Indonesia, emphasis needs to be placed on trade in both directions. It is not easy to identify commodities imported from Indonesia for which any very considerable growth in trade can be predicted. Timber probably shows the greatest potential, followed by coffee and rubber. Other imports may be expected to show unspectacular but steady increases.
When a previous report from the Committee on the inquiry into Australia-New Zealand trade was tabled on 7 June 1973, the Chairman at that time, Senator Wilkinson, pointed out that although some direct evidence was received from New Zealand, the Committee had to base its observations mainly on information derived from secondary sources. He went on to say that this difficulty indicated the need for committees to have some flexibility in regard to the gathering of evidence and information from overseas primary sources, either through visits to the other country for on the spot investigation and absorption of attitudes prevailing in that country, or by bringing selected persons to Australia. Senator Wilkinson said that he hoped that, when appropriate, this aspect of the Committee’s operation will be recognised as a valid and integral means of inquiry and be given favourable consideration.
This difficulty has not decreased since Senator Wilkinson presented his report. Indeed any report from a Senate committee purporting to assess conditions or prospects in another country, without the members of that committee actually gaining knowledge of that country at first hand, could justifiably be open to adverse criticism on that score alone. I accordingly strongly endorse the remarks of my predecessor and urge that serious consideration be given to recognising how important it is for the proper conduct of some Senate committee inquiries, for them, on occasion, to be able to travel overseas.
I express my sincere appreciation to my fellow Committee members from both sides of the chamber for their support. I gratefully acknowledge the willingness of members to make themselves available for meetings and hearings, sometimes at considerable personal inconvenience. I commend the report to honourable senators and seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Last Sunday, 22 February, I was working in my office in Brisbane. Having taken the advice of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers), I contacted the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley and asked whether it had an aircraft going to the Bundaberg area following the storm there and whether I would be able to proceed on that aircraft to inspect the damage. At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon I received a call from Amberley saying that a plane would be going to Bundaberg within the hour- probably a Chinook- and that if I could come to Amberley I might be in time to catch it. I proceeded to Amberley straight away and reached there at 2.50 p.m. When I contacted the duty officer he told me that most probably a Chinook would not be going but that a Hercules would be going at a later stage. He said that there would be some delay because tarpaulins which were going to be carried by the Royal Australian Air Force had not left Brisbane at that time. So I stayed at the Amberley air base and at about 5.30 the plane left. In the meantime- some time before 5 o ‘clock, but I am not quite sure of the time- I met Senator Bonner and Senator Martin who had come to Amberley also to go to Bundaberg. The rest of what happened that evening probably is not pertinent to my explanation, but roughly the events were as follows. We left Amberley at about 5.30 and proceeded to Bundaberg. Whilst in Bundaberg for about 40 minutes to an hour we inspected the damage in the city. We came back to Amberley later by the same Hercules. The next morning a report appeared in a Brisbane newspaper which read in part:
The Mayor of Bundaberg (Alderman Nielsen) claimed last night that an RAAF Hercules transport, carrying tarpaulins, was delayed so it could pick up 3 Senators.
The Hercules arrived at 6.30 p.m. carrying Senators Kathy Martin, Neville Bonner Bonner and Malcolm Colston.
There is more to the report but I have read the pertinent part. The report was false. The Hercules was not delayed for the 3 senators. I was at the Amberley air base for more than 2 hours before the Hercules left and, to my knowledge, the other senators were there for some time before the Hercules left also. The aircraft was not delayed for any of us three.
This report appeared not only in the Brisbane morning newspaper but also in many other newspapers throughout Queensland. I believe it was broadcast throughout not only Queensland but also other States of Australia on the Macquarie news. My personal explanation is to the effect that not only was an aspersion cast upon 3 senators in claiming that they asked that a transport which was carrying much needed supplies to a devastated city be delayed- which in fact is not true- but that an aspersion was cast also upon the Royal Australian Air Force in claiming that they were prepared to delay a transport in order to take three members of this Senate as passengers. I believe that the person who made this statement should have contacted one or all of the senators concerned or the Royal Australian Air Force before making this assertion. I believe some newspapers in Queensland have righted the matter by publishing an explanation given by one or all of the 3 senators concerned. But not being able to see all of the newspapers in Queensland, I do not know whether this has been done by all of them. Those newspapers which have not published a retraction and indicated that in fact the 3 senators did not hold up the plane and that the RAAF did not hold up the plane for the 3 senators should publish the real facts for the people of Queensland. Also any broadcasting station which made those false announcements and has not yet retracted them should do so now.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject as that raised by Senator Colston.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not wish to extend this period of the Senate’s business by repeating any of the matters raised by Senator Colston. He has stated what is substantially fact. I can speak for myself and say that I was informed by Amberley base-after I had contacted them at 2 o’clock and after several phone calls backwards and forwards about what sort of plane would be going to Bundaberg and whether indeed I could go- that a Hercules would depart at 4.30. I departed immediately for Amberley and arrived there between 10 and a quarter past four. The Hercules in fact took off at approximately 5.30. The facts otherwise are as Senator Colston stated concerning our trip to Bundaberg, our sojourn there and our return.
I was similarly surprised and indeed very upset to hear on the half-hourly Macquarie news broadcast on Monday morning the statement that 3 senators had delayed a mercy mission, as it were, to Bundaberg and to read on the front page of the Courier-Mail a statement made by the Mayor of Bundaberg, Mr Nielsen, to that effect. I must say that Mr Nielsen did not name the senators. He merely said 3 senators and the Courier-Mail then named them. I then made a number of telephone calls. I rise also to add something else which I think should be said in fairness to the media. I issued a statement on the morning of 23 February denying those reports. I contacted the Macquarie news and was informed by them that their story came from an Australian Associated Press story. My office contacted AAP on my behalf and they were told that AAP took its story at 4 a.m. from news items for the Courier-Mail. Subsequently I contacted the Courier-Mail and both I and members of my staff spoke to various people on the Courier-Mail staff. I am quite satisfied with the outcome and with the attitude shown by AAP, Macquarie news and the Courier-Mail. At least they did act fairly promptly to set the record straight.
However it was not until the evening of 23 February that I was able to contact the Mayor of Bundaberg, Mr Nielsen. I made some apologies relating to some other items in that news report and I asserted that the statement that he had made about senators having held up the aircraft was quite false. Mr Nielsen replied that he had been informed that the reason the flight was delayed was that originally the RAAF intended to take a Chinook helicopter to Bundaberg and that because we wanted to go it was not big enough and they had to take a Hercules. I understand that that is quite false. Unfortunately Mr Nielsen did not indicate to me who had given him that piece of information. Whoever it was deliberately and maliciously had fabricated the information and passed it on to him. A matter of great concern to me is that a story such as this could be disseminated so widely throughout Queensland and indeed Australia without any attempt being made by those who wrote the story to contact the people involved and to find out whether the story was true. They were not given the opportunity of comment at the time that the story was published rather than 24 hours later.
I agree with the other comments made by Senator Colston regarding the media elsewhere in Australia. I must say that I am very sorry that this has happened because it has caused a great deal of distress to a number of people in Bundaberg. It has also caused the 3 senators concerned some distress but we are able to look after ourselves reasonably well and we were able to reply. Nevertheless I consider the reporting of this incident to be totally irresponsible. I do not blame Mr Nielsen altogether. I do think that in a case like this where great personal distress and hardship was caused to citizens in Bundaberg and in other towns nearby, the media should have shown a rather different form of responsibility. If I may comment on the subject of media responsibility, I must say that I find it rather curious that when one contacts people who have widely disseminated a story which they have not attempted to verify and when one objects to that story one is told that it is not their fault but that is was somebody else’s mistake and it was just their bad luck that they happened to copy the false news item.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Probably my 2 colleagues have covered most of the facts of the case. But I do want to say that my main concern is for the members of the Royal Australian Air Force who, in my opinion, have carried out responsibilities which have been far beyond the call of duty over the last 3 or 4 months during which we have had so much trouble in Queensland. I am concerned that a reflection could have been made upon these very worthy gentlemen who have been doing so much in Queensland and in other parts of Australia. I agree with both my colleagues that the media does have a responsibility. At the time, of course, our concern was for the people of Bundaberg and the devastation that had been caused. We wanted to get there as soon as possible and we tried to do that. Our time was limited because the aircraft had to return to Amberley and I believe that it was required for other jobs. Our time in Bundaberg was limited and we did whatever we could out of concern for the people and without intending to cause inconvenience to anyone.
Debate resumed from 24 February, on motion by Senator Knight:
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
To His Excellency the Governor-General
May it Please Your Excellency-
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
- Mr President, the Senate is debating the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s speech. Last evening I tried to indicate to honourable senators on the Government side why the Australian Labor Party, and indeed the Australian Labor movement, were dissatisfied with the events that took place in 1975, particularly on 1 1 November 1975. 1 indicated that, for its part, and for the part of progressive opinion in Australia, the Labor Party will not rest until the real truth of the conspiracy that existed last year is brought under public examination. When one listens to the speeches of honourable senators opposite, one realises how much they fail to understand the psychology of the Australian people, as indeed they fail to understand the philosophy of the Labor movement itself.
There is no question but that during last year there was a well orchestrated campaign which began soon after Mr Fraser deposed Mr Snedden on the basis of eradicating the instability that had developed in Australian politics. Nevertheless, steps were taken to ensure that certain events would develop, and a campaign was planned which finally came to fruition on 1 1 November. It was a dangerous step that was taken, and it was a step that did more to damage the fabric of democracy in this country than 50 years of propaganda by any revolutionary group at all. Great numbers of people -
– Honourable senators opposite laugh, and that indicates how they fail to understand the psychology of the Australian people. Unquestionably confidence in the whole of the democratic process in this country has been shaken. When one considers in more detail some of the questions that have been raised by Government senators in their contributions to this debate- I will pick out only a small number of them- one can only wonder at the points of view that they have expressed. Senator Sheil displayed an unbelievable and incredible naivete about the way in which our society operates and in fact attempted to take us back to the simple philosophy of Adam Smith under which every man looked after himself. He made the claim that big governments are the reason we are faced with economic problems. He seems to believe that these problems exist only in countries like Australia. This theory just does not bear examination. The biggest countries in the world, such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China and the United States of America, have completely different economic problems from those of the smaller countries, such as Ireland and Chile, which have less government in terms of the way in which the lives of the people are determined by government actions. Countries in which government intervention is almost nonexistent have the highest rates of inflation and unemployment. Then Senator Sheil went on to make the most incredible statement. He said:
I do not believe the Government has a huge role to play in the Heritage Commission.
That statement indicates his naivete and his failure to comprehend the struggle for the conservation and preservation of the Australian environment. For heaven’s sake, in Sydney and Melbourne all the historic buildings would have been pulled down but for the action of the people. Finally governments at both Commonwealth and State level were forced to bring in legislation ensuring that things were preserved in our community. Of course, Senator Shell’s statements were an indication of his adherence to the backward philosophy of the Workers’ Party.
Senator Missen took the Opposition to task because he believes that in the last 3 years the Labor Government had been too busy in the legislative area. He said that something like 220 or 230 Bills had been considered by the Parliament and that this was too many. I would have expected Senator Missen to have some understanding of the role of the reformer, how difficult it is and how hard people who believe in reform will work in order to implement the things that they believe should be put on the statute book. He went on to say that the previous Government had argued that there had been something obstructive about the then Opposition. Surely he will not deny that 2 double dissolutions within a 3-year period and the rejection by the Senate of some basic pieces of legislation was some form of obstruction?
Senator Missen said that as a result of all the events of last year he thought that the Constitution ought to be considered to see whether or not some changes ought to be made so that those sorts of events could be prevented in the future. So having won the game, he does not want to play it any more according to the old standards of former Government senators. Having brought about the circumstances through which the Liberal and National Country Parties profited- in my view cheats should never prosper although in fact that is precisely what happened last yearnow Senator Missen says: ‘Let us change the rules’. Let me say on behalf of the whole Labor movement that as far as we are concerned that is just not on. Like Senator Jim Cavanagh, and indeed many of my colleagues, I will be spending less time in the next 3 years on this great charade that is known as Parliament and more on tackling where the real power exists within the Australian community.
I reject the attempts that have been made by Opposition senators. Opposition senators have been cajoled by Senator Rae, admonished by Senator Missen, threatened by Senator Sheil, lectured by Senator Baume and traduced by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to give up the desire to try to rectify the wrong and to explain to the Australian people. I believe that it is important for the Opposition to unravel the mysteries of 1975, and to do that I do not think I can go to a better source than the Governor-General himself. A person of his calibre, a person whose word Government supporters now believe to be law, a person who they believe can do no wrong and in fact should not be criticised, has himself made some very important pronouncements on the record. The first one to which I want to refer was made- significantly- on 1 1 November 1974, just one year prior to the infamous events of last year. What did the Governor-General say? I want to deal at some length with the underlying philosophy of the Governor-General. He said:
I believe that there should nowadays be a continuing public debate about ethical questions in relation to public office because such a debate must inevitably bring to the surface precise questions about departures from, or variations in, traditional standards.
Hear, hear! ‘, says the Opposition.
If there are to be departures from traditional ethical standards applicable to holders of public office then it is desirable for those departures to be explicitly enunciated, debated and understood.
The Opposition is in pretty good company when it believes that there ought to be a wider public examination of the events of 1975. The Governor-General went on to advance his point of view by talking about the canons of judicial ethics. He says:
A Judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary;
A Judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of his activities;
A Judge should regulate his extra-judicial activities to minimise the risk of conflict with his judicial duties.
Are we not entitled to ask: Did Sir Garfield Barwick as the Chief Justice carry out those canons, those standards, when he spoke unofficially, with no authority and without the knowledge of the Minister, the MinistersinCouncil, the Prime Minister and those of the Executive Council, when he was not entitled to do so. He did this when both the GovernorGeneral and he were on the public record as saying that that should not take place.
The Governor-General continues by quoting the point of view of another person. In expressing the point of view of another person, the Governor-General, one can assume, deals with that person’s point of view as his own. That view was that: . . judges obtained the respect of the people by confining themselves to their true judicial work and not inquiring, when asked, into political questions or into administrative or other issues which could not result in an enforceable judgment …
He goes on to say: . . when all is said and done, politics involves the pursuit of power while ethics impose restraints on the use of power.
In another place the Governor-General went on to make some other observations. I refer to his contributions in a speech that he made at the Union Club in Sydney. It was not at the Melbourne Club but at the Union Club- not the real power centre of Australia, which everyone recognises is the Melbourne Club, but the Union Club in Sydney, which is not of such significance. The speech was delivered on 3 April 1975. I quote from the official record of his speech. What does the Governor-General say when he talks about his constitutional position? He states:
Everyone knows that the Governor-General must act upon the advice of his Ministers, his constitutional advisers, when that advice is finally and formally given to him.
If the Governor-General had some doubts about the constitutionality and the problems of the impasse which had developed in the latter half of last year, he should have called for advice from his Ministers. He should not have sought the advice of the Chief Justice. It is worth remembering, honourable senators, that the Chief Justice holds no particular position in the High Court other than as the administrative head who allocates responsibility. That is the total of his responsibilities. He has no greater power than the other six or seven members who comprise the full High Court. He is only the adjutant, as it were, who decides which judge or judges shall sit on various cases. The position of Chief Justice has no substance greater than that of any other member of the High Court. So, if the GovernorGeneral wanted an opinion, why did he not consult all of the members of the High Court? In fact, I am led to believe that a majority of the members of the High Court does not agree with the sort of advice which, it is said, the Chief Justice proffered to the Governor-General. If that is the position, it shows that the Governor-General acted improperly, as indeed did the representative of the High Court.
In another speech which he made on 28 February 1975 the Governor-General explained the role of a Governor-General. I make no criticism of the fact that the present GovernorGeneral is an active Governor-General and has sought to explain to various audiences at meetings to which he has been invited what the role of the Governor-General is in society, whether it is a rubber stamp job or whether the GovernorGeneral has a greater responsibility. These are the words of the Governor-General, not my words. The Governor-General said:
The Governor-General acts on advice but he can question it, seek further information, and assess what he is being advised to do. He can obtain the reasons for what he is being asked to do and make suggestions about them -
The next statement out of the GovernorGeneral’s own mouth is the crunch in this context: but he must not get into political controversy, bc partisan or try to act politically himself. He must not try to manipulate the political process.
This is that we have been saying. This is exactly what the Governor-General has done. He has denigrated his high office. I surely do not need to recall to the minds of honourable senators the very difficult economic conditions that existed in the United Kingdom when Mr Heath was in trouble some Vh years or 3 years ago. Mr Heath did not command an absolute majority on the floor of the House of Commons. A slow down was taking place in industry. The Queen did not intervene. She did not take any part. The fact is that all sorts of suggestions are being made to the effect that the Queen herself was most displeased at the way in which her representative in Australia, the Governor-General, acted in the circumstances at the end of last year. So, I believe that in the light of all of the events of last year we are entitled to wonder: What were the real circumstances that prompted the calling of a double dissolution in November of last year?
I move on to a question that I raised last night, not because I am in any position to affirm what I say, other than to traverse the ground of the interference in the internal affairs of other countries by the Cental Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. In the current inquiries that are being undertaken by a Committee of the United States Senate, admissions have been made by high ranking officers of that organisation which indicate that the CIA has not only seriously interfered in the internal affairs of other countries but also has misled the President of the United States of America, the United States Congress and in fact withheld information. Even some 10 years or 1 1 years ago when there was an attempt to obtain detente between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A., we remember that a U2 plane was shot down and recall the effect that that incident had on the thaw that was developing in the cold war in that period.
Admissions have been made before the United States Senate Committee that the CIA was responsible for the murder of President Diem of South Vietnam, a President of whom all of those on the other side of the Senate in the then Government, which was of the same political complexion as the present Government, expressed their support when that Government involved Australia in the Vietnam war in 1964. That President of South Vietnam was not a radical or a militant. In fact, he was a person generally expressing the philosophy of the Conservatives. Then there was the President of the Dominican Republic, Mr Trujillo. He could be put in the same philosophical category as President Diem of South Vietnam. Both of those Presidents were murdered because, in the view of the CIA, the interests of the U.S. would be best served by their removal from public office.
We now read how the popularly and properly elected Premier of the Congo, now described as Zaire, Patrice Lumumba, was shot in cold blood after being kidnapped by forces under the orders of the CIA. We now learn that General Schneider, a personal friend of the democratically elected President of Chile, President Allende who was Chief of the General Staff in Chile and also a constitutionalist, was murdered following his abduction by agents paid and encouraged by the CIA. It is interesting to look at an article that appeared in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph on 29 May 1960. That article was headed: The Frightening World of Allen Dulles. The relevant pan, which I believe is worthy of examination, states:
Operatives do not necessarily have to be American citizens. CIA has neutrals and citizens of satellites amongst its agents. . . .
I think we are entitled to draw the conclusion that there are people in this country who operate in that category. Whether they played any part in these events we do not know at this stage. When I go back and read now the accounts of the McCarthy period in the United States in the 1950s, I see that the truth is finally coming out. I am one of those who believe that ultimately the truth will come out even in respect of the shameful events of last year. We do not care how long it takes. We do not care how deeply we probe. We do not care whom we hurt, because- this is the message which honourable senators on the Government side and the conservatives in this country have to get- we are determined to unravel the mysteries of last year. When I think of the reasonable contributions which Senators Missen and Rae made to this debate, I am led to remind them that they cannot expect to profit from a conspiracy. We will do what we can to see that that profit is turned into a loss.
We are debating the Governor-General’s Speech. I shall deal more specifically with the document, which I believe is disgraceful and disreputable. It was written by the Prime Minister. In it he seeks to justify his election victory and to turn back the clock as far as Australia’s social welfare program is concerned. It is to the credit of the president of the Australian Newspapers Council, Mr Ranald Macdonald, that he has severely criticised the newspapers of Australia and the newspaper proprietors who let Mr Fraser off the hook during the last election campaign. I shall refer to some of the inaccuracies which exist in the Speech. It refers to:
Well, 1950, 195 1 and 1952 were the first 3 years of the Menzies Administration after the defeat of the Labor Government in 1949. The inflation rate collectively over those 3 years was 46 per cent. It was 1 1.1 per cent in 1950, 25. 1 per cent in 1 95 1 and 9.8 per cent in 1 952. But what was it in 1973, 1974 and 1975? It was 13.2 per cent, 16.25 per cent and 13 per cent, which is a total of 42 percent.
We challenge the philosophy upon which this document is written and particularly statements which do not accord with the facts. He- I am talking of the Prime Minister because, let us face it, it is his document, not the Governor-General ‘s document- goes on to state:
My Government believes that adequate opportunities Tor the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provision, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best. The disadvantaged must be helped in ways which leave them the maximum independence.
One only has to read the Henderson report to learn about the disadvantaged. I do not want to quote from it, because time will not permit me to do so. I think it was Senator Missen who made some reference to it. Ail the inadequacies which existed as a result of 23 long years of conservative rule in this country were beginning to be overcome by the legislative program- which Senator Missen said was much too long- of the last 3 years. The Prime Minister goes on in the document to state:
At the root of the economic crisis is a steadily increasing tax burden required to finance, at the expense of the private sector, an ever-growing public sector.
That is crap. It is arrant nonsense and lies. I have here the latest document which has been published in relation to taxation and the gross domestic product of all the countries which go to make up the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Of the 2 1 countries which make up that organisation, of which we are part, where does Australia come in relation to direct and indirect taxation? It comes twentieth out of 2 1 countries in relation to taxation and the gross domestic product. The countries range from the Netherlands, with a figure of 31.48 per cent, down to Australia, whose taxation as a proportion of the gross domestic product is 12.99 per cent. Yet we have this man, Mr Fraser, who was part of this whole sordid and sorry deal of last year, now attempting to convince the Australian people that our taxation in respect of our gross domestic product is out of relationship and, in fact, that is what is creating the economic difficulties in our country.
I now refer to a comparison of growth of per capita Federal, State and local government taxation. Again, in another part of the Speech Mr Fraser makes reference to unlegislated tax increases. The facts, which can be provided to any member of the Government parties, are that in the period 1948-49 to 1974-75 Federal tax increased by 738 per cent. It so happens that average weekly earnings increased by precisely that percentage- 738 per cent. Yet, when we examine the taxation increases which took place in the State and local government sphere we find that they come to 1 ,576 per cent, or about double the other figure. We are asked to believe that the Speech is expressing the point of view of the Australian Prime Minister. On 14 March 1961, when, as honourable senators might recall there were some difficulties for the then conservative Government because it almost lost the election, Mr Fraser was criticised in the Parliament. At page 174 of the Hansard of 14 March Mr Fraser is reported as saying:
The honourable gentleman, together with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Calwell), in pan at least said that most of our present difficulties had been caused by this Government … I prefer to argue-I believe that the facts support me-that the difficulties confronting Australia now are caused by events that have occurred outside Australia, and, secondly, that imports- or a flood of imports, to use the term adopted by the Leader of the Opposition- are a symptom and not a cause of our present problems.
Let us look at how the present Prime Minister handles the truth. I have here an official handout from the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party dated 25 November. It deals with this vexed question of inflation. I say that the Government ‘s policy on financial matters needs a lot more examination than is taking place in the Senate today. This official document states:
The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, said today he had received official information which forecast that Australia during 1976 will suffer the second highest rate of inflation amongst the major western nations.
The following day that was contradicted by Mr Hayden. So the OECD was asked to comment. On AM Malcolm Downing stated:
OECD sources say there is no draft as such in existence yet . . .
Of course, the fact that this was headlines in the Australian would not surprise any member of the Australian Labor Party. In the 7 o’clock news on the ABC the following day- on 27 November- I heard Mr Fraser say in response to a question that he thought that it was official information, but when he was pressed by his interviewer he said that he had read it in the newspapers. What a very fine Prime Minister we have in a man who tells the Australian people via the Liberal Party s secretariat that it was in fact from an official document and then says that it was from a Treasury document and finally has to admit to the Australian people that he lied!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. Before calling Senator Tehan I indicate to the Senate that this will be the honourable senator’s first speech in the Senate and I invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies. I now call Senator Tehan.
-Mr Deputy President, I rise to support the motion. May I begin by congratulating the President, in his absence, and paying to him the traditional courtesies- although they are traditional they arc nonetheless sincere- on his election to the high office of President of the Senate. I hasten to add to that an assurance of my loyalty and my constant endeavour at all times to respect his office. I would also like to congratulate you, Mr Deputy President, on your election to the important office of Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman of Committees and offer you a similar assurance of loyalty and a constant endeavour to respect your office in my time in this place. While on the subject of congratulations I would also like to offer congratulations to two of my colleagues on the Government side of the chamber, Senator Knight and Senator Kilgariff, on their excellent speeches in moving and seconding respectively the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech.
I have come here, and of course am honoured to be here, by reason of the fact that I was chosen by the electors of the State of Victoria to represent them in this place. I am deeply conscious of the trust which they, the people of Victoria, have placed in me in electing me to the Senate. I hope that during my time in this place I will prove myself to be worthy of that trust. I am deeply conscious of the fact that, but for the major swing by the electors of Australia towards the coalition parties, I would not be here today. Of course, on a wider plane, the electors of Australia clearly and unmistakably endorsed the platform and policies of our Government as enunciated by our leaders and our parties during the campaign and as detailed in the Speech of the Governor-General.
There are, of course, grave problems confronting the nation at this time. I suppose one must say that the 2 greatest problems we are facing are the twin evils of inflation and unemployment which are stalking the nation and ravaging the economy to such an extent that it is a matter of urgency for all of us to apply ourselves to the mammoth task of halting those evils and getting the country back on its feet. I appeal to honourable senators on both sides of the House to apply themselves jointly to this task over the months to come because these twin evils are not respecters of persons. We all feel the effects of them, whether directly or indirectly. I do no propose to set myself up as an authority on the remedies to be applied. The policies of the coalition parties, as I have stated, are clearly set out in the Speech of the Governor-General and I support them, but no good purpose would be served here by my repetition of them. But I do want to say this: Our long term objective is to prevent the growth of centralised bureaucratic domination in Australia. It will be the endeavour of the Government to restore incentives to the individual and to encourage him to use his own initiative for his economic welfare without losing sight, of course, of the necessity to support the poor, the underprivileged, the disadvantaged and those people in the community who are unable to help themselves. We do not, however, want to breed a nation of people who are looking for an armchair ride from the cradle to the grave with total dependence on government at all stages. I remind the Senate that this nation was built and developed by the exercising of individual initiative and ability and will only continue to prosper and develop under a private enterprise system which gives each and every individual the right and incentive to exercise his own initiative and talents.
I come from the Goulburn Valley area in the north of Victoria. One has to go back some 20 years to the days of the late Senator MajorGeneral George Rankin to find the last senator who came from north of the Great Divide in Victoria. I am conscious of the fact that I represent the people of the whole of the State, but because of my interest in primary industry I would like to devote some of the time allotted to me on this very important occasion today to saying something of the great primary industries in Australia. From the time of Federation and before the primary industries of Australia have been the backbone of the export trade of this country and have thus done a great deal in the economic field to develop the nation to its present stature. The future picture, of course, will be slightly different because of the discoveries of great mineral wealth in recent times. One looks forward in the future to seeing a balance between the primary industries and the mineral wealth of the nation giving us the export income which is so vital to the future development of this nation.
I regret to say that certain sections of primary industry are today facing troubled times. Without presenting an exhaustive list I can instance the beef industry, the dairy industry and the fruit industry. Because time does not permit my dealing with them all or my covering the whole field I would like to deal with the fruit industry in particular today. In dealing with the fruit industry, and I couple with that the vegetable industry, we are dealing with an industry in this nation which has an estimated annual production of some $320m. This industry is facing both economic problems and what I might term problems of nature by the emergence of new and different breeds of pests. In this latter category a challenge to the whole industry has emerged in recent months with the unfortunate appearance of a pest known as the oriental fruit fly, which is already known to be in significant numbers over an area of 200 000 hectares in the Northern Territory. The oriental fruit fly is considered to be one of the most damaging fruit flies in the world. It attacks a wide variety of fruits and vegetables throughout Asia and eastwards through Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is clear therefore that both the Australian fruit and vegetable industries, including those concerned with export canning, face serious problems with the appearance in Australia of this fruit fly.
I want to deal briefly with the responsibilities of the government departments in this regard. The original responsibility for the control of the areas into which the fruit fly might spread rests with the Department of Health. It is responsible for implementing quarantine procedures to prevent the fruit fly from getting into areas in which it has not already appeared. In the areas in which it has already appeared the Department of Primary Industry has the task of eradication in cooperation with the appropriate State or Territory authority. The research section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which comes under the responsibility of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster), is available to both the State and Federal departments in relation to the work of detecting and eradicating this evil.
Difficulties are being encountered at the present time- we must remember that this fly made its appearance in Australia only in the last 2 months- by the fact that very little is known about this fly and how it came to be in Australia. Experiments are taking place with various chemicals in an endeavour to obtain some effective method of destruction. I want to congratulate the CSIRO and the Minister for Science on the urgent and important work which already has been undertaken. The CSIRO ‘s officers are supremely conscious of the grave threat which this situation poses to one of our major industries. I have already stated that the industry is worth some $320m a year to the nation. If this oriental fruit fly infestation spreads to a point where it destroys the whole industry, it will be readily appreciated that the potential income losses will be very large. This fly will affect both the local and export markets. It is true to say that until more is known, firstly, of its habits, including competition it may meet from other fruit flies already in Australia and, secondly, the effectiveness of the imposition of disinflation and quarantine measures already practised against these other fruit flies that are known to the Department of Primary Industry, the magnitude of the commercial loss from the fly cannot be estimated accurately.
It is also true to say that existing inspection and quarantine measures within Australia may allow interstate trade to continue relatively unfettered so long as the fly is restricted to the areas which it is known to inhabit at this stage, that is, parts of the Northern Territory. At present, traffic in these areas is restricted to personal transport by travellers. No real commercial fruit is grown in the affected area. The population of Darwin already has been alerted to the dangers of taking fruit to other States. Of course, the situation would change rapidly if the fly were to spread to the east coast of Queensland where there is a substantial trade in tropical fruits and tomatoes with the southern States.
The position in respect to overseas trade is a little difficult to predict at this stage. Some import bans must be expected from countries which import fruit from Australia. Bans on the importation of tropical and temperate fruit from Australia can be expected from some of our trading partners as it has now been reported and is widely known in those countries that oriental fruit fly is present in this country. Some immediate steps, therefore, must be taken to minimise the effect of the fly which has already been detected. For example, there are no’ quarantine provisions at Darwin airport or any other airport in Australia. It will be readily appreciated that if the free passage of fruit is permitted indiscriminately, the fly could spread south to Adelaide and other places in the south of Australia. I make an earnest appeal to the appropriate departments to take urgent action to grapple with this very important problem.
I now turn to the economic problems of the canning fruit industry which, at the moment, is in a crisis situation. The outlook for canning apricots, peaches and pears is troubled and in many ways uncertain. But 2 things are certain: Firstly, production will be reduced and, secondly, exports will shrink. The problem is one which arises in 3 States- in the Goulburn Valley area of Victoria, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation area of New South Wales and in the upper Murray Valley area in South Australia including the areas of Loxton, Berri and Renmark. The position is particularly acute in Victoria where over 90 per cent of Australian canning pears are grown. Here there is a substantial tonnage which canners will be obliged to decline through lack of profitable outlets. The galling part of this situation is that Goulburn Valley pears are acknowledged to be equal to the best, if they are not the best, in the world and the canneries have more than an adequate capacity to can the whole crop. I suggest that the situation is particularly regrettable in a world in which two-thirds of the population is short of food and does not have enough to eat. I urge the Government for humanitarian if for no other reasons to investigate the situation with a view to seeing whether the substantial surplus quantities of canning fruits could be used as part of an overseas aid abroad program.
The pear grower finds himself in an unenviable situation. He has received only partial payment for his 1975 season crop and until a few days ago had received payment for only 40 per cent of the crop. It seems reasonably certain that there will be a reduction in price in 1976- the current season for which the canneries are now taking in some of the fruit- and it also appears to be a virtual certainty that a substantial portion of the 1976 crop will be unsaleable to canneries. That is the fact. There is no possibility of stepping up exports as the unhappy truth here is that major importing countries, through an economic downturn, have reduced imports and competitors such as South Africa, with considerable currency and cost advantages, are pushing Australian canned fruits off the markets.
Four major factors are contributing to the current crisis. Firstly, all the canneries are facing grave liquidity problems. The recent injection of $3m to the industry to enable it to pay the growers some of the outstanding money for the 1975 crop will do nothing in the long term to solve the problems although it has permitted the payment to growers beyond 40 per cent to which I have referred to be made. Secondly, in an industry which has a very high labour content from the time the fruit is taken from the tree until is appears on the supermarket shelf there have been massive increases in costs of production which affect growers and canners alike. The growers face increased payments for wages, materials and a number of variable indirect costs such as vehicle operation, interest and workers compensation insurance and in Victoria there has been a 12 per cent increase in water irrigation charges. The cost increase spiral facing the canneries includes labour, tin plate, cartons, labels, workers compensation insurance and various other indirect costs such as those which affect the growers.
A third factor producing a crisis situation is the increase in marine freight costs. At a time when competition in world markets prevents any cost increases being passed on, the now familiar pattern of periodic freight rate increases in almost every overseas trade is a source of great concern to this great canning industry. Whilst one of Australia’s main competitors in this field, South Africa, is also experiencing freight rate increases, these are occurring on a much smaller scale. There is already a huge difference in freight costs between the 2 countries. But when the rates rise again, as they will do on 1 July 1976, the disparity will widen to the point where the cost of shipping Australian canned fruits to the United Kingdom and Europe will be 10 1 per cent higher than the cost of taking fruit from South Africa to the same markets. Of course, this is an intolerable position.
The fourth and probably the greatest single factor contributing to the crisis is the effect of international currency variations. Since international currencies started to fluctuate Australia has fared considerably worse than its 2 main competitors in overseas markets, South Africa and the United States of America. This can be best illustrated by citing the percentage decline in the realisation price for a carton of 29-ounce choice pears. I will take as a base static price £S2.60 for a carton of 29-ounce choice pears in Great Britain in January 1967. Comparing that figure with the same amount of £S2.60 in January 1976, we find that the effective percentage decline in realisation- the loss of value to the Australian market- is 36 per cent. That is the effective loss obtained by converting the amounts into Australian dollars. The effective loss on the South African rand is only 12 per cent and on the United States dollar it is 27 per cent. The brief facts and figures which I have cited, while not completely comprehensive, vividly illustrate the present crisis in the industry. A devaluation of the Australian currency undoubtedly would have assisted the industry. While I concede that there were sound reasons for not devaluing and that the decision not to devalue was taken by the Government in the overall interests of the Australian nation- it is proper to do that- it cannot be denied that the decision has disadvantaged the agricultural section generally and the canning fruit industry in particular.
Other Australian export industries have experienced variations in realisation, including those from currency variations removed under stabilisation plans. I urge the Government to introduce a similar stabilisation plan to save the canning fruit industry from complete annihilation. The Australian Industry Development Corporation, at the request of the Minister for Agriculture in the previous Government, prepared a report for the reconstruction and rationalisation of the industry. Because of the major changes in the export markets between September and December of last year, the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has referred this report back to the Corporation for updating. I hope that the updated report will be made available as soon as possible so that some of the present uncertainties in the industry will be clarified.
It seems likely that growers and workers will be phased out of the fruit industry and it is hoped that the process, which will undoubtedly have unfortunate social consequences for the persons concerned, will be undertaken with sympathy, understanding and dignity. It will be no easy matter for people, many of whom have spent a lifetime in the industry and know no other vocation, to be retrained and re-employed, particularly of course at a time when unemployment is running at such a high level. Because of the failure of successive governments, both State and Federal, to grapple with the problem of decentralisation, it is unlikely that alternative employment will be available in the areas affected and this will mean that the unfortunate persons who are concerned with this unemployment situation will have to go to the capital cities to obtain employment.
I have dwelt at some length on the current problems of the fruit industry because of their serious nature and the large number of people whose economic welfare and future are involved. In the short time left at my disposal I wish to refer to a couple of social matters, the first being the importance of the family as a basic unit of society. It has always been my belief that the maintenance of the family as a basic unit of society is essential to our way of life in our Australian democracy. There can be no more noble vocation than that of spouse and parent. This, of course, is irrespective of whether the spouse and parent is the male of the species or the female of the species. The role of the father is equally important to that of the mother in the moulding and formation of the character of a child. I acknowledge, of course, the need for the Government to provide the economic support to the family unit by way of child endowment, child minding centres and various other aspects of social welfare programs to buttress the economic welfare of the family unit.
As we stand today on the threshold of the last 25 years of the twentieth century, looking forward to the year 2000 and remembering that more than half of the population of this nation is under the age of 30 years, it is perhaps opportune to look briefly at what I regard as 2 urgent problems affecting our youth today. I refer firstly to the appalling carnage on our roads. One has only to pick up the newspapers on a Monday morning in any State of the Commonwealth to realise how many people under 25 years of age kill themselves on Australian roads. The statistics show that far more deaths occur in the 25 age group than in other age groups and there is ample evidence to show that a significant number of these deaths arise out of the lack of proper training in the pre-licence stage of people who become licensed to drive a motor car. I have had a close association with a pilot scheme in Victoria which is designed to correct this situation. At the Goulburn Valley Driver Training Complex at Shepparton there are comprehensive facilities which enable the complete instruction of children from the ages of 14 to 18 years in the whole gamut of problems which arise out of the use or abuse of the motor car. Honourable senators have to remember that at the speeds at which a motor car travels today it is an instrument of death, an instrument of destruction.
The facilities at the training complex include a team of trained expert instructors, a driving track which includes every conceivable situation which one could meet on Australian roads, including adverse cambers, corrugations, railway crossings, humps and finally and very importantly a film centre which vividly illustrates the tragic consequences of excesses in speed and alcohol in relation to the driving of a motor car. I understand that similar centres are set up or are in the course of being set up in South Australia and Western Australia. In Victoria endeavours are being made to have the whole question of driver training incorporated as a subject in secondary school curricula, and considerable progress has been made in this regard. The Victorian driver training complex has been in operation for 2 years and has been set up at a cost of $250,000. It has had close interest and attention from the Victorian Government and has been used to advantage to train drivers from various government departments, including the Victorian Civil Ambulance Service and the Country Fire Authority. The plea I make today in this regard is for the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) who represents the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in this House to endeavour to have funds made available through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act to the States to sponsor this type of driver training. The Act provides for grants to be made for road planning and research, which are defined in the Act in sufficiently wide terms to bring this sort of training within the ambit of it. I commend this type of training to the Minister for his urgent consideration and action.
The last matter to which I wish to advert very briefly is the problem of abuse of drugs, particularly among secondary and tertiary students. I am not saying that I condemn secondary and tertiary students. I think the youth of today are wonderful people but it is always the minority among people who create the problem. The great majority of secondary and tertiary students, I think, will be excellent citizens. I am not unmindful of the excellent work of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in this field, but despite the work of that Committee there appears to me to be a case for tightening and policing the regulations relating to the illegal entry of drugs into Australia.
I have covered a wide ambit of subjects during the course of this, my maiden speech. I thank you, Mr Deputy President, and the members of the Senate for their courtesy, patience, indulgence and tolerance during this effort. It will always be my constant endeavour while I am in this place to extend similar courtesy, patience, indulgence and tolerance not only to the occupant of the Chair but also to all honourable senators.
-The Senate is debating the Governor-General’s address setting out the Government’s program for the forthcoming parliamentary session. Let me begin my comments about that address given by the Governor-General by congratulating the President, through you, Mr Deputy President, on his election. I do so for a number of reasons. First of all I feel that the new President is a very worthy recipient of that office. I also congratulate him on the fact that he has been elected only 1 8 months after the last President was elected to that office. Who would have thought 3 years ago that twice in a period of 3 years a new President of the Senate would be elected? As one honourable senator put it to me the other day: Who would have thought that he would be elected 3 times in 5 years for a 6-year term in the Senate? So in extending congratulations to the President I remind him that his election to office came about in quite extraordinary circumstances and I propose to refer to some of those. I also congratulate the President because it appears from what has happened in the past few months in this chamber that he has been elected to the office of Presiding Officer of one of the most powerful legislative chambers in the world. It is a chamber which can apparently force elections at whim, can reject a Budget, can defeat a government by delaying a Budget and can defeat a legislative program which the Government was elected to carry out.
– Defeat at whim- what is wrong with that?
– I will come to the question of your whims at a later stage, Senator Wright. At the moment I am talking about the Senate as a whole. In being elected to the office the President has taken on, I respectfully submit, an awesome responsibility, so much so that I feel a sense of awe in my heart when the Usher of the Black Rod announces the President each daythe same sense of awe as no doubt would be struck in the hearts of Ugandan parliamentarians when the equivalent officer announces the President of Uganda. Be that as it may, the President has been elected to this position. I am pleased personally for him and I hope he will do his best to discharge the very grave duties which that high office now imposes on him.
In the last few days the Labor Party has been taken to task in this chamber for its attitude to the opening of Parliament and what took place at that time. It has been said by Government senators that the Labor Party cannot take an election defeat and that is what we are upset about. I find that an extraordinary comment because we are very used to taking election defeats. We are probably more experienced at it than any other political party in the Western world. It is not the fact that we were beaten in an election which upsets members of the Labor Party. We are, as I say, used to it but it is the circumstances of the life of a Labor Government and the way the term of that Government was brought to an end which is the source of irritation and the source of disappointment and concern amongst members of the Opposition.
– You are just gabbling repetition.
– If I may continue without the assistance of Senator Wright, I would like to refer to some of those circumstances. First of all, twice in the term of a 3 year Labor Government the Opposition, for the first time in Australia’s political history, chose the date of an election. It chose the date of an election in 1 974 which it lost. Bad judgment’, one might have said. It chose the date of an election in December 1975 which it won. The point which I wish to make is simply this: If a parliamentary system is to work- as I came here 1 8 months ago believing it ought to work- it should work on the basis of a government being elected to fulfil a program over a defined period of time. In Australia it happens to be 3 years.
Mr Fraser, the present Prime Minister, has been quite unabashed about his view on this. He says that he will require 3 years in which to get the economy of Australia into what he regards as a satisfactory condition. It is precisely 3 years that Mr Fraser and Mr Snedden before him were not prepared to grant to the Labor Government to carry out its program. It is precisely that term which they now ask for but which they were not prepared to grant to a Labor Government. It is those circumstances and the various incidents which took place involving the delaying and the blocking of Supply, the replacement of retired senators and the replacement of a dead senator, which lead many of us to query where the parliamentary system in which we are asked to performthe parliamentary arena in which we are asked to take part- is going.
Senator Sir Magnus Cormack only the other night gave the Opposition a lecture in this place. He told us that any group, including a group of baboons about which he might be much more closely informed than I am, had to conform to certain rules if the institution to which they belong was to operate successfully. We agree with that view but we want to know what the rules are. The suggestion that this Parliament is some sort of club in which only certain people are entitled to be on the committee of management threatens, I believe, the parliamentary institution. As a member of Parliament I am concerned that that institution should survive, not for my own sake but from the point of view that I still regard it as perhaps the best of a number of possible evil systems of managing the affairs of a country. It is about those issues we must be concerned in the period of this Parliament.
Politics, as I understand it in the 20th century, is about managing change. The new President in this Senate and the new Speaker of the House of Representatives have chosen to wear wigs after 3 years of the abandonment of that practice. I know that is not a very significant point, but it does suggest in a symbolic way that the sort of change that the Government is concerned about helping to manage is not the change which will suit Australian society and it is not the direction in which Australian society ought to be pointing. Those wigs, I believe, are also intended to be a symbol of the dignity of Parliament. Parliament cannot gain dignity and it cannot gain respect in the eyes of the Australian community by a couple of its officials wearing wigs. It can gain respect and dignity in the eyes of the Australian people only if it is seen to be an institution which behaves itself and operates according to certain defined rules- which I thought until last year were accepted by all political parties. It cannot only be seen to be fair if it does that, but it also must be seen to be fair by the people of Australia. It is not fair and will not be seen to be fair so long as those sons of practices are not tackled in an imaginative way and so long as the electoral system which sends members of Parliament to this place is, by all consensus of expert opinion, unfair.
These are the issues to which I hope the Parliament might have sufficient imagination to direct its attention in the coming 3 years. It is quite obvious that we, as an Opposition, cannot contemplate continuing participation in the parliamentary institution unless it is a fair institution and is seen by the people of Australia to be so. Honourable senators opposite, as Government senators, can sit in this chamber enjoying the perks of office but if they are not prepared to contemplate the issues about which I am talking I believe that the institution of Parliament is doomed and those things which they would most devoutly wish not to occur in Australia will occur.
It is those matters which concern me and which lead me to take to task some honourable senators who have seen this undoubted bitterness amongst members of the Labor Party as some sort of aberration by people who were defeated in an election. As I said earlier, it is not the defeat in the election which concerns us; it is the way in which the election was brought about. We are concerned to ensure that steps are taken in this Parliament to see that we have a better electoral system in this country and that we have a Constitution which is not a completely outmoded document, totally inappropriate to the management of a contemporary society.
I turn to the Governor-General’s Speech. Like the election promises made by the then Opposition, the Governor-General’s Speech is, with respect, full of sound and fury which signifies nothing. If one compares it with the 2 previous Speeches by the Governor-General in the 2 previous Parliaments which laid down detailed legislative programs of what the then Government intended to do with or without Senate obstruction, it can be seen to be a statement of vague generalities and rather specious philosophies. No specific legislative program is laid down. One can read that document and really have no idea, in a legislative sense, what the Government intends to do.
One wonders whether the Government understands what it intends to do. Nobody reading the Speech can get any idea. One journalist, commenting on the Governor-General ‘s Speech, said that portions of it were prepared by officials and recast in ‘Fraserology’. ‘Fraserology’ as I interpret it from reading the collected wisdom of that man, enunciated in various speeches, involves a rather Leaving Certificate standard statement or dissertation on notions of freedom and equality in society. I make that somewhat derogatory remark about it because the point about which we are concerned is simply this: It is no good to say that people can have freedom of choice in Australia and that people who are on the pension can have freedom of choice, if that pension is inadequate. It is no good to say that poor men in Australia have the same freedom of choice as rich men and think that is the end of the problem. Freedom is a notion which involves a deal of conceptual thinking. Both in his National Press Club address last year and in the Governor-General’s Speech, Mr Fraser has indicated quite clearly that he has no understanding of the notion of economic and social freedom which we, as a Party, have tried to put to the people of Australia in the last few years. We will continue to do so because we regard it as important. Another important point in the Speech is contained in paragraph (4) on page 2 of the Governor-General ‘s Speech which states:
Historic reforms will be made to reverse the concentration of po ower in the Federal Government and increase the autonomy and responsibilities of Local and State Governments. The Government believes that there must be more scope for community and individual initiative if people are to solve their problems sensitively and with a rational use of resources;
Of course, that is like mother’s milk; we all believe in all that stuff- that people should have initiative and should have freedom to solve their own problems as much as possible. Having said that, it does not say very much more- except to suggest the thin vein which runs through all Fraserology, which is that somehow people in Australia would be freer and their affairs would be better managed by their governments if somehow the State governments played a much more significant role in the management of human affairs than they do at present. I am afraid that that is a proposition which I contest and will continue to contest. Only one State government, the Government of South Australia, can in any way be said to have displayed quality and imagination in the administration of the affairs of the State.
– You have forgotten the Hamer Government, of course.
-I shall talk about the Hamer Government in a moment, and Senator Missen can perhaps interject more freely then and tell me what it has done. I illustrate the point about freedom by instancing another State government-that of Queensland. I do not think anybody in this chamber would seriously suggest that somehow the civil liberties of the people of Queensland are better guaranteed by the Government of Mr Bjelke-Petersen than they would be by a government led by Mr Whitlam or Mr Fraser.
As Senator Missen has invited it, I turn, as a Victorian senator, to my own State of Victoria to examine the proposition that somehow State governments in their administration have provided better services and conditions for the people of their States and have fulfilled what Walter Lippmann calls ‘the public philosophy’ better than a government in Canberra. The people of Victoria will be asked to consider these questions in a State election to be held on 21 March of this year. They will be asked to vote on matters specifically within the sphere of the State Government’s responsibility in Victoria. The Liberal Party has been in government in Victoria for 20 years. Senator Missen is well informed on the Victorian State Government scene and will correct me if I am wrong about any of these facts. I do not retreat from the fact that those 20 years of Liberal government have been 20 years of growth, development and change in Victoria. The Government over which Mr Hamer presides was responsible for a number of attacks on the Federal Labor Government last year and the year before. It delayed the implementation of Medibank in Victoria at a cost to the Victorian people. More particularly, it criticised the Federal Labor Government because there was a 3 per cent increase in the Commonwealth Public Service last year. In the same year as the Commonwealth Public Service increased by 3 per cent the Victorian Public Service increased by 10 per cent. What benefit have the people of Victoria received from that vast increase in the size of its Public Service at a time when the Victorian Government was criticising a Federal Labor Government over the expansion of its Public Service.
As I speak now, thousands of Melbourne motorists will be jammed in traffic jams, and they will be in that situation simply because Melbourne has one of the worst public transport systems of any city of that size in the world. While the Liberal Party is complaining about unemployment in Australia the Victorian Railways complain about being undermanned and last week people in the suburb of Eltham were being brought to the city by the Victorian Railways in taxis because the railway could not provide the services.
– They all suddenly got ill in one day?
– It is not a question of them all getting ill in one day. The illness has been going on for 20 years of Liberal Government and it is in that period that the public transport system has got into the condition in which it is now. If somebody wants to buy a block of land in my State of Vic -
– You are going to fight the Victorian election are you?
– I am quite happy to assist with that. After all, this is a States House is it not? If somebody wants to buy a block of land in Victoria it will cost $14,000 to $16,000 if it is anywhere within 15 miles of the city. A similar block of land within the same distance of the city in South Australia can be bought for $6,000. That is a matter of concern to the people of Victoria and it results from the administration of that State by the Hamer Government. It results in part from that Government’s delay in implementing the Federal Labor Government’s land commission program. On the subject of education in Victoria I need say little except to refer honourable senators to the annual headlines in the newspapers, which Senator Missen could write. Headlines such as ‘8000 children this year cannot get into schools’, as Senator Missen knows, have occurred every year for the past 6 years and they are still occurring. Nothing is being done about it. I turn to the area of health and the care of aged persons in Victoria. Aged persons cannot get into hospitals to receive appropriate care. Psychiatrists in Victoria are now on strike because the State Minister for Health will not talk to them. That was the position as reported in this morning’s Age. Senator Missen might have more up-to-date information on that matter. Those are the sorts of problems which are occurring under the administration of a State Government and which are examples of the fact that Australia does not get good government from the States and that Fraserology and the implications of it are disastrous in terms of political management in this country.
It has been a source of aspiration and pride for thousands of people in Melbourne that they have a home by Port Phillip Bay and are able to enjoy the recreational facilities which they hoped, when they moved there, would be provided by their proximity to the Bay. The best headline the State Liberal Government has had in any of the Melbourne newspapers in relation to Port Phillip Bay in the past 3 months is: ‘Swimming in filth does not hurt you, says expert’. We now have a Federal Government which talks about returning issues of the environment to the States. Anybody who lives near Port Phillip Bay, anybody who has to travel by Melbourne transport, anybody who lives in the Dandenongs or anybody who lives in the Westernport region knows, if he thinks about it, that the idea of there being no Federal influence in what takes place in his area environmentally and the matter being left to the State Government is absolute rubbish as a political proposition
– Why do they keep electing the Government?
– There is a variety of reasons. I shall tell the honourable senator one reason. Mr Hamer is a nice chap and people often like nice chaps; but nice chaps do not always deliver. In 20 years in government in Victoria the Liberal Party has not delivered in respect of all sorts of services which are basic to members of the community and to the welfare of the society in which they live. In the past 20 years of Liberal Government many changes have taken place; but in the area of public expenditure, in the area of public responsibility accepted by both the Liberal Party and the Labor Partymatters such as transport, education, health, care of old persons, the environment and so on- there has been really nothing which anybody, I believe, could report with pride as a matter of political management. I raise these matters because the people of Victoria- I hope some of them will be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings now- will have to make up their minds about them.
– They will be driving in those cars now.
-Senator Cotton says that many people in Victoria will be sitting in their cars now in traffic jams because the public transport system in Melbourne is no good. That is what will be happening in Melbourne now. People listening to the broadcast of this debate should realise that they are sitting in their cars in traffic jams because the State Government of Victoria is incapable of delivering, and that Mr Fraser and his Government will load that State Government with more responsibilities than it has been able to fulfil in the last 20 years. That is surely a horrifying thought which the voters of Victoria ought to think about on 20 March.
As I said earlier in my speech- I also said it some 20 months ago in my maiden speech in the Senate- I believe that the most important issue which confronts any government in any democracy in the 1970s is the capacity to understand and manage the sorts of changes which are taking place in our society and in the world at large. I do not believe that there is anything in the
Governor-General’s Speech which in any way indicates that the author of that Speech, whoever it may have been, has either the imagination or the capacity to manage the sorts of changes with which our country is confronted. One of the solutions put forward in the face of that incapacity is to say: ‘Well, look, we will opt out of these things. We will give them back to the States. We will opt out of them and we will not pursue our responsibilities as a national government in regard to these things. We will give them back to the States.’
The point of my dissertation about what has happened in the State of Victoria in the last 20 years and what is happening now is simply to raise this question in the interests of managing change in Australia as a nation in the 1970s: Is it wise to accept uncritically the view that these things would be better handled by State governments which have a shoddy record of performance by any standards? This is what I most fear about the symbolism of your wig, Mr President. I fear that the direction in which change will be managed is the direction which is suggested in point 4 on page 2 of the Governor-General’s Speech, that is, to go back to a situation of abdication of national responsibility as a government and to return those responsibilities to State governments which, I believe, have neither the capacity, the imagination nor indeed the necessary structures to carry out the task in the interests of the Australian people. For those reasons I raise these criticisms of the address made by the Governor-General.
– Order! Before calling Senator Archer I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Archer’s first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies to him.
-Mr President, I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague Senator Knight. Although I come into the debate at a late stage, I wish to extend my congratulations to all the new senators and trust that I and they may endeavour to use this Senate to be objective and for the purpose for which we were all elected. The last, or perhaps I should say the first, few days have given me the opportunity to see something of how the Senate works. While there are many senators and staff of the Senate whom I have not yet met and do not know personally, I have had the opportunity, Mr President, to see you at work and to hear the many genuine tributes made to you in your honour. Having seen you, Sir, I can understand those tributes better and trust that like your many illustrious predecessors you, too, may be so regarded by posterity. To the Chairman of Committees and his deputies I also extend my congratulations.
I feel deeply the honour and the responsibility placed on me to represent Tasmania. I am a Tasmanian by birth, by inclination and by conviction. I love Tasmania and in this place and outside it I will present Tasmania’s case and do what I can to ease its disabilities and relieve its increasing isolation. I should like to take the opportunity to say something of some of the matters which concern Tasmania. For a start, most non-Tasmanians associate Tasmania with one of a variety of things which are special to Tasmania. These include apples and small fruits, potatoes, tourism, paper, Queenstown and the Mt Lyell mine, or just farming in general. Although the associations seem to remain, regrettably many of these things may not remain for long. There have been changes and, in many cases, big ones. The fruit industry has the problem of tremendous labor costs, prohibitive shipping costs and changes in the markets, both at home and abroad. These matters have placed the industry on the brink of extinction- like the fruit industry in Victoria. Until we get new varieties, new harvesting and new product developments, the industry will be in trouble.
The potato industry in Tasmania was once a very big industry. At its height there were 80 000 acres of potatoes grown by 8000 growers. These figures have now fallen to the point where there are 5000 acres and 500 growers. This has been caused by the cost of shipping potatoes from Tasmania to Sydney and Brisbane. Even our tourist industry is faltering at present because of high labour costs, high development costs and high fares. The paper industry is having problems through competition, both at home and abroad, from low labour producers and low freight countries. Queenstown is a rather special case. With Gormanston, which is another company-owned town, there are 5500 people in this area, 1250 of whom are on the direct weekly payroll of the mine and 5000 of whom are directly dependent on the mine for their subsistence. It is a fascinating place. The copper mine, which has been in operation since 1893, now has assets in excess of $ 100m, on present values, and injects approximately $30m a year into the economy. Most of this money is overseas funds. It is represented by wages, contracts, taxes, general purchases and services. But we do not know for how long this situation will continue, because of the decline in world copper prices and the increased cost of production. It will not be possible to continue the mine without some support.
Farming has given Tasmania much of its charm for visitors. The agriculture and the livestock have done much to enhance the natural beauty of the island, and in many fields Tasmania’s agriculture has led Australia. Now it is a matter of subsistence for all the dairy and beef farmers. Reorganisation of the world’s production and marketing setups has left producers in Australia to regroup and re-organise. This is also the case in Tasmania except that through increased isolation, costs are higher and returns always inevitably lower. During the years, each time costs have increased Tasmanian farmers have had another look, made some changes and continued to become more and more efficient. But there is a limit to this, and right now the end is in sight.
The dairyman cannot be squeezed any more. Dairymen in Tasmania have improved their pastures, their herds and their management. For instance, in 1960-61 there were 127 000 cows in milk at an average production of 505 gallons a head spread over 2820 farms. By 1973-74 the number of farms had dropped to 2032, which was a drop of 40 per cent. Although the number of cows was virtually the same, or marginally up, production had increased to 632 gallons a cow, which was an increase of 25 per cent. However, the farmers’ incomes had declined. It must be taken into account that during this period the majority of farmers who had subsidiary incomes from the potato markets lost them as well and many had to become committed for extra land, plant or irrigation just to remain as dairymen. Many of the farmers who had employed labour for many years could no longer do so and were returned to the family farm situation. Dairymen in Tasmania are now as efficient as any in the world and are far more efficient than all but a select few. Can we afford to lose a really efficient industry, an industry which is well located and which has a tremendous bearing on the overall sociology of the region?
During the decade 1965-1975 production in Tasmania changed largely from cream to whole milk and from butter to cheese. Whereas production of butter during the decade reached a high using 336 million litres of milk, it was down to 248 million litres, or a reduction of 30 per cent, in 1974-75 and is still falling. Cheese production of any consequence really only started about 1960. At that stage it was using only 3.7 million litres of milk a year. By 1964-65 this was increased to 23 million litres and by 1974-75 to 123 million litres, which represented a 500 per cent increase in 10 years. Of the total production of milk in Australia, 25 per cent is consumed as town milk. Half the balance is consumed within Australian as cheese, butter and powdered milk. The remainder of the balance- say 35 per centeither is used for export or, regrettably, is surplus. This is occurring at a time when we are importing between 7000 and 8000 tonnes of cheese a year from overseas, where it is produced on high subsidy and on a market support scheme. Before looking for support at home we must scrutinise the import situation.
No one can argue that the Tasmanian cheese manufacturers in particular have not done well to promote their industry. They have developed a quality product, they have made available to the consumer a wide range of fancy cheeses, they have used efficient production methods and they have promoted their product vigorously. In fact, over the last 10 years Australians have doubled their per capita consumption of cheese and twothirds of total production is consumed now within Australia. A drastic situation still exists within the industry which, like most rural pursuits, has to combat world market effects. However, in considering Australia ‘s overall dairy situation surely the efficient must be encouraged and those at the bottom of the industry must go first.
We need to recognise and to face some very hard facts in respect of the entire industry. I suggest that an examination of the industry will indicate that the following points are valid: The industry as a whole is in a far worse condition than generally is conceded; the problem is caused jointly by market shortage and overproduction; without immediate action the industry is certain to worsen in the short term; revival of any consequence seems unlikely for many years- at least five to 10 years; the urgent aim must be to reduce production to that sufficient to cover local markets and known overseas contracts; a subsidy system, which reduces over 3 to 5 years and pays dairymen not to milk cows may well be appropriate; the surplus appears to be 25 per cent to 30 per cent of total production; concentration would be best centred on strengthening the most efficient and economic producers, the best manufacturers and those with the highest marketing expertise; districts and herds of lowest and least efficient production should receive assistance first; the least efficient manufacturers should be phased out as quickly as possible; cutting production would remove the need for export support and achieve higher prices for the producers; the domestic market would thus have to pay the ruling market price for dairy products; close scrutiny of all imports of cheese in particular would need to be made to determine their retention, reduction or abolition; and a 12 months support price for this season’s product, particularly milk powder, should be implemented immediately.
It is not possible for the surplus dairy farmers to change over to beef production. In fact, many of these farmers cannot do anything other than what they are doing. It just is not reasonable in the short term for a farmer to go into beef production in a big way as a means of getting out of dairying. Great possibilities exist for the export of live stud cattle, goats and sheep but this is an almost untouched market. Its expansion would help all States but it would help Tasmania in particular because of its very high proportion of this type of production. The horse bloodstock industry, with ideal soils and climate, has commenced to flourish and the results are coming through already. Better sires have produced better foals and better prices and Tasmanian horses are getting due recognition now on their merits.
Vegetables appear to have a very good future. Nowhere in mainland Australia is it possible to produce a range of popular vegetables at the cost at which it is possible in Tasmania. With the firm establishment of 3 vegetable processors and now an amalgamation of great strength in the industry there is real hope. Current production figures would include potatoes at approximately 80 000 tonnes, green beans at 8000 tonnes, peas at 2 1 000 tonnes, carrots at 8000 tonnes, onions at 12 000 tonnes, plus increasing quantities of brasicas, broad beans, beet, pumpkins and many crops previously not grown commercially. As an adjunct to the growth in processed vegetables I expect a strong and prosperous fresh vegetable market to arise, particularly in Melbourne, transport willing. Before leaving this field of discussion I should like to make one observation. If even one honourable senator believes he can gain popularity by attracting publicity against the superphosphate bounty, he will not gain that popularity in Tasmania. Superphosphate is badly needed in Tasmania and all those who can afford it will use it. Even if their refund is only $30 or $50 it will be greatly appreciated.
I turn now to King Island and Flinders Island. Over many years much has been said of these islands and of their problems; so much so that it is now hard to have the real situation understood and appreciated. Frankly, the situation is terrible and it is deteriorating. These people are a pioneer community and their position must be considered. The islands have had 100 years of agriculture and many of the occupants are descended from the early settlers. These communities have really suffered because of the many vagaries and problems of sea transport. There were periods when there were no ships at all and periods when there were ships but the costs made them completely uneconomic to use. Problems of getting superphosphate on to the islands and getting stock off, dead or alive, are part of the way of life of the islanders. King Island was redeveloped after the war and had a strong dairy industry, at one stage with up to 197 suppliers. This has dropped to 47 suppliers. These people are committed now to factory re-equipment costing over half a million dollars in order simply to survive, the King Island Dairy Products Cooperative Society Ltd having shown last year a trading loss of $239,000.
An amount of $15.30 per head for cattle to travel 100 miles over water, plus loading, plus transport to the markets and plus costs, is a very high price to pay. The animals could be killed on the island at the Tasmanian Government abattoirs which last year, working as a service organisation, showed a trading loss of $170,000. Currently the carcass can be flown to Melbourne at 4c per pound which is about 25 per cent of the value of the beast. Providing the land gets superphosphate it is ideal livestock country. It is probably the best dairying area I know in Australia. At present it carries 70 000 sheep and 65 000 cattle and these figures could easily be doubled if it were economically viable to do so.
There were more than 50 fishing boats operating from Currie; now there are seventeen. There are 2 mines. The one at Kibuka has only 3 to 5 years of life remaining, while it is hoped that King Island Scheelite has a life of over 20 years. This mine provides the greatest current stabilising force to the island’s economy. The islanders are wonderful people and the islands are wonderful places. The great service given to the islands over the years by Brain and Brown Airfreighters Pty Ltd cannot go unrecorded. It has done everything possible to give service and at the same time to cushion all the economic problems as they seem inevitably to arise.
The future of Tasmania, after yet another reorganising period, I expect will come back to livestock, agriculture, mining and tourism. There will be production and sale of stud stock. Beef appears to be headed for another trough, probably as bad as that experienced in 1975, but hopefully it will pick up again to reach a more reasonable level by 1977 and then set out on a stabilised pattern which should give a reasonable return to producers. I was pleased today to hear that United Milk Products Limited, a local Tasmanian firm, has secured a Canadian order involving some 12 000 head at a return to farmers of about $ 1 m. That will take a lot of the immediate pressure from northern Tasmania and King Island and I hope will allow the beef men to keep their cattle through until 1977. when it appears that a recovery should be on the way. In that regard, I take the opportunity to congratulate United Milk on getting the order and to say what a great help it will be to Tasmania.
Dairying, after considerable reorganisation, is certain to start from a new base and expand again both at home and abroad, particularly in relation to cheese, as the necessity for protein foods and the ability of other countries to pay for them rises. Vegetable cropping, I suggest, will probably double within five to ten years. Pharmaceutical poppies will be a very valuable crop likely to double in the very short term. Both superfine and coarse or carpet types of wool certainly will retain a big place and, with redevelopment, fruit could again come to the fore with different methods, new products or new varieties. Timber and timber products, including paper, will continue to be a very big industry, and it is hoped that paper and paper products will show a big expansion in the short term. The Associated Pulp and Paper Mills plant at Wesley Vale produces speciality magazine papers and Australia uses 100 000 tonnes of magazine paper a year. The APPM plant has a capacity to produce 40 000 tonnes a year but is working to sales of only 25 000 tonnes a year because of imports, largely from Finland and Scandinavia. The plant could more than double its production if that were required. Frankly, I do not understand present circumstances. The firm has expansion plans valued at $150m, involving vast increases in its Tasmanian operation, but has put them in abeyance until mid 1976, waiting to see if the proposition is viable and what considerations it can get. Such an expansion would be wonderful for Tasmania in the utilisation of human, natural and existing transport and business resources.
If Mt Lyell can weather its present problems mining will still be a major factor in the life of Tasmania, and with two or three new mines perhaps starting soon minerals still will be the big money earner. In tourism Tasmania still has much to offer, but it is so hard to get people there. We hear regularly of potential tourists with the same wrong ideas. They believe that Tasmania can be visited and looked over in a day or two. They believe that it is about the size of Hayman Island and that because it is so small it is hardly worth going there for a holiday for two or three weeks. They also have ideas about the climate. Quite frankly, one only has to consider the climate of Queensland and northern New South
Wales at present, Melbourne at any time and Canberra most of the time to realise that Tasmania’s climate is not too bad. When one considers the forests and the mountains, the rivers and lakes, the fishing and the beaches, Mt Lyell and the Gordon River, Strathgordon, the Derwent, Mount Rowland and so on, Tasmania has much to offer. We want visitors to enjoy the things that we enjoy, and I hope that much can be made of those things in the years ahead. Certainly we have problems, but we have a lot of advantages as well, and with some all round consideration Tasmania will continue to make its usual contribution to the Australian way of life as a whole.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– Order! Before I call Senator Ryan, I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Ryan’s first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies. I call Senator Ryan.
- Mr President, firstly, I offer my congratulations to you on your election to the most honoured position in this Senate. I offer my congratulations also to the other new members of the Senate who have made their maiden speeches and my best wishes to those whose turn is yet to come.
As we gather here in the First Session of the Thirtieth Australian Parliament, there are some matters of particular relevance to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. The most obvious is that the Australian Capital Territory, along with the Northern Territory, has Senate representation for the first time. I am very proud to be one of the first senators from the Australian Capital Territory. I am especially proud to be the first Labor senator from the Territory, particularly as Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory was brought about solely by the efforts of the Labor Government, and in face of the best efforts of the Liberal-National Country Party coalition both in this chamber and in another place, and further in the High Court, to prevent it.
As well as representation for the Territory, other measures were taken by the Labor Government to extend the political powers of residents of the Australian Capital Territory. As in the rest of Australia, people here between the ages of 18 years and 21 years were newly enfranchised. A Legislative Assembly for the Territory was elected as a first step towards giving the people both a voice in the administration of local affairs and a way to participate in the policies by which the affairs of the Territory are regulated.
Other forms of community participation were facilitated by innovative Labor measures. For example, there were community committees for health centres, school boards with representation from parents, students and teachers and community representation on vital bodies such as the committee which allocates emergency housing to distressed families. But just as the benefits of Labor’s social reform policies were quickly felt in the Territory- for example, in the reduction in the price of land, the establishment of an Australian Legal Aid Office, community health centres, women’s refuges, cheaper loans for home buyers, child care services and land rights for Aboriginals at Wreck Bay, so also the detrimental effects of the present Government’s ill conceived anti-Canberra policy are already causing distress and hardship to people living here in the seat of government.
The price of land has increased. The availability of Commissioner for Housing loans has been drastically reduced. Health care programs have been frozen. The future of the Australian Legal Aid Office is uncertain, as is therefore the provision of free legal aid services to its thousands of potential clients. The cost of car licences and registrations has increased. The cloud of retrenchment hangs over the heads of hundreds and hundreds of public servants. The threat to living standards posed by the Government’s turnabout submission on wage indexation has passed only temporarily, we fear. Perhaps most disastrous of all, the construction industry, starved of National Capital Development Commission contracts, is grinding to a halt.
This last unhappy development demonstrates most clearly the shortsightedness of this Government’s oft announced intention of simultaneously shrinking the public sector and expanding the private sector. In the Australian Capital Territory, the public sector and the private sector are interdependent. By cutting down the National Capital Development Commission building program, the Government has perforce cut off funds for the whole of the private sector concerned with construction, including investors, architects, builders, tradesmen and labourers. The actual unemployment and loss of profits in the private sector together with the fear of unemployment in the public sector creates a most unhealthy atmosphere for other parts of the private sector. I refer, for example, to retail business. Needless to say, small businesses are much more easily hurt by fluctuations in consumer demand than is big business. As the elected representative of this Territory, I must fight against the developments to which I have just referred. I hope that I may find some support in this fight from members of the Government who are most directly responsible to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
As a member of the National Parliament, my responsibilities extend beyond the special interests of the Territory. When I focus my attention on the national picture, I find no less cause for alarm. The future of many Labor programs is in jeopardy. Honourable senators on the other side of the chamber may be thinking: ‘Well, of course, we have had a change of government. There must follow change of policy. It would be naive to expect anything else’. Well, Mr President, I am certainly a novice in this Chamber but, I hope, not entirely naive.
I do accept that, by voting as it did in 1975, the electorate has expressed a desire for a different kind of government. Nevertheless, members of the Government will perhaps agree that the Liberal-National Country coalition campaigned largely on something that it called ‘economic management’. It did not campaign on promises to dismantle Labor’s most popular reformsMedibank, legal aid, equal opportunity in education, and the elimination of discrimination based on sex, country of origin or race. Indeed it gave vague and unspecific support for some of these. Thus, there is understandably widespread unease throughout the electorate as the Government announces, day by day, its intention to review ‘ or to ‘ rationalise ‘ such programs.
I wish to comment now in particular on the anxiety felt by many women in our society about possible reductions in Government support for programs and policies that have been of particular significance to women. I do this for a number of reasons. The first is that, as a woman member of Parliament, I am a member of a particularly small minority group. In this respect, our national Parliament is a microcosm of our society. Women are as badly under-represented here as they are anywhere else in our society where power resides or where decisions are made. And, as elsewhere in society, women are most heavily represented among the workers who keep this institution running. I refer to the army of cleaners, waitresses, typists, librarians and so on without whose support and skills parliamentarians would be unable to function.
Although honourable senators will have heard many comments on the fact that there are now 6 women members of this chamber- and, indeed, some of those comments have been so phrased as to suggest that a membership of 6 women senators is almost an excess- I think that there will be agreement that neither the Government nor the Opposition has cause for complacency on this matter. But the sexist organisation of our society has many more important ramifications than the fact that there are not many women members in Parliament. Until very recently, women in our society, through a variety of formal barriers, traditional prejudice, and sheer neglect by policy makers, were denied equal access with men to education, health care, job training, employment, wage justice- in all, to the possibility of real independence.
I presume that honourable senators will be aware of the following statistics, but I mention them to support my argument. In 1973, the Henderson Inquiry into Poverty estimated that there were approximately 132 000 fatherless families- that is, families supported by women- in Australia at that time. Further, 37.5 per cent of these families had a net income below Henderson’s poverty line, and an additional 12.6 per cent had an income less than 20 per cent above the poverty line. Thus, half the families supported by women were poor or very poor. The same inquiry revealed that 20 per cent of all female full year full time workers earned below $2,500 per annum in 1973. By comparison, only 5 per cent of all male full time workers earned below $2,500 per annum in that year. Figures from the 1971 census showed that 80.7 per cent of women in the work force had no qualifications. But 1.9 per cent of women in the work force have trade qualifications as compared with 20.3 per cent of males. The child care survey in 1973 showed that a quarter of a million women with dependent children aged 12 or under were in the work force and about 125 000 women with dependent children under 6 years of age were in the work force. In 1971 only 27 per cent of students engaged in post school study of any kind, that is tertiary or technical, were female.
These few statistics should remind honourable senators who need to be reminded that in education, training, employment and income, most women have been seriously disadvantaged. The Labor Government which was elected in 1972 recognised these facts. When setting about the immense task of creating a just society based on an equitable distribution of power and resources, the Labor Government did not overlook the inequities suffered by women. Honourable senators will be aware of the many initiatives taken by the Labor Government in this respect. I do not wish to weary my colleagues by a lengthy recital which, in total, these matters would make.
However, as at least some of these reforms are presently under threat from the Government I shall comment on them.
In 1973 the Labor Government introduced the supporting mothers benefit. For the first time all women who, for any reason, were the sole support of children were entitled to a modest level of government assistance. For the first time, Australians had a Government which did not merely utter hollow rhetoric about the importance of child rearing and about the mother-child relationship as conservative governments have done and still do. In 1973 Australians had a Government which acted to implement these values by giving concrete financial assistance to mothers in need. I find it ironical and very disappointing that this long overdue measure- the first step towards giving supporting mothers a modicum of independence and dignity- has been questioned by some adherents of the Liberal philosophy on the grounds that it may be creating an unhealthy dependency in these women.
Again, acting on the socialist principle that the community through the auspices of government willingly assumes responsibility for its vulnerable members, the Labor Government set up the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission to develop integrated child care and development programs for pre-school age children. Through the Schools Commission a study group was set up to report on girls in the education system. Its report, titled Girls, Schools and Society was published in November 1975. It is the first national inquiry of this kind here or anywhere else. It documents beyond doubt the multiple and complex disadvantages suffered by girls in all kinds of schools in Australia. I am sorry that the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, is not here because I wanted to point out my surprise and disappointment that he has not yet seen fit to comment publicly on this report or to give any undertaking in respect of its recommendations. The Minister’s decision to cut $1.6m from the Schools Commission’s special projects allocation is a drastic reduction in what is virtually the only source of funds so far available for programs designed to eliminate sex based discrimination against girls in schools.
Recognising that all people need marketable skills in order to achieve economic independence and that many people through lack of opportunity, retrenchment or technological change lack such skills, the Labor Government set up the National Employment and Training scheme. More than half the applicants under this program have been women thus demonstrating to honourable senators on the other side of the chamber who need to have this pointed out to them that women, when given the opportunity, are in fact anxious to acquire skills that lead to independence. Unfortunately, the NEAT scheme has already been undermined by the new Government. The application of the means test introduced by the present Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Tony Street, and the reduction in training allowance represents a positive disincentive to retrain for women of low dual-income families. Such women are usually the first to be retrenched. They cannot afford to retrain on $23.40 a week so they either face unemployment with no unemployment benefit because they are married or of remaining in a low paid, unskilled job with little chance of advancing or even maintaining their job status. I hope that the Minister will give further thought to this anomaly and that he will re-establish positive incentives for training, particularly for women.
One of the first acts of the newly elected Labor Government in December 1972 was to re-open the equal pay case. The Government’s submission was successful and the principle of equal pay was established. In 1974 the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission extended the minimum wage to women. The injustice to women implicit in the concept of the male breadwinner, which was first applied by Justice Higgins in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in 1907, has finally been removed. I point out that in speaking of working women I am not speaking of a small group or of a group of recent origin. I am speaking about workers who comprise a constant and vital part of our economy, even though they have not been recognised or rewarded as such. Viewed historically, the recent high rate of female participaation in the work force cannot be regarded as a temporary phenomenon. Working class women have always worked. High female work force rates have occurred frequently throughout Australia’s history. For example, between 1904 and 1910 women constituted about one-third of the employees in factories and workshops in the Sydney metropolitan district.
Under the Whitlam Government women were given access to wage justice. But a number of steps remain before wage justice becomes a reality for all working women. In August 1 975 the average female weekly earnings were only 74 per cent of the average male weekly earnings. There are a number of reasons for this. Not all State awards have been brought into line with the 1974 decision. Inadequacies in education, job training, and child care services remain. Prejudice by employers impedes opportunity and promotion for women. There is as yet no antidiscrimination legislation to bridle sexist prejudice. I hope that the present Government’s overwhelming anxiety to reduce expenditure will not prevent it from turning its attention to relatively low cost reforms like anti-discrimination legislation.
When the Whitlam Government’s term of office was so dramatically interrupted in November 1975 many programs designed to eliminate disadvantages of all kinds in our society were also interrupted. I have mentioned those of relevance to women. But honourable senators may agree that improvements in education, training, legal aid services, welfare services and child-care, benefit the whole of society and not just women. We still await clarification from the Government of its intentions with regard to most of these policies. Such reforms are, of course, integral to the program of a Labor government pursuing an egalitarian socialist philosophy. Their place in a Liberal philosophy, concerned as it is with making a virtue out of an individual being triumphant over the system rather than with changing the system, is not so clear.
I suggest to honourable senators opposite that the rights with which they are so concerned, such as the rights of individuals to pursue independence, to make their own choices and to notch up their own little measures of achievement, are rights which can be exercised only by people who have had the opportunity to acquire skills, knowledge and confidence. There are many people in our community who, through poverty, neglect, prejudice, exploitation, handicap, illhealth or merely old age, have not had such opportunities. Until society is reformed so as to give real opportunity to such people, any reference to the beneficiaries of reform programs as ‘unwelcome dependants on the state’ is callously insulting, and talk of ‘individualism and initiative’ remains the self-indulgence of the elite. I thank honourable senators.
– Before calling Senator Thomas I indicate to the Senate that this will be his first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend the traditional courtesies to him. I call Senator Thomas.
- Mr President, I rise to support the motion. Firstly, Sir, let me add my congratulations to those of the honourable senators who have spoken before me on your election to the high office that you now hold. The qualities of kindness, courtesy and sincerity were at once obvious to me. If to those qualities can be added the others expressed to me by your colleagues in this place and those who know you well in South Australia, it can only enhance the high reputation this House has with the people of Australia. I look forward to serving under your stewardship for many years. Senator Drake-Brockman is particularly well known and respected in country areas of Western Australia. That he should be elected Chairman of Committees only reinforces my admiration for him. Senators Knight, Kilgariff, Messner, Tehan, Archer and Ryan have demonstrated in their maiden speeches an expert knowledge in their respective fields and an eloquence that can only add to the standard of debate and decision- making in this place.
It seems obvious to me that if I try to apply myself to all of the matters that come before the Senate I will be of little value to anyone. While I hope to develop interests in many other areas, agriculture is the only field in which I can pretend to have any particular knowledge. I want to draw the attention of the Senate tonight to 2 areas of particular importance to Western Australia Commonwealth-State relations and rural affairs. I intend to make one or two general comments about the former subject and to devote the balance of my time to the latter.
Western Australia is a long way from Canberra in more than just a geographical sense. Many Western Australian problems are Australian problems, but many also are local and can best be handled locally. While such fields as defence, foreign affairs and some areas of national resources and trade are logically handled nationally, I feel that the Commonwealth should reduce its interest in such fields as health, housing, education and the environment. It has been argued, firstly, that the States have little expertise and, secondly, that they have little interest in these matters, but if the State and local governments were given more independence in raising and spending their own revenue the voters in each of those 2 important areas of government would soon make sure that they were being well served. When we talk about returning government to the people we should not be thinking about just returning responsibility to the States. The States also have an obligation to give more autonomy to local government. Many thousands of men and women throughout Australia give one and sometimes more days a week to local government. As they are closer to the people they receive most of the criticism; yet in many cases they are merely rubber stamps for State or Federal authorities.
All senators from Western Australia have their offices in one building in Penh. While this has communication advantages and Perth is the logical place from which to travel to any part of our huge State, we have little contact with West
AustraliansMembersoftheHouseofRepresentatives are regularly sought out by their constituents, but this is not generally the case with senators. As an experiment, I intend to move my office to Geraldton towards the end of this year. Geraldton is a regional centre some 500 kilometres north of Perth and, while it is still 2250 kilometres south of the northern extremity of the State, it does service a large, highly productive agricultural, fishing and mining area. It is in the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which is the largest in the world and which embraces nine-tenths of the State. Although its new Federal member, Mick Cotter, has boundless energy, it is physically impossible for him to service his electorate as thoroughly as a metropolitan electorate can be serviced. I will therefore be in an area I know and will give more people access to a Federal parliamentarian. There will be difficulties. These have been pointed out to me. But some of my Senate colleagues from Queensland have established regional offices, which must result in that State being better represented.
The Western Australian Government is well advanced in carrying out an exercise that could be the blueprint for other States. Seven regional offices of the State Government are being established in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Kalgoorlie, Albany, Bunbury, Geraldton and GascoyneMurchison areas. They will be manned by senior public servants who will have the authority to make decisions and, more importantly, will be on the spot and therefore will appreciate the local problems and aspirations. I will follow with interest the development of our federalism policy. I am encouraged by the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is taking such an active interest in this area.
Western Australia produces one-third of Australia’s grain and one-fifth of her wool. The State supplies one-tenth of our meat exports and almost half of the exported live animals. It is developing what could be a valuable overseas market for lupin seed and, while it is a net importer of butter and cheese, is self-sufficient in whole milk. Fruit and timber are two of many other areas of rural production important to Western Australia. Many rural producers enjoy a reasonable standard of living, but the fact that they are not keeping pace with the other sections of the community can best be illustrated by looking at the drift of population. In the 5 years to 1971 the number of people working on farms declined by 13 per cent, while our total population increased by about 6 per cent. During the same 5 years the number of rural holdings fell by 8 per cent. So, although the volume and the value of rural production are increasing steadily, costs are increasing to such a degree that many are giving up the fight. The fact that few young people are attracted to the land can be illustrated by my saying that I understand that the average age of farmers is about 55 years.
Many West Australians rely on rural production for a large part of their income. Waterside workers, country storekeepers, State railway workers and employees of machinery manufacturers should be just as concerned for the future of farming as the farmers themselves. While it is recognised by most that farmers are disadvantaged by the vagaries of weather and overseas markets, it is not so apparent that manufacturers and their agents who supply the tractors, fencing material, sheds and grain handling equipment have greater fluctuations of income than do the farmers. Many of the agents and manufacturers selling farm machinery were seriously affected during the years of wheat quotas, whereas now those selling large tractors, harvesters and seeding machinery cannot obtain sufficient stocks to satisfy the demand.
While a diminishing number of Australians are actively engaged in rural production, all Australians are affected by the prosperity of farmers. The same probably could be said of other industries, but of few, if any, to the same degree. That the income of primary producers is extremely unstable was clearly illustrated in the Green Paper on Rural Policy in Australia of May 1974 in which each year’s income during the period between 1966-67 and 1970-71 was shown as a percentage of the one following it. In every case over 40 per cent of our primary producers had incomes that varied by more than 50 per cent when compared with the year following. When the same calculations were made for other business operators over the same period it was found that only 20 per cent of them had income variations of 50 per cent. Naturally the incomes of wage and salary earners are much more stable.
The answer would seem to be for the farmers to save money in good years. But the Taxation Office, particularly through the imposition of provisional tax, takes care of that. Many farmers are encouraged to undertake irrational investment in high income years to avoid paying taxation. A more realistic solution would seem to be some form of market control. But while wheat stabilisation and the reserve price for wool are generally popular with farmers, if further marketing plans are adopted they should not cloud the lines of communication between producer and consumer. Producers must be in a position to respond immediately to changes in market requirements and this can be difficult if a guaranteed price disguises changes in world demand. This comment applies more to products like grain that can sometimes be changed from one type of production to another in a year than, say, to beef that cannot.
I am an advocate of free marketing of rural products but I accept that in some industries some controls are needed. However, I have found that generally farmers who in theory support private enterprise are imposing on themselves unbelievable controls and restrictions. As with any business, each area of production has its good and its bad times. Farmers are believers in free marketing when prices are high but when prices fall we blame the marketing system. We forget to look at freight rates, over-production, overseas competition, changes in consumer demand or expensive handling and processing methods. We say to our politicians: ‘Look, our prices are low. What are you going to do about improving the marketing system?’ What we really mean is that we want a subsidy, but ‘subsidy’ is a dirty word. So the Government legislates to provide a marketing board and gives the producers a majority on the board.
It sometimes gives acquisition powers over the whole area of production. It offers loan finance to the board and naturally wants some controls in exchange. To protect existing producers and thereby secure for themselves a permanent seat on the board, board members make it difficult for potential new producers to enter the field. To protect the smaller producers who are in the majority and who have the greatest voting strength to elect board members, production is sometimes limited to prevent the efficient farmer from getting too big. The board has no competition; so the producer and the government cannot know whether it is efficient. It writes its own annual reports in glowing terms anyway. The government is then relieved of much of its responsibilities in that area.
Mr President, you can see that much of the pressure for socialised rural industries comes from the farmers themselves. The pressures are certainly less when returns are high. But each industry has its turn of low prices and history shows us that once a marketing board is established it is almost never abolished. A socialist government only needs to create, a situation of hardship for the producer, particularly through high rates of inflation- it can also create hardship by reducing credit, increasing taxation or by upsetting our trading partners- and the farmer himself does the rest. Rather than a proliferation of these marketing boards, I would like to see more support given to co-operative marketing of rural products.
I believe that the problem of income instability can be reduced by adopting 2 of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commissionfirstly, that of removing the upper limit of $16,000 on tax averaging and, secondly, by the provision of income equalisation deposits. Through income equalisation deposits a farmer could invest money at the short term bond rate of interest in a year of high income and only pay tax on that investment in the year of withdrawal. Neither scheme would cost the Treasury anything other than a small amount of forgone taxation. I will do my utmost to see that these policies are adopted as soon as possible.
The area of tariff protection is of vital concern to the primary industries, as it also is to the mining industry. The cost to rural producers of tariff protection to manufacturing industries is extremely high and is increasing. In fact, although the figures are difficult to calculate, it has not been seriously questioned that in the year 1973-74 the net cost of tariffs to the wool, meat and grain industries was $465m or an average of well over $2,000 per year per producer. At the same time, manufacturing industries enjoyed a subsidy equivalent in the form of tariff protection of $3,000m. This latter figure is taken from the Industries Assistance Commission 1973-74 annual report. While it has been argued that these industries need protection to create employment, the position becomes ridiculous when one realises that the cost of protection in the motor vehicle industry is of the order of $4,000 per person employed per year, for organic industrial chemicals over $6,500, for iron and basic steel products $3,000, and for many industries in excess of the average wage levels being paid.
It is amazing that many high cost and inefficient industries have avoided community criticism whereas the rural export industries, which are among Australia’s only internationally competitive industries, are condemned for receiving so-called unjustified handouts. One reason is that the costs of tariffs are never brought to account in Budgets, unlike rural assistance which is. The Hayden Budget allocated $89. 5m assistance to the wool, meat and grain industries. Of course, this was before the reinstatement of the superphosphate bounty. Of that $89.5m, $8 1.3m or 90 per cent was in the form of loans. So governments are not overly generous to the rural industries, most of which are efficient and highly competitive on the world markets while they give massive support to other industries. I suggest ii is time Australia had a lock at where her resources should best be allocated.
I strongly support the Australian Labor Party initiative in creating the Industries Assistance Commission. With a steadily reducing population in country areas, rural political representation is diminishing. Instead of emotion, we now have available to us well researched information based on consideration for the national interest and compiled by an independent authority to help us in our decision-making. Inflation is probably the most pressing problem in rural areas because income is largely fixed by highly competitive world markets and the escalating costs cannot be passed on. I am pleased that our Government has as its first priority the bringing of inflation under control.
Let me close my speech on a different note. Many honourable senators from both sides of the House have expressed and have demonstrated their desire to make my initiation into this place as comfortable as possible. For this I thank them. It is a difficult transition from being a farmer on one side of Australia to being a politician on the other. Finally, I say to honourable senators that I will spare no effort to serve the interests of Western Australia in this Federal Parliament. It is inevitable that I will make mistakes. But they will be mistakes caused not from any lack of respect for the usages and the customs of the Senate, but from an excess of enthusiasm in my endeavour to justify the awesome responsibilities placed in me. Mr President, I have pleasure in supporting the motion.
– Before calling on Senator Colston, I indicate to the Senate that this will be the honourable senator’s first speech in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to extend to him the traditional courtesies. I call on Senator Colston.
-Thank you, Mr President. I would like to join with other honourable senators in congratulating you upon your appointment to your high and important office. From what other honourable senators have said- senators who have known you for a long time- it is obvious that you have given a long service to the people of Australia not only in the Senate but also in the South Australian legislature. What 1 am about to say I think you will accept as not being any reflection upon yourself but as part of practical politics. Like m any others on this side of the Senate, 1 look forward to the day when we will have a nominee from our Party, the Australian Labor Party, as President of the Senate. But in the meantime, I look forward to serving under your presidency and I wish you well during your tenure of office.
It would be remiss of me not to congratulate also those who have already delivered maiden speeches in this the Thirtieth Parliament. Whilst I do not agree with the political philosophy of many of those who have spoken and I will not agree with the political philosophy of some of those who are still to speak, I hope that this will not prevent us from working together for the betterment of the Australian people. Like all of the new honourable senators and I suppose like most of those who have been recently re-elected I am aware of the responsibility that I have towards the people who elected me, in this case the people of Queensland.
With 9 other honourable senators I represent a great State. In Queensland in some respects we do things on a grand scale. We have some of the finest surfing beaches in the world. Our natural resources of many kinds would be the envy of many people from overseas. Even in such leisure time pursuits as cricket we can show the people from other States how to play. One thing however detracts from our great State- and I think I must say this tonight- and that is the abysmally poor State government in Queensland which has been elected on malapportioned electorates.
– The honourable senator must not reflect on another institution of Parliament. Please refrain.
-Thank you, sir. I think that as I proceed you will probably appreciate, because of something I will say at a later stage, why I did go to such extremes in my maiden speech. Some people, I think, enter this chamber unnoticed. I think some people probably are unnoticed when they leave also. But because of circumstances surrounding the arrival of some of the people to this chamber I am sure that even if some of them wished to remain unnoticed they could not do so. Some of the newly elected senators probably fit into this category. Although they might not be noticed nationally they have at least been noticed in their own State because of the circumstances surrounding their election to this chamber. This has probably been the case with me. If not noticed for my attempts to enter this Parliament in 1970 and 1974, at least because of the events that took place in August and September last year I would have been noticed when I in fact did arrive here.
It was a rocky road for me to enter this Parliament and, indeed, about August and September last year when a casual vacancy occurred for the Senate in Queensland I sometimes wondered whether all the difficulties of trying to come here to serve my fellow Australians were all worth while. Having made it, let me say that I am delighted to be here and having arrived I intend to stay here for quite some time. It has been expected by a number of people, I feel, that when I made my maiden speech I would recount some of the events surrounding the casual Senate vacancy which occured in Queensland last year. I do not intend to dwell on this subject for any great length because I think that there are more important things that I can speak about to the Senate tonight. Certainly I believe that some underhand and despicable actions surrounded the filling of that casual vacancy. I think that many people on both sides of the chamber would agree with me. In fact, in some respects I think that the dignity of this chamber was assaulted by what happened. I do not intend to dwell on this matter, however, because in some respects it is past history and in another respect I have already put down on paper my thoughts about the matters and I expect them to be in published form very shortly.
This evening I will speak on different matters, matters which people probably would not have expected me to speak about after having been the nominee of the Australian Labor Party for that casual Senate vacancy in Queensland last year. I expect that when people come to this chamber many of them come with certain experiences and certain backgrounds which will channel their thoughts in debate in this chamber. If that is normal then I am no exception. I probably have a few major areas on which I will enter debate in this Parliament. These areas stem from my backgrounds. One of these is education. I spent many years as a primary school teacher in Queensland. After teaching in primary schools I went into secondary schools and later went into guidance work in the secondary sphere. After I left that sphere I did full time university work, again in the field of education. After finishing that I returned to the education sphere and did some research work. So, education will be one of the fields on which I think I will have some competence to speak in this chamber and it will be one of the fields in which I will pursue my interests here.
While I was carrying on with my education studies, while I was a teacher, later a guidance officer and then research worker in the field of education, I carried on in parallel a part-time career. I was a member of the Citizen Military Forces or, as it is now called, the Army Reserve for many years. Because of that I will have an interest in defence matters which come before this chamber, especially matters that concern Army Reserve personnel. I was fairly fortunate in the postings I had in the Army reserve in that I was able to train and actually carry out some work for the Armed Services in four of the States of Australia and in Papua New Guinea as well.
I also have another interest and it is probably because of my own background of experience with which I have grown up. 1 want to look after and fight for the interests of a group of people who do not have any real bargaining power in this community. Not having any real bargaining power they are unable to take advantage of pressuring others to see that they get their just rewards. Because they do not have this bargaining power they are often the forgotten people in our society. It is about these people I want to speak tonight. I believe that these people have been misled by the current Government. They were misled last year at election time. They have been misled since. They are becoming so aware of the fact that they are not getting their just reward that they are becoming worried. This evening I want to speak about the pensioners of this community, the people who are dependent upon the Government for their very livelihood. I want to outline the policy speech of the Liberal Party last year and how it is measuring up so far to what it said it would do. The first thing I wish to speak about is pensions. I remind honourable senators, if they need reminding, of what was said by the Liberal Party last year with regard to pensions. The Liberal Party statement read:
The real value of pensions will be preserved.
Later the statement dealt with pensions again:
These benefits will be protected against inflation.
These are fine words, but how was the Liberal Party going to do this? How did it intend continuing to have the real value of pensions preserved? It was not until some time after that policy speech that the person who is now the Prime Minister of this country said that he would adj ust pensions automatically twice a year and that these pensions would be related to the consumer price index. So far, so good but relating pensions to the consumer price index, whilst it sounded good to many pensioners throughout Australia, did not measure up to the policy which the Australian Labor Party had when it was in power. That policy made sure that the pensioners, the people who had built this country, the people from whom we received a heritage, were able to share in the prosperity of the country as it prospered from their earlier efforts and from the efforts of those people who had taken over the economy of the country when they retired. To make sure that the pensioners shared in this prosperity the Australian Labor Party decided that the best course of action was to tie pensions to the average weekly earnings. The Australian Labor Government’s policy was that not only should wage earners share in the prosperity of the nation but also pensioners. I have prepared a table which shows what would have happened if pensions had been increased according to the consumer price index from when the Australian Labor Party came into power in December 1972. It also shows what would have happened if pensions had been held at 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, which was Australian Labor Party policy. With your concurrence, Mr President, and with the concurrence of the Senate, I seek leave to incorporate this table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
-I thank the Senate. I will refer to certain portions of this table. In December 1972 the Australian Labor Government increased the single rate pension to $21.50. If we take that $21.50 and increase it according to increases iti the consumer price index we find that by December 1975 it would have increased to $32.30. This $32.30 based on increases in the consumer price index compares with $38.75 which was the actual rate pension in operation in December 1975. But a more remarkable comparison can be made if we compare the increased pension according to what it would be if increased by the movements in the consumer price index with the single rate pension as being 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Indeed, from June 1 974, when the theoretical pension according to the consumer price index movement was $25.95 and according to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings was $31.70, the pension as theoretically shown by the movements in the consumer price index was lower than the actual pension which people were receiving. The point that I wish to make is that although it was mentioned in the policy speech of the present Government that the pensions would be increased according to the consumer price index, this was not as generous as the scheme that the Australian Labor Party had for its pensioners. In addition to this, at the beginning of this year, a Press statement was issued by the current Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in which he said, amongst other things:
The new half-yearly social security and repatriation pension increases initiated in the spring of 1975 by our predecessors will continue with the next increase taking effect from May 1976. Savings in 1975-76 will be $29m.
An attempt was made, when this Press statement was produced, to show that the present Government intended to increase age pensions 6 months after those last granted by the previous Government. The Government said it was doing this because it would save $29m. I believe that the Government cannot have it both ways. Either it was going to save $29m by not introducing the increased pensions earlier or it was going to introduce the increased pensions earlier and not save $29m. Whatever the case, the pensioners of Australia were upset because it appeared to them that penny pinching was being carried out with them as the sufferers. I recently read something that the present Prime Minister said on 8 December before the election. It was a newspaper article and the by-line read:
Labor has hit the pensioners- Fraser.
I wonder what pensioners think of that nowadays?
I would like to turn to another area in which the current Government said that it was going to cut costs. Again the people who were to pay for this cutting of costs were the pensioners. Unless this was in print one would hardly believe that this emanated from a Minister of this Parliament. On 6 February this year the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, announced that a charge of $10 was to be made for hearing aids provided by the Government. In his statement he said that it would not place an undue burden on people requiring new hearing aids. Only 5 days later the same Minister made a statement and said, amongst other things, that the $10 charge for hearing aids would not be imposed because it would cause undue hardship. He made the first statement which stated that no undue burden would be placed on people yet, 5 days later he said it would cause undue hardship. No wonder the pensioners and people who are dependent on the Government are now confused.
I am saddened that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is not in the chamber at the moment because I want to comment on something that has happened in her Department. Senator Guilfoyle took out her accountant’s scalpel and decided to abolish funeral benefits for pensioners because, she said, they appeared to be of little significance. Senator Guilfoyle went on to say that it did not really matter that the funeral benefits for pensioners were to be abolished because the Government had decided to continue to pay for 12 weeks the combined rate of married pension to the surviving partner in cases where a married pensioner died.
I would like to examine a couple of aspects of this matter. First of all, the funeral benefits were introduced in 1943 by the Curtin Government. The basic rate of benefit has not changed. It was then £10 which is $20. In October 1965 the benefit was increased, for some people, to $40. The idea behind this was that it would relieve pensioners of any anxiety that they might have about being given a pauper’s funeral after their death. Some pensioners put away a certain part of their pension for a funeral- money that they could more readily use on their day to day needs. I turn now from funeral benefits to the other matter raised by Senator Guilfoyle. In August 1968 Mr McMahon, as Treasurer, made this announcement in the Budget Speech. He said:
To relieve the difficulties faced by the surviving partner of a married pensioner couple and to help these pensioners to adjust to a single pension, the Government has decided that the equivalent of the combined pension will be paid to the survivor for 1 2 weeks after one of them dies.
This was in 1968. But because the current Government is going to be so magnanimous as to keep something that was introduced in 1968, it now intends to take away funeral benefits to pensioners. I would like to mention something that was contained in the first main report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty in relation to this matter. The report said in part:
The rate of benefit now paid is laughable in relation to funeral costs -
As most honourable senators would agree, I think- and should either be abandoned or changed.
It went on to say: . . elderly people are known for their desire to receive a decent funeral and find security in the knowledge that it will be provided. Further, funeral expenses do sometimes cause hardship. Accordingly, grants should be made available to contribute to the cost of a modest funeral . . .
It then states in what cases such grants should be made. If the present Government believes that some people who are receiving these funeral benefits do not really need them, it should not have cut out these benefits in one swipe as it has. It should have examined the cases in which there is real hardship and in such cases it should have made the grants which that report suggested should be made.
Finally in relation to the measures on which people have been misled by the current Government, I should like to mention something about the unemployed. In the policy speech of the Liberal Party Mr Fraser said: ‘We will be generous to those who cannot get a job and want to work ‘. From something that I heard earlier I could hardly believe that the Liberal Party had said that, but it did. On 6 February this year Mr Hunt announced that the concession under which subsidised health beneficiaries receive their pharmaceutical benefits scheme medicines at half price was to be discontinued. Amongst other people, the unemployed will miss out on that concession. The unemployed were able to receive their medicines not for $1.50 but for 75c, which was half price. They will no longer be able to do so. Not only will they have to pay $1.50, but if the proposed legislation goes through this chamber shortly they will have to pay $2 for their medicines.
I wonder whether the present Minister who cut out that benefit has ever been unemployed. If he has and if he has been on unemployment benefits he has probably forgotten, as indicated by this action, what it is like to be unemployed and on unemployment benefits. I know what it is like to be unemployed and I know what it is like to be on unemployment benefits. I know what it was like to be on unemployment benefits when a government of the same political colour as the present Government was in power previously. I took home less than $20 a week to keep myself, my wife and one child. Those are the people I will try to protect while I am in this Parliament. 1 do not come to this Parliament as a person who was once a teacher, a student and a research worker. I do not come here, I believe, as a person who was once a part time member of the defence forces. I come here to represent the people of Queensland, the people who elected me to this chamber, and in representing them I intend at all times to fight for their rights, and I intend especially to fight for the rights of the underprivileged.
– Before calling upon Senator Collard I indicate to the Senate this will be his first speech in the Senate and I invite honourable senators to accord to him the traditional courtesies. I now call Senator Collard.
-Thank you, Mr President. Firstly, I offer my congratulations to you, as all previous speakers have done. I came to this chamber not knowing many people, least of all yourself, Mr President, and I listened with interest as honourable senators on both sides of the chamber extolled your many virtues. In the short time that I have been here 1 have come to agree with those statements from both sides. The only difference of opinion that I might have is with the expression by Opposition senators about the length of your tenure of office. I also congratulate other honourable senators who have been elected to positions both within this chamber and within their parties, and I congratulate those honourable senators who have made their first speeches in this chamber. I know now what they went through.
Mr President, it would be most remiss of me if at this stage I did not pay tribute to my predecessor, former Senator Ellis Lawrie. He was a friend of mine, as he was of many honourable senators in this chamber. Former Senator Lawrie, in his own quiet way, served well his Party, his State and this chamber. At the many meetings which I attended with former Senator Lawrie I grew to appreciate the amount of work that he really did. He was always well versed in the happenings of this chamber, more especially in the field of communications. He expended a large amount of his time and energy trying to improve the lot of those who live in the sparsely settled areas. I and other honourable senators in this chamber who know him would undoubtedly wish, now the pressure is off, that he will have a long, healthy and happy retirement.
I take my place in this chamber to represent the State of Queensland- a position of which I am very proud and a State of which I am very proud. Queensland provides so much of those things which make for a contented and satisfactory life-style that we would not want to live anywhere else. Need I mention our climate, the friendliness of our people, the lack of the proverbial rat race and the steadier pace at which we live? Those qualities are freely available to all our residents. Without being too parochial 1 can also say that they are freely available to those dissidents from other States who would like to partake of our better way of life. As well as the merits of living in Queensland, my State offers much more than just quality of life. The impact of Queensland on the economic life of our Commonwealth is far beyond what most people would imagine. The figures for the year 1972-73- the latest figures that I was able to obtain- show that total Australian exports were $6,2 14m while total imports were $4,121 m, leaving a surplus of $2,093m. Of that, Queensland’s exports were $ 1306m, with imports of $31 lm, leaving a Queensland surplus of $994m, which was 47.5 percent of the national surplus. For the same period Victoria’s exports were $l,495m, with imports of $ 1473m, leaving a surplus of $22m or 1.08 per cent of the national surplus. New South Wales exports were $ 1,421m, with imports of $1, 810m, leaving a deficit of $389m, which means that New South Wales provided a debit of 18.59 per cent in Australia’s national surplus.
I should like also to point to another State with a similar set of circumstances to our own- Western Australia- a State which also has vast areas, a small population and high productivity. In the same period its exports were $ 1154m, with imports of $227m, leaving a surplus of $927m or 44.29 per cent of the national surplus. Those figures become even more enlightening when one looks at the export surplus per head of population. The average for Australia was $157.73; the average for Victoria was $6.29; New South Wales, that other populous State, lost $82. 12 per head of population; whereas in Queensland the earnings were $510.71 and in Western Australia they were $854.90. At the risk of boring the Senate with these figures but to prove my point concerning the role which the less populous States play in our earnings per head of population, I point out that the figure for South Australia was $265.65, for Tasmania $435.15, and for the Northern Territory $470.08. Honourable senators should not forget that that compares, as I said previously, with Victoria’s very low $6.29 and New South Wales’s abysmal deficit of $82.12.
I am sure that those figures help to prove the case for the existence of this Senate. In the House of Representatives we are completely swamped by representatives from New South Wales and Victoria with their vast population densities in Sydney and Melbourne; yet their contributions to our trade earnings are insignificant when compared with those of the less populous States. So, because of variation in population densities compared with where the wealth is produced, this chamber has a very vital role to play in keeping some balance of representation between the areas of production and the areas of population. The vast metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne might be the centres of commerce, but the business which they transact is really generated in areas far removed from their city and State boundaries- a fact which the Commonwealth would do well to remember when discussing the Federal revenue sharing and tax proposals. So we accept the fact that we have to carry these States. We hope they accept the fact that we are carrying them.
As my colleague in the other place, the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), said, the major money earning industries in Queensland are all private enterprise. The results of the initiative and enterprise of individuals, partners and companies have provided jobs, facilities, and ancillary services as well as revenue for our Commonwealth. It was pleasing to see the Commonwealth Government introduce the 40 per cent investment allowance to stimulate the private sector. However, I, as did many of my colleagues, considered the $ 1 ,000 cut-off point to be too high. Most small businessmen, farmers and graziers spend this sort of money only when replacing vehicles, tractors, headers, etc. It was pleasing to note today that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) had reduced that cut-off point to $500. However, I still consider that to be too high. The majority of the purchases, such as chain saws, welders, electric motors, drills, pumps, cash registers, slicers, to name but a few, are still below that $500 cut-off point. I think it would be advantageous to both the purchasers and the manufacturers if this cut-off point could be lowered considerably below the $500 presently provided.
It is quite true that government instrumentalities have greatly assisted private industry. I submit that the Government has a lot more to do yet. When one considers the distances involved between properties, mines, factories and the ports, meatworks, etc. that have to handle the products one cannot help but be conscious of the part that transport and communication have to play. Efficient railways are a necessity. I am convinced that the most important way of handling large bulk cargoes is the use of the minimum friction steel on steel rail method.
At great expense the Townsville to Mount Isa railroad was rehabilitated from Duchess to Hughenden to handle the increased production resulting from the expansion of the Mount Isa mines. Unfortunately, only minor sections of the track from Duchess to Mount Isa were done at this time. When the track was originally laid the great northern railroad ran from Townsville to a town called Dajarra. The Duchess to Mount Isa line was but a branch line but it was laid with a 62 lb rail, allowing an axle load of 15 tonne. The rest was 42 lb rail. That line was rehabilitated up to a 90 lb rail. The 60 lb rail was left there because it could handle the increased axle load. Unfortunately, the line was laid on sand ballast and with the increased traffic the railways are now having their problems.
Considerable difficulties are also being experienced on the black soil plains where every wet season the ballast keeps sinking out of sight. Because of the black soil plain the bridges in the area, which are of prestressed concrete, are built on a concrete raft principle. However, the swirling of the flood waters literally sucks out the black soil from underneath these bridges. This has created problems there as bridges have sunk, causing a lot of expense to the Queensland Government. We now find that as well as the two-way traffic on the Mount Isa line, with coal and general products going to the mines and the power stations, and with copper, lead and zinc going back to the port and refinery at Townsville, the phosphates from Duchess will also have to be transported. Therefore, much more money will have to be spent to bring this line up to, and to maintain it at, a suitable standard.
The ability of the railways to handle large bulk cargoes, such as coal, has now been well proven. The Peak Downs to Saraji and Goonyella to Hay Point railroad is one of the most efficient operations in Australia. Here, the railways, to enable them to carry large tonnages of coal without increasing traffic densities, introduced the remote control locomotives. By using this method 3 large diesels, each of 2000 horsepower, are placed in the lead of the train and 3 more in the middle one kilometre behind the lead. All 6 diesels are controlled by the one driver using a jumper cable between the 3 diesels in tandem and a VHF radio link between the first and the second consist of diesels. This enables a better distribution of power and braking, and quicker recharging of the auxiliary cylinders throughout the train, after braking. This is the only railroad in Australia where this method is in operation. I think that the Railway Department of Queensland deserves credit for its foresight and its initiatives in going into this new venture. The fact that this method has been introduced so quickly and is operating so efficiently is a credit to both the technicians and the trade staff who installed and maintain it and the crews who man the trains. As I have said, it was a completely new venture. There was nobody to teach the drivers how to handle those trains over that grade. The technicians taught them the intricacies of the equipment and how it operated. As a result of the training that the drivers had had up to that time with the triple headers and their own initiative and ability, they have succeeded and the operation is working successfully.
In the area named, five of these trains, each of which is 2 kilometres long, weighs 1 1 000 tonnes gross and carries 8500 tonnes of coal, are able to supply sufficient coal to what will now become the largest coal exporting port in the world. The railroad has played and will continue to play a tremendous role in the transporting of primary produce to processing facilities and/or ports and markets. More importantly, this railroad is also being used to help reduce the cost of living in country areas. This is done by keeping the freight costs as low as possible and funding the deficit out of Consolidated Revenue. This assists in keeping the price of food, clothing and other material effects lower than would be possible to the people living away from the seaboard.
The sparsity of population and the distance to be traversed cause 2 other major problems- that of adequate roads, and communication. Firstly, I refer to roads. I recognise that a tremendous investment has already been made to try and bring our country roads system up to a reasonable standard. However, a tremendous amount of work remains to be done. Some of our major highway systems are still little better than dirt tracks. The Townsville- Mount lsa, WintonBoulia, Winton-Cloncurry, GeorgetownNormantonKarumbaBurketown roads and the missing link over the Drummond Range on the Capricorn Highway as well as the Bruce Highway from Sarina to Maryborough via St Lawrence are roads that require completion at the earliest possible date. Just because people are living in isolated areas, it does not mean that they are entitled to fewer facilities than those in the metropolitan areas.
We must remember that the people in these areas provide a large amount of the bulk of the revenue for our Commonwealth. This Government, as well as looking to the completion of these major road systems, should start planning at the earliest opportunity for the upgrading of some of the alternate routes. I think particularly of the Clermont-Charters Towers and Charters Towers-Mount Garnet roads. It is well nigh impossible to make the Bruce Highway floodproof for 12 months of the year. As soon as the bridges over the Dawson and Comet rivers are completed, this road will provide an alternate route as well as greatly assisting in the transport of stock and grain to railheads and markets.
Secondly, 1 refer to communications. One of the tragedies of western Queensland has been that because of the serious drought and downturn in wool and beef markets, large numbers of people have left this area to seek employment elsewhere- possibly never to return. This means that without Government help it is no longer viable to provide adequate air, telephone and postal services. I again pose the question: Are not these people just as entitled to these facilities as are their city cousins? The expense of running telephone lines is obviously of enormous proportions, but to supplement this I believe that more experimentation could be done with multifrequency VHF radio telephones and the scattertrophic system so that people can communicate privately and continually with the outside world. I am sure that Telecom Australia has the manpower and the technology to do this. From conversations with officers of Telecom Australia, I am also sure that it has the will to do it. It just needs the resources, and these can be provided only by the Government. Trunk charges in some of these areas should also be reviewed. We know that in a private capacity we have all been hit to leg with them. But in some places in western Queensland the price of ringing up for a loaf of bread is more than the actual cost of the loaf of bread- a ridiculous anomaly that should bc righted as soon as possible.
My colleagues the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) have worked hard to have television translators placed at strategic intervals throughout their areas, thus providing television services for the people in many western towns. Now that these translators are established I think that the Government in the very near future should look to increasing their power output so that reception can be obtained over a greatly increased area. These translators operate on a line of sight principle. In the western areas no difficulties are experienced with hills or ranges intercepting the signal. The mere fact that the output could be increased would mean that a lot more people would be able to tune in. As well as assisting to ease the isolation experienced by the people in these regions it would be invaluable to enable isolated children to watch the regular school broadcasts and thereby to greatly increase their education. What costs do we take into consideration when looking at the education of our children and our young people?
With the withdrawal of air subsidies by the previous Government air services decreased dramatically with the resultant loss in postal services. The situation now is that unless one is going to the major centre of Mt Isa air services within western Queensland are few and far between and regular postal services in many cases are well nigh non-existent. If we really want to make people second class citizens we can do no better than to deny them what the majority of the people of Australia not only take for granted but also look on as their natural right. Yet this is precisely what has happened. Ridiculous as the proposition might sound, as the twentieth century and ‘technology progress our isolated people are becoming more isolated.
As I have indicated, the people of Queensland have played far more than their fair share in the development of this Commonwealth of ours and Queensland has reached its present stage of development in considerably less time than the well established States. The people of Queensland are not claiming any preferential treatment because of their contribution. However, they consider that they are entitled to equal treatment- facilities and services commensurate with those of people living in the metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties the story of our development is far from finished. With our almost boundless resources and the ability of the primary producer to produce- it must be recognised that even in the worst times he still produces a large proportion of our export earnings- Queensland still has a great role to play, especially if this Government assists in providing the incentives and the services.
I was dismayed recently to notice a difference of opinion between my State Government and the Commonwealth over the $6 a tonne coal levy. If there is to be a levy at all it should go towards our State funds. Surely the Commonwealth Government reaps enough benefit from the company tax and the income tax paid by those employed directly and indirectly by the coal industry. However, I would much rather see this levy abolished outright as soon as it is financially and legislatively possible. The levy has all the odours of the philosophy that it is sinful to be successful and that if one is successful one is not entitled to the benefits. With the vastly increased cost now involved in setting up all the infrastructure for a new mine I am quite sure that this iniquitous levy placed upon the mining companies will cause them to look quite critically at the feasibility of new ventures. It is these new ventures and their associated industries that are going to help relieve our chronic unemployment situation and to reduce a massive Budget deficit, which we now find confronting us.
In conclusion, I would say that Australia must be recognised as one of the nations of ‘haves’ amongst many of the world’s countries of ‘have nots’. I hope that we as an Australian people recognise this and accept the responsibility that it places upon us. It will show extreme disregard for the plight of our fellow man if we do not accept our responsibility towards those millions of less fortunate people who live within less than a day’s flying time of our shores. We will rightly stand condemned in their eyes if we fail to reach our productive capability and fail to help these people. This responsibility falls on all sectors of our community. I hope that the business and farming communities look to profits as a reward for initiative and enterprise and not as a sop to quench insatiable greed. Conversely, I hope also that the wage and salary earner seeks better wages and conditions as a reward for productivity and not just as a panacea for selfish desires.
I look to the day when the industrial climate is such that the man on the shop floor readily considers himself an integral part of the firm for which he works and not just a number on the payroll sheet. I hope that this day is not too far distant and that he thus takes his place in the decision making processes of his firm and also derives the just benefits of his labour. I am quite sure that when this situation arises the industrial harmony that so many of us seek will be a lot closer and that our Commonwealth will be able to reach its full potential and to turn its energies towards playing a far greater role in assisting the less developed countries of the world. Thank you, Mr President, for the courtesy this chamber has extended to me.
– Order! Before calling on Senator Harradine I indicate to the Senate that this will be Senator Harradine ‘s first speech in this place and I invite honourable senators to extend to him the traditional courtesies.
– Thank you, Mr President. I appreciate the suggestion that I should receive the usual courtesies but I am reminded that I have spoken 3 times in this place already and I feel that if any honourable senator wishes to make an objective interruption during my speech I should be happy to receive that sort of assistance. I am not unused to it. Mr President, I stand here in rather an unusual position. Never have I had a desire to enter this place. As some honourable senators would know and as most people in the State from which I come would know, at any time in the last 10 years I could have sought and obtained preselection for this place. But I am a trade unionist. I have been a full time union official for over 1 7 years. That is my love; that was my life. I was committed to uplifting the poor, to championing the cause of the underprivileged- not only in this country but also in the developing countries to our near north- and to representing the aspirations of the workers. In fact, I was committed to giving effect to the objectives of the body of which I had the honour to be the secretary, namely, the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council. That first of those objectives is to contribute to the development of an economic and social order in which people can live with freedom and dignity and pursue both their spiritual development and material well-being in conditions of economic security and equal opportunity.
Why, then, am I here? I am here because, after years of constant, unremitting, relentless pressure being directed at me by the extreme Left coalition forces- a pressure designed to so muddy the industrial pool with political invective as to cut away support from me in a key position in the trade union movement- a situation arose last year in which for days and weeks on end I simply had to put aside the work that I was doing for the people that I represented just to defend myself. Of course that was counter productive. I was elected to the position to represent the workers and in having to spend my time simply in defending myself I felt I was getting nowhere. I was not achieving the objectives of those for whom I was attempting to fight. There was in fact a road block. It required a detour to be taken and it may be- I hope I am right- that I have found the highway upon which I can advance the objectives of the people that I represent, namely, the people of Tasmania.
Why was all that pressure exercised? Because almost 10 years ago I declared that the friends of the communists were attempting to silence me. I have never been silenced by the friends of the communists and I do not intend to be silenced by them in this chamber. I have a great deal of admiration for those workers who suffer silently in the slave camps of Soviet Russia. I have a great admiration for the writers who are brave enough to express their thoughts and suffer as a consequence. We all have a great admiration for those men and women. And why? Because they hurl courage and truth into the teeth of totalitarian power when it would be so much easier, so much more comfortable to submit and to embrace the lies on which that totalitarian system exists.
Speaking of power, we heard Senator Gietzelt last night give a lecture to the new senators about power. We heard him say these words:
But what has to be said and certainly what the newlyelected senators have to learn is that what one says in this place has very little relevance, very little value, in terms of parliamentary democracy, in terms of one’s contribution to the maintenance of parliamentary democracy and in terms of one’s understanding of the way in which our society operates.
Senator Gietzelt then posed the question as to where the real source of power exists. There are only 2 things wrong with that statement, one being that Senator Gietzelt did not tell us the sources of power with which he is very familiar, the second being that he rather sneeringly inferred that all senators- not only the new senators but all of us- were wasting our time in this place. An opportunity will be given tonight to honourable senators on both sides of the House to show whether we are wasting our time. From what I heard of their speeches, I do not think that the new senators were wasting their time and I believe that together we will see whether the power can be restored to the people through the system of parliamentary democracy.
Ideally, in a parliamentary democracy power should be exercised in consultation and cooperation with elective organisations within the community, in preserving the integrity of institutions within society and in recognising that power should be kept close to the people and not manipulated by the corporate State method. I subscribe to the view that power should reside with the smallest, most local group capable of performing efficiently the function for which the power is required so that the people over whom the power is exercised themselves have a greater control, a nearer control over the centre of power. Rather than sneering at the new senators, I should like to associate myself with those who have congratulated them for their sincere and erudite speeches, which will go down in the records of Parliament. I have already had the honour of congratulating you, Mr President, and of congratulating Senator Tom DrakeBrockman. I am sure that the new senators will strive to represent their States fairly. I, with my colleagues from Tasmania I hope, certainly will fight for that State’s rights. But that State’s rights depend on a defence of the rights of this House. Surely honourable senators will recall a recent Gallup poll which showed that 91 per cent of Tasmanians subscribe to the view that there should be equality of representation in this House from each of the States and that 8 1 per cent of the whole of Australia felt that this House should be a genuine house of review.
It is my intention to have circulated an amendment to the Address-in-Reply motion. The amendment will give honourable senators an opportunity to indicate whether they regard this House as a house of review and also a States’ rights House. Let historians argue about whether or not the power exercised last November by this House was used prematurely. That is a debatable question and it will have to be answered by historians, and the Prime Minister of this country will have to face their judgment. On the one hand, there is the argument that the Senate should not have power over money Bills. On the other hand, the statement has been made that the Senate has the power and passed its test by blocking Supply last year. That has been the burden of the argument in this chamber over the last week. On the one hand there has been an argument that this House should not have the power to block money Bills and on the other hand there has been the argument that this House passed its test last year. It is certainly an incontrovertible fact that the Senate has power over money Bills. But the crucial test was not last November; the crucial testing time is at hand now. I should like to foreshadow the amendment that has been circulated, which goes to amend the AddressinReply motion by adding the following words: . . and the Senate is of the opinion that your advisers, having declared their intention of taking particular care over the special circumstances of the less populous States, should obtain the approval of those States prior to the implementation of your adviser’s new approach to federalism.
Of all the issues that might come before this Senate- this place which was formed as a result of the constitutional conferences, this place in which it was agreed by the States that they would have equality of representation as a precondition for their joining the federation- what is the most significant issue in that sense? Surely it is the question of federalism. Very little has been said about that subject in the Address-in-Reply debate. In opening the Parliament, the GovernorGeneral in his Speech referring to the policy of the Government said: . . the Government proposes to make the most important reform of the Federal system since Federation. Its core will be the principle of tax sharing.
I ask the Senate: What about those States which do not come up to the tax capacity of the larger States? The Speech continues:
The possibilities of this new approach to Federalism are demonstrated by the recent Premier’s Conference.
I do not know, frankly, what the recent Premier’s Conference demonstrated . at all because my reading of the comments made by the various Premiers was that they each had a different view of the proposals put forward at that conference.
The Governor-General said further:
The working of our governmental system has been corroded by the absence of reasonable financial autonomy for the States.
I will go along with that. The Speech continues:
In making these reforms, particular care will have to be taken over the special circumstances of the less populous States to ensure that they are in no way disadvantaged.
I ask: Disadvantaged from what standard?
I normally do not quote from professors because some of their views are ‘way out’. But I turn to a very interesting article entitled Fraser’s Federalism different- but tantalisingly vague, by the Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney. His name is Dr P. J. Groenewegen. He says:
The problem which has received most publicity in this concept of income tax revenue sharing is the plight of smaller’ States, if the income tax proportion going to the States is distributed according to origin, as it must under this proposal. In the absence of massive equalisation grants, this would mean a huge distribution of income from Queensland. South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania towards New South Wales and Victoria.
I, as a senator from Tasmania, having regard to the plight of that State and to the crucial issuecash which is required to ensure an adequate standard of employment and an adequate standard of living for the citizens of this State must ask the Government for more detail, must press the issue before this States House, and do so in the manner that I have done, that is, by proposing to move an amendment to the AddressinReply motion, so that these matters can bc thoroughly examined and so that the States themselves have the right to say whether this is on or whether it is not.
Mr President, whilst honourable senators arc looking at my amendment and considering which one of them will second it, I wish to pass on to some other issues. I know that the time is late. I will not bore the Senate by going through all of the issues that I would like to raise at this time. But there are two or three matters that I wish to discuss. First, I turn to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and congratulate the Government or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), whichever it was, for the wording of that document. I do not think anybody can object to the words that are contained in this document. But it is action that will count as well as some of the aspects which are not contained in that document.
Let us turn our attention to women. What does the Speech say about women? The document says:
The Government is firmly committed to furthering the equality of opportunity for women in education, employment and in public life. The Government will encourage the full participation of women in all aspects of Australian life u> ensure that their contribution of skills and talents is used lo the full. The Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Scheme to be introduced shortly has been amended to make better provision for women employed by the Government.
What about the majority of women? What about the most discriminated against of all women in this country? I refer to the woman who, under a great deal of economic pressure, decides to do the most important job in this community- that is, the mother who stays home, who looks after and who nurtures her children into good citizens? What about her? Nothing is said about her at all.
In what other occupation does a person work 1 6 hours a day, 7 days a week and is on call at night with no holidays or any sick leave? She is a nurse, an educator, a physiologist and a psychologist- those great occupations? What other person in this community is so discriminated against because of the lack of attention to that person over a long period of years? What is the Government going to do to ease the economic burden thrust upon that person and the consequent psychological problems that sometimes result? We know what has happened; 40 per cent of them have gone into the workforce to make ends meet or to keep up with the standards that are imposed by the advertising moguls of this country -
– Or because they want to.
– Or because they want to. Of course. Married women should have a true freedom of choice but they should not be forced through economic circumstances- and that is the situation at present- to go out to work in order to maintain a decent standard of living. Perhaps, if the Government turned its attention to that matter, some of the unemployment problem that this nation faces might be diminished in some measure.
Why were married women forced into the workforce? It was a deliberate plan by the employers and the then government in the 1 960s, together with the Department of Labour and National Service, to recruit married women into the workforce as a source of cheap labour. That is what it was all about. When the trade union movement- nobody else, but the trade union movement- won the true equal pay case in 1973, a situation developed where, because minimum wages had not been raised to acceptable levels many of those women remained in the workforce simply to maintain family economic standards.
The second point to which I wish to come is the statement made about our near neighbours in South East Asia. ‘Within South East Asia, Australia has particularly good relations with the ASEAN group of countries’, says the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. It continues:
The Government will seek ways of expanding cooperation with them both individually and as a group as well as maintaining and developing substantive communications with all the countries in the Asia-Pacific area.
Communications and co-operation are mentioned, but what about aid? Governments must realise, as I realise, having worked on and off in the area for some time over the last 10 years and particularly over the last 2 years, that, with the withdrawal of the United States influence in the area and its recent failure to match its military capabilities with political commitment, the individual nations in South East Asia are becoming a prey to the protagonists of the Sino-Soviet dispute. What is Australia doing about that? I know that most peoples of nations in the area do not wish to be associated with the Sino-Soviet dispute. I know that there are massive diplomatic offensives by the Soviet in those countries and within particular institutions to get their members to go to the Soviet Union to learn their system of totalitarianism. What are we doing about it? What are we doing to assist trade unionists and their organisations in these countries? What are we doing for other institutions in these countries to foster the ideals of grass-roots democracy?
The other point I want to mention briefly is decentralisation. Over many years now lip service has been given to decentralisation; but when it has come to putting the hand in the pocket governments have been found wanting. Mr President, I have only a brief time left. I point out that one of the grave problems faced by centralisation in the major cities is that now only one wage earner in six can afford to finance land and a home, compared with 90 per cent of wage earners in 1964. The Government should contemplate those figures and act in accordance to remedy this situation.
Equality of representation in the Senate from the States was regarded by the States at Federation as the guarantor that the economic lifeblood of the Federation could, if necessary, be forcibly pumped to its extremities on the basis that if those extremities started dying off the whole body Federation becomes ill. That is what concerns me about the unexplained features of the new federalism policy of the Government. Maybe I am wrong. I hope that the amendment which I am about to move will be carried because I hope and I trust that every honourable senator will seek to obtain clarity on this matter and will see that the State parliaments have a right to say whether they will accept the new federalism policy or not. I move:
– Is the amendment as moved by Senator Harradine seconded?
– Yes. Sir.
– To enable further consideration and debate, I would second the amendment.
– A few minutes ago I thought that Senator Little had made a comeback. I am very pleased to see that Senator Harradine has realised the implicit threat to the less populous States from the Fraser Government’s new federalism policy. Of course, we have seen already that Senator Rae, another Tasmanian, recognises this. The Australian Labor Party recognises it. The Deputy Premier of Queensland recognises it. The Liberal member for Lilley, Mr Kevin Cairns, recognises it. Of course, Sir Eric Willis, the Premier of New South Wales, also recognises that ‘new federalism’ means a good deal for New South Wales and a raw deal for the four outlying States. With a little more enlightenment from Senator Harradine and the other people I have mentioned, the Premier of Queensland might even recognise the implicit threat, and perhaps even Courtus retardus, commonly known as the western galah, will recognise it as well.
– Order! Senator Walsh, I warn you that you are going very close to the wind when you make references such as that. Please continue.
– My apologies to you, Mr President. I draw the attention of Senator Harradine to the fact that on the notice paper under General Business there is a notice of motion which I gave on 17 February on this very subject. It states:
1 ) The Senate expresses its concern at the fiscal implications of the Government’s ‘new federalism’ policy for the Australian States; and
The Senate declares that to whatever degree the Fraser Government implements its stated policy of making State governments responsible for raising the money that they spend, the four less populous States particularly will be financially disadvantaged.
I am pleased to see that Senator Harradine agrees with that motion. I will be interested to see the way other honourable senators from the outlying States who preach and pontificate and peddle the myth that the Senate is a States House and not a parties House actually vote if the Fraser Government’s new federalism policy is submitted to the Senate.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains the assertion that Australia has just experienced ‘the worst prolonged inflation in the nation’s history’. That assertion is a lie and the public record shows it to be a lie. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table compiled by the Parliamentary Library which shows quarterly changes in the consumer price index from December 1949 to December 1952 and from December 1 972 to December 1975.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– In the earlier period, that is from 1949 to 1952- the period when Mr Fraser’s patron Sir Robert Menzies was fulfilling his pre-election promise to put value back into the pound- the index increased by 52.7 per cent. In the latter period the increase was 50.1 per cent. No matter what period is selected, whether it be quarterly, annually or over the aggregate period, the facts belie the assertion in the Governor-General’s Speech. In making that assertion the Governor-General, of course, was acting as mouthpiece for the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser. It was Mr Fraser who said less than a year ago: ‘I support the leadership of Bill Snedden. Bill Snedden has my full support. There is no contest. ‘ It was Mr Fraser who said in August 1975 that the Budget would be passed. He said in September 1975 that it was his strongly held belief that the late Senator Milliner should be replaced by a Labor nominee; but Mr Fraser had no compunction in using the Queensland Government’s parliamentary piracy as a means of repudiating his strongly held belief.
– Order! Senator Walsh, you must not reflect on another government. I warn you for the second time. You know the Standing Orders. You are required to keep within them.
– Yes, Mr President. It was Mr Fraser who invented stories about nonexistent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts. He promised to support wage indexation, and so on ad nauseam. It is appropriate that the GovernorGeneral, acting as mouthpiece for Mr Fraser, should have stated so early in his address what is demonstrably an untruth. It is perhaps even more appropriate that, after launching his grab for power last October, Mr Fraser should have received an accolade and benediction from the most culpable liar of them all- that nautical Blimp, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Knight of the Thistle, Sir Robert Menzies.
– I rise to a point of order. The honourable senator has referred to the honourable and now retired Sir Robert Menzies as a liar. I take offence at that remark and ask, Sir, that you instruct the honourable senator to withdraw it.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr President, I do not know whether we should get too strict and stop all criticism being made. Senator Bonner has raised a point of order without directing your attention to any standing order which is alleged to have been breached. Standing order 41 8 states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal . . .
I do not think that it excludes former members of parliament from being the subject of criticism if a particular honourable senator thinks that such criticism is justified. I do not know what expression was used, but if in using it Senator Walsh believed that the decadent Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was a liar he is expressing nothing more than a belief. I hope that we will not get down to such refinements in this chamber that we will prevent Senator Walsh from expressing his honest belief that a former member of another place is now a liar. I do not think that you should uphold the point of order, Mr President. Unless he says something that is very abusive about individuals who have become spokesmen in this type of crisis, I think Senator Walsh is perfectly within his rights in expressing the extent of his opinion about them.
-In response to the point of order raised by Senator Bonner I say that Senator Walsh is using language which is not parliamentary in its true sense but I will allow him to continue for the time being. If Senator Wash tries to infringe any standing order I shall have no hesitation in ensuring that the Standing Orders are adhered to.
– I seek your guidance, Mr President. Have you upheld the point of order?
– I have not upheld the point of order. You may continue your speech.
– Thank you, Mr President. Let it not be forgotten that Sir Robert Menzies stated in the House of Representatives on 29 April 1965:
The Australian Government is in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance.
With that untrue statement- I hope that does not offend Senator Bonner’s sensitivity- Sir Robert Menzies led Australia into one of the most criminally insane wars in history. Directly pursuant to that statement nearly 500 Australians, many of them conscripts, and countless Vietnamese were killed. Many of the people who were accessories to or accomplices in Australia’s involvement in that war still occupy the Liberal and Country Party benches in this Parliament. One of them sits in the Prime Minister’s chair.
- Senator Walsh, you are reflecting upon a member of another House. That is in contravention of the Standing Orders. You will withdraw that remark.
– With respect, Mr President, I was reflecting upon the policy of a previous government.
– You referred to a person who is now in another place.
– Very well, I withdraw the reference to the Prime Minister. In 1966 the Australian Labor Party fought an election on its opposition to that war in Vietnam. It was massacred at the polls, just as it was massacred on 13 December last. Since 13 December last, of course, my Party has been deluged with gratuitous advice from the right wing radicals and newspaper editorialists, who were jointly responsible for the moral outrage of Vietnam, not to dwell upon the past.
– I raise a point of order under the Standing Orders. Senator Walsh is now an experienced senator and he is reading his speech. It is in defiance of the Standing Orders for him to read his speech. A generous concession is made by all senators from time to time that an honourable senator who is taking his place in this chamber for the first time should, until he becomes used the practices of the Senate, at least be able to use copious notes. One of your predecessors- not me, I hasten to add- once advanced the theory that the relevant standing order could be bridged by the use of what are known as copious notes. But Senator Walsh is not using copious notes; he is reading his speech. I suggest that he is out of order in doing so.
– I have observed that Senator Walsh is adhering very closely to notes. The practice to which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has referred is one which is treated with liberality. Senator Walsh, you are reading from extensive notes. I ask you, so far as you can, just to refer to them for points of refinement of your speech.
-Thank you, Mr President. According to the newspaper editoralists and right wing radicals we should forget the actions that those who continuously plotted to subvert the verdict of the 1 972 and 1 974 elections took in October and November of last year. Lest there be any doubts as to whether the actions which the then Opposition took at that stage were totally premeditated or were provoked by events immediately preceding October and November of 1975 1 wish to quote from the transcript of the State File television program in Perth of 5 January 1976 featuring an interview between Peter Finn and the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. Senator Withers and Peter Finn had been discussing the events of October and November. The transcript reads:
Finn: Had you been planning this for months?
Withers: What we did in this period- I put together that operation in October 1973.
Finn: As long ago as that?
Withers: As long ago as that. When I re-moved for the deferral of the Supply Bills in April ‘74, there were people who always expected rejection- but that was never my intention. The media did not believe me at the time, until I issued a piece of paper. I wrote to Bill Snedden in October ‘73 and set it all out. I even had the motions, and worked it all out then because you always had to be ready. We could have perhaps moved against the Appropriation Bills in 1973 for reasons which do not matter now but we didn’t, and when we moved against the Supply Bills in 1974 I just pulled the piece of paper out.
It could scarcely be put more lucidly, more succinctly, that what motivated the then Opposition to take the action it did in 1 974 and in October and November of 1975 was not what it officially claimed but the simple fact that it had refused to accept the verdict of either the 1 972 or the 1 974 elections.
We are being advised to forget that the strategy which Senator Withers boasts of having worked out in 1973 remained viable only because the Senate was affronted by the Government of Queensland because the Government of Queensland broke a convention which had stood for 24 years and which every other Labor and non-Labor government in Australia had accepted without question until 1975. If the New York Times and the Washington Post had accepted the facile, never-look-backwards hypothesis now being offered by people in Australia who call themselves conservatives the villainies of Watergate never would have been exposed and Richard Nixon still would be President of the United States of America. The people opposite who bask smugly in the satisfaction of their recent electoral victory should remember not only the ultimate consequence of that victory but also that Richard Nixon won by a landslide. The Leader of the honourable senators opposite at that time advanced the proposition that whatever can be grabbed should be taken. The electorate, at least at this stage, has apparently accepted that proposition. There are groups in Australian society which have always regarded the parliamentary system as fraudulent. 1 remind honourable senators opposite who bask smugly in their satisfaction that it will be very much more difficult in the future to persuade those groups to operate within rather than without the parliamentary system.
The Governor-General’s Speech itself bears the personal stamp of the Prime Minister in almost every line. Its ethical roots are from Ayn Rand who has described the Sermon on the Mount as evil, who regards the ethics of Christianity as evil because Christianity, at least ethical Christianity, contains a doctrine of collective responsibility and of compassion. Of course, Ayn Rand says that the most desirable attributes to be found in humanity are those of greed and selfishness. The sanctimonious pseudo Christian moralisers in this society who often preach at the Labor Party might well ruminate on the implications of Ayn Rand ‘s philosophy and their Leaders proclaimed identification with it.
Fundamentally, the economic Randism is the conviction that everything which is sold in the market place is innately desirable and therefore to be nurtured, encouraged and fostered. On the other hand, all services which are provided by governments and not sold in the market place are innately undesirable and should be kept at the barest minimum with one exception, of course, and that is in what is euphemistically called defence. Government spending is all right for the purposes of destruction, provided it is not used for welfare or constructive purposes. It follows therefore from that basic economic precept that it would be admirable and desirable if the production of tobacco and cigarettes were to be substantially increased. If, of course, the consumption of cigarettes were to be substantially increased, that would generate jobs, profits, investment and economic growth.
– And taxes.
– And taxes. That, so the economic Rand says, is desirable. On the other hand, the expansion of Government provided medical services in a largely futile attempt to cure the side effects of increased smoking- that is, lung cancer- is innately bad and should be ipso facto resisted.
I spent a few days last weekend looking at commercial television, something I do not do often. It did drive home to me yet again the frivolous nature of so many of the commodities that are sold in the private sector. We have about 27 varieties of personal deodorants and 12 varieties of pet food so that our dogs and cats do not become bored by eating the same kangaroo meat every night. Apparently, our pets must have a variety. There is also an infinite range of frivolous cosmetics and so on. One might have expected that the dullest minds opposite would have perceived that perhaps there is no critical urgency to increase the production of certain types of commodities which are sold in the private sector. I refer to frivolous cosmetics and health damaging cigarettes, not to mention, of course, the environmental damage which the production of many of these commodities causes. One would have expected that they would at least have become a little discriminating in their praise of the private sector and their unqualified support for the notion that the private sector must grow, grow, grow, without any attempt to evaluate the social desirability of the commodities which that private sector is pouring out or of the environmental damage which they cause as a by-product.
Of course, the Governor-General ‘s Speech, or the Government’s speech was not Randism in its pure form. Super-imposed on the basic Randism was a mish-mash of meaningless generality, pious contradictions and double speak. Here are a few examples:
The Government will not permit economic recovery to take place at the expense of those who are less well off.
This was stated a fortnight after the Government had deferred pension increases, cancelled pensioners’ funeral benefits and announced that financial assistance for hearing aids for pensioners would be withdrawn. I quote from the Governor-General ‘s Speech again:
The Government’s long-term objective is to prevent . .the increasing dependence of individuals on the Slate.
The Speech referred to the Government’s determination to : minimise direction by Government and the unnecessary redirection of resources through the Government’s bureaucracy.
That is an unqualified belief in free enterprise from a Government which just 16 days before had announced the re-introduction of the superphosphate bounty, the explicit purpose of which was to reallocate resources in a particular direction. There was, of course, a derogatory reference to the growth of the federal bureaucracy. It is interesting to note that last year the federal bureaucracy grew at the rate of 3.3 per cent whereas the State bureaucracies in the Liberal and Country Party governed States of Victoria and Queensland grew at a rate of 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively. I wonder what plans this present government has for curbing the prolific growth rate of the Public Service in those Liberal and Country Party governed States. The Speech continued:
The Government seeks to assure its overseas trading partners, including Japan, that we will be a stable and steady trading partner.
Apparently, the Government has some mechanism devised under which it will be able to prevent the Premier of Queensland from repeating his rather reckless and somewhat foolish statements of 12 months ago when he threatened to withdraw supplies of coal from Queensland unless the Japanese purchased Queensland beef. If the Government has a policy which will effectively contain this maverick, I trust that it will bc expounded shortly. Another self-contradiction is contained in this statement from the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech:
Government support for industry, primary as well as secondary, will be based on the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission.
Of course, either the Government or the Industries Assistance Commission makes policy in this area. Interestingly enough, despite the Government’s self-proclaimed commitment to implement the recommendations of the IAC, the Government has not implemented the recommendations contained in any IAC reports. It went very close to implementing the IAC’s recommendations in regard to the superphosphate bounty. It stood the beef industry report on its head insofar as it cancelled the export inspection levy which the IAC explicitly stated must not take priority over the other assistance measures recommended and the Government has done nothing about those other assistance measures. One report it has partially implemented and another report it has stood on its head. The Government totally ignored the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty report because the IAC recommended phasing out the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty over a 4-year period. Then, we have double speak. The Speech states:
The disadvantaged must be helped in ways which will leave them the maximum independence. . . Australia will not return to a soundly based prosperity without understanding and co-operation between all sections of the community.
It must require a monumental capacity for double speak to issue a statement like that 10 days after the Government has repudiated its promise on wage indexation. The Speech also states:
The Government will encourage measures aimed at improving the efficiency, economy and adequacy of our transport services.
Meaningless generalities and pious platitudes. Let me return to the superphosphate bounty. I think something should be said about it in the few minutes I have left. The present Government and it has not been denied that six of the 12 cabinet Ministers have a direct interest in the payment of the superphosphate bounty- announced on 10 February that a bounty would be paid for a period of 1 6 months at a rate of $ 1 1 .8 1 a ton. The official Press release which was issued by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) gave as a raison d’etre for the reintroduction of the bounty the claim that it would increase farm productivity. That was the sole reason given.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) 9 months ago went on public record as saying that the restoration of the bounty at the old rate would not increase the use of superphosphate by one tonne. Despite Senator Cotton’s attempt to be flippant in this chamber last week in answer to a question on this subject, that contradiction has never been explained. I challenge all supporters of the Government who are present in the Senate now and who will be speaking later in this debate to explain that contradiction and to explain to us whether the Prime Minister’s statement was ill informed and inaccurate or whether the officially stated justification of the Minister for Primary Industry for reintroducing the bounty was a hoax. Some, of course, argue that bounty payments of this nature can be justified on welfare grounds. It is true that significant sectors of agriculture had been through a 12 to IS months period of very low prices and there are some welfare problems, grossly overstated though they may often be.
Of course, with all agricultural subsidies the distribution is highly regressive. With agricultural subsidies in general roughly half the money goes to 15 per cent of the farmers who have the highest incomes and the 15 per cent of the farmers who have the lowest incomes receive 2 per cent of the subsidy. In this instance, at least in South Australia, it seems that the distribution is even more regressive. Figures presented to the Industries Assistance Commission interim inquiry last May revealed that a meagre 6.6 per cent of farmers in South Australia received 46 per cent of, the subsidy payment and 74 per cent of the farmers received only 26 per cent of the subsidy payment.
Then in the area of economic management in which this Government claims to have particular expertise we had the savings bonds fiasco. These were cancelled after being on issue for 10 or 12 days. Finally it was revealed that the savings bonds did not raise $560m but raised $760m. They were offering an interest rate well above the prevailing market rate and unnecessarily high as was demonstrated by the premature removal of the bonds from sale. If the bonds are held for their full 7-year period the cost to the taxpayers who will ultimately receive the bill for the unnecessarily high interest rate paid will be $42m. So much for the Government which claims to have particular competence and expertise in this area. Once again the rationale was to tie up effectively the currently high liquid position of banking institutions and building societies in case at some time 6 or 9 months hence everybody went on a spending spree and we were back in a situation of classic demand-pull inflation. After stating that as a reason lor introducing the bonds and paying an unnecessarily high interest rate the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch) decided to make them redeemable at 28 days notice without interest penalty after August. Not only does the taxpayer receive an unnecessary bill of $40m if the bonds are held to maturity but in addition the issue must fail to achieve its stated objective.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Because the Government has an urgent Bill with which it wishes to deal this evening I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
In the present economic situation the Government has found it necessary to consider all available means of reducing Government expenditure. This Bill will amend the National Health Act to implement certain decisions taken after its review of expenditure in the public sector, and announced on 4 and 6 February. First, the Bill provides for an increase from $1.50 to $2, with effect from 1 March, in the general patient contribution for pharmaceutical benefits. As in the past, eligible pensioners- that is those holding a pensioner health benefits card- will not be charged for their pharmaceutical benefits. Similarly, no charge will be made for repatriation prescriptions. Secondly, the Bill provides for the removal of the pharmaceutical benefits concession for beneficiaries under the subsidised health benefits plan.
The purpose of the plan was to provide assistance to eligible persons in meeting the fees charged for medical services, public ward hospital treatment and for certain drugs and medicines. Eligible persons comprise certain low income families, persons in receipt of social security unemployment, sickness and special benefits, and migrants during their first 2 months in Australia. As honourable senators will be aware, under Medibank all persons are entitled to receive medical benefits payable at the rate of at least 85 per cent of the scheduled fees and free standard ward bed treatment in public hospitals. The introduction of these Medibank arrangements in all States and Territories throughout Australia has rendered the medical and hospital assistance component of the subsidised health benefits plan redundant. Continuation of the plan, purely for pharmaceutical benefits purposes, can no longer be justified as it is estimated to cost $1.3m per year to administer, compared with $700,000 as the value of the benefits. The Bill will remove the concession and will also repeal the redundant provisions of the Act authorising the subsidised health benefits plan itself.
The increase in the patient contribution is one of the means by which the increasing expenditure of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme can be reduced. This increase, together with the removal of the concession for subsidised health benefits plan beneficiaries, will result in a saving of $5.6m in this financial year, and $24m in a full year. Thirdly, the Bill provides, for the termination from 1 April 1976 of Commonwealth hospital benefits, authorised by Part V of the National Health Act. The benefits which will cease to be payable are: $2 a day, payable under sub-section 46( 1 ) of the Act for patients who are contributors to registered hospital benefits organisations; 80c a day, payable under subsection 53( 1) of the Act, for uninsured patients in approved hospitals; $5 a day, payable under sub-section 54( 1) of the Act, for pensioners who receive free treatment in public hospitals; and $2 a day, payable under section 55 A of the Act, where an approved hospital does not raise a charge for a patient.
The termination of these benefits is expected to save the Commonwealth Government $2. 5m during the remainder of this financial year and $ 12m in a full year. It is estimated that there will be a saving in the order of $5m to the States in a full year. Most of the savings will result from the termination of the payment of the $2 a day benefit under section 46 of the Act. This is because the other benefits have already been subsumed, under the Commonwealth-State Medibank hospital agreements, with respect to patients in hospitals covered by those agreements. Registered hospital benefits organisations will be requested to provide additional hospital insurance benefits to cover the increased cost of hospital treatment arising from the termination of these benefits. At this time it is estimated that the extra cost to contributors of these organisations will be small- in the region of 10c to 12c per week family contribution. With the introduction on 1 July 1975 of Medibank medical benefits authorised by the Health Insurance Act, the payment of Commonwealth medical benefits authorised by the National Health Act was ceased. Provision is also made in the Bill to validate the cessation of those payments. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
– Before supporting the motion moved by my colleague, Senator Knight, for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I should like to extend my sincere congratulations to you, Mr President, on your attainment of the high position of President of the Senate. Although I have congratulated you in private, Mr President, I want it placed on record that I have done so. I assure you, Sir, that I am happy and proud to have the opportunity to serve under you. I hope that you will grace our chamber with your presence for a long time. At the same time, I should like to offer my congratulations to my colleague, Senator DrakeBrockman, on his appointment to the high office of the Chairman of Committees in this chamber. I extend to him my heartiest congratulations. I also give him my assurance that I will be proud to serve under him as Chairman of Committees.
I also wish to congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches. I hope that their service to the people of their respective states will be fruitful and long. I am sure that those honourable senators will make a worthwhile contribution to the debates in this chamber and for the welfare of the people they represent in their respective States. I listened with some sorrow to the previous speaker in this debate, Senator Walsh. Venom and bitterness fell from his lips. I suppose that is understandable, considering that Senator Walsh now finds himself on the Opposition benches, whereas when he came into this chamber he was a member of the Government Party. However, I cannot excuse his bitterness because I believe it is unwarranted. Some of the harsh words that he spoke tonight were, in my opinion, certainly unwarranted.
Much has been said both in this chamber and outside it about what has transpired during the last five or six months. I was one of those senators who campaigned extensively throughout my
State. I heard all the criticism that was levelled at the then Opposition, of which I was a member. I heard about the constitutional crisis- as it was called by the then Government, the present Opposition. We were allegedly going through a constitutional crisis. The Constitution gives the lie to that. There was no constitutional crisis. The Constitution is quite plain and simple for all those who wish to look at it and understand it. The powers of the Senate are embodied in the Constitution. As to the events that took place and the actions taken by the Governor-General, I have the highest regard for him and the highest commendation for the steps taken by him. I believe that he acted in the way he should have acted and in the only way he could have acted. There was no constitutional crisis. What we had was a political crisis that was brought about by the absolute incompetence of the Government that was in power at that time. I believe that the bitterness which has been shown in the speeches of honourable members opposite and their actions during the opening of Parliament were shocking. 1 believe that the verdict of the people on 13 December certainly -
– You did not accept the appointment of Senator Field. You were a good Liberal. You opposed that appointment.
– The actions that were taken by the then Opposition, of which I was a member, were vindicated by the people of this nation on 13 December in an overwhelming fashion.
- Senator Field did not get back.
-If Senator Mulvihill takes note of the overwhelming numbers of Liberal Party and National Country Party members who are now in the House of Representatives as a result of the election held on 13 December, he will realise that the action taken by this Senate and by the other place has been vindicated by the people.
– You are dodging the question.
– The honourable senator who is interjecting certainly needs to look at the facts. I know that he is a numbers man. The numbers certainly came up in favour of the coalition parties. Consequently, today we hold the Government benches.
I would like to raise a few matters that are of concern to me at present. One of them, of course, is very near and dear to my heart. It is a matter that has concerned me for a number of months now. My association with and concern for this particular matter probably go back a number of years. I hope that the Government will do something in support of the matter that I raise here this evening. First of all, I refer to a statement that appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail this morning. The Brisbane Courier-Mail, of course, is the State paper in Queensland. I say that for the edification of honourable senators who perhaps do not know that we have a State paper.
– Thank you.
– Thank you.
– Thank you very much. The heading on this article is:
Joh hits back.
I do not suppose that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keeffe) were in the chamber I would need to point out to him who Joh is. He happens to be the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The article states that Joh Bjelke-Petersen criticised me for my statement on the Aurukun mining proposals. I believe that it is important that I read this article in order to be able to carry on with what I have to say in relation to the matter of the Aurukun people, who happen to be a community of Aboriginal people in the north of Queensland. At the present time they are very concerned about what is happening in and around their Aboriginal community. I believe that Mr BjelkePetersen is referring to me in the article. He is reported as saying:
He doesn’t know his facts.
How many spokesmen are there for the Aurukun people, he said.
That is Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Mr BjelkePetersen criticised what he termed as an army of self appointed spokesmen for the Aurukun Aborigines. If the Premier of Queensland is referring to me in that part of his statement, I say to Mr Bjelke-Petersen that he should have a look at the electoral figures in Queensland because I am not a self appointed spokesman for the Aboriginal people of* Queensland. On 13 December last year I was elected as a senator for Queensland by almost 600 000 people. Consequently, the 700 people on the Aboriginal community at Aurukun are my constituents. Therefore, I am speaking on behalf of some of my constituents in Queensland and I intend to support and to fight for the Aboriginal people in the community of Aurukun with everything that I have. Maybe some people will say I do not have much, but while I am a member of this Senate, having been sent here by approximately 600 000 Queenslanders, I intend to support and to work for the people of Aurukun just as I will be happy and proud to work for the rest of the people in Queensland on any occasion that I am quite sure will arise. Such occasions have arisen since I came to this Senate.
– You had better watch out for the Town Clerk of Normanton.
Senator Colston- You represent more Queenslanders than Mr Bjelke-Petersen does.
– I am grateful for the interjections from both honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. Senator Mulvihill visited Queensland and naturally, because he supports many of the things which I support in relation to underprivileged people and those who need to be assisted in many ways, he clashed with one of the people in a place called Normanton in Queensland. Senator Colston said that I have more supporters in Queensland than the Queensland Premier. I do not know whether I would go so far as to say that, but I think 600 000 is quite a substantial number of people.
I wish to tell the Senate something about a mining venture which has been proposed and about what I understand is called the Aurukun Mining Agreement Bill that was passed through the Queensland Parliament. When 1 have had the opportunity later in my speech to refer to some of the statements made by some of the Aboriginal people of Aurukun honourable senators will agree with me that the mining venture is one of the worst things that has ever happened to and been perpetrated against a group of people anywhere in Australia by a State government. People in Queensland may say that those are harsh words. I say that they are harsh words. I mean them to be because the treatment of the people of Aurukun by the Queensland Government has been harsh. Some time ago, I think about 1968, a mining consortium discovered that there was bauxite in the Aurukun Aboriginal reserve. Discussions took place between the Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement Department of the Queensland State Government, the Presbyterian Church of Queensland, which until that time was responsible for the administration of the Aurukun mission, and the Aboriginal councillors of the community at Aurukun.
It was agreed by all parties concerned that the mining consortium should have the right to prospect in the reserve lands of the Aurukun Aboriginal community. This agreement was reached by the people and it was also agreed at that time that should the mining consortium find that the deposits of bauxite in that area were economically viable and could be mined then the mining consortium, the Queensland Government, the Presbyterian Church and the Aboriginal people would again sit and talk about what should happen from thereon. They would discuss how the mining would go on, what agreement would be reached between the groups of people concerned, what benefits would be derived by the Aboriginal people, what protection would be afforded the way of life of the Aboriginal community and everything else.
The prospecting went on and bauxite was discovered there in quantities and of a value which would make it a viable economic proposition for the mining company to go ahead. Then what happened? After talking to the Aboriginal people and the Church authorities it is my understanding that there were negotiations between the State Government and the mining consortium. Following the discussions and whatever took place during that meeting, the Queensland Government introduced a Bill which I understand was called the Aurukun Mining Agreement Bill. The first time that the Aboriginal people and the community of Aurukun knew of this Bill was when they read about it in the Courier-Mail some days after it was presented in the Queensland Parliament. They became very concerned about it. They became very, very unhappy and almost desperate because this mining Bill had been introduced in the State Parliament by the Queensland Government without this second meeting and meaningful negotiations with the Aboriginal people. They sent a number of telegrams to the Queensland Premier and members of State Parliament asking that the Bill be held up until the Presbyterian Church authorities, the Aboriginal councillors and the Aboriginal community had a chance to look at it, to study it, to talk about it and to know what it meant. They were completely ignored by the Queensland Government.
It has been stated by the Premier of Queensland and by the Minister for Aboriginal Advancement in Queensland that there had been negotiations with the Aboriginal people. I say that that is not correct. On 4 separate occasions I visited the community of Aurukun and spoke to the Aboriginal people. I admit that on one of those occasions I was there wholly and solely for electoral purposes. I was there canvassing for votes and did not talk about the mining venture but on the other 3 occasions I did speak to the Aboriginal people. Other people also visited and talked to the Aboriginal people. I have on my desk this evening transcripts of discussions that took place between the members of the church, the Aboriginal people and the Aboriginal communities’ legal adviser, Mr Purcell. A tape recording of the discussions was taken and a transcript of that tape recording was typed. I have a number of these transcripts.
I think twenty or thirty of the Aboriginal people in that community addressed thai meeting in their own simple, unsophisticated way. One of those people was Ralph Peinkinna. One of the things that saddens me is the names that have been given to many members of my race. In this instance the name is Peinkinna. Some white fellow came along and said: ‘We will call him Peinkinna’. So that became the surname of a whole family tree. I do not know whether many honourable senators know what a piccanniny is. It is a little black child. This became the surname of an Aboriginal family and the family name down through the years. This man would have an Aboriginal name, but no one gives 2 hoots about that. Because of some white man, he was called Ralph Peinkinna. Ralph Peinkinna, in his own simple, unsophisticated way, addressed this meeting. He was talking to Sam and Bruce who are two of the church people. He said:
The trouble, Sam and Bruce, is that we were disappointed that day last week, seeing that the heads of the Parliament didn’t come and have a talk with the councillors or the community. That was a great shock for us. We don’t blame the company. We know quite well that we came into agreement with Tippererary to work here.
This is referring to prospecting. He continued:
The main reason is that the company, whatever it may bc, Tipperary or I don’t know what company, if it could come and talk with the council and with the community everything would run smooth. That was the real reason we got tangled up. We know Europeans keep their promises. As Aborigines we have to keep our promises like the Europeans.
If I want to see a person I have to go and talk with him so that he can listen for himself. In that way we talk to a person, not behind where we can steal or nobody can see us. That means that the front door is locked and the behind door is open. Not that we want to use weapons or spears to spear Government, but we can talk with our mouth. Today we arc a new generation, not like our old grandfathers who used to kill a person, a long time ago. We are not uncivilised people. We know the light. Missionaries brought the light. We understand these problems. I wouldn’t talk about a person when he is away, when he don’t know what is going on behind. That is the same reason we were talking with those heads. If the Parliament big boss would come and talk with us everything would be okay. That is why we said ‘ No mining’. This is the problem today. They do not come and face us and talk with the community. Even in a tall story wc cannot make up, otherwise you put yourself in trouble- you put yourself in a lot of mess. All things we must see or hear with our own lips, then we can prove a thing. But by picking up and hearing from somebody else, that is not the answer. That is correct? Only the thing I can see with my 2 physical eyes, and hear with my own ears, then I can prove a thing. Seeing that it has been unfair for us by not coming across with the community or certainly with the council. That is the important thing I have to say. Thank you very much.
That was from a simple, unsophisticated Aborigine who lives on a community. All that he and his fellow Aborigines are asking is that the Government and the mining corporation, consortium or what have you, sit and talk with them. These people are not unintelligent. They are intelligent human beings who for generations have lived on this land. The Queensland Government set it aside as an Aboriginal reserve.
– You still support the Government that robs them.
– I am supporting the Aboriginal people of Aurukun. If you listen for a few moments you might learn something from an Aborigine. These people have lived on this community for some 30 000 years, as the learned anthropologists tell us. They were told that this is their land. Many of them have said to me that they have embraced the Christian faith. They have listened to the missionaries. They believe now that no one- white, black or brindle; no government, State or Federal- gave them this land. It was given to them by God Almighty. It is their land. Unfortunately, because valuable minerals are found everybody forgets land rights. Land rights are a good thing only while the land has not value to white men, whether it is for mining, agriculture or anything else. The Labor Party, the Country Party, the Liberal Party all have in their policies that they support land rights. They support land rights only while the land has no value.
– Every other State but Queensland has given Aboriginal land back to Aborigines.
– That is not true, and you know it as well as I do. I am not concerned at this point in the debate with anything but land rights, the land and the mining that will take place at Aurukun. For the purposes of this debate, that is my only concern. There has been no real, true and meaningful discussion with the Aboriginal people of Aurukun. They are conscious of the fact that because there are valuable minerals in this land the white man will get it one way or the other. They are resigned to that. They would certainly prefer no mining whatsoever. They are realistic in their understanding that mining will take place. All they are asking for, and all I am asking for, is that there be some intervention by the Federal Government.
– The Minister is sitting in the gallery behind you.
– You are a supporter of the Government. Why will it not help you and Petersen?
– There is always a lot of noise from the opposite side of the chamber from the pseudo experts on Aboriginal affairs, those who know everything, those who would not be able to do a jolly thing because, like me, they belong to a party. When they were in government they could not do all the things they wanted to do, any more than I can do all the things I want to do. They were members of a team. But that does not alter the fact -
– We achieved land rights in every State but Queensland, as the honourable senator knows.
– Order! Senator Bonner has the call.
– Thank you very much for your intervention, Mr President. The honourable senator who interjected was one of those who unfortunately had his head chopped off because, according to his Party, he was not doing a good job as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 February 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760225_senate_30_s67/>.