30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) left Australia on 7 March 1976 to attend the South Pacific Mini Forum in New Zealand, the Fourth Session of the Third United Nations Conference on Law of the Sea in New York and the Thirty-second Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok at which he will lead the Australian Delegation. He is expected to return to Australia on 27 March 1976. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I present the following petition from 5727 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 humble pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 36 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island; and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the 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 reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Bonner.
-Mr President, I inform the Senate that General Business notice of motion No. 9 standing in my name on the notice paper for this day is a notice of motion for Wednesday, 1 7 March.
– At the last sitting on 4 March, Senator O ‘Byrne asked me a question relating to a senator’s right of access to the Privileges Committee. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that all senators have access to the Privileges Committee on resolution of the Senate. By that I mean that all senators have available to them the forms of the Senate if they wish to submit, on motion, any matter of privilege for the consideration of the Privileges Committee or for the judgment of the Senate. It is important that I add that it is not for the President to rule as to whether any matter is a breach of privilege or whether a matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee, that being a matter for the Senate. The President’s function is limited to determining whether, pursuant to standing order 1 18, a matter raised is one which should be accorded precedence or whether a matter is of a nature which should proceed by way of motion.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Does the Minister recall spokesmen for the Opposition last year- that is, the LiberalNational Country Party Opposition- calling for a royal commission into overseas loan raising activities of the previous Government? I ask: Firstly, is the Government currently involved in seeking further information concerning those activities? Secondly, does it intend to appoint a royal commission for this purpose?
-I have no knowledge of my own on this matter, but I am prepared to ask the Prime Minister whether he will provide me with an answer for the Leader of the Opposition.
-I have heard on the radio and read occasionally in the news media the allegations that have been made. What the true situation is, I am not aware. Perhaps the best thing that ought to be done is that I ask the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a quite deliberative statement in the Parliament so that the Australian people may be properly informed as to the true position.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the extent of the financial cutbacks applied to the acoustics laboratory at Townsville? Is the Minister aware that the appointments register for pensioners and other patients at Cairns is fully booked out until the September quarter and that this will result in patients waiting for a period of up to 9 months for tests and for servicing of hearing aids? Will the Minister take appropriate steps to make available sufficient finance to ensure that patients are treated as soon as possible in future and that the waiting list is reduced to a minimum?
– I am unaware of the figures that have been given by the honourable senator with regard to delays in Townsville. I share his concern if those figures are accurate. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Health and obtain some further information for the honourable senator at an early date.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to a report in yesterday’s South Australian Advertiser referring to the serious plight of the wine and brandy industry. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of estimates that some 1500 tonnes of wine grapes may not be harvested in South Australia this year as wineries are unable to purchase them due to the impact of section 31A of the Income Tax Assessment Act and to the importation of cheap overseas brandy. Is the Minister also aware that for quite some time the production of Australian brandy has been the buffer in the wine industry but over the last few years imported brandy has taken away some 25 per cent of Australian sales from the locally produced brandy? As much of this critical situation in the industry results from excessive taxes on Australian brandy which were imposed by the previous Whitlam Government, will this Government give serious consideration to reassessing the tax on Australian brandy to help the industry generally; that is, the growers, the wineries and the Australian consumers?
– The Treasurer has had a fairly extensive round of discussions with representatives of the wine and brandy industry. He informs me that, in particular, he has conferred with the Wine and Brandy Producers Association. I think this has been done on a highly legitimate basis, without the consumption of any of the material concerned in this problem. He tells me that the discussions have centred on the valuation of wine and brandy stocks for income tax purposes, the level of excise on brandy and the general state of the industry. I am informed by the Treasurer that, with his Department, he is examining the extensive and detailed submissions presented to him by honourable senators from South Australia- that is, by Senator Young and others- plus all sections of the industry. I think he is fully conscious of the importance of this matter both to the industry and to South Australia. The Treasurer further instructs me to say that he hopes to be able to announce his general findings in this area fairly soon.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. In anticipation of the decision of the United States Department of the Interior to lift its import ban on Australian kangaroo hides which should encourage the emergence of a rather sadistic commercial interest to dominate the market, I ask the Minister whether he contemplates an early meeting with all State Ministers responsible for wildlife protection to evolve an effective code which, if anything, would be more stringent than that established by the Minister’s predecessor. Will the Minister endeavour to get co-operation from the States to acquire additional habitat for the permanent protection of this species? Finally, will the Minister take action and, if necessary, use customs officers and Commonwealth police, through the agency of his colleagues, in an endeavour to detect the large hoard of illegally harvested kangaroo skins which have remained under cover for the last 6 or 8 months?
– I listened with interest to the honourable senator’s question. I wonder whether his question is not based upon some misconceptions as to the position with regard to the export of kangaroo products. The ban on the total export of kangaroo products which was initiated in the lifetime of the earlier Government was relaxed in early 1975 because in 2 States- South Australia and New South Wales- there were suitable harvesting and management programs which would preserve the species of kangaroo which was thought to be under threat and would permit a harvesting and therefore an export of some products. As a result of the previous Government’s representations, following satisfaction that the harvesting and management program was in existence, an approach was made to the United States Government to relax its ban on imports of kangaroo products. I think it is generally accepted that the United States used to be the main importer of kangaroo products. That is the background situation. Satisfactory programs have been agreed to by the State and Commonwealth working parties, not only in the 2 States which I mentionedNew South Wales and South Australia- but also in Queensland and Western Australia. Some consideration also is being given to the position in Tasmania. In those circumstances I understand that the United States of America will not permit the entry of kangaroo products into that country until there is a satisfactory position in Australia. I know that my answer has been fairly long. If the honourable senator wants any further information I can assure him that I can give it to him.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. The Minister may have given a long answer but he spoke with more emphasis on the position in New South Wales and South Australia. However, I wish to point out to him that the Queensland Minister in charge of this matter has talked in terms of one million kangaroos being slaughtered. I should like to know whether the Minister is happy with that State ‘s performance and its sadistic Minister?
-The position in Queensland is that there is an existing harvesting and management program which meets the criteria which both State and Commonwealth working party officials have laid down. That is a program which is designed to protect the 3 main species of kangaroos- the red, the eastern grey and the western grey. A meeting of the standing committee of the conservation Ministers is to be held early in May and if any problems are arising the officials will consider the matter. I am quite sure that the honourable senator would have confidence in the approach which those people would take.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. It appears that by maintaining trade sanctions against Rhodesia we Australians are condoning communist inspired terrorism in that country on the grounds that Rhodesia represents a threat to world peace. By maintaining these sanctions are we not giving our green light to further communist attacks? If so, can the sanctions be removed?
-It is not a matter for me, representing in the Senate my colleague in the other place, to attempt to give an answer on whether or not the Government ought to lift the sanctions which were imposed on Rhodesia, I think some 1 1 years ago. That is a matter for the Government to decide upon if and whenever the question should arise. I do not think that at this stage I ought to indulge in attempting to say what is likely to be the Government’s policy in this area.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services and congratulate him on his tie. It is very attractive. Do the petitions of Helen Therese Berrill and Bruce Noel Hill, as tabled by the President in the Senate on the last day we met, 4 March 1 976, to the Court of Disputed Returns seek a declaration of the Court that all senators elected for South Australia and Tasmania on 13 December last are not duly elected? If the Court grants the petitions, would there exist 10 extraordinary vacancies for senators both in South Australia and Tasmania? Would such positions have to be filled temporarily by the South Australian and Tasmanian Houses of Parliament? Has the precedent been established by recent State government appointments of senators for both New South Wales and Queensland to justify the Governments of South Australia and Tasmania appointing 10 senators for each State from the same political party as those governing in those States?
-The honourable senator asks 4 questions. I think that the answers are maybe, maybe, maybe and no.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister received representations from Hoechst Australia Ltd and other pharmaceutical companies in reference to the deletion of items from the schedule of pharmaceutical benefits as from 1 April 1976? If so, I ask: Is it a fact that when such items are included in the schedule the producing companies are expected to have ample supplies available for prescription throughout Australia? Has it been the practice previously to allow four to five months’ notice of deletion of an item to enable producers, wholesalers and chemists to run down supplies? Is it a fact that in the case of the current 61 items to be deleted the notice given was just over one month? Does the Minister agree that such short notice will cause severe loss, particularly to producing companies which will be unable to use excess supplies in Australia or to market such finished products elsewhere? Is the Minister prepared to recommend in respect of such deletions from the list an extension for a further three or four months?
– It will be realised that the making of recommendations in the terms suggested by the honourable senator would fall within the capacity of my colleague the Minister for Health. However, some of the information given by the honourable senator in his question is correct. Wherever practicable four or five months’ notice is given of the deletion of items from the list, but with regard to the deletions which are to take effect from 1 April it was not practicable to give more than one month’s notice. The Government has found it necessary to make these adjustments to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme as part of its program to reduce Government expenditure in order to remedy the deplorable economic situation which has arisen as a result of actions taken by the Labor Party when in government.
Immediate action was taken, and in these circumstances it was necessary to give shorter notice than may be regarded as being practical. Although this may cause some degree of hardship to some manufacturers in the short term, it was not possible on this occasion to delay the implementation of the policy which was announced by the Minister for Health. I shall refer to the Minister for Health that part of the question which asked whether a recommendation would be made by the Minister and he will take the action that he considers to be desirable.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that 7300 people in Australia are National Employment and Training Scheme trainees? Is he aware also that the NEAT scheme began in 1974 to give unemployed redundant and retrenched people a chance to develop new work skills to make it easier for them to get work in new fields? Will the Minister inform the Senate how many of the 7300 people presently receiving NEAT allowances will have their $96 per week allowance cut to $23.40 per week? How many of these people are women and how many will now be forced to leave their NEAT training? Finally, will the Minister say whether the present Government considers it essential to develop new work skills for people made redundant and people who have been retrenched? If it does, will he inform the Senate how this is to be done?
– I have not available to me the answers to the honorable senator’s questions. I undertake to put his questions to the Minister whom I represent and I am sure that the answers will be forthcoming. Broadly, the Government’s purpose in amending the National Employment and Training Scheme was not to deny the people the retraining facilities which in its inception the scheme was designed to provide but to rationalise the scheme and to put it on a sensible basis. I shall convey the honorable senator’s questions to the Minister concerned.
-Mr President I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister aware that until 3 weeks ago in Tasmania passports were issued within four or five days and if really necessary, on the same day as the application was made? Is he aware that following a letter being issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs advising that a minimum of 4 weeks is now required, passengers have been forced either to cancel or to amend departures, tour programs have been in chaos and, as most business travel is expected to be organised in less than a month, this new departure is causing concern? Can the Minister investigate this situation for me?
-I was not aware until the honourable senator raised it in this place that what she alleges is happening has been happening. However, I will take the matter up with the Minister concerned and see whether I can get the honourable senator an early reply to her question.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Did the 2 Commonwealth Police inspectors who flew to Singapore 2 weeks ago return to Australia last week after failing to interview Mr Fischer? How many days were the police officers in Singapore and what was the cost to the Australian Government of keeping them in Singapore? Has the Minister received any report from the police officers who were sent to Singapore? If so, does he intend to table the report in the Parliament?
-As to the first 2 parts of the question, I do not have that statistical information at my fingertips; I shall obtain it for the honourable senator. I have received no report from the officers, nor do I anticipate receiving such a report. As honourable senators will recall, the police officers are carrying out this investigation on behalf of the Attorney-General. It will be to the Attorney-General that they will report. As to the fourth part of the honourable senator’s question, I cannot anticipate what the AttorneyGeneral will recommend to the Government as to what ought to be done with that report.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer to reported deletions from the program of the Lhamo Tibetan Folk Theatre, which recently performed in Western Australia, and ask: Will the Minister ascertain whether references to the invasion of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China were deleted? If deletions were made, were they made upon the instructions of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust? Why were the deletions made? Who ordered the deletions and why?
– I have no information myself about the matters about which Senator Sim has inquired. I shall ensure that the honourable senator’s question is conveyed to the Attorney-General and ask him to give a reply to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. The Canberra Times of today’s date carries a story claiming that the Australian Government has cut or deferred capital works programs in the Northern Territory totalling more than $150m. Will the Minister confirm or deny the claim? Will he explain how the economy of the Territory is to be maintained if the claim is true, given the fact that it depends so much on the viability of the building industry and the fact that 85 per cent of the work carried out by the industry is directly funded by the Government?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator has referred. I am not aware of the total amount that he suggests has been deleted from the Northern Territory budget. I shall seek information on the matter and give it to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry in a position to make a statement on Government action to assist the milk powder section of the dairy industry to prevent an almost immediate reduction in the price paid to hundreds of dairy farmers in Victoria and Tasmania and also to prevent the total collapse of the orderly marketing of dairy produce throughout Australia?
– Questions regarding this section of the industry have been asked before by honourable senators- maybe by the honourable senator himself. I said then that I would ask the Minister responsible to get an answer for me. It has not yet come to hand. I shall again remind him.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that last week the Victorian Government agreed to take over financial responsibility for 26 people affected by the Federal Government’s cuts in the National Employment and Training Scheme? Does the Minister know that these 26 people are migrant teachers who have been trained in the English language so that they can teach in disadvantaged schools in Australia? Does the Minister consider the training and employment of migrant teachers to be an essential program that is worthy of Federal Government support? Further, will the Minister inform the Senate how many foreign language or migrant teachers in Australia are leaving their courses because of the NEAT scheme cutbacks?
– I ask the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to an article in the Australian on 15 March relating to the infestation of Australian export grain by insect pests. An entomologist is reported to have said:
Australia’s two thousand million dollar per annum grain crop will be unsaleable in five years unless insect control methods are changed dramatically.
Is the Minister acquainted with the nitrogen storage method as advocated by South Australian authorities? Will the Commonwealth Government assist the industry financially to provide gas tight silos to allow pests to be controlled by suffocation? Has the Minister been approached by the Australian Wheat Board for financial or technical assistance?
– The interest here shows that we are all both in the gas business and the suffocation business. I have some information for the honourable senator and the balance of my colleagues. The storage method referred to is quite well known in Australia, lt has been under study by the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation for some years on the basis that it may be a better method of grain storage control than present methods. The program was started in 1970. It is partly financed by the Australian Wheat Board. The cost in the current year will be $500,000 of which the Board will pay $250,000. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation is prepared to provide some assistance. The Minister for Primary Industry will meet the Federation in the next month to talk about this whole problem.
– Has the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development seen reports that the Australian Government is proposing to sell the Glebe Estate, the purchase of which was supported by all parties in the Senate in 1974. Has the Minister received representations from the New South Wales State Council of the Liberal Party opposing any moves to dispose of this valuable piece of real estate purchased to assist low income earners? Will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that there is no intention by his Government to sell the former Glebe church lands to private developers?
– I do not know that I have seen any reports, but I certainly have received communications from people protesting at what is alleged in reports. I do not know where the reports came from. Certainly there was no consultation with or inquiry of me before these reports were published. I have been recently to the Glebe Estate to examine what is happening there. I think I have received some representations from members of the Liberal Party who have, I think, been showing an increasing interest in the area. As far as the present intentions of the Government are concerned, there has not been any discussion and there is no intention of selling the Estate.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the establishment of the system of ethnic radio and more particularly to the committees of management, of one of which, the national committee, I was privileged to be a member. As this national committee has not been called together for some time, as there appears to be no on-going arrangement for the administration of ethnic radio and as there has been a wide ranging Press report, particularly today, on the future of ethnic radio, I ask whether the Minister can tell me what is the present position in relation to ethnic radio. Will it continue? What are the proposed committee plans of administration? Because of involvement in the well-being of migrants when will there be some clarity in relation to the operation of ethnic radio?
– The Federal Government has endorsed the concept of ethnic radio, a matter in which the honourable senator has taken a very long and practical interest. It has not however as yet worked out the modus operandi for ethnic radio. The honourable senator may recall that in January the Government provided a further $100,000 for the forward financing of ethnic radio. As I understand it at this moment a working committee of the various departments concerned, together with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, is making a study of the matter. It is hoped that within a short time its review will be before the Government and the Government will then decide its policy.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, by referring to the address given by Senator Guilfoyle to the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers. She spoke of the need to widen the employment opportunities of migrant women by developing their natural skills by, amongst other things, assisting them with language problems. Senator Guilfoyle said- I agree with this-that it is futile to expect women who are working in factories all day and at home all night to go out to night school. Therefore I ask: What steps is the Government taking to facilitate the teaching of English in the work place?
– I did not hear and I have not read the speech which was made by my colleague Senator Guilfoyle.
– I am sure it was a shame, because I find that listening to her is always most instructive. Obviously Senator Melzer found her instructive on this occasion. Possibly the question should have been directed to Senator Guilfoyle. I am not in a position to answer the honourable senator’s question. I shall convey the question to the responsible Minister and arrange for him to forward a reply to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it true that the number of appeals to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in New South Wales has increased considerably in the last few months? Is it also true that appellants now have a 6-months wait until their appeals are heard? Is a disproportionate number of appeals coming from the northern rivers district of New South Wales? Finally, is the Social Security Appeals Tribunal function being used as a delaying mechanism to frustrate the right of appellants to receive benefits?
– I am unaware of the specific details that have been raised in the honourable senator’s question. I can assure him that the Social Security Appeals Tribunal function is not used as a delaying mechanism. I am concerned that there should not be delays in the hearing of appeals. In fact, I have arranged a meeting with the tribunals in New South Wales and Victoria- it is to be held in the next week or two- to discuss ways in which we can assist and facilitate the hearing of appeals before the tribunals. If there are delays in the hearing of appeals in New South Wales, as the honourable senator has mentioned specifically, I shall have them investigated. As a general principle the facilitation of hearings is something that would have my concern and certainly my support.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Does the Prime Minister take over the present 10 Telecom Australia exchange lines when he is in residence at Nareen? Has this created the necessity for a new 10-pair cable to that district? What is the length of the new cable required? When did the work commence, and when will it be completed? What is the estimated cost of the work? Will it be funded by the Prime Minister’s Department? If not, why not? Why is a 10-pair cable necessary? On how many days of the year is it anticipated the Prime Minister will use the new or old lines? Was the job subjected to a cost justification analysis?
-I ask the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, relates to the recent election for 10 senators for New South Wales in which there was an initial count and a recount. Is it a fact that on a recount of almost 2.8 million votes only some 10 000 votes changed hands? Did the majority for the successful candidate for the last Senate seat in New South Wales change only from 800 to some 2000 votes in the recount? Is this not a tribute to officers of the Australian Electoral Office in New South Wales and to the Chief Electoral Officer for the State, Mr L. Noble, for the way in which the count and recount were conducted? Is it not a statement of confidence in the system under which Senate ballots are conducted in this country?
-I do agree with what the honourable senator has said. As to his statistical information relating to how the votes changed hands, his figures are correct, as I recall them. I do not think that any allegations were made at the last election other than that officers of the Australian Electoral Office carried out their duties with their normal efficient and courteous -
– It was Senator Cotton who asked for a recount.
-If the system has a defect it is in the people who mark the ballot papers and send some of” the interjectors here. That is the defect in the system, not the method of counting the votes. I understand that Mr Noble in New South Wales carried out his duties to the best of his ability and with great satisfaction to the 10 senators who were elected.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister or, if it is more appropriate, to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It follows questions asked previously about staff ceilings and the Minister’s own view about the need to reach those ceilings by retirements and wastage. In view of the fact that there is now widespread concern that unless the present deadline date of 30 June is moved further into the future there will be retrenchments, and also having regard to the Minister’s own acceptance of the fact that there could well be retrenchments at Woomera, will he ask the Prime Minister to reconsider the deadline date of 30 June? Having regard to the fact that the new superannuation scheme will not come into operation until 1 July, can further consideration and support be given to that point of view because certainly more retirements will be achieved due to increased superannuation rights?
-Certainly I will pass on the honourable senator’s request to the Prime Minister.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. Has the Minister noticed that in evidence published relating to the Australian Labor Party inquiry into the Iraqi loans affair it has been stated that Mr Whitlam and Mr Combe signed a letter of 1 1 February to the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of obtaining a loan of $250,000 from that public bank on the basis of the promise of the Iraqis to provide loans for the ALP? Will the Minister tell the Senate whether or not he can arrange that that letter and any previous documents in the possession of Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition, can be tabled in Parliament for the information of Parliament, both as to a foreign loan for party purposes and also as to the indebtedness that the Commonwealth Bank was being asked by that Party- an outgoing government- to provide?
-As I recall my reading of the reports, I understand that the letter was never sent. Therefore it is still within the care, custody and control of the Australian Labor Party. If that Party would like to bring the letter into Parliament and table it, I am quite certain the Government would facilitate that operation as a matter of normal courtesy and comity across the table in the House. The Government does not have any care, custody or control of that letter. It has neither the possession nor the property in it. I therefore suggest to the honourable senator that in the first instance he ought to write either to Mr Whitlam or to Mr Combe and ask for a copy of the letter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services in his capacity as Minister responsible for the Commonwealth Police and follows a question asked previously by Senator Douglas McClelland. Is the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth Police? If he is, did he approve of two of his officers travelling at public expense to Singapore? Did the overseas visits committee of his Department give approval for that visit? Is it to be a practice of this Government that a Minister can delegate his ministerial responsibility for the staff under his control to another Minister? In view of the extent of the mistake made by the Attorney-General in relation to this matter, is the
Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Police wiping his hands of the whole business?
-A11 that the honourable senator has done by asking that question is to expose his total ignorance of the administration of government. I am the Minister responsible for administering the Commonwealth Police Act. Whether or not the Chief Commissioner of Police decides to send 2 officers to Singapore, Timbuktu or anywhere else, is a matter for his administrative decision. He certainly does not have to seek my permission. It is a matter within his own arrangements. As the honourable senator imagines that the Overseas Visits Committee is within my Department, obviously he has not read the Administrative Arrangements Order; as I understand it, that is still within the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Department and not within my Department. So that rather smartalecky question gets nowhere. The fourth question asked by the honourable senator referred to delegating responsibility. It is not a matter of delegating responsibility. If any Minister, any departmental head or any member of the Public Service believes that there may have been a breach of Commonwealth law he is entitled to call upon the Commonwealth Police to investigate whether or not a breach has occurred. That is what happened in this instance. The AttorneyGeneral, believing that there could have been a breach of the law, asked the Commonwealth Police to investigate whether or not a breach of the law had occurred.
If Senator O ‘Byrne ever believes that a breach of Commonwealth law has occurred he is entitled to ask the Commonwealth Police to investigate it. I certainly will not be informed of his request nor would I expect to be informed of his request. If Ministers become involved in the detailed administration of the police force, not only will the police force become ineffective in its operation but also it will subject the police force to political control. The honourable senator, in his last question, asked whether I was wiping my hands of the whole business. Throughout the whole affair the Attorney-General has acted in accordance with the best traditions of an Attorney-General of this country. Might I say what a pleasant change it is, after the period from 1973 to 1975, to have again not only a real lawyer but a competent lawyer and a real Attorney-General in charge of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
-Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, last month said:
If we can learn anything from the past it is that we cannot spend our way out of recession.
Does the Minister agree that Mr Lynch, in fact, has not learnt anything from the past because the past has shown quite conclusively that recovery from recessions is due to large budget deficits and expansion of money designed to encourage spending- a policy that is proving successful in America today?
– I do not know where Senator McAuliffe began and Mr Lynch left off. I took this to be a fairly confused statement. It is not consistent with what I know of the planned economic recovery in America. When planning economic recovery, the first exercise is a straightforward tidying up operation to try to bring some balance between demand and resources in any system. Secondly, it is both wise and sensible to have some reasonable growth in the money supply to allow the economy to grow carefully. It has to have some consistency with the inflation rate and the economic growth rate, if indeed there is any. I note in passing that in the calendar year ending December 1975- the last year of the Labor Government’s unfortunate reign in Australiathe economic growth rate was minus 1 lA per cent. I do not think we can do anything else in Australia but tidy up, first of all, and get things back into balance, establish a stable platform and grow carefully and responsibly once again in this society.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is the Minister aware that nearly 30 000 workers in the private sector in the Australian Capital Territory, some currently threatened with retrenchment, have no long service leave provisions? When will the Minister find time to meet delegates from the Australian Capital Territory Trades and Labor Council to discuss the Government’s intention in respect of a long service leave ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory?
– I think it is fairly well known that this Government has inherited a developing unemployment situation, of differing intensity in various parts of Australia, which was the direct result of the policies of the previous Government. It was not the sort of unemployment which this country experienced in the 23 years in which earlier Liberal-Country Party Governments ruled. I do not know precisely whether there has been a request and, if so, when it was made, to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to meet the Australian Capital Territory Trades and Labor Council. But I am quite sure that anyone who knows the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations knows that he will do his utmost to meet people, to talk with them and to act constructively to solve their problems. I shall convey the question to the Minister. I am quite sure that he will give a ready response.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development will recall telling the Senate during the adjournment debate of 24 February that an amount of $258,000 remained unexpended out of the total amount provided in the Whitlam Government’s Budget for Australian sport and that the present Government had decided that $208,000 of this amount would not now be available, but that the remaining $50,000 was available to ensure that coaching commitments would be met if difficulties arose. I now ask the Minister: Will he give urgent consideration to providing a percentage of that $50,000 to the National Football League of Australia to assist that body in its national coaching scheme?
-The honourable senator’s recollection of the figures I gave is quite accurate, but I must tell him that the $50,000 was set aside in order that commitments which were known to be continuing commitments, to provide for coaches who had already been appointed or to provide for the continuation of payments for administrative assistance which had been already undertaken, would be able to be met in the balance of this financial year. That is the way that sum of $50,000 was expended. I think the particular bodies which were concerned as to whether their continuing obligations would be met have been informed as to that matter. The South Australian National Football League, as I understand it, was one of the organisations which responded to a request which was made, I think, on 10 November last year for persons or bodies to put in their applications. All of the organisations which responded to that request were told that owing to the economic restraints which the Government had to impose they would not be able to receive grants this year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security in her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health. I understand that, under the last Federal Government, the policy was that family planning clinics opened following federal funding were to provide their services free of charge. Is this the policy of the present Government or will these family planning clinics be able to charge for their services?
– As I understand the position at present with regard to family planning clinics, since the introduction of Medibank those clinics are able to provide their services free of charge to patients because of the health benefit grants which are made available to the organisations which provide this service. This arrangement still applies at present, and funds are available for this purpose.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. In asking the question I assume that the Minister has seen reports of heavy metal pollution in Mordialloc Creek in Victoria. It is heavy and dangerous by world standards as described by experts. I preface my question further by saying that the information was made available as a result of the findings of a research team from the University of Melbourne. I ask the Minister: Is it not surprising that the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria, which some years ago was charged with the function of preventing marine pollution, did not make this discovery? Does the Minister share the view that the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria is not performing its function adequately? In view of the fact that Mordialloc Creek flows into Port Phillip Bay which is, of course, connected with Bass Strait and in view of the High Court decision in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case, I ask the Minister whether in his capacity as Federal Minister for Environment he would be prepared to assist the Hamer Government to deal with the problem of pollution in Mordialloc Creek?
-Right at the outset let me say that my Department and the Commonwealth Government are more than willing to assist any State government or any other local body which asks for our assistance in matters such as those about which the honourable senator has inquired. Certainly, if the Victorian Government wants assistance the environmental section of my Department will be ready to help.
But I detect in the honourable senator’s question an attempt to get some nicker of activity into the Australian Labor Party’s campaign for the Victorian State election. I remember that this was one of the issues which a few of the Party’s spokesmen tried to get off the ground over the last three or four weeks. I think the Premier of Victoria comprehensively answered the suggestions which were being made. He demonstrated the activity which had been undertaken and I think he gave not only positive assurances as to money to be spent on certain monitoring activities but also every indication which would satisfy the people of that area that the Victorian Government is really an environmentally concerned government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. I refer to a report in the Courier-Mail of 3 March 1976 in which Dr Robert Endean, a reader in zoology at the University of Queensland, said that the report on the crown of thorns starfish was ‘a whitewash and a waste of public money’. Does the Minister agree with Dr Endean ‘s claim that the report ignored all the evidence and had wasted nearly Sim of taxpayers’ money? In view of the seriousness of these claims and because of Dr Endean ‘s high standing as a scientist, will the Minister take steps to investigate Dr Endean ‘s detailed criticisms and make a statement to the Senate on the subject?
– I thank the honourable senator for the question. I noted Dr Endean ‘s comments in a number of newspapers following the tabling of the report. I do not know that the basis of Dr Endean ‘s criticism has been made clear. He has made generalised comments and has criticised the level of expenditure by the Committee, but I am not aware of the exact nature of his criticism. It will be of interest to the honourable senator to know that I telephoned Dr Endean some few weeks prior to tabling the report in the Senate. I asked him whether he had any views relating to the crown of thorns starfish which he wished to convey to me, because I had had some personal connection with the work which he had done in the past. I had noted conflicting reports of evidence which he had given to one of the committees of inquiry compared with what he had made public on another occasion. I was uncertain in my mind as to the attitude which he might be taking on the presentation of the report. I therefore have written to him within the last few days to ask him for his views following the publication of the report.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to a report in the West Australian of 9 March which stated that Swan Brewery Co. Ltd will retrench 350 of its employees when its new $50m Canning Vale brewery is completed in 1978? Will the $50m expenditure qualify for the Government’s 40 per cent investment allowance and consequently an $8. 5m subsidy from the taxpayer? Did the company make a firm decision to build its new brewery last October before the investment allowance policy was introduced? Will other companies reap windfall gains for investment decisions which pre-date the investment allowance policy? What is the total cost of this superfluous generosity?
-I think that this question ought to be placed on the notice paper in order to obtain the precise information. I am not aware of any proposal by Swan Brewery Co. Ltd for the construction of a new plant and to lay off employees. I should like to know more about that. I do not have at my fingertips the actual and precise details of the investment the company has made and its investment allowance entitlement. I will need to find out that information.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the Minister’s reply to my question asked on 3 March 1 976 in which he stated that Australia, under this present Government, had no friends in the Third World, will the Minister explain where Australia’s friends are to be found? Are not the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, all of which constitute part of the Third World, Australia’s friends?
– I have no desire, nor do I intend, to indulge in a semantic argument with the honourable senator. It is for him to work out whether one is a friend or an associate. As to the terms ‘First World’, ‘Second World’ or ‘Third World’, they are not terms with which I am totally familiar. I think that if the honourable senator really requires that sort of information of my colleague in the other place he ought to place a question on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs which refers to the Minister’s statement to the meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee:
We are committed -
That is, the Government-
To the principle of land rights for the Northern Territory Aboriginals.
Does this statement imply that the Government is not committed to the principle of land rights for Aboriginals outside the Northern Territory? In view of this statement, will the Government continue with the financing of State Land Councils operating in every State other than Queensland which are working to acquire Aboriginal and other lands for Aboriginals? Will the present Government, as proposed by the previous Government, present legislation to enable the acquiring of Aboriginal reserves in Queensland and vest those reserves in Aboriginal communities? Will the Government purchase land other than Aboriginal lands in States of the Commonwealth to be used for Aboriginal settlements and enterprise as was done by the previous Government? As both Queensland and Western Australia each have bigger populations of Aboriginals than the Northern Territory, does the commitment of land rights for Northern Territory Aboriginals mean only a commitment for a small proportion of Aboriginal people?
– I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be interested to hear the details of the question which has originated from Senator Cavanagh, knowing as we do of his previous experience and interest in matters relating to Aborigines. I shall refer the question in all its detail to the Minister and obtain a statement for the honourable senator. He would realise that many of the matters referred to are matters of policy. Where the information is at the stage at which it can be related to him, it will be provided by the Minister in the answer which is supplied for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. It concerns the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and its activities in the Northern Territory. Is it a fact that tenders are being called for a company to take over the exploration activities to which the Commission is committed by its agreements with certain mining companies? If this is a fact and no tenderer comes forward to take over this work, how will it be done? If there is a successful tenderer, what will happen to (a) the buildings and equipment at present in Alice Springs and Darwin; (b) personnel currently employed by the Commission in the Northern Territory; and (c) the data at present being held by the Commission following its research over the years?
-I ask the honourable senator to put that question on the notice paper.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Environment. I know the Minister has other responsibilities but surely that description is sufficient. I ask him again what progress has been made in setting up the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, especially in view of the questions that have been asked concerning the crown of thorns starfish problem. Is it a fact that the Queensland Government has already made its appointment to this Authority? If that is the case, is the delay in setting up the Authority the Minister’s responsibility? I ask further: Is it a fact that no staff is being appointed to support the Authority? When one considers that position together with the position of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Heritage Commission, does this not represent a complete retreat by the Government in 3 important areas?
– I think the honourable senator’s very genuine interest in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority should not be qualified by his attempting to suggest a Government retreat in other areas. There is no such retreat. Discussions have taken place between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland with regard to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. I am not sure of the precise position. I think the nominee of the Premier of Queensland has been determined and I think the nominee of the Australian Government has been communicated. But they are matters upon which I shall seek exact information. I am conscious that the honourable senator asked a question on this subject approximately a fortnight ago and I have not amplified the reply, but I shall endeavour to get him as much information as I can as soon as I am able.
-For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Australian Fire Board for the year 1974-75.
– Pursuant to Section 33 of the
Criminology Research Act 1971 I present the third annual report on the operations of the Australian Institute of Criminology for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
– Pursuant to Section 43 of the Criminology Research Act 1971 I present the third annual report of the Criminology Research Council for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on the following subjects:
Financing Promotion of Rural Products
Interim Report: Export Inspection of Rural Products
Cellulose Acetate Flake.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales-
Minister for Industry and Commerce)- Pursuant to Section 34 of The Services Trust Fund Act 1947-1973 I present the annual reports of the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund, the Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund and the Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund for the calendar year 1974, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the resolutions of the Sixth Meeting of the Australian Fisheries Council held in Canberra on 3 October 1975.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales-
Minister for Industry and Commerce)- Pursuant to section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956, I present the annual report on the operation of that Act during the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present two reports prepared by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled ‘Mainline Upgrading: Evaluation of a Range of Options for the MelbourneSydney Rail Link’ and ‘Mainline Upgrading: Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Melbourne-Serviceton Rail Link’. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of these reports have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Committee on Post-secondary Education in Tasmania. I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am pleased to present the report of the Committee on Post-secondary Education in Tasmania. The Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, and I have agreed that the report should be published immediately for public information even before copies are available in significant numbers. Three copies of the report will be available to honourable senators and members in the Parliamentary Library. Other copies will be distributed as soon as possible.
The Committee was established in April 1975 to report on the promotion, development and coordination of post-secondary education in Tasmania having regard to future needs. I wish to express my appreciation of the work of the members of the Committee- Professor Karmel, Mr Gough, Mr Swanson, Mr Coughlan and Associate Professor Richardson- who assisted in the first stages of the inquiry. I am gratified by the level of interest of the individuals and organisations responsible for the preparation of the 107 submissions which the Committee received.
During its investigations the Committee obtained a wide range of opinion on the matters covered in its terms of reference. The Committee’s recommendations include a major restructuring of tertiary education in Tasmania. The recommendations contain matters which will require substantial consideration by the Tasmanian Government. The Committee has not made financial recommendations on the future development of post-secondary education in
Tasmania as these are the responsibility of the national education commissions and the Commonwealth and State governments. However, the Committee does not expect the recommendations to lead to significant additional expenditure.
The Committee concentrated its efforts on major issues affecting the longer term development of post-secondary education in Tasmania. The Committee was concerned that there should be reasonable opportunities for post-secondary education at various levels throughout Tasmania and sought ways to raise the level of participation in post-secondary education as much as possible. The Committee also discussed a number of general issues which affected the development of post-secondary education in Australia as a whole. However, while it had regard to these general considerations, its basic aim was to seek Tasmanian solutions to Tasmanian problems. For this reason the Committee did not feel bound by pre-conceived principles or rules, but put educational considerations first. In particular, while different funding mechanisms applied to universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges, the Committee took the view that these arrangements should not influence its approach. The Committee concentrated on formulating the most effective educational solutions to the educational problems which it encountered.
– I move:
The report just tabled by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is a report which I am sure will be welcomed by everyone interested in education in Tasmania. It is a report which we might say has arrived at long last. It has not taken a long time for the report to come to hand since the setting up of the Committee on PostSecondary Education in Tasmania, but it did take quite some time for an approach to be adopted towards a rationalisation of tertiary or post-secondary education facilities in Tasmaniathe decentralised State which has suffered from an over-centralisation of education facilities. The problem was created in the first place by what could only be described as a centralist-minded State Labor government.
In 1966 the Northern Tertiary Education Committee was set up. I had the honour and pleasure of being a member of it. Just 10 years ago that Committee sought the sort of rationalisation which I understand has now been recommended by this Committee. The 1966 Committee was responsible for what was known as the Burton-Clark report. It was because of the agitation of that Committee that Professor Burton and Professor Clark were given the task of looking at the tertiary education facilities as they then were. It is unfortunate that the decision was taken during the early 1960s to establish the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education right next door to the University of Tasmania. It was regarded for a long time as precluding decentralised educational development in the State at a level which was desired by most people in the State. It appears that such decentralisation and such rationalisation are close to becoming realities. I emphasise in referring to this the importance of the decision taken by the former Government and by the present Government to go ahead with the development of the Maritime College situated at Launceston to be constructed in conjunction with the College of Advanced Education at Newnham. The Liberal Party announced its policy before any other party to develop both the Maritime College and the autonomous educational institution at Newnham. I personally look forward to the day when that development, which now appears so close, will lead to the development of similar facilities for tertiary education on the north-west coast.
I refer now to the recommendations made by the Committee. Recommendation (1) states, amongst other things: (ti) To achieve these objectives, the existing programs of the Mt Nelson campus of the TCAE should be transferred to the University or to a fully autonomous college of advanced education at Newnham (or as necessary, to the Hobart Technical College), and the site and buildings of the TCAE at Mt Nelson transferred to the University.
It also recommends that existing legislation relating to the Tasmanian Council of Advanced Education and the TCAE should be replaced by new legislation establishing a fully autonomous college of advanced education at Newnham.
I pause there to emphasise that it is of the utmost importance that a new council be established as soon as possible to carry out the work of the transfer, establishment and development of the recommended institute. The building program which is recommended by the Committee should take the majority of the next triennium ‘s funds for capital expenditure for the development of the Newnham site and that, together with the construction of the Maritime College, will give a very welcome boost to the hard pressed building and construction industry. While I am referring to that I urge the Minister to take every step to ensure that in accordance with announced policies Tasmanian services and contractors are used in that work. I look forward to studying the report in detail. To enable me to do so and to make some further comments I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the activities of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1 976.
Air Navigation Charges Bill 1976.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. A similar Bill was, in fact, introduced under the previous Government in the House of Representatives on 15 October 1975 by the then Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who fulfilled a distinguished role in that office. The second reading speech which was delivered in this place by the present Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, is almost identical with the second reading speech which was made in the House of Representatives by the former Minister for Education. If I might gently chide the Department of Education, I feel that it has been rather remiss in that after some 5 months it was not able to alter even one word in the speech- apart from changing the word ‘Australian’ to the word Commonwealth ‘.
The importance of the Bill is to be found in the fact that there are about 1500 teachers in the Northern Territory and about 2200 teachers in the Australian Capital Territory who, as I understand it, have been recruited from the States of South Australia and New South Wales respectively. The basic effect of the first amendment which was referred to by the Minister in his second reading speech is to carry on the long service leave entitlement which the teachers would have had if they had remained in the service of their respective States.
Another minor, but in some ways important, consequence of the passing of this Bill will be that the Commonwealth will assume responsibility for the provision of teachers of technical education in the Australian Capital Territory. The Opposition welcomes this move, as I believe the Government does, because it is indicative of an additional responsibility appropriately assumed in the Australian Capital Territory by the Commonwealth. I suppose that in a small way it leaves the way open for greater diversity of development of teaching in technical institutions throughout the Commonwealth of Australia. The only change in the Bill, as I have indicated, seems to be that the word ‘Australian’ has been changed to the word ‘Commonwealth’ in the title. During the last 3 years the word Commonwealth’ was apparently out of favour in the titles of Bills passed by this Parliament. Speaking personally- although I think I speak for many members of the Party of which I am a member- the word ‘Commonwealth’ has connotations of which we in general approve. The word carries with it the suggestion that legislation of this Parliament should be for the good of the Australian people as a whole. The Opposition does not offer any objection even to that change which is recorded in the Minister’s speech and in the title of the Bill.
– I rise to speak briefly to this Bill. The background of the Bill has already been outlined by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech. Senator Button has indicated that this legislation is almost identical with the legislation which was introduced by the previous Government. The legislation basically has not been changed by the present Government. However, I rise to welcome the one small change which has been made in the legislation. That change relates to the use of the word ‘Commonwealth’ in place of the word ‘Australian’. Senator Button has commented on that point in his usual light and humorous fashion. He has referred to the change of style which was adopted by the previous Government.
I put forward 2 bases on which the word Commonwealth’ should be retained by the present Government. The first is that the word Commonwealth’ is properly descriptive of the political and constitutional situation in Australia. The second is that real confusion can arise within Australia if the term ‘Australian’ is used to describe the Federal Government’s organs. The use of the word ‘Australian’, which is common with respect to the armed forces and other Australian efforts overseas, whether in diplomatic activities or otherwise, gives rise to no confusion at all; but within Australia a good number of people would say that those who are employed by a State service are just as much Australian public servants, just as much members of an Australian teaching service, as people who are employed by the Commonwealth. I welcome the less confusing terminology which has been adopted by the Government. I think that it properly reflects the constitutional position and I trust that the Government will continue to be consistent in its use of that expression.
- Mr President, I support the Bill. As my colleague Senator Button has pointed out, the Bill was first introduced by the Labor Government and its main purpose was to make appropriate long service leave provisions for special groups of teachers who had come into the Commonwealth Teaching Service. The amendments contained in the Bill before the Senate have been endorsed by the Commonwealth Teachers Federation, and I think that demonstrates the very good relationship that existed between the Labor Government and the Teachers Federation on the terms and conditions of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. Although the service in fact was established by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, in its first 3 years of operation it was administered by the Labor Government. During that time it flourished and proved to be in many ways an exemplary modern teaching service. Some of the features which were introduced under the administration of the Labor Government and which make it such an exemplary service include a high degree of teacher participation in decision making, first class terms and conditions of employment, and ample provision for in-service training, both to bring teachers who are below an established standard up to that standard and to increase the qualifications of teachers who wish to rise in the teaching service. Opportunities are provided for the training of specialist teachers, particularly in such areas as teaching English as a second language to migrant students and the teaching of all kinds of remedial courses in Australian Capital Territory schools. The Commonwealth Teaching Service also is marked by enlightened methods of teacher assessment. Those methods, endorsed by the Commonwealth Teachers Federation, led to a very happy and constructive relationship between the previous Government and the Commonwealth teachers themselves.
The very fine opportunities presented in the past to teachers in the Commonwealth Teaching Service have meant that the service has been able to attract teachers of the highest calibre and that, in turn, the children in the territories have had the opportunity of receiving first class teaching. The Opposition hopes that this state of affairs will be maintained by the new Government. Views have been expressed in some places that standards of education in the Australian Capital Territory perhaps are too high when compared with teaching standards in other parts of Australia and that there is no need to persist with those high standards. As a senator representing the Australian Capital Territory, I should like to differ from that view. It is true that standards here are high, perhaps higher than in some other parts of Australia, but I think it is true also that as the schools in the 2 territories are the direct responsibility of the Federal Government, and of course they are the only schools in that position, it is appropriate that the highest standards should be pursued and maintained. During the December 1975 election campaign Senator Guilfoyle, the then shadow Minister for Education, expressed the view that there would be no undermining of educational standards in the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that the present Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, will endorse that view. However, there are signs at the moment that the standards are under threat, and I refer particularly to the reduction in teaching hours of English as a second language for the many migrant children in the schools in the territory, and to remedial teaching hours. Hours have been reduced in both those courses in several schools in the Australian Capital Territory to the point where in some schools those teachers have been put off. Teachers who are not trained in the specialist type of teaching are now doing this type of teaching. If this trend continues, I think it is fair to say that there will indeed be an undermining of educational standards in the Australian Capital Territory. This is acceptable neither to members of the Commonwealth Teaching Service nor to the parents of the children in the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that the trend will not continue. I hope that in the next Budget there will be a sufficient allocation of funds for education in the Territory to permit the previously high standards to be maintained.
I should like to comment on the provision, in the Bill before us, for teachers of technical colleges in the A.C.T. I welcome their inclusion into the Commonwealth Teaching Service because it appears that in this way we will be able to continue to attract teachers of a very good standard to the technical section of education in the A.C.T. This is a rapidly expanding section. I think 60 new technical teachers were put on by the Canberra Technical College this year. There are plans for rapid development of technical education. It is not an extravagance. I think all honourable senators present will be aware of the past neglect of technical education in this Territory and in the rest of Australia and will be aware also of the need to rectify this neglect. In view of the current employment- or should I say unemployment- situation, we are seeing dearly the results of having too many unskilled people in the work force. It is the unskilled people who are the first to be retrenched. It is the unskilled people who remain longest unemployed and longest on unemployment benefits. Part of the answer to this problem is, of course, a Government sponsored scheme such as the National Employment and Training Scheme. To reach the problem perhaps at a preventative stage we should be looking to technical and further education and should offer an opportunity to our young people to gain useful technical skills when they leave school.
Technical education should be a genuine alternative to academic education. It is an alternative which should be funded adequately and it should not be just a poor relation of academic higher education, as it has been in the past. Therefore, I am pleased to see that the Commonwealth Teaching Service will now include teachers of technical education in the Territories. I am sure that this will help to attract teachers of the standard that we would like. It will maintain proper conditions of service for those teachers. In the past, I think, sometimes the conditions of service were good and sometimes they were not. The inclusion of technical teachers in the Commonwealth Teaching Service should ensure a maintenance of terms and conditions of employment for technical teachers. This, in turn, should help us to establish here in the Territoryas well as in other areas within the responsibility of the Federal Government- a very sound and useful kind of technical education.
In conclusion, I should like to say that I sincerely hope that the change of government will not mean an interference or an obstruction of the plans for technical and further education in this Territory. I hope also that it will not mean- there are some signs now that it might mean- a lowering of the previously high standard of education enjoyed by children in the schools in the Territories.
– I, too, stand to support this Bill which relates to the continuity of service for the teachers who came to the Northern Territory from South Australia and New South Wales. I first take the opportunity of commenting on the service that the teachers from South Australia gave to the Northern Territory some few years ago, before the teachers in the Northern Territory came under the control of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. I should like to pay a compliment to them. While South Australia had difficulties in staffing its own schools it saw fit for many years to send teachers in increasing numbers, to the Northern Territory. I believe that the Northern Territory owes a considerable amount to South Australia for the work it has done over the years. Of course, teachers from New South Wales have also taught in the Northern Territory. If we look back to the period when teachers were supplied from South Australia and New South Wales to the Northern Territory we remember these dedicated people who gave two or three years of their time to the Northern Territory working in the outback. Their work has been greatly appreciated. In fact, what they did was the basis of the Commonwealth Teaching Service that now exists.
Since the establishment of the Commonwealth Teaching Service- I speak particularly for the Northern Territory- education has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. It has been a strain on the Commonwealth Teaching Service to cope with this demand. As speakers in this debate have said, the previous Liberal and National Country Party Government introduced legislation to set up the Commonwealth Teaching Service and Labor carried out the administration. All in all, education has gone a long way in the Northern Territory in the last few years but many problems lie ahead. I was pleased to see that in the last week Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education, spent a week in the Northern Territory. He visited many settlements, Aboriginal schools, primary schools in various centres, high schools and community colleges throughout the Territory in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, Darwin and Gove. With the first hand information the Minister now has I am sure that we can look forward to a continuity of service to the Northern Territory. As the Minister realises, there are tremendous problems ahead. There will be tremendous strains on the Commonwealth Teaching Service.
One problem, which is not peculiar to the Northern Territory but affects also some of the States, is that of Aboriginal education. This is a very big responsibility because we have so many children living in the outback, in the bush and on small settlements. These children need to be given an education. In the Northern Territory today there is very little opportunity for many of the children- particularly the Aboriginal children- to receive an education. One of our big responsibilities is to concentrate particularly on these Aboriginal children. They have to be given an education so that they can join in our way of life. Because of assimilation- if that is what we like to call it- which is the breaking down of tribal barriers, and because of the increase in the number of Aboriginal children they cannot live their own way of life but must join in our way of life.
As I said, much has to be done. There are many problems to be overcome. I have noticed, when travelling around the Northern Territory in the past year, that the attendance in some of the schools which are predominantly Aboriginal is falling off. It concerns me to see that this is happening, despite the fact that the Government is outlaying vast sums of money, as has been the case in the last few years. I think the Territory has enjoyed a very good share of funds for education.
– So they should.
– I agree with the honourable senator that the Government should spend vast sums of money on education in the Northern Territory. It is happening. There are teachers coming forward in increasing numbers but the attendance at some of the schools in the outback is dropping off. I think it is dropping off for many reasons. Probably one of the reasons is that in many of these settlements now the life of the Aboriginal person is deteriorating. If one had gone to some of these places a couple of years ago one would have found happy communities in which Aboriginal people were working and children were going to school. That scene has changed now. What is happening is that very few Aboriginal people are working on these settlements. They are being paid now what they call sit down money’. That is their term for it. They are being paid living allowances. Instead of using this money for their own good, they are spending a lot of it in various grog shops that are situated on some of the perimeters of the settlements.
– Like the Border Store.
– Yes. That is one. The effect of this state of affairs is that the children follow the example of their parents. The children are leaving school. The education of many of this generation of children whom we would have expected to come forward and join in the life of the Northern Territory will be wasted. I believe that we will lose a complete generation with respect to education if steps are not taken to correct the situation.
As I said before, many things need to be done. We see technical training being introduced in the Australian Capital Territory. It is my hope that we will see more emphasis given to technical training in the Northern Territory. I mention especially technical training for another group of children who, by and large have been overlooked. I refer this time to part-coloured children, of whom there are a large number in the Northern Territory. Many of these children come from poor circumstances. Their home life is not the same as that of other children inasmuch as they recieve very little encouragement with respect to homework, school life and so on. These children go to primary school and some go on to high school. The type of curriculum that is taught to these children in high school is such that the work is of little interest to them. What we do see in towns in the Northern Territory is that these children leave school before the age prescribed- many in the Territory leave school at 13 years, 14 years or 15 years- and wander the streets. One can see them outside the hotels. Even girls of that age are to be found there in some places. The boys go around in gangs getting up to some mischief or other. Yet, I believe that if these children were given some training involving the use of their hands- some technical training- good results would be achieved. These are bright kids. They have the ability to learn. If this sort of training could be introduced for these children it is my belief that they could play their part in the Northern Territory. If it is not, they will continue to be a problem.
I noted in the last week that the inquiry into the proposed Katherine rural college has been completed. I understand that, very soon, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) will receive the report of that inquiry. I look forward to the Government receiving that report as I believe that if the Government picks up the recommendations of that report- I understand that the establishment of a rural college in Katherine is recommended- this will bring about more training and eventually more job opportunities for children in the Northern Territory. But it will go further than that. I believe that our northern neighbours, the people from the islands, will be able to attend.
The picture that I have painted can be viewed in this way: Senator Carrick is the Minister responsible for education and his Department has an immense responsibility ahead of it. Assistance is being received from the teachers of Australia who have come to the Northern Territory as part of the Australian Teaching Service. I believe that they can carry out the work that is necessary. But we must recognise the problem- I think that Senator Carrick realises the situation now- that is created by the freezing of staff numbers and funds. The freezing of teaching staff numbers to certain establishments is causing problems. I understand that the Northern Territory is on a teaching staff establishment that was fixed in 1974. For the good of the Department of Education and for the children of the Northern Territory, I hope that this matter can be reconsidered and that the teaching service will be allowed once again to grow.
I, too, am pleased to see that the word ‘Commonwealth’ is coming back into official usage. In the Northern Territory I did not like to see the word ‘Australian’ in some places. I might be going off at a tangent in my remarks now, but may I say that the sooner the word ‘Australian’ is removed from the buildings, letterheads and wherever it appears, and the sooner its use with respect to the Police Force in the Northern Territory is discontinued, the happier I will be. The Police Force in the Northern Territory is now back in its proper place, under the control of the Minister for the Northern Territory. There was never such a body as the Australian Police Force. But I will not continue on that tangent. I support the Bill.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. In common with my colleagues, I find nothing in the Bill to which I take exception. My complaint would be that it does not go far enough. There are a number of comments which I feel should be made about the Commonwealth Teaching Service and the way in which it is operating at present. I take the opportunity to do so at this time.
It might be appropriate, perhaps, to give a little background to the Commonwealth Teaching Service. Honourable senators will recall that the decision to establish the Service was taken in 1970. The reason for this action was that South Australia had indicated that its teachers would be moving out of service in the Northern Territory within 5 years. That valuable service, which has been referred to already, would no longer be available. In February of 1972, the then Minister for Education and Science introduced the Commonwealth Teaching Service Bill. That legislation was passed and assented to by May 1972. The purpose of the Bill was quite clear. It was to provide teachers for schools where the Commonwealth had some responsibility, whether that responsibility was in Territories on the mainland or Territories overseas, or in the States.
Honourable senators will recall that the Australian Council for Educational Research was approached and asked to give some help in the setting up of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. That Council was asked specifically to suggest the organisation of this Service, how it might be structured. It was asked to suggest a career structure for the people taking part in the Service and to suggest an appropriate salary scale. Dr Neal from the University of Alberta, formerly from Western Australia, and Dr Radford from the Australian Council for Educational Research were the 2 people chosen to prepare this report.
When he was introducing the report the Minister said that he saw the main purpose as being to provide teachers for the 2 systems in the Northern Territory. Let me refer to the comment in this report. In introducing the Bill, the Minister said:
A first purpose of this Bill will be to make immediate provision for Commonwealth staffing of the 2 -school system of the Northern Territory.
He also looked ahead to the time when the Commonwealth Teaching Service would include: all teachers employed in Commonwealth operated schools in mainland Australia - and might also include:
Dr Neal and Dr Radford summed up by saying:
It is clear therefore that the Service will provide for both systems in the Northern Territory. Any recommendations we make must therefore have this in mind.
I remind honourable senators of the 2 systems that were operating in the Northern Territory at that time. One was the Community School System. That was South Australian controlled, funded by the Commonwealth and headed by a senior officer from South Australia. The other system was the Aboriginal Education Branch of the Welfare Division of the Department of the Interior. That was headed by an officer of that Department, who was Mr Gallagher. It would be of interest to senators to know that a short time ago he was made a Fellow of the Australian College of Education for his work in this field.
This Aboriginal Education Branch looked after Aboriginal schools, on settlements, on pastoral properties in remote areas, post primary education, Aboriginal colleges and Aboriginal preschools. Honourable senators will know of the outstanding work done by Joyce Gilbert, where the highest percentage of any group of children was attending preschool. The Branch also was responsible for European preschools.
In 1972 a decision was taken to combine the 2 systems. I feel that the reason for that decision was pretty straightforward. Firstly, it was a natural development that the two should come together, so that there might be more effective utilisation of the resources available. The second reason might have been that with South Australia going, some structure would be needed to organise education in the Northern Territory. The third reason was to provide that equality of education which Labor saw as being necessary.
Honourable senators may recall that the SEBAC report indicated that quite a deal of money would need to be spent to bring Aboriginal schools up to the same standard as those operating for European children. I have said before in this place that the Territory has unique problems in education. This has been referred to again today. Basically, the problems relate to the number of Aboriginal students in school and the way in which they are spread over the Northern Territory. I again quote from the Neal-Radford report which states:
A staff organisation tailored exclusively to the community schools of the Territory might not adequately serve the needs of schools for Aborigines. And what might suit the Northern Territory as a whole might not be adequate for the Australian Capital Territory with its proximity, for example, to a concentration of professional resources available at short notice to give specialised advice.
Such is the background against which the Commonwealth Teaching Service was set up. The first criticism- if I may use that word- which I make of the CTS as it is operating at the present time is of its inflexibility. Despite the recommendations of the Neal-Radford report, the system was developed pretty much with the Australian Capital Territory schools in mind. The Teachers Federation was involved in the discussions, which is a good thing; but, for some reason into which I cannot go into at this stage, the Northern Territory seemed to miss out. The system was not geared to the needs of the Northern Territory.
One of the problems with the inflexibility of the system is that the Service insists that 3 years of training is necessary before a teacher may take his place in the Service. I would be the last to suggest that we ought to dilute the quality of our teachers. Certainly, I would not wish to do that. We want the best possible teachers in the Northern Territory. But I make the point that special needs call for special people. We have opportunities for music specialists in the Territory. We have positions for audio-visual people. We have positions for publications people. We have positions for head office personnel. All the people in these positions are required to have 3 years of teacher training. This seems unnecessary. One assumes that we could get a person with good qualifications in music and with perhaps one year of training who could do the job of a music specialist. Certainly in the audio-visual field we could get people with a lot of background in that area but not with 3 years of teacher training.
I make the point to the Minister that perhaps special needs call for special qualifications. These qualifications might be academic or based on experience. If specialist people find that they will have difficulty getting promotion within the field, then we will find difficulty in recruiting people into these positions.
In the Aboriginal situation I think there is a need to give special consideration to people who have particular abilities in working with Aboriginal people. Honourable senators will know that there are some people who, although not fully qualified, have developed a good empathy with Aboriginal people. They have been able to work with them in their homeland centres and on the outstations. Such people could do a lot for the Aborigines. But they cannot be employed because they are not fully 3-year trained. I shall speak about this matter a little later when I talk about assessment. I make the point here that special needs have been accepted. We have the precedent which was established last year. Honourable senators may recall that when the refugees left Timor quite a number of them came to the Northern Territory. Basically, they were Timorese and Chinese people. The Commissioner approved the use of ‘teachers’; that is, people who had worked in Timor with the Chinese and the Timorese but who would not normally be accepted as teachers. We were able to set up a school to meet the needs of those people. So the precedent has been established for the use of teachers with what I call special qualifications.
The second criticism I make- I hesitate to use the word ‘criticism’- relates to another facet and that is the quality of graduates coming into the Territory. I make the point very strongly that the people who are coming are well trained in the usual sense of the word. They have had 3 years training at a college of advanced education or something of the sort down south; but their training is not appropriate to the needs of the Territory, particularly in respect of Aboriginal schools. I shall give 2 examples: Very little work is done on English as a second language in the average training college. Unfortunately, very little work is done in Aboriginal studies. Both of these areas are vitally important if we are to have people who can be effective in the small school situation. Even in the bilingual schools we need people who are able to teach English as a second language. In all schools- whether they are Aboriginal schools or community schools, as we still call them- we need people with a knowledge of Aboriginal culture and with an understanding of the Aboriginal people. Not only do we have many Aboriginal people attending the community schools but also the oilier children should have a good background of the Aboriginal culture which is so rich. I suggest to the Minister that the Authority needs more say in the training programs. I go a stage further and suggest that the training should be carried out in the Northern Territory rather than in the southern States. If we cannot get this, then at least the Authority should place the students when they come out to do practice teaching. There is little point in putting people into a European school in Sydney for practice teaching if they are going to work in an Aboriginal community. I think that point has been made.
It is a great pity that the Government’s economy measures mean that the community college is not able to cope with some of those teachers who wish to extend their training. That would be a good starting point for the full training of teachers in the Territory. I certainly support the statement which the Minister made in the Territory last week that we need more Aboriginal teachers in the sense of teachers of Aboriginal extraction. I add that we need better trained Aboriginal teachers. How do we get them? We get them by having better facilities, by having in the Territory a good college or training institution which can do the job. The Minister will know that some excellent work is being done at Batchelor, in the Aboriginal teacher education centre. Of course we need better facilities. As the Minister supports the need for these, we may see Frances Creek going ahead in the next 12 months. I think the Minister knows, as some honourable senators know, that there is an excellent site at Frances Creek. There is good accommodation and, best of all, it is very cheap, without the need for much repair work. I strongly recommend to the Minister that we look towards Frances Creek as being the centre for the training of Aboriginal teachers. I feel that there are 2 possibilities there. Being isolated as it is, we could have a complete campus or we could have an open town. This is a matter for decision. It will not matter much either way. I favour the closed campus. Let us hope that we will see that college being established next year.
While we are talking about the college we must think of the quality of the entrant and the qualifications which he brings to the training college. In the past we have talked a lot about Aboriginality as being one of the basic qualifications. I certainly would not change that. We need people who have that qualification. But I hope to see more and more of our young trainee teachers coming in with a better standard on leaving primary and secondary schools. This ties in with comments which have already been made about the need to upgrade our post-primary schools. I shall have a little more to say about that in a moment.
The third area at which I look is assessment. The procedures which work for assessment at the present time were developed by the Acting Commissioner and the Teachers Federation. The authorities did not take part in the setting up of assessment procedures. I think it is a great pity that that happened. Although this occurred in the past, I think the comment is worth making that the authority, with its inspectorial system, had a lot of expertise which it could have brought to bear on working out the assessment procedures. Nevertheless, for some reason, the Commissioner and the Federation diverged from the Neal-Radford report. They went away from it not only in assessment but also in introducing a 2-pronged corridor. Radford and Neal had suggested one. This reflected the views of southern Australians about inspectors being “monsters”. It overlooked the fact that this was not so in the Northern Territory. Anyone who has worked in the system knows that the inspectors who worked in the Territory had a different relationship with the people in the field. The relationship was on a first name basis. The inspector was certainly a colleague to the teachers in the full sense of the word. In most cases he was a friend. He certainly was their mentor. He assisted them not only with their work but also with their professional development.
The present system, with peer assessment, is very costly. The Minister will know how the schools are spread out through the Northern Territory. If the assessment is to be done properly, the chairman and 2 other members must visit the candidate twice, if not 3 times, during the year. With schools scattered all over the Northern Territory, this means cost not only in money but also in resources. I refer to the resources of the people who are being taken out of their schools to do this job of assessment. I put it to the Minister that many people working in the Territory have extreme doubts about whether the present assessment system is any better than the one which operated before in respect of the job that it is trying to do. At least one could say that an exhaustive review is needed. One was promised 2 years ago. I suggest to the Minister that we ought to go ahead with that review as soon as possible. An interim review was conducted last year but this was not enough and more needs to be done.
I will dwell here for a moment on the problem facing the people in the non-teaching situation. As recently as last weekend I was told by the chairman of an assessment committee of how he sat on 2 assessment panels. In one case he gave a report which he classed as perfect, whatever that is. He and the 2 members of the panel wrote up the candidate in the highest terms. The candidate was not promoted. In the second case he, as chairman, submitted a minority report opposing promotion and the candidate was promoted. This happened simply because in the first case the person was in a non-teaching position. That person was a highly competent officer whom I know very well. We must find some way to overcome this situation. It is unfair not only to the people in the positions; it is unfair also to the Education Authority in the Northern Territory. Obviously, if people are treated in this way they will not be attracted to the head office to work as specialists. I ask the Minister to look very closely at the possibility of reviewing the situation in this area.
- Senator, do you know how to change some of these community attitudes?
-Perhaps we could form a committee and talk about them. I would be quite happy to throw my little bit of expertise into the ring. I wish to refer to the fourth aspect of the matter, namely, the power of the Commissioner. The role of the Commissioner has developed over the years perhaps beyond the spirit of the Act. I stress the word ‘perhaps’. I see the Commonwealth Teaching Service as a recruitment, assessment and promotion organisation. Perhaps some of the Acting Commissioners might have seen the Commission’s role as going a little beyond this and as becoming involved in the day-to-day running of the Education Authority. In fact, I think in some cases the Commissioner saw himself as the authority.
The second half of the analogy is whether the Commissioner is too involved in matters which should be the responsibility of the authority. Perhaps we should look at the authority and clarify its position. Let me give one example which perhaps will illustrate the point. The Commissioner’s office for some time has been preparing a handbook or manual on conditions of service. It is now into its fourth draft and the Education Authority has not yet seen the document. Yet it will be the authority which will be implementing the conditions and overseeing them.
The authority surely must have the freedom to move teachers, to determine staffing needs, provisionally promote, and so on. In other words, it must have the authority to run the service. It must be accountable and it must be responsible.
I think that it is a great pity that the Advisory Committee on Education in the Northern Territory was not proceeded with. I await the Minister’s making his position clear on that matter later in the parliamentary session. My position is certainly quite clear. I favour autonomy for the Northern Territory. I think that we must have as much decision making as we can passed out through the sub-committees of ACENT until we have our own authority working in the Northern Territory as exists in the Australian Capital Territory. The pattern is there. I think that it can be followed. The sooner the Northern Territory becomes a Une in the Budget, the better. I certainly look forward to the time when we can cut the umbilical from Canberra and use the expertise which is available within the Territory.
The last point I would like to deal with is that of vocational training. I think that this is most appropriate since the Bill is about technical teachers. The lack of motivation within the schools is the greatest problem facing Aboriginal education at the present time. This has its effect right down through the system. The young Aboriginal lad or girl of ten or eleven years looks to the end of his or her schooling and sees no employment available. Education has little relevance for them. Now that the home centre or outstation movement has been established, it is an ideal time to look at both employment opportunities, which I realise do not come within the province of the Minister’s portfolio, and at vocational training, which certainly does. There is almost no vocational training available in the Territory at the present time. The centre at Batchelor has been closed down. The only work that is being done there is teacher training. As is the case in other areas of the community, that training involves only a small percentage of the people who are available. I am convinced that the officers in the Territory are waiting only for some guidance and some leadership to establish sound vocational training.
Honourable senators will know that Aboriginal people make excellent tradesmen. I do not have to go into details in relation to that point.
Honourable senators will know of examples from their own experiences. But there are problems in the training. The young Aboriginal lad or girl will not leave home not only because of the cultural ties which keep them there but also because they do not want to move into the city and face the problems that they see there. If they do move to the city- this has been established in the past in the Northern Territory- they find great difficulty in seeing a transfer from the skills which they learned in town to what they see back home. For example, an Aboriginal youth might learn to lay bricks in the town. When he gets back home, he does not see the same situation. Psychologically this should not be so. But it has been demonstrated over the years that there is this great difficulty in transferring. Many of the young people moving to the city find that the problems and temptations which face them there are too great for them and they succumb. Their training goes down the drain. I am sure that this can be reinforced by many other honourable senators. Aborigines have difficulty in relating to people they do not know. It takes Aborigines quite some time to settle into the training situation in the centre.
I suggest that the answer is very simple. If the young Aboriginal people cannot come to the training, we should take the training to them. There is nothing new in that. It has been suggested already in the Stephen report and in certain inter-departmental committee reports of which the Minister would have seme knowledge. I will explain the scheme very briefly. The material to be taught is broken down into units, whether it happens to be material for the training of a mechanic, a carpenter or a builder. The body of knowledge is broken down into small units so that each unit can be handled in two or three weeks. The trainees then will live at their own settlement or perhaps travel just to the neighbouring settlement to be trained. The training will be done where the Aborigines live or in an area they know quite well nearby.
The trainer, who would be a new person to enter the teaching force, would then visit to present module one, module two or module three of the course. He would do that work on the settlement. He would arrive with his van equipped with whatever he needed and train the people on the centre. In between visits, the trainees would work for the local tradesmen and reinforce what they had learnt from the trainer. The training, in every case, would be related to the needs of the community. Surely that is essential. I would see the training resulting in certification of some sort. Perhaps it would be a skilled trade training certificate or some certificate which would be recognised and accepted not only in the Aboriginal community but also in the urban areas. I make a strong appeal to the Minister to make school more meaningful and to give dignity to the Aboriginal people in this way. This matter is of particular interest to me.
In conclusion, I commend the Bill for its provisions but again say that it does not go far enough. There are a number of aspects which should be looked at. I have tried to enumerate them today. The needs of the Education Authority in the Northern Territory are not being met at the present time. They are not being serviced by the Commonwealth Teaching Service in the way it was originally intended they would be. I ask the Minister to consider the matters which I have raised. We on this side of the Senate pledge any assistance which we can give to ensure that all children of the Northern Territory obtain that equality of education which is the present Government’s avowed aim.
– I am particularly grateful for the contributions of honourable senators from both sides of the Senate chamber in this debate. The debate arises from a Bill which is essentially simple and which provides for certain amenities and conditions for teachers who came from South Australia and New South Wales in 1973 to join the Commonwealth Teaching Service before 1 January 1974. The Bill also seeks to provide for the employment of technical teachers in our technical colleges and makes arrangements for remuneration. Inevitably out of such a Bill there arise some profound subjects for debate. I pay tribute to honourable senators from both sides of the chamber for the matters which they have raised. I invite all honourable senators, when debating the various enabling Bills that will be coming before them in the near future in respect of the universities, the colleges of advanced education and the Schools Commission- Bills which essentially are funding Bills for this calendar year- to develop the kind of dialogue we have had in this debate. I believe that if the Senate is to do its job then it ought to take up the profound issues that confront this community. There are none more profound than education, particularly in relation to Aborigines. I believe that the Senate and its committees ought to develop an intellectual debate so that we can get for Australia and for all Australians the highest standard of education that this country can produce. I therefore acknowledge what has been said.
I should like to draw attention to a number of points that have been made. I shall not speak at length now because I hope that all of us will be drawn out during debates in the weeks ahead. I do acknowledge that Senator Button, who now reposes confident in the fact that the Commonwealth has been restored and that the federation is now secure, recognises that the Constitution from which we derived this Parliament stems from the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act and that this is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. So this is no new trend and no turning back of the clock but it is a simple recitation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth and of the Federation. I am grateful to Senator Button for expressing no objections to this.
Senator Ryan spoke mainly about the Australian Capital Territory. Over past decades the Australian Capital Territory has had a rising standard, and in many ways quite an exciting standard, of education. Sometimes it has been a pace setter in Australia. Let me assure the Senate and the honourable senator that this is a bipartisan approach. The previous Liberal governments set standards of excellence in the Australian Capital Territory and within the capacity of the national purse, somewhat battered of late, we as a Federal Government propose to give to this Territory the highest standards that we can. There will be no second best. There is no question of levelling down. If the Australian Capital Territory is ahead of the States in education, then our job is to bring the States up and to the standard of the Australian Capital Territory and as well to let the Territory move forward. I repeat that there is no question of levelling down; that is foreign to the philosophies of us all. Senator Ryan mentioned the need for technical training. I agree entirely that that has been a somewhat underprivileged child of education in Australia. Yesterday extensions to the technical college in Canberra were officially opened. That is a step forward. Certainly my Government will be looking to the TAFEC, as it is called- the Technical and Further Education Commission- to develop and to expand throughout Australia.
Senator Kilgariff fittingly paid tribute to those teachers who came from South Australia and New South Wales primarily to form the Commonwealth Teaching Service. I think we would all join in that tribute because, whilst it may not be a far journey to Canberra from those 2 States, to go to the Northern Territory is to go to a new world, a new life and, in many ways, a sacrifice in terms of living conditions for those used to southern cities. I think we should pay tribute to those teachers, as I pay tribute to all who are now in the Commonwealth Teaching Service. Senator Kilgariff, who in common with Senator Robertson was with me from time to time in the Northern Territory last week, mentioned the fall off in the attendance of Aborigines at schools in settlements in particular. I do not rise here and speak as an expert. I hope that no one will think that I am a new-found expert on educating Aborigines. I am a very eager learner. I have a fairly extensive knowledge of the geography of the Territory and of its ordinary problems, but I am an eager learner with regard to the profoundly complex problem and the great sociological and psychological problem of educating the Aborigine.
It was my privilege to sit with the Council of the Elders of the Yirrkala settlement last week, as a number of honourable senators, including I am sure Senator Cavanagh on perhaps a number on occasions, have done previously. I raised the question that Senator Kilgariff raised. I asked: Would the elders help to improve the attendance of their children at school? I believe that the reply given to me, in its dignity, its intellectual sophistication and its honesty, should be recorded. What was said was something like this: Yes, we will. We believe there is a great need for our young people to achieve the benefits that can come from Western education. But, if we may, we would like to say that sometimes we do not always learn good things when we come in from the outstations and from the homelands to the settlements and to the towns. Sometimes our young people learn bad things. Therefore, we would like to reserve the right from time to time to take our young people back to our homelands - ‘
– Where they get a better education.
– Yes, of course. The elders said that they then could restate to their young people the basic values and the basic culture of a people who have a unique culture and a unique dignity. That is something that we should understand. I know that the members of the parliamentary committee that was concerned with Aborigines, having been to those places, would agree with me. We have to recognise that not all the education that we give to the Aborigines is good education. I think that would be accepted. We have to realise that throughout the Northern Territory there are entirely different stages of education which make entirely different demands. At Alice Springs, Tennant Creek,
Katherine, Darwin and Gove I spoke to secondary school principals and to their teachers and tried to establish how best we can not only establish matriculation classes but also raise the quality of matriculation to so high a standard that no Australian in the Territory would want to send his children south for their education in preference to sending them to Darwin or to any of the places I have mentioned. Of course, the cost now of sending children south for their education is prohibitive, particularly for people in the grazing industry.
I think Senator Robertson acknowledges that we are looking for a higher quality of secondary school teacher in selective areas because, if we are going to acknowledge the need for matriculation, it must not be too narrow a stream. It should be strong not only in the humanities, English, history and languages, but also in mathematics, physics and chemistry. That in itself will require the attraction of a considerable number of highly expert people. I believe that we owe it to the people of the Territory to provide within those towns, in due course, matriculation standards at least equal to the standards of southern cities. That will take time but it ought to be our goal.
We move to the schools on the settlements, then to the schools on the outstations and then to the tribal homelands. Every problem is a different problem and challenges primary values. Can anyone amongst us say with brashness or with clarity of vision that he knows what we ought to be doing to educate the Aborigines? I am strugging and I shall keep struggling. What I do say is this: As a number of honourable senators have acknowledged, essentially it is clear that firstly we must train more Aborigines to be teachers. I acknowledge the problems that have been raised in this respect. We must train them to the highest standing and status of teachers. We must upgrade the teaching assistants and seek more teaching assistants. I am referring to the Aboriginal teaching assistants who operates at the outstations and in the homelands. We must do those things. I acknowledge what has been started at Batchelor. It is verily only a start in many ways.
Mention has been made of Frances Creek. On that I merely make this comment at this moment: I had not previously been to Frances Creek. As some will know, it is a somewhat remote mining town which is now not operative. But I did in fact have an extensive overflight of Frances Creek at treetop level to see the nature and size of the place. Here again, if I may just think out aloud, problems occur. Senator Robertson said that it would be cheaper to purchase the town. I agree that it would be cheaper to purchase the town. But it would be profoundly expensive for an education department to be in fact the boss of a company town, as it were -in other words, to provide continuously the whole of the facilities of the town. Thinking aloud, I merely raise that as one of the problems. On the one hand the idea of taking our Aboriginal students and training them in areas close to the settlements and the outstations is attractive. On the other had there may be value in having them closer together to towns, to libraries, to colleges and to schools so that they can get access to facilities. This is no easy matter to sort out. All I can do is undertake to ensure that my Department and the Government look at it very carefully indeed.
I am certainly convinced that the task in the Northern Territory lies in a number of directions. There is certainly a need for orientation courses for all the teachers that we send to the Northern Territory, irrespective of whether they are to teach in Darwin or at Yirrkala. They need to understand the nature of the twin cultures that are operative and the nature of the varying stages of development of the Aborigine and those of mixed blood. They need to understand the difficulties of distance, space and time in projecting education. They need to understand, as has been well said here today, the need to apply true vocational training to the needs of the area. I look to future talks with the Commonwealth Teaching Service to see how we can in fact develop this particular characteristic further. In fact, I think it would be good to bring it to all who go though the CTS. It would do no harm to tempt all teachers into the adventure of going to that part of Australia that can teach Australians an enormous amount by the qualities of others and the right of others to be different and to be free. I agree that there are very enormous needs.
Senator Robertson said that we ought to look not just to a standard 3-year or 5-year course but, for special needs, to choosing people with lesser training. I think that is worth looking at. I have had some knowledge of the Timorese experience. Indeed, I have seen teaching within Timor itself and experienced the problem of teaching a multi-racial collection of young people under such circumstances. There should not be inflexibility. I think that this is of very great importance. Mention was made by, I think Senator Kilgariff of the impending report on the Katherine rural college. I sat over a pleasant meal with those who are compiling that report and, naturally, they talked to me about their hopes and dreams. When that report comes forward it will, of course, be given a very close study.
Senator Robertson referred to the whole question of assessment. I think that is a difficult one. I accept the fact that it is important that some monitoring take place in the Northern Territory. There is no doubt about that. Whatever may be the habits of those elsewhere, I think something of the qualities of the inspectorships of the past is needed. I accept that without in fact providing the tailor-made answer at this moment. I simply acknowledge that there is a need in a particular area. Mention was made of autonomy for the Northern Territory and of the need, in the first place, for more participation by the community. I am aware that a previous Minister for Education said in, I think, February of last year that his Government would set up an advisory body called ACENT- the Advisory Council of Education in the Northern Territory- to bring the community together in advising on education. Without committing my own Government in any way let me say that the policy of my Government is to bring in community involvement in education and to get an involvement in advice, recommendations and participation because education for the future is totally community education. We will certainly be moving to that.
In terms of autonomy, I was privileged, wearing my other cloak as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal affairs, to meet, as the honourable senator may know, first the Administrator and secondly the various members, jointly and severally, of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, who, of course, eagerly spent time seeking views from me and trying to convey views to me. I met both the Opposition and the Majority Parties. Indeed, I gained very valuable experience in that respect. The movement of the Territory to autonomy will involve many difficulties; it will not be easy. But if we are to get the kind of upgrading of quality at every level the journey must be taken and we must walk together on that. I do hope that it will be a bipartisan journey. I do not mean that we should not debate the considerations along the path; but the broad headlands of the journey should be clear.
Finally, Senator Robertson mentioned the need for vocational training and the very special needs involved in training the people of the Territory towards what their occupations may be. It is true that there is very little vocational or technical training throughout the Territory. The community college in Darwin offers it at a particular level. Some of the colleges down the way offer some manual crafts and skills. But we are not really teaching the young, particularly the young Aborigine, who I think has more to teach us than we have to teach him at this moment, the manual arts and skills and I think it is of vital importance that we do so. I acknowledge also the point that little apparently has been done by any government of the past- this is not specifically in relation to education- in trying to ascertain the employment outlets for the school leaver, whether a Caucasian Australian or an Aboriginal. This seems to me to be of profound importance. If one goes to the Yirara College in Alice Springs, which is a magnificent example, one can see people of Aboriginal blood learning all sorts of skills but one cannot find out where the outlet for their occupation shall be. Therefore, of course, there is so much to do.
Senator Robertson mentioned that we should make their education more meaningful in order to ensure- I willingly join with him in using the words he used- that we maintain the dignity of the Aboriginal. Whatever else we do not know about Aboriginal education, it is certainly our task in no way to harm them willingly, in no way to destroy their dignity and in no way to patronise them. They are in no way a lesser people than we. They have a lot to contribute to us in the way of a knowledge of the philosophy of living. I think therefore that this has been a very valuable debate. I repeat that I hope that through the Senate committees, particularly the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, some of these subjects will be pursued in detail. I will welcome debate in the education Bills coming forward. I thank all honourable senators for a speedy passage of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 4 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Those members of the Senate who were here last year will remember the Loan Bill of 1975 very clearly. The Bill received a great deal of debate, if one can call it debate, during 1975 and it came before this chamber 1 think on no fewer than 3 occasions. I assume we are debating these 2 Bills cognately.
– I would be happy to do so.
-Loan Bill 1976 is essentially the same Bill as the Loan Bill of 1975. When that Bill was introduced to this Parliament it was made quite clear in the second reading speech of the then Minister representing the Treasurer that the Bill was not new in substance. It was a Bill which was simply what we call a machinery Bill and it required certain items of expenditure to be debited to the Loan Account rather than to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is a mechanism which had been used for many years by many governments.
At that time I can recall the Opposition not opposing the Bill on the grounds that it was legislation designed to deceive the Parliament or that the Government was introducing new techniques or methods of public accounting. The Opposition at the time appeared to rest its case on the argument that because of the prevailing large deficit it was necessary for more information to be obtained on certain details of the Loan Bill. Honourable senators will recall that the Opposition at that time asked in the first instance a series of eight or ten questions concerning details of the Bill. On the second occasion a group of, I think, 14 questions was asked and the Government of the day readily supplied all the information that was sought. I think I am right in saying that Senator Cotton, who was in charge of the legislation at the time for the Opposition, indicated his pleasure at the details which had been given concerning these points. I do not think any of us who has any sense of responsibility about legislation that goes through the Parliament would argue with the information that was sought. Certainly it required time to seek the information on the part of Treasury officers, but it was information which was useful to the Parliament. I am sure none of us lost as a result of the information that was provided. It was made clear that the reason for seeking that information and the reason that the Bills were being deferred was the changed deficit position obtaining in 1 975 compared with that obtaining on previous occasions.
Of course we were subsequently to learn the real reason that the Bills were being deferred. They were not being deferred at all with the intention of seeking more information. By default we did get more information but the real intention of the delay was part of a political stunt that was being organised by the Opposition at that time. I did not question the political judgment of the Opposition then if it saw fit to stop Supply, as it eventually did. That was its business. I made that point on that occasion. But this
Bill had nothing to do with the stopping of Supply. Certainly the amounts involved were part of Budget aggregates but in fact it was an accounting Bill which, as I have mentioned, any government would see fit to use and the Government on that occasion saw fit to use. So we saw what amounted to a deception of this Parliament. One would not have minded if the Opposition had said in the first place: ‘We are not arguing with the Bill. We feel we will use it as a means to bring the Government down’. Eventually the Bill was deferred indefinitely pending the Government’s agreeing to an election.
The point I wish to emphasise is the precedent that was created then- apart from a lot of other precedents that were created at the time- which I believe time will prove to be injurious to our parliamentary system. In respect of this Bill alone actions of this nature on the part of a Treasurer, irrespective of the political party to which he belongs, are taken in good faith as part of his responsibility as being in charge of the nation’s financial affairs. But the responsibility and faith in which a Treasurer acts were not tested, but they were denied future Treasurers. There is one thing out of this Loan Bill which must be made clear and emphasised again and again: We can assume that in the future we will see the same sorts of things being done when there are sufficient numbers in this chamber to upset the normal accounting methods of the Treasury or of the Treasurer. That is the reprehensible thing in whose shadow I feel we will all live for many years to come.
There were areas of public accounting at the time in which the Government admitted it was difficult for it to make a precise assessment over the remaining part of the financial year. That also was understandable. I remember Senator McAuliffe quoting from the Budget Speech of 1971-72 by a Liberal Treasurer who made exactly the same point and conceded that any government could not be precise in these very large accounting matters. Yet despite that the Government of the day was treated as doing something dubious, something almost reprehensible.
– One senator called it corrupt.
– I did not realise Senator McAuliffe was sitting there. His interjection is quite correct. The action of the previous Government was described as corrupt. I was reading the report of that debate again only today. There was not the slightest suggestion of any improper practice on the part of the previous Government.
Today virtually the same legislation is brought before this Parliament, and it will not be opposed by the Opposition. Quite obviously, mathematically there would be no point in opposing the legislation. We do not oppose the legislation for the reason that it is justified. The legislation is part of a procedure which this Government is required to carry out in making its normal arrangements for the nation’s finances. It would be an act of irresponsibility on the part of the Opposition if we were now to turn around and do exactly the same thing as was done last year or, should I say, to adopt exactly the same attitude.
Although I would like to see Mr Lynch removed from the job of Treasurer as soon as possible, I accept the fact that he has to work under certain constraints, he has certain machinery available to him as the Federal Treasurer, and he ought to be allowed to operate that machinery. This is not a matter of policy. Last year the Labor Government saw fit to increase the deficit to the extent that it did, on the basis of a policy judgment. The Labor Government believed- I think we have been proved to be right- that that deficit had to be increased and additional government money had to be injected into the economy for a number of reasons. The question whether Mr Lynch sees fit to maintain that deficit at the present level or to reduce it or to increase it is a policy judgment which the Government must make. It is a matter which is divorced from the subject matter of this legislation.
I wish to refer to a couple of aspects of the second reading speech. Because of the lengthy debates that took place on similar legislation last year I do not see the need for us to go into it all again, particularly as virtually all of the material has been incorporated in Hansard. In the second reading speech on the Loan Bill 1976 the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) referred to the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976, which we are debating cognately with the Loan Bill 1976. He said:
He was referring to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I hope that the Minister in his reply will elaborate on the words ‘to complete the financing of the deficiency in that Fund’. When we refer to the second reading speech on the Loan Bill (No. 2) we find that apparently some discussion has taken place between the Federal Treasurer and the other members of the Loan Council. The speech states: the Treasurer has already consulted other members of the Loan Council and has obtained their agreement to an appropriate increase being made in the approved borrowing program for the Commonwealth.
That is obviously very pertinent to the fact that the Loan Bill (No. 2) has no upper limit. Reference to this matter is made in the second reading speech on the Loan Bill 1976. It reads:
For this reason the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1 976 will not specify an upper numerical limit to the amount which may be borrowed. Instead, authority will be provided for the Treasurer to borrow such amounts as he considers to be the likely maximum necessary to avoid a deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. While this may on the surface appear to be no different to an open-ended borrowing authority in a Loan Bill authorising borrowing for defence purposes, there is in fact a very important difference.
The Minister then referred to the borrowing authority approved by the Loan Council. I am curious about this matter, and I would be indebted to the Minister if he would indicate- I assume that no public statement along these lines has been made- what negotiations have taken place with the various State Treasurers, so that we may have some idea of what was meant by the words ‘the necessary additional borrowing authority to complete the financing’ which were used in the second reading speech on the Loan Bill (No. 2).
The point I wish to make- I am sure the Minister is aware of it- is the extent to which the Treasurer has already made a commitment to the States. Presumably the States in turn have some tacit agreement with the Federal Government as to what the amount will be under the Loan Bill (No. 2). I am not saying that the Treasurer does not have the right to exercise a proper judgment, in conjunction with the Loan Council, as to what that ceiling might be. However, in view of the attitudes that were expressed last year, I think it is only fair to say that we in turn now are entitled to the same sort of information as was sought then. It would be a breach of faith on the part of the Government if it was not prepared to give an indication as to what that upper limit will be. Although it will not be a statutory upper limit with respect to the Loan Bill (No. 2), presumably the Minister and the Treasurer have a figure in mind as to what that limit should be.
I do not feel that the time of the Senate need be taken up in discussing this legislation at great length. I have made the points that I wish to make. I state once again that in any of the political in-fighting in which we involve ourselves in the Parliament the political moves are quite justified. However, we ought to be careful when we take actions through the use of numbers to upset established procedures which have not at any time been shown to be in doubt as regards their legality. I believe that we did upset established procedures last year. Much as we all are tempted to use any of these measures for some political gain, I do not believe that it is a responsible act on the part of any of us to try to upset the normal workings of the Parliament when those workings have been proven over the years to be satisfactory. This is not the last Loan Bill that we will see before this Parliament. We will see many more Loan Bills. I hope that whoever is in government and whoever has the numbers in this place will exercise that power in such a manner as to ensure that the proper functionings of government can continue without unnecessary political hindrance.
– The Senate is debating cognately the Loan Bill 1976 and the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976. As has been pointed out already, this represents the end of a long saga. I believe I am correct in saying that the predecessor of this Loan Bill 1 976 was introduced in August 1975. Since that time there has been a lot of debate, and many people have contributed to the debate. It is only now that we have the 1976 Loan Bills which, we hope, will be passed without much delay. As has been pointed out, these Bills are part of the normal business of government. What Senator Wriedt did not point out is that examination of the Loan Bill in 1975 gave the then Opposition one of its few opportunities to question and to get detailed answers on the financial dealings and plans of the Labor Government. It gave us an opportunity to get detailed information regarding the Government’s financial transactions. It was proper and appropriate for us to take whatever time we needed to obtain the information and the answers. Senator Wriedt forgets that whatever the Senate does is subject, in the end, to the ultimate sanction of the people voting in an election. The people will pass their judgment on whether one side of the Senate or the other has behaved in a proper and reasonable fashion. He knows very well that there is a political constraint that goes far beyond the question of whether a party has the numbers in the Senate. In the end the Senate is answerable to the people. We know that what we did in 1975 was acceptable; it gained the approval of the electorate.
These 2 Bills seek to fund the deficit by net borrowings, and it is interesting that in the second reading speech by Senator Cotton great emphasis was placed upon the part which the Loan Council will play and on the proper authorities which will be sought from Parliament. In that area alone we see a difference from last year’s
Bill. These Bills are not exactly the same as the Loan Bill that was presented last year. There are differences. The Loan Bill, for example, contains an upper limit, a stated limit to the amount of money that can be borrowed. I believe that the 3 mechanisms proposed to fund the deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund are appropriate. There is to be a transfer of $470m from the National Welfare Fund and a transfer of up to $700m- a defined amount of money- to the Loan Fund for defence purposes. I would remind the Senate that in the Bill we discussed last year there was no stated limit and amounts up to $ 1,700m could have been borrowed in this way. Finally, there is provision to borrow through the mechanism of the Loan Council to finance the remaining deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Senate will remember that it was a failure to seek proper authority, an intention to by-pass the Loan Council, that got the Labor Party into many of its troubles in 1975. It was in fact contempt for the Loan Council, an attempt to raise $4,000m in such a way as to ignore the Loan Council, that started a train of events which led to the eventual destruction of the government of the day.
I remember that when the Loan Bill was introduced into the Senate last year we were treated to a 3-minute speech. It could not have been briefer. We were told that the Bill was a machinery measure, and there was almost no intimation in the second reading speech of the contents of the Bill. I should point out that the second reading speech on this occasion covered 10 typewritten quarto pages and contained a wealth of information and detail. It was necessary last year to seek information, as Senator Wriedt has acknowledged. Much more information has been provided in this second reading speech, in a comparison with last year’s which is quite marked. At that time it took the then Opposition six or seven weeks to obtain the kind of information it wanted, and very revealing information it was. I would remind the Senate that when we considered the Loan Bill last year a number of points were made. The Opposition asserted at that time- in September and October- that the Government’s statement of what was likely to be the deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund was liable to be grossly inaccurate. We pointed out that the Government had over-estimated and maximised likely receipts by the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and indeed that seems to have been a correct assertion. We pointed out that expenditures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund had been under-estimated by the Government, and grossly underestimated. The Government’s figure was $20,000m, and the Opposition’s assertion that that figure was an underestimate is likely to prove to be a correct assertion. The Opposition stated that therefore the deficiency in the fund which was being suggested at that time was likely to bear no relation whatsoever to reality, and that has proved to be correct, as I will show in a moment.
We pointed out that it was possible for the Government to expend anything up to $1.75 billion under the provisions of the Loan Bill 1 975 without any further reference to Parliament and without any reference to the Loan Council and with what we considered would be deleterious effects upon loan raising inside Australia. Even at Budget time last year the Labor Government asserted that its overall Budget deficit would be $2,800m. That is an enormous deficit and on a scale which has not been known in this country. It is unheard of. It is a tragic kind of deficit and, combined with the two other Labor Budgets that had gone before it, will give us a gargantuan national debt of an order which we have not known before. Let us not forget that in 1974-75 the Labor Party told us that there would be a Budget deficit of $750m. Somehow that grew into $2,567m. Could the Opposition be blamed when last year it looked at the Labor Government’s estimates, looked at its Budget deficit of $2,800m, and asked: ‘What is the truth? Let us look at what the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, has put down and then let us ask ourselves what is the real situation going to be. ‘?
The reality is proving to be most unpalatable. Not yet at the end of March we are facing already a deficit of $4,500m, a deficit greater than the total deficit incurred in 12 years of Liberal-National Country Party government. In 12 years the accumulated total deficits came to only $4,253m, an average of about $350m a year. We are being told now, near the end of March, that that spendthrift government, which left us a legacy of unemployment and inflation, already has given us a debt which we must service and which is greater than the debt accumulated in 12 years of Liberal-National Country Party government.
– After the Lord Mayor’s breakfast.
-Thank you, Senator Missen, I am grateful. The deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund already stands at somewhere around $3,000m. Of course the Opposition last year was entitled to question a 3- minute second reading speech that told us nothing. Of course we wanted further information, and I must acknowledge that that information was forthcoming as a series of questions was asked. But it should have been available when the Senate first considered the Bill. We were looking at a government and judging its stewardship. It was a government suffering from a kind of mania, with aimless activity and aimless spending and no prudence at all in what it was doing. I hope that the raising of money by this Government will at all times follow the proper and established methods. This Government will use proper lending institutions, correct and proper intermediaries and proper procedures. The style of government and the style of loan raisings will be in marked contrast to what we saw last year with the proposed $4,000m loan raising that was going to bypass the Loan Council, and to all the other budgetary activities of the Labor Government.
These 2 Bills provide for a transfer of $470m from the National Welfare Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund; or I should say that the Minister’s second reading speech informed us that that mechanism will be used, although the Bills do not specifically provide for it in legislative form. Defence expenditure up to $700m- a defined amount and no more- will be transferred to the Loan Fund and the balance required for the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be financed through the Loan Council in consultation with the States, using the proper procedures. It is not just a question of the amount of money involved, it is a question of the style of government and the style of stewardship.
The Government intends to narrow the gap between government income and government expenditure. It intends to reduce expenditure. But we are committed to the Hayden Budget. We find that in the months ahead there are expenditures which we cannot touch and which cannot be avoided. We are concerned to see the budget deficit controlled and financed. We are grateful that Senator Wriedt has acknowledged that the Opposition will help to give these Bills a speedy passage. His complaints really lack any substance. His complaints are that we demanded information. His complaints are that we exercised our proper role of review and our proper role of restraint last year. The Bills now are ready to be passed by this chamber. I believe they will adequately fund the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I believe they will go a little way towards financing a disastrous situation left to us by the previous Government.
– The remarkable thing about this debate is that it is taking place at all. Some months ago, similar measures were introduced by the Labor Party when in government and these Bills were refused passage through this House. Now we see the same Bills being brought forward by the Government which is asking for their speedy passage. However, as indicated by my Leader, Senator Wriedt, the Opposition is not opposing the two Loan Bills that are before us. When the Labor Party, in government some 6 months ago, brought these Bills before the House a leading member of the Opposition, who is now the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, had this to say a bout the measures:
It is a device -
A device, mind you- which explicitly avoids the need for Loan Council agreement in order to fund the Government deficit.
Honourable senators will remember also that the Liberal-Country Party senators when opposing the Bills on that occasion, found it appropriate to abuse, to misuse and to distort the constitutional and parliamentary procedures and conventions in an endeavour to corrupt and mislead the people and the Parliament. I do not need to remind the Senate of the performances of some honourable senators opposite. Honourable senators will remember that when I was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, it was necessary for me to expose the now Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and Senator Baume for their false assumptions, their faulty reasoning, their ignorance and their lack of knowledge of the Treasury Regulations and procedures in respect of the Budget Estimates. I pointed out at the time that neither honourable senator had heard of Treasury Regulation 16/9 which lays down the guidelines for the preparation of Budget Estimates. If those honourable senators had had any knowledge of it at the time they would not have acted in the irresponsible manner in which they did. However, our convictions and opinions in respect to these measures remain what they always have been. The arguments by which we support them are therefore the same. We cannot turn, twist, change our opinions and put forward new ones every full moon as the Tories do. Someone aptly wrote some lines that should apply to the Liberal Party:
A merciful providence fashioned them hollow
On purpose that they might their principles swallow.
What a change of face by the Government. What an about turn by those on the Government benches. Why is it they are now talking economic sense when, 6 months previously, they were talking economic nonsense when similar measures to the ones before us today were before the Senate? At that time, as honourable senators will recall. 22 questions were asked by people who, when asking them, claimed that they knew what they were talking about. If they had known what they were talking about, there would have been no need for them to ask the questions because they should have known the answers. But, of course, it was just another case of humbugging the Parliament and humbugging the Australian people. In addressing myself to the 2 Loan Bills that are before us, I observe that Senator Cotton, the Minister for Industry and Commerce who represents the Treasurer in this place, in his second reading speech said:
However, it soon became very clear that the prospective overall deficit and the deficiency in the Consolidated Revenue Fund had been grossly under-estimated.
Who is Senator Cotton trying to fool? He knows as well as I, and every other commonsense, . thinking person, that it is a matter not so much of expenditure having increased as of average earnings not increasing as rapidly as had been thought. As a result, there was a reduction in the rate of revenue collections from personal income tax. Do I need to remind the Senate that in 1974 wages increased by 23 per cent? In 1975, when the Budget figures were being compiled, wages increased by 1 1 per cent. It is this containment of wages and restraint in the wages field that has been the reason for less revenue coming into the coffers. There has not been increased expenditure. There is less revenue coming to light. In this matter, the Government should be congratulated.
– Less revenue from taxation.
– It is less revenue from taxation. That is what gives the false impression that the Treasurer of the time was in error when he was estimating the deficit. If that is not acceptable to honourable senators opposite, is it that Senator Cotton implies that the Treasury officials who made the calculations and drew up the figures had been fiddling? If Senator Cotton is entertaining that idea, I want to remind honourable senators that the Treasury officials who advised the previous Government- the Labor Government- and drew up the figures are the Treasury officials who have assisted the Government in the compilation of the figures that it is placing before us today. I should like to refer again to the second reading speech made by Senator Cotton:
First, we propose to supplement Consolidated Revenue Fund receipts, and thereby reduce the size of the prospective Consolidated Revenue Fund deficiency, by paying into that Fund unrequired balances held in the National Welfare Fund Trust Account. These balances amount to some $470m and are currently invested in internal treasury bills.
In respect of this Fund, the Auditor-General is required annually to report upon it as he is to report on other funds. In relation to reporting on the National Welfare Trust Fund for the year ending 30 June 1975, the Auditor-General had this to say:
The National Welfare Fund was established by the National Welfare Fund Act 1943 -
By the Chifley Government- as a Trust Account for the purposes of section 62a of the Audit Act. Moneys standing to the credit of the Fund are applied under the National Welfare Fund Act in making such payments as are directed by any law of the Commonwealth to be made from the Fund -
This is the punch line- in relation to health, social services and other welfare services.
I ask the Minister how the closing off of the Welfare Fund as suggested by the Government serves the legal purposes of the Fund which are supposed to relate to health, social services and other welfare services?
It may be said that, under the Audit Act, a transfer of moneys from one fund to another can be made. I wonder how the Government, if it were in Opposition, would be handling this measure? It would be accusing us of doctoring the books, fiddling with the figures and doing things in respect of which we had no legal responsibility. The answer is that it is permissible under the Audit Act. I wonder to what degree that answer would stand up to criticism, investigation or examination.
The main question with respect to the introduction of this measure is: Who is the Government trying to deceive? The inference to be drawn from the second reading speech is that some significant contribution towards the fight against inflation has been made. This is purely a bookkeeping operation which makes not one iota of difference to the Budget deficit. That fact should be understood by all honourable senators opposite. It is purely and solely the transfer of figures from one column to another; nothing more and nothing less. I sincerely hope that in transferring funds from the National Welfare Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund the Government will not take the opportunity to give some false idea of what the deficit would actually be. Transfers between funds do not make any difference to the deficit.
The third point is that in his second reading speech Senator Cotton said:
The Bill proposed by our predecessors prescribed no specific monetary limit on the borrowings for defence purposes that could be undertaken under it- that is, outside the jurisdiction of the Loan Council.
The Bill I am speaking on contains a specific limit of $700m.
The inference there is clear. It is that the Loan Bill introduced by the Labor Government was an open ended Bill with no ceiling on the amount to be borrowed whereas the Liberal-National Country Party Government Loan Bill, by comparison with the Labor Party’s Loan Bill, has the virtue of placing a ceiling of $700m on the borrowings. It was even suggested by Senator Carrick and Senator Baume in the debate 6 months ago that the Labor Government’s Loan Bill was an open ended Bill, designed that way to enable it to bypass the Loan Council and the States and to raise moneys on the international market for purposes other than defence. These are a few of the intemperate outbursts of Senator Carrick and Senator Baume. May I remind the Senate of them? They are worth repeating.
As reported at page 1 124 of Senate Hansard of 1 5 October 1 975, Senator Baume said:
The purpose of this Bill is to allow the Loan Council to be by-passed, to allow the voice of the States to be ignored, to allow State cautions and worries to be overridden and to allow State fears about Government financing to be laughed at.
He went on to say:
With this Government, all open ended commitments are dangerous because this Government is totally irresponsible. All open ended commitments for this Government are inappropriate. I must illustrate how irresponsible the Government is by referring briefly to some of the recent events.
The Government has undertaken loan raisings of the kind that it would undertake when this Bill is passed. It has undertaken loan raisings in the last year.
This is what Senator Baume had to say. What deception! What a dishonest claim!
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was inviting the attention of the Senate to Senator Cotton’s second reading speech on the Loan Bill 1 976. Referring to the Loan Bill 1975, he stated:
The Bill proposed by our predecessors prescribed no specific monetary limit on the borrowings for defence purposes that could be undertaken under it- that is, outside the jurisdiction of the Loan Council. The Bill I am speaking on contains a specific limit of $700m.
The implication there is that the Loan Bill introduced by the Labor Government was an open-ended Bill with no ceiling on the amount to be borrowed, whereas the Liberal-National Country Party Loan Bill 1976, in comparison, has the virtue of placing a $700m ceiling on the borrowings. If Senators Carrick and Baume had known what they were talking about they would have known that the Loan Bill 1975, as is the case with the Loan Bill 1976, was for defence purposes and referred only to defence outlays authorised by Parliament in Appropriation Bills in 1975-76 for a total of $660.69 lm. That was the total amount that could be charged to the Loan Fund.
To support my point I refer honourable senators to question No. 17, which was asked 6 months ago, and to the answer. I believe that the question was asked by Senator Cotton. The question and answer are recorded on page 705 of the Senate Hansard of 10 September 1975. For the edification of honourable senators I remind them of the question and answer. The question was:
Have any previous Loan Bills been unlimited in amount (save to the extent of appropriations for Defence expenditure)?
The answer was:
There have been Previous Loan Acts which express limitations in similar terms to Clauses 3 and 4 of the Loan Bill 1975. These are:
Loan Act (No. 2) 1968
Loan Act 1970
Loan Act 1971
Loan Act 1974
Although no specific amounts are mentioned, the limitations imposed in the Loan Bill 1 975 are real in 2 senses:
The amounts borrowed will be applied to expenditure specified under the heading ‘Department of Defence’ in other Acts appropriating funds for that purpose. In other words, the total to be charged to Loan Fund cannot exceed the total expenditures of the Department of Defence to be incurred during 1975-76 after the enactment of this Bill and which have received Parliamentary authorisation in 1975-76 Supply and Appropriation Acts; and
There is a further limitation in that authority to borrow is limited to the extent of the anticipated deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Is that not a perfect example of the mean, despicable, sleazy tactics of Liberal-National Country Party senators? Let us look at the present Government’s Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976. Honourable senators will remember my dealing with the Liberal-National Country Party criticism of our open-ended Loan Bill 1975 and the great play honourable senators made of a specific sum being mentioned in the present Government’s Bill. Now we find that the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976 which was introduced by the Liberal-National Country Party Government- it is the second Bill before us- contains no limit at all and mentions no specific purposes. What an absurd situation! As I heard one of my colleagues say, it is an exercise in semantics. When the end in the first Bill is closed but an open-ended proposition is left in the second Bill, it is only semantics for honourable senators on the Government side to argue that way. The only reason that the end of the first Bill has been closed is that the sum of $ 700m is the sum which can be devoted only to defence expenditure. But Loan Bill (No. 2) can direct unlimited expenditure. With the Government it is a case of: ‘Don’t do what I do; do as I say’. We are not as suspicious of this open-ended Bill as honourable senators on the Government side were of our Bill. Unlike them we have the highest admiration for the Department of the Treasury officials, from Sir Frederick Wheeler at the top right down through the ranks.
I believe that this Government got into office by making loud noises about inflation and unemployment. It would be absolutely foolish for me or any other to deny that inflation and unemployment are at a higher rate than we would like them to be. But nothing this Government has done so far will remedy that situation one iota. We will hear from honourable senators on the Government side- we have heard it from them repeatedly in the past and we will hear it again with monotonous repetition- that they inherited an awful house from the Labor Party; that we were rejected by the electorate because of mismanagement. During the election campaign I said- I say it again this evening- that with inflation and unemployment as high as it is in the Western world today any government, whether it be a socialist government, a conservative government or a government of any other political persuasion, which went to the electors in this atmosphere would receive the same treatment as the Government of Australia received in December 1975 and as the Government of New Zealand received prior to that. It is not a case of mismanagement or of not being able to do anything conscientiously to avoid inflation or unemployment. It is just that we were the victims of the times.
– I hear honourable senators on the Government side say ‘Oh’. This Government will have the acid test put on it very shortly. History runs true to form and the same fate awaits this Government as has faced every government which has gone to the polls in this economic climate. The present Government has been in office only 3 months. Already it is wobbling. All its friends in big business are beginning to desert it. The Government has been told that it must deliver and that it must deliver soon. Supporters of the Government are saying that Mr Lynch is the worst, the most terrible Treasurer since Federation. They claim that he is lynching the economy. Let us examine the Government’s priorities as regards the economy. One of the first steps of the Government was to take away from the age pensioner the $40 funeral benefit. Government members have become grave robbers. In support of their stance they said that the amount involved was insignificant. I ask: Is 10 per cent of funeral expenses insignificant? I wonder whether honourable senators opposite would think that a 10 per cent yield on their shares was insignificant or whether the 10 per cent they may have received out of the Government fiasco in relation to savings bonds is insignificant. Fancy their saying that the amount involved in the elimination of the 10 per cent funeral benefit is insignificant. I have appealed before in the Senate to the humanitarianism of honourable senators opposite, if there is a spark of it left now, to repeal this decision. I have asked them to cease to be grave robbers and to return this $40 benefit to aged pensioners.
The Government has even removed the hearing aid benefit which was paid to people inflicted with deafness. It will save paltry amounts by the removal of benefits in these areas. The Government has also decided not to abolish the means test for people aged over 69 years. That was to come into operation on 1 July this year. The Government has decided to cancel that decision, even though in the manifesto of the Liberal Party there is a professed pledge that the Party will abolish the means test for people 65 to 69 years of age. The Government now says it will do this when the economy is in the shape to enable it to be done. From our past experience of this Government, we know that that will be some time in the never never. The Government toyed with the idea, and it is still doing so, of reintroducing television and radio licence fees. It also axed from the Budget to the extent of $9m grants for the Children’s Commission child care projects. In so doing, it is dashing the hopes -
- Mr President, I rise to order. I hate to intrude on the honourable senator. He has been a friend of mine for a long time, but a question of relevance is involved in this matter. I wonder whether he would make his remarks relevant to the Loan Bills which are under discussion. I suggest, Mr President, that you should direct him to return his attention to the matters before the Senate.
-Financial Bills are presently under discussion. Finances are being mentioned. I call Senator McAuliffe.
- Mr President, I thought that I was connecting my remarks to the deficit which is a very important part of this debate. If Senator Sir Magnus Cormack knew the real position he would know that the Loan Bills are introduced into the Senate to make up for a deficiency in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. An honourable senator cannot talk sensibly about the Loan Bills without talking about the deficit and the economic strategy that will be employed to meet the deficit. I was saying- I know it has cut Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to the bone- that the Government has axed $9m from the Children’s Commission child care projects. In so doing, it is dashing the hopes of thousands of parents throughout Australia. But what do we now find on the other hand? We find that the Government has featherbedded its wealthy cronies. With great haste it has reintroduced the superphosphate bounty. Twenty-one per cent of farmers will receive 80 per cent of the superphosphate bounty. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will be the recipient of some $6,000 a year through the superphosphate bounty.
Then there is the restoration of the investment allowance. I ask honourable senators opposite: Should any firm receive an investment allowance if its net depreciation is greater than its installation of plant? I leave that question fairly and squarely in the lap of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) who is handling these Bills. Should a firm receive an investment allowance when its depreciation is greater in cost than the cost of the installation of new plant? I will be very interested to hear the Minister’s answer. Now there is talk of removing the $6 a tonne export levy on coal. Let us take the case of Utah Mining Australia Ltd which last year made a profit of $100m. The Australian content in its share structure is minimal. The figures that have been disclosed through the stock exchange for this year already show quite conclusively that the profit of $100m last year will be exceeded this year. By its actions this Government is robbing the poor to pay the rich. It is a case of Robin Hood in reverse.
What of the future? What expenditure cuts lie ahead? This is a matter upon which the Government has not come clean. It has been announced already that cuts to the extent of $362m have been imposed for the rest of this financial year. I believe that the former Treasurer (Mr Hayden) asked a very pertinent question in the other place. He asked for the effects of these expenditure cuts on a full year basis. Mr Hayden claims that the amount of the cuts under this program of expenditure pruning will be in excess of $1 billion- I emphasise that amount- in a full year. He quotes Mr Malcolm Fraser as having said this at a luncheon in Brisbane on 12 February 1976. What an extraordinary situation this is. There will be expenditure cuts equivalent to one-third of the Budget deficit. It is complete madness for any Government to attempt it. Fancy the Government saying that there will be cuts in expenditure amounting to one-third of the Budget deficit. They are not my statements. They are the statements of the Leader of honourable senators opposite made at a luncheon in Brisbane on 12 February 1976.
Yet on the other hand the Government is unnecessarily adding to the public debt by launching the fiasco of the savings bonds with an interest rate of 10 1/2 per cent. It is costing the Australian taxpayer $77m a year. Not only is this imposing an unnecessary debt on the taxpayer but it is also diverting away from banks and building societies the funds that were being used at the time to assist in the revival of the housing industry. Perhaps Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and his colleagues cannot understand what harm this has done. I ask: Why has it been necessary for the building societies to increase their interest rates by half of one per cent? Why has a leading building society in Queensland, the Australian Permanent Building Society, had to go to the wall? The Queensland Government has had to take speedy action so that other building societies in Queensland will not go to the wall. This Government has done what it charged us with doing about 12 months ago. Honourable senators opposite said then that they never thought they would live to see the day when the Australian Labor Party increased interest rates. They told us in magical terms of how they would have been able to prevent such a situation. But they have been in Government for 3 months now and already interest rates on building society loans have increased by half of one per cent and some building societies have gone to the wall. Small businesses are taking the knock more than ever before.
What about the gem the Government produced in regard to raising a $30m loan from the Germans? The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) told us- I use his words- that the only reason for raising $30m from German financial institutions was to keep our name before lenders. What an absurd reason to go into debt- to keep our name before lenders. Why is Mr Lynch so frightened of savings? Why is he so intent on using these glorious terms ‘mopping up liquidity’ and ‘reining in the expenditure’? Government members are now talking of M3, M4 and M5. One will start looking under the bed and under the bench or wonder if they are talking about Mercedes Benz. The present Treasurer, Mr Lynch, is frightened of savings. He is so intent on mopping up liquidity, even during a recession. There is no shortage of labour or materials. I think that that is accepted on both sides of the Parliament.
We are suffering from deficient demand and not excessive demand. Is it because the Treasurer has been converted to the extremist theory expounded by Milton Friedman that excessive growth of money is the sole cause of inflation? I ask the Minister these questions. Whatever the answer is, not only the people generally but also the members of the Minister’s own Party, staunch Liberals, are becoming uneasy and are criticising him openly for his handling of the economy. When is he going to wake up? I hope he does not wake up too late after the credit squeeze has been applied and the damage has been done. In the interests of the Parliament and of the Australian people I ask the Minister: Will he tell the Senate when the Treasurer is going to make a major economic statement? That statement is long overdue.
– Firstly I should like to touch on a few points raised by Senator McAuliffe which obviously need to be answered. I was amazed to hear his remark that the Budget deficit was caused by something other than mismanagement. Of course it was due to mismanagement. Senator McAuliffe said that the Labor Government was merely a victim of the times. Consider the decision that was taken in the August Budget by the then Treasurer to sell to the people the concept that wages were going to rise in this current financial year at the rate of 22 per cent per annum and the victory claimed when the wages did not rise at anything like that rate. What then was the purpose of the Budget?
– He mentioned that in his Budget Speech.
-Of course he did. But what was the purpose of the Budget if he contemplated that wages were going to fall, during this financial year? Was it that the Budget was not drawn on the correct premise? Do we dare mention this?
– No. As he stated, it was because of his faith in indexation, which was new and novel.
– A lot of people have a lot of doubt about that. If he had faith in indexation why did he not demonstrate it in the Budget? Why did he not state it clearly? Why did he not truly estimate the rate of wage increases? Let us turn to a few other matters that Senator McAuliffe mentioned. There always seems to be a terrible problem about the superphosphate bounty. Senator McAuliffe talked about the contribution that has made.
– It is not a problem for the farmers, is it?
– How many times does it have to be spelled out for Opposition senators that the benefit of the superphosphate bounty is derived by the workers in that industry and that the bounty creates jobs in the superphosphate industry? I was totally confused about Senator McAuliffe ‘s point concerning the investment allowance and the cost of installation versus the allowance on plant. Perhaps we can expand on this matter later on. I misunderstand his point totally. I cannot see what he was getting at.
– If depreciation is greater than the cost of installation will they still get the investment allowance?
-Of course they will. I hope that when the legislation is introduced into the Senate the cost of installation will be included in the cost of the plant, and that investment allowances will be allowed on that, because the cost to the average .businessman is the total cost and not the price that he pays on the invoice for the plant. It is the cost of getting the plant into operation that counts. That is the figure that really matters.
– So you subsidise the lot?
-It is not a matter of subsidy. It seems impossible also to get the point across to the honourable senators opposite that there is such a thing as a return on investment. They continually talk about the profits of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd amounting to $100m, which is related not at all to the total value of that company’s investment in Australia. We know that in historical cost that company’s investment in Australia is of the order of $ 1,800m. So a profit of that order is a return of about 5 te per cent on the investment. I ask Senator McAuliffe whether he would accept that as a bond interest rate. I am sure he would not. If we were to relate that profit to the replacement cost of the investment of BHP today we would probably be talking about a cost of approximately $3,000m and therefore a return of approximately 2 per cent. Perhaps we should talk about a few matters.
– Talk about something you know something about.
-Thank you very much. We know that in 1972 total government outlays were of the order of $ 10,000m. In 3 years the previous Administration increased that sum to $22,000m. We know what that has done for this country in transferring resources from the private sector to the government sector. We can understand the socialist philosophy of honourable senators opposite who consider that that was probably an excellent thing to do, without taking account of its effect on business in general and the great engine which generates the revenues that would bring lasting and better future benefits to Australians. When we consider that expenditures by the Government have to be paid for generally from taxation revenues, is it not quite clear that in such circumstances taxation must rise? We have seen the effect of that in wage claims.
The policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been to introduce wage and tax indexation. Have we not seen also the effect on business and the way that that affects the ability of firms to reinvest in stocks and in plant to ensure that they remain viable? Have not honourable senators opposite ever heard of the theory- not merely the theory but the well proven theory- that every $ 1 of public expenditure crowds out $3 of private expenditure?
– Another cliche.
-It has been proven. One only has to consider the experience of the United Kingdom in this matter.
– Is that your experience?
– I happen to live in Australia. It is clear from the White Paper handed down in the House of Commons that consideration is being given even by people of the socialist party in Britain to major cuts in public expenditure. That is happening in the home of socialism- the model for the implementation of Labor policies in this country. I invite honourable senators opposite to read that document. If they are unable to obtain it here they should obtain it from the British High Commission. The activities of the Mathews Committee have been well recorded and its recommendations need to be implemented in the very near future in order to restore incentive in this community. How many honourable senators opposite have been able to consider the problems caused by a lack of incentive? The cost of depreciation on replacement of assets and the replacement of stocks at inflated values does not affect only the replacement of assets this year. The effect is cumulative and in coming years will lead to an astronomical increase that will prove to be a tremendous burden on business. One of the things that amazes me about honourable senators opposite is that they never seem to think about the future. All they consider are the effects on business today. They consider, for instance, the wine industry in South Australia, which is generating profits of some $70m a year, and say: Let us have a piece of that ‘.
– Who imposed the wine tax? It was the Liberal Government that imposed a tax of 50c a gallon. We took it off.
– We know who imposed the wine tax in the 1973 Budget, who adjusted section 31a of the Income Tax Assessment Act and who imposed the brandy excise. Those matters are leading to the destruction of that industry.
– The balance sheets do not show that.
– I will not go into that matter now, but I can satisfy Senator McLaren on it later. Sometimes the Government has been charged with being preoccupied with the deficit. The Australian Labor Party says that we can continue to expand the public sector simply by printing money.
– Who said that?
– Give us the quote.
– We are looking at your sort of solution to that. You are the ones who are stating that.
– Where do we say it?
– Order! We are seeking to have a full and adequate debate. The honourable senators who are interjecting now will have the opportunity in due course to reply to the points raised by Senator Messner. Please cease interjecting excessively, which has been the case this evening.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I suggest that the honourable senator would alleviate the situation considerably if he were to stick to the subject matter that we are supposed to be debating and refrain from provoking the Opposition. It would help considerably if he were to do that.
- Mr President, that is not a point of order; it is an observation by Senator Keeffe to the Chair. I think that you are capable of maintaining the situation from the Chair.
- Mr President, I would like to point out that it is not only a point of order but also a point of fact and I think that we should take notice of it.
– A point of order was taken earlier in this debate in respect of relevancy and I then referred to the fact that this is a monetary measure and that in that setting honourable senators can discuss matters of interest as they affect loan raising and general monetary factors. Proceed with your speech, Senator Messner.
-Thank you, Mr President. We have often been charged also with being Friedmanites, that is, with being monetarists. The Government is supposed to be taking the point of view that the total money supply is the problem. To turn the argument around, let us consider the situation that the Labor senators are promoting, that is, an increase in public expenditure in a situation in which there is a deficit of nearly $5,000m. They still have not explained where that money would come from. The purpose of the Loan Bill, of course, is to seek to pay for last year’s expenditure. That is the essential point to recognise. It is not as though the deficit is some sort of mythical figure. It is in fact representative of the expenditure that has occurred. It is altogether too simple a Keynesian argument that honourable senators opposite apply. I turn at this point to the matter of the Australian savings bonds which Senator McAuliffe has mentioned. The effect of the introduction of the Australian savings bonds has been to mop up excess liquidity from the private sector.
– To bankrupt the building societies.
– To take money from the building societies.
– I heard honourable senators opposite say that we are bankrupting the building societies. I wonder whether those honourable senators have in fact taken the trouble to contact the building societies in the last week or 2 weeks since the Series 2 bonds have been in operation. I assure them that if they had investigated that aspect they would have found that money is flowing in at something like the previous rates. It is also fair to say that if there is any problem in relation to the provision of housing finance, which I doubt on present statistics, the reasons for this are tied up with the problems brought about by bottlenecks in the building industry caused by the shortage in the supply of land. I can quote from personal experience in relation to my own State. There is a shortage in the supply of land in my own State arising from the Dunstan Government’s price control legislation and the Land Commission’s operations in that State. One has grounds for wondering whether there were ulterior motives behind the introduction of those measures- perhaps the nationalisation of land.
I come back to the original point that Senator McAuliffe raised in relation to the total Budget deficit. He pointed out that the Budget deficit had increased from some $2,700m to some $4,500m due to the success of the Labor Government’s measures in keeping wage rises down. I simply reiterate that in that event it is quite clear to me that the Budget was in fact incorrectly drawn up in August 1975. It is evident not only from that point but also from quite a number of other matters which have been raised in Estimates Committee debates subsequently. It is my view that the present circumstances are entirely due to the mismanagement of the previous Government and that the errors that occurred in that Budget in 1975, irrespective of whether they were intentional or otherwise, have resulted in major problems in our society. It is my view that there is only one way to attack the real problems and that is to restore incentive in this community. The way to do that is to provide for lower taxation to the businessman and the wage earner and thereby give them an incentive to do more and to ensure that they can keep a major proportion of their earnings. There are major concepts involved in this respect. I will not go into them tonight.
– Why not? You have plenty of time.
– For instance, there is the question of the impact of social benefits on the consumer price index and the way in which that has affected wage indexation. That is a matter of some concern which I think we need to look at further. It is obvious that the Labor Government’s policy in regard to the Budget has caused a great deal of the economic problems in this community from which we will suffer for some years to come. We are seeing in this Loan Bill an attempt to pay for past expenditures and to overcome the problems which exist within the community. They have to be aimed towards a future increase in incentive in this country. I believe that the measures that are now being implemented by this Government will lead to that.
– I must confess that I have found it to be a rather strange experience to sit on this side of the House and debate a Bill that I supported not so long ago when I was sitting on the opposite side of the House. I have also found it rather strange to see the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), who is the representative in this chamber of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), including in his second reading speech such gems of wisdom as the following statement:
Many honourable senators will, no doubt, recall that the previous Government introduced legislation into Parliament in August 1975 designed, at the time, to serve similar purposes.
Let me assure him that many honourable senators and many honourable people throughout Australia recall the introduction by the Labor Government of that legislation last August, the debate on it and the outcome of its introduction. I am sure that many political historians will recall the events, but the way they depict these events, of course, may not be to the liking of the Minister or of his Government. I assure the Minister that we on this side of the House will not forget in a hurry the events leading up to and including 1 1 November 1975.
In the course of this debate a number of times have been mentioned that are a little out of sequence. I find it incumbent at this point to make sure, for the Hansard record, that they are put into some context. The legislation was introduced by the then Treasurer in the House of Representatives on 20 August, the day after the introduction of the Budget. Within one week it had passed all stages in that House and as is the custom it came to this House for concurrence. It was introduced on 27 August and the debate was resumed on 28 August. At some stage during his speech Senator Baume informed the Senate that it had taken something like 6 weeks to get a reply from the Minister representing the Treasurer in this House, Senator Wriedt, to questions that had been asked. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that 10 questions were asked by Senator Cotton on 28 August after leave had been granted. Replies were given by Senator Wriedt on 2 September. The next entry in Hansard relating to this issue is by Senator Cotton on 10 September when he made reference to the fact that on 2nd of that month the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, had been good enough to bring back some answers to the question asked on 29 August. In response to an interjection by Senator Devitt, who said- this is recorded on page 698 of Hansard:
Senator, do you say that you have not got the answers? You asked a series of questions. Are you claiming that you have not got precise answers to the questions that you asked?
Senator Cotton replied:
Senator, I appreciate very much your continuous interest and your wish to help, but if you will let me proceed the whole scene will become clear. To repeat what I am saying now is that on 29 August 10 questions were asked. On 2 September we received answers to those 10 questions.
There is no delay of 6 weeks there as Senator Baume asserted in his speech earlier today. Senator Cotton goes on to say:
Following on from that we held the view that there was a need for more information, more specific detail, and some clarity in some of these areas which are still of concern. Accordingly, the Minister arranged for some senior Treasury officials to have a conference with a few of us on the morning of 3 September.
Senator Cotton is referring to the Minister of the Australian Labor Party, not the current Minister. He continued:
We had a long discussion and indicated the areas of our concern and apprehension. We indicated our wish to have more information and we roughed out a series of questions which we have been since polishing up.
Senator Cotton goes on to thank the officers and the Minister for making their services available to the Opposition. He then said:
We have drafted an additional series of questions which we believe would help to clarify this matter for us all. I have them available and they can be circulated in order that my honourable colleagues will have access to them.
A further 18 questions were then asked. The questions were asked in a speech which began in the chamber at 5.27 p.m. on 10 September. At 5.53 on 10 September Senator Wriedt tabled answers to questions which had been asked earlier that day. I cannot see where there is a 6 weeks delay to any question which had been asked by the previous Opposition of the then Government about its Loan Bill. We have heard the Minister say in his second reading speech that we will no doubt recall that the previous Government introduced legislation and so on. Then Senator Baume said that his Party had to wait 6 weeks to get replies. After the Loan Bill and Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) were introduced in August 1975 we saw the most destructive, obstructive opposition that lasted something like 1 1 weeks and culminated in the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament.
We on this side of the House are not like the previous Opposition. We are constructive in opposition; we are not destructive. We are honourable people and honourable people realise that governments require money to operate the business of government for the people of Australia. That is why we are not opposing the Bills. I could, of course, be very critical, as some of my colleagues have already been, of the present Government in a great number of areas, particularly those in relation to the welfare of the disadvantaged. Senator McAuliffe earlier this evening outlined a number of areas which are creating a great deal of concern inside the community. Particularly as this cause for concern is being instigated by a government which professed in the Speech by the Governor-General here only a matter of weeks ago that it has an obligation to assist the disadvantaged in the community, I find, and my colleagues find I am sure, that it is rather reprehensible of the Government to be taking the actions that it is taking in various areas.
I think we should look at some of the promises that were made or some of the statements that were made when my Government introduced a similar Bill. The Bill was debated during August, September, October and up to 1 1 November last year. We were accused then of cooking the books and endeavouring to hoodwink the people of Australia. We were even accused of being corrupt. We even heard the theme during the election campaign that we should return Australia to good housekeeping. People became convinced that balancing the national Budget was something like balancing the household Budget. Some people are good at it; some people are not. At that time we were considered not to be good housekeepers. But for the life of me 1 cannot see the similarity between balancing a household budget with a set amount of money and a set amount of debts to be paid each week and balancing a budget which applies to government business. To me a country which balances its books in their entirety and has no deficit is one which has no concern for the welfare of the people of that country. A straight transfer of money from one account to another is a simple bookkeeping entry. It will not alter the deficit in any one way. Senator Baume said that his Government would get funds from legitimate sources. The immediate thought that came to my mind was that perhaps his government calls selling our uranium to foreign investment a legitimate source of fund raising. I do not consider it a legitimate source. I consider it a tragedy that we even consider selling the national resources of this country to overseas owned and overseas controlled companies. It is an expedient way of raising money which will not benefit the people of Australia at all.
Senator Messner said that his Government was mopping up the excess liquidity from the private sector and that money was flowing in at the previous rates. I presume he meant by that statement that money was flowing into the building societies at the previous rates. I assure honourable senators that money may be flowing in but it certainly is not flowing out at the previous rate. People are applying to building societies throughout Australia and being knocked back. No money is available because the Government has soaked it up in this harebrained scheme which it came up with of paying 10 te per cent interest or something like that which no other private investment company could afford to pay. There are things which we should be looking at and the Government should be looking at when members of the Government make stupid statements saying that the economy is unsound.
Let me draw attention to a newspaper article that appeared not so very long ago and which related to the profits of G. J. Coles and Company Pty Ltd. The article stated:
Their already substantial profits became a record profit for the last 6 months.
That is the last 6 months of 1975 which, of course, became the first half of this financial year. We hear talk about the great imposition on businesses, the taxes that were applied and all of these things. Yet here we have a company which has recorded a record profit for the first half of the financial year.
My concern is about a few more mundane things. Whilst I am concerned that the Government will be spending money on the superphosphate bounty and whilst I am concerned that the $40 benefit for pensioners’ funerals has been withdrawn, I am also concerned about such things as apprenticeship training and subsidies to industry for apprenticeship training. We have not heard a word on these issues from the present Government, but they are the basis of my concern. If we are to have a stable economy, we have to have more money going around. We will not have more money going around simply by opening up schemes which will pay an interest rate of 10.5 per cent over a set period. The same amount of money is just being diverted into different areas. As I have said, we are not going to be destructive in Opposition as the previous Opposition was. We are going to be constructive, but we are going to make sure that this Government keeps on the rails and does the best for the people of Australia.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, we are discussing Loan Bills which, as has already been mentioned, have been before this chamber in different forms for some months. Much has been said as to why we, when in Opposition, asked so many questions about what was going on as regards the financial management of this country. I think history has shown that we needed to look into those matters. We only have to recall the loans affair and other methods which the previous Government adopted in order to raise money.
– We are not still on that, are we?
-We have heard enough about the sacking of the previous Prime Minister on 1 1 November last year. I might as well remind honourable senators opposite of what happened on 1 1 November 1974 regarding the loans affair. That was the period when that very famous Executive Minute was worked out. Under 3 years of Labor management the economy of this nation got into a mess. Of course, these Loan Bills are before us tonight in order to raise money to cover some of the deficit.
– Why did not you pass them last year when we were in office?
-I have explained that we had to look into the matter because the previous Government did not know how it was managing the affairs of this country. We had to try to find out how the previous Government was arranging the finances of this nation so that we could put it straight. It was obvious that the country was going broke. It was obvious that the previous Government did not know what its deficit would be. It had no idea where the country was heading or what the future of this nation was. It is interesting to look at the financial management of this nation. I suggest that honourable senators opposite look at previous Budget papers, particularly the ones giving details of receipts and expenditure, because therein lie the problems which faced the Labor Government and the reason why this nation ran into such economic disaster.
Income tax reflects pretty well the income of individuals and the profitability of companies. Under the previous Liberal-Country Party governments, every year there was a gradual increase in the amount of money received by way of income tax. In 1965-66 the amount of tax received from companies totalled $8 18m; and the amount of provisional tax received from taxpayersthat is, the self-employed, the farmers and the small businessmen- totalled $57 lm. So the amount of tax received from the private sector in 1965-66 totalled $ 1,389m. The amount of tax received from indirect taxation- that is, from excise duty, sales tax and so on- totalled $ 1,585m. The amount of tax received from wage earners by way of pay-as-you-earn taxation, totalled S 1, 160m. Rounding off those figures., the amounts received in those categories were $l,400m, $l,600m and $l,200m. In 1966-67, $ 1,399m was paid by the private sector in taxation, $ 1,600m was received through indirect taxation and $i,300m was received as payasyouearn taxation. This pattern continued through until 1972. A greater amount of tax was received from each category each year, in roughly the same proportions as previously, although the amount of money received from pay-as-you-earn taxation gradually increased until it reached a figure which was above that paid by way of company and private sector taxation. That meant that the wage earners of this country were getting a bigger share of the profits.
In the Budget for 1972-73, which was the last Budget presented prior to the Labor Government coming into office, the private sector provided $2,563m by way of taxation, indirect taxation provided $2,595m and pay-as-you-earn taxation provided $3, 161m. The Estimates for the 1975-76 Budget show that the private sector paid $3,907m by way of taxation, indirect taxation amounted to $4,888m and payasyouearn taxation totalled $8, 683m, which was nearly 2h times the amount of taxation paid by the private sector. The income of the individual or the profitability of a company is reflected in taxation. Under Liberal-Country Party governments things were going along gradually. The private sector was expanding, it was becoming more profitable and it was paying more taxation each year. In 3 years under the Labor Government the private sector became stagnant. In fact, the amount of taxation received from the private sector started to decrease while the amount of taxation received from pay-as-you-earn taxpayers began to increase. As the private sector employs 70 per cent of the Australian work force, one can understand why there are 400 000 or 500 000 unemployed and one can understand why there are deficits. Whereas the private sector should have been able to provide $8,600m in taxation, it provided only $3, 900m in 1975-76. That is why we have to print money and do other things to get another $4,000m so that we can provide the same services as have been provided in the past.
After all, governments collect money in order to put it into areas, such as education, that we believe are necessary. We have to look after the people who are putting money into the bucket in the first place, before we start to throw money around. The very people whom the Labor
Government neglected were the people who contributed the funds which were used to provide all the amenities and the necessities of life. We saw this nation develop under successive LiberalCountry Party governments from 1949 to 1972. We saw an improvement in the standard of living. We had a standard of living which was as high as that of any other nation. After 3 years we find ourselves in the position where we are almost bankrupt. We are not looking after the people who provide the wealth, the productivity of the nation, the job opportunities and so on. The Government of which I am a supporter has set out to look after these people. It is all very well to talk about the money that we have taken away from certain sectors of the community.
– From the pensioners.
-We have not taken any away from the pensioners. Honourable senators opposite mentioned some of the other projects on which we are cutting back. We have to get the private sector moving again so that it can provide funds for all the things which honourable senators opposite want us to provide. We will be able to do that without wrecking the economy.
– We will see about that.
– It will take time.
– You were going to do it overnight.
– We cannot do these things overnight, and the honourable senator knows that.
– You said you would, during the election campaign.
– I did not say anything of the sort. There must have been some other people down there in South Australia. I suggest that if honourable senators opposite have any spare time they should read the Khemlani documents.
– Have you read them?
– Yes, and they are really worth reading. I did not think that any government or any people could indulge in such things as the Labor Government did at that time. After all, Khemlani’s diary could not be fictitious. It is a complete diary. No one could write a story like that. He would make a mistake somewhere along the line. One can read of all the methods that the Government used at that stage in order to hide everything, to ensure that its actions would not be brought before the people of this nation through the Parliament. Senator McLaren ought to read about this matter of washing the loan. That is a method whereby the interest is paid at the other end. The Labor Government could not find anywhere overseas a reputable bank which would have anything to do with it. Eventually the Labor Government said that there were financial institutions around the world that were prepared to wash the loan and hand out a commission at the other end. The bank that it discovered was the Moscow Navodny Bank and, according to Khemlani ‘s documents, when he informed Mr Connor of this Mr Connor said: ‘I like the name of the bank anyway’. That is an indication of the way in which the Labor Government operated. Opposition senators are probably wondering now why they were not told anything. Members of the then Opposition asked all those questions because Government supporters were not told anything. They did not know what was going on in relation to the overseas loans. The facts came out only when somebody happened to tip the tin, just as the Iraqi money issue has come out recently, and probably we have not heard the end of that either.
– You have not heard the end of that statutory declaration that was talked about on TDT tonight.
– Opposition senators did not know much about it until they read it in the newspapers. We probably all read it together. As far as I am concerned, Government senators do not really enjoy passing a Bill such as this to borrow money to cover the great deficit that we have. Nevertheless, faced with this situation, we have to go along with it.
– You have got to have it to find that $60m for the superphosphate bounty.
– I can understand why Opposition senators are prepared to pass this -
– Is this a debate or a dialogue between Senator Maunsell and Senator McLaren?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order! Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, I hope you are not reflecting on the manner in which I am conducting the proceedings. I have had plenty of experience and if I feel that the Senate is getting out of order I will bring it back to order from the Chair. I do not need any prompting. I thought that Senator Maunsell was doing well.
-Coming from a fellow Queenslander, Mr Acting Deputy President, I appreciate that.
– You are enjoying it, senator.
– Yes. I can understand why Opposition senators are supporting this measure. They have guilty consciences about it. They know why it is necessary. I do not think that I should waste the time of this chamber any longer and I will support the measure.
– In rising to speak on the 2 Loan Bills that are before the Senate tonight I am very conscious of the fact that I am a new senator. I was not present during the discussions on the 1975 Loan Bill that have been referred to many times this evening. However, I am not unaware of the rather dramatic differences between the treatment of what has been called a standard machinery bill by Opposition senators in 1975 and by Government senators in 1976. It appears from my reading of Hansard that the debate in the Senate on the 1975 Loan Bill was characterised by terms such as ‘sinister’ and ‘reprehensible’. Senator Carrick, in one of the numerous second reading debates, said on 1 October 1975 that the Loan Bill- which was similar to the one we are discussing tonight- was a device, and a corrupt device. But now in 1976, when those same senators are in Government, they are prepared to ask for the speedy progress of a similar piece of legislation which they are now quite happy to characterise as a simple machinery measure.
I should like to refer to some of the remarks made by Senator Baume in his speech earlier today. Unfortunately he is no longer present in the chamber. Senator Baume was highly critical of a number of things. He was critical of the variation of the amount of the deficit for which the 1975 Loan Bill was to be raised. However, as my colleague Senator McAuliffe has pointed out, the fact that we are now asked to pass the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976 with no upper limit raises many serious questions which honourable senators opposite have made no attempt to answer, even though we have been informed of matters such as the prices of land and brandy in South Australia. Senator Baume also spoke in very strong terms of the legacy of inflation and unemployment left by the Whitlam Government. I think it is fairly factual to say that both of those legacies were inherited by the Labor Government from the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government. Indeed, both of those problems grew much worse in the 3-year period to which reference has been made, and there were a number of reasons for that which are not often brought up in this chamber, including the international economic situation.
As Senator Baume chose to refer to legacies from the Whitlam Government, I should like to refer to some other legacies that he did not see fit to mention. I refer to the Schools Commission, the first decent national funding of education for children throughout Australia; the interim committee on child care of the Children’s Commission, which was to establish for the first time high standard, properly funded government child care services. I refer also to the Australian Legal Aid Office, currently under threat, but a legacy from the Labor Government which was designed to make legal services available to all and not only to the rich. In relation to pensions, for the first time we have pensioners who are able to compete with the cost of living. Again, the improvement is under threat. Another legacy from the Whitlam Government is the accumulation of valuable data relating to social policy, and I refer here to reports of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, the Social Welfare Commission and various research projects funded under the Schools Commission. All of that data was neglected for many years but is absolutely essential if any government is to formulate proper and appropriate social policies for this country. Those are some of the legacies, apart from the ones referred to by Senator Baume, which have been left to us by the Whitlam Government, and I believe that they are legacies for which many people throughout Australia are grateful.
Senator Baume also asked why honourable senators on this side of the chamber are not prepared to perform their proper role of review. In turn I might ask Senator Baume why in October 1975 honourable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber were not prepared to perform that role of review. In August 1975 and subsequently Liberal-National Country Party senators in this chamber did not limit themselves to reviewing legislation. In fact, they so manipulated what they are now prepared to call a simple machinery Bill, so distorted the proper role of the Senate as a House of review, that by what I and many people believe to be improper methods they brought about the destruction of a properly elected government. They also brought into disrepute the credibility of this chamber. I believe that as a result of the treatment of the Loan Bill 1975 and as a result of subsequent events, the credibility of this chamber has suffered permanent damage. I think it was Senator Messner who earlier tonight accused honourable senators on this side of the chamber of not giving thought to the future but thinking only of the present.
As a newcomer to this chamber, I have had the opportunity and the cause to give considerable thought to the future into which I am stepping and to the future of this chamber. It seems to me that the future of this chamber as a House of review or as any other useful constitutional measure is in serious doubt. The outcome of the forced election in December 1975 has not eliminated the damage that has been done to the credibility of this chamber. The fact that the majority of voters endorsed the amazing and unprecedented act of the Governor-General does not undo the damage that was done to our Constitution and to the conventions that have preserved democracy in Australia to date. The proper role of the Senate as a House of review was undermined in this chamber when the Loan Bill 1975 was considered. The traumatic problem that the Parliament and the electors faced then will be faced again next time one Party has a majority in the House of Representatives but a minority in the Senate. That is perfectly conceivable and something which is quite likely to happen within the next few years. Despite the totally disruptive and disorienting events of December 1975, we have made no progress towards solving this dangerous ambiguity in our Constitution.
We on this side of the chamber do not oppose the 2 Loan Bills. We recognise that they are basic and essential pieces of machinery legislation. That is, we recognise them for what they are and we do not pretend to put up useless and obstructive arguments. I should like to say in conclusion that it would have been better for this chamber, it would have been better for this Parliament and it would have been better for this country if honourable senators sitting opposite tonight had treated with similar propriety the Loan Bill 1975.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (9.11)- I take this opportunity to apologise to you, Mr Deputy President, for any affront that you may have felt by the aside I made earlier. I know that the Standing Orders state that all interjections are disorderly, but I was not interjecting; I was merely making a sotto voce aside. I thought that perhaps you were a little trigger-happy in calling me to order. If you felt affronted, Sir, I take this opportunity to apologise to you.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Thank you.
-The Bills before us were canvassed thoroughly when they were introduced last year. Honourable senators who have spoken in this debate adverted to the debates which took place last year. I remember- if honourable senators will forgive my reminiscing- speaking to a very distinguished chartered accountant who sat in this place some 17 or 18 years ago in relation to one of these mysterious events that seem to confront the Senate from time to time in Treasury manipulation of public funds. I asked him what was involved in this. His reply to me was: ‘Well, Senator, I have been a chartered accountant for many years. I have pursued many crooks in the courts for falsifying balance sheets and other documents. My experience has involved me in ascertaining how people shift money from one side to another. But I am bound to confess that how the Treasury moves money about is a complete and absolute bloody mystery to me’. We are in a modern world in which these sanguinary terms are used as normal methods of communication. If you rule, Mr Deputy President, that it is a word that should not be used in the debate, I am quite willing to have you expunge it from the record. How the Treasury moves money around is a mystery to me. When the Loan Bills 1975 were introduced, to appropriate $1,1 20m I made some stringent observations. As recorded in the Senate Hansard of 15 October 1975 at page 1 148 and following pages I made some pretty caustic observations in the context of how the Treasury moves money about by administrative processes which seem to me to defy the observations and scrutiny of Parliament.
If the Senate will allow me to indulge in a further reminiscence, I should like to say that the Treasury has not moved very far from the ancient Norman system which used tally sticks. They had bundles of tally sticks around the place and they put them in separate pockets or separate tables. When they needed to make a calculation they broke up their tally bundles one way or the other and reached a balance. This method defies the Parliament because we are not cognisant of it. I hope honourable senators will forgive me if I repeat observations I made when speaking to the Loan Bill 1975. Senator Cavanagh had made an aside- not an interjection- and in reply to him I said: . . Senate will then have to take cognisance of the greatly extended use of a device by which governments are raising money to take care of shortfalls in the public purse. But when the device was first used, as I recollect in 1 953, 1 do not think any honourable senator then sitting in his place nor in the years that have passed since then, could ever have contemplated that the Senate would be presented with a situation of enormous deficits of the nature that this Government has produced through its own misgovernment. It is almost a maddened form of expenditure to ask that somewhere in the vicinity of $1,1 50m should be borrowed as a partial funding of the deficit.
I do not wish to quote further. This device was first used, I think, in 1963 and not 1953, by Mr McMahon when he was Treasurer. It was used to raise a small sum of money to take care of a shortfall in the annual Budget deficit. I think it was about f 30m or $60m. The Parliament has overlooked this device and the Treasury has gradually increased its use of this device in order to manage its internal accounting system. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) made this observation:
The Loan Bill 1976 is designed to permit this traditional procedure to be followed in the remaining months of this financial year.
I ask honourable senators to take note of the word ‘traditional’. This tradition has been carried out for only about 12 years. It is not a traditional method. It is a new device by which warrants can be exchanged inside and outside the Treasury. The Parliament, which in the final analysis is responsible for funding these loanswhether in the short term or the long term- is being invited to give the Treasury a mandate for this type of procedure. I revert to the observations that I made in October last year. A time will come when the Senate will have to take into consideration the method by which the Treasury is involving itself in disguising- in essence- the true budgetary situation. Maybe this method is within the law and within the ambit of the Audit Act. It is an administrative advice by which the Parliament is bedevilled or bemused by Treasury manipulation.
I do not intend to abdicate from the attitude that I took in October last year in relation to this system of financing. The Commonwealth Government is raising money without any reference to the Loan Council by using the relevant section of the Constitution which enables raising loans to meet future obligations for the defence of Australia. It is transferring money from one side to another, doing such a shuffle as would, if we are able to put our fingers on the Bartons, land them behind bars now. It is a device which in the private sector and corporate structure area in Australia would bring certificates from any auditor who was asked to provide a report on or an endorsement of a balance sheet. It would attract the attention of the Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales. It would attract the attention, I am absolutely sure, of the Police Department in Victoria, which is responsible for looking at corporate affairs. Yet, the Senate is asked glibly by this Government, as it was by the previous government, to endorse a process by which the real factor involved in Treasury manipulation is disguised from the Parliament in a mass of verbiage.
So, 1 find myself for the very first time in my parliamentary life- I have been in the Senate for some 18 years- forced into a situation where I shall not retract from the observations I made in October last year on the Loan (Defence) Bill. I will not retract from the situation in which I find myself, notwithstanding the glib and specious observations that this time it is a fair and honourable manipulation because it is not open ended and because it has a fixed determination placed on it; it has a finite sum of $700m placed on it. I consider that this method of financing deficits, either by the previous Government or by this Government, is something that Parliament cannot tolerate; and I am not prepared to tolerate it.
Therefore, Mr Deputy President, let me repeat what I have said already on this matter. I took a strong view in October last year on this matter. The legislation did not come to a vote but I indicated in the strongest terms that I could muster at that time that I considered that this was a matter which the Senate itself would need to investigate. I repeat: This is a device which, when first used, as I recollect it, no honourable senator then sitting in his or her place or in the years that have passed since then could ever have contemplated would be presented to the Senate as a method of financing deficits in these terms. Therefore, I announce to honourable senators who sit in this place that, when this Bill goes to the vote, I shall not be present voting. With that, I conclude my remarks.
– I was not going to participate in this debate on the Loan Bill until, earlier today, Senator Baume spoke. I thought it was necessary to participate to correct some of the outrageous distortions of truth and denials of fact which Senator Baume had written into the Hansard record this afternoon. If Senator Baume ‘s comments this afternoon can be taken as a fair sample of his intellectual honesty, it is debatable whether he should have become a Liberal Party politician in this present Government or whether he should have followed some of his relatives into the Sydney Stock Exchange. In particular he claimed, in common with the allegations made especially by Senator Carrick when this Bill was first debated in September and October of last year, that Treasury officials acting in collusion with the then Labor Government had cooked the books and had deliberately understated the estimates of expenditure. That was the allegation which Senator Carrick and others made at that time. Senator Baume had the audacity to claim this afternoon that that allegation was substantially correct.
I quote firstly from the monthly financial statement entitled Statement of Financial Transactions 1975-76 issued on 7 January 1976. This document shows that the estimated outlays for 1975-76 were $21,915.2m and the actual outlays for the 6 months to 31 December 1975 were $10,695. lm, somewhat less than half the estimated outlays for half of the financial year. Moreover, Senator Baume ‘s own Treasurer, Mr Lynch, in Press Release No. 38 which was issued earlier in January made the following statement:
There was in that estimate a calculation which allowed for an alleged saving of $362m. The Government was making this alleged saving on such items as not granting to the Australian Industry Development Corporation money which the Corporation was not going to spend in any case and a bit more financial chicanery of that nature. Even allowing for the $362m in expenditure which was shaved from the figures for the financial year, the present Treasurer acknowledged in January that outlays were being kept within the Budget estimates as the figures setting out financial transactions as at the month of January 1976 show. Yet, Senator Baume has the audacity to claim here this afternoon that the outrageous allegation by Senator Carrick in particular that Treasury officials had cooked the books at the behest of the then Labor Government was substantially correct.
I wish to make 2 further points. It has been alleged frequently by Opposition senators, both before and after the December election, that pay-as-you-earn tax collections this financial year under the Budget introduced by the Labor Government will be increased by 40 per cent. It is true that the estimates for PA YE tax collections show an increase of 40 per cent. But, in fact, earnings have not increased at the rate which was expected when the Budget estimates were drawn up. Honourable senators should bear in mind that that was probably before the end of June 1975. Earnings have not increased at the rate which was expected due substantially to the success of the previous Government in having the wage indexation guidelines respected and honoured by the industrial movement.
Because wages have not increased, PA YE tax collections have not increased to the degree envisaged. Referring again to the Statement of Financial Transactions 1975-76, issued on 7
January, we find that PA YE tax collections for the full financial year were estimated at $8,683m while in fact in the 6 months of the financial year only $2,723.9m had been collected. At that rate, there would be a deficit of approximately $2,000m in the anticipated collections of PA YE taxes in the full financial year. Honourable senators should bear in mind that PA YE tax collections, unlike contributions from companies and self employed persons, do not vary greatly throughout a financial year.
So, we can readily identify from those figures the source of the significant increase in the likely Budget deficit over and above that which was forecast in mid- 1975 when the Estimates were drawn up. The Liberal Party and the National Country Party cannot have it both ways. If Government members want to berate the Budget which was introduced by the former Treasurer on the grounds that the final deficit this year will be higher than $4,000m, they should at least drop the dishonest claim that PA YE taxation and other forms of personal taxation will show an increase of more than 40 per cent this financial year on receipts last financial year.
Let me make one more point. Senator Messner who spoke an hour or so ago evidently is still unaware of the statements of his Leader on superphosphate bounties. The Government has announced that it is reintroducing the superphosphate bounty, thereby partially honouring one of its pre-election promises. I observe in passing that it is one of the very few preelection promises by Mr Fraser which are to be honoured. Senator Messner told us this evening that this promise was not being honoured and that the additional expenditure involved this financial year of $20m- which must result in a consequential increase of $20m in the deficit which seems to worry our opponents so much- is not being incurred because wealthy graziers or half a dozen Cabinet Ministers wanted to provide themselves with a gratuitious handout at the expense of the taxpayers. It was provided because the Government was anxious to maintain employment in superphosphate works. We see that the Fraser Government, which has 6 farmers among its 12 inner Cabinet members, is not a government of farmers and wealthy graziers at all but a government which really stands for the workers. Unfortunately, Senator Messner ‘s case falls completely to the ground when we examine the statement which Mr Fraser made last year- I use his words: ‘Restoration of the bounty at the old rate, that is $ 1 1 .8 1 per tonne, would not increase the use of superphosphate by one tonne’. Senator Messner either should retract the allegation which he made this afternoon or should have the decency to stand up in the Senate and tell his colleagues and members of the Australian Labor Party that his Leader, Mr Fraser, does not know what he is talking about.
– I find the position of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack interesting. I suppose he now adopts a lone position in that he will not vote for the Loan Bill 1976. It is rather a convoluted trail. Last year he would not vote for it and neither would members of his Party. Now, both major parties are voting for it because it is identical in terms to the proposal put by the Australian Labor Party last year and it is now the possession of the LiberalNational Country Party in Government. But Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is quite true to his beliefs. He will stand alone and not vote for the measure. I suppose it is not unkind to say that there is no consequence because of the honourable senator’s action. I assure the Government that there will be no election. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is no doubt aware of that. Nevertheless, I appreciate his standing by his principles on this matter. I think this demonstrates how little control Parliament has over financial matters today and how powerful the Executive is in any modern parliament. The back bench of the Government, unless it is very strong in expertise and in the pursuit of the knowledge which it requires, usually is acquiescent in what is handed down to it. That remark applies to both sides of politics and its application is evident in the discussion which has surrounded this Bill. As I can have no influence on the legislation and as I know no more about it than does Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, I do not intend to address myself to the Bill.
I shall speak for only a few short moments in reply to Senator Messner’s denial of the value of land commissions. I thought he denied his whole political heritage as a senator from South Australia when he questioned the value of government intervention in order to moderate the price of building land in any urban community. South Australia under Sir Thomas Playford led the way in relation to unofficial land commissions many years ago when the South Australian Housing Trust became a model for all social housing in Australia as to how to keep down the price of land to those who want to build in the metropolitan areas of Australia. Many State governments sent representatives to South Australia to find out the secret of South Australia’s cheap housing.
– They thought better of it.
-They did not think better of it. That is quite wrong. The States copied many of the measures, but not enough. Today in these areas the cost of land outside South Australia is usually very much higher. One of the main ingredients in South Australia’s amazing industrial progress under Sir Thomas Playford ‘s management was the lower cost of housing. Throughout those years and since, South Australian governments of all complexions have made sure that the Housing Trust has had an ample supply of land for continuous development.
To adopt Senator Messner ‘s position is to abandon those people who want to build homes in the metropolitan areas and to adopt the leapfrogging activities of the wealthy and ruthless land developers. I simply cannot agree with that position. In recent days there has been a court case in the Privy Council. It is one more illustration of the leapfrogging land developer operating in Adelaide even within these conditions. Goodness knows what has happened interstate where land commissions are not favoured at times. The leapfrogging developer does not even live in Australia but he reaps the benefit of a huge accumulation of money. Such a land developer gets 1 5 years ahead of demand by buying open land and gets the money out of people who will pay the land off over the 40 years of their working life. It is a scandal that this has persisted in Australia for as long as it has. I commend the land commissions. I trust that this Government will not diminish their effect, whatever regulatory action in terms of financial management it must take in the medium term. I trust that it will do nothing to destroy the concept which, as I have said, should be deeply imbedded in Senator Messner ‘s political heritage because his Party pioneered what amounted to land commission activities. In previous years I took some small part in furthering the unofficial work which was later formalised in land commission legislation.
Many Government speakers who have spoken on the incidence of taxation and the necessity to provide greater incentive in this community have dwelt heavily on industrial development. I agree mainly with their propositions. But in the next Budget they will have to deal more carefully and firmly with the matter of personal income tax. While there may very well be great and even increased pressure on the proposed deficit for next year, the matter of personal incentive for Australians must not be forgotten in the welter of concentration on industrial progress. There simply has to be some form of indexation and reduction of taxation in those areas where it now hurts personal incentive. I leave honourable senators with the thought that that reduction is unlikely to be achieved collectively if the Government pursues to the bitter end its proposal to hand income taxing powers to the States. I trust that it will carefully examine that proposal and see the fallacy of it before the next Budget is fully framed and the matter is put in train.
– in reply- As has been mentioned by Senator Wriedt in opening, this is a cognate debate on the Loan Bill 1976 and the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976. The Opposition does not oppose the Bills. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has signified his displeasure and his intention not to vote at all. We have done a lot of work in the Senate in this area of the loan raising measure which is normally called the Defence Loan Bill. I think that is quite inappropriate. It would be far better to describe it as a deficit funding operation, which is what it really is. I think we all recall the series of speeches, long debates and quite a number of queries last year. They were really based upon an immense concern which the then Opposition had about a number of things. It was not about only one thing. We were concerned about the general tenor of overseas loan raisings in a highly unusual style.
Honourable senators will recall that at the time I asked whether these loan raisings in this irregular style were part of a proposition to fund the deficit in a rather different way. I got very little support from the general world of financial expertise for that view. If I may say so with a necessary quantity of modesty, as time has passed it has become clear that the view had a fair bit to be said for it; otherwise why was the operation being conducted? If we looked at the order of the borrowings and at the order of the deficit which was emerging, it was a fair assumption that round about last October and November, the shape of the deficit was really beginning to be seen by the experts. They began to be concerned. They realised that the Australian loan market would be quite reluctant to borrow that sort of money in the atmosphere applying under the then Government. Therefore they adopted a different method to get the cash together to fund a deficit of that magnitude. That was one part of the problem.
– You know that is not true.
-I am very sorry. I do not know that at all. 1 said last year what I thought. I have no reason to abate my view.
-That does not make it right, just because you said it.
-I had a reasonable degree of support for my view. We might say also that the concurrence of events in the end led to the previous Government going to the people. They gave the previous Government a fairly satisfactory answer as to what they thought about its abilities. Then we had another series of problems. These were part of the general area of query. Honourable senators opposite will know that the projected deficit under their Budget was $2,800m. In reality, the deficit was much closer to the figure which is now emerging, which is about $4,700m. That in itself produced great concern for the Opposition and a great range of queries. Nobody apologises for those queries. Nobody apologises for the concern. The concern and the queries were adequately backed up by the Australian people when the events finally occurred. We asked a lot of questions. We asked the questions in 2 series. I said then and I say again now that the government of the day very readily supplied answers to those queries. It also arranged meetings between members of the Opposition and senior officers of the Treasury which helped a great deal. We were treated most courteously and the information was supplied quite readily.
It was said by some people both inside the Parliament and outside the Parliament that that exercise by the Senate was of considerable value to public understanding of these various measures, of the shape of the deficit and of the methods of funding these deficits. It was said that for the first time information had come out of the Parliament which led to greater understanding. I think that that was the case. At the time it proved, to me anyway, to be a fair warrant for the Senate to take a serious interest in monetary and financial matters in the short term and in particular in the long term. This was most important in some of these areas of consequence. That is the view which, if honourable senators care to read the Hansard record in the silent watches of the night, they will find that I have held consistently. It is a view that is not shared by people in the House of Representatives. I have held the view that we have a responsibility as a Senate to take this sort of view and to try to examine the consequences of these measures or actions, call them what you will. We do not feel that any precedent that has been created is at all a wrong one. We feel that the precedent of gaining greater knowledge and understanding is not a bad precedent. There is no denial of any future Treasurer’s opportunities to state or explain his case and if necessary to give more information to the Senate.
The legislative authority for the Bills has been stated in the second reading speeches which, of course, I deliver on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in the Senate. The Bills concerned are the Loan Bill 1976 and the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976. They are financing an overall deficit for the year. Perhaps it would be useful if we were to look at the government financing statement published a few days ago as at the end of February this year. The statement demonstrates the shape of the deficit at the end of February. That, of course, will not necessarily be the same deficit shape at the end of June. At the end of February the amount of the deficit is $4,522m. This is what we expect it would be. Depending on the run of expenditure and revenue, that situation will change. The best guess at the present time is that the deficit will be about $4,750 or $4,800m by the end of June. I want to deal with this matter in a little more detail later on. I mention to honourable senators also that there is quite an important difference between previous Bills which sought to raise loans and these Bills.
I have a lot of further detail in response to various queries that Opposition senators have raised. Some of the queries that have been raised will be answered in my comments. I think that it is necessary in the overall considerations of this matter to understand the workings of the Loan Council and to understand that these deficits need to be financed in a method which has the general approval of the Loan Council. It is necessary to understand also that this legislation came to the Senate with approval having been obtained from the members of the Loan Council for the legislation to be presented in the first place. Therefore, I take the view that it is fair for the Senate to ask for information. It is equally proper for the Government to provide information. I have always advocated in the Senate, and I do so now, that if an honourable senator wants more information about such measures, I am quite prepared to adjourn the debate to obtain it. However, I believe that I have the answers to the questions that have been asked. That is the stance that I would take at any time in these matters.
As an incoming Government, we are still at the moment living with what we call an overrun situation which is the result of past errors. That was stated last year. It was stated that it would take some time to pull up this situation and that immediate corrective action could not be obtained for some months. We are presently in an overrun position which will take some time to adjust. Let us look at one or two things that were said last year putting aside the Budget deficit miscalculation and treating it as an error of almost 100 per cent. This statement was part of the Budget speech made by Mr Hayden as Treasurer at that time. He said:
In this Budget fiscal policy has been brought into better balance with monetary policy. Both have now appropriately shifted from earlier strong stimulus to postures of moderation.
I ask honourable senators to observe what happened to the money supply after that Budget statement. Every piece of evidence in regard to what happened to the money supply showed that it just galloped away. Somebody was wrong. Something was out of control. This is what we were concerned about. In another passage in that Budget speech of last August the then Treasurer said:
Against this background real gross domestic product is forecast to increase by about 5 per cent in 1 975-76 after falling by 2 per cent in 1974-75. Prospects for employment should improve but the improvement is likely to be gradual.
I will say that it is gradual. What is the actual result? In 1974-75 it is clearly admitted that economic growth has declined by 2 per cent. The forecast for 1975-76 is that it will increase by 5 per cent. The actual figures for the calendar year ending December 1975 show that economic growth has declined by 2 per cent. So somebody is not a very hot shot forecaster. I do not want honourable senators opposite to blame the officials of the Treasury because if that is done, it is extremely unkind. I suggest that honourable senators should read the Budget speech of the former Treasurer- a political document- read the Treasury Statement No. 2 which accompanies the Treasurer’s Budget Speech and read the Reserve Bank report to refresh their minds on what was said last year by members of the then Opposition. What was then said has proved to be a great deal more accurate than a lot of forecasts of members of the then Government.
When we start examining those matters we find people making all kinds of high priced and high powered explanations of how all these dreadful things happened. First of all, it is a very bad calculation to have a negative economic growth rate when it is planned to have a positive one. That is one of the substantial reasons why the previous Government’s revenue tables fell. If honourable senators examine the Government’s financing statement which contains most of the elements of the previous Government’s expenditures and their consequences upon revenue- the document is available to honourable senators and they can obtain it quite freely- they will find that in the 8 months to February 1 975 the expenditure rate was $ 10,844m and that in the 8 months to February 1976 it was $13,92 8m, an increase of $3,084m. In effect, the rate of expenditure increase by the previous Government in that 8 months was running at 30 per cent. So is it any wonder that the previous Government got itself into trouble and tried to blame everybody else? It is just not on. Nobody believed honourable senators opposite. They could not get away with that sort of thing. They were found out and they are still being found out. If honourable senators also examine the revenue tables they will find that it is not as simple as they say. They say that because wage indexation works, therefore as the average wage increases are moderated PA YE tax revenue declines. That is only part of the truth. It is equally part of the truth that the Labor Government’s revenue from customs duty was almost stationary in the 8 months and that, because inflation took companies’ profits up to quite an illusory level, company taxation revenue increased quite largely. If one looks at the revenue tables one sees that they are full of distortions. They do not bear out the explanation given by the Opposition for all its problems with an increased deficit when it was in government.
– Who drew up the revenue tables?
– The revenue tables are issued by the Treasury. They have been issued by the Treasury for a long time.
– You said they were not provided.
-I said nothing of the kind. You are such a stupid person; it really hurts me. You should just listen to me. I am referring to a document entitled Australian Government Statement of Financial Transactions. It issues each month and is freely available. It is issued by the authority of the Secretary to the Treasury and the Treasurer himself. It has been existent in the Australian monetary and economic scene for quite a long time. It would explain matters for the honourable senator. He does not need to cast doubts upon my veracity. He does not need to abuse me nor does he need to abuse the Treasury officials.
– You were the one who said it was confusing and misleading when the Treasury drew it up.
-I did not say that. I said that the honourable senator’s interpretation of the figures was confusing and misleading. The record will make that clear. The honourable senator should not try to put falsities into my mouth. What he is saying is completely false and he ought not to persist.
– You are -
– Order! Senator Cotton has the floor of the Senate. He is entitled to be heard in silence.
– He is being provocative.
-I am doing nothing of the kind. I wanted to note also that Senator McAuliffe said that what we need is a major economic statement from the Treasurer. Such a statement was made on 4 March. Why does the honourable senator not read it? Let us try to turn to some of the particular queries raised in the speeches of the members of the Opposition. Senator Wriedt made some observations on the limits of borrowings. He asked what should be the upper limit on borrowing under the Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976. One would take it from that that he was looking for an estimate of the amount that would be borrowed under the provisions of the Bill. I think he would appreciate that one cannot be totally precise in this regard because the amount to be borrowed will be that amount which is required to meet the residual deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund after all other measures have been taken into account. As I mentioned in the second reading speech which I made on behalf of the Treasurer, this is an amount which is dependent upon events occurring between now and the end of the financial year. However, sufficient information is contained in the second reading speech to obtain an indication of the magnitude which might be involved.
Before allowing for the Government’s economy measures, amounting to some $360m, it was estimated that a deficit of close to $3 billion in the Consolidated Revenue Fund was in prospect. The Loan Bill 1976 permits up to $700m of this deficit to be met by transferring defence expenditures to the Loan Fund where they will be financed by borrowings. Further, the transfer of unrequired balances of the National Welfare Trust Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund will supplement the receipts of that fund and hence will reduce the prospective deficit in that Fund by some $470m.
This would imply that borrowings under Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976 to complete the financing of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit would have to total, in round figures, $1.5 billion. Of course that amount will be affected by events leading to revisions in the estimates. It can be no more than an indicative estimate of the amounts involved. What I am endeavouring to do for honourable senators is to see that specific answers are obtained by specific reference of questions to the Treasury officials. The Treasury officials therefore ought not to have doubts cast upon them.
asked also, in relation to borrowings proposed under Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976, that I indicate to him what negotiations were undertaken by the Treasurer with State members of the Loan Council, what commitments were made to the States in those negotiations, and what agreements were reached as to the amounts to be borrowed. Before answering these specific queries I think I should make clear the distinction between borrowings under Loan Bill 1976 and borrowings under Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976. Borrowings under Loan Bill 1976 are borrowings for defence purposes and under the provisions of clause 38 of the financial agreement are not included in the Commonwealth loan program which is approved by the Loan Council. By way of contrast, borrowings under Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976 are not borrowings for defence purposes. As I pointed out in my second reading speech, such borrowings must therefore be within the limit of the borrowing authority approved for the Commonwealth by the Loan Council.
With respect to Senator Wriedt ‘s specific question about consultations made by the Treasurer, the Treasurer did consult with the State members of the Loan Council, that is the State Premiers, prior to the introduction of the Bill. I said this earlier and now confirm that that happened. All State Premiers agreed to an appropriate increase in the Loan Council borrowing program approved for Commonwealth purposes. In reaching that agreement no commitment of any type to the States was involved. No agreements as to the amount to be borrowed under Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976 were made with members of the Loan Council. An appropriate increase in the upper limit of the Commonwealth’s approved borrowing program was all that was agreed upon. It is normal practice also for the terms and conditions of borrowings within the approved program to be taken up with the Loan Council at an appropriate time for the borrowings to be undertaken. On the matter of the size of the Commonwealth borrowing program, to my knowledge and as the honourable senator will probably be aware, it has not been the practice for the amount approved by the Loan Council for the Commonwealth program ever to be published.
Senator McAuliffe was interested in the investment allowance and he asked why firms whose total investment is less than their depreciation should receive any investment allowance. This question makes it necessary for me to point out that there were very good reasons for the introduction of the investment allowance. The statement on the economy which I made on behalf of Mr Lynch on the last sitting day before we rose for last week explained the need for a return on investment and the role of the investment allowance in bringing that about. The Government has been very concerned for sime time- there has been a pattern to this for some years- that many firms have been investing too little even to replace worn out or out-dated equipment. If there is not an upturn in investment the economic recovery that the policies are aimed at achieving could be frustrated at an early stage by the appearance of supply and capacity shortages in a number of sectors. I think the importance of that will be very clear to honourable senators.
We introduced the investment allowance in order to get investment moving again as soon as possible. This allowance will lead to an increased capacity. It has really begun to show benefits in various places and should therefore make lasting recovery possible and should update a lot of equipment that needs updating. Whether a firm’s total investment is less than its depreciation is not totally relevant. What is totally revelant is whether investment is higher than it would have been if the investment allowance had never been introduced. We believe that will be the case.
Senator McAuliffe voiced some concern also about the National Welfare Fund and suggested that our proposal to transfer the unrequired balance of the National Welfare Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund might be open to criticism in that the transfer of the balance would not serve the legal purpose of the Fund. Section 62a Sub-sections 4a and 4b of the Audit Act provide a procedure whereby the Treasurer may direct that any moneys standing to the credit of any Trust Account which are not required for the purposes of the account may be repaid, in this case to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, It is under these provisions that we propose to transfer the balance of the NWF Trust Account. The book balance of about $470m in the NWF Trust Account is an anachronism which serves no useful purpose. It is a relic from arrangements for the payment of social security benefits which have long since ceased.
To amplify this statement, in 1952 an amendment to the National Welfare Fund Act provided a standing appropriation for the automatic replenishment of the National Welfare Fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in respect of all moneys paid from the National Welfare Fund. At that time Parliament made no specific provisions concerning the balances of the Fund. In effect, a clear break was made with the past and a system was introduced whereby all social security payments are met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, even though moneys are still channelled through the National Welfare Fund Trust Account. Given the standing appropriation provision for automatic replenishment of all moneys paid to the National Welfare Fund for social security, the balances in the National Welfare Fund cannot be used directly to finance social security payments. In these circumstances there is no need for any working balance in the National Welfare Fund and the balances are truly not required for the purposes of that fund. What we are proposing is therefore clearly within the intention of section 62a of the Audit Act under the provisions of which the National Welfare Fund Trust Account was established. What in fact is being done is a transfer of the book balances of $470m in the National Welfare Fund from that account, where they can now not be utilised for the purpose of financing social security benefits, into the CRF, from which security payments have in the final analysis been financed since 1952. Expenditure from the CRF that is channelled through the National Welfare Fund was estimated in the 1975-76 Budget alone to total more than $4,393m.
Senator McAuliffe commented in his speech on the size of the deficit. I have some extra notes here which will amplify the comments I have made about how the deficit has got to its present level. Senator McAuliffe talked about the fact that the deficit would in effect exceed the Budget estimate. He also argued that the principal reason was the slower growth in earnings and the taxation proceeds therefrom. He said that this should cause us no concern. I was seeking to point out that that was a part of the situation, but only a part. Heavy growth in expenditure was another part of the problem, as was the decline in revenue from such things as the customs and sales tax areas. Anybody naturally would be pleased with the slowdown in the rate of increase in wages, but we want to see this particular improvement continue. We want to see a continuing decrease in the rate of price increases and in the rate of inflation. The principal aim of the Government is to get inflation down. We would not achieve that result if we had the same happy view of large deficits through time as Senator McAuliffe appears to have.
The increase in the size of the deficit has presented some very great problems. No matter what is the size of the increase or what is the source of the increase, a large deficit does have some very substantial problems in relation to liquidity and the money supply situation, which I know Senator McAuliffe understands. The increase of $2 billion in the deficit has added very greatly to the money supply situation; hence the need to be able to take some of the money supply so created which finds its way into the household savings accounts and put it into a more precise long term form in the savings bond area. As anybody would know, and the previous Government ought to have known very well, the managing of an economy that one is trying to get back to stability and to get to grow and produce extra results at the same time as one is reining in the excesses of deficit budgeting is not an easy exercise. We really would not say other than that. We regard it as being essential to be very careful in trying to do those 3 things. We have, as Senator McAuliffe knows, begun to do what we can to rein in the deficit and its enlargement by being careful about expenditure programs and by trying to get the economy moving up once again.
I do not think I can add a great deal more to this debate, except to refer once again to the government financing transaction statement which, as I said before, has been the product of all kinds of governments under all kinds of Treasuries for a very long time. It is a useful document. If one looks at the financing transaction part of it one will see that in relation to the 1975-76 Budget it was estimated that a Budget deficit of $2,798m had to be financed; yet it has been necessary at this stage to try to handle a deficit of $4,522m. That has produced quite some problems. If one looks at the table at the bottom one will find that there has been a slight decrease in overseas borrowings, a net increase in Australian savings bonds of $909. 8m, a consequent reduction in the treasury notes that have been outstanding and net proceeds from other loans raised at $l,322m, which has been quite a big improvement. In the previous year there were net loan raising of $31 lm. There have still been borrowings from the Reserve Bank. If one looks at the use of cash balances one will see that once again there has been a repetition of what we talked about last year. A lot of the cash that had been built up in previous years has been used up. One will find at the bottom of the statement something which is not political for anybody and which ought to be made political, that is, the amount of money still unfunded as to accumulated debts out of accumulated deficits. It totals $3,247m.
That gives one an idea of the magnitude of the problem that the Government has to deal with. It does flow from a couple of years of very heavy deficits indeed. I do not think that we will be able to run the country satisfactorily unless we can rein in the order of our deficit, get ourselves back to stability, get ourselves back to some kind of certainty, keep inflation coming down and get back to a genuine economic growth. I believe that we will then have a good chance of getting the country back to the sort of country which we all hope it will be. That is what we are trying to do. What we are now discussing is the general process of funding a deficit that has been produced by the heavy over-expenditures against the revenues available for the purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 4 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 4 March, 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.
Upon which Senator Harradine had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, viz.: “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 advisers’ new approach to Federalism”. and upon which Senator Brown had moved by way of amendment to Senator Harradine ‘s amendment:
At end of proposed amendment, add “The Senate is also of the opinion that, because of the financial plight of local government organisations throughout Australia, your advisers should take action immediately to re-institute hearings by the Australian Grants Commission for the purpose of assessing appropriate untied and unconditional grants to local government”.
– I rise to resume the speech which I was delivering on 4 March when the sitting of the Senate was suspended. I have dealt with the events that led up to the sacking of the Whitlam Government and the devious, evasive and deceitful methods used by the present Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, to achieve that end.
– Order! Senator McLaren, you must not reflect upon a member of Parliament in those words.
– I quote the words that were used in an amendment to a Loan Bill introduced into this House by my Government last year. The words that I have used were used by Senator Cotton, a member of the then Opposition. A vote was taken on that amendment eventually and you, Sir, were one who voted for those words. Part (a) of that amendment reads:
Those words were used repeatedly by members of the then Opposition and no objection was taken. Yet, you Mr President, now object to my using the very same words against the now Prime Minister.
– The matter to which you refer was a substantive motion.
– Those words are in Hansard. I now turn to the contents of the Governor-General’s Speech and to some matters that were not mentioned in his Speech. In the second paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech, which was delivered on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), a comment is made about the worst prolonged inflation in the nation’s history. Let me refer again to the amendment. The amendment refers to the nation’s potential and to the Labor Party creating inflation and unemployment the like of which had not been experienced for 40 years. We find, through repeated interjections by me and other members of the Labor Party, that the Prime Minister saw fit or his speech writers saw fit to alter the words ‘prolonged inflation’. Yet throughout the 3 years of the Labor Government we were told of the worst inflation in 40 years.
– This is right, too.
-It is not right. I will prove that now for the information of Senator Cormack.
– It is the worst since.
– Never mind about the worst since. The then Opposition referred to the worst in 40 years, and that can be seen repeatedly in Hansard. On 27 October I received a document from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library setting out in detail a schedule of inflation. It shows that in 1 95 1 , under the Menzies Government, the inflationary rate was 25.5 per cent.
– That is in the document from the Library. Of course Senator Cormack is saying that what the Parliamentary Library has provided to a member of Parliament is rubbish. I say it is not rubbish. I believe the information that has been provided to me by the Parliamentary Library. Senator Cormack, having been a member of the Library Committee, ought to be ashamed of himself for saying that information that is provided to members of Parliament is rubbish. This document has been provided to me by the Library.
– Table it.
– I will table it.
– You will not table it.
– I said I will table it. I am not like the honourable senator. I will table it.
– I would like the honourable senator to table the document.
- Senator McLaren may do so at the end of his speech.
– I have already said on 3 occasions that I will table it, unlike Senator Cormack who quoted from a document in this House a fortnight ago and then said he would not table it when I asked him to do so. He backed off. Attached to the document which I received from the Library is a graph which shows that midway through 1968 the inflationary spiral started to rise under a Liberal government. Yet we have been accused so often of being the cause of inflation. I will table the graph also for Senator Cormack to have a look at. The inflationary spiral kept on increasing through the years. In view of the fact that Senator Cormack has disputed the authority and the authenticity of this document, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the figures on inflation rates from 1950 to 1975.
-Is leave granted?
– No. I asked for the document to be tabled and I refuse to give leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
- Senator McLaren, if you desire to table the document you must ask leave of the Senate so to do.
– I will ask leave at the conclusion of my speech, Mr President. Senator Cormack has not achieved anything by refusing to have the document incorporated. If he reads the Hansard of last year he will find that I had the document incorporated in one of my speeches. I will find the reference.
Later in the Governor-General’s Speech we find Mr Fraser saying that the Government will place great emphasis on directing welfare assistance to those in real need. Later I will refer to some of the Press statements that have been put out by Ministers of this Government. Prior to referring to those Press statements I want to quote from an article which appeared in the Bulletin on 21 February. The article, written by Paul Johnson, talks about Mr Fraser and the squeeze that he was going to put on the people who could ill afford it, although it was said in the Speech that the Government was not going to inflict any hardships on those people.
– What about the unions?
- Mr Johnson talks about the present Minister for Social Security and says that Senator Guilfoyle makes Mrs Thatcher seem a bleeding heart. He goes on to say:
It is pointed out that Ted Heath, like Fraser, began as a professed opponent of big government but was soon ‘doing a youee’ (U-turn) all over the place. Fraser does not strike me as a man who would, when it comes to the point, willingly surrender power to anyone.
Of course we are all well aware of that. He continues:
The second leg of his strategy is to challenge his enemies on the left to a confrontation sooner rather than later.
That is what he is referring to about the unions, Senator Baume. Mr Johnson continues:
Despite a huge Budget deficit he can’t smash up Whitlam ‘s main welfare programs, such as Medibank, partly because he committed himself to maintain them during the election, but mainly because expenditure is already allocated for a year ahead. Anxious to wound, he does not quite know where to strike. But he has encouraged his social security Minister, Margaret Guilfoyle, a stony-faced accountant known variously as ‘The Iron Butterfly’ and ‘a real ball breaker’, to crack down on -
– I object to the honourable senator quoting from a newspaper article when he cannot verify the accuracy or otherwise of the matters upon which he is commenting. That is the first thing. The second thing is that I regard the honourable senator’s quotation from a newspaper as a gross abuse of parliamentary privilege. I seek that you, Sir, rule that he should withdraw.
– I raise a point of order because of the request of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack for Senator McLaren to withdraw. This is not a question of the ability to verify the accuracy of a newspaper report. Senator McLaren was quoting a journalist’s impression of members of the present Government. Whatever Senator Cormack may think of that, his impression may not be generally held. Senator McLaren, for the purpose of illustrating his point, has read out a journalist’s opinions of particular Ministers. If he wishes to convey into Hansard a newspaper article he has no alternative but to read it. Having read it, it is now on the record. He may or may not verify the accuracy. The statement cannot be withdrawn as it is somebody else’s opinion of a particular Minister. Any withdrawal by Senator McLaren cannot alter the opinion of that individual.
- Senator McLaren, you cannot read those things which in debate would be unacceptable, being unparliamentary or disorderly language. Will you please proceed?
– I will not proceed with the quotation. I intended saying that they may not be my views. The view of many pensioners is that the present Minister for Social Security is a real heartbreaker for the pensioners. I wish to quote from some of the Press releases, and from one in particular in which the Minister is mentioned. As this article talks about cracking down on bludgers of all kinds- the present Government is doing that- it is pertinent to ask: Who are the people who come into this category of bludgers? It would appear from the actions which have already been taken by the Minister that pensioners are No. 1 priority. Firstly, there was the one-month delay in pension increase payments, and next there was the taking away of the pensioner funeral benefit. I wish to quote from the Minister’s Press statement of 4 February 1976, which came to my office through the mail. It reads:
Senator Guilfoyle said that the Government had decided to abolish one social security benefit. This was the payment of funeral benefits ranging to a maximum of $40 according to circumstances.
This benefit would be abolished at an annual saving of some $ 1.7m. Senator Guilfoyle said this benefit appeared to be of little significance particularly as the Government had recided to continue the payment for 12 weeks of the combined married rate of pension to the surviving partner in cases where a married pensioner died.
Of course, it might be of little significance to people of the monetary standing of many of the members of the present Government, but it is of great significance to the poor old pensioners who are relying on a miserable $40- the benefit should be a lot more- to help them bury their spouses in their time of grief. Yet we find this hard-hearted government- I have referred to what Paul Johnson said, and I agree with ittaking the funeral benefit from the poor old pensioners.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I have listened in the Senate for a long time to Senator McLaren making speeches based upon newspaper articles. I direct your attention to standing order 414.
– Come on, you are wasting my time. That is what you are trying to do.
– I intend to do so. I am entitled to do so.
– Order! Standing order 414 reads:
No Senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other Documents, except Hansard, referring to Debates in the Senate during the same Session.
– That is correct. I wish that Senator McLaren would obey that standing order.
- Mr President, on the same point of order- it is quite evident that Senator Cormack is deliberately trying to take my time away, because what I have just quoted comes from a Press release which came to my office from Senator Guilfoyle. That is what I quoted from, and there is the Press release.
- Mr President, I merely refer to standing order 414. Senator McLaren, who makes his speeches based on quotations from newspapers, should now finally be pulled up in obedience to the Standing Orders of the Senate.
- Mr President, speaking to the point of order that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raised- the standing order to which he referred refers to a newspaper report of a debate in the Senate. The articles that Senator McLaren has mentioned have nothing to do with the debate in question. Therefore, Mr President, I ask you to dismiss the point of order.
- Senator McLaren, continue your speech.
– Now that I am allowed to continue, despite Senator Cormack ‘s methods, I wish to quote from a letter which came into my possession in quite legitimate circumstances. It is from the Minister for Social Security, Parliament House, Canberra, and it is for all Liberal and National Country Party members and senators. It slates:
Attached is a copy of a letter that I sent yesterday in reply to a representation on the Funeral Benefit.
I am intending to adopt this form of words in reply to future representations I receive on this matter. You may wish to do the same.
The letter is signed ‘Margaret Guilfoyle’. Let us have a look at the text of the letter that is being sent to these poor pensioners from whom the Government is taking away this $40 funeral benefit. I will not read out the names of the people to whom the letter was sent because it might embarrass them. This is the text of the letter, which is dated 24 February 1976:
The Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Fraser, M.P., forwarded to me for reply your recent letter concerning the abolition of the Funeral Benefit.
Early this year the Government undertook a review of expenditure in all Departments in an endeavour to reduce administrative costs and Government expenditure. A number of programmes and items were reduced, deferred or abolished and one of the decisions taken by the Government was to abolish the Funeral Benefits Scheme for pensioners from 1 April 1976.
The Government has decided that although the Funeral Benefit will be abolished, the payment of married couple rate pension will continue for 12 weeks following the death of the pensioner spouse.
Of course, pensioners who were not aware that for many years they have been entitled to continue to receive the married couple rate pension for 12 weeks following the death of their spouse would think that this Government was being very generous- to take away the funeral benefit of $40 with the one hand, and then to give the married couple rate pension to the surviving spouse for 12 weeks with the other hand. But pensioners have always been entitled to that. This is how this Government is misleading the pensioners and how it is hurting people who deserve all the support they can get. I think it is despicable that any government should stoop to the depths to which the present Government has stooped to deprive pensioners of those very small benefits to which they have been entitled over the years. If the Government had any generosity at all, and if it acted in conformity with what is stated on page 2 of the Governor-General’s Speech, it would increase the funeral benefit to at least $100 for pensioners instead of giving money to the wealthy graziers of this country in the form of the superphosphate bounty.
I have in my possession a document- unfortunately I will not have time tonight to quote from it- which states that 2 graziers in South Australia are each in receipt of $59,000 by way of the superphosphate bounty. The Government can reintroduce the superphosphate bounty to help those people, but it has to take away the $40 funeral benefit from pensioners. When the superphosphate bounty legislation comes into this place I will divulge all the information. Further, the Governor-General’s Speech states:
My Government believes that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provision, are dependent on people being free . . .
How free are the people of this country when we remember how we were forced out of office in November last year after the Australian people at a free election had elected a government for a term of 3 years? By all the manipulations of which one could possibly think the then Government was forced to another election in November last year- the second in 18 months. We were forced to an election by people who used devious and unscrupulous means. Yet this Government talks about free people. Of course, the only thing that the Government wants to be free is all the benefits that it can give to its wealthy benefactors.
When we look at the supplementary speech that was made by the Prime Minister during the election campaign, to whom does he refer in every second paragraph? He refers to the private sector. Again in the Governor-General’s Speech there are references to the private sector. It refers to what the previous Government did at the expense of the private sector. The holy cow of the present Government is the private sector. Never mind about the people in the work force of this country and what they contribute in uplifting and bettering the development of this nation. The Governor-General’s Speech refers to the private sector; then it states:
Historic reforms will be made to reverse the concentration of power in the Federal Government and increase the autonomy and responsibilities of Local and State Governments.
Whom will the Liberal State Premiers blame for mismanagement? We do not hear too much now from Mr Bjelke-Petersen about the problems that he is facing. We do not hear anything from Mr Willis, Mr Court or Mr Hamer. They have gone completely silent. But at this time last year all of their problems were laid at the feet of the Whitlam Labor Government. Now they are left without a feather to fly with. They cannot blame anyone. If they blame Fraser they have to blame themselves. This is when the pigeons will come home to roost. On page 3 the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech states:
In all policy areas the Government will be alert to opportunities to increase the freedom of Australians to choosewithout exploitation -
Yet that is the very thing that is contained in the platform of the Australian Labor Party. That is the thing that has been used to mislead the Australian people time and again. The Liberals get up in this Parliament and quote only part of our platform. I have only 30 seconds in which to read from our platform the objective of the Australian Labor Party. It reads:
The democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange- to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in those fields- in accordance with the principles of action, methods and progressive reforms set out in this Platform.
Mr President, the time is just about up, so what I still have to say about the Governor-General’s Speech will have to be said when I am speaking to the amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which has been moved by the Opposition.
– 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.
- Mr President, I rise tonight in a rather nostalgic mood. In 1966, when I came into this Senate, one of the first causes that I championed was in an alliance with the National Parks Association of the Australian Capital Territory. I sought with them to have the Gudgenby National Park established.
– That is a long time ago.
-Over that 10 years, Senator. Greater men than I have taken on causes for a longer period than 10 years. Like Gaitskell, I will fight and fight again until I achieve this. To proceed to my bone of contention the purpose of the establishment of a national park in the Australian Capital Territory was to encompass the Mount Kelly ranges. The highlights relating to its establishment are these: In 1972 the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Hunt, virtually announced that the area would comprise 278 square miles. Subsequently the Whitlam Labor Government introduced the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Bill, and that Bill was adopted. A corollary to that was the creation of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. My next point is that I have received a communication dated 24 February from the Presi- dentoftheNationalParksAssociationofthe
Australian Capital Territory Inc., acquainting me of the fact that he had made overtures on behalf of the Association to the various Ministers involved.
My purpose in speaking tonight is to get from the Minister for Science, Senator Webster, representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, an up to date briefing on the latest situation. After a decade of agitation my representations have not yet been successful. The association and other conservationists are perturbed because they do not want a repetition of what happened in the Northern Territory. In that famous year of 1966 when I entered the Senate I took up with the then illustrious senator, later Prime Minister, Senator John Grey Gorton, the question of the Top End National Park in the Northern Territory. According to a very coy response made recently by Senator Greenwood, nobody knows what will be the boundaries of that park, although in its original concept it was really the vision splendid. My agitation tonight stems from the fact that if we delay finally establishing these boundaries we will find that some rare mineral will be discovered which will be a justification for compressing the original intended size of the park of 278 square miles.
The second aspect of my concern relates to the development of the suburbs of the Australian Capital Territory. Those are the prime reasons why I raise this matter. Unlike most honourable senators, although as a Minister Senator Webster may have had the privilege, I have visited most of the area, initially by Landrover and subsequently on foot. Unfortunately Senator Withers has left the chamber, but I did raise this matter with him tonight in Kings Hall. If Senator Ryan decides to visit this area, as a vigorous representative of the Australian Capital Territory, I hope that in the line of the Withers assurance- I call it the Withers doctrine- on this occasion we will have a helicopter. If it is good enough for Liberal senators to have a helicopter, I feel that I should have one. With a senior officer of the Department, we could view the area from the air to obtain an idea of the geography and the changes that are entailed.
I also have a secondary barrow to push, and I refer to a recent article in the Canberra Times relating to the rising number of Australians who, like their United States counterparts, feel that much of our wildlife which faces extinction has to be maintained. With all due deference to the National Country Party section of the coalition, I was very pleased to note that Dr Pratt, the Director of the Agricultural Branch of the Department oftheCapitalTerritory,hasindicatedthatthe southern border of this area has all the ideal ingredients of a dingo habitat. I noticed also, and it may be a sign of the times, that the latest issue of the Northern Territory Newsletter has a dingo on the cover. Just as the Americans have realised belatedly that they should protect their eagles and mountain lions, I hope that there is a place in this society for the dingo. I believe that what I visualise in this area should come about.
In view of some of the speculation or doubt in the minds of Country Party senators that I might be sailing under false colours, I am going to ask the Senate for leave to incorporate a letter from the President of the National Parks Association of the Australian Capital Territory Inc. This is not just a sudden alliance, it is a link that we have had over the last 8 years and I frequently attend their meetings. I think I can claim that I am not one of those people who heard the bugle blow rather late. I will be listening with bated breath to what the Minister has to say, particularly about the helicopter service. I can assure honourable senators- and Senator Grimes did warn me- that there are no minefields in this correspondence. Some honourable senators will know what I am talking about. I seek leave from the Senate to have this letter incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY INC.
P.O. Box 457 Canberra City 24 February, 1976
Senator J. A. Mulvihill, Australian Parliament Offices, Martin Place, Sydney, N.S.W. 2000
Dear Senator Mulvihill,
The National Parks Association of the A.C.T. was very pleased to hear that you had been chosen as Opposition spokesman for environmental matters, knowing, as we do, that you have a genuine and long-standing interest in this field.
You may be interested to know that the Association has recently written to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Minister for Capital Territory and the four A.C.T. Members, giving them information about the N.P.A., our aims and activities and stressing our interest in and concern about the proposed Gudgenby National Park.
It is unnecessary of course, to write at length about the N.P.A. to yourself but I would like to take up with you our concern about the lack of progress in the proposed Gudgenby National Park.
You will recall that the N.P.A. has for many years been pressing for the establishment of a National Park in the area surrounding Mt Kelly and the Gudgenby homestead in the southern A.C.T. Indeed, the Association has been campaigning since 1960. Successive governments have viewed the proposal with favour ever since 1 964 when Mr Anthony, as Minister for the Interior, advised that the Liberal-Country Party Coalition Government was favourably disposed towards the proposal. Little progress was made until October 1972 when Mr Hunt, the Minister for the Interior at that time, announced that an expanded area of approximately 278 sq. miles in the southern A.C.T. would be incorporated in a National Park.
No further progress has been visible since Mr Hunt’s announcement. The Labor Government expressed its intention of setting up the Gudgenby National Park, and passed the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 which established the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. But so far, no formal declaration of the Park boundaries has been made.
The proposed Gudgenby National Park contains substantial areas that have probably never been cut-over and have been little disturbed since the Canberra area was first settled. It also contains a very large array of native plants and animals. It is therefore an area of national importance. At the same time it is located very close to the southern end of the new district of Tuggeranong. In the near future, parts of the proposed park area- particularly those near roads and accessible farmland- will almost certainly be in considerable demand for recreational activities. For this reason it is desirable that the Park be declared and put under effective management as soon as possible.
Twelve years have passed since Mr Anthony publicly expressed government favour for the proposal. We therefore urge that the establishment of the Gudgenby National Park be expedited. In addition, we urge that, as it is an area of national importance, the Park be designated so that its legal status agrees with the definition of a National Park set out by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This means that its tenure should be secure, and that the Park should be properly managed.
You may be interested to see the enclosed copy of the N.P.A. quarterly Bulletin. I have arranged for your name to be placed on the mailing list for future copies.
Yours sincerely, IAN A. G.CURRIE President
– I thank Senator Mulvihill for his comments relating to national parks in the Australian Capital Territory. He is certainly in a nostalgic mood this evening, as we heard. The Senate will take note of the fact that he intends to fight on this point, and fight and fight again. Indeed, his party certainly has a lot to fight about, and from time to time we see those fights coming up. Senator Mulvihill will recall the attitude shown by governments of both parties, both Labor and Liberal-National Country Party, towards the development of parks and reserves in the Australian Capital Territory and in Jervis Bay. He will recall that the previous LiberalCountry Party administration declared almost the whole of the Jervis Bay territory as a nature reserve, excluding only the Wreck Bay and Jervis Bay villages, the naval station and the site for the projected power station in that area. I am happy to tell the honourable senator that a development plan for Jervis Bay nature reserve has been completed and should be available shortly for public discussion. He will recall also the very complimentary remarks made by the parliamentary committee investigating the development of the Jervis Bay region. In short, the Jervis Bay nature reserve is a reality and is an ongoing example of good planning and administration.
As to the Australian Capital Territory, a number of progressive moves have been made. The honourable senator is aware of the development and expansion of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, which has attracted commendatory comments from international observers, and again is an ongoing concern of great merit. Black Mountain Reserve is also a gazetted reserve. It has featured in the news from time to time, firstly because of the construction of the Black Mountain tower and secondly because of the possible construction of the Molonglo Freeway. I believe that the honourable senator can be assured that the integrity of the Black Mountain Reserve will be protected. The Department of the Capital Territory and the National Capital Development Commission have been working conjointly on proposals for the establishment of a chain of nature parks and reserves which would incorporate the natural areas around Canberra’s urban growth. For example, I am advised that Mount Taylor, Mount Majura, Mount Painter and others might well be declared as reserves. This is an ambitious project which involves the preservation and declaration of these areas as parks while encouraging their active use for various types of suitable recreational purposes.
Plans are being developed by the National Capital Development Commission for the development and protection of the lands adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River. The intention persists to declare the Gudgenby National Park which, as the honourable senator would know, has been on the drawing board for some years. Most of the freehold land in the that southern part of the Australian Capital Territory has been acquired or is the subject of negotiation. The remainder of the land, I think, will be acquired as funds become available. The honourable senator may know that the actual processes of declaration were in abeyance while the last Government made up its mind about the development and scope of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I am not well informed about the future of that particular organisational proposal, but certainly the Department of the Capital Territory has continued to manage the Gudgenby area on the assumption that it will, in time, be declared a national park.
Obviously the matter of dingoes is a vexed question. There are opposite schools of thought about the preservation and the extermination of dingoes and, indeed, their attacks on livestock. I am advised that representations have been made to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) from various interested parties. I am advised also that the Minister has undertaken to look closely at the issues. Beyond that, I am not able to report much progress. The honourable senator has probably taken note of the work being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which comes within my portfolio, in relation to the movement of dingoes and their habitat in Alice Springs. The work done by the CSIRO will be of interest to the honourable senator.
Senator Mulvihill referred to the use of a helicopter for an inspection of national parks sites. I would hope that not only a senior officer but also a pilot would accompany him if he made such an inspection. The Department of the Capital Territory may be using a slow speed light aircraft to fly over the area in the near future. I understand that a seat may be made available to the honourable senator. Senator Mulvihill mentioned that another honourable senator is anxious to also make such an inspection. I have made some inquiries, in view of the remarks Senator Mulvihill has made tonight, and suggest that if he wishes to have a seat on the aircraft he should contact the Minister for the Capital Territory direct and it will be made available to him.
If Senator Mulvihill wishes to charter a helicopter for a personal inspection of the national parks sites, I believe he should approach the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). He may be successful if he follows that course of action. Of course, if Senator Mulvihill wishes to use a military helicopter he should approach the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). All honourable senators are aware of Senator Mulvihill ‘s fights over many years in relation to these matters. He has taken a great interest in this field. I assure him that the present Government has an ongoing interest in the declaration and preservation of areas as national parks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Senator Cotton The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Company has also provided my Department with the following information about the remainder of the honourable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
No. The matter was considered in the normal course by the Attorney-General in the exercise of his functions as the first Law Officer.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable Senator’s question is as follows:
The Special Projects Program contains two main components: the school level innovations program and projects relating to special fields of educational interest such as school/community involvement, aboriginal education, the education of girls. Also included in this latter component are national projects such as the School Travel and Exchange Scheme.
Following the reduction in the program to $3.6m, $2.6m has been allocated to the school level program in 1976. Of this amount $ 1.75m has been allocated to the support of 273 projects received up to 1.6.75, $0.6m for projects received between 1.6.75 and 16 February 1976 and the balance of the funds for supplementation of funded projects and to allow an extension of support for projects previously funded. The remaining Sim has been allocated for projects of a national nature.
Because of the nature of the program the February 1976 closing date meant that the counselling and appraisal of applications could not begin until first term 1976 and consequently it would be well into the school year before grants could be offered.
As far as the national type projects are concerned the uncertainties of the funding mentioned above has also meant that projects did not begin from the commencement of the 1976 school year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence upon notice:
Do two frigates on order from the United States of America have nuclear powered armaments systems.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
None of the propulsion or armaments systems to be fitted to the RAN Patrol Frigates will be nuclear powered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What are the terms and conditions under which the British firm, Longwing, uses falcons to combat seagulls at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Longwings Ltd is a United Kingdom firm and has been engaged by Department of Transport to carry out a five month contract (February- June 1976 inclusive) on a bird control service at Sydney Airport at a cost of $31,642. The contract period has been chosen to coincide with the period of peak seagull activity. It is mainly aimed at exploring the effectiveness or otherwise of a full scale use of falcons and ancilliary back up measures to control the flight pattern and habits of the seagulls so as to minimise possible hazards due to their crossing aircraft approach and take off paths. It will also provide a hostile environment so that other birds do not inhabit the aerodrome. It is reported that this practice of bird control with falcons has been used most successfully at some aerodromes in the United Kingdom but at this stage its effectiveness under Australian conditions is not known and thus the necessity for the current exercise. The use of falcons in this way is being carefully co-ordinated with the appropriate State National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Community Development.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The honourable senator has directed a similar question to all Ministers who are senators. As the Minister responsible for administrative matters relating to ministerial staff, I supply the following information, prepared by my Department, in respect of Ministers’ personal staff, in answer to the honourable senator’s questions Nos 79 to 84: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4) Details as at 8 March 1976 are listed in the table below. Where staff members are permanent officers of the Public Service, the Departments from which they are seconded are shown in the table.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What are the localities of lighthouses currently operating around the Australian coast.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The marine navigational aid map, drawing 45-22 shows the location of Navigational Aids operating around the Australian coast is correct to 1 January 1975. The following aids have since been established:
North Solitary Island (N.S.W.)
Great Keppel Island (Qld)
Bickerton Island (N.T.)
Truant Island (NT.)
Cave Point (W.A.)
The following aids have since been withdrawn:
Hand Island (N.T.)
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760316_senate_30_s67/>.